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FREE | VOLUME FIFTEEN, ISSUE NINE | APRIL 28 - MAY 11, 2016


COVER STORY

PERSPECTIVE

THEATER

Big man on campus

18 The GOP frontrunner’s revolving door views on LGBT rights

FILM

Savion’s steps, if not his feet

04

29

CIVIL RIGHTS

2

FROM THE EDITOR

Amidst Raleigh protest, bathroom barrier breached

A new look at Fassbinder

Hillary’s moment

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22

16

April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

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The GOP Frontrunner’s Revolving Door Views on LGBT Rights BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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n an April 21 appearance on NBC’s “Today Show,” Donald Trump, the Republican presidential primary frontrunner, weighed in on the simmering controversy over transgender access to public bathrooms in a way that gave his leading rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, hope he’d been handed a perfect wedge to fire up the party’s socially conservative base. “North Carolina did something that was very strong and they’re paying a big price,” Trump said of that state’s new law restricting bathroom access based on an individual’s gender as indicated on their birth certificate. “And there’s a lot of problems. Leave it the way it is. North Carolina, what they’re going through, with all of the business and all of the strife — and that’s on both sides — you leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment they’re taking.” Cruz wasted no time in striking out. “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use the women’s restroom?,” a Cruz ad released the following day said. “The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife? Donald Trump thinks so.” Then, going for the jugular on one of Trump’s signature claims, the ad continued, “It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America. Donald Trump won’t take on the PC police. He’s one of them.” Trump promotes himself as dealmaker-in-chief who will bring jobs back to America, and his comments about the North Carolina law reflected a businessperson’s sense that, in responding to a problem of which there was no evidence, it was hurting that state’s economy needlessly. But some observers saw something deeper there — a willingness on Trump’s part to stand up to the

Donald Trump’s views on LGBT rights have swung dramatically back and forth over the years.

Republicans’ excessive catering to the party’s base of social conservatives. A day after Trump’s North Carolina comments, the New York Times took that angle one big step further, writing that “it is his views on gay rights and gay people that most distinguish Mr. Trump from previous Republican standard-bearers” — quite a claim about an iconoclast who has just about ripped up the entire playbook of GOP orthodoxy. The Times’ evidence was something less than overwhelming, in a story that opened with Trump blogging his congratulations to Elton John and David Furnish when they entered into a civil partnership in the UK a decade ago. “If two people dig each other, they dig each other,” Trump wrote at the time. Seven years later, the T imes reports, Trump attended the wedding of Jordan Roth, a Broadway producer, and talent manager and TV producer Richie Jackson. As Hillary and Bill Clinton’s attendance at Trump’s most recent marriage demonstrates, however, in the real estate mogul’s world showing up at a high profile ceremony doesn’t necessarily equate to the sort of bond most people enjoy with guests at their wedding. When out gay actor George Takei, who knew Trump from having been bounced from “The Celebrity Apprentice,” had lunch with him a couple of years ago

to press him on the marriage equality issue, Trump insisted he was sticking with his allegiance to “traditional marriage.” The Times piece offers a grab bag of other details — $25,000 given to Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1987, opening up his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to gay couples, and (in the story’s biggest stretch) nuzzling up to Rudy Giuliani during the then-mayor’s drag appearance at a 2000 political roast. The one substantial bit of evidence the Times provided — other than the recent North Carolina comments — is Trump’s endorsement, in a 2000 interview with the Advocate as he considered a presidential run that year, of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation. It might have been that position that led Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, to tell the Times, “He will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever.” Revisiting Trump’s comments to the Advocate about the Civil Rights Act, however, suggests that he was as much interested in political grandstanding as he was in promoting the interests of the gay community. “I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation,” he said. “It would be simple. It would be straightforward.

We don’t need to rewrite the laws currently on the books, although I do think we need to address hatecrimes legislation. But amending the Civil Rights Act would grant the same protection to gay people that we give to other Americans — it’s only fair.” That’s a position that would win Trump praise today, especially if he were to include gender identity, as well. In fact, that is precisely the current focus of the community’s anti-bias efforts in Washington. It’s telling, however, that Trump then segued into an attack on Democrat Bill Bradley, the former New Jersey senator who was then challenging Vice President Al Gore for his party’s nomination. It’s this part of the interview that sounds most vintage Trump. “I actually suggested this first, and now I see Bill Bradley has jumped on the bandwagon and is claiming the idea as his own,” Trump told the Advocate. “Let me tell you something. Bradley is as phony as a $20 Rolex. He says the president ought to have big ideas. His last big idea — the 1986 [Tax Reform Act] — caused a recession and cost thousands of people their jobs. This guy destroyed the real estate industry, and he tanked the S&Ls. It was a disaster. Bradley walked out of the Senate like he was some kind of statesman declaring that ‘politics is broken.’ The truth is, the voters were going to dump him in New Jersey. He walked away. Now he poses as some kind of outsider. What a joke. Bradley was a member of the Senate Finance Committee and a longtime part of Washington establishment. When I was $900 million and my companies were $9 billion in debt, I didn’t walk away. While others were declaring bankruptcy, I clawed my way back. My businesses are now bigger and better than ever.” Over the years, Trump reiterated the basic view that gay and lesbian Americans should not face discrimination. As he toyed with the idea of a 2012 presidential run, however, he began to waffle on that position.

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


HEALTH

State Funds Seven Agencies to Implement PrEP Plan

Community health centers given $250,000 grants over five years to reach at-risk populations

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BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

s the Cuomo administration embarked on an ambitious plan in 2014 to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020, it recruited nine health agencies from across the state to design a way to implement the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in targeted populations. “It’s looking promising,” said Robert M. Hayes, the chief executive of the Community Healthcare Network (CHN), which operates 12 clinics in four boroughs in New York City. “There’s a lot of outreach to continue to do. It’s an important thing, it’s a valuable thing, its works, and we’re committed to continuing to promote it.” CHN, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, and the Betances Health Center each received a five-year, single source contract with the state health department that pays them $50,000 a year through 2019. All three agencies serve “high-risk populations,” according to the state health department. CHN was charged with developing messaging to promote PrEP — antiHIV drugs used by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected — to transgender people. “We clearly are doing outreach promotional work with PrEP within the transgender community,” Hayes said. CHN is using that promotional material in “a couple of clubs” that are frequented by transgender people. It also trained dozens of doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe PrEP in its clinics over a three to four-month period. It now has “just under 500” clients on the drug regimen, though not all are transgender, Hayes said. When Callen-Lorde signed the contract, it already had roughly 150 clients on PrEP who GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

were enrolled in a study on PrEP implementation. The agency now has 1,136 clients on PrEP and has enrolled 50 to 70 of them in the state’s PrEP Assistance Program, which helps pay for the drug for eligible people. “We need more awareness, training, and additional resources across New York State to support awareness and target the right people if we truly want to scale up effective PrEP use and access,” Callen-Lorde said in a statement that noted the agency’s support for the Plan to End AIDS and the state’s efforts. “Furthermore, we’re working with our state decision makers to advance legislative proposals for PrEP to be available to young people who are at high risk of HIV infection.” The Betances Health Center did not respond to an email seeking comment. In February 2014, the state health department asked Harlem United, the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, APICHA, Evergreen Health Services in Buffalo, Trillium Health in Rochester, and the William F. Ryan Community Health Network to participate in an unfunded PrEP enrollment pilot project. Through November 2014, the agencies put 130 clients on PrEP. “It wasn’t a heavy lift,” Michael Lee, the head of administration at Evergreen, said of the pilot. “It was quite a few phone calls, it was some data that we had to report.” At the end of 2014, four of the six agencies each won five-year, single source contracts worth $250,000 over five years to get more people on PrEP. In addition to PrEP recruitment, Trillium and the Ryan Network were also asked to separately develop a social media application that individuals could use to assess their HIV risk and get PrEP information. In the pilot, Harlem United enrolled no clients and SUNY Downstate recruited one cli-

CHNNYC.ORG

DONNA ACETO

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a Manhattan World AIDS Day event last year.

Robert M. Hayes, the chief executive of the Community Healthcare Network.

ent, so they were not among the four agencies receiving contracts. Gay City News obtained copies of the seven contracts and a related document that justified the need for the single source, or no bid, contracts from the state comptroller’s office. The state health department has yet to produce records sought by Gay City News in a February 2015 Freedom of Information request that asked for all records related to these contracts. Evergreen, which enrolled 21 clients in the pilot, now has “upwards of about 200 people on PrEP,” Lee said. The agency also won a $110,000 grant from Gilead Sciences, the company that manufactures and markets Truvada, the only drug approved for PrEP. That grant allowed Evergreen to update its website and funded a PrEP billboard campaign. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job as far as hitting the general channels,” Lee said of the state health department’s efforts. “We do ads on all the hook-up apps… I would say the next step is how can we get a higher number of folks in communities of color on to PrEP.” Other agencies that won contracts either did not respond to requests for comment or said they would be unable to respond by a deadline. The state health department had not responded as Gay City News went to press. Governor Andrew Cuomo first endorsed the Plan to End AIDS in June 2014, but the low funding for the plan has been a consistent sore point for AIDS groups. In the current state fiscal year, which began on April 1, an advocate told Gay City News that the Cuomo administration will spend $20 million on the plan, which is well below the $70 million that AIDS groups sought and even below what the Cuomo administration proposed to spend on the plan in November 2015.

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CIVIL RIGHTS

In Virginia Case, Blow to North Carolina “Bathroom” Provisions Fourth Circuit revives Title IX claim by male transgender teen denied access to boys’ restroom in school

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BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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three-judge panel of the Richmond-based US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote, ruled on April 19 that District Judge Robert G. Doumar erred by not deferring to the federal Department of Education’s requirement that schools let transgender students use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Doumar dismissed a claim by Gavin Grimm, a teenage transgender boy attending high school in Gloucester County, Virginia, that the school violated his statutory rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act by adopting a rule that he could use only restrooms designated for girls or unisex single-user restrooms. The court used the plaintiff’s initials to guard his privacy, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Grimm, identifies him by name. The high school originally accommodated Grimm by letting him use the boys’ restroom when, at the beginning of his sophomore year in August 2014, he informed officials he was transitioning, had gotten a legal name change, and would be expressing his male gender identity. After several weeks without serious incident, some parents, alerted to the situation by their children, objected. At two public meetings, indignant parents threatened board members with political retribution if they did not adopt the restrictive policy. Grimm, now 16, has not undergone reassignment surgery, which is not available to minors under prevailing medical standards for treating gender dysphoria, but has transitioned in all other respects and identifies fully as male. The Fourth Circuit is the first federal appeals court to rule that the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, spelled out by its Office of Civil Rights in January 2015 in response to this controversy, should be followed by the courts. Since North Carolina is also within the Fourth Circuit, this ruling suggests that the “bathroom” provisions of the notorious HB 2, at least as they apply to public educational institutions, violate federal law, as the ACLU and Lambda Legal have argued in a lawsuit. That challenge is pending in the US District Court in North Carolina. Writing for the majority of the panel, Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd observed that the court is most likely to defer to an administrative agency’s interpretation of a statute when the law and the official regulations adopted by the agency are ambiguous regarding the particular issue in dispute. Title IX says that educational

institutions that receive federal funds may not discriminate because of sex. The regulations, adopted decades ago, say that educational institutions may designate separate facilities for use by males and females, so long as the facilities are equal in quality, but never directly address how to deal with transgender individuals whose “biological sex” differs from their gender identity.

Gavin Grimm, a teenage transgender boy who sued his Virginia high school after officials there denied him access to the boys’ bathroom.

At two public meetings, indignant parents threatened board members with political retribution if they did not adopt the restrictive policy.

The Education Department’s interpretation, Floyd wrote, is entitled to deference “unless the [school] board demonstrates that the interpretation is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation or statute.” Judge Doumar concluded that the regulations were not ambiguous and refused to defer to DOE’s interpretation. Floyd devoted a section of his opinion to explaining why the regu-

lations are ambiguous. “We conclude that the regulation is susceptible to more than one plausible reading because it permits both the [School] Board’s reading — determining maleness or femaleness with reference exclusively to genitalia — and the Department [of Education]’s interpretation — determining maleness or femaleness with reference to gender identity,” he wrote. When language can support alternative readings, there is ambiguity. “The Department’s interpretation resolves the ambiguity by providing that in the case of a transgender individual using a sex-segregated facility, the individual’s sex as male or female is to be generally determined by reference to the student’s gender identity,” Floyd wrote. Dissenting Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer — also a dissenter in the Fourth Circuit’s 2014 Virginia marriage equality decision — found that the majority’s conclusion violates the “physiological privacy interest” of students who do not want to share restroom facilities with students whose biological sex differed from theirs. Niemeyer essentially articulated, in more elevated terms, the arguments that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has made in defense of the “bathroom” provisions in HB 2: that the privacy concerns of students who object to sharing facilities with transgender students should take priority over the interests of the transgender students. Niemeyer was not quite so crude, though, suggesting that schools could accommodate the needs of transgender students by providing them with unisex single-occupancy facilities. Floyd points out, however, that the DOE’s advice was to provide such facilities to those students not wanting to use multiple-use facilities. And he noted that the school board already made physical modifications in the boys’ restrooms by adding partitions between urinals and taping over visual gaps in the toilet stalls to enhance the privacy of all users. Floyd emphasized that because Grimm was only contesting the school board’s policy on restrooms, the court did not have to address whether other single-sex facilities, such as locker rooms and shower rooms, would have to be open to transgender students as well. But Niemeyer observed that because discrimination “because of sex” had to mean the same thing throughout the statute and regulations, the majority opinion opened up the door to allowing transgender students to claim a right to access all such sex-designated facilities. In a footnote, Floyd warned that the school board’s argument — reiterated in Judge

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

As James Dixon Sentenced, Islan Nettles’ Family Cries Foul Saying “my sister can’t go home,” sibling of trans woman killed in 2013 terms 12-year sentence “not fair”

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BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

Island Nettles.

Delores Netttles, whose daughter Islan was killed in a brutal 2013 assault in Harlem, at a rally that year demanding justice in the case.

Delores Nettles, Islan’s mother, also gave a statement before Dixon was sentenced. She spoke directly to Dixon in her statement. “As far as James Dixon, I would hate you, I would hate you for the rest of your life,” Delores said as she wept. “I hope you die, I hope you rot.” Nicholas Viorst, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case with Laura Millendorf, also an assistant district attorney, read a statement from Anthony Mundon, Islan’s father. “She will never have a chance to feel her family’s love,” the statement said. “I was extremely proud of the person she had become.” Dixon, who was dressed in a jailhouse uniform, remained hand-

cuffed and silent throughout the entire proceeding, which lasted roughly 45 minutes. Dixon has been in jail since his March 2015 arrest, and that time counts toward his 12-year sentence. If he follows prison rules, he will be eligible for a conditional release after serving six-sevenths, or just over 10 years, of his sentence. He is also subject to five years post-release supervision. The Nettles case has been plagued by errors from the start. Police initially arrested Paris Wilson, who was 20 in 2013, in the attack. When Dixon came to police days later and confessed to the crime, police and prosecutors doubted his story. At one point in the hour -long videotaped state-

BATHROOM, from p.6

Niemeyer’s dissent — that allowing biological males into the girls’ restrooms and vice versa could produce “danger caused by ‘sexual responses prompted by students’ exposure to the private body parts of students of the other biological sex’” could be extended to require segregated bathrooms for gay and lesbian students, as well. Grimm now returns to the district court at square one on his Title IX claim — and with an unaddressed equal protection claim still alive, as well — but with the court of appeals decision’s wind at his back on key issues in the case. Grimm had asked the court of appeals to reassign the case to another district judge, citing comments Doumar made that suggestGayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

DONNA ACETO

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n an emotional statement in Manhattan Supreme Court, a sister of Islan Nettles said the 12 years that James Dixon will spend in prison for the 2013 assault that led to Nettles’ death was too short a sentence. “Twelve years is not enough because he can go home,” said Skye Nettles through tears at Dixon’s April 19 sentencing. “My sister can’t go home, my sister is dead… It’s not fair. My family is not satisfied with 12 years.” Dixon was earlier offered 12 years by two judges, including Daniel Conviser, the judge currently hearing his case, but he declined the offer. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter after Conviser ruled that statements he gave to police and prosecutors in which he confessed to the crime could be put into evidence at his trial. According to those statements, Dixon encountered the 21-yearold transgender woman on a Harlem street. In one statement, the 25-year-old Dixon said he struck Nettles because she laughed at him when he tripped. In another statement, he said he struck her after he began flirting with her and his friends heckled him saying Nettles was a guy. Dixon struck Nettles repeatedly on August 17, 2013.

ed bias — or at least a refusal to believe in the validity of gender identity — with references to Grimm as a girl who wanted to be a boy. Floyd, however, pointed out that none of that objectionable language appeared in Doumar’s written opinion. The court, he wrote, was not going to conclude at this point that Doumar will not give appropriate consideration to the evidence when called upon by the court of appeals to reconsider his ruling. Senior Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis, agreeing with Floyd that the Title IX claim should be revived, would have gone further, contending that Grimm had satisfied the requirements for a preliminary injunction against the school enforcing its policy. He agreed, however, to “defer to the district court” on the question of an injunction. Davis added, however, “It is to be hoped that

ment he gave to prosecutors and police, the skeptical questioning from authorities was so intense that Dixon said, “I’m not making this up.” The charges against Wilson were quickly dropped, and he was released from jail. The investigation continued and Dixon was eventually charged with the crime, but some facts in the case gave him a credible defense. In 2013, police had one witness who said she saw Wilson “strike ___ about the head with a closed fist, causing ___to fall to the ground. Once on the ground, the defendant continued to strike ___ in the face,” according to the 2013 criminal complaint that was filed against Wilson.

the district court will turn its attention to this matter with the urgency the case poses. Under the circumstances here, the appropriateness and necessity of such prompt action is plain. By the time the district court issues its decision, Grimm will have suffered the psychological harm the injunction sought to prevent for an entire school year.” Niemeyer’s dissent, reminiscent of his dissent in the marriage equality case, harps on the “unprecedented” nature of the ruling, asserting that the court’s “holding overrules custom, culture, and the very demands inherent in human nature for privacy and safety, which the separation of such facilities is designed to protect.” Grimm is represented by the ACLU of Virginia and Joshua Block of the national ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project.

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CIVIL RIGHTS

Amidst Raleigh Protest, Bathroom Barrier Breached National Center for Transgender Equality’s Mara Keisling uses ladies room in governor’s office

TRANSEQUALITY.ORG

TRANSEQUALITY.ORG

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, showing off her group’s #FlushDiscrimination social media campaign (above, right), speaking to a rally outside the North Carolina State Capitol and then entering the building, and being arrested — for participating in a sit-in, not for using the ladies room in the governor’s office.

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s the North Carolina Legislature convened on April 25 for the first time since enacting that state’s anti-LGBT HB 2 last month, hundreds of activists descended on the Capitol in Raleigh and one prominent transgender leader leader took a profoundly personal step to challenge the new law. Mara Keisling, the executive director of the Washington-based National Center for Transgender Equality, used a public bathroom in the Capitol building. “And… I used the women’s room in the governor's office,” Keisling posted on Facebook late in the morning. “Governor [Pat] McCrory can’t even enforce his law in his house.”

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TRANSEQUALITY.ORG

FACEBOOK.COM/MARAKEISLING

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

Keisling and her fellow LGBT activists and allies were at the Capitol to deliver what the Human Rights Campaign said were roughly 190,000 signatures on petitions to repeal HB 2, which bars localities in the state from extending nondiscrimination protections separate from what is provided under state law and restricts access to sex-segregated bathroom facilities based on the gender designation on an individual’s birth certificate. North Carolina law allows birth certificates to be amended only on evidence of gender-reassignment surgery, meaning that many transgender people in the state would have no legal means of accessing a bathroom consistent with their gender identity. Legislative Democrats introduced repeal legislation on Monday, but

with no Republican sponsors and the GOP holding a 74-45 edge in the House and 34-16 in the Senate, the effort’s prospects appear bleak. The measure received rushed consideration in a special March session of the Legislature called in response to the pending implementation of an LGBT rights ordinance in Charlotte, where McCrory once served as mayor. NCTE is one of many groups fighting HB 2 and is urging allies to join the battle with the social media hashtags #FlushDiscrimination, #WeAreNotThis, and #RepealHB2. Keisling delivered the petitions to McCrory’s office with the Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. Earlier this month, Barber told a press conference, “We are the

laughing stock of the whole nation.” On its website, the NAACP chapter wrote, “The legislation has very little to do with restrooms and much to do with our need to prevent this immoral attempt to legislate a wide array of unconstitutional discrimination and hatred which we find when we read the fine print beneath these homophobic scare tactics… We refer to it more appropriately as ‘Hate Bill 2.’ It is sad that certain so-called Christian leaders are supporting this bill and participating in this political ploy.” The backlash against the North Carolina law has extended well beyond LGBT, civil rights, and faith organizations. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 180 CEOs — from companies including Apple, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Marriott — have written to McCrory voicing their opposition, and both PayPal and Deutsche Bank have canceled expansion plans in the state. The National Basketball Association is threatening to pull its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the law is not repealed, and Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Pearl Jam have canceled performances there. The Obama administration is looking into whether the new law disqualifies North Carolina from certain categories of federal aid, and HB 2’s evident conflict with Title IX’s requirement that transgender students not face discrimination could imperil up to $4.5 billion in public education funding. A ruling last week from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — under whose jurisdiction North Carolina falls — in a public high school restroom access case in Virginia (see page 6) found that a lower court erred in not deferring to the federal Department of Education’s requirement that schools let transgender students use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Keisling, who said state troopers were aware she had used the ladies room but made no response, was later in the day one of 54 arrested during what the NAACP termed a “mass moral sit-in” in the Capitol. Those arrested were later released. April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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REVOLVING, from p.4

Unwilling to endorse full marriage equality, he was asked by the Des Moines Register, in 2011, whether he would support civil unions offering all the legal benefits of marriage. At first, he said, “My attitude on it has not been fully formed,” but he quickly added, “As of this moment, I would say no and no” regarding same-sex couples enjoying either marriage or civil unions. That same year, he seemed to practically brag to the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I live in New York. I know many, many gay people. Tremendous people… I’m against gay marriage; I took a lot of heat for that.” The inconsistencies of Trump’s posture have only increased in the current campaign as he addresses resistance to last year’s Supreme Court marriage ruling and pressure from the right wing for special religious carve-outs from nondiscrimination protections affecting the LGBT community. When Kim Davis, the renegade Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to samesex couples, faced jail, Trump initially told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the high court ruling was “the law of the land” and “you have to go with it,” and, on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor” said that being a county clerk “was not the right job for” Davis. A few weeks later, however, in speaking to social conservatives gathered at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, Trump said of Davis, “I haven’t been opposed to her stand, and I think it’s fine.” At the fall dinner of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, also held last September, Trump was asked about government officials being required to act contrary to their religious beliefs and responded, “I feel so strongly in fact, it was mentioned in my second paragraph. Religious liberty is so important.” A few days later, Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network, which asked about bakers being required to sell cakes to same-sex couples for their weddings, “I’m very concerned about it and there’s going to be a lot of law issued about it.” It is fair to note that Trump has never run with this ball to the degree that others — notably Cruz, but also Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ben Carson — have, particularly

on the question of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a measure that would provide businesses and non-profit agencies a religious out from nondiscrimination obligations based on their beliefs about same-sex marriage. Late last year, three right wing groups — Heritage Action, Family Research Council Action, and the American Principles Project — asked GOP contenders to commit to enacting FADA in their first 100 days in office, something Cruz, Rubio, and Carson quickly agreed to. Trump declined to offer any guarantee, but told the groups, “If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signature and enactment.” Maggie Gallagher, a longtime warrior against marriage equality, was not satisfied, writing, in National Review, that while Trump is happy to offend Mexicans, Muslims, and Megyn Kelly, there is one group he “strives not to offend” — the “politically potent” gay community. Trump, however, also seems eager not to let Gallagher’s unhappiness with him infect others on the right. In a February GOP debate in Houston, he was asked whether he was willing to make religious liberty “an absolute litmus test” guiding all of his judicial appointments — from federal district courts to the Supreme Court. “Yes, I would,” he responded. “And I’ve been there. And I’ve been there very strongly.” Trump’s willingness to pledge fidelity to the views of social conservatives about court appointments is also where his views on marriage equality have now arrived. In 2000, when he told the Advocate he did not support the freedom to marry, he assured the community he supported “a very strong domestic partnership law that guarantees gay people the same legal protection and rights as married people.” By 2011, of course, he was hedging that statement, telling the Des Moines Register “at this moment” he wasn’t there on the issue. The same year, he told Bill O’Reilly on Fox, about same-sex marriage, “I just don’t feel good about it. I don’t feel right about it.” After telling “The Today Show” in 2013 that he

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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REVOLVING, from p.12

was “evolving” on the issue, Trump entered the 2016 race still in favor of “traditional marriage.” His initial response to last June’s Supreme Court ruling reflected the same kind of pragmatism he showed in his recent comments about North Carolina. While stating his opposition to the decision and his view that it should have been worked out state by state, he added that even “the most militant” opponents of marriage equality “are saying there’s nothing you can do. Because they’re talking about constitutional amendments, and then they go on to say that that could never happen. So, at a certain point you have to be realistic about it.” Significantly, he told the Hollywood Reporter that “anybody that’s making that an issue is doing it for political reasons.” It wasn’t long, however, before T rump hedged. In October, in talking about the marriage ruling, he told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “We have some very terrible Supreme Court justices.” In January, asked by Fox’s Chris Wallace if he would “try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on samesex marriage,” Trump responded, “I would strongly consider that, yes.” He added, “If I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.” In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Trump has repeatedly cited Justices Clar ence Thomas and Samuel Alito — the high court’s two most stridently anti-gay members — as his models for future appointees. At an appearance with televangelist Pat Robertson at Regent University on February 24, days after Scalia’s death, Trump said, “I’ve always said Justice Thomas doesn’t get enough credit.” Among the names Trump has floated as potential Supreme Court nominees is 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., a former Alabama attorney general whom Lambda Legal termed “the most demonstrably anti-gay judicial nominee in recent memory” when President George W. Bush appointed him to the appeals court in 2005. In yet another appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network, this one in February, Trump said of GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

evangelical voters, “I think they can trust me. They can trust me on traditional marriage. I was very much in favor of having the court rule that it goes to states and let the states decide. And that was a shocking decision for you and for me and for a lot of other people.” The dizzying contradictions in Trump’s views on LGBT rights are ironic given his reputation for “telling it like it is” and for eschewing “political correctness.” It also brings to mind the frantic flip-flops he engaged in on the question of abortion in late March and early April, after telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who run afoul of any new restrictions a Trump administration might enact regarding the right to choose. Even before the Matthews interview aired, his campaign issued a clarification, saying should federal law change, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.” Two days later, Trump compounded his problems by telling CBS, “But right now, the laws are set… At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.” Once again in damage control mode, the campaign rushed out another clarification, saying, “Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now — until he is president. Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.” Many abortion opponents were startled by Trump’s difficulties in articulating a clear view on an issue long important to Republican voters, wondering aloud whether he had any fixed views on the question at all. The same could well be said of Trump’s posture on LGBT rights. Was he telling the truth in 2000 when he spoke of updating the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Or is his heart actually with those who claim that religious objections to homosexuality should afford individuals and businesses a safe haven from nondiscrimination requirements that apply to everyone else? And perhaps more to the point, does Donald Trump give a damn one way or the other?

13


The Center’s Glennda Testone with honoree Mary-Louise Parker and Cynthia Nixon.

Stylist and fashion consultant Stacy London and Whoopi Goldberg.

HONORING MARY-LOUISE PARKER, CENTER RAISES OVER $1 MILLION Photo Essay by Allyson Howard Photography In a splashy April 14 gala at Cipriani Wall Street, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center raised more than $1 million while honoring Mary-Louise Parker, its board president Timothy Chow, and BNY Mellon. Parker is known for her roles in Showtime’s “Weeds,” the films “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Boys on the Side,” TV’s “West Wing,” and the HBO adaptation of “Angels in America,” for which she won an Emmy. She won the 2001 Tony Award for her performance in “Proof” on Broadway. During remarks at the dinner, Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, said, “We’re incredibly grateful for the growing support of our new programs that tackle pressing issues, like LGBT youth substance use and the staggering inequality and economic disparity experienced by our transgender brothers and sisters. It’s so inspiring to see hundreds of people come together every year to send a clear message that we will not rest until we achieve equality and justice for all.”

Glennda Testone with Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 Queens, singer Michael Stipe, honoree Timothy Chow, who is president of the Center’s board, and event planner and model Eric Rutherford.

Johann Shudlick, a leader of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network at Goldman Sachs.

State Senator Brad Hoylman.

14

The crowd at Cipriani Wall Street.

April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

15


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FOUNDING MEMBER

16

FOUNDING MEMBER

BY PAUL SCHINDLER Just when it seemed that divisive feelings threatened to overwhelm the Democratic presidential primary contest, Hillary Clinton has assumed a commanding position in the race to this summer’s Philadelphia convention. Clinton now has 1,650 pledged delegates, a 302-vote edge over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Counting his 39 superdelegates, Sanders would have to earn 82 percent of the remaining 1,206 delegates yet to be chosen to win the nomination — impossible given the Democratic Party’s proportional primary voting system. He essentially is mathematically eliminated from contention, unless the Clinton campaign were to suffer such a calamitous collapse that Sanders’ surge in the remaining primaries convinced Hillary’s 519 superdelegates to abandon her on the basis of momentum and electability. Nobody makes plans by relying on such far-fetched assumptions. As partisans reconcile themselves to Clinton’s inevitability, it’s worth considering the role of the superdelegates, which have occasioned no small amount of controversy, not to mention some shifting arguments. There is a need for clarity on this point. As an outsider, Sanders watched Clinton pile up superdelegate endorsements early on and rightly criticized the anti-democratic power enjoyed by these party big-wigs. In the Republican Party, the primaries impose what is often a check on insurgents by making some contests winner take-all. Democrats invite more voices through a proportional voting system, but then hedge that with superdelegates. That said, Clinton is not ahead because she has the loyalty of superdelegates. She is well ahead on the pledged delegate front alone, having captured 55 percent of those elected to date. Early on, some Sanders supporters complained she would only reach the 2,383 needed for nomination because she has strong superdelegate support, but

that would be true in any close contest. Put another way, if you take Clinton’s superdelegates out of the numerator in measuring her per formance, you have to take all the superdelegates out of the denominator, as well. With a 302-delegate lead at this stage in the primary contest, it’s very hard to imagine she won’t arrive in Philadelphia with a comfortable pledged delegate advantage. That should be the end of the discussion regarding superdelegates. Unfortunately it’s not, since the Sanders campaign has recently taken up the anti-democratic side of this debate, with top surrogates suggesting that superdelegates pay attention to polls showing the Vermont senator as the stronger general election candidate and step in to override the voters’ judgment. Hopefully that argument is just momentary grasping at straws by Sanders supporters unwilling to yet acknowledge defeat. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president this year, and given the likelihood that Donald Trump will be her opponent — unless someone else, and maybe someone worse, yet finds a way to stop him — it is essential that voters concerned about this nation’s future rally to her side. I won’t make the argument that Clinton is the perfect candidate. Though her disastrous Iraq War vote came well over a decade ago, it speaks to a hawkish instinct that could pose new and significant problems in what is, if anything, an even more perilous time than we faced in the wake of 9/ 11. I hope her fall campaign can spell out a foreign policy that embraces the US’ critical leadership role in the world, while acknowledging the limitations on our power and the cost of missteps. Clinton has been a player on the world stage for more than two decades, so she should be guided by her intelligence and gut rather than by domestic political challenges — which Trump is sure to raise this fall — about whether she is tough enough or has “stamina” enough for the job. Clinton has also been pr one during her career to serious unforced errors. The two that have bogged her down during this year’s campaign

are her use of a private email server while secretary of state and her acceptance of fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches given to Goldman Sachs audiences. That second issue has, of course, fueled the doubts Sanders has raised about her commitment to meaningful Wall Street reform. In refusing to release transcripts of those speeches — inexplicable given the unlikelihood she said anything all that politically damning in a well-attended, quasi-public setting like a corporate dinner — she has allowed symbolism to overwhelm a detailed and substantive discussion of her differences with Sanders on regulatory questions. Sanders couldn’t help but get the better of that situation. Sanders seems certain to carry on his campaign, at least through California and New Jersey in early June and likely to Philadelphia. That is his right, and the party and the nation have profited from his focus on economic inequality. The Democrats’ failure to address that issue head on has hobbled them for years in reaching economically marginal segments of society — some of them now drawn to Trump’s demagoguery — that deserve to have their interests addressed. Sanders proved that economic populism can be a winning political formula. But Sanders and especially some of his more ardent supporters do the party and the nation a disservice by focusing on poll-tested attacks on Clinton’s character. Her private email server was ill-advised, but there is not even a remotely indictable offense involved there. She showed poor judgment and insensitivity to what the average American faces in accepting big Wall Street fees even as she planned to run for president, but there is no evidence of any quid pro quo involved there. And chatter among at least some progressives about Clinton’s “betrayal” at Benghazi is beyond the pale on an issue that the GOP has squeezed and squeezed and squeezed with no substantive results. The simple fact is that America this November faces a straightforward choice between moving for ward to a more just society while addressing the significant economic, environmental, and international challenges facing us or taking a big and potentially disastrous step backward. That’s an easy choice: Hillary Clinton. April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Where Laurie Metcalf Takes On John Wayne BY ED SIKOV

T

he toilet that once dar ed not speak its name now won’t shut its lid. Judging by the profusion of bathroom coverage, the backlash to the backlash to trans rights is in full flush, and the media is all but backed up with pro-trans stories and editorials. So let’s plunge right in. Support for trans-friendly restrooms is widespread, and some of it is coming from some most unexpected quarters. Even my favorite wingnut website, the deplorable TheFederalist.com, ran a pro-trans bathroom rights piece by Peter Johnson: “The law, which bars people in North Carolina from using bathrooms that do not match their birth sex, seeks to enforce traditional gender customs. The problem is, of course, that the train has left the station. Gender roles are no longer traditional. The law, despite its best efforts, cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube… A law like the one in North Carolina will actually make bathrooms much more dangerous and confusing.” It may still be possible to put the toothpaste back on the train, however, but let’s not carp about mixing metaphors but instead simply welcome the Federalist into the 21st century. Not surprisingly, as more and more Americans realize that trans folks pose no threat whatsoever to their safety or the safety of their kids, threats of violence are surfacing from the ever-shrinking and beleaguered goon community. As RawStory.com reports, Tracy Murphree, a candidate for sheriff in one Texas county, recently declared, “If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into the bathroom, he will then identify as a John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety. I identify as an overprotective father that loves his kids and would do anything to protect them.”

GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

I must point out to Mr. Mur phree that beating people to bloody pulps to the point that they can’t state their names in hospital emergency rooms doesn’t exactly jibe with the duties of a county sheriff. Maybe his hostility to gender fluidity stems from the fact that his parents stuck him with a girl’s name. (Taunt in singsong voice: “Hey Traaaaa-ceeeeeey! Why don’t you go play with your Barrrrr-bieeeeees!”) Come to think of it, Mattel ought to come out with Trans-Barbie and Trans-Ken. I’d definitely buy them. It would be so much fun to trick out Trans-Barbie in a snapon beard and muscle tank and tart

Corporate America has finally woken up to the fact that it cannot recruit the best employees if those employees have to live in backward states that refuse to grant them equality. The very premise of the toilet war is bogus. Trans folks have to suffer because hung-up cisgender people can’t keep their minds out of the gutter. Loony Breitbart.com claimed that some pervy Pennsylvanian’s arrest for taking snapshots of a 10-year old girl in the women’s room was the obvious result of trans people having civil rights. “Quarryville, PA, resident James Thomas Shoemaker, 19, was

As more and more Americans realize that trans folks pose no threat whatsoever to their safety or the safety of their kids, threats of violence are surfacing from the ever-shrinking and beleaguered goon community.

up Trans-Ken in an Oscar de la Renta-designed prom gown. (Boring old girly Barbie has her own de la Renta bridal outfit that sells for $200.) What with companies like Dow Chemical (yay to napalm and Agent Orange, nay to antiLGBT bigots), General Electric (the folks who gave us the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant don’t look kindly upon discrimination), and PepsiCo (have you ever put a nail into a glass of Pepsi and watched it corrode?) boycotting North Carolina since that state’s legislature and governor, respectively, voted into law and signed an especially vile anti-LGBT law that forces people to use only the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate, the tables have turned drastically as far as businesses’ responsibility is concerned.

arrested last week when he was found hiding in a stall of the women’s bathroom in the Sheetz store on Manheim Pike,” the Breitbart site reported. “Police said he was taking images of young girls on his cell phone. The arrest comes as progressives step up their judicial and media push to force American adults and youths to share all of their public bathrooms and changing rooms with the small number of people who try to live and look like people of the opposite sex.” That is insane. No, the perv was just your garden variety creepy straight guy, and the incident had nothing to do with trans folks. Take some responsibility for your own kind, Breitbarters, and stop blaming trans people for sex crimes committed by cis-heteroperverts.

If it wasn’t for the ass-like stubbornness that resists reason, progress, and respect for human difference, I’d feel sorry for the poor fuckwits. Like Howard the Duck, they’re trapped in a world they never made. Laurie Metcalf’s character has a simple but superb line about changing perceptions of sex and gender in the third episode of “Horace and Pete,” Louis CK’s terrific web series. She’s sitting at a table recounting in a beautiful long take how it came to pass that she and her 84-year-old father-in-law started fucking behind the rest of the family’s backs. She’s describing the father-in-law, but she is also talking about an entire class of people for whom the expansion of sexual and gender civil liberties has not been easy. “He has that kind of man’s ego from another time, when it wasn’t considered just being an asshole,” she says. In other words, the man’s man ethos exemplified by, say, John Wayne (whom I love, by the way), from gallantry to sexism, today seems purely assholic. Men like this father-in-law must feel as though what had once been — to them — a stable social order with gender behaviors as solid and immutable as Chartres Cathedral, has turned into a grotesque carnival built on a sinkhole just waiting to give way. We must seem like sideshow freaks to them — freaks who threaten to upend their basic understanding of what it means to be human. In fact, of course, they’re right. We are flipping sex and gender assumptions on their heads. That’s what LGBT fighters have been fighting for since Mattachine and the Daughters of Bilitis. And besides, the best way to deal with people thinking you’re a freak is to revel in it. For me, along with chocolate, blow jobs, and steamed lobsters, it’s what makes life worth living. As for the lunkheads who are terrified by the possibility of sharing a bathroom with someone who has different genitalia than they have, I’ll say only this: I sincerely hope everything comes out okay for them in the end. If it doesn’t, they’ll just have to work it out with a pencil. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

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PERSPECTIVE: Closets of the Mind

Big Man on Campus

LYNAS

BY SAM OGLESBY

N

ot long ago I attended a play on 10th Avenue in a ramshackle building in the West 50s. One of those neglected structures with an elevator that takes five minutes to travel three floors. In was a late winter evening and the play took place in a dark, drafty loft space, a totally forgettable performance, so unremarkable that I can’t begin to remember the title of the work. I recall almost nothing of what I saw and heard during the 90 minutes I sat shivering on a hard, crowded bench wedged between other audience members who, like me, had kept on their parkas and gloves. Lots of energy was released by the single actor who played himself in what I suppose could be termed a cutely raunchy parable about a boy coming of age. At one point when the protagonist stripped down to his boxers, revealing a workedout, buff body, there were lots of hoots and loud clapping, especially from a female contingent in the front-row bleachers. For a while I thought I had parachuted into a Chippendales show in Vegas.

18

I’ll stop there and not even attempt to plumb the hour-and-a-half I spent in that gloomy, unheated garret-like space. Except for one thing. Early in the show, the actor, playing his teenage self, opens a closet and pulls out an old trench coat belonging to his long-absent father. He buries his face in the coat, saying that smelling it is the only way to bring back the memory of his departed parent. He has nothing else to love but an odor. My heart skipped a beat as I watched this simple act of emotional desperation. I had done the same thing when I was 15, 60 years ago. As a teenager I was a quiet little dweeb. I had a hopeless crush on another boy, a fellow student who didn’t know I existed. He was a BMOC — big man on campus, captain of the basketball team, president of the student body, going steady with the prom queen, the whole nine yards. I was a shy nobody who lived in a dream world of books and poetry, never touched a football, never looked people in the eye when I spoke to them — and I never spoke unless it was to haltingly answer somebody who had spoken to me first. Nobody knew my name. Even though we had Spanish class together, I was sure BMOC had never noticed me.

But he had. Because of a flat tire or a rain storm or I don’t know what pretext, BMOC showed up at my house late one night and tapped on my window, asking if he could sleep over. In 1954, my kind of love dared not speak its name. In fact, aged 15, I didn’t know there was such a thing as sexual orientation or that people were “gay” or “straight.” Imagine the rush of feelings flooding over me — fear, delight, disbelief — when BMOC appeared at my door, shy and smiling, to court me, the creep with no name. Speechless, I crept to the door to let him in. In the hours that passed, we scarcely spoke, lying together in the darkness. I do remember, though, the very first attempt in my life at cracking a joke when I told him, “Up close you look like a Martian !” He laughed and boxed my ears and buried his lips in my neck. What a thrill it was to realize that I actually had a voice and a personality, that I could make somebody laugh, that I was a likable, attractive human being. The next morning, BMOC departed early in his father’s red Studebaker, an outrageously beautiful car with a bullet nose that he had parked in our driveway. He was gone before my parents were up, making his secret late night visit even more elicit and delicious. Nobody knew he had been there but the two of us. He said we’d have to get together again. Leaving in a rush, he forgot his windbreaker that he had draped over the chair next to my desk. I discovered the jacket as I was leaving to catch the school bus and hung it in my closet. That night, hoping BMOC might visit me again, I opened the closet door, removed the jacket from its hanger, and buried my face in its folds. It smelled of Vitalis hair oil and his young body sweat. Not very romantic, to be sure, but to me it was indescribable ambrosia. Night after night, I repeated my ritual: hugging his jacket as I looked out my window, hoping to see his smiling face in the dark, his finger tapping on the pane, imploring me to have another sleep-over. BMOC never came back and never spoke to me again. Everyday I would see him and his prom queen walking hand-in-hand as they cut a wide swath across the high school campus. But I still had his windbreaker. He never asked me for it. Had he forgotten that he had left it at my place or was the very thought of the jacket an embarrassing admission of what we had done that night ? Or could it have been a gift, a thank-you for a stolen night that would never happen again? Until I left home some years later, I kept the jacket in a special corner of the closet so none of my other clothing would touch it, spoil it. When I packed to leave for college I thought of taking BMOC’s windbreaker with me. But I decided to leave it where it was hanging. After all, memories deserve a special place even if it is only the dark corner of a closet. Sam Oglesby is a New York City-based journalist and writer. He is the author of four memoirs and the winner of the 2013 New York Press Association Award for Best Feature article. April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

Another Ring Cycle

G

BY SUSIE DAY

ay men think they know about opera. Hah. They don’t know about lesbian opera, which — like lesbians themselves — is deeply misunderstood. I just happen to have a scenario for a grand opera by and for lesbians, absolutely chock full of tragic splendor. Regardez:

ACT I Naughty and heedless Clarinda, a baby dyke just out of reform school, arrives at the lesbian town of Uterville on the very day the locals are holding their joyous Festival of the Social Change Workshops! Lesbian peasants and nobles alike, in brightly colored overalls and drawstring pants, sing and dance to their simple womyn’s folk songs, while the naughty Clarinda goes around putting itching power on everyone’s sex toys. Enter: Phallopia, Queen of the

Lesbian Social Change Activists and Keynote Speaker. Stunned by Phallopia’s beauty and momentarily paralyzed with infatuation, Clarinda sings the ever-popular aria “La Donna Immobile.” At last, Clarinda gains an audience with the Queen by pretending that an evil therapist has turned her into a Republican male, and that only the kiss of a Lesbian Pure in Politics can break the curse. Phallopia, who can never resist a cause, kisses the naughty and heedless Clarinda, and the two fall in love. Suddenly, the lights dim and all the oxygen is sucked out of the theater.

ACT II Scene: U-Haul Rental Office, holy site of the happy duo’s Legal Same-Sex Wedding Ceremony. Nuptial music fills the hall as a retinue of swans smoking cigars escorts Clarinda, in nymph costume, to the altar. There Phallopia stands, dressed as Leon Trotsky.

The lovers plight their troth, singing the majestic and politically aware “Coupletalist Duet.” “I was once a working-class Capitalist,” recalls Clarinda. “And I was once an upper-class Communist,” replies Phallopia. “But now,” both sing, “we are as One: The People’s Republic of Us!” And they take turns piercing each other’s belly buttons. Comic relief is provided by a chorus of Celibates, who perform the piquant “Dance of the Test-Tube Babies.” Villagers offer the couple an homage of toasters and microwave ovens, as Clarinda asks the musical question, “Is That All We Got?” A golden U-Haul arrives to take the newly committed pair somewhere else.

ACT THE THIRD A year later. Scene: A humdrum rent-stabilized cottage, deep in the for est. The naughty Clarinda feather -dusts the Certificate of Legal

Same-Sex Marriage hanging on the wall while she awaits the arrival of her Activist Queen. In an attempt to spice up their relationship, Clarinda has donned a Bo Peep costume and sings of how wonderful it will be when her beloved returns home to act out the part of the sheep. E n t e r, f i n a l l y : P h a l l o p i a , exhausted from a hard day on the picket line. “What’s for dinner?” she cries. “How about some nice hot sex!” teases the naughty Clarinda, shaking her bootie fecklessly in the face of her paramour. “What?” gasps Phallopia. “Sleep with you while there remain states in our country that deny our people the legal right to wed? NEVER!” And she sings the magnificent aria, “Ne Me Touche Pas, I am Fighting Injustice.” To drown her out, Clarinda plays Goth love songs real loud on the radio. That night in her dreams, Clarinda is visited by the Twelve Steps, each more hideous than the last. She wakes up and gets a cat.

c

SNIDE LINES, continued on p.20

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19


PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Nuit Debout: This Revolution Is Not for You BY KELLY COGSWELL

R

c

KELLY COGSWELL

evolutions don’t excite me any more. They’re never for me. Not Occupy Wall Street. Not the new social movement going on in France right now, called “Nuit debout” and centered 15 or 20 long blocks from me at Place de la République. It began on March 31 following a series of protests against proposed government changes to the labor laws that might or might not make things worse for workers. What’s sure is that France has a high unemployment rate, and young kids are already so wor ried about retirement that associations of high school students joined labor unions as the prime organizers in these enor mous demos. I saw the student leaders, and was excited that some were young women. These protests exploded into a movement that seemed spontaneous at first, but was triggered in part by François Ruffin, a journalist releasing a Michael Moorelike film, and other activists. They reportedly decided to piggyback on the March 31 demo, by refusing to leave the plaza afterwards and encouraging others to stay with them. Their goal: to unify several social movements focused on protecting labor rights and challenging income inequality. It worked spectacularly well.

A banner displayed at Nuit debout at Place de la République in Paris.

Ruffin’s film is a hit. And, “Nuit debout” (“Up All Night,” or “Standing Night “) has become a more general movement frequently compared to Occupy Wall Street. After weeks of encampment, the activists reached a détente with the authorities, settling into a rhythm where they only gather on the weekends and after work until midnight or 1 a.m. If you pass by, you’ll see tents and tables and small working groups. Other times, there are big general assembly meetings with lots of speakers. In terms of gender, the overwhelmingly white crowd seems reasonably mixed, but when it comes to speakers it’s mostly men. The men talk a lot—

SNIDE LINES, from p.19

ACT IV Repeat Act III, but with more cats.

ACT V At last, every region in the world has legalized and accepts same-sex marriage. This is the final blow to the couple’s sex life. In deep mourning, they hold a huge, government-sanctioned renewal of their wedding vows but refuse to admit swans. The lonely and bereft Clarinda sneaks away from the crowd and sings: “’Tis awful to be lawful; O Phallopia, why canst we not elopia?” The residents of Uterville are unable to attend the wedding but send toasters instead. More and more toasters pile up onstage. A fight breaks out in the audience.

CURTAINS

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about equality, horizontality, and intersectionality, drawing connections between civil liberties and income, police reform, immigration, Palestine, the environment, questions of race, women, queers. Probably, if I stayed, I’d even agree with a lot of what they say. But form matters, too, and at Nuit debout, men hog the podium in general assemblies and grandstand in working groups. Not only do more men speak, they speak much longer than women. And when women finally do get a word in, they are repeatedly, frequently, inevitably interrupted. The feminist group there proposed that they partly solve the problem by alternating genders on the list of speakers, but the crowd determined that there weren’t enough female speakers to justify such a move. And never once thought it useful to ask why. The group, Commission on Feminisms, has also been trying to hold regular women-only meetings to encourage more women to articulate their issues, at least in a smaller protected space. But men, who often self-identify as feminist, come to harass and harangue them, inspiring one of my friends to joke that they’d finally figured out how to interest men in what women have to say.

These “feminist” men have also used the open, mixed feminist meetings to rage against women-only meetings being held in a public space like the Place de la République, in a public movement of citizens like Nuit debout. So what if women can’t fully participate in this public movement, or even stand safely in the public plaza? Sexual harassment there is not uncommon. There have even been sexual assaults. I read one blog post describing how when some women tried to talk about their experiences right there at Nuit debout (just like Occupy Wall Street!), some man shouted he’d never seen such a thing. And when the women responded rudely, the man’s feelings got hurt and the group had to process that. Because his feelings, of course, were the point. Nevertheless, it was a woman, Fahima Laidoudi, a 53-year old cleaning lady and far-left militant, who apparently has prodded Nuit debout to recognize their lack of diversity on the racial front. In response, Parisian activists created a sort of outreach committee. In the city of Marseille, they went further, organizing an event Saturday in the cité des Flamants, a housing project outside of town. Almost nobody went except journalists, including one from Le Monde, who reported that instead of a tickertape parade, they got a critique from one local activist, Fatima Mostefaoui. “Here, we’ve been standing and awake for 30 years,” she told them. “Nobody here was waiting for you to fight poverty, police violence, social injustice… You came here to give us a voice? We’ve had a voice. It’s just that nobody’s listening because everything we say is censored and stigmatized.” Afterwards, one young man told Le Monde that they’d picked the wrong place. “I’m not sure I’d try again.” Me neither. Even though the men of the left have increasingly mastered the language of change, they themselves haven’t budged. They don’t listen, can’t stand any voice but their own. Without women, without poor people, people of color, oh yes and queers, the end result can only be more of the same. April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


JUSTICE

Fifteen Years for “Crime” That Didn’t Happen

Four Texas Latina lesbians out of prison, off sex offender registry, but not yet exonerated

GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

The Antonio Four — Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera — in their arrest mug shots.

“At the Supreme Court, Scalia used to say that if you got a procedurally fair trial, it doesn’t matter how innocent you are,” he said. But unlike some states, Texas does have an exoneration process, and neither he nor these women will rest until their names and records are cleared forever. To learn more about how to win exoneration for the San Antonio Four, go to southwestofsalem.com/ actnow/.

Anna Vasquez, after the hearing at which she was released from prison.

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The women of the San Antonio Four are still constricted for legal reasons when it comes to discussing the details of their case, but in talking about their personal ordeals, their tremendous loss and grief, they were tremendously moving. Rivera spoke through tears of how her two little children, now 23 and 24, “saw me faithfully” and were there in the packed house at Bluestockings. “It was hard to miss a lot of their lifetimes,” she said. “Thank God we are as close as we are now.” Ramirez told the audience, “I’m glad I have friends who don’t have anything against us.” The women did not give up on each other and neither did their families. “With the love that we have — the bond that we have — we can be a family,” Ramirez said. Eventually, the LGBT community in San Antonio worked for their cause, as well. Mayhugh spoke of losing her dream of working in veterinary medicine and now having to work manufacturing automobiles. And Michaels talked about the horror of being perceived as a “monster,” but also of how honored she was to be with these other falsely accused women who pulled through. She said she also had the support of her family. “You’re always in recovery,” she said. Attorney Ware, folksy but relentless, talked at the forum and in the film about the nerve-wracking, painstaking process of gaining the release of the San Antonio women and about how difficult it is for the truth to win out.

SOUTHWESTOFSALEM.COM

t is one thing to be falsely accused of a crime that you did not commit. But in 1998, four young lesbian Latinas in San Antonio, Texas, were convicted and imprisoned for a crime that never occurred — the ritual sex abuse of two toddlers. The prosecution and accuser (a spurned male relative of one of the women) were driven by homophobia in a city that had no LGBT rights ordinance until 2013. Their conviction was sealed by an “expert” witness who dabbled in what has been discredited as junk science regarding what a normal child’s hymen is supposed to look like. Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera, Elizabeth Ramirez, and Kristie Mayhugh patiently shared the story of their two-decade nightmare at a forum sponsored by the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ.org) at the Bluestockings feminist bookstore on the Lower East Side on April 13. The panel was moderated by Debbie Nathan, who has written widely about unjust prosecutions such as these. They were joined by their attorney, Mike Ware, of the Innocence Project of Texas, and Kelly Michaels, a survivor of a false conviction for ritual abuse at a daycare center in the 1980s in Maplewood, New Jersey. Michaels spent five years in prison on a 47-year sentence before feminist and justice advocates won her freedom. The San Antonio Four, convicted while in their 20s, were incarcerated separately for a combined total of 50 years before winning release on bail in 2013. They have been taken off the sex offender registry, but the original judge in the case did not fully exonerate them. It is now up to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas to decide whether they should be exonerated outright or subjected to another trial. There is no timeline for the panel’s decision. Their case has been made into a heart-rending documentary, “Southwest of Salem” by Deborah S. Esquenazi, that recently ran at the Tribeca Film Festival.

SOUTHWESTOFSALEM.COM

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21


FILM

A New Look at Fassbinder Interviews from 1970s at the heart of a psychological profile BY STEVE ERICKSON

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FASSBINDER: TO LOVE WITHOUT DEMANDS Directed by Christian Braad Thomsen Self-distributed In German with English subtitles Opens Apr. 29 The Metrograph 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. metrograph.com

FASSBINDERMOVIE.COM

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Friends” and “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” films that suggest that LGBT people are no more liberated than heterosexuals. In Thomsen’s 1972 interview, Fassbinder suggests that feminists’ goals of emancipation are easier talked about than achieved in a male-dominated society. At the same time, he opines that women make more interesting film characters because they’re allowed to express their emotions openly. “Fassbinder: To Love Without

FASSBINDERMOVIE.COM

ometimes it feels like the late German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s image as a bad boy has outlived his films. While Robert Katz’s tabloid bio “Love Is Colder Than Death” (named after Fassbinder’s first film) remains out of print, documentaries like Rosa von Praunheim’s “Fassbinder’s Women” and numerous supplements on Criterion releases of Fassbinder’s work have kept the director’s cult of personality alive. To be sure, he was one of the first prominent filmmakers who was openly gay, and his life was scandal-sheet fodder: non-stop work and a personal life marked by troubled relationships followed by an early death, appar ently from a drug overdose, at age 37 in 1982. A new documentary, “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands,” takes a Freudian approach in trying to get beyond titillating subjects in Fassbinder’s life like “Sadomasochism” and “Death,” which are two of the film’s actual chapter headings. Director Christian Braad Thomsen, who was born in Denmark but delivers a voice-over in German, knew Fassbinder personally and interviewed him several times. His film is largely based around two interviews with Fassbinder, one conducted in 1972 and the other in 1978. In the latter interview, Fassbinder appears to be totally exhausted. He holds a glass of amber liquid in one hand and a cigarette in another. Yet he’s extremely articulate, even if he speaks slowly. Thomsen also interviews two members of Fassbinder’s acting troupe, Harry Baer and Irm Hermann, and incorporates audio-only clips from Fassbinder’s mother and frequent performer Lilo Pempeit and actress Margit Carstensen. Her mann seems to be in a healthier state of mind than she was when living with Fassbinder and acting in his films. In fact, she sounds downright jovial when stating, “Fassbinder treated me

like a prostitute,” and relating anecdotes about how the director destroyed a bookcase when he realized she was hiding her savings from him there. Baer was treated somewhat better by Fassbinder, but he has plenty to say on the subject of “sadomasochism.” He complains that Fassbinder took advantage of his looks by forcing him to play nude scenes constantly. Thomsen finds the problems that marred Fassbinder’s life and

Rainer Werner Fassbinder with Irm Hermann, a member of his acting troupe.

fueled his creativity in his childhood. Raised in an extended family, he suggests that Fassbinder lived out the Oedipal scenario: around age five, he succeeded in “killing off” his father, who abandoned the family then. From a certain perspective, this can be seen as giving the young Fassbinder a great deal of freedom; from another, it led to an unhealthy neglect. Very late in “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands,” Fassbinder is interviewed on the set of his final film, his adaptation of Jean Genet’s “Querelle.” Asked for his thoughts on the treatment of homosexuality in cinema, he replies that it’s always been depicted very badly, but that “Querelle” isn’t about gayness, just an individual searching for his destiny. Gay activists and feminists weren’t pleased by “Fox and His

Demands” is damaged by its reliance on audio-only interviews, which are generally played over zooms into still photos. Of all directors, Thomsen seems influenced by Ken Burns. To be fair, he makes judicious use of clips from Fassbinder’s films, but “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands” would be far less fascinating without the 1978 Fassbinder inter view. There, Fassbinder fully expresses the contradictions of his life and work. He yearns after an equal, utopian relationship while

suggesting that in a late capitalist society, it’s probably impossible. If his films have influenced directors like Lars von Trier and Todd Haynes, his personal life was less worthy of emulation, to put it mildly. This interview makes it clear that he knew his failings and was perfectly capable of analyzing them. If he’d been able to escape or transcend them, he might have lived past 1982 and had a film at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, where “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands” premiered.

April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


FILM

Power Beyond Words Paddy Breathnach’s “Viva” plumbs the transformative force in Cuban drag BY GARY M. KRAMER

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GARY M. KRAMER: What prompted you, an Irishman, to make a film about a gay Cuban drag queen? PADDY BREATHNACH: I came up with the idea and did the outline, and went to Mark O’Halloran, who’s gay, to write it. I went to Cuba in the 1990s and saw a drag show in the middle of nowhere on the far side of the island. It struck me quickly that the performances had this raw, emotional, authentic, bare quality to them, that wasn’t in any other drag performance I’d seen. It immediately impressed on me that that was something I wanted to see more of. Before the show, a woman next to me was crying and I asked her why, and she said it was her brother and this was the only time he was happy. GMK: How did you immerse yourself in the Cuban and drag queen cultures? PB: We made contact with a guide in the drag world. We’d get in touch and hear about a show, and then another show... It was all clandestine discovery. It was more underground then than it is now. It was in a run-down, working class Havana suburb, in someone’s backyard, basically. They put up a red sheet and one spotlight and there was a transformative power in that — a realm of dreams and the realm of the possible. The intense quality and power of the songs struck me as something very interesting and so rare. To make something transformative out of so little — that was a remarkable thing. It’s the need to do it; it’s more intense. It’s about finding your voice. GMK: Had the lead actors performed in drag prior to making “Viva?” PB: Neither of the two leads, Héctor and Luis Alberto, had done drag performances before. I GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

MAGNOLIA PICTURES

rish filmmaker Paddy Breathnach’s crowd-pleasing “Viva” is set in the world of Cuban drag queens. Jesús (Héctor Medina) is a hairdresser who works for Mama (Luis Alberto García), a performer at a local bar. One night at the club, Jesús unexpectedly reunites with his long-lost father, Angel (Jorge Perugorría), a former boxer now out of jail and harboring a secret. Father and son try to find a common ground, but Angel is not too keen to have a son who is a “maricón,” while Jesús is determined to work as a performer for Mama. Breathnach brings considerable insight and detail to his characters’ struggles for acceptance and understanding. Breathnach spoke with Gay City News about making his heartfelt film.

Héctor Medina in Paddy Breathnach’s “Viva.”

knew casting Jesús would be a discovery and he would have to learn drag, but it is part of the character to do that, so I wasn’t concerned. For Mama, I was concerned. I’d seen performers like Mama, and having seen raw emotional quality I was nervous about an actor learning that art and doing it so quickly. I was going to test a non-actor, but in the auditions I couldn’t find that, but I worked with a casting director and found Luis Alberto García and he showed me he could touch that emotion. I was able to show him the performance I wanted, and he got it very quickly. GMK: You deliberately chose not to subtitle the songs, letting the emotions speak for the characters. Can you discuss this decision? PB: It’s a difficult decision. The lyrics are fantastic — particularly in the final song. They are evocative and have meaning. But as soon as you start reading, you are no longer engaged in the visceral experience of seeing someone on stage. I think it takes you out of the experience. I wanted those scenes to overtake viewers with their emotional power in a direct, primal way. That’s when film works best, and I wanted to preserve that. GMK: Jesús is a character who comes of age over the course of “Viva.” Can you talk about how he adapts to the mother and father characters of Mama and Angel? PB: There’s a selflessness in Jesús. I suppose one of the great things is that while it can be seen as a weakness, Jesús turns it into his power. He can be true to himself and enable others to find the truth in themselves. Not only does he make his own transformation, but others find themselves as well. Suddenly he has an opportunity to have a father — and he wants to preserve that — but he does it on his own terms. For Angel, he wants to love his son but doesn’t know how to do or express that. Mama cares for him, and yet Jesús is wary of her help.

GMK: There is considerable emphasis placed on the economic hardship of the characters. Jesús turns to prostitution at one point. Can you address that element? PB: There’s a truth in Cuba that you are always very close to poverty and falling into prostitution, so the degree of self-interest comes into that situation, but there’s also a sense of solidarity. “None of us are savages yet,” says one character, who can’t pay Jesús for a haircut or pays him with food. In the hard moments, they rally and support. More individuals go into prostitution to earn money for survival. These are not heroin addicts doing it to feed the habit. It’s about getting some luxury goods. They can buy food, but not buy luxuries, so prostitution has been a very present and real thing in Cuba. GK: What observations do you have on the themes of shame, acceptance, and tolerance in the film? PB: Jesús is sort of disempowered at moments in the film — going along with his father, or having to prostitute himself — but these moments all direct him toward something. He’s not subjugated by his shame. He’s bearing terrible things and doing things that may destroy him, but you still feel his inner goodness is present. It’s through his performance he can find more fundamental, greater, and deeper truth and fulfillment.

VIVA Directed by Paddy Breathnach Magnolia Pictures In Spanish with English subtitles Opens Apr. 29 Angelika Film Center 18 Houston St. at Mercer St. angelikafilmcenter.org

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THEATER

THE LOCUSTS HAVE NO KING

Finding One’s Own Way

Intar Theatre 500 W. 52nd St. Through May 1 Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun at 5 p.m. $30; ovationtix.com Or 866-811-4111 Ninety mins., no intermission

Intar explores gay identity in sometimes inhospitable world BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

CAROL ROSEGG

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mong the many fascinating and thought-provoking moments in J. Julian Christopher’s “The Locusts Have No King,” now at Intar, is a discussion of the difference between celibacy and chastity. That distinction, real in linguistic and historical terms if not in Roman Catholic doctrine, provides the out for the four priests who inhabit David Mendizábal’s strongly directed production. The priests have created a snug life for themselves in an unnamed, evidently large parish’s rectory, where they share companionship, intimacy, and no small amount of sex. Their cozy set-up is threatened, however, when the youngest among the priests, Matthew, decides he must begin to live openly and honestly as a gay man. Recognizing that the rationale he and

his fellow priests have relied on is at odds with Church policy, he knows he must leave the priesthood, a move that could expose the others and create a crisis. Lucus, Jonathan, and Marcus — yes, the Gospels’ authors are invoked here in the priests’ names — struggle to maintain their status quo while clinging to their callings. What ensues is a fascinating, sensitive, and often heartbreaking conversation about the cost of lives lived in the closet and how that impacts different generations. Was the priesthood the only avenue for the older gay men in the group to achieve security? Perhaps it was. Far from criticizing religion, Christopher employs the Church as a metaphor for the larger society, with the struggle faced by the priests reflective of the more universal challenge of living with integrity. Even in 2016, living openly can be threatening for

Dan Domingues and John Concado in J. Julian Christopher’s “The Locusts Have No King,” directed by David Mendizábal at Intar Theatre through May 1 only.

LGBT people. “The Locusts Have No King” — developed by Intar as part of its mission of producing Latino voices in English — relies heavily on magical realism, with earthquakes and unexplained occurrences shaking the physical world as much as the intellectual and spiritual realms. If the explosive ending isn’t really a resolution, it is dramatic and powerful. The implication here is that this incendiary issue will not be resolved any time soon. The cast is consistently good. Liam Torres and David Grimm

Salem Lives Ivo Van Hove’s spellbinding, timely production of “The Crucible” casts bleak light on contemporary politics BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

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JAN VERSWEYVELD

Saoirse Ronan and Ben Whishaw in Ivo Van Hove’s production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”

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here is no more terrifying moment to be seen on a Broadway stage in this season — nor has there been in recent memory — than Saoirse Ronan as Abigail Williams quietly and intently staring down Tavi Gevinson as Mary Warren in Ivo Van Hove’s chilling and brilliant staging of “The Crucible.” The two young women sit facing each other near the apron of the stage as the men of Salem’s witch trial court argue upstage about whether or not to hear Mary’s evidence that Abigail’s accusations are false. Abigail’s laser-like malevolence proves too much for Mary, who crumbles under the implicit threats and, to save herself from the court that believes Abigail’s accusations over any rational argument, gets back in line with Abigail

are lovers Marcus and Jonathan, respectively. Jonathan, the more sexually-driven of the two, was a former lover of Lucus, the intense and charming Dan Domingues, who in turn is trying to keep the lid on his disintegrating relationship with Matthew, an engaging John J. Concado. Matthew is not only conflicted about his vows, but also jealous of the past relationship that Lucus and Jonathan shared. The enforced intimacy among the men and their overlapping connections keep the tensions high throughout. Like Sylvia Plath’s “Bell Jar,” the confinement these men feel in their roles and in themselves inevitably proves combustible. What results is a poignant reminder of the challenges facing anyone who tries to be true to themself in an environment full of conflicting demands.

and her clique of fellow teens in claiming to see spirits. Abigail, having been rejected sexually by John Proctor and then fired by his wife Elizabeth, touches off the hysteria as a means of getting revenge. Cynically latching on to the town’s religious superstitions, Abigail foments fear, nullifies facts, and so stirs up the mob that emotion supersedes proof. The result is full-scale devastation. Arthur Miller’s 1953 play was an indictment of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts that targeted suspected communists and created the Hollywood blacklist. Just as those under the cloud the Wisconsin Republican created were encouraged to name names to save their own skins, Abigail and the other girls do the same in the play. But Van Hove doesn’t leave “The Crucible” back in the Cold War, much less the 17th century. Instead, he puts the cast in modern dress and places them in a nondescript cavernous room. The echoes of Salem and McCarthyism are inescapable, but the real horror is our current political reality in which self-aggrandiz-

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CRUCIBLE, continued on p.33

April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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25


THEATER

Modern Morality

A Medieval style in contemporary clothes proves fascinating BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

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DRY POWDER

The Public Theater, Martinson Hall 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Through May 1 Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $95; publictheater.org Or 212-967-7555 Ninety-five mins., no intermission

JOAN MARCUS

ou have to allow less intelligent people to hate you. It’s their destiny, and it costs you nothing.” So says Jenny, a partner in a high-end investment banking firm to her colleague/ competitor/ partner Seth when he expresses discomfort at the acquisition deal Jenny is proposing that will put a lot of “little people” out of work, not to mention decimating a family business. She’s unfazed because in Jenny’s world, there is no place for emotion or sentiment; there’s just scoring the most cash possible. The conflict between Seth and Jenny is at the center of “Dry Powder,” a new play by Sarah Burgess getting a wonderful world premiere at the Public under the brilliant direction of Thomas Kail. The intense 95-minute play is steeped in the fast-paced, contemporary lan-

Hank Azaria, Claire Danes, and John Krasinski in Sarah Burgess’ “Dry Powder” directed by Thomas Kail, at the Public Theater through May 1 only.

guage of mergers and acquisitions, but at heart it is a Medieval morality play, in which a mere mortal is pitted against irresistible temptation and in the thrall of good and bad

angels. Here it is not the traditional devil of Dante, Marlowe, or Milton, but rather the allure of Wall Street riches that can separate a man from his soul. That man is Jeff Schrader,

Thank God for Mike

MORALITY, continued on p.27

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JOAN MARCUS

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BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

Birbiglia dissects humor — and creates a wonderful show

Mike Birbiglia in “Thank God for Jokes.”

president of a luggage company ripe for acquisition. He comes to Seth, the good angel, with a vision for preserving the company and its culture but also growing to serve new customers. Jenny, the bad angel, wants to strip the company down and make Jeff very rich, but at the expense of his employees. Burgess sets up the conflict between Seth and Jenny beauti-

hough comedy is wonderful, attempting to explain it can be deadly dull. E.B. White once compared comedy analysis to dissecting a frog: “Few people are interested, and the frog dies.” That’s all very well and good for the audience, but for the comedian, analysis is an essential part of the process in creating their work. That can be either an intellectual or practical process, as Mike Birbiglia notes. His brilliant new show, “Thank God For Jokes,” is currently running for another month at the Lynn Redgrave Theater and, like his previous outings, is top-notch and not to be missed. What you’ll see on stage is a meditation on the nature of jokes, told through jokes. They range from lateness — be on time, or else — to childhood in a church to a particularly untoward episode with the Muppets. “The genesis of the show,” Birbiglia says, “was that after I did the first two shows, I wanted to just joke and tell stories for a while. And the theme I arrived at over time was jokes themselves. I realized I had a fascination with jokes, and that jokes are a really modern topic that’s important to discuss. Increasingly, with the Internet, we are all

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JOKES, continued on p.27

April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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MORALITY, from p.26

fully. The company they work for is in the midst of a PR debacle, and the company’s founder, Rick (who would be God in the morality play), sets the two against one another. What follows are barbs and insults between Seth and Jenny both cringe-inducing and hilarious. Burgess clearly understands the mechanics of a Wall Street acquisition, yet as obscure as some of the financial language might be to some, the battle at the heart of the story is always clear. The high stakes involved — both financial and personal — make this battle compelling. To reveal the victor would be to spoil the suspense, but it’s clear at the end that this is but one battle in an eternal war.

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JOKES, from p.26

becoming neighbors. We’re going to have to face this. What if we don’t like what other people say? I want to understand why things are funny. I want us to listen to each other in the context in which we intend the words. We have to listen to each other, or we’re going to kill one another.” Birbiglia fully embraces the notion that not everyone will see something as funny, but his humor and his stories are so warm and based in truth that the audience is invited into the exploration. Along the way, they will delight in his wry and spoton observations and inevitably laugh at themselves. He says that a great deal of the power of his comedy comes from “recognition and surprise.” We see ourselves in the stories and realize the absurdity in our own lives. It’s a welcome tonic for our intensely self-focused culture. Birbiglia reminds us of the power and relief of laughing at ourselves. For most people, Birbiglia notes, jokes are “your side of the story.” He explains, “One of the guiding principles of the show is that we all have the right to tell jokes. And we all have the right to be offended by jokes.” As he developed the show, he says, he spent a lot of time exploring “the ethics of jokes.” As in walking a tightrope, the intent of a joke GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

The company, under Kail’s precise direction, is outstanding. Hank Azaria is decisive and strong as Rick, the original deal-maker, and Sanjit De Silva is dead-on as the tempted everyman, Jeff. The play, though, belongs to Claire Danes as Jenny and John Krasinski as Seth. They are each commanding and laser-focused in their work, perfectly balanced in their energies as they strive to win. Rachel Hauk’s cool platform set, with wonderful lighting by Jason Lyons, could be a modern pageant wagon, stylishly serving as the perfect cockpit for the competition. Like the original morality plays, “Dry Powder” deals in absolutes, creating a marvelous and gripping theatricality that resonates long after the show has moved on.

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must be balanced against how it will be perceived. The concept of truth is central to all of this, Birbiglia insists. If something happened to you, you have every right to repeat it, but being truthful is essential. “You have to ask, ‘Is the thing true?,’” he explains. “One of the prices you pay if something isn’t true is that the audience recognizes it’s a bit. It’s funny, but it’s not true.” The power of the joke is diminished because “what’s lost is laughter and truth… and connection.” In practice, much of the exploration comes from getting things up on stage. “You throw it up there and you see how it goes,” Birbiglia says. “If people don’t laugh, I wouldn’t do it again.” Suffice to say that all the jokes in “Thank God for Jokes” have survived that process. Thank God Birbiglia was willing to dissect the frog. We all benefit from what he discovered.

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27


Stealing Time

Two splashy Broadway tuners about seizing the day before it slips away BY DAVID KENNERLEY

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f somebody of fered you a magic elixir that guarantees you will live forever, fixed at your current age, would you gulp it down? “Not so fast,” cautions “Tuck Everlasting,” the soft-spoken, utterly enchanting new musical about a family frozen in time, now at the Broadhurst Theatre. Based on the 1975 novel by Natalie Babbitt, this fairy tale with music by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen, has a quaint, timeless quality that perfectly suits its subject. With a book by Claudia Shear and T im Federle, the enterprise is enhanced by Walt Spangler’s imaginative, earthy set, much of it fashioned from scraps of wood. The tale begins when the Tuck family unwittingly drinks from a spring deep in the woods of New Hampshire in 1808, later discovering that their bodies never age. Flash forward nearly a century, where a girl named Winnie, who has run away from her tyrannical mother (Valerie Wright) a n d N ana (Pip p a P e a r t h r e e ) ,

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stumbles upon the Tucks in the woods and discovers their secret. Winnie seems to have a crush on Jesse Tuck (the delightful, exceedingly crush-worthy Andrew Keenan-Bolger), forever 17. If Mr. and Mrs. Tuck (Michael Park and Carolee Carmello) are distraught about being discovered, they find themselves enchanted by the vibrant, inquisitive young interloper. The gruff, brooding older son, Miles (Robert Lenzi), has a dark past that Winnie coaxes him to reveal. Not that it’s any surprise. As the charming Winnie, emerging star Sarah Charles Lewis is one of the most gifted and appealing youngsters to grace a Broadway stage this season. Free from any hint of smarminess, which that often plagues child actors, she has the poise and precision (not to mention formidable vocal chops) of an actor many years h e r s e n i o r. A c c o r d i n g t o h e r Playbill bio, she is an 11-year old playing an 11-year old. Did Miss Lewis somehow discover a magical spring of her own? This family-friendly “Tuck” owes much of its power to

JOAN MARCUS

JOAN MARCUS

Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Sarah Charles Lewis in “Tuck Everlasting,” directed by Casey Nicholaw, at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Nick Cordero and Jessie Mueller in “Waitress,” directed by Diane Paulus, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

restraint. Many of the musical numbers feel like dainty, lyrical ballets. Yet it’s hard to believe that this delicate, plaintive piece is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, known for muscular, raucous extravaganzas like “The Book of Mormon” and “Something Rotten.” There’s only one number, set in a carnival, that might qualify as a razzle-dazzle crowd-pleaser. In this mystical “Tuck Ever lasting,” the emotional intensity sneaks up on you. In Act II, the soaring ballad “Time,” delivered with aplomb by Lenzi and revealing Miles’ pain of losing a wife and child, is heart-wrenching. At that moment we realize just what is at stake when you opt for life everlasting. You are stuck in the past, watching life pass you by, while the rest of the world hur tles forward. And the central message, wrapped up in a bow, is one worth heeding. “Don’t be afraid of death,” Mr. Tuck advises Winnie. “Be afraid of not being truly alive. You don’t need to live for ever, you just need to live.”

It’s almost impossible to talk about “Waitress,” the highly anticipated new musical about a careworn server at a Southern roadside diner who also creates its yummy pies, without slipping into cor ny baking metaphors. Especially when Jessie Nelson (book) and soulful pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles (who wrote the superb music and lyrics) have strenuously drawn parallels between baking pies and healing broken hearts,

extracting joy from pain, making peace with “happy enough,” and seizing your dreams. The ingredients of this alter nately moody and snappy comic drama, based on the 2007 film of the same name, are chosen with utmost care. You could say that down-to-earth Jenna, the titular waitress (the divine Jessie Mueller, Tony Award-winner for “Beautiful, The Carole King Musical”) serves as the flour for this endeavor. T rapped in a loveless marriage to a brute, she finds herself pregnant and miserable. She give her pies precious names depending on whatever tribulation — or dream — she’s processing that day, like “My Husband’s a Jerk Chicken Pot Pie,” “Jumping Without a Net Bottomless Pie,” and “Almost Makes You Believe Again Pie.” Jenna’s forbidden love inter est, who happens to be her obstetrician (Dr ew Gehling), a d d s t h e r e q u i s i t e s u g a r. A decidedly sour note is provided by Jenna’s derelict, abusive husband, Earl (a ferocious Nick Cordero). Her wacked-out co-workers at Joe’s Pie Diner are the dramatic equivalent of Tabasco Sauce. The hefty-framed Becky (the vocal powerhouse Keala Settle) is a spitfire with a sensitive side. The feisty, pony-tailed Dawn (the comically gifted Kimiko Glenn) is a bundle of insecurities who later finds her self-confidence. Most of the supporting roles add a distinct salty nuttiness, especially Dawn’s obsessive new love

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Savion Glover’s Steps, Though Not His Feet Tap wizard’s choreography enlivens collaboration with George C. Wolfe on “Shuffle Along” BY ZITA ALLEN

said he’d been looking at the original ‘Shuffle Along,’ the first black Broadway musical back in 1921, and all that it did. He wanted to hen “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensa- explore that — not do a revival of it but just explore the possibility of tion of 1921 and All that Followed” opens at the Music using the music to tell the stories of the people who were involved.” Box Theater on April 28, it won’t be tap wizard Savion Fans of “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” and its unique way Glover’s first time on Broadway. of capturing the journey from slavery to the present know what that Glover’s signature style has dazzled the eye and boggled the mind means. ever since he debuted at 12 years old in “The Tap Dance Kid,” danc“The direction George has taken allows audiences to not only ing alongside his mentor, the legendary Gregory Hines. That show know about the 1921 ‘Shuffle Along,’ Glover added, “but, through was followed by a string of hits, including a Tony-nominated perhis ‘edutainment,’ to learn what black performers went formance in “Black and Blue” and a starring role as jazz piathrough and in some cases are still going through.” nist Jelly Roll Morton in George C. Wolfe’s musical “Jelly’s Yes, there is a glimpse of blackface and one use of Last Jam.” Then, in 1996 came his performance in “Bring the N-word. But there is also “Love Will Find a Way,” in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” for which his choreograthe first time a black man and woman sang a love phy won the Tony. song to one another onstage. And, there is so much Like these previous hits, “Shuffle Along” represents the more that allows the show to teach and remind us fruits of a collaboration with director and writer George what folks endured to become giants who C. Wolfe, who snagged one of his two Tony Awards for changed American culture forever. There directing “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk.” are the show’s creative teams — Noble There is one big difference here, though. This Sissle & Eubie Blake and Flournoy time, while audiences will be dazzled by the Miller & Aubrey L yles — and stars rapid-fire rat-a-tat-tat of Glover’s tap style, Lottie Gee and Florence Mills, as well they won’t see him dance. But, no wor as folks who emerged from both the ries. Instead of watching Glover hunched show and the Harlem Renaissance era over, knees bent, dreadlocks flying, in it helped spark, including James Reese the zone as his size 12 EE tap shoes Europe, Aida Overton Walker, Carl Van hit the boards with an explosive volVechten, Langston Hughes, and Zora ley that brings folks to their feet, there Neale Hurston. There’s even a program will be a chorus line of amazing dancinsert for the 1921 “Shuffle Along” that ers doing the steps Glover choreoincludes bios and photos of the origigraphed. nators and cast as well as a Who’s Who Will critics proclaim that Glover that includes Josephine Baker and has, once again, stolen audience’s Paul Robeson. hearts when the show opens? Only Is it information overload? time will tell. But, if the enthusias“I think audiences have become tic applause during the sold-out premore intelligent and open to not being views is any indication, Glover and simply seduced by entertainment,” Wolfe could have another hit on their Glover responded. hands. Then, too, there’s the dance. Glover Seeing the show a few days before has always starred in previous collabinterviewing Glover made it perfectly orations with Wolfe, so it’s interesting to clear that “Shuffle Along“ sparkles not know how it feels being behind the scenes. only because of Glover and Wolfe but “It feels great,” he said. “I like being able to thanks to the sparks that fly when you sit back and watch the pictures. It’s like everyput together a cast that includes Audra thing or most of the information that I have gathMcDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy ered from the past and the men and women I’ve studied Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshwith prepared me for this moment. ua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, Adri“Had I not spent time with Gregory Hines or enne Warren, Amber Iman, and a sassy, Jimmy Slyde or Honi Coles or the Nichbreathtaking chorus line. olas Br others or Lon Chaney or masOne evening before curtain call, Glovter teacher and choreographer Henry er took time out of a hectic schedLeTang [who staged a revival of “Shufule to settle into a cozy corner of the fle Along” some 50 years ago], or any of theater’s downstairs lobby and talk the other great masters…” Glover said about “Shuffle Along.” as his voice trailed off. “Sometimes I pull “Well, it started with several converfrom approaches that may not necessar sations. George and I knew we wantily be what I would do in the moment but COURTESY: PHILIP RINALDI PUBLICITY ed to work together again. We pitched Savion Glover, in a new collaboration with director George C. Wolfe, it works. I’ve been really allowing myself several dif ferent concepts to each choreographs “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of other. Then, in one of our meetings he 1921 and All that Followed.” c SHUFFLE, continued on p.34

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IN THE

NOH

A Pope to Believe In Cabaret stars blossom all over town; a Coward retrospective

BY DAVID NOH

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MOLLYPOPE.COM

here will probably never be another Golden Age of Cabaret as there was in the 1970s, when nearly every block in Manhattan seemed to have at least one boîte where supernovas, almoststars with cult followings, and unknowns alike could get up on stage and attempt to bring an audience to its knees through the art of song. It was part of the fabric of everyday gay life when I first moved here, with now defunct spots like Reno Sweeney, the Bottom Line, Michael’s Pub, the Cookery, the Grand Finale, the Ballroom, Five Oaks, the Ninth Circle, Upstairs at the Downstairs, Brothers and Sisters, and others offering up everyone from the great Alberta Hunter, Bobby Short, Mel Torme, Sylvia Syms, and Anita O’Day, to an eclectic range of movie stars, including Diane Keaton, Holly Woodlawn, Edie Beale, and Ellen Greene, as well as such near-forgotten talents as Betty Rhodes, Judith Cohen, Jane Olivor, Novella Nelson, and Alaina Reed. But though the number of establishments has dwindled precipitously, there’s a helluva lot of very special and unique talent alive and kicking around town today — Nellie McKay, Vivian Reed, Annaleigh Ashford, Carole J. Bufford, Aaron Weinstein, Maude Maggart, and more. At the very forefront is the prodigiously gifted Molly Pope, whom I first discovered through her fiercely belting appearances in Justin Sayre’s deliciously diverting installments of “The Meeting.” She kept popping up, at 54 Below, paying wonderfully brassy tribute to Liza Minnelli with her divinely overwrought “The Singer.” And then, last year, she completely blew me away when she played that ultimate 19th century careerist, Adah Isaacs Menken, in Trav S.D.’s “Horse Play” at La MaMa. Her charismatic effrontery and melting vulnerability proved her considerable acting chops in this superbly funky and literate production, which harked back to downtown Off-Off Broadway’s most original and thrilling roots. Pope reminded me of nothing so much as the very young Bette Midler, both Mer man-esque and delicately lyrical, out to conquer show business by any means necessary. Having amassed a considerable, devoted, and very gay following, Pope’s outrageous — and outrageously good — solo shows are now must-see affairs for the most musically discerning as well as the purely fun-loving. And she is a highly candid dream to interview. “Five minutes after meeting me, you will

know the most intimately pressing crisis about to break in my life,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot of filter and in some ways I lack a sense of social customs. That is, I won’t violate your boundaries, but I will force you to cross mine.” When I remarked how especially attractive and chic she looked, Pope laughed. “Lately, I’ve gotten super into watching fashion documentaries on Netflix, like the one about Iris Apfel and ‘Dior and I,’” she said. “I also happen to have lost 25 pounds for the first time in my life, which has allowed me, finally at 34, to dress how I want to and not to flatter my figure, which is so much cooler. Part of the weight loss was from the stress of my marriage falling apart, moving back to Manhattan to a six-floor walkup, and I started riding my bike again. I realized how important physical activity is to me for my well-being. The McBurney Y

The prodigiously gifted, often unfiltered Molly Pope.

is my big splurge, and I go once or twice a week to yoga. I love the community feeling, which I get nowhere else, of taking a Zumba class, where I am the youngest person in the room.” Pope is hilariously funny — and naturally so — and never more than when she’s graphically detailing her adventures in dating on Facebook: “A lot of times I turn it up a notch, stylize it. I have a way with words that can make something that’s not so interesting seem interesting — the whole dating thing, my observations are universal, if you’re gonna be honest about it. “Unless the guy is a total douche bag, I try to only post things that are from my perspective because I never thought I would be dating again. I was married but now I’m not, so that accounts for the rather fresh but horrified perspective on dating. I think that part of my brain literally shut down when I got married. I thought it was done

but now it’s been violently reactivated. It’s been more than a year since my divorce was finalized; we were only married for four years, together for seven total, long enough. “Oh, that septennial itch! He was a recovering performer, an actor who went back to school to pursue a degree in physical ther apy. I had avoided dating actors before him; it’s a bad idea. I love dating people who have some creative pursuit, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to invite that close a competition. “Ever since my mom forced me to watch ‘Funny Girl’ when I was about 11 years old, that lyric always stayed with me: ‘To tell the truth, it hurt my pride/ The groom was prettier than the bride.’ I never want my boyfriend to be prettier than I am. I’m very superficial. I dated one guy I thought was really hot and I was miserable because I have a very jealous nature, let’s call a spade a spade.” Pope grew up near Pittsburgh, “30 minutes away, in the town where the original ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was filmed, that mall. I didn’t get to see a lot of shows so I grew up with a lot of movie musicals, soundtracks, and a lot of the Great American Songbook. I thought I was going to be an Olympic swimmer from when I was four, but when I got to high school I started doing theater, which I never thought I could do before.” I always look forward to Pope’s bringing down the house at Justin Sayre’s annual “Night of a Thousand Judys,” like when she sang “By Myself” with Garland’s original arrangement, painstakingly discovered, and then written out by hand from a photocopy. She told me, “I spent a lot of my childhood watching Turner Classic Movies with my grandma. What I have done consciously is listen to the way she fits certain notes to certain vowels and try to adapt that to myself because our voices are very similar. I do the same thing with Mary Testa and a couple other singers. If I’m going to sing ‘The Man That Got Away,’ which I’ve only done maybe three times in my life, I hit certain notes in a lot of the same resonant places, because that’s the best way for my voice to do it. “My largely gay following was purely a function of being in my 20s in New York with this big, low, belting voice that couldn’t get me cast in anything to save my life. So I decided to just sing anywhere I could and most of those places were gay establishments, ‘Mostly Sondheim’ at the Duplex,’ or ‘After Party’ at the Laurie Beechman, and I don’t know how many bars in Hell’s Kitchen, this great tradition of nightlife where you’re literally putting on your makeup in a stairwell. “My little girl obsession with Judy coincides with the gay community’s so when I make a very specific joke, gay men know what I’m referencing and laugh. I also think, purely super-

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


DAVID NOH

Rumer Willis at Café Carlyle.

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IN THE NOH, from p.30

ficially, that gay men are interested in what I’m wearing when I go onstage. I also make the joke — my ardent wish — that I’m an ascendant gay icon, and I’ve thought a lot about the various generally accepted gay icons — the Judy, the Barbra, the Bette, even Cher. What gives them icon status beyond their amazing talent and careers is something that I also have in me. They are all women who are emotionally available, and the physicality of it is the gesture of constantly giving forward to the audience and not watching their back. The juxtaposition of that much fierce, ferocious talent but so much vulnerability at the same time seems to be a common thread among the gay icons. You’re giving so much that you forget to look out for yourself. To a certain tragic and non-tragic extent, nothing is held back, everything is given to you.”

There’s all kinds of great music in town this spring. After Alexa Ray Joel and Rita Wilson, I was a little trepidatious about star relations doing cabaret, but Rumer Willis at the Café Carlyle on April 5 completely won me over — as she did millions with her “Dancing with the Stars” victory — and I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since. After a shaky, too exposed start with “Maybe This T ime,” she really found her groove with some cannily chosen rock compositions, her distinctively husky, throbbing voice flowering particularly GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

on Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.” E v e n “ G o d Bl ess the Chi l d ,” which, like “Hallelujah,” “Summertime,” and “Amazing Grace,” I rarely want to hear performed again, acquired rich new meaning in her hands, given the fact that in her case the “mama and papa who may have” are Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. I caught the charmingly unaffected Willis outside on the street afterwards, cadging a quick smoke, congratulated her and also commented on how much, as a child, I loved the books of the woman she was named for by her doll-loving mother, Rumer Godden. “You’re one of the few who even know who she is!” she exclaimed. “Yes, my mom read her books to us and people send me dolls and her books to this day!”

One week later, I was back at the Carlyle for Katherine Jenkins. She’s somewhat of an unknown quantity Stateside, but an immense star in her native UK and around the world. A mellifluous, classically trained mezzo soprano, she hardly needed the mic in the café’s intimate space, and not only sounded like but looked an angel, with her lovely face, tumbling blonde hair, and model’s figure clad in the biggest sapphire gown ever seen on that stage. An exciting “Habanera” was her one operatic selection from an Andrew Lloyd Webber -heavy repertoire of songs, and she was as gracious and down to earth as could be when I met her later. Also greeting her for the first time was actor Ryan Silverman, just back from happily doing Sondheim’s “Passion” with Natalie Dessay in Paris (in English). Silverman is scheduled to sing with Jenkins for the June official UK celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday.

Special as they were, however, Jenkins and Willis were simply delicious appetizers before the Carlyle main course, which was the debut of Chita Rivera there on April 19 (35 E. 76th St., through Apr. 30; ticketmaster.com). A household accident, which laid her up during the holidays, forced her to postpone this event until

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OPERA

Low Voltage “Elektra”

What Strauss wrote big gets a toned down, inward production BY ELI JACOBSON

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MARTY SOHL/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

n the world of opera, Richard Strauss’ “Elektra” (1909) defines the concept of “larger than life. Except for its tidy 100-minute length, this opera is big. It has the opera repertory’s biggest, loudest post-Wagnerian orchestration and requires the biggest, most powerful voices. The libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (adapted from the Sophocles tragedy) embodies the life or death emotional intensity of Greek tragedy spiked with early 20th century Austro-German psychology. There are elements of Grand-Guignol melodrama, though all the bloodshed happens offstage. The performance history of this opera has favored the grand and over-the-top: heavy metal volume emerging from the pit and the stage, expressionist movements, grotesque makeup, and silent movie grimaces. Without equally big emotional commitment it can devolve into camp — kind of the operatic equivalent of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” The Metropolitan’s current staging of “Elektra” is influential French director Patrice Chereau’s final stage work — it premiered in Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 2013 and Chereau died the following October. The production is remounted for the Metropolitan Opera by Chereau’s assistant, Vincent Huguet. Chereau was famous for his Bayreuth Ring Cycle, which stripped away the traditional heroic/ symbolic models of Wagnerian dramaturgy in favor of detailed naturalism. Gods, dwarves, and mortals wore 19th century clothing out of a Balzac novel and tussled on the floor with hatred or desire. Similarly, in “Elektra” Chereau humanizes and scales down the story — offering spare psychological drama rather than mythological melodrama. Everything is toned down and turned inward. Richard Peduzzi’s set is a spare, industrial courtyard — it could be outside a factory or prison. Caroline de Vivaise designed simple contemporary shifts for the

Waltraud Meier (standing center) and Nina Stemme (kneeling) in the Met Opera production of Richard Strauss’ “Elektra.”

women and dark coats and trousers for the men that are so nondescript as to be timeless. Elektra wears a worn man’s shirt and slacks in dull gray. The soigné Klytämnestra models a tasteful jade-colored evening gown accented by bead necklaces. All the characters are given detailed personal interactions and business. The five maids are clearly characterized and differentiated. The Fifth Maid, sung by the 67 year-old veteran soprano Roberta Alexander, is clearly the oldest and most emotionally invested in her royal masters. She not only is Elektra’s sole defender but later accompanies Chrysothemis onstage and, movingly, is one of the first to recognize the returning Orest before his sister does. Some of Chereau’s direction is revelatory. At one point in the crucial Elektra/ Klytämnestra confrontation, when the tortured queen reaches out to her daughter, Elektra kneels and embraces her mother who strokes her matted hair. There is love buried beneath the hate. At other times, his direction is needlessly busy — the servants are onstage silent witnesses in scenes meant for two characters alone.

Other choices are perverse and eccentric. In the final scene, the murdered Klytämnestra is dragged onstage and displayed upstage right. Aegisth (portrayed as younger, attractive, and dangerously self-possessed by tenor Burkhard Ulrich in his Met debut) must purposely face downstage throughout to not see her corpse in open view behind him. He also is murdered onstage by Orest’s tutor, not by Orest offstage. These choices dilute the drama rather than intensify it. Chereau’s concept is that Elektra’s obsession increasingly separates her from reality — she even forgets to give Orest the axe that was used to murder their father. At the end, Elektra does not dance and does not die — she is an empty shell whose dance is in her head. Staring blankly at the audience downstage, she has fully retreated from reality and her death is spiritual. Hailed as savior and liberator, Orest exits out the courtyard doors without looking back as Chrysothemis calls his name. The children of Agamemnon are now alone, each in their own private hell or personal void — alienated from the world and each other. I found the cast oddly distanced and low-impact in both vocal-

ism and interpretation. Perhaps this is because the direction was designed for a more intimate theater, or it could be that without the original director present the animating artistic spirit was gone. Nina Stemme replaced Chereau’s original protagonist Evelyn Herlitzius but the other two women remained the same: Waltraud Meier as Klytämnestra and Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. All are intelligent actresses, superb musicians, and by now somewhat compromised singers. Stemme’s Elektra projected a wily intelligence as well as the defensive rebelliousness of the social misfit. Elektra seemed an outsider in her own home, dragging her few possessions around with her and constantly looking over her shoulder like a homeless person in a shelter. After an unfocused “Allein!” opening monologue capped by a blunted below the note high C, Stemme collected her voice, carefully aiming for vocal line and variety of color and dynamics. As the opera progressed, this coolly lyrical approach began to gain merits. The Recognition Scene duet with Orest was full of rich, mour nful beauty — Stemme’s spun long, lush phrases capped by delicate pianos. One admired her technical control in this behemoth killer role, yet something elemental was lost. One seldom sensed powerful emotions straining for release. At the end, there was no catharsis because the grief, obsession, and blood lust came from the head, not the soul. Waltraud Meier also scrupulously avoided the grotesque as a self-contained elegant Klytämnestra. She didn’t even do the traditional cackling laugh at her exit but merely smiled enigmatically after hearing that Orest had died in foreign lands. What is rancid and tortured in this woman’s guilty soul — the desperate paranoia and fear that drive her — was described but not embodied. There was the lieder singer’s attention to textual nuance but small color-

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CRUCIBLE, from p.24

ing demagogues seek to control others by playing on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The success of this dark and magnificent interpretation comes from brilliantly exposing the self-serving evil that nourishes itself on the manipulation of the credulous. Van Hove’s masterful interpretation of Miller’s play is fully realized in the splendid cast. In addition to Ronan, who is cold and terrifying as Abigail, and Gevinson, who is compelling as the conflicted and fragile Mary Warren, the entire company excels. In particular, Jason Butler Harner is excellent as Reverend Samuel Parris, whose religion is as much about expediency and seeking power as faith. Jim Norton is heartbreaking as Giles Corey, pleading for his life and that of his wife against raging falsehoods. Ciarán Hinds as Deputy General Danforth, starkly resolute in the intractability of his faith and righteousness, gives a performance that will give you nightmares for a week. And at the center of the play is the relationship between John Proctor, a grippingly intense and committed Ben Whishaw, and his wife Elizabeth, Sophie Okonedo, whose every moment is richly filled. The couple battle for their integrity in the face of condemnation for not confessing to that which they know is untrue. Jan Versweyveld’s lighting complements his set beautifully, and

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less tone vitiated its effect. Meier sounded vocally undernourished — years of pushing all her resonance upward has left the bottom register empty in a role created by the famous contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink. Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis was musical and empathetic but sounded mature and pressed on top. She avoided the suppressed hysteria of a Leonie Rysanek or Karita Mattila, suggesting that Chrysothemis is the calmer, realistic sister. As Orest, Eric Owens’ sable bass-baritone sounded deluxe but his characterization failed to coalesce — he seemed remote, unsure of himself. Or who he was supposed to be? Strauss famously instructGayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

ARTHUR MILLER’S THE CRUCIBLE Walter Kerr Theatre 219 W. 48th St. Through Jul. 17 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $42-$149; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 50 mins., with intermission the muted palette of the contemporary costumes by Wojciech Dziedzic stands in stark contrast to the purple passions of the play. The original score by Philip Glass, at times barely perceptible, adds to the accumulating tension as the trials progresses. The revival of a classic play always raises the question of what new can be found. Here, “The Crucible” stands as a stark reminder of what can happen when mass hysteria and superstition trump due process and rational thought. Shocking as it seems to an enlightened mind that rejects the supernatural, we are still surrounded by latter-day Cotton Mathers who build their politics around fear and intimidation, leaving untold damage in their wakes. As this awe-inspiring production makes clear, those demagogues — and not the prejudices and myths they play on — are today what we should fear most.

ed orchestras to play “Elektra” as if it were “Mendelssohn fairy music.” Unlike most conductors, Esa-Pekka Salonen heeded this advice. One heard many subtle details in the string writing lost in higher decibel sturm und drang interpretations. The muted volume was helpful to these singers. Yet the sense of building tension and its forceful release went out with the bombast. This subdued internalized approach did not work for me, yet the critical and audience response to this low-voltage “Elektra” has been mainly rapturous. The intimacy of the camera may maximize the virtues and minimize the weaknesses of the production concept when it is transmitted in HD at 12:55 p.m. this coming Saturday, April 30.

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SHUFFLE ALONG Music Box Theatre 239 W. 45th St. Tue., Thu., 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $79-$375; telecharge.com

Adrienne Warren and Audra McDonald in “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All that Followed.”

SHUFFLE, from p.29

to be vulnerable to accept the energy of these masters I’ve been fortunate enough to know, learn from, and work with.” It’s all in this production, which is chock full of the variety that reflects both tap’s spectrum and Glover’s genius. Not only are there iconic tap steps — buck and wing, over the trenches, in the trenches, stomp, slide, and you name it — but they emerge in creative numbers that rif f

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on the original show and move the story forward in compelling ways. Take the traveling number that captures the show’s touring circuit as dancers, each holding a suitcase, tap, stomp, and shuffle across the stage while calling out the names of the cities the show played in before landing on Broadway. “Showstopper” is a word that gets bandied about when folks are smitten by Broadway magic. Chances are once the “Shuffle Along” reviews appear, it will be

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IN THE NOH, from p.31

now, but, as her sister Lola told me, “She’s indestructible!” Truer words were never spoken, for the lady was simply on fire, singing her very favorite songs. She looked as magnificently ageless and trim as ever, somehow managing to dance up a storm on the tiny stage. I’d heard her do many of her selections before, but who cares when they included the best moments from “Bye Bye Birdie,” “West Side Story,” “The Rink,” and the equally indestructible “Chicago,” with the star performing them at white heat intensity? She sizzled on “Mas Que Nada,” my favorite of her live songs, and turned Jacques Brel’s “Carousel” into a veritable mini-opera of dramatic passion. A packed house of swells filled the place with Chita Love — Michele Lee, Rob Marshall, John Doyle, Robert Osborne — but the big thrill for me was sitting with Lola and her two wonderfully warm brothers, watching their utter absorption and adoration of the brilliance of a sister who is, without

used again. But, if it is, it could indicate that along with everyone else affiliated with the show, Savion Glover’s contribution plus his desire “to continue to be uplifting, shedding light on situations reminding us what we had to go through as a people” helped folks enjoy and learn from the remarkable combination of “edutainment” that is the bundle of joy known as “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All that Followed.”

a doubt, the most vibrantly alive performing legend on the planet.

For all you resolute Anglophiles, Film Forum is doing a Noël Coward retrospective, beginning on May 13 with “The Scoundrel,” a unique urban fantasy from 1935 in which he stars, co-written and co-directed by the great team of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, photographed by the brilliant Lee Garmes. On Sunday, May 15, at 1:20 p.m., I will be introducing Coward’s 1931 patriotic love letter to Blighty, “Cavalcade” (the 20th Century Fox studio vault print, no less). It’s the Oscar-winning, marvelously sentimental, cannily constructed diatribe against war and tribute to the stalwart British family. I knew its talented costume designer, Earl Luick, who lived in Turtle Bay and whose scrupulously researched, beautiful work was so outstanding that it received special mention at the time, which was rare in 1933. (209 W. Houston St., through May 19; filmforum.org/series/ noel-coward-series) April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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FRI.APR.29 FILM Sex Positive In the early 1980s, as the AIDS epidemic ravaged the gay community, Richard Berkowitz, Michael Callen, and Joseph Sonnabend had a revelation that AIDS is sexually transmitted, meaning that safe sex might help halt its spread. Some responded contemptuously, but the three pressed on with the mission of teaching gay men how to have sex in an epidemic. Filmmaker Daryl Wein’s 2009 film, “Sex Positive,” which won the Best Documentary Award at OutFest, looks at Berkowitz’s work. The screening is followed by a Q&A with Berkowitz and AIDS activist Brandon Cuicchi. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. Apr. 29, 7 p.m. A suggested donation of $5 benefits BGSQD. More information at bgsqd.com.

from young adulthood to shortly before his death. Eccentric, satirical, and fabulous, Gorey (19252000) enraptured readers with darkly subversive and delightful pen-and-ink drawings and cryptic children’s stories about adult subjects — death, love, joy, strangeness, and loss. Gorey authored over 100 works including “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” “The Doubtful Guest,” And “The Unstrung Harp” — all of which are creatively embedded in an introspective study that fuses fact and fiction using lush projections and inventive storytelling. Playwright and director Travis Russ explains, “The more we delved into Gorey’s work and his interviews, the more intrigued we became about the real man hidden behind the literary myth. We’ve created an intimate production that provides an up-close-and-personal look at one of America’s most original artists.” Meet the cast at vimeo.com/159581232. HERE, 145 Sixth Ave., one block below Spring St., with entrance on Dominick St. Apr. 30-May 1, May 3-4, 6-8, 12-15, 19-21, 7 p.m.; May 20 & 22, 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 at LifeJacketTheatre.org, here.org, or 212-352-3101.

BOOKS A Birthday Suit Reading Bureau of General Services — Queer Division hosts a night of naked words in honor of poet Sarah Sala’s 30th birthday, with readings by Abba Belgrave, Mary Block, Aimee Herman, Carrie Hohmann, Jen Hyde, Ricardo Maldonado, Amy Meng, Jerome Murphy, Peter Longofono, Christina Quintana, Anthony William Thornton, Aldrin Valdez, and the birthday girl herself. LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. Apr. 30, 7 p.m. A suggested donation of $5 benefits BGSQD. More information at bgsqd. com.

The Queer Enlightenment in Art

SAT.APR.30 Move Over Trump — Bunny Takes On PC “We’ve become so politically correct that they just made Dick Van Dyke change his name to Penis Von Lesbian,” says Lady Bunny, in something of a preview of her latest show, “Trans-Jester.” While claiming to avoid politics in the show — “because one train wreck on stage per night is enough” — in fact the trash-mouthed drag queen takes more than a few swipes at what’s happening in the way we talk about gender and are expected to talk about gender. Hackles will be raised, even as Bunny presents reworked selections from Adele, “Rent,” Bruno Mars, Lynn Anderson, and Millie Jackson. Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher St. near Waverly Pl. Apr. 30, May 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 7 p.m.. Tickets are $19.99 at trans-jester.bpt.me (up until 5 p.m. on day of show).

THEATER Edward Gorey Captured on Stage “Life Jacket’s Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey” centers on the enigmatic and endearing artist at different stages of his life, spanning 50 years

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PETER HUJAR/ LESLIELOHMAN.ORG

COMEDY

Teaching Nino Cais to Dance Fridman Gallery presents “Teach Me How to Dance,” the first US solo exhibition by the Brazilian artist Nino Cais. Employing collage, Cais deals with the tensions between civilization and nature, machismo and vulnerability, outward appearances and intimate narratives that break through the surface. Composed of approximately 30 book interventions, five installations, and one video, the artist underscores how primitive instincts are smothered by the weight of social rituals. Handkerchiefs and horseshoes precariously balance on opposite ends of riding whips, each element owing its fragile stability to the others. In the video, the artist, dressed as a jockey, simulates a galloping sound by hitting his own body, a victim of his own self-image. The gallery is located at 287 Spring St. at Hudson St. Apr. 30-Jun. 11: Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Opening reception is Apr. 30, 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit fridmangallery.com.

SUN.MAY.1 CABARET What’s Old is New David Kenney and Frank Dain host an afternoon of sensational cabaret featuring Baby Jane Dexter, J e f f H a r n a r, Te r r i Klausner, Marieann Meringolo, Mark Nadler, Kim David Smith, Ty Stephens, Aaron Weinstein, and Carol Woods. Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22nd St. May 1, 12:30-2:30 p.m. The cover charge is $20, and there’s a two-drink minimum. Reservations at metropolitanroom.com or 212-206-00440. FRIDMANGALLERY.COM

PROJECTPUBLICITY.COM

GALLERY

Bate, and Peter Hujar. It was this iconic body of work, made during the 1970s, that set the stage for the culture wars of the 1980s. 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. Through Jun. 26: Tue.-Wed., Fri.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; Thu., noon-8 p.m. For more information, visit LeslieLohman.org.

“The 1970s: The Blossoming of a Queer Enlightenment” explores the vibrant and liberating decade between the 1969 Stonewall Riots and 1980, just before we heard the first rumblings of the AIDS crisis emerging, changing the nature of sexual relationships to the present day. This exhibition features over 115 works from the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art’s extensive collection of more than 24,000 objects including photographs, drawings, and paintings made during this era. Works have also been borrowed from the Lesbian Herstory Archives and the New York Public Library, and the exhibition will include the entire “X Portfolio” by Robert Mapplethorpe (1978), recently purchased by the museum, as well as works by Paul Cadmus, Joan E. Biren (JEB), Jimmy DeSana, Marion Pinto, Amos Badertscher, Harvey Milk, Saul Bolasni, Francesco Scavullo, Diana Davies, Rink Foto, Tee Corinne, Neel

MON.MAY.2 BENEFIT Springtime in Christopher Park In a benefit to support Christopher Park, the Sheridan Square haven that is home to the iconic sculptures “Gay Liberation,” the Christopher Park Alliance and Jeffrey’s Grocery host a festive evening of wine and tasty hors d'oeuvres in celebration of spring. Jeffrey’s Grocery, 174 Waverly Pl., btwn. Christopher & W. 10th Sts. May 2, 6-8 p.m. Suggested donation is $40 (tax-deductible); RSVP to Andre@ ChristopherPark.org.

READING This Year’s Lambda Lit Finalists The Lambda Literary Awards, which every year identify and celebrate the best LGBT books of the year and affirm the work of our community’s writers, host a reading by some of this year’s finalists.

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Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. May 4, 6:30 p.m. The 28 annual Lambda Literary Awards take place on Jun. 6, at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Pl. at Washington Sq. S. For tickets and a list of this year’s finalists, visit lambdaliterary. org.

GALLERY Female Mating Rituals In the “Mating Ritual Series,” artist Sidney Mullis performs as invented animals to build a domain of alternative biology and culture. Interested in what constitutes “sexy,” Mullis’ video series stems from studying rap music and videos that instruct women how to perform their sex appeal. This media’s lyrics, whi ch is e vo ca t ive o f m ati ng ri tu a l s for contemporary culture, often directs women to “push it,” “shake it,” or “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.” Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. Through May 12: Tue.-Wed., Fri.Sun., noon-6 p.m.; Thu., noon-8 p.m. On May 5, 6-8 p.m., Mullis discusses her exhibition.

READING One Story, For Now Fiction writer Chavisa Woods previews her upcoming collection of short fiction, “Things To Do When You’re Goth in the Country,” due to be published by Seven Stories Press in the spring of 2017, with a reading of “Zombie,” a coming of age tale in which two young girls hanging out in the local cemetery make a friend like none they ever could have imagined. Woods’ special guest for the reading is writer and performance artist Erin Markey. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. May 6, 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation is $6. For more information, visit bgsqd.com.

OPERA Mark Adamo’s “Little Women” The New School’s Mannes Opera Young Artists and Mannes Orchestra, conducted by artistic director Joseph Colaneri, present “Little Women,” composer Mark Adamo’s first opera, completed in 1998 and based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of growing up in New England after the American Civil War. Adamo has written that the opera “range[s] between abstract and tonal, poetic and vernacular, song and symphonic forms.” John Jay College of Criminal Justice's Gerald W. Lynch

Theater, 524 W. 59th St. May 6-7, 7:30 p.m. Admission is $25, $10 for students & seniors at ticketcentral.com or 212-2794200.

SAT.MAY.7 FILM Intersex Documentary Shorts Normal Films presents the first ever “Tiny Intersex Film Fest,” featuring two new documentary shorts — “Mami y Yo y Mi Gallito/ Mom and Me and My Little Rooster,” directed by New York filmmaker Arisleyda Dilone and “The Son I Never Had,” by Pidgeon Pagonis of Chicago. Of Dilone’s 17-minute documentary, the filmmaker writes, “For the past five years, I have been pestering my mom to talk to me about my childhood, my body and past and future surgical decisions: all in front of a camera. My mother is a hardworking immigrant, interested mainly in providing. I am the lazy offspring that asks too many questions. Parts of my identity have been shaped by a rebellion of the traditions she embraces, interlaced with a deep respect for her perseverance. In ‘Mami y Yo y Mi Gallito,’ we finally sit down to talk about my body as a hermaphrodite.” About Pagonis’ 26-minute documentary, the filmmaker writes, “My entire life I was lied to, and made to lie. I always felt different, but couldn’t quite figure out why. At 19, I dis-

BGSQD.COM

THU.MAY.5

FRI.MAY.6

covered that I was born intersex, and whatever light was present in my life vanished. That discovery propelled me to uncover my past, in order to have a chance at having a future… ‘The Son I Never Had’ is a love letter to my parents, my intersex self, and my community, as we try to survive in a world obsessed with binaries.” Trigger warning: one of the films includes memories of non-consensual genital surgery. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. May 7, 8 p.m. The suggested donation is $5 to benefit BGSQD. For more information, visit bgsqd. com.

168 West 4th Street, NYC

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HappySERVING Mothers Day Sanz Family and Staff! ForSTILL Reservations, Call 212.242.6480 WEOUR AREfrom NOWthe ACCEPTING RESERVATIONS FOR THANKSGIVING COMMUNITY SINCE 1970 — AND RUNNING STRONG! GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

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April 28 - May 11, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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WAITRESS, from p.28

interest (Christopher Fitzgerald, who delivers a manic, side-splitting performance). The stunning set, designed by Scott Pask, features a funky mid-century diner, a dark, dumpy abode (Jenna and Earl’s, naturally), and gorgeous Edward Hopper-esque backdrops. The Master Chef behind this concoction is none other than Diane Paulus, the director Broadhurst Theatre 235 W. 44th St. known for such recent Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed. at 7:30 p.m. hits as “Finding Never Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat., Wed. at 2 p.m. land” and “Pippin.” And Sun. at 3 p.m. yet, even with all these $59-$147; telecharge.com promising fresh ingrediTwo hrs.,15 mins., with intermission ents, the result is a bit of a letdown. Sure, it’s tasty enough, but, like Jenna’s pies, I wanted Brooks Atkinson Theatre 256 W. 47th St. heavenly. Tue.-Thu. at 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. It’s as if Chef Paulus Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. used a heavy duty elec$69-$149; ticketmaster.com tric mixer when a few Two hrs., 35 mins., with intermission deft strokes of a whisk would have done the trick.

TUCK EVERLASTING

WAITRESS

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WED.MAY.11 CABARET Lance Horne, Drew Brody & Beth Malone Composers Lance Horne and Drew Brody, longtime friends, share their music with each other and the audience, discussing the stories behind the songs and the differences in their writing processes — Horne with his Juilliard training and Brody with his rock/ folk background. Horne and Brody will each premiere a song from their musicals in development and will also perform a brand new song written together for this evening — “Wingman,” which offers a novel twist on the curious and caring nature of the gay community. The two are joined by Beth Malone, the Tony Award-nominated star of Broadway’s “Fun Home.” Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. May 11, 9:30 p.m. The cover charge is $25-$60 at 54below.com, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.

BOOKS A TwoFer In “Strange Bedfellows: A Conjugal Book Launch,” Jason Schneiderman debuts his “Primary Source” (winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Books) and Michael Broder debuts his “Drug and Disease Free” (Indolent Books). The evening includes readings, signings, beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and go-go boys. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. May 11, 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $5 to benefit BGSQD. For more information, visit bgsqd.com.

THU.MAY.12 BOOKS A Roman Refuge The Bi Book Club discusses Francis Gideon’s “A Winter in Rome,” the story of a man adrift and the complicated love triangle he finds himself in. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. May 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The suggested donation is $5 to benefit BGSQD. For more information, visit bgsqd.com. Club members often repair to the Village Den for dinner after the meeting. GayCityNews.nyc | April 28 - May 11, 2016

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