Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:58:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir will host Winter Olympics closing ceremony http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/tara-lipinski-johnny-weir-will-host-winter-olympics-closing-ceremony/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/tara-lipinski-johnny-weir-will-host-winter-olympics-closing-ceremony/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:46:19 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37697100

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir will help host NBC’s coverage of the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Sunday, according to Deadline.

Lipinski and Weir will be joined by NBC sportscaster Terry Gannon.

“Parades, K-Pop, fireworks, costumes, dancing – who better to host the world’s biggest party than Tara, Johnny and Terry,” Jim Bell, President of NBC Olympics Production and Programming, said in a statement.

“I’m so excited to embark on this new and exciting adventure and bring the closing ceremony to the U.S.,” Lipinski said. Weir added, “This is a glorious and unexpected experience that I can’t wait to get fancy for.”

NBC will live stream the event on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday. The ceremony, with commentary from Lipinski, Weir and Gannon, will air at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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New York Pride announces 2018 theme ‘Defiantly Different’ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/new-york-pride-announces-2018-theme-defiantly-different/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/new-york-pride-announces-2018-theme-defiantly-different/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:30:13 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37696432

Desmond Napoles ‘Desmond is Amazing’ (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube)

New York Pride has announced that its 2018 theme will be “Defiantly Different.”

As part of the campaign, the organization has released a video starring 10-year-old drag performer Desmond Napoles, known as Desmond is Amazing.

“I identify as an androgynous drag kid. I am different because I am very young and doing drag at a very young age,” Desmond says in the video. “It makes me feel amazing. It gives me courage and also gives other people courage to do what they want.”

Other notable members of the LGBT community will be included in the campaign and photographed by portrait photographer Danielle Levitt. They include curator Kiyanna Stewart, transgender model Pêche Di and Frances Goldin, the 94-year-old activist known for her “I Love My Lesbian Daughters” T-shirt that she brings to New York Pride every year.

“This year’s theme is about showing our power, squaring our shoulders in the face of adversity, and continuing to sculpt that magnetic bond within the LGBTQ+ community and our allies,” David Studinski, NYC Pride Co-Chair, said in a statement. “The corresponding creative showcases a wide selection of defiantly different community members – from performance artists to mental health advocates. We are standing defiantly – defiantly different and defiantly as one.”

New York Pride takes place on June 14-24. For a complete list of events visit here. 

Watch below.


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Mississippi town’s first Pride Parade denied; organizers consider legal action http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/37694029/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/37694029/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:08:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37694029 storm drain, Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Starkville, Miss., home to Mississippi State University, rejects request for historic Pride Parade  (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

LGBT group Starkville Pride is considering legal action after its request for the town’s first ever Pride Parade was denied.

The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 against the parade which would have been held on March 24. According to the Starkville Daily News, 16 people spoke in favor of the parade while two spoke against it.

Resident Dorothy Isaac spoke out against the parade because “God created Adam and Eve.”

“Do not turn our city into a sin city,” she said. “It should not be this.”

Bailey McDaniel, one of the organizers of the event and a senior criminology major at Mississippi State University, told the New York Times that the parade would have been “integral.”

“The parade is integral because it shows the community that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, you see us in everyday life,” McDaniel says.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill also supported the parade calling it, “one of those things that shows an inclusiveness in our community that is something I have long said we are.”

McDaniel says that lawyer Robert Kaplan is on board to represent her and Starkville Pride.

Human Rights Campaign has already voiced their support tweeting, SHAMEFUL: Leaders in Starkville, Mississippi, have again turned their back on their #LGBTQ neighbors. The city’s Board of Aldermen has denied a permit for a Pride parade.”

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Out director finds hope in teen dramedy ‘Every Day’ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/director-finds-hope-teen-dramedy-every-day/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/director-finds-hope-teen-dramedy-every-day/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:48:15 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37692287 Michael Sucsy, gay news, Washington Blade

Director Michael Sucsy at the opening of his new movie ‘Every Day.’ (Photo courtesy the Karpel Group)

Filmmakers often have trouble giving the elevator pitch for their movie. Michael Sucsy, the openly gay director of the new release “Every Day,” doesn’t.

“It’s a thought-provoking and sophisticated romance about star-crossed lovers that happens to be set in a teenage world,” Sucsy says. “A girl named Rhiannon falls in love with a soul that changes bodies every day.”

The director has some advice for enjoying the movie.

“You don’t need to be a teenager to enjoy it. The characters in the movie have complex feelings about love and their identities and where they fit into the world. We’re all dealing with that in our lives, but those issues really come to an acute focus when you’re a teenager.”

He also has some timely guidance for talking about Rhiannon’s eventual love interest, a character referred to as A, who literally wakes up in a different body every day; the bodies are all roughly the same age and in the same geographic area, but include people of different races, classes, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities. A has no control over the process, but tries to learn from all of A’s encounters.

“I don’t use any pronouns for A,” Sucsy says. “I just say, ‘A went to A’s house.’ Or ‘A thinks that …’ It does get a little cumbersome.”

One of the directorial challenges Sucsy faced, especially since A is played by several different actors, was creating a consistent character throughout the movie.

In addition to his intuitive casting, part of Sucsy’s solution was more practical. Since there wasn’t enough time or money to have the actors meet each other before the shoot, he wrote them all a letter.

“I asked them to do two things,” he says. “One was to look at their hands when they woke up in the morning. I think that tells you a lot about yourself. The second was to look in a mirror or take a selfie and that would tell you even more bout the body you’re in.”

This ritual ended up becoming an important part of the movie.

“Every Day” is based on the popular young adult novel by David Levithan, adapted for the screen by children’s author Jesse Andrews. Sucsy credits Andrews with turning the book into an effective screenplay.

“The book is told from A’s point of view,” Sucsy says. “Jesse made the decision to tell the movie from Rhiannon’s point of view, which I think was a really smart choice. Having one actress to follow really guides you through the story.”

The director also asked his screenwriter to make some changes that more clearly put Rhiannon in control of the story. For example, in the movie, it’s Rhiannon who decides to play hooky so that she and A can spend the day at the beach. In addition to other scenes that break down social norms, Sucsy says, “that changes the story in ways that may be especially important for LGBT audiences, celebrating the experience of being seen for who you are and not being defined by the relationships you’re in.”

‘Every Day’ makes adept use of clever plot device

The premise of “Every Day,” opening in wide release, may sound a little complicated, but it’s all clearly explained in Jesse Andrew’s well-crafted screenplay, which adroitly uses comedy, drama and romance to tell an unusual and intriguing story of the relationship between Rhiannon, a Baltimore-based high school student, and A, an entity who wakes up every morning in a different body. This brings obvious challenges to the budding romance.
Newcomer Angourie Rice gives an assured performance as Rhiannon, creating a well-rounded teenage character who is in turn bright, sensitive, callous, resourceful and deeply caring. Veteran actress Maria Bello turns in a strong performance as Rhiannon’s mother; throughout the movie, the parents are presented with sympathy, a nice touch in a movie that focuses on the teenage characters.
The fantastic ensemble cast tackle the complex material with considerable flair. They create vivid characters, but somehow also make it very clear when A is temporarily inhabiting their body.
Sucsy, who is openly gay, directs with a wonderfully light touch. He moves the film forward with admirable efficiency and generous empathy. He is given robust support by cinematographer Rogier Stoffers and composer Elliott Wheeler.
“Every Day” is a thoughtful and heartwarming tale about love, empathy, caring, ingenuity and resilience. It celebrates the things that are too often used to demean and divide us (sex, gender, class, race, sexuality and gender identity) and rejoices in the common humanity that can bring us together. It’s a remarkable achievement and a perfect movie for these perilous times.

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CARTOON: Thoughts and prayers http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/cartoon-thoughts-prayers/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/cartoon-thoughts-prayers/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:36:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37691920 NRA, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade editorial cartoon by Ranslem)

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Spring 2018 District of Columbia Unclaimed Property http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/spring-2018-district-columbia-unclaimed-property/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/spring-2018-district-columbia-unclaimed-property/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:00:33 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37691965

The District of Columbia Office of Finance and Treasury is trying to locate current and former District residents to help them claim money and other assets held in custody for them by the District. Assets are collected under the Unclaimed Property Act only after the holders have first attempted to locate owners.

Check the list to see if your name is among the most recently added accounts, or check the website https://dc.findyourunclaimedproperty.com to search our complete database. You can also download the full list HERE.

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Caribbean tourism industry slowly recovering from hurricanes http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/caribbean-tourism-industry-slowly-recovering-hurricanes/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/22/caribbean-tourism-industry-slowly-recovering-hurricanes/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37645958

Puerto Rico’s tourism industry is slowly recovering after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth on Sept. 20, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The tourism industry on the Caribbean islands that Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated last September is slowly recovering.

An Atlantis Events cruise on which “Storm Chasers” star Joel Taylor died of a suspected drug overdose visited Labadee, Haiti; San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten in January before returning to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The cruise had been scheduled to dock in St. Barts, but “extensive” damage to the pier in the French island’s capital of Gustavia prompted Atlantis Events to modify its itinerary.

A second Atlantis Events cruise is scheduled to depart from San Juan on March 18. It is expected to visit Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Maarten before returning to Puerto Rico on March 25.

A cruise that RSVP Vacations — which Atlantis Events acquired in 2007 — docked in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month. Olivia Cruises, a travel company that caters to lesbian travelers, in April will have a cruise that is scheduled to dock in Labadee; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Lucia and San Juan.

“Our business as usual is bringing our guests to the Caribbean,” Atlantis Events Vice President of Marketing Jim Cone told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview from his office in West Hollywood, Calif. “It’s so important for the entire region with tourism, which is a key driver of their economy.”

Irma devastated Barbuda, St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John, Turks and Caicos, the north central coast of Cuba and portions of the Florida Keys. Maria caused widespread destruction in Dominica, St. Croix and Puerto Rico a few weeks later.

A number of large hotels and resorts on the affected islands remain closed. Sources in the region with whom the Blade has spoken said tourists have stayed in smaller hotels, villas or timeshares or have used Airbnb.

U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty on Feb. 6 said nearly 50 cruise ships docked in St. Thomas last month. She nevertheless noted only about 40 percent of the territory’s hotel rooms are currently available, with “many housing relief workers.”

“Despite this, the U.S. Virgin Islands offers many options to fit a variety of lifestyles and budgets,” said Nicholson-Doty.

The St. Maarten Tourism Bureau notes only 1,220 of the 4,162 hotel rooms that were available on the Dutch side of the island before Irma were available as of Jan. 18.

Irma seriously damaged the terminal of St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport.

Alita Singh, senior journalist for the Daily Herald newspaper in St. Maarten, told the Blade on Wednesday during a Skype interview the airport is open with two large air conditioned tents for arriving and departing flights. She also noted four cruise ships docked on the island on Tuesday.

“The only thing we export from St. Maarten are happy tourists,” said Singh. “The cruise industry is slowly coming back.”

This reporter saw a cruise ship approaching San Juan earlier this month while on assignment in Puerto Rico.

Hotels, restaurants and shops in Old San Juan have reopened, although one business owner with whom the Blade spoke on Feb. 3 said business remains slow. Gay bars and clubs in Condado, an oceanfront neighborhood in San Juan that is popular with tourists, and in other areas of the Puerto Rican capital are open.

Bear Tavern PR is a gay bar in the Ocean Park neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It reopened eight days after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still do not have electricity. The majority of traffic lights in San Juan and across the island are not functioning.

Electricity, running water and cell phone service remain intermittent on Vieques, an island off the Puerto Rican mainland that has become an increasingly popular place for LGBT vacationers and second-homeowners. Edgardo Rosario Rentas, co-founder of Vieques Ready, an organization that seeks to teach the island’s residents how to prepare for hurricanes, told the Blade on Tuesday that limited ferry services and scheduled flights are additional barriers to the local tourism industry as it tries to recover from Maria.

The W Vieques Retreat and Spa is expected to remain closed throughout 2018. Rosario, who was the resort’s welcome desk manager, is among the roughly 150 people who have lost their jobs.

“It affects the entire island of Vieques,” he told the Blade.

The St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance for Equality Foundation has 15 members. It is planning to open a second branch on the French side of the island.

René Arrondell, who is a member of the St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance for Equality Foundation, told the Blade on Wednesday the group has had one board meeting since Irma. He also said some of its members have left the island because the hurricane damaged their homes or they have lost their jobs at hotels and resorts that remain closed.

“We are looking forward to being more active and recruit new members in coming months but the funds are lacking,” Arrondell told the Blade.

Jamaica, Aruba, other islands unaffected by hurricanes

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, which is based in Coral Gables, Fla., notes 2.4 million people throughout the Caribbean work in the tourism industry.

The organization’s annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace event took place in San Juan from Jan. 30-Feb. 1. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association on its website notes more than 70 percent of “our Caribbean destinations” — including Aruba and Jamaica — were not affected by the hurricanes.

A cruise ship docked in Havana on May 16, 2017. Hurricane Irma made landfall along Cuba’s north central coast last September. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The majority of hotels across the region are fully operational and open for business,” it says.

“The Caribbean region consists of 32 countries and spans over 1 million square miles,” adds the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. “Our diverse and vibrant Caribbean and its warm, friendly people await you and there are still many places to go and to choose from.”

Cruise ship companies, hotels support relief efforts

Royal Caribbean Cruises delivered food, water and other relief supplies to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Key West, Fla., after Irma. The company, from which Atlantis Events regularly charters its ships, also evacuated 1,700 people and 39 pets from Puerto Rico and other islands.

Cone pointed out to the Blade that Atlantis Events partnered with Alturi.org, an organization that seeks to promote further engagement on LGBT and intersex issues, to support hurricane relief efforts in the region.

Alturi.org and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, which provides healthcare and other services to people with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable groups in the Caribbean, launched a campaign after Irma that sought to raise funds for LGBT people on the affected islands. Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition Program Manager John Waters told the Blade on Tuesday during a Skype interview from his office in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo that his organization and Alturi.org only raised $7,500, with nearly all of this money coming from a single donor.

“On the small islands of St. Martin and Dominica it can go a fair way,” he said.

Waters added Maria’s impact in Puerto Rico had an adverse impact on their efforts.

“One of the things that definitely impacted our appeal was what subsequently happened in Puerto Rico with the second hurricane,” he told the Blade. “We were perhaps overshadowed by what was happening in Puerto Rico.”

A spokesperson for Olivia Events on Tuesday declined to comment, noting the company is “still formalizing our efforts.”

Singh noted to the Blade that many of St. Martin’s resorts provided shelter to their employees and their families during Irma.

She said the resorts’ parent companies gave supplies to them and to their guests once the island’s port reopened. Singh also told the Blade the companies has given employees vouchers and have begun to hire part-time workers to help rebuild their properties.

“There’s still efforts ongoing,” she said.

Rosario — who now volunteers with Waves Ahead, an organization that is providing relief to LGBT Puerto Ricans and other vulnerable groups after Maria — told the Blade that Marriott International, which operated the resort at which he worked, gave employees money to help repair their homes or rent vouchers. Rosario also noted resort staff in the days after Maria cooked breakfast and lunch for people who were waiting in lines for up to five hours to get gas.

“They were helping,” he said, referring to Marriott International. “They were focused first on their employees . . . and then helping their community.”

Damage and debris from Hurricane Maria remains on a beach in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 1, 2018.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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Cyclone seriously damages Tonga LGBTI center, shelter http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/cyclone-seriously-damages-tonga-lgbti-center-shelter/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/cyclone-seriously-damages-tonga-lgbti-center-shelter/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 04:48:26 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37671627

Cyclone Gita on Feb. 12, 2018, caused serious damage to a drop-in center and shelter that the Tonga Leitis Association, a Tongan LGBTI advocacy group, operates in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. (Photo courtesy of Henry ‘Aho/Tonga Leitis Association)

A cyclone that struck the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Feb. 12 seriously damaged an LGBTI organization’s drop-in center and shelter.

Henry Aho, president of the Tonga Leitis Association, told the Washington Blade that Cyclone Gita “tore off” a portion of the center’s roof when it passed over the island of Tongatapu on which the country’s capital of Nuku’alofa is located with winds of more than 120 mph.

Aho said the portion of the roof that Gita destroyed was over the bathrooms and bedrooms for LGBTI Tongans who use the center as a shelter. Aho also told the Blade the cyclone damaged the building’s walls, floors and plumbing.

“Debris from neighboring homes also flew into the center, causing further damage,” he added.

The Associated Press reported Gita destroyed Tonga’s Parliament House and damaged the country’s international airport.

Aho told the Blade that electricity has been restored to Nuku’alofa’s Central Business District where the Tonga Leitis Association’s center is located. Aho said the building still does not have power because the electrical line that runs from it to the main power line is damaged.

Aho also told the Blade the center has “limited plumbing” that “has helped restore washroom facilities.”

Displaced LGBTI Tongans may face discrimination

The Tonga Leitis Association, which was founded in 1992, specifically advocates on behalf of transgender and gender-variant Tongans and other members of the country’s LGBTI community. It also provides health care and other services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Tonga is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga, told the Blade last May during an interview in Miami Beach, Fla., that homophobia, transphobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in his homeland.

The hotel that Fonua’s family owns and operates in Nuku’alofa was undamaged by Gita.

Amini Fonua, gay news, Washington Blade

Amini Fonua is an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga. He spoke with the Washington Blade in Miami Beach, Fla., on May 27, 2017 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Aho told the Blade that some Tonga Leitis Association members are currently living in evacuation centers or with family members because the cyclone destroyed their homes. Aho said some of those who are in temporary housing may face discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Aho noted the Tonga Leitis Association has turned its center into a makeshift shelter with temporary beds.

“It is only a week since the cyclone hit and Tongans are still relatively in a cooperative state, but prolonged stays within these arrangements may be problematic if the hosts are not comfortable with people with diverse SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression),” Aho told the Blade.

Gita struck Tonga less than five months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica. Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage in Barbuda, St. Barts, St. Martin, the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and on portions of Cuba’s north central coast and the Florida Keys a few weeks earlier.

The Tonga Leitis Association has also launched a campaign that hopes to raise $10,000 for the center’s reconstruction. It has raised $3,690.

“Our efforts are to not only repair our center but to strengthen it physically to better withstand any more natural disasters in the future, so that we can use it as a safe space for displaced persons with diverse SOGIE in the aftermath of natural disasters,” Aho told the Blade.

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Region rich with Underground Railroad historical sites http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/region-rich-underground-railroad-historical-sites/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/region-rich-underground-railroad-historical-sites/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 02:39:24 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37667561 Underground Railroad, Black History Month, gay news, Washington Blade

Mount Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American church in Washington. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Black History Month is a time to reflect on the past but recognizing important landmarks for African Americans during slavery can be difficult. Like most African-American history, oral history has been the core to keeping the memory of the Underground Railroad alive.

While walking around town or taking a drive, there are plenty of stops that are rich with history that go unnoticed. Even though there are many landmarks of the Underground Railroad that will never be known, because their stories have died out along with the generations that once passed along their importance, there are still a few landmarks that have retained their significance. Here are some places in D.C., Delaware, Maryland and Virginia that were integral in African-American history and the Underground Railroad that you didn’t know about or just never had the time to stop and explore.


Mount Zion Cemetery (2501 Mill Rd., N.W.), named for the Mount Zion United Methodist Church, is comprised of the old Methodist Burying Ground and the Female Union Band Society Graveyard, founded in 1842 by a group of free black women. The two cemeteries share three acres of land and have combined into one. An eight-foot-by-eight-foot brick structure on the side of a hill was originally intended to store corpses until their burials. It’s believed to also have been used as a hiding place by runaway slaves who may have fled through Rock Creek Park, along the Potomac River and continued on to the free state of Pennsylvania. Although hard to see to the untrained eye, people on the lookout can still visit the hiding spot.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church (1334 29th St., N.W.), founded by black members of the Dumbarton Street M.E. Church in 1816, is the oldest African-American church in D.C. Located in the heart of Georgetown, the church served the once abundant African-American community in the neighborhood. The building, constructed in 1876, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Mount Zion United Methodist Community House, located behind the church, serves as a mini museum with church records, photographs and artifacts. Visitors can learn or relive the history of the now-defunct African-American community in Georgetown.

Frederick Douglas National Historic Site (1411 W St., S.E.) preserves the life and accomplishments of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas. Guided tours are given daily for visitors to learn about how Douglas went from a runaway slave to an acclaimed member of society. Find out more online at nps.gov/frdo.


The Corbit-Sharp House (118 Main St., Odessa, Del.) was built by William Corbit, a local tanner and a Quaker, in 1774. Corbit and his family would reportedly hide runaway slaves in their house on the third floor. Now owned and operated by the Historic Odessa Foundation, the house is open to the public on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. historicodessa.org.

Wilmington Friends Meeting House (401 North West St., Wilmington, Del.) was frequently visited by Thomas Garrett known as the“Stationmaster of the Underground Railroad.” Garrett was an abolitionist who violated the Fugitive Slave Act for freeing slaves. Garrett had to pay a fine and sold most of his possessions to earn the money back. However, he was still able to help 2,700 runaway slaves find their way to freedom. He was also a good friend of Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman. Garrett is buried in the nearby burial ground.


Brodess Farm (Greenbrier Rd., Bucktown, Md.) was owned by Edward Brodess who was Tubman, her mother and her siblings’ slaveowner. Tubman grew up under his ownership but she and her family were often hired out to nearby farmers. The family’s constant separation was taxing for the family. Tubman said that while Brodess himself wasn’t cruel to her, neighboring slaveowners were brutal. The original home is no longer at the location and the existing home is privately owned. Two markers in the area honor Tubman’s legacy.

Bucktown Village Store (4303 Bucktown Rd., Cambridge, Md.) is the location where Tubman made her first public resistance to the slave system. While attempting to help an enslaved man, Tubman received a blow to the head. The blow would cause Tubman to suffer from headaches and seizers for the rest of her life. The store is now a museum that offers tours open to the public. Admission is free. visitdorchester.org/bucktown-village-store.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery (2246 Marsh Creek Rd., Preston, Md.), originally owned by Mount Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church, is thought to have been used as a meeting place for Tubman and fugitives of the Underground Railroad. Since slaves meeting in groups was against the law, Tubman preferred to meet in secret away from plantations and slaveowners.


Pocahontas Island Black History Museum (224 Witten St., Petersburg, Va.) is in an area of Petersburg that was a hotbed for runaway slaves attempting to flee. In an incident known as the Keziah Affair, five slaves escaped from Pocahontas Island onto a ship called the Keziah. The slaves were found hidden inside when the Keziah ran aground in the Appomattox River, the last point before liberation above the Mason-Dixon Line, in 1858. Visitors can learn the history of the area in the small museum. Hours vary. Appointments are encouraged. pocahontasislandmuseum.com.

A residence at 215 Witten Street in Petersburg, Va., dubbed the Underground Railroad House, is suspected to have been a hiding place for runaway slaves. Although there is little proof of the specifics, the home has a six-foot-deep crawl space in the floor which was unusual for neighboring homes but would have made it a good candidate to hide fugitive slaves.

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Out actor Michael Urie savors sleek, timely ‘Hamlet’ production http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/actor-michael-urie-savors-sleek-timely-hamlet-production/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/21/actor-michael-urie-savors-sleek-timely-hamlet-production/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 02:29:05 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37666670 Michael Suchman, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Urie used to rehearse scenes from ‘Hamlet’ just for fun before being cast in the Michael Kahn production. (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy STC)



Through March 4


Shakespeare Theatre Company


Sidney Harman Hall


610 F Street, NW







At 37, Michael Urie has the acting career that he couldn’t imagine as a kid in Plano, Texas.

“I thought maybe I’d be a drama teacher one day but couldn’t see much beyond that. And then I moved to New York City where I felt both instantly at home and inspired by the possibility that I could be a real, working actor.”

Today, Urie’s vast and varied vitae includes classical theater, Broadway musicals, 600 performances of “Buyer and Cellar” (his one-man comedy about a young manager of a mock mall on Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate) and a successful run on TV’s “Ugly Betty.”

Last week, the approachable actor sat down at an out-of-the-way coffeeshop in Chinatown for tea and some talk about tackling a theatrical milestone. It was like meeting with a fun acquaintance who just happens to know a lot about Shakespeare.

When Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Michael Kahn was asked to do one more play from the bard’s canon before ending his tenure as artistic director, he agreed to stage his third “Hamlet” provided Urie play the title role. As Hamlet, Urie, who studied drama with Kahn at Juilliard School in New York, brings a mix of dramatic and comic talents to the story of the Danish prince whose life is rocked after his uncle murders his father the king, marries his mother and steals the crown. Set in a contemporary, sleek police state, the production certainly resonates.

WASHINGTON BLADE: When Michael Kahn offered you Hamlet, how’d you react?

MICHAEL URIE: I accepted without hesitation of course. It’s a part I’ve wanted to play forever. In the past I’d get studio space and work on it from time to time with another director. We’d bring in other actors and do the ghost scene or the Gertrude scene just for ourselves.

BLADE: Is that a thing actors do?

URIE: Nerds like me, yeah. Coming in, I knew the text. I had played Hamlet’s friend Horatio at South Coast Repertory in California. And I did Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy in Michael Kahn’s class at Juilliard. Jessica Chastain (then-fellow acting student and now movie star) was my Ophelia.

BLADE: Are you into the politics of the play?

URIE: How could you not be? The politics of Shakespeare are as universal and timeless as the way he discusses sanity, love and all the other timeless things you find in his works. The whisper campaign sensibility of our production feels very at home here in Washington. … Referring to the death of his father and his uncle’s shady ascension to the throne, Hamlet says, “But two months dead — nay, not so much, not two. So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr.” Similarly, in real life, we’ve gone from the best possible example of what an American can be to the worst of all likelihoods. I have a great sense of pride that there’s a production of “Hamlet” happening in the nation’s capital the week that the Obamas’ portraits are unveiled and the week that the FBI says the White House is lying. And here I am doing a play about spying and lying.

BLADE: How are D.C. audiences?

URIE: When New York audiences embrace you, it’s very exciting. There’s nothing like it. On the other hand, many of them are career theatergoers, and along with their love of theater is a need to qualify what they’re seeing. They’re inherently all critics. Washington audiences are smart. And with the exception of the critics, I find that audiences are coming to enjoy themselves. They’re not seeing shows four times a week like some New York theatergoers. They’re going once or twice a month. They’re coming to find what they like and not what they don’t like about a show. When I was at the Shakespeare Theatre doing “Buyer & Cellar” a few years ago, my costumer told me a story about three fratty young slightly drunk young guys on the Metro looking at my poster. One of them said, “Look at this! Look at this! See this guy.” And my costumer leaned in to hear what he’d say. “This guy plays a bunch of parts all by himself and he’s awesome. We gotta go.” Their counterparts in New York wouldn’t have even noticed the poster.

BLADE: “Hamlet’s” cast includes your partner of nine years Ryan Spahn, who also studied under Kahn. As Hamlet’s former school pal Rosencrantz, Ryan moves admirably from comic to sinister.

URIE: He is good, isn’t he? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are such complicated characters. Lots of people feel like Hamlet isn’t justified in the sending his old schoolmates to their deaths. In this production they’re all in with the king and they stand by and watch Hamlet beaten by the guards.

BLADE: A former sitcom star once told me that nothing compares to TV fame. It’s explosive. People who never see a movie or go to the theater watch TV. Was that your experience, and would you do TV again?

URIE: Yes and yes. After “Ugly Betty” was cancelled I did 13 episodes of “Partners,” a CBS sitcom about gay friends from the guys who made “Will & Grace.” Out of the gate we were a hit. After just three months we won a Golden Globe. That never happens. Yet after our ratings dipped, the show was cancelled. We had more stories to tell and our numbers weren’t bad.

BLADE: Was that difficult?

URIE: Yes, but not as hard as when “Ugly Betty” ended. We were a family for four years. Actors rarely have jobs that last that long.

BLADE: Hamlet changes a lot over the play. You make those changes feel real.

URIE: Thanks. It’s true that he can go from horribly depressed to giddy. He’s wildly emotional, wickedly smart and follows his impulses. Hamlet is probably bipolar. He’s always smart but by the end of the play, he has evolved. He has come to terms with mortality and his place in the world. He finds humility and grace.

BLADE: And do you relate to that?

URIE: In the last two years I’ve noticed a change in myself. Not too long ago I was at a rehearsal where I was the oldest person in the room. People looked at me to set the tone. It was different but I liked it. You don’t feel like you have to prove something or try to be liked. My three most recent works — “General Inspector,” Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song” and now “Hamlet” — have all been very formative. “General Inspector” was a silly comedy with a big cast. I was the lead but it was collaborative in the sense that I’ll help you get your laughs if you help me get mine. “Torch Song” is a great American story, a beautiful revival that means so much to people. “Hamlet” is a combination of both of those things. I really think everything leading up till today has informed what I’m doing now.

BLADE: Hamlet can seem so ineffective at times, but that’s not you.

URIE: I certainly have never been one to let grass grow under my feet. But that’s the nature of being an actor. You have to keep moving and looking for work all the time.

BLADE: Would you play Hamlet again?

URIE: I never say never. But for a Juilliard-trained actor who embraced the training and sought a career in theater, this production has been the way to do it. I’m so intensely satisfied with our cast and the way Michael Kahn has led me through the role. And the audience’s response has been amazing.

Michael Urie says the sleek, modern ‘Hamlet’ he’s currently in has pertinence to present-day Washington. (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy STC)

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