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Social Agenda of Feb. 5

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Friday, Feb. 5

Gay organist Charles Miller plays a recital today at 12:15 p.m. at his church, National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle. He’ll perform works by J.S. Bach, Louis Vierne, Pietro Mascagni and David N. Johnson as part of a weekly concert organ series dubbed “Magical, Mystical, Musical Machine,” which resumes today and runs every Friday at this time through May. It’s free. Gay organists David Christopher and Stephen Harouff play on the 12th and the 19th respectively. Miller plays again on the 26th. The recitals are a half hour each.

Lesbian rock/dance party HottBoxx returns to Phase 1 tonight from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and will happen the first Friday of every month. Doors open at 9. Phase is located at 525 8th St., S.E. Cover is $5.

A dance party featuring the music of Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson is tonight at 9:30 club, located at 815 V St., N.W. Visit 930.com for more information.

Queer Shabbaton, an urban retreat for LGBT Jews and allies, is this weekend, beginning today at 5 p.m. and continuing through Sunday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center located at 16th and Q streets. The event, which has been held successfully three times in New York, is coming to Washington for the first time this weekend. It features workshops, services, opportunities for networking, yoga and meditation, kosher food and more with several high profile Jewish LGBT speakers. Admission ranges from $80 to $140. For more information, visit nehirim.org/qsdc.

The “So You Think You’re a Drag Queen” monthly contest is tonight at Town, at 2009 8th St., N.W. Doors open at 10 p.m. Visit towndc.com for more information.

Saturday, Feb. 6

“Divas of Pop,” a dance party spanning four decades of pop’s most iconic female singers, is tonight at 9 at State, located at 220 N. Washington St. in Falls Church, Va. Doors open at 7. Visit thestatetheatre.com for more information.

A singles-only event is today at Hillwood Museum & Gardens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A meet-and-greet, tour and lunch will be held. Tickets are $15. It’s hosted by Zoom Lesbian Excursions. Visit zoomexcursions.com for more information.

D.C. Front Runners, a local gay running group, starts a run today at 23rd and P streets (at the Shevchenko Monument) at 10 a.m. The group also runs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., though sometimes at other locations. Visit dcfrontrunners.org for more information.

D.C. Metro LGBT IT Professionals meets today from 10 to 11 a.m. at SteamCafe at 17th and R streets, N.W.

Gay singer/songwriters Tom Goss and Matt Alber play two shows tonight at the DeLaski Theater, located at 1700 Kalorama Road, N.W., in Adams Morgan. Shows are at 5 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Visit tomgossmusic.com/store for tickets. Goss is based in Washington and is touring on his latest album “Back to Love.” Alber, who lives in Los Angeles, became an online sensation last year for his poignant video “End of the World.”

Sunday, Feb. 7

Local drag queen Shi-Queeta Lee hosts drag brunch every Sunday at Nellie’s Sports Bar, located at 900 U St., N.W. Brunch buffet is $20. Miss Lee performs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Visit nelliessportsbar.com for more information.

Monday, Feb. 8

Equality Maryland Lobby Day is today in Annapolis. LGBT Marylanders are encouraged to help the group have a strong presence in the state capitol. A rally is scheduled for 5 p.m., meetings with lawmakers will occur from 6 to 8 p.m. and a special “Annapolis edition” of Guerilla Gay Bar Baltimore will be from 8 to 10 p.m. at Ram’s Head Tavern. Register to attend at equalitymaryland.org/lobbyday. Or contact Mike at 410-685-6567 or [email protected].

A week of musical theater cabaret dubbed “Broadway Today and Tomorrow” is being held tonight and all week at the Kennedy Center at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. Tonight’s performers are Matt Cavanaugh, Peter Mills and Kate Baldwin. Many other Broadway up-and-comers perform each night through Friday. Free. For more information, visit kennedy-center.org.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has an HIV-positive support group for people of faith every Monday at the church. For more information, contact Matt Senger at 202-546-2159 or e-mail him at [email protected]. MCC-DC is located at 474 Ridge St., N.W. Visit mccdc.com for more information about the church.

Tuesday, Feb. 9

Cobalt has “Flashback,” a retro night, every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Rail vodka drinks are free from 10 to 11 p.m. Cobalt, a gay bar and dance club, is at the corner of 17th and R streets, N.W.

Wednesday, Feb. 10

Rainbow Response has its monthly meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at National City Christian Church, located at 5 Thomas Circle, N.W. The group is a meeting of individuals and agencies collaborating to discuss intimate partner violence in the local LGBT community. The meeting is typically held on the second Wednesday of each month. Visit rainbowresponse.org for more information.

The Gertrude Stein Club, a local group of gay Democrats, is having a speed dating event tonight at the D.C. Center at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Attendees will go on three-minute dates, fill out evaluation forms and be informed of matches upon which contact information will be shared. Cost is $10 in advance or $15 at the door. The Center is located at 1804 14th St., N.W. Visit steindemocrats.org for more information.

Ladies First night is tonight and every Wednesday at Fab Lounge, located at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W. For more information, visit myspace.com/ladiesfirst.

Thursday, Feb. 11

D.C. Lambda Squares, a local gay square dancing group, meets every Thursday for square dancing. For more information about the group or to find out when beginner classes are available, visit dclambdasquares.org.

Friday, Feb. 12

Gay District meets tonight. The group was formerly known as the Twenties Group but has expanded its age range for gay, bi, trans and questioning men from 18 to 35. The group meets for weekly discussion from 8:30 to 9:30 every Friday at St. Margaret’s Church located at 1830 Connecticut Ave. Those interested can visit the group on Facebook under the name “GD: Gay District.”

A new Friday night drag show at Ziegfeld’s has started with a new hostess. The Ladies of Illusion hosted by Kristina Kelly has performances every Friday at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Ziegfeld’s is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has its annual Valentine’s dance tonight at 7 p.m. at the church. Refreshments will be served. A $7 donation is suggested. Contact 202-638-7373 or [email protected] for more information. The church is located at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

“Love,” a concert by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, is today with shows at 5 and 8 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany located at 1317 G St. N.W. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at www.gmcw.org/tickets, by phone at 202-293-1548 or at the HRC shop at 1633 Connecticut Ave., N.W. The concert will feature a chorus transcription of Brahm’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by chorus member Robert T. Boaz and a performance by the Rock Creek Singers, a chamber ensemble of Chorus members.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Black Pride Opening Reception

Billy Porter headlines program at start of weekend activities

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Billy Porter performs at the Opening Reception of DC Black Pride 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Black Pride 2024 began at The Westin Washington, DC Downtown with an Opening Reception on Friday, May 24. The “Rainbow Row” resource fair was held in conjunction with the reception and featured community organizations and other vendors’ booths.

The reception was hosted by Anthony Oakes. Earl Fowlkes, outgoing chief executive officer and president of the Center for Black Equity, was honored by a mayoral proclamation. Performers included Billy Porter, Paris Sashay, Keith Angelo, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles and Sherri Amoure.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

Architecture junkies will love new book on funeral homes

‘Preserved’ explores how death industry evolved after WWII

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(Book cover image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press)

‘Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America’
By Dean G. Lampros
c.2024, Johns Hopkins University Press 
$34.95/374 pages

Three bedrooms upstairs. That’s a minimum.

You need a big kitchen, a large back room would be a bonus, you want lots of bathrooms, and if you can get a corner lot, that’d be great. The thing you need most is a gigantic all-purpose room or maybe a ballroom because you’re planning on a lot of people. As you’ll see in the new book “Preserved” by Dean G. Lampros, not all living rooms are for the living.

Not too long ago, shortly after he took a class on historic preservation, Dean Lampros’ husband dragged him on a weekend away to explore a small town in Massachusetts. There, Lampros studied the town’s architecture and it “saddened” him to see Victorian mansions surrounded by commercial buildings. And then he had an epiphany: there was once a time when those old mansions housed funeral homes. Early twentieth-century owners of residential funeral homes were, in a way, he says, preservationists.

Prior to roughly World War II, most funerals were held at home or, if there was a need, at a funeral home, the majority of which were located in a downtown area. That changed in 1923 when a Massachusetts funeral home owner bought a large mansion in a residential area and made a “series of interior renovations” to the building. Within a few years, his idea of putting a funeral home inside a former home had spread across the country and thousands of “stately old mansions in aging residential neighborhoods” soon held death-industry businesses.

This, says, Lampros, often didn’t go over well with the neighbors, and that resulted in thousands of people upset and lawsuits filed. Some towns then passed ordinances to prohibit such a thing from happening to their citizens.

Still, funeral home owners persevered. Moving out of town helped “elevate” the trade, and it allowed Black funeral home operators to get a toehold in formerly white neighborhoods. And by having a nice – and nice-sized – facility, the operators were finally able to wrest the end-of-life process away from individuals and home-funerals.

Here’s a promise: “Preserved” is not gruesome or gore-for-the-sake-of-gore. It’s not going to keep you up all night or give you nightmares. Nope, while it might be a little stiff, it’s more of a look at architecture and history than anything else.

From California to New England, author Dean G. Lampros takes readers on a cruise through time and culture to show how “enterprising” business owners revolutionized a category and reached new customers for a once-in-a-deathtime event. Readers who’ve never considered this hidden-in-plain-sight, surprising subject – or, for that matter, the preservation or re-reclamation of those beautiful old homes – are in for a treat here. Despite that the book can lean toward the academic, a good explanatory timeline and information gleaned from historical archives and museums offer a liveliness that you’ll enjoy.

This book will delight fans of little-know history, and architecture junkies will drool over its many photographs. “Preserved” is the book you want because there are other ways to make a house a “home.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Theater

‘Evita’s Return’ offers different take on Argentinian icon

Posthumous look at mummified first lady’s travels is not fiction

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Fran Tapia (front) Back L-R Facundo Agustin, Luis Obed Velazquez, Tsaitami Duchicela (back) Oscar A.Rodriguez, Rodolfo Santamarina, and Sofia Grosso. ( Photo by Stan Weinstein)

“Momea en el Clóset (Mummy in the Closet): Evita’s Return”
Through June 9
GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th St., N.W.
$50
Galatheatre.org

Whether alive or dead, Eva Perón wielded her own brand of political power. After her death in 1952, Eva’s cult of mostly poor and working-class followers remained devoted to their Santa Evita. Her husband, Argentina’s president Juan Perón, fostered adulation by having her wasted body painstakingly embalmed, and displaying the waxen corpse like the incorruptible bodies of sainted Roman Catholic luminaries. But when the anti-Peronistas took power, they had other ideas; storing her away far from sight seemed a better idea.

Typically works about Argentina’s first lady focus on her unbridled ambition and ascent from anonymity to fame, but the strikingly original “Momea en el Clóset (Mummy in the Closet): Evita’s Return” — now at GALA Hispanic Theatre — is different. The collaboration of GALA’s producing artistic director Gustavo Ott (book and lyrics) and Mariano Vales (music and lyrics) spotlights the events following Eva’s death from cervical cancer at just 33.  

At the center of this entertaining madness is winning out actor Fran Tapia as Eva, a corpse sporting a ball gown and the trademark platinum blonde chignon, standing stiffly in a closet, more a mobile cabinet actually. In death, she realizes a silent dignity with flashes of an unyielding passion for social justice. 

The Chilean award-winning Tapia possesses a stunningly emotive voice, quickly evidenced in the show’s first number “Evita, Evita,” when near death Eva bravely addresses the needy crowd whom she endearingly calls her descamisados (the very poor). Simultaneously, the smug anti-Peronists — bourgeoisie and military types — sing “cancer is homeland,” “cancer is love.” They relish the idea of her dying and are counting the minutes to her imminent demise. 

So, the scene is set. Eva’s shabby posthumous story unfolds – performed in Spanish with eloquent English surtitles. Sprinkled with humor and poignant bits, it’s a dramedy, reflective of then and today. 

Unlike Eva’s “Rainbow Tour” of 1947 when Argentina’s newly minted first lady was introduced to Europe with mixed results, her death journey is an obscure low-rent, outing. She finds herself in a Milanese cemetery with some particularly pesky souls, each who apparently strode the earth in different centuries (all cleverly costumed by Becca Janney). 

For a time, she lands with an increasingly cynical Perón (stentorian-voiced Martín Ruiz) in Spanish exile. With him are new wife Isabel (Camila Taleisnik), portrayed as a reluctant and inept replacement for Evita, and scheming political cum spiritual adviser López (Diego Mariani).

As crazy as it sounds, GALA’s current offering isn’t a work of fiction. At the top of the show, it’s made perfectly clear that any resemblance to the truth is factual. Director Mariano Caligaris’ inventive, fearless staging along with Valeria Cossnu’s exhilarating choreography, make for exciting storytelling. 

Music inspired by Latin rhythms of samba, reggae, bachata, tango, tarantella, and waltz (by way of Bavaria) is directed by Walter “Bobby” McCoy and performed live by a fabulous unseen seven-person orchestra. 

Grisele Gonzalez’s serviceable, multi-tiered set design affords the various prerequisite balconies and perches. An upstage scrim is perfect for the projections (Hailey Laroe) of grimy actual footage from Eva’s funeral and subsequent violent skirmishes involving fascists against the people. 

The cast is uniformly terrific. They sing, dance, and act with equal skill, and whether playing protesters, clerical staff, or handsome Argentinian soldiers, they look the part. Most are required to interact with the cadaver in differing ways from timidly to less than respectfully. 

Making his GALA debut, wonderfully able Rodrigo Pedreira shows off his versatility as Dr. Ara, the man tasked with making the dead woman presentable for public consumption, as well as a general whose butch exterior is belied by the occasional mincing walk and longing looks directed at his cute aide-de-camp (Luis Obed Velázquez).

As she travels, mummified Eva says “And once again the moving begins. They move me through offices, basements, garages. They cover me, package me, label me, and off I go traveling again! We come from fascism and toward fascism we go.”

Alive or dead, Eva was never able to successfully crack Buenos Aires’ famously tough high society, but she found fans elsewhere. 

Over about 14 years as a displaced dead body and beyond, Tapia’s Eva embodies the spirit of Argentina’s millions, the common people. They return the dedication: Candles are lit. Prayers are offered. Intercession is sought. Life goes on, but Eva isn’t easily forgotten.

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