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Arts news in brief: Nov. 4

Chely Wright doc screening, Sig. ‘Hairspray’ party and more



Chely Wright at Capital Pride in 2010. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Wright doc gets local screening tonight

The fifth annual Alexandria Film Festival has already kicked off with “Ed Hardy Tattoo the World,” but it will continue through the weekend with many more films, including a few with LGBT angles.

First up tonight at 9:15 p.m. is “Wish Me Away,” the documentary that tells the story of  Chely Wright and the process she went through to become the first country music star to come out on national television.

Then on Saturday, at 5 p.m. is the East Coast premiere of “Cancerpants,” a documentary that shows Ro Poulson’s battle to survive after being diagnosed with stage III breast cancer with the help of her partner and their friends, family and community.

Both movies will be screened in the north lodge of George Washington Masonic Memorial (101 Callahan Drive). Tickets are $10 for individual screenings or $75 for a Fest Pass. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Signature teases ‘Hairspray’ opening

In celebration of Signature Theatre’s (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington) upcoming production of “Hairspray,” the theater will be transformed for “The Big Hair Ball” on Saturday at 8 p.m.

The party will feature Baltimore favorites like crab cakes, sliders and Natty Boh and attendees can mingle with cast members of the musical as well as take dance classes or get their hair teased at “Big Hair Salon.”

“Hairspray” will play from Nov. 21 to Jan. 29 with Robert Aubry Davis of WETA’s “Around Town” and Sirius/XM Radio making his musical theater stage debut as Edna Turnblad.

Tickets for the ball range from $75 to $250 and can be purchased online at

Several gay films planned for Rehoboth fest

The 14th annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival starts Wednesday and runs through next weekend at the Movies at Midway in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Several gay-themed films are planned including “The Green” with gay actor Cheyenne Jackson which tells the story of a gay couple who face crisis when one of them, a teacher at a private school, is accused of acting inappropriately with a student.

Sundance hit “Circumstances” tells of two teen girls who experiment with their sexuality in a repressive society in Tehran. And “Loose Cannons” is an Italian film about a gay man who comes out to his conservative family in hopes of getting out of joining the family business.

The Chely Wright documentary (see above) will also be shown as well as a documentary on Broadway legend Carl Channing.

Tickets can be purchased in person, by mail or e-mail. E-mail to [email protected] or visit for details.











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Music & Concerts

DC Different Drummers Jazz Band to perform ‘Oasis’

Performance by combo ‘2nd Independence’ scheduled



The DC Different Drummers Jazz Band will perform on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Central Library.

This concert, titled “The Oasis,” will feature the 20-person big band playing jazz pieces in a variety of styles, from swing to bossa nova to jazz fusion and more. There will also be a performance from the improvisational jazz combo, 2nd Independence.

Admission is free and more details are available on the event’s website

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Out & About

Smithsonian Zoo programming is back

Family-friendly Halloween event begins Oct. 28



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute will host “Boo at the Zoo” starting on Friday, Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. 

This is a family-friendly Halloween event that includes special after-hours access for animal viewing at the Elephant Community Center, Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center, Great Ape House and Think Tank, a Halloween souvenir treat bag, dance party and 30 trick-or-treat stations around the festively decorated Zoo. 

Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased on the Smithsonian’s website.

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‘Hamilton’ star boosting Afro-Latinx, queer representation

Gonzalez and partner launch DominiRican Productions



Pierre Jean Gonzalez (Photo courtesy Ambe J. Photography)

Through Oct. 9
The Kennedy Center Opera House
2700 F St., N.W.

For gay Latinx actor Pierre Jean Gonzalez, playing the title Founding Father in the national tour of “Hamilton” isn’t just another part.

“It’s a powerful thing,” says Gonzalez, recognizing the enormity of the job. “We all learned history in school. We know who’s who when we look at a textbook; but when people who look like you are telling the story, it shifts.”

Currently moored to the Kennedy Center Opera House through Oct. 9, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s seminal 2015 sung-and-rapped through musical presents early American history in a novel and inclusive way, focusing on the life experience of one man. With 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the show continues to be the hottest draw in town wherever it pitches its tent. 

“When I step on stage as Hamilton, I’m continually amazed by the pandemonium in the audience, especially the younger fans. If we miss a single lyric, the children know,” he says. 

“It’s a drama, a soap, and an action movie. An ambitious immigrant, Hamilton pushes through obstacles, creates his own narrative, and doesn’t throw away a shot. Audiences like that.”

Reared in a housing project in the Bronx as the only boy in a Dominican/Puerto Rican family it wasn’t cool to be queer, says Gonzalez. So, he played it straight until his second year at Rutgers University when a comfortably out friend inspired him to follow suit. Back at home, the family wasn’t all that surprised, he adds with a chuckle.

Navigating through life as his authentic self gives Gonzalez a leg up. He explains, “I think feeling more connected and open makes me a better actor.”

As a drama student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Gonzalez spent a life-altering junior year studying Shakespeare at the Globe in London: “For me the metronome, cadence, the words and music in ‘Hamilton’ are very much connected to Shakespeare, and that’s why I’m here now.”

After school, despite finding an agent and auditioning, those first four years weren’t good. “For a Latinx actor with my look there were three roles: thug #3, a dishwasher, or hitman.”

He was dismayed. Despite possessing training, talent, energy, and good looks, casting agents didn’t see him as a leading man. But with “Hamilton,” the industry changed and so did Gonzalez’s self-perception: “Finally, I knew I was the right choice to play a leading man.”

In total, Gonzalez has toured with “Hamilton” for five years counting 18 months of “pandemic nothingness,” he says. Before being promoted to playing Alexander Hamilton in August of 2021, he was standby, covering Hamilton, Burr (the villain) and Britain’s King George. At a moment’s notice he might have been called on to play one of three tracks. “It was turning me on artistically,” he says. “One of the last crazy days before the pandemic, I was Hamilton for a Saturday matinee and that same evening I was Burr. Not a lot of actors can say that.”

During the early days of the pandemic and before, Gonzalez and his fiancé Cedric Leiba Jr., an Afro-Latino actor, had many conversations surrounding career frustrations. They discussed the challenges faced by actors of color, and how those challenges can be compounded when said actors are also queer.

In 2020, the couple founded DominiRican Productions, an award-winning film production company whose mission is to ramp up Afro-Latinx and queer representation both behind and in front of the camera.

“It kind of happened as a protest,” he explains. “George Floyd had just been killed and the country was starting to look at itself and ask why are Black and Brown bodies treated this way?”

Success has ensued with two collaborative, celebrated shorts — “Release” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get Who?” — both directed by Gonzalez. 

While working with your partner can sometimes be a lot, it also has its advantages, says Gonzalez. He appreciates the pair ultimately always have one another’s back. Also, they’re different in complementary ways. “Cedric is more type A, really gets things done,” says Gonzalez “He keeps me tethered to the ground.” 

For the moment, the affianced actors have put nuptials on the back burner, preferring to invest their time and money in the company. Gonzalez says, “We don’t have kids or a mortgage, the company is our child; it’s what drives us.” 

And what about “Hamilton”? “Another year, maybe longer? Whatever happens, I’m taking it one day at a time and feeling a lot of gratitude,” he says. 

Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Hamilton. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
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