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Out gay Cirque vet headlining new ‘Quidam’ show

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Mark Ward as the ringmaster in ‘Quidam.’ It plays Washington for eight performances next week. (Photo courtesy of Cirque Du Soleil)

Mark Ward always knew he wanted to be out professionally.

The Cirque Du Soleil vet plays the ringmaster in the company’s latest show “Quidam,” which comes to the Verizon Center next week. Ward says coming out is an individual choice that each person should make for himself.

He joined Cirque du Soleil as a performer in 1993. Not wanting to keep aspects of his life hidden, Ward let the company know that he wanted to be out. He says that there was never an issue with the hiring managers and that the company was supportive from the start.

He says he always wanted “to lead an authentic life.”

“I think that it’s an individual journey, so I couldn’t say that it’s good or bad [to come out],” he says. “I just know that as far as people — gay and lesbian people — accepting themselves, that’s a personal journey. My time may not be your time. If I saw someone and I felt like, ‘Oh you shouldn’t be in the closet, you shouldn’t be hiding yourself,’ I think that’s wrong of me because I got in that person’s shoes. I like to support that person, try to give them the tools they would need to come out and not be hidden or behind the veil, of course, but I think that’s an individual journey, I really do.”

Since joining Cirque, Ward has performed in about 6,500 Cirque shows, without missing a single performance.

“For me, the challenging thing is also the thing that has kept me around for this amount of time,” he says. “I have to be in constant communication with the audience and I have to be adaptable … what works in Milwaukee, when I come to D.C., may not get the same responses. I have to be open to the public and the information they are feeding me. So I have to have a keen sense of awareness. That keeps me focused.”

In “Quidam,” Ward plays ringleader John, guiding the audience through the performances that tell the story of Zoé, a young girl searching for something more to her life. Her parents, distant and apathetic, ignore her. To her, life has lost meaning. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world — the world of Quidam — where she meets characters who encourage her to free her soul. The international cast of “Quidam” features 52 acrobats, musicians, singers and characters.

This being his first time to Washington, Ward is looking forward to catching up with local friends and exploring Washington.

“I’m first hoping to go out and eat at some really cool places … and I’ll probably just run myself ragged trying to see everything.”

“Quidam” is at the Verizon Center from Nov. 16-20 for eight performances. Tickets start at $35. Visit cirquedusoleil.com for information.

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Sports

Raiders player Carl Nassib comes out as gay, first active player in NFL history

Nassib also announced that he is donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project

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Carl Nassib. Courtesy of Instagram @carlnassib.

Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out today, making him the NFL’s only openly gay player.

“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in a video he posted on his Instagram account. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life. I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for. I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know I’m not doing this for attention, but I think representation matters.”

Nassib also announced that he is donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project.

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Photos: Reston Pride

In-person festival returns to Virginia suburb

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Attendees of Reston Pride dance to a recording of 'YMCA' by the Village People. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2021 Reston Pride Festival was held at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston, Va. on Saturday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Out & About

Calendar: June 18-24

Events in the week to come

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Friday, June 18

Join the National Archives and Bishopsgate Institute Special Collections and Archives as they present their LGBTQ+ archive collections virtually at 8 a.m. In this event, Vicky Iglikowski-Broad from The National Archives and Stefan Dickers from Bishopsgate will explore the different strengths of their collections, to reflect on how they can be used together to build a fuller picture of LGBTQ+ lives. Event registration is available on Eventbrite.

“DISDance, Pride Edition- Still We Dance” will be at 6:30 p.m. Join the D.C. Public Library and show your Pride by dancing with the Library’s Freegal music collections. Post a video or photo of you and your crew dancing or lip-syncing to Instagram and tag D.C. Public Library on Instagram (@dcpubliclibrary) using the tags #DCPLDanceParty and #StillWeDance. The library’s favorite videos will be shared, and crown the video with the most likes the virtual Queen of Pride. All four Pride playlists are available on Freegal with the names Still We Lead, Still We Live, Still We Laugh, and Still We Love.

Saturday, June 19

Join the DC Center for its virtual job club, a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking. The event begins on Zoom at 6 p.m. For more information, email [email protected].

Sunday, June 20

Join the DC Center and the Beta Kappa Chapter of the Beta Phi Omega Sorority for a peer-led support group devoted to the joys and challenges of being a Black lesbian. You do not need to be a member of the Beta Kappa Chapter or the Beta Phi Omega Sorority in order to join, but they do ask that you either identify as a lesbian or are questioning that aspect of your identity. This event will be hosted on Zoom at 1 p.m. More details are available here.

Monday, June 21

The Center Aging Coffee Drop-In will still take place virtually at 10 a.m. via Zoom. LGBT Older Adults (and friends) are invited to have friendly conversations about current issues they might be dealing with. For more information, visit Center Aging’s webpage.

Join GenderQueer DC for a monthly support group on Zoom for people who identify outside of the gender binary. Whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis – this is your group. The event will be at 7 p.m. For more information, visit genderqueerdc.com.

Tuesday, June 22

The European Union Delegation to the United States will host “Joining Forces for LGBTI Rights Around the World” virtually at 9:30 p.m. This event is a discussion on how the international community can help advance LGBTI rights around the world and will feature panelists: Mark Bromley, chair of The Council for Global Equality, Olena Shevchenko, director of Insight, and Urooj Arshad, senior program manager of Dignity for All: LGBTIQ+ Assistance Program, Freedom House. Registration for this free event is available on Eventbrite.

“Rainbow Challah Tutorial and Discussion” will be at 5 p.m. on Zoom. All are welcome to attend this event. Challah is a type of bread traditionally baked to celebrate the Jewish sabbath. Attendees will be provided with the recipe and materials list in advance if they would like to make it at home. There will also be a discussion about food, identity, and community. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-543-1778 x204.

Wednesday, June 23

Capital Pride Alliance and Hook Hall will host “Hooked on Capital Pride” at 2 p.m. There will be drink specials, music, and celebration of all things LGBTQ+. A portion of the proceeds from this event will support the Capital Pride Alliance and partner Pride organizations responsible for producing Youth Pride, Silver Pride DC, DC Black Pride, DC Latinx Pride, Capital AAPI Pride, and Trans Pride, through the GivePride365 Fund. Every reservation will include a bottle of Rose Bubbly, and cabana reservations will come with a bonus celebration kit! For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Join the LGBTQIA Alliance Washington National Cathedral for a free webinar featuring Billy Curtis, director, Gender Equity Resource Center UC Berkeley on Zoom at 8 p.m. Curtis is a community activist and advocate who was hired as UC Berkeley’s first full-time director for LGBT Resources in 1999. Curtis is currently the director of the university’s Gender Equity Resource Center. To register for this event, visit: capitalpride.org.

Thursday, June 24

Join the DC Public Library for a poetry reading with Micah Powell from his book “Things No One Else Wants to Say.” Micah will read from his book and join a conversation with DC’s own Regie Cabico, poet and director of Capturing Fire Press. The event will be hosted on Facebook and YouTube at 5:30 p.m. To register, visit the library’s website.

Hope in a Box will host “Books That Make Us: A Pride Month Celebration of LGBTQ+ Stories” online at 8 p.m. The event will feature a number of notable figures including Jahana Hayes, member of Congress (D-Conn.) and 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Zach Stafford, columnist for MSNBC and former editor of the Advocate. Tickets are available at: hopeinabox.splashthat.com.

The DC Anti-Violence Program will have an open meeting via Zoom at 7 p.m. At this meeting, there will be opportunities to learn more and get involved in lessening violence both within and directed toward the LGBT communities. To access the Zoom link, email [email protected].

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