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Leather enthusiasts gear up for next weekend’s MAL events

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Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend

Jan. 13-16
Various events
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill
New Jersey Ave., N.W.
Full registration: $180 or by event
Leatherweekend.com

Last year's MAL Weekend. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

 

Gay leather enthusiasts from all over the East Coast and beyond will be in Washington next weekend for the 32nd annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, which typically draws between 2,000-3,000 to its various events.

The festivities kick off Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Eagle for a “former MAL title holders” bar night. Most events, though, will be at the Hyatt Regency — the event’s host hotel. The other main exception is the Sunday night “Reaction” dance, to be held at the 9:30 club. Having as much as possible at the Hyatt was a big reason organizers moved the weekend there after 10 years at the Plaza in Thomas Circle.

MORE IN THE BLADE: JAN. 6 CALENDAR

Last year, the first held at the Hyatt, drew mixed reviews, even among organizers.

“It was OK,” says Patrick Grady, this year’s event chair. “This year should be much better though. We rented the entire hotel this time so there’ll be no non-MAL guests there. Last year was a mixed crowd but this year we have the entire 830 rooms.”

Grady says feedback from last year’s attendees was taken seriously.

“There were people who were upset last year,” says Peter Wesselton, a D.C. resident who has his own dungeon. “There were people who were upset with the way the hotel handled everything. There were a whole list of don’ts — no touching, no leather in the lobby … so a lot of guys were pretty pissed off …. These are professional people, lawyers, doctors, dentists with high standing who just want to be able to let their hair down and not be babysat.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: TASTE OF NEW YORK

Although the Thomas Circle locale gave them easy access to the Green Lantern, a pro-leather club that supports the event, Grady says overall the Hyatt makes more sense.

“We had more or less outgrown the Plaza and the guests have made comments that they like to have as much as possible under one roof,” he says. “We could never be sure how much space we’d have at the Plaza and with the potential for cold weather and snow — not that that deters many leather folks — but it just makes it more convenient. They can Metro to Union Station and then we’ll have shuttle buses to the two bars we’re visiting.”

ADD THIS EVENT TO YOUR FOURSQUARE TO-DO LIST!

The full package weekend is $180 and guests can register anytime for events. Staple events like “leather cocktails” and the Mr. Leather contest are once again on the schedule. Other events, like Blowoff and a new party dubbed “Luther,” piggyback on MAL but have no official ties to the weekend Grady says.

“The only things sponsored by us are the ones at the hotel and the Reaction Dance. They have other events at the Eagle and such and that’s fine, but unless it’s in the hotel, it’s not really part of MAL weekend,” Grady says.

Grady says he has “no idea” how many come from out of town for the weekend versus attendees from the D.C. area.

The event will be held per its contract at the Hyatt for two more years at least.

Full details are at leatherweekend.com.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride in the Park

Annual celebration featured vendors, performers

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(Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Pride in the Park was held at Druid Hill Park on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)

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Photos

PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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