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Message in the music

Gay Men’s Chorus reaching out to region’s queer youth with concert, program

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Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington
‘The Kids are All Right’
With guests Candace Gingrich-Jones and Dreams of Hope
Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20-$50
G.W. Lisner Auditorium
730 21st Street, N.W.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington has a one-off youth-themed performance scheduled for this weekend. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

As a veteran high school music teacher and counselor, Jeff Buhrman saw first-hand the need for affirmation and support for LGBT youth. When he became artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, he made it a priority to start a youth outreach program.

Though the Chorus’s GenOUT program has been in existence since 2001 offering free concert tickets to local LGBT youth, the Chorus has ramped up its efforts in the “It Gets Better” era. Saturday’s “The Kids are All Right” concert, the Chorus’s second of the current season, is especially created to dovetail with the program. It’s a busy time for the Chorus — last weekend its Rock Creek Singers ensemble performed with the Camp Rehoboth Chorus. Its all-male production of “The Rocky Horror Show” debuts in mid-March.

“(Saturday’s concert) is designed especially to serve the mission of our GenOUT program,” Buhrman says. “We are specifically reaching out to youth for ‘The Kids Are All Right.’ We’re sharing our stories we think they will relate to … the support of a mother who helps us get through, having a safe place in school like the high school music room or the theater room so we don’t have to go into the scary cafeteria during lunch … we’re using video, songs and narration to share our stories about the times we felt different growing up and exploring how it gets better.”

The Chorus will be joined by Candace Gingrich-Jones (Newt’s lesbian half-sister), who’ll provide narration for a musical dramatization of the story “Oliver Button is a Sissy,” and Dreams of Hope, a Pittsburgh-based teen performance ensemble whose 12 guests will use self-penned material such as poetry, song and dance to, as Buhrman puts it, “share their feelings about being teenagers in today’s world.”

The Chorus will pull with its usual eclectic reaches — everything from Broadway to country — to perform songs that flesh out the queer-affirming theme (the title is merely borrowed from the 2010 film — it’s not a musical telling of that story).

Buhrman knew of the Dreams of Hope chorus through an association of gay choruses of which the Washington Chorus is also a member. Dreams will perform a 25-minute segment then join the GMCW for the finale.

“It’s a joy when we are able to actually share the stage with another group,” Buhrman says. “It’ll be fun working with them.”

Jay Garvey, a 27-year-old GMCW baritone who works as a co-facilitator of the GenOUT program, agrees.

“We’re gonna see some beautiful stories shining through and that’s what the Chorus does best,” he says. “There are these little moments in life that every LGBT person can understand and relate to, so we hope audiences will find themselves in these narratives, especially youth who are going through it now.”

But while the intentions are obviously great, does quality suffer when so much of the material is new, autobiographical and unproven? Buhrman, who has solid classical training, says it’s not an issue.

“If you had been at our rehearsal the other night, you wouldn’t ask that question,” he says. “Music, and good music, is at the heart of everything we do. You’ll hear a range of styles, expansively beautiful melodies, great lyrics — we can always find music that will correspond to our experiences as LGBT people and if we can’t find something ourselves, we either commission it … or find something and have one of our people arrange it. … It’s why it sometimes takes us one-to-two years to plan a show. We want to find exactly the right music to speak at that exact moment.”

The GenOUT program is run by GMCW staff such as Taunee Grant, its director of marketing and communications, and co-facilitators Garvey, Nic Baker and Richard Bennett, Chorus members who volunteer their time to the program. About 94 schools and organizations in the region attend Chorus shows through the program which gives free tickets to about 300 LGBT students each season. “Pink Nutcracker,” the Chorus’s well-received 2011 holiday show, brought 175 free tickets through the GenOUT program. “Red & Greene,” the 2012 holiday show, found 225 guests. Members hope to continue adding tickets each year.

The program also features “hubs” in the Lisner lobby at each GMCW concert where queer youth can meet up before and after the shows. And it’s not just for high school students — the Chorus is in the process of getting a college internship program started as well.

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Arts & Entertainment

LGBTQ+ ally Jamie Lee Curtis reveals her 25-year-old child is Trans

Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, British screenwriter, composer, musician, director, and actor have two daughters.

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Screenshot via Page 6 YouTube channel

LOS ANGELES – In a new interview with the American Association of Retired Persons’ magazine, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis disclosed that her youngest child is transgender. In the interview Curtis reflected that she has “watched in wonder and pride as our son became our daughter Ruby.”

Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, British screenwriter, composer, musician, director, and actor have two daughters. Ruby, 25, works as a computer gaming editor while Curtis and Guest’s 34-year-old daughter, Annie, is married and works as a dance instructor. Curtis also noted that Ruby and her fiancé are getting married next year in a wedding that Curtis will officiate.

The longtime Hollywood couple have been married for more than 36 years but have no grandchildren, “but I do hope to,” she told the magazine.

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Sports

Non-binary Olympian leaves games without a medal but still a winner

For the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling

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Alana Smith via Instagram

TOKYO – In a series of firsts for the Summer Olympic Games, Alana Smith left the Tokyo games with a sense of accomplishment and a couple of firsts. The 20-year-old non-binary skateboarder competing in the debut of their sport noted on their Instagram account, “My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me.”

Smith wrote: ‘What a wild f***ing ride…My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me. For the first time in my entire life, Im proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling. Out of everything I’ve done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling.

The feeling in my heart says I did that. Last night I had a moment on the balcony, I’m not religious or have anyone/anything I talk to. Last night I thanked whoever it was out there that gave me the chance to not leave this world the night I laid in the middle of the road. I feel happy to be alive and feel like I’m meant to be here for possibly the first time in a extremely long time. On or off day, I walked out of this happy and alive… Thats all I have ever asked for.

Thank you to all the incredible humans that have supported me through so many waves of life. I can’t wait to skate for the love of it again, not only for a contest. Which is wild considering a contest helped me find my love for it again. 💛🤍💜🖤”

Smith’s Olympic debut was slightly marred by their being misgendered during news coverage of their events by BBC commentators misgendering Smith discussing their performance, which led to protests from LGBTQ+ groups and allies including British LGBTQ+ advocacy group Stonewall UK.

 

During the competition, Smith proudly held up their skateboard, which featured their pronouns they/them written across the top. The misgendering was addressed by NBC Sports which issued an apology Tuesday for streaming coverage that misgendered Smith.

“NBC Sports is committed to—and understands the importance of—using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms,” the network said. “While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers.”

NBC also reported that this is the first Olympics in history that has featured skateboarding, with 16 athletes traveling to Tokyo to represent the United States. Smith qualified for the third Olympic spot in the women’s street category after competing at the World Skate World Championships in 2019, according to Dew Tour, which hosts international skateboarding competitions.

According to Outsports, the online LGBTQ+ Sports magazine and NBC Sports, Smith is one of more than 160 openly LGBTQ athletes competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics and one of at least three openly nonbinary or Trans athletes.

Quinn, a midfielder for the Canadian women’s soccer team who goes by only their first name, is the first openly Trans athlete and nonbinary athlete to compete in the games. Laurel Hubbard, a Trans woman from New Zealand will compete in the super heavyweight 87 kilogram-plus (192 pound-plus) weightlifting category on August 2.

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Books

‘Playing the Palace’ a campy, fun rom-com read

What happens when a prince meets an event planner

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‘Playing the Palace’
By Paul Rudnick
c.2021, Berkley
$16/272 pages

If you loathe romance or hate to laugh, then skip this book.  

If you’re looking for a rom-com that’s as fab and campy as Provincetown or Rehoboth Beach on a summer night, “Playing the Palace” by Paul Rudnick is the book for you.

Reading “Playing the Palace” is like sipping a delicious frozen Daiquiri.

Carter Ogden, the neurotic, good-hearted, Jewish, funny, out, gay narrator of this frothy romance, becomes your BFF and drinking buddy at the opening sentence, “It’s still weird, waking up alone.”

The plot of the book is simple: Carter, 29, is an associate “event architect” (in plain English – event planner) in New York City. He makes ends meet by living with wacky, supportive roommates.

Carter, a native of Piscataway, N.J., and IHOP aficionado, is feeling dejected as he approaches his 30th birthday. His ex, an actor, has left him. He can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever find love again.

Until, at work, he meets Edgar, the Prince of Wales. Edgar has come over from the United Kingdom to speak at a charity event for a group that works to provide clean water to countries that need it. And, this being a fictional prince in a rom-com, Edgar is openly gay. 

As you’ve been forewarned, we’re not dealing with realism here.

Edgar sees Carter and asks him to give him tips on how he can get his speech across more effectively.  

From that moment on, the two – the IHOP-loving event planner and the future King of England — are in a fine romance. (Edgar is an orphan. His parents were killed in a plane crash.)

Their quest for the happily-ever-after involves pancakes, projectile vomiting, social media and a Thanksgiving meet-up of Carter’s Jewish aunts and Edgar’s grandmother, the Queen of England.

By itself, the story of “Playing the Palace” might seem predictable. What makes it sizzle – why you laugh out loud even as you root for the romance to work out – is its narrative voice.

“Playing the Palace” is a funny, sometimes touching monologue in the voice of Carter.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to love Carter when he says he “addressed my problems to the framed photo of the late beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the wall of my tiny, partitioned bedroom.”

Writing a whole novel as a monologue could fizzle out if other writers tried it.  

But, Rudnick a gay novelist, playwright, essayist, screenwriter and humorist, is a master of this form.

His plays, produced on and off-Broadway include “Jeffrey,” “I Hate Hamlet,” “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” and “The New Century.” He’s won an Obie Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and the John Gassner Playwriting Award.  

Rudnick’s novels include “Social Disease” and “I’ll Take It.” “Gorgeous” and “It’s All Your Fault” are among his YA (young adult) novels.

His screenplays include “Addams Family Values,” “In & Out,” the screen adaptation of “Jeffrey” and “Sister Act.” He wrote the screenplay for “Coastal Elites,” the comedic satire that debuted on HBO last year.

Something of a polymath, Rudnick is, according to his bio, “rumored to be quite close” to film critic Libby Gelman-Waxner, whose reviews have appeared in Premiere magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, his essays have appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times and Vogue.

As you might expect, the volume is chock full of pop culture references and wit. “I took a shower using my new manly body wash,” Carter says, “which is exactly the same as the female version, only with simplified graphics and a steel-gray, squared-off bottle, as if it contains motor oil and testosterone.”

It’s not surprising that Rudnick told Entertainment Weekly that he’s working on a musical of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Reading “Playing the Palace” is like seeing a Broadway musical.  

“I was looking into eyes that were so radiantly blue I either wanted to faint or yell ‘just stop it,’” Carter says when he first sees Edgar.

“Playing the Palace” is a show-stopper.

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