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Here comes the Pride

Bounty of black, Latino events through Memorial Day and beyond

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Pride season is here and with it brings events, concerts and festivals for everyone.

The sixth annual Latino Pride starts Sunday and this year’s theme is “History, Celebration, Diversity and Identity.” This is the first year Latino Pride is spread over multiple days.

Latino Pride begins with La Corona, the royal coronation and dance party at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. hosted by Jocelyn Carrillo. There’s a $5 donation for this 21-and-older event.

“La Plática” is May 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Human Rights Campaign (1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.) and features several components including a panel discussion and networking, a historical exhibition and community resource fair. Panelists include Gustavo Velasquez, director of D.C. Office of Human Rights, and Jack Harrison of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. HIV testing will also be available during this event.

A bilingual ecumenical service, “La Misa,” with Rev. Joseph Palacios is June 3 at St. Thomas’ Parish Dupont Circle (1772 Church St., N.W.) from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“This will be the first time we have this,” says David Perez, president of Latino GLBT History Project. “We’re partnering with [St. Thomas’ and Palacios] … and we’re also partnering with the Dignity group … focusing on a call to action of how we celebrate pride by giving back to others.”

Latino Pride ends with the official Latino Pride dance party “La Fiesta” at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) on June 7 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. There is a $5 donation for this 18-and-older event.

For more information on Latino Pride, visit latinoglbthistory.org.

Black Pride starts Thursday and runs through May 27.

D.C. Black Pride starts with a wine-and-spirits reception on Thursday at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (1001 F St., N.W.) from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is $10.

The festivities continue on May 25 at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) with a hospitality suite open from noon to 9 p.m. and a game room open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. The opening reception is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. including a book signing for “King Peggy.” RainbowConnects will be running a speed dating event from 7 to 9 p.m.

Also on May 25 is a performance of “She’Baltimore” at The Warehouse Theater (1071 7th St., N.W.) at 8 p.m. Tickets to this performance are $25.

The hospitality suite is also open on May 26 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but there are other events happening that day as well.

At 11 a.m. there is “Why Do You Write/Read and How Do You Succeed?” a panel sponsored by Fire & Ink featuring Rashid Darden, LaToya Hankins, J. Renee LaCour, Spectra Speaks, Red Summer and Dwayne Vernon. There are also various workshops running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hyatt.

At 12:30 p.m., Angela Harvey presents “The Key to the Perfect Orgasm” at the Hyatt.

At 2 p.m. is a film festival also at the Hyatt. Admission to the festival is $15. Also at 2 p.m. is a reading of “The Four of Us” at Mead Lab Theater (916 G St., N.W.). Admission to the reading is $20 and includes a small reception.

Buttafly Soul is hosting a poetry slam at the Hyatt from 5 to 8 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. is the Soul Train Dance Party. Admission is $15 to both events.

Black Pride ends May 27 with a faith service organized by Courtney Williams, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Hyatt. At noon, “It’s a Family Affair,” the D.C. Black Pride Health and Wellness Expo begins. The expo will be held at Francis-Stevens Educational Campus (23 and O streets) featuring food, community vendors, children’s play area, DJ and entertainment honoring Etta James, Whitney Houston and Vesta Williams.

For more information on Black Pride, visit dcblackpride.org.

Also starting Thursday is Chocolate City Pride with “The Genesis” at Layla Lounge (501 Morse St., N.E.) on Thursday. Cover is $5 before midnight and $10 after.

On May 25, Omega Entertainment presents “5000 Men Pride Mega Party” at Fur Nightclub (33 Patterson St., N.E.) featuring R&B singer Ashanti. Doors open at 9 p.m.

May 26 brings the “Tropical Heat Rooftop Party” at Ibiza (1222 1st St., N.E.) from 3 to 8 p.m. Admission is $10. That night is the annual Manhunt party at Layla Lounge from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. featuring a surprise celebrity performance.

May 27 starts with the “Insomniac After-Party” at Lace Nightclub (2214 Rhode Island Ave., N.E.) from 3:30 to 7:30 a.m. Then there’s the annual “Island Inferno Pool Party” at Cameron Run Regional Park (4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria) from 3 to 8 p.m. Admission is $10 but the first 500 get in free. The day ends with the “Klimax Mega Party” at Love (1350 Okie St., N.E.) from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

The last day of Chocolate City Pride is May 28 and starts with a cookout for all pass holders at Fort Dupont Park (3600 F St., S.E.) from noon until 7 p.m. That night is “The Apocalypse” at Layla Lounge from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is $10.

For more information and to purchase passes, visit omegapartydc.net.

 

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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Arts & Entertainment

NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins

Singer, husband, and popular West Hollywood nightclub owner, now adds the job of ‘Dad’ to his resume

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Lance Bass and Michael Turchin via Instagram

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Former boy-band NSYNC star and co-owner of the popular LGBTQ+ nightspot Rocco’s, Lance Bass, announced that he and husband Michael Turchin are the proud parents of twins, Violet Betty and Alexander James.

In his announcement on Instagram, Bass wrote; ‘The baby dragons have arrived!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I can not express how much love I feel right now. Thank you for all the kind wishes. It meant a lot. Now, how do you change a diaper??! Ahhhhhhhh!”

The babies were carried via surrogate, the singer noted saying that Alexander, born one minute before his sister on Wednesday, weighed 4 lbs., 14 oz. Violet weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. Bass said in his Instagram post.

His husband also announced the news on his Instagram account. “Introducing the newest members of the Turchin-Bass household: Violet Betty and Alexander James!!!! They’re pure perfection and yes that includes the dozens of poops we’ve already dealt with. Our hearts our full!!! Thank you everyone for the well wishes 🥰🥰🥰”

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