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D.C. arts briefs: July 27

Best of Gay D.C. voting up now, ‘Lay of the Land’ and ‘Thomas is Titanic’ at the Fringe

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Ba’Naka with her trophies at last year’s Best of Gay D.C. awards. (Blade photo by Pete Exis)

Nominate your faves for Best of Gay D.C.

The opportunity to nominate local businesses, restaurants or people in the Blade’s 11th annual Best of Gay D.C. awards ends Wednesday.

The Blade has added a new step this year to the Best of Gay D.C. Awards by allowing readers to nominate their favorites before official voting starts Aug. 10. Readers can nominate businesses, venues and people in categories such as best new restaurant, best wine bar, best dance club, hottest stripper, best place of worship, best yoga studio, best realtor, best drag queen, best amateur athlete and many more.

The purpose of the awards is to bring reader’s attentions to establishments that they may not have known about prior to the contest.

To nominate a business or a person, or to see where to vote starting Aug. 10, go to bestofgaydc.com.

Running in Rehoboth

CAMP Rehoboth and Seashore Striders are planning the third annual “Sundance 5K: Run, Walk or Sashay!” event for Aug. 26 at 7:30 a.m. The race starts in front of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center on Baltimore Avenue.

The 5K serves as the kick-off to “Sundance Week,” an annual benefit for Rehoboth’s gay community center. There’s also a one-mile “Fun Walk” and participants are encouraged to come in costume.

Prizes will be awarded to top finishers. Pre-registration runs through Aug. 14 and costs $25 (T-shirt guaranteed); register online by Aug. 24 for $30 or in person on race weekend also for $30 (T-shirts while supplies last). Visit seashorestriders.com to register. The Blade is an official media sponsor.

One man depicts the epic sinking of Titanic

Thomas Choinacky performs “Thomas is Titanic” with the Capital Fringe Festival tonight at 10:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church (7th St. Mt. Vernon Square).

Choinacky is a gay performer whose obsession with Kate Winslet led him to play all the parts of the movie, including the iceberg.

General admission is $17. For more information, visit capitalfringe.org.

Laughs and controversy in the Capitol

Award-winning and controversial actor Tim Miller performs his piece “Lay of the Land” as part of the Association for Theater in Higher Education Conference on Aug. 3 at 10 p.m. The conference will take at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Ave., NW).

Miller’s pieces have always explored his identity as a gay man and the civil rights of those in the LGBT community. Several of his pieces have caused controversies. Miller was one of the NEA 4, which were four artists who had their National Endowment of the Arts vetoed based on the content of their work.

“Lay of the Land” is no different, as it takes place during a “No on Prop. 8” protest in downtown L.A. In an interview with gay author William Mann, Miller said, “’Lay of the Land’ is a ‘lay’ in all kinds of ways: a sex-assignation, a queer citizenship map, and of course a narrative ballad with a recurrent refrain.”

Attendees don’t have to  be registered for the conference in order to attend the performance. Individual registration costs range from $215-$435, but tickets for Miller’s performance are available for $10 at the door of the Hyatt ballroom just prior to the performance. For more information, visit athe.org or timmillerperformer.com.

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Books

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

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(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Theater

Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher

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Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Ink’
Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$46-$94
Roundhousetheatre.org

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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Out & About

CAMP Rehoboth’s final concert of the season is almost here

Chorus performs ‘Music of the Night’

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CAMP Rehoboth Chorus is ready to close out another season.

CAMP Rehoboth Chorus will perform “Music of the Night” on Friday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church. 

The chorus will sing more than 36 song selections, including “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I Could’ve Danced All Night” and “In the Still of the Nite.”

Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased on CAMP Rehoboth’s website.

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