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Madge and beyond

Fall concert season dotted with biggest legends to hippest new underground queer acts

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Grizzly Bear is touring its new album ‘Shields,’ which drops Tuesday. The band plays two sold out shows next week at the 9:30 Club. (Photo courtesy Warp Records)

A bounty of queer bands are slated for Phasefest which starts Thursday and runs through next weekend at Phase 1’s Eastern Market (original) location (525 8th Street S.E.). Look for indie bands like Bitch, Athen Boys Choir, Angie Head, People at Parties, Mitten, Hunter Valentine, D.C. band Glitterlust, Vanity Theft and many others. Weekend passes are $55. Tickets for individual nights are $15 Thursday, $20 for Sept. 22 and $25 for Sept. 22 and are available only at the door. Visit phasefest.com for details.

Grizzly Bear, whose new album “Shields” is slated to drop Tuesday, plays two nights at the 9:30 Club (815 V Street, N.W.) Sept. 20-21. Both shows are sold out. Gay singer/songwriter Ed Droste fronts the Brooklyn-based quartet. Try StubHub if you really want to go. Doors are 7 for the Thursday show; 8 for the Friday show. Unknown Mortal Orchestra opens.

Madonna brings her “MDNA Tour” to the Verizon Center (601 F Street, N.W.) Sept. 23-24, her first D.C. shows here since the “Re-Invention Tour” in 2004. Tickets were still available for the second night as of Blade press time but be warned the night of the show — as longtime fans now, she almost never starts on time. She didn’t go on in Philly a few weeks ago until almost 10:30 p.m. Check Ticketmaster or StubHub for availability.

Diamond Rings, a one-man outfit consisting of openly gay John O (his new album drops Oct. 22), opens for Stars at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 23. Doors are at 7. It’s sold out.

“Spill: True Stories of Queer Sex, Desire and Romance,” a new monthly performance event, kicks off at Black Fox Lounge (1723 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) at 8 p.m. on Sept. 27. It’s free. Bi New Yorker Jefferson hosts. More info at spillstories.wordpress.com.

Tony winner Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes,” “Thoroughly Mordern Millie” and “Shrek the Musical”) plays George Mason University’s Center for the Arts (on the George Mason campus in Fairfax County, Va.) Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $40, $55 and $70. Visit cfa.gmu.edu for information.

Broadway legend Patti LuPone brings her “Matters of the Heart” show to the Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda) for two nights Oct. 5-6. The 8 p.m. shows will find the double Tony winner singing love songs from a wide range of composers from Broadway legends like Rodgers and Hammerstein to pop singers such as Joni Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper. Tickets range from $45-$85. Buy online at Strathmore.org.

Look for ‘70s teen idol David Cassidy, inspiration for surely many gay coming-of-age fantasies, at the Birchmere Oct. 6. Tickets are $49.50 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Details at birchmere.com.

Shi-Queeta-Lee and her “cast of celebrity female impersonators” return to the Howard Theatre (620 T Street, N.W.) Oct. 10 for another “Drag Salute to the Divas” after a successful debut there in August. The lady poses as Mary J. Blige in the ads. Tickets are $20 in advance ($25 at the door) for the 8 p.m. show.

In other drag news, Special Agent Galactica (Jeffrey Johnson) plays Black Fox Lounge (1723 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) every second and fourth Friday of the month from 6-9 p.m. and the first Tuesday of each month she brings her “Ye Olde Rock ‘n Roll Show” to MOVA (2204 14th Street) from 8-10 p.m. All free. Details at pinkhairedone.com.

Queer Women of Color successfully raised $5,000 in an online drive for its third annual Revival Poetry Tour that’s slated to wrap in D.C. Oct. 13. Details pending.

Soul legend Mavis Staples plays the Hamilton (600 14th Street, N.W.) Oct. 17. Tickets are $55-$62 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Info at thehamiltondc.com.

It’s a trek from D.C., but if you want to catch Liza Minnelli’s fall show “Confessions,” the closest spot is the Luhrs Performing Arts Center (1871 Old Main Drive) in Shippensburg, Pa., on the campus of Shippensburg University. It’s about a two-hour drive from D.C. Tickets range from $67-$95. Details at luhrscenter.com.

Perrenniel lesbian road warriors The Indigo Girls are slated to play Rams Head Live (20 Market Place) in Baltimore Oct. 20. Tickets are $35 for the 9 p.m. show. Check ticketfly.com for tickets or link there through ramsheadlive.com.

Gay comedian David Sedaris plays the Strathmore Oct. 23. Tickets range from $48-$58 for the 8 p.m. show. Details at Strathmore.org.

Of course there’s an ocean of stuff going on all the time in New York, but if you happen to be there Oct. 30 (the night of the High Heel Race in D.C., by the way), consider checking out a special Freedom to Marry concert there featuring Rufus Wainwright, They Might Be Giants, John Cameron Mitchell, Justin Bond and more. It will be held at the Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway, New York) at 8 p.m. and 100 percent of the $50-$155 tickets benefit LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Marry (Rufus’s dad, Loudon Wainwright III, who’s been playing a new song he just wrote for Rufus’s gay wedding at his summer shows, plays the Birchmere Oct. 12-13).

Lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge plays the Strathmore Nov. 2 for her “4th Street Feeling Tour.” Tickets range from $57.50-$102.50. Details at Strathmore.org.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington has its Home Cooked Cabaret night dubbed “Showmen and Showstoppers” at Town Danceboutique (2009 8th Street N.W.) Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 for reserved seats or $75 general admission. Visit gmcw.org for information.

Dance diva Stephanie Mills plays the Birchmere Nov. 10. Tickets are $69.50 (birchmere.com).

Aretha Franklin plays DAR Constitution Hall (1776 D Street, NW) Nov. 20. Tickets are $59.50-$115.50 at Ticketmaster.

The Chorus’s “Winter Nights” show is the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Lisner Auditorium (730 21st Street, N.W.). No word yet on ticket prices for that show.

That’s the big stuff but a few other venues to keep an eye on or plan checking out include gay-owned Comet Ping Pong (5037 Connecticut Ave., N.W.), a gay-owned pizza restaurant, live music venue that hosts indie bands — some queer — all the time. Info at cometpingpong.com.

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland (claricesmithcenter.umd.edu), the Washington Performing Arts Society (wpas.org) and Wolf Trap (wolftrap.org) all have great events scheduled throughout the fall.

 

 

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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.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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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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