It’s not a particularly good time to ask Fred Sainz about the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner.
It’s a weekday morning just days before the annual event and he, like many at the LGBT rights organization, is bogged down in details and logistics.
“It’s almost like giving birth,” he says. “You know, it’s an incredibly exciting event but you kind of can’t wait for it to be over too.”
The event is Saturday evening at the Convention Center (801 Mt. Vernon Place N.W.) and is sold out. Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, NAACP President Ben Jealous and actress Sally Field are slated to appear. A troupe from Cirque du Soleil will perform. About 3,000 are expected. Details are at hrcnationaldinner.org.
Sainz came to HRC about two-and-a-half years ago and works as vice president of communications and marketing. The 44-year-old Miami-area native says it’s been satisfying work.
“It’s really been the privilege of a lifetime to be able to do this work and a special honor to be able to work here at this time in the movement’s history,” he says. “I arrived one week before the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal bill dropped in May 2010 so it has been a roller coaster and truly one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Sainz, a former Republican, went to school in Washington, served in the first Bush White House, then moved to San Diego to work on the ’96 Republican National Convention. He stayed there working at various jobs over the next 14 years before going to Denver where he spent two years working at the Gill Foundation, which he says was “amazing” and prepared him for his position at HRC.
Sainz is “dating someone special” but doesn’t go into details. He lives in Washington and enjoys working out, movies and traveling in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since I was 28 years old and I’m now 44 so it’s been 16 years. My father was the hardest to tell. He and I haven’t spoken since I came out.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’m boring so I don’t really know of many but I love Town for Bear Happy Hour on Friday nights.
Describe your dream wedding.
I think weddings (not marriage, but weddings) suck up a lot of money and create unnecessary anxiety. I think a city hall marriage with people that you are close to is preferable.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Virtually any social justice issue.
What historical outcome would you change?
Castro’s takeover of Cuba in 1959. My parents immigrated to this country from Cuba. Imagine leaving the country of your birth and immigrating to another country, virtually penniless and without speaking the language at 28 years old; that’s what they did. In search of better lives and to be free from oppression, they came to the U.S.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The release of Madonna’s first album.
On what do you insist?
Honesty and straightforwardness.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
About HRC’s National Dinner this Saturday.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Indignity of Being a Dog”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I love being gay. I believe that God created me this way.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in Karma. Do right unto others because if not, a higher life force has a sense of humor.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Make every decision through the lens of young people and you’ll be doing the right thing.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A vodka/cran on a Friday night.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men are funny, like Jack from “Will & Grace.”
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Putting up the toilet seat. Why?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Me at 44.
It’s the nation’s capital and where laws that change our lives will be passed.
‘Blindness’ explores a terrifying new pandemic
Sidney Harman Hall production features immersive sound, light installation
Through June 13
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.
Masks and social distancing, yes, but I never expected a return to live theater to include a stage without actors and an audience seated onstage. But that’s exactly how it went it down on a recent sunny Saturday morning in Washington.
We longed for something, and after a year of indisputably warranted darkness, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) has obliged by reopening Sidney Harman Hall with Donmar Warehouse’s terrifyingly enthralling production of “Blindness,” an immersive sound and light installation anchored by Juliet Stevenson’s astonishing recorded vocal performance heard — jarringly, soothingly, eerily — through binaural headphones.
Adapted by Simon Stephens from Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s same-titled dystopian novel, and staged by Walter Meierjohann (“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”), the London born, 75-minute tale begins with narrator Stevens matter-of-factly relaying the details surrounding the outbreak of a pandemic that causes blindness. What starts off as an alarming, isolated incident, rapidly devolves into something all-encompassing and petrifying.
Uncannily, Saramago’s 1995 book, both looks back to plague stories and prophetically toward COVID-19.
In addition to narrator, Stevenson (an Olivier Award-winning stage actor also known for films like “Truly, Madly, Deeply”) plays the wife of an ophthalmologist whose office is where patient zero spreads the disease to various other patients – a little cross-eyed boy, an alluring young woman hiding a case of conjunctivitis behind dark sunglasses, a thief, an older gent sporting an eye patch, and sundry others.
The doctor’s wife, who is immune to the new sight-stealing disease, is doomed/blessed to become the lone eyewitness to violence, injustices, and death as the situation becomes progressively scary, primitive, and dangerous.
Rather than darkness, the afflicted are submerged into a world of milky whiteness. The pandemic – a new pathogen whose means of transmission is unknown – moves quickly throughout the city, then the nation, and beyond. Early in the outbreak, the health ministry is reluctant to get too involved, choosing instead to minimize the seriousness of what’s happening. Sounds familiar, I know.
Like the story, Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design becomes increasingly menacing as things move along. Originally playfully colorful fluorescent tubes suspended high from the ceiling, they turn stark white and are lowered to audience members’ line of sight. Then they are darkened altogether, interrupted by occasional bright colorless flashes.
Through headphones, the audience hears rain storms, harsh announcements, barricades being dragged, screams, sobs, footsteps, and gunshots. At times, Stevenson whispers in your ear. Once, I mechanically answered “Yes, I’m here.”
Masked, seated often in total darkness, headphones, it’s immersive, sometimes claustrophobically so. (If it becomes too much, there’s a flash light attached to the leg of each metal chair. Turn it on and an usher will escort you off the stage.)
During the pandemic STC has developed health and safety measures that include masks, air filtration, social distancing, etc.
For “Blindness” only 40 patrons are allowed per viewing. No one is seated next to someone outside of their own party, and a limited number of single tickets are available for purchase by calling the box office. Headsets, seats, and flashlights are disinfected before every performance, and all bathrooms and lobby spaces will be cleaned prior to the next seating group enters the building.
Exiting the Harman, you might think how odd it is to have been on stage before the actors’ union has allowed them to perform indoors before a live audience.
Outdoors, the warm wind feels invigorating against your face as you walk down the street. Still, the nearby upscale Mexican restaurant’s windows remain boarded and the half dozen people around you are walking determinedly, all — except one — wearing a mask.
Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs screens ‘Eat With Me’
David Au’s directorial debut presented
In celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, The Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, DC Public Library, and the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs host a screening of “Eat With Me” for May’s #DCQueerFlix on May 14, beginning at 6 p.m.
“Eat With Me,” David Au’s directorial debut, features the story of a mother and her gay son learning to reconnect while trying to keep their business afloat. The film offers a novel take on love, life, and food in the center of Los Angeles.
“Eat With Me” will be available on the Kanopy streaming service and is free for D.C. library patrons.
To register for this virtual event, visit the Eventbrite page.
Virtual panel tackles Va. trans student policies
Equality Virginia event to dissect VDOE guidance
Equality Virginia hosts a virtual panel focused on dissecting the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) newly released guidance concerning the treatment of transgender and non-binary youth in schools. This event will be on May 12 at 6 p.m.
Perspectives from LGBTQ youth, parents, legal experts, and community leaders will be shared to shed light on VDOE’s new policies set to go into effect during the 2021-2022 school year.
Event registration is available here.
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