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Stripped-down Mika

Out singer brings three-man combo for D.C. tour stop



Mika, music, gay news, Washington Blade
Mika, music, gay news, Washington Blade

Mika returns to Washington next week. His show at the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue is sold out. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Sixth & I Synagogue
600 I St., N.W.

Gay pop singer Mika was in Vancouver when we spoke by phone two weeks ago. He was in tour rehearsals for a stripped-down 17-date mini tour behind his latest album “The Origin of Love,” which dropped in October.

There’s good news and bad — he is coming to Washington but the show is sold out. He’s slated to be here Wednesday night for a show at the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue. A review of his March 27 show at Los Angeles’s El Rey Theatre drew raves. A blogger (Neon Tommy) said he spent much of the evening at the piano and, “as great as his voice may sound in recordings, it is unbelievably smooth live” and “beyond impressive.”

WASHINGTON BLADE: What kind of instrumentation will you bring?

MIKA: There are three of us playing everything from piano to clarinet to sax to accordion to marimba to vibraphone — we have all these different instruments being played and we’re trying almost to make it sound classically influenced almost. We’ve done some scoring on a lot of this stuff just for this tour.

BLADE: How do you take highly produced dance pop and make it work with that kind of instrumentation?

MIKA: You take it back to the way it was written, to its most essential things. Things start out very basically, like maybe just piano and bass, and then build and build until you get the more dance stuff. But there’s loads of different ways to do it. It almost sounds more tribal on stage. It’s kind of like you’re getting people up and dancing and singing without all the bleeps and blowups.

BLADE: Is this where you are musically now or is it just a way to contrast it with the touring you did last fall?

MIKA: It definitely will affect the sound of my next record. We’re testing new songs and it’s already happening. The new stuff is a lot more sparse.

BLADE: The transition in your vocals from your natural range into falsetto is so seamless. With many singers it’s so much more pronounced. Was that just always the way it was or have you worked to develop and refine that?

MIKA: It’s really the result of growing up being trained by Russian classical musicians. It was like really serious professional singing. I can flip really effortlessly because I’ve been doing it since I was about 11. At the same time, my full voice range is actually quite limited. I’m technically a baritone, so pop just doesn’t work for that kind of voice and I had to develop a way to have more range. If you listen to Freddie Mercury or Prince, you see how we try to stretch it as far as you can and make it so it’s almost unnoticeable.

BLADE: Now that you’ve been out a while, what differences have you noticed career-wise?

MIKA: There’s been no change whatsoever in the people coming to the shows. It’s exactly the same demographics … I have always had this very crazy mix. Press wise, people talk about it, but it’s only one question that comes and goes because I’ve never lied or pretended to be anything I wasn’t. I refused to label myself. And the music hasn’t changed. Beyond that, I think there’s definitely a different sort of person now who comes up and talks to me on the street. That happens in a very different way. I think it’s made me slightly more approachable to some people.

BLADE: Are you in a relationship now?

MIKA: Yes I am but it’s hard. Beyond the traveling, this desire to constantly be creating … I think takes its toll on a relationship. … Relationships are about stability and that isn’t necessarily the most conducive thing to the creative process.

BLADE: You have such great hair — any tips?

MIKA: Wow, relationships to hair — that’s quite a change.

BLADE: Well, I’m trying to move fast.

MIKA: The hair thing, I don’t know. I hate washing it. I feel like you lose a bit of your brain or something every time you wash it.

BLADE: How often do you wash it?

MIKA: Maybe like once a week or something. It’s kind of skanky.

BLADE: How easily do the hooks come? Is there a large discard pile of songs that just aren’t hooky enough or can you make the hooks tighter as you write and tweak?

MIKA? With the last record I think I wrote 16 or 17 songs and I put out 15 so no, there’s not a lot of waste. It’s a very efficient writing process. I try to write like a child, to write as someone who’s allowing himself to be a child. I don’t really chase hooks, but I try to capture that feeling of being an 8- or 9-year-old girl or boy on a holiday. … I’m obsessed with the craft of thrill building.



New book explores why we categorize sports according to gender

You can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think



‘Fair Play: How Sports Shape the Gender Debates’
By Katie Barnes
c.2023, St. Martin’s Press
$29/304 pages

The jump shot happened so quickly, so perfectly.

Your favorite player was in the air in a heartbeat, basketball in hand, wrist cocked. One flick and it was all swish, three points, just like that, and your team was ahead. So are you watching men’s basketball or women’s basketball? Or, as in the new book, “Fair Play” by Katie Barnes, should it really matter?

For sports fans, this may come as a surprise: we categorize sports according to gender.

Football, baseball, wresting: male sports. Gymnastics, volleyball: women’s sports. And yet, one weekend spent cruising around television shows you that those sports are enjoyed by both men and women – but we question the sexuality of athletes who dare (gasp!) to cross invisible lines for a sport they love.

How did sports “become a flash point for a broader conversation?”

Barnes takes readers back first to 1967, when Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb both ran in the Boston Marathon. It was the first time women had audaciously done so and while both finished the race, their efforts didn’t sit well with the men who made the rules.

“Thirty-seven words” changed the country in 1972 when Title IX was signed, which guaranteed there’d be no discrimination in extracurricular events, as long as “federal financial assistance” was taken. It guaranteed availability for sports participation for millions of girls in schools and colleges. It also “enshrine[d] protections for queer and transgender youth to access school sports.”

So why the debate about competition across gender lines?

First, says Barnes, we can’t change biology, or human bodies that contain both testosterone and estrogen, or that some athletes naturally have more of one or the other – all of which factor into the debate. We shouldn’t forget that women can and do compete with men in some sports, and they sometimes win. We shouldn’t ignore the presence of transgender men in sports.

What we should do, Barnes says, is to “write a new story. One that works better.”

Here are two facts: Nobody likes change. And everybody has an opinion.

Keep those two statements in mind when you read “Fair Play.” They’ll keep you calm in this debate, as will author Katie Barnes’ lack of flame fanning.

As a sports fan, an athlete, and someone who’s binary, Barnes makes things relatively even-keel in this book, which is a breath of fresh air in what’s generally ferociously contentious. There’s a good balance of science and social commentary here, and the many, many stories that Barnes shares are entertaining and informative, as well as illustrative. Readers will come away with a good understanding of where the debate lies.

But will this book make a difference?

Maybe. Much will depend on who reads and absorbs it. Barnes offers plenty to ponder but alas, you can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think. Still, if you’ve got skin in this particular bunch of games, find “Fair Play” and jump on it.

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

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An exciting revival of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre

Out actor Caesar Samayoa on portraying iconic role of President Perón



Caesar Samayoa (center) and the cast of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Photo by DJ Corey Photography) 

Through Oct. 15
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.

When Eva Perón died of cancer at 33 in 1952, the people’s reaction was so intense that Argentina literally ran out of cut flowers. Mourners were forced to fly in stems from neighboring countries, explains out actor Caesar Samayoa. 

For Samayoa, playing President Perón to Shireen Pimental’s First Lady Eva in director Sammi Cannold’s exciting revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” at Shakespeare Theatre Company is a dream fulfilled. 

As a Guatemalan-American kid, he had a foot in two worlds. Samayoa lived and went to school in suburban Emerson, N.J. But he spent evenings working at his parents’ botanica in Spanish Harlem. 

During the drives back and forth in the family station wagon, he remembers listening to “Evita” on his cassette player: “It’s the first cast album I remember really hearing and understanding. I longed to be in the show.”

As an undergrad, he transferred from Bucknell University where he studied Japanese international relations to a drama major at Ithica College. His first professional gig was in 1997 playing Juliet in Joe Calarco’s off-Broadway “Shakespeare’s R&J.” Lots of Broadway work followed including “Sister Act,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” and most significantly, Samayoa says, “Come From Away,” a musical telling of the true story of airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. He played Kevin J. (one half of a gay couple) and Ali, a Muslim chef.  

He adds “Evita” has proved a powerful experience too: “We’re portraying a populist power couple that changed the trajectory of a country in a way most Americans can’t fully understand. And doing it in Washington surrounded by government and politics is extra exciting.” 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How do you tap into a real-life character like Perón?

CAESAR SAMAYOA: Fortunately, Sammi [Connald] and I work similarly. With real persons and situations, I immerse myself into history, almost to a ridiculous extent. 

First day in the rehearsal room, we were inundated with artifacts. Sammi has been to Argentina several times and interviewed heavily with people involved in Eva and Peron’s lives. Throughout the process we’d sit and talk about the real history that happened. We went down the rabbit hole.

Sammi’s interviews included time with Eva’s nurse who was at her bedside when she died. We watched videos of those interviews. They’ve been an integral part of our production. 

BLADE: Were you surprised by anything you learned?

SAMAYOA: Usually, Eva and Perón’s relationship is portrayed as purely transactional.  They wrote love letters and I had access to those. At their country home, they’d be in pajamas and walk on the beach; that part of their life was playful and informal. They were a political couple but they were deeply in love too. I latched on to that. 

BLADE: And anything about the man specifically? 

SAMAYOA:  Perón’s charisma was brought to the forefront. In shows I’ve done, some big names have attended. Obama. Clinton. Justin Trudeau came to “Come From Away.” Within seconds, the charisma makes you give into that person. I’ve tried to use that.  

BLADE: And the part? 

SAMAYOA: Perón is said to be underwritten. But I love his power and the songs he sings [“The Art of the Possible,” “She is a Diamond,” etc.]. I’m fully a baritone and to find that kind of role in a modern musical is nearly impossible. And in this rock opera, I can use it to the full extent and feel great about it.

BLADE: “Evita” is a co-production with A.R.T. Has it changed since premiering in Boston? 

SAMAYOA: Yes, it has. In fact, 48 hours before opening night in Washington, we made some changes and they’ve really landed. Without giving too much away, we gave it more gravity in reality of time as well as Eva’s sickness and the rapid deterioration. It’s given our second act a huge kind of engine that it didn’t have. 

BLADE: You’re married to talent agent Christopher Freer and you’re very open. Was it always that way for you?

SAMAYOA: When I started acting professionally, it was a very different industry. We were encouraged to stay in the closet or it will cast only in a certain part. There was truth in that. There still is some truth in that, but I refuse to go down that road. I can’t reach what I need to reach unless I’m my most honest self. I can’t do it any other way.

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Out & About

HRC’s National Dinner is back

LGBTQ rights organization’s annual gala features Rhimes, Waithe, Bomer



Actor Matt Bomer will be honored at the HRC National Dinner.

The Human Rights Campaign will host its annual National Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The dinner’s honorees include world-famous producers, actors and entertainers whose work spotlights the fight for civil rights and social justice, including Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Matt Bomer.

A new event, as part of the weekend, — the Equality Convention — will take place the night before the dinner on Friday, Oct. 13. The convention will showcase the power of the LGBTQ equality movement, feature influential political and cultural voices, and bring together volunteer and movement leaders from across the country to talk about the path ahead.
For more details about the weekend, visit HRC’s website.

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