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With ‘Laramie,’ ‘Torch’ and ‘Gypsy,’ season rife with gay themes

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The Laramie Project, Ford's Theatre, theater, gay news, Washington Blade
The Laramie Project, Ford's Theatre, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

The Laramie Project’ runs through Oct. 27 at Ford’s Theatre, part of a robust fall theater season in Washington. (Photo courtesy Ford’s)

This fall’s local theater offerings are a particularly promising blend of old and new, several of which have LGBT appeal. Here’s an overview.

Fifteen years after Matthew Shepard’s death, Ford’s Theatre (fordstheatre.org) is presenting an anniversary production of gay playwright Moisés Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project” (Sept. 27-Oct. 27). Kaufman’ powerfully affecting ensemble piece gives insight into the community’s response to the 1998 brutal murder of Shepard, a young gay man living in Laramie, Wyo. Matthew Gardiner (who is gay) directs. Local stalwart Holly Twyford (also gay) is in the cast.

Studio Theatre (studiotheatre.org) opens its season with the bittersweet comedy “Torch Song Trilogy” staged by Michael Kahn (Shakespeare Theatre Company’s gay artistic director) and starring the sensational Brandon Uranowitz as Arnold, a caustically funny drag queen who refuses to give up on his longings for love and commitment. Penned by gravelly voiced gay icon Harvey Fierstein (who created the show’s lead character Arnold on Broadway in 1981), “Torch Song” can feel a little dated around the edges, but its central issues of relationships, authenticity and family never go stale. The cast includes local actor Alex Mills, who is gay, as Arnold’s younger love interest.

At Rep Stage (repstage.org) in Columbia, Md., the season opens with Horton Foote’s “A Young Lady of Property” (Sept. 11-29), directed by Michael Stebbins, who’s gay. Set in a small Texas town, it deals with a young woman struggling to hold on to the house that her late mother left her. Following Foote’s sentimental drama is gay playwright Doug Wright’s powerful Pulitzer Prize winning “I am My Own Wife” (Oct. 30-Nov. 17), a compelling solo show about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transsexual who survives the Nazis and the East German secret police. Stebbins will swap out his director’s hat for an actor’s to play the demanding part of Charlotte.

Olney Theatre Center (olneytheatre.org) is presenting New York’s critically acclaimed BEDLAM Theatre in rotating repertory. Productions include Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (through Oct. 20) and George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” (also through Oct. 20). Both directed by Eric Tucker.

After BEDLAM’s take on the classics, Olney’s gay artistic director Jason Loewith is staging Steven Dietz’s “Rancho Mirage” (Sept. 26-Oct. 20), a tale of three seemingly well-adjusted couples who at a dinner party decide to stop fronting and get honest. Dietz is best known for “Lonely Planet,” an intriguing exploration of the AIDS crisis as experienced by two gay men from within the confines of a quiet map shop set in an unnamed big city.

Taffety Punk Theatre Company (taffetypunk.com) presents the Riot Grrrls’ all-woman version of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” (Sept. 27-Oct. 26), featuring Isabelle Anderson in the title role.  Lisa Bruneau directs. In the past, the Riot Grrrls have successfully pulled off testosterone free takes on “Romeo and Juliet,” “Julius Caesar,” and more from the Bard’s canon. It’s the Grrrls’ credo that “a great actress can play a great role, regardless if it’s male or female.”

Longtime Washington favorite director John Vreeke is staging Round House Theatre’s (roundhousetheatre.org) area premiere production of “The Lyons” (Nov. 27-Dec. 22), a savagely funny family comedy by gay playwright Nicky Silver. At Woolly Mammoth (woollymammoth.net), Vreeke (who is gay) is also directing Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit” (through Oct. 6), a comic takedown of the suburban dream. The cast of local favorites includes Emily Townley, Michael Willis, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Tim Getman and Danny Gavigan.

Arena Stage (arenastage.org) opens its season with Eric Coble’s two-hander “Velocity of Autumn” (through Oct. 20) starring the great Estelle Parsons (“Bonnie and Clyde; she played gay on “Roseanne”) and gay actor Stephen Spinella who created the part of Prior Walter, a gay character with AIDS, in Tony Kushner’s seminal “Angels in America.” An intense 90 minutes, Coble’s play focuses on the relationship of a middle-aged son who returns to his mother’s home after a 20-year estrangement to help her deal with some potentially explosive old age issues.

Exciting things are happening at the National Theatre (thenationaldc.com). The season opens with the world premiere of “If/Then” (Nov. 11-Dec. 8), a romantic musical about a woman on the cusp of middle age, who returns to New York City where she deals with love and the unexpected. It stars Idina Menzel who famously created the part of the green witch Elphaba in Broadway’s “Wicked.”

“If/Then” reunites Menzel with Tom Kitt (music), Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), and Michael Greif (director), the same creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical “Next to Normal.”

Oscar winning Christine Lahti comes to Signature Theatre (signature-theatre.org) to star in “Pride in the Falls of Autry Mills” (Oct. 15-Dec. 8), young playwright Paul Downs Collaizo’s new play about what lurks behind the pristine façade of a seemingly perfect suburban existence. Michael Kahn directs.

Signature’s gay artistic director Eric Schaeffer is staging Matt Conner’s new musical “Crossing” (Oct. 29-Nov. 24) in which characters from different decades throughout the last century come together and share their experiences in song. Conner, who is gay, is both an actor (he’s performed in many Signature musicals) as well as composer. In the past, Signature produced his musical “Nevermore,” a dreamy tribute to the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  In December, Signature is taking a crack at the legendary musical “Gypsy” (opens Dec. 17). Joe Calarco (who is gay) directs and Signature veteran Sherri L. Edelen plays the title character’s indomitable stage mother, Mama Rose.

Synetic Theater (synetic.org) kicks off its season in Crystal City with “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” (Sept. 26-Nov. 3), promising to put its inimitable movement-based stamp on Oscar Wilde’s classic novel. Included in the cast is Helen Hayes Award-winning gay actor Philip Fletcher who plays Gray’s actual portrait. Synetic’s celebrated adaptions are consistently innovative, accomplished and sexy.

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Out & About

Pride Run 5K nearly sold out

Front Runners annual event to be held at Congressional Cemetery

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Front Runners Pride Run 5K (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sign up now to join the annual Front Runners Pride Run 5K. The event is 85 percent sold out. The event is Friday, June 7 at Historic Congressional Cemetery.

Join more than 1,000 runners and walkers as they kick off Pride weekend 2024. When registering please consider donating to one of the event’s charity partners. This year’s race proceeds benefit local LGBTQ and disenfranchised youth organizations, including the Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, Wanda Alston Foundation, Blade Foundation, Ainsley’s Angels of America (National Capital Region), Pride365 and SMYAL. Visit DCPriderun.com to register or to donate.

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Out & About

Civil rights commission to celebrate queer life

Panel discussion to discuss progress in LGBTQ rights

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(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights will host “Celebrating Progress and Centering Joy” on Thursday, June 6 at 12 p.m. virtually.

This event is a virtual panel discussion, as the commission celebrates the progress in LGBTQIA+ rights and center joy within the community. 

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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Calendar

Calendar: May 17-23

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, May 17

Center Aging Friday Tea Time will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults! Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more information, email [email protected]

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Speed Friending” at 7 p.m. at Puro Gusto. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, May 18

LGBTQ People of Color Support Group will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ People of Color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment free. For more details, ​​visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Brunch” at 11 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Sunday, May 19

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 7 p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italiano. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4 p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Monday, May 20

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected]

Go Gay DC will host “Out and About in Shirlington LGBTQ+ Happy Hour” at 6 p.m. at Palette 22. About 30 LGBTQ folk are expected. Palette 22 offers modern street food spanning the globe served in a bustling art studio & gallery atmosphere. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

Tuesday, May 21

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30 p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Bi Roundtable will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This event is an opportunity for people to gather in order to discuss issues related to bisexuality or as Bi individuals in a private setting. For more details, visit Facebook or Meetup

Wednesday, May 22

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit thedccenter.org/careers.

Asexual and Aromantic Group will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a space where people who are questioning this aspect of their identity or those who identify as asexual and/or aromantic can come together, share stories and experiences, and discuss various topics. For more details, email [email protected]

Thursday, May 23

The DC Center’s Fresh Produce Program will be held all day at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. No proof of residency or income is required. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-682-2245. 

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breathwork, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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