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Calendar: events through Nov. 28

Parties, concerts, exhibits and more for the week ahead

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Alaska Thunderfuck, Ru Paul's Drag Race, gay news, Washington Blade
Alaska Thunderfuck, Ru Paul's Drag Race, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Drag Race’ vet Alaska Thunderfuck will be at Town this weekend. (Photo courtesy Town Danceboutique)

Friday, Nov. 22

Temple Emanuel (10101 Connecticut Ave., Kensington, Md.) hosts its “African Dinner Fundraiser” tonight at 7:30 p.m. Enjoy a Kenyan buffet dinner to help finance mico-financing projects in Kenya. Tickets are $20 per person, $10 per child (under 12) with a maximum of $50 per family. For details call 301-942-2000 or email [email protected].

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for its 11th annual National Dinner Gala at the NGLCC office (729 15th St., N.W) and the National Building Museum (401 F St., N.W.) today at various times. Volunteers will assist with facilitating the dinner in registration, greeting guests, crowd management and more. There is a possibility volunteers can enjoy the dinner. To volunteer, email [email protected] For more details on exact volunteer times and locations, visit burgundycrescent.org.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts Bear Happy Hour tonight from 6-11 p.m. There is no cover charge and admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

Saturday, Nov. 23

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers for Food and Friends (219 Riggs Rd., N.E.) today from 8-10 a.m. Volunteers will chop vegetables and pack groceries. To volunteer, email [email protected]. For more details, visit burgundycrescent.org.

SMYAL (410 7th St., S.E.) provides free and confidential HIV testing drop-in hours today from 1-3 p.m. For more information, visit smyal.org.

The Whornets present “Celebrity Rehab: The Betty Whore’d Clinic” at 1256 New Jersey Ave., N.W. tonight from 8 p.m.- 3 a.m. Dress as your favorite celebrity in rehab or come as a visitor. Visitor tickets are $10 for entry and $2 per drink. Committed celebrities pay $20 for entry and get free drinks. All proceeds go to the D.C. Center.

Bearracuda, the largest bear dance party in the U.S., comes to Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) tonight from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Tickets are $7 before 10 p.m. and $10 after. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information, visit cobaltdc.com.

Alaska Thunderfuck, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fifth season contestant, performs her cabaret show “RED for FILTH” at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for general admission seating are $15 but do not guarantee a seat. Meet and greet tickets include guaranteed seating and are $25. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iygtzrVVfLE

Sunday, Nov. 24

Church of the Holy City (1611 16th St., N.W.) hosts “Music with the Angels” concert series today at 3:30 p.m. Zulfugar Baghirov on saxophone, Chris Galvan on guitar and Leland Nakamura on drums perform experimental jazz techniques, free improvisation and avant-garde styles. A reception follows. Admission is free. For details, visit churchoftheholycitydc.org.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

Monday, Nov. 25

The D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W..) hosts coffee drop-in hours this morning from 10 a.m.-noon for the senior LGBT community. Older LGBT adults can come and enjoy complimentary coffee and conversation with other community members. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

Us Helping Us  (3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.) holds a support group for gay black men to discuss topics that affect them today, share perspectives and have meaningful conversations. For details, visit uhupil.org.

Sage Metro D.C. presents Dr. Laurie Young in a lecture about grief, loss and the holidays at The Residence at Thomas Circle (1350 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.) today at 6:30 p.m. Comfort food will be provided. The event is free but email [email protected] to reserve your space.

Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St., N.W.) hosts poker night tonight at 8 p.m. Win prizes. Free to play. For more information, visit nelliessportsbar.com.

Tuesday, Nov. 26

Temple Emanuel (10101 Connecticut Ave., Kensington, Md.) hosts an “Interfaith Thanksgiving Service” tonight at 7:30 p.m. The service honors two clergy, Rabbi Warren Stone and Reverend William Hague, for 50 years of combined service to their congregation and community. The event is free. For details, visit templeemanuelmd.org.

Genderqueer D.C. holds a discussion group at The D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) from 7:30-8:30 p.m. tonight. The group is for anyone who identifies outside of the gender binary as bigender, agender, genderfluid or any label outside of cisgender. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

SMYAL (410 7th St., S.E.) provides free and confidential HIV testing drop-in hours today from 3-5 p.m. For more information, visit smyal.org.

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) offers all drinks half price tonight until 2 a.m. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is free. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Wednesday, Nov. 27

The Lambda Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for duplicate bridge. No reservations required and new comers welcome. If you need a partner, call 703-407-6540.

SMYAL (410 7th St., S.E.) provides free and confidential HIV testing drop-in hours today from 3-5 p.m. For more information, visit smyal.org.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts ”WTFsgiving: Let’s Get Totally Basted” tonight. Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is free from 10-11 p.m. and $5 after 11 p.m. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

Thursday, Nov. 28

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers for Food and Friends (219 Riggs Rd., N.E.) early this morning from 4:45-6:45 a.m. Volunteers will prepare Thanksgiving meals that will be delivered to clients that day.  [email protected]. For more details, visit burgundycrescent.org.

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) hold a meeting at The D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 7-8:30 p.m. GLOV works to reduce violence against LGBT individuals through community outreach, education and assisting members of anti-LGBT violence. For more details, visit thedccenter.org.

Rude Boi Entertainment hosts “Tempted 2 Touch,” a ladies dance party, at the Fab Lounge (2022 Florida Ave., N.W.) Doors open at 10 p.m. Drink specials $5 and vodka shots $3 all night. No cover charge. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more details, visit rudeboientertainment.wordpress.com.

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Television

Warner Bros. cancels Batgirl, along with first trans character

Regardless of movie quality, the cancellation of Batgirl causes an irreversible loss of a rare LGBTQ+ character.

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Warner Bros. on Tuesday canceled the “Batgirl” film, both in theaters and on HBO Max, marking the erasure of the first trans character in the cinematic universe, Batgirl’s best friend Alysia Yeo played by Ivory Aquino. 

The cancellation of “Batgirl” marks the loss of a rare LGBTQ character. According to Variety, the role is groundbreaking since “this is the first time a live-action feature film adaptation of a DC Comics title will feature an openly trans character played by a trans actor.”

Known for work in “Lingua Franca,” “When We Rise,” and “Tales of the City,” Aquino had officially headed into the DC universe but now her performance will likely never come to light. 

The change of leadership at Warner seems to be the main drive behind the cancellation. After the project was approved in 2021, David Zaslav took over as the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO. Instead of focusing on streaming projects as previous CEO Jason Killar did, Zaslav shifted emphasis to cost-cutting measures and theatrical productions.

On the other hand, the budget of “Batgirl” increased to $90 million because of COVID-19 protocols, $10 million above the initial estimate. Warner also shelved “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” with a budget of about $40 million.

“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” said a Warner Bros. spokesperson in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.”

Despite Warner clarifying that the cancellation was not due to its poor quality, New York Post reported that the moviegoer feedback in the screening tests was so bad that “Batgirl,” if released, would be “a DC disaster.” 

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Movies

Director of ‘They/Them’ on queering the horror genre

John Logan puts conversion therapy where it belongs

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Kevin Bacon introduces his not-so-friendly staff in ‘They/Them.’ (Photo courtesy of Peacock)

Even if you’ve never heard of John Logan, the odds are pretty good you’ve heard his words.

That’s because the former playwright, now writer and director of the new horror film “They/Them” (premiering on Peacock Aug. 5), has been bringing his literate sensibilities to Hollywood screens for more than two decades now, earning three Oscar nominations during a career that has included screenplays for movies ranging from “Gladiator” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Star Trek: Nemesis,” not to mention a pair of James Bond blockbusters (“Skyfall” and “Spectre”). He’s also the man behind “Penny Dreadful,” Showtime’s Victorian horror “mashup” series that became a cult sensation during its all-too-brief three season run.

Now Logan has returned to the horror genre he loves to make his debut as a feature film director, and he’s brought more than just a queer sensibility. He’s brought a whole bloody queer story, as well.

Diving headlong into classic ‘80s slasher movie territory from its very first frames, “They/Them” brings together a collection of queer teens at a retreat deep in the woods – the Whistler Camp, run by third-generation proprietor and chief counselor Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon) – where their parents have sent them in hopes of making them straight. Though the staff seems friendly and understanding enough at first, it’s not long before the “therapy” starts to become more aggressive; to make matters worse, a sinister outside presence seems to be menacing the camp, and the campers, led by trans nonbinary rebel Jordan (Theo Germaine), are soon fighting for their lives as well as their identities.

Apart from the genius of putting conversion therapy into a horror movie where it belongs, Logan’s movie scores high points all around for solid LGBTQ representation. Indeed, it’s as much a rousing queer empowerment story as it is a horror tale, and though hardcore horror geeks might find its scares to be relatively tame, it reaches beyond shock value to turn the genre itself into a vehicle for cinematic queerness – something long overdue for the countless queer audiences who have always been drawn to horror.

The Blade talked with Logan about his vision for “They/Them” on the eve of the film’s world premiere at LA’s Outfest. Our conversation is below.

BLADE: Queer audiences have always loved horror movies, but horror movies haven’t loved them back until recently. Is that part of the reason behind this one?

JOHN LOGAN: That was the entire reason behind this one. When I was a kid, it would have meant so much to me to see a gay hero in a horror film. It’s a genre that SHOULD celebrate queerness, because horror is about the “other” – about the realization that people are not all the same. But queer characters in the ‘70s and ‘80s were mostly nonexistent, or they were jokes, or victims, or killers. They were never admirable people you’d aspire to be. And horror cinema has always had a very complicated relationship with gender and sexual identity, even back to the 1930s and the classic Universal cycle of horror films – except for “Frankenstein,” made by a queer filmmaker, where the most sympathetic character is the monster.

When we engage with storytelling in cinema, we want to see ourselves represented in some way. I wanted to write the movie that I didn’t get to see when I was 14 or 15 years old.

BLADE: You mentioned wanting to see a gay hero. One of the things that stands out about your movie is that none of these kids are “scream queens.” They’re all pretty heroic.

LOGAN: We wanted to take the tropes and subvert them completely. So, we have joyously celebrated things like, “There’s the camp in the woods, and it’s scary, and there’s a masked killer, and the killer uses different weapons,” and all the things I personally love about slasher movies – but it’s all in service of the great subversion, which is that these kids are not victims. They are not running and hiding, they are fighting for their identities. They are heroes.

BLADE: Speaking of subversion, the setting isn’t the only “camp” in the movie. There’s a lot of humor in it, from a certain perspective.

LOGAN: [Laughs] I would like to think there’s a “raised eyebrow” throughout. I mean, we have a singing and dancing musical number in it, we have some outrageous humor in it, as well. It’s meant to be a sort of exuberant exploration of the queer lifestyle in all its forms, from the most extravagant to the most romantic to the most erotic – as extreme as we could possibly get it. But it’s all played very straight, which is a testament to the actors, really.

BLADE: That’s another thing that stands out. You have a terrific cast, and Theo Germaine is a charismatic lead.

LOGAN: Thank God Theo fell into my lap. The movie begins, essentially, with Jordan’s face and it ends with Jordan’s face, so I knew it was really going to be important to find the right actor. Theo is so extraordinary, they’re so accessible to the audience. My heart breaks watching that character, because they’re emotional, but they’re empowered and strong – and that’s all from Theo.

Also, I’m not trans, I’m not nonbinary, and I’m also 60 – so I had to ask Theo to help me understand this character – not just the language around them, but how this young, trans, nonbinary human being moves through the world. And not only Theo, but Quei Tann and all the other actors were very generous with their own experiences, which is what, for me, makes them seem very authentic on screen, because they are playing versions of themselves that they can believe in.

BLADE: That’s the difference authentic representation can make.

LOGAN: Yes, and it also helped that the process of shooting really mirrored the story, in a way. None of the actors knew each other, and they were suddenly in Georgia, all slammed together in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception – and gradually, they built this tribe, this family, going through an experience much like the campers in the film go through. It was amazing to watch how they bonded and got together.

BLADE: One last thing – for the cinema buffs among our readers, it will be impossible not to notice shots and references that seem like nods to some of their favorite classics of the past. Are those on purpose?

LOGAN: All intentional. I may never direct another movie as long as I live, so I want to tip my hat to all the movies I love. There are shots that are a direct mirror of ‘Psycho,’ for example, or ‘Blue Velvet,’ or obscure slasher movies like ‘The Burning’ that nobody would know but me – and I worked really close with my DP, Lynne Moncrief, to find those moments. It felt important for us pay homage to the whole continuum of horror movies behind us, because we are building on all those as we try to step gingerly – or bravely – into a future where queer horror is finally the popular mainstream entertainment it deserves to be.

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Theater

‘Six’ an empowering musical remix of English history

Wives of Henry VIII tell their own stories

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Olivia Donalson as Anna of Cleves (center). (Photo by Joan Marcus)

‘Six’
Through Sept. 4
National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
$65-$150
BroadwayAtTheNational.com

Typically, the wives of Henry VIII are cast aside as headless footnotes. But in “Six,” an empowering and fun musical remix of English history (now playing at National Theatre), they tell their own stories.

Conceived by Brits Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the Broadway hit is a fast-paced 85-minute pop rock musical presented as a contest in which Henry’s wives compete for diva status by proving who’s been treated the worst by the monarch, and considering Henry’s vile track record, the competition is unsurprisingly stiff. 

History and music unfold chronologically as the royal consorts, backed by “The Ladies in Waiting,” (four musicians led by Jo Ann Daugherty), briefly but trenchantly share their experiences in a madly entertaining way.

After collectively introducing themselves and their respective fates with “Ex-Wives” (“Divorced, beheaded, died! Divorced, beheaded, survived!”), Henry’s first queen, Catherine of Aragon (Khaila Wilcoxon), a devout Catholic and a true Spanish princess who despite many tries was unable to provide her philandering husband with a surviving male heir, steps out of the line and states her case with a power-pop song titled “No Way.” 

Then one-by-one the remaining five — fabulously costumed in glittery short-skirted concert gear with Tudor flourishes by Gabriella Slade — get their turn in the spotlight. Storm Lever, as Anne Boleyn, Henry’s beguiling six-fingered second bride, wittily reminds the other women that she suffered far more than simply divorce and humiliation in “Don’t Lose Ur Head.” 

The evening’s liveliest number “Get Down,” replete with a saucy costume reveal, belongs to Anna of Cleves played Olivia Donalson. Thrown over by Henry because her looks didn’t live up to a Holbein portrait sent in advance (a still all-too-common problem), the German princess managed to keep her head and her money, proving you can be Henry’s ex and still have a good time. Her situation was unpleasant, yes, but certainly not the worst.  

In a clever move, the composers have sought “queenspiration” from contemporary artists. For instance, Jane Seymour (Jasmine Forsberg), best remembered as “the only one he ever loved” is drawn from Adele and Sia. Forsberg conveys the story’s sadness with the sorrowful ballad “Heart of Stone.”  

Henry’s victimized teenage wife Katherine Howard (Didi Romero) who was beheaded on Tower Green is drawn from Ariana Grande and Britney Spears; for Catherine Parr (Gabriela Carrillo), an independent thinker and the wife who survived Henry, inspiration comes from Alicia Keyes and Emili Sandé.  

Sounds like big stilettos to fill? Don’t worry, the cast is more than up for it — its six talented young women possess pipes, timing, and presence to spare.

Staged by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, the production is intriguing. At first look, it’s everything some theatergoers might not like: really loud and very Vegas residency, but as the show opens up it proves delightfully smart, substantive, impeccably researched, and succeeds at cleverly melding the past and present.

The show has a strong following – the kind that feel it’s OK to sing along with the actors onstage. But it’s also appealing to history buffs and old-fashioned musical theater fans alike. “Six” is a crowd pleaser and deservedly so.

Back to the queen contest. The obvious choice for Henry’s most consequential spouse is either Catherine of Aragon, the true queen, or maybe Anne Boleyn, the second wife for whom he parted with Rome and the mother England’s greatest monarch, Elizabeth I. But the show gives each woman her due, and they bare their souls. Whether they were dragged into Henry’s orbit because of beauty, ambitious family, or simple accidents of time and place, no one escaped unscathed. Who suffered the most? That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

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