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‘You must come on striking 12’

Stage legend relishes ‘Earnest’ role at STC



Siân Phillips, gay news, Washington Blade
Siân Phillips, gay news, Washington Blade

Actress Siân Phillips calls her current play as intricately crafted as a well-made clock. (Photo courtesy Shakespeare Theatre Company)

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

Through March 2

Shakespeare Theatre Company

Lansburgh Theatre, 450

7th St. N.W.



Early in actress Siân Phillips’ long and illustrious career, trusted mentors warned her that despite a charmed start in the business, it would take many years before she got what she wanted.

“And they were absolutely right,” she explains in a small office in the Lansburgh Theatre basement. “It took me a long time to get where I am today. But of course, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

The London-based Phillips is in town to play Lady Augusta Bracknell in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” staged by her lifelong friend, Keith Baxter. Makeup done, she wears a silk print robe and matching turban. Tall and slender, she moves like a woman much younger than her 80 years. It’s two hours until curtain and she’s sharing some thoughts on the part and her career before she gets into costume.

When playing Lady Bracknell, many players take their cues from Dame Edith Evans, whose brilliantly bombastic take on the society-worshipping Bracknell was the highlight of the 1952 film version. Not Phillips.

“Actually, I approach the part as if it were written last week. I adored Edith Evans but I don’t hear her voice when I read the lines. Not to say that doesn’t happen — when I played Miss Havisham, I couldn’t get Martita Hunt [famed British actress] out of my head.”

In Oscar Wilde’s enduring 1895 comedy, two men about town — Jack Worthing and his pal Algernon — fall for a pair of fair young ladies who are inexplicably intent on marrying a man named Ernest. The men come up with an intricate deception to land their quarry. And then the formidable Lady Bracknell steps in to ferret out the truth.

Jack describes the snobbish grande dame as a gorgon. “Yes, it’s true,” Phillips says. “She is rather unpleasant, and extremely intent on getting her own way. But try as she may, it’s Jack who comes out OK in the end, isn’t it?”

The part is a smallish-but-integral comedic gem in Wilde’s dazzlingly well-made satire. “It’s the shortest part I’ve played in some time. The disadvantage is you must come on striking 12,” she says. “There’s no opportunity to work up to it. You’ve got to come on high and stay up there.”

Phillips says the rhythm of Wilde’s language is difficult to master.

“I’m used to Shakespeare and have done a lot of Shaw. This is harder. It’s the heightened nature of the English. But of course he writes so well. When you rehearse it you realize what a great piece of work it is. It’s aged so well. I’ve done Wilde’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ and ‘A Woman of No Importance.’ But this particular play is a masterpiece. It’s like sitting in the middle of a clock. It’s a mechanism. The whole thing could collapse at any minute. It’s like being on ice skates. I find it exhilarating. It’s scary, but I don’t mind being scared.”

A radio personality throughout her teens, Phillips left her native Wales to study acting at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where she was singled out for her talent and beauty in a year that included Diana Rigg and Glenda Jackson. After graduating, she seamlessly transferred to the professional stage.

Those same trusted mentors who predicted she would find professional satisfaction later in life, also advised her not to marry so early in her career. “Of course they were right again. “But what could I do? I was madly in love with O’Toole [she was married to movie star Peter O’Toole form 1959-1979]. And we had some wonderful times and two daughters. I don’t regret it.”

As part of O’Toole’s production company, Phillips’ job was to keep the sometimes hell raising actor in check. But all along she worked too, finding jobs and not attracting too much attention to herself. Exactly the opposite of what an ambitious actor is supposed to do. She draws a metaphor, comparing herself to the straight man who knows all about comedy but never gets a laugh.

Still, she gained international attention playing the deliciously evil Empress Livia in the much-ballyhooed BBC production of “I, Claudius.” And the last 10 years have been rife with nonstop theater successes on the London stage including her turn as Juliet in a retirement home-set “Romeo and Juliet,” and parts in “Cabaret” and Alan Bennett’s “People.”

“I love working and I’m able to concentrate on myself,” she says. “It’s funny. Now I have the career that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl.”

There are parts she’d have liked to have played but missed out on. “I regret not playing Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” I’d have been very good in that. Also I would have liked to play Ranevskaya, the heroine in Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ but at some point I realized I was too old for the part. It was preposterous, so I called it off. I’m probably too old to play Lady Bracknell, but since it’s a part played by women and men of all ages, I don’t think it matters so much.”

Recently Phillips moved to a trendy section of London’s East End. Since she arrived in London at 19 she has moved frequently, always eager to explore another area of the city she enjoys so much. Her current home is her favorite to date.

So why leave her beloved London at this point her career when she can work anywhere?

“I came for the part of course, and because Keith [Baxter] asked me. Who’d think we’d be working together all these years later in Washington? It’s really quite marvelous.”



Brittney Griner and wife celebrate birth of their son

Cherelle Griner gave birth to healthy baby boy earlier this month



Brittney Griner (Screen capture via Instagram)

It’s a boy for Brittney and Cherelle Griner. The Phoenix Mercury center revealed the news in interviews with CBS Sports and NBC News. 

“Every minute I feel like he’s popping into my head, said Griner. “Literally everything revolves around him. And I love it.”

The couple officially welcomed the baby boy on July 8. He weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

“That’s my man. He is amazing,” Griner told CBS Sports. “They said as soon as you see them, everything that you thought mattered just goes out the window. That’s literally what happened.” 

Griner, 33, corrected the CBS News correspondent who said, “You’re about to be a mom!” She told her Cherelle, 33, had already delivered the baby and that she preferred to be called,“Pops.” 

Griner told NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz they chose to name their newborn son, “Bash.” 

The WNBA star said she is Bash’s biggest fan and is constantly taking photos of him. “My whole phone has turned into him now,” Griner told CBS Sports.

The baby comes as Griner gets set to play in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game and then head to Paris with Team USA to compete for their 8th straight gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games. 

“It kind of sucks because I have to leave, but at the same time, he will understand,” said Griner. 

Her time in Paris will mark the first time since the basketball star was released from a Russian gulag, where she was held on drug charges for nearly 10 months in 2022.

“BG is locked in and ready to go,” Griner told NBC News on Friday. “I’m happy, I’m in a great place. I’m representing my country, the country that fought for me to come back. I’m gonna represent it well.”

Griner also spoke with NBC News about her hopes the U.S. can win the freedom of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian maximum security prison on Friday. 

“We have to get him back,” she said. 

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Calendar: July 19-25

LGBTQ events in the days to come



Friday, July 19

“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 details, email [email protected].

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Happy Hour” at 7 p.m. at Puro Gusto. This event is ideal for making new friends, professional networking, idea-sharing, and community building. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, July 20

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Brunch” at 11 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. 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.

“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 or

Sunday, July 21

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:30 p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italiano Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Guests are encouraged to come enjoy an evening of Italian-style dining and conversation with other LGBTQ+ folk. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Funday Social and Games” at 3 p.m. at Moxy. This event is ideal for making meaningful new connections and informal community building, or just to unwind and enjoy the group happy hour. There will be Monopoly, chess, checkers, Jenga and many other games. 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, July 22

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].

“Queer Book Club” will be at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The club meets on the fourth Monday of the month to discuss queer books by queer authors. This month’s read is yet to be announced. For more details, email [email protected].

Tuesday, July 23

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.

Coming Out Discussion Group will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a peer-facilitated discussion group and a safe space to share experiences about coming out and discuss topics as it relates to doing so. For more details, visit the group’s Facebook page.

“Genderqueer DC” will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a support group for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, email [email protected].

Wednesday, July 24

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

“Asexual and Aromantic Group” will meet at 7 p.m. on Zoom and in person at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. 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, July 25

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

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Actor overcomes car accidents to thrive in ‘Beautiful’

Bobby Smith on the infectious happiness of Olney production



Bobby Smith in ‘Beautiful.’ (Photo courtesy of Teresa Castracane Photography)

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’
Through July 25
Olney Theatre Center
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832
$31 -101

As Bobby Smith describes it, “not too long ago, some things tripped me up.”

In late 2023, the celebrated, out actor was involved in two very serious car accidents and suffered severe injuries. And then May brought the unexpected death of his beloved Vizsla hound Mabel, named for the heroine in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”

So, for much of 2024, Smith had been spending time healing at his farmhouse in Ellicott City, Md. Until now. Currently, he’s back on the boards at Olney Theatre Center playing record producer Don Kirshner in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” a fun juke box musical about the early career years of singer/songwriter King from her Brooklyn roots to writing hits from an office in Times Square with her lyricist husband Gerry Goffin and on to Los Angeles solo-stardom.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hey Bobby, you’ve been through a lot since we last spoke.

BOBBY SMITH: It’s been a whole lot. I spent the last seven or eight months either at home or going to doctor visits.

BLADE: How is it being back on stage?

SMITH: To be honest, it’s like learning to walk again.

BLADE: And playing the famously deadpan Don Kirshner?

SMITH: It’s good. I don’t do an imitation. Instead, I’ve created a character who’s not over the top; otherwise, it would become the Don Kirshner show and we don’t want that.

But because there’s not a lot of drama with Carole King, she’s a really kind, nice person, Don serves as a sort of catalyst. He pushes the story forward. He prods Carole to write more songs, to try different things. He doesn’t like her boyfriend.  Don the character doesn’t sing much but he’s always barking at people.

BLADE: Sometimes you forget just how many familiar songs King wrote: “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Up On the Roof,” and “Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow” for acts like the Shirelles and The Drifters. And later songs like “It’s Too Late,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” and of course “Beautiful.”  

SMITH: Yeah, it feels like she wrote every song known to mankind; the show tells you that, and we sing most of them.

BLADE: You experienced a highpoint during the rough times. In May, you won a Helen Hayes Award for playing Bruce, the complicated, manic depressive, closeted father in Studio’s production of Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.”

SMITH: I did, but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the ceremony.

Bruce is a sympathetic but difficult character. Ever since being born, people of a certain age, have had to fight our way into the struggle of being gay. It’s not so much a struggle anymore, or I should say not as much as it used to be, but now there are a whole lot more signposts that didn’t exist when I was growing up.

Over the years, people have randomly attacked me for not talking more about my sexuality. I’m not closeted but I don’t feel I have to tell everyone. I don’t share it with my land lady. I don’t need to say “I’m here and I’m queer. Here’s your rent.”

BLADE: You have been in show biz for decades now. What keeps you going?

SMITH: I’m not sure, sometimes I ask myself what was I thinking when I decided to be a professional actor? I feel like I’m making a bigger contribution teaching at Catholic University than I did my entire acting career.

Now that I’ve taken over the tap department, I’m full time at Catholic. I’m also teaching Acting the Text, Directing for Musical Theatre, and in the fall, I’ll add Musical Interpretation.

BLADE: In this summer of so many theatrical choices, why see “Beautiful”?

SMITH: Well, if you don’t already know Natalie Weiss who plays Carole, you should. She’s an amazing compelling, vocalist with one of the healthiest singing voices you’ll ever hear, no straining, perfect placement. 

Also, there’s nothing about “Beautiful” that’s going to make you feel bad, or put you in a place where you might think you need to talk to your therapist. That’s not going to happen. And it’s because Carole King is a positive human being; from an actor’s perspective, you feel great by the end of the show, and the audience gets that. The happiness is infectious.

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