“Fade 2 Grey,” a solo exhibition by artist Adrian Loving featuring six video art installations that explore androgyny, gender roles, fashion and sensationalism of style in ‘80s pop music through artists such as Patti Smith, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Sylvester, Boy George, Prince and more, opens with a reception tonight from 6-9 p.m. and runs through April 25. It’s at Vivid Solutions Gallery inside the Anacostia Arts Center (1231 Good Hope Road, S.E.). Visit vividsolutionsgallery.com for full details.
Transformer (1404 P St., N.W.) is featuring “HOMOCATS: Fight the Power” by Brooklyn-based artist J. Morrison through March 15. Morrison, who is gay, combines the internet phenomenon of cats and socio-political LGBT issues on a psychedelic wallpaper design and printed c-prints. His work pays homage to historic queer symbols like the rainbow flag and pink triangle.
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.) and Royal Books presents “Behind the Fourth Wall: Actors and Directors on the Set, Photographs 1926-2001,” a behind-the-scenes movie exhibit. It opens today and runs through May 26. The exhibit is a collection of vintage behind-the-scenes of classic films from the silent era to the 20th century. The photos are candid and were taken by famous photographers such as Mario Tursi and Bob Willoughby, working professionals and anonymous photographers. For more details, visit afi.com/silver.
Kreeger Museum (2401 Foxhall Rd., N.W.) is currently featuring “[email protected],” a celebration of the museum’s 20th anniversary, through July 31. The exhibit features 14 D.C.-area artists in a variety of mediums including installations, paintings, sculptures and paper to video. On April 16 from 6-7:30 p.m., a roundtable discussion will occur. For more information, visit kreegermuseum.com.
Touchstone Gallery (901 New York Ave., N.W.) presents “Light and Dark,” an exhibit that explores darkness and light in the spring equinox, through March 30. Touchstone member artists produced various forms of artwork such as ceramics, paintings, sculpture and drawing. For more details, visit touchstonegallery.com.
Corcoran Gallery (500 17th St., N.W.) features Rineke Dijkstra’s “The Krazyhouse, Liverpool UK, 2009” a four-channel video installation exhibit, March 29-June 15. Dikstra filmed guests at a popular dance club in Liverpool. It shows five young people (Megan, Simon, Nikky, Phillip and Dee) as they dance and sing to music they selected themselves. The half-hour show intends to look at each individual in a broader social spectrum.
Corcoran Gallery is also showing “Jennifer Steinkamp and Jimmy Johnson: Loop,” a visual art and music installation, March 15-April 20. Visitors are surrounded by digital colorful rope and can see their shadows on the walls. The combination makes for a multi-colored three dimension moving abstraction. Admission for the gallery is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and free for children under 12. Visit corcoran.org for more details.
Gallery B (770 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Md.) is showing “Ideal Form,” featuring paintings and drawings by artist Robert O’Brien, through March 29. O’Brien is a Maryland native and received his Certificate in Painting from Washington Studio School. His work has been shown in galleries throughout the area. For more details, visit bethesda.org.
Foundry Gallery (1314 18th St., N.W.) presents Ana Elisa Benavent’s “Shifting Gears” through March 30. Benavent uses color expressionism to demonstrate revival, healing, reinvention and change through a painting interpretation of riding in a car. Visit foundrygallery.org for more information.
The Phillips Collection (1600 21st St., N.W.) is showing “Intersections: 50-65 Horizon Line” by Jean Meisel, a D.C.-based artist, through May 4. The exhibit displays more than 50 watercolor paintings of horizon lines.
The Phillips Collection is also featuring “Made in the USA,” the most comprehensive on-site installation of the Phillip’s American collection to date, through Aug. 31. The exhibit includes prominent American artists of the late 19th century, as well as a display of Abstract Expressionists. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and free for members and children under 12. Featured artists are Edward Hopper, Milton Avery, Man Ray and many more. Visit phillipscollection.org for details.
Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.) presents “Coast to Coast” by Empty Stretch, an online photography curation group, April 2-Aug. 3 on the Town Hall Video Wall. Empty Stretch selected approximately 400 photographs that feature different coastlines and bodies of water. The photographs were collected through email submissions and Flickr. Visit artisphere.com for more details.
Hirshhorn (700 Independence Ave., S.W.) is featuring Santiago Sierra and Jorge Galindo in the Hirshhorn’s “Black Box” series with “Los Encargados (Those in Charge)” through May 18. Sierra staged a performance in 2012 with a motorcade of seven black Mercedes-Benz sedans with portraits of prominent Spanish leaders on top. By-standers filmed the spectacle on their phones and the footage can be seen in black and white.
The Smithsonian Craft Show is now in its 32nd year and scheduled for April 10-13 at the National Building Museum (401 F St., N.W.). It features 123 craft artists selected in a “quest for the best” and sale of limited edition and one-of-a-kind works available in 12 different media. Visit Smithsoniancraftshow.org for full details.
And though Gay Day isn’t until September, Hillwood Estate, Museum & Garden always has tons of great events, lectures and concerts on its slate. Visit hillwoodmuseum.org for full details.
Drew Pisarra’s ‘dangerously funny and queerly inventive brain’
‘You’re Pretty Gay’ shatters expectations and social mores
Is there anything more absurd than this, wondered gay poet and writer Drew Pisarra. Pisarra, then, was an assistant to a paralegal at a toothpaste company.
Fiercely protective of the pattern on its toothpaste, they wrote letters to rivals who, they felt, were infringing on their copyright.
Even when their competitors were in countries in the middle of a civil war, “They would write back, ‘we can’t respond now, we’re in a war,’” Pisarra said.
But that didn’t soften the heart of the toothpaste company. They’d insist that “this most important matter be dealt with as soon as the war ends,” Pisarra said.
If you think that authors don’t encounter the absurdity and grit of everyday life or that all writers do is drink coffee (or sip stronger libations) while looking at the sunset, you haven’t met Pisarra.
Pisarra, 56, whose new short story collection “You’re Pretty Gay” is just out from Chaffinch Press, has worked at everything from ventriloquism to domestic work.
The word “unique” is so hackneyed that it’s a cliche to say it’s a cliche. But there’s no other way to describe “You’re Pretty Gay.”
This collection “is a prime example of Drew Pisarra’s dangerously funny and queerly inventive brain,” said Kevin Sampsell, author of “This Is Between Us.” “Each story is its own performance, its own shattering of expectations and social mores.”
Pisarra, who lives in Manhattan, gives readers a mosaic of wit, surrealism, sex, queerness, memory, mortality and self-discovery.
In “You’re Pretty Gay,” there are gay bars in New York and New Orleans.
You’ll find everything from adolescent bullies fighting over a rare caterpillar to a character taking an AIDS test and, later, meeting up with Mrs. Claus.
“Mrs. Claus I didn’t even know you were alive,” says the narrator of “Arctic Chill.” “I didn’t even know you were real. I haven’t received a gift from you or your husband in ten years.”
Another of Pisarra’s tales revolves around a trip to hell. “I love traveling,” says the narrator of “The Hat from Hell, “I got this hat when I was in Hell back in 1992.”
In “Granny,” siblings gather after their mother’s death. “All anyone could remember of her was that chair, how she sat in it for the last 40 years,” Pisarra writes, “immobile as ‘Jeopardy’ and the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ glared at her night after night.”
Pisarra’s characters yearn to find love, sex, and who they really are.
“In my quest to bed mankind, I tended to avoid perfection’s rejection,” says the narrator of “Every Man for Myself.”
Pisarra, whose first short story collection “Publick Spanking” was published in 1996, was born in Orange, N.J. When he was in the third grade, he moved to Maryland. There, except for living in Oxon Hill for a year, he grew up in Silver Spring.
When Pisarra was growing up, being gay wasn’t even remotely on the horizon. “There was such denial in the culture then,” Pisarra said.
From early on, he had feelings for men. “I had a crush on a boy in kindergarten,” Pisarra said.
He consulted books and a priest, which wasn’t helpful. They said he’d grow out of it.
“As a teenager, I recognized that I hadn’t outgrown it,” Pisarra said.
Pisarra was a college freshman when he came out. “I sobbed the night I came out,” he said.
He was out in college, Pisarra said, “but I wasn’t getting laid.” That changed when he moved to New Orleans after college.
Pisarra graduated from Hofstra University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in theater.
In college, a professor had the students sit in a circle. Then, the teacher told them how she thought they’d be cast.
“She told me, ‘you’re a grotesque,’”Pisarra said, “‘You won’t work until you’re in your fifties. Because your face and body don’t match.’”
Pisarra was relieved to hear this. His sense of relief was related to being a young gay man in the late 1980s.
“I wasn’t interested in being closeted,” Pisarra said, “I wrote. I wanted to perform. I wasn’t interested in conforming.”
Since then, Pisarra has been creating – performing and writing his own material. Some of the stories in “You’re Pretty Gay” were originally created for the stage.
“I don’t write that often,” Pisarra said, “I started writing the stories in ‘You’re Pretty Gay’ 20 years ago.”
A prodigious reader, Pisarra has always “written to some degree,” he said.
Pisarra got turned on to writing poetry when he went to a meeting of a gay and lesbian writers group.
“There were, like, 10 people in this apartment,” Pisarra said, “there was a terrible woman sitting next to me.”
He would have dropped out of the group, if he hadn’t met writer Mare Davis, now his close friend.
“I said to her, ‘I never want to see any of these people again except you,’” Pisarra said, “She inspired me to get into poetry.”
Davis wrote the introduction to Pisarra’s poetry collection “Infinity Standing Up” (Capturing Fire Press).
Released in 2019, the volume of sexy, playful sonnets received glowing reviews from the Washington Post, the Blade and other outlets.
“Devour me! Think me not some crazy nut!,” Pisarra writes in one of his sonnets.
With lines like these, he gives Shakespeare a run for his money.
Pisarra has held a variety of jobs – many of which have involved the arts. He has helped homeless people with mental health issues to find housing.
“I ran a writers group for them,” Pisarra said, “I encouraged a super-talented woman to send her work out.”
The woman and Pisarra submitted their work to the same magazine. “Her work was accepted. Mine wasn’t,” he said, “I was thrilled!”
In an unusual career twist, Pisarra, who received a literary grant from the Café Royal Cultural Foundation, toured a ventriloquist act entitled “Singularly Grotesque.” He created the act after the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art commissioned him to develop a new solo piece.
“I was wandering around the library aisles and I found two (self-help) pamphlets on talking with ‘multiple’ selves,’” Pisarra said, “and I thought this is ventriloquism in a nutshell.”
Pisarra hadn’t watched much TV. But that didn’t keep him from interviewing with AMC to be its director of digital media.
“I thought why not,” Pisarra said, “it would be a chance to see what else is out there in the world.”
He worked on the websites for “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” “It was a pleasure to be part of the online team for these cultural phenomena!” Pisarra said.
With Molly Gross, Pisarra co-founded Saint Flashlight. In this project, he and Gross find inventive ways to get poetry into public spaces.
One of the project’s most innovative efforts has been putting haiku on movie marquees. It’s fun to see people, looking up, counting the syllables, Pisarra said. You sweat when you put the letters up on the marquee, he added.
“It’s part of the fun! It makes you feel like you’re making something matter,” Pisarra said.
He doesn’t want poetry to be confined to “The New Yorker.” “It should push the envelope,” Pisarra said, “It’s not just for the upper crust.”
Calendar: July 23-29
Events in the week to come
Friday, July 23
Friday Tea Time and social for older LGBTQ adults will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. You are welcome to bring your own beverage. For access to the Zoom link, email [email protected].
“Trans Support Group” will be hosted on Zoom at 7 p.m. This event is intended to provide emotionally and physically safe space for transgender people and those who may be questioning their gender identity/expression to join in community and learn from one another. All who identify under the trans umbrella or are unsure, and seek to continually reinforce principles of respect, acceptance, and protection through ongoing input from our attendees are welcome.
Saturday, July 24
The “Gay District Meeting” will be at 8 p.m. via Zoom. Gay District is a community-based organization focused on building understanding of gay culture and personal identity, awareness of community events and civil rights for gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and inter-sexed men between the ages of 18 and 35 in the D.C. metropolitan area. For more information, visit gaydistrict.org.
Join the DC Center in volunteering at Food & Friends from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 219 Riggs Road, N.E. Food and Friends prepares and delivers meals and groceries to people living with HIV, cancer, and other life challenging illnesses. Up to five volunteers are needed every month. If you need a ride from the Fort Totten Metro, call the Food and Friends shuttle at 202- 669-6437.
Sunday, July 25
“Crafternoons with Shop Made in DC!” will be at 12 p.m. at 1353 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. Guests are encouraged to bring a project or come and make one at Shop Made in DC’s classroom table. There will be various art supplies available. For more information, visit Eventbrite.
Monday, July 26
The Center Aging Coffee Drop-in will be at 10 a.m. at the DC Center. LGBT Older Adults and friends are invited for friendly conversations and current issues that you might be dealing with. For more information visit Center Aging’s Facebook or website.
Tuesday, July 27
Join Center Faith for Intersectional Faith Forums at 7 p.m. online. In this Forum, attendees will hear from panelists who participated in the LGBT history event “Stepping OUT on Faith” in 2014. These pioneers will speak about their interfaith spiritual experiences of the AIDS Memorial Quilt of the Names Project Foundation displayed on the National Mall 1987 that led to establishing Center Faith. For more information, visit Center Faith’s Facebook page.
Genderqueer DC support group will be on Zoom at 7 p.m. All those who identify as bigender, agender, genderfluid, or are not 100% cisgender are welcome to attend. For more information visit genderqueerdc.org or Genderqueer DC’s Facebook.
Wednesday, July 28
Join the DC Center for its virtual job club, 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. The event begins on Zoom at 6 p.m. For more information, email [email protected].
Friendship Place’s LGBTQ+ will host the final session of a free webinar series titled “Advocacy, Resistance, and LGBTQ+ Resilience” at 12 p.m. This event will be a panel conversation focused on the vital work of advocacy and resistance to ensure access and rights for the LGBTQ+ community. The panel will also touch on the importance of self-care in the work of advocacy and resilience that comes from community. For more information, visit capitalpride.org.
Thursday, July 29
“Queer Book Club” will be at 7 p.m. via Skype. This month’s book discussion will be “Black Boy Out of Time” by Hari Ziyad. If you are interested in participating, please email [email protected].
The Mayor’s Office will host a “Veterans Roundtable” on Thursday, July 29 at 12 p.m. This event aims to connect the District’s veterans with information, resources, and organizations that may be beneficial to a successful military transition.
It will be an informal discussion that revolves around varying topics including housing, employment, healthcare, and legal services. Upon conclusion of the discussion, all resource providers in attendance offer feedback on any topics discussed or how they can assist the veteran or their family in a positive capacity.
The event will be hosted in person and will highlight BIPOC Veteran Mental Health Awareness with speakers from the DC VA Medical Center. For more information, visit Eventbrite.
Meet Theater J’s new managing director
David Lloyd Olson strives to create equitable, inclusive space
Beginning in mid-August, David Lloyd Olson will be Theater J’s new managing director. As such, he’s charged with getting butts in seats, but there’s more to it than that. He explains via phone from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he was vacationing last week, “My goal is to create a space that’s equitable, inclusive, and everyone is supported with the resources they need to create the best art possible in their current circumstances that means I’m doing my job well.”
Housed in the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC) on 16th Street in Dupont Circle, Theater J, the nation’s largest and most prominent Jewish theater, is slated to reopen in late September. While new hire Olson will focus on financial matters and marketing, veteran artistic director Adam Immerwahr is responsible for what happens on stage. Neither of the co-executives reports to each other but rather to EDJCC’s CEO Dava Schub. “It’s a leadership model that works,” says Olson, “because you don’t have the business leading the arts.”
Olson likes Schub’s vision for creating safe space at EDCJCC for LGBTQI+ and people of color, especially Jews of color, and her belief that more energy is made when a company is housed in a community center. “It meshes with my idea of what a theater should be more than a transactional relationship, but rather creating dialogue with community and using the platform – literally our stage – to participate in the conversation with the community.”
Additionally, Olson’s getting on board with Theater J allows for a geographical reunion with his husband Jonah Richmond. Over the last two years, Olson has been managing director at Quintessence Theatre Group in Philadelphia while Richmond has remained at the couple’s place in D.C. and worked at EPA. Olson says “Philadelphia was a great experience but it was tough going back and forth. It’s good to be home.”
Olson’s career has been mostly Washington area-based, and his vitae boasts stretches at GALA Hispanic Theatre, Arena Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Pointless Theatre.
While at University of Maryland, he spent a lot of time making theater with fellow theater majors. Olson was curious how to lift fellow artists and identify resources that would assist them in reaching their greatest potential.
He was interested in directing, acting, and puppetry (UMD is Jim Henson’s alma mater). After scoring a terrific success performing in the Fringe Festival with “Sleeping Beauty: A Puppet Ballet,” a beautiful, well received piece, he became part of the Pointless Theatre where he took on the role of managing director, producer, and nonprofit administrator.
With puppetry, the work speaks for itself. If the puppeteer is doing their job expertly, they fall away and the puppet takes center stage. Similarly, very much of what Olson does as managing director is behind the scenes — essential to the production taking place, but audiences don’t see him.
Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, young Olson was part of a Jewish community that frowned on his sexuality. He later found acceptance at Adas Israel Congregation, the Washington synagogue where he married his husband in 2014.
As a kid, he was encouraged to be as assimilated as possible. Despite being partly of Mexican ancestry, there was no Spanish spoken at home “It’s reflective of the national conversation we’re having now,” he says. “Same goes with heteronormativity. The idea that the more you can pass as a straight white man, the more opportunities that come your way.”
At Theater J, the job of storytellers is not to say one side or another is right but to tell the story of what it means to be Jewish, says Olson. Differences might include religious practices, ideology, and one’s stand on Palestinian self-determination. But ultimately, he thinks, though divided, a community can remain unbroken.
Looking forward, Olson is eager to see Theater J’s in-person, fall season opener “Becoming Dr. Ruth” starring Naomi Jacobson, a local actor he greatly admires, and staged by talented out actor/director Holly Twyford. He’s also excited about Theater J’s Yiddish Theater Lab dedicated to commissioning English translations and adaptations of Yiddish plays to be presented as readings and possibly productions.
In closing, he adds, “I pinch myself every day about how lucky I am to work in theater, to be among great artists and part of a community.”
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