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Arts & Entertainment

Calendar: March 14-20

Parties, support groups, exhibits and more for the week ahead

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Hump Film Festival, calendar, gay news, Washington Blade
Hump Film Festival, calendar, gay news, Washington Blade

A still from one of the films to be screened next week as part of the Dan Savage ‘Hump’ Film Festival at Woolly Mammoth. (Still courtesy Justin Morrison and Kelly O.)

Calendar for LGBT D.C. for the week ahead.

Friday, March 14

 

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) holds a happy hour from 5-7:30 p.m. tonight with all drinks half price. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is $5 after 9 p.m. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts free vodka Friday tonight from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Free rail vodka 11 p.m.-midnight. Two DJs on two floors. Cover is $10. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Saturday, March 15

 

The Latino Queer Bilingual Writing Group hosts its monthly workshop today at the D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) from 12:30-2:30 p.m. The focus will be on memoirs. Open to writers of any genre and levels of experience to share creative work in Spanish or English. Workshop is free and no prior experience is necessary. For details, call 202-682-2245 or email [email protected].

Young Artists of America perform an orchestrated version of Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” at Winston Churchill High School (11300 Gainsborough Rd., Potomac, Md.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For details, visit youngartistsamerica.org.

Mr. D.C. Eagle 2014 hosts “Leather Invasion: 17th Street N.W.,” a St. Patrick’s Day weekend bar-crawl. The crawl begins at the Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W.) at 7:30 p.m. and ends at Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) at 12:30 a.m. for the “Bears Can Dance” party, Jell-O shots and a price raffle. Money will be raised for SMYAL.

GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) hosts “Masquerade and Mischief: Purim Drag Ball” at the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center (1529 16th St., N.W.) tonight from 8:30 p.m.-midnight. There will be a drag performance by Ms. Hilda Seaview and an amateur drag/costume parade and contest with prizes. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. There is a free open bar for anyone who comes in costume. Food and desserts are included. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit betmish.org.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts “Bare: Military Appreciation St. Pattie’s Day” tonight from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Admission is free for those with a valid Military ID. There will be beer pong and flip cup on the first floor. Jameson and Fireball shots are $3. Domestic beers are $5. Music by DJs Rosie and Keenan Orr. For more details, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Sunday, March 16

 

Chick Chat, an ages-50-and-over lesbian singles group, celebrates Women’s “Herstory” month with a tour of the Clara Barton House (5801 Oxford Rd., Glen Echo, Md.) today at noon. For details and to RSVP email [email protected].

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, March 17

 

United Soldiers and Sailors of America, a non-profit organization that supports combat wounded and their families, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day event at Jake’s Boiler Room (5018 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) from 4-11 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a complimentary green beer and St. Patrick’s Day mug. There will be $5 Smithwicks and Harp, $8 Irish car bombs and $15 corned beef and cabbage platter. All proceeds benefit United Solders and Sailors of America. For details, visit jakesdc.com.

Rainbow Theatre Project presents a reading of the Noel Coward play “Long Island Sound” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Source (1835 14th St., N.W.). It tells of an author seeking peace and quiet at a friend’s house who is interrupted by a large gathering of boisterous artists and socialites of whom he becomes the main attraction. About 20 local and student artists will present the reading. Rainbow Theatre Project is a new LGBT-specific theater company.

 

Tuesday, March 18

 

Transgender Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW) hosts its annual celebration and fundraiser tonight at Lost Society (2001 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 6:30-9:30 p.m. There will be an open bar with wine and specialty cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There is a suggested $10 donation at the door but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, visit translawdc.org.

“Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano,” a filmed concert special of John’s “Million Dollar Piano” show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, plays at AMC Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. as part of a special two-night event. There will be another showing on March 26.

 

Wednesday, March 19

 

Bookmen D.C., an informal men’s gay literature group, discusses “The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered” edited by Tom Cardamone at the American Foreign Service Association (2101 E St., N.W.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. For details, visit bookmendc.blogspot.com.

The Tom Davoren Social Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for social bridge. No partner needed. For more information, call 301-345-1571.

 

Thursday, March 20

Freestyle Fitness presents “Go Live and Rewind,” a fitness dance party that benefits Capital Pride 2014, is at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) tonight from 7-11 p.m. Enjoy music from DJ miGGL from the ‘80s, ‘90s and today from pop, hip-hop, Latin and more while getting a workout. For more details, visit facebook.com/freestylefitnessmoves.

Congressional Chorus presents “New York, New York: An American Cabaret” at Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., N.W.) tonight at 8 p.m. through March 23. A cast of 85 singers and dancers perform musical selection from notable people in the music industry from New York City including Stephen Sondheim, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Tickets are $45. For details, visit atlasarts.org.

Dan Savage, gay author and co-founder of the “It Gets Better Project” brings his “Hump!” Film Festival to Woolly Mammoth Theatre (641 D St., N.W.) tonight with showings at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. These 15 short films discuss sexual situations and include straight, gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Tickets are $20. Screenings go through March 22. For more information, visit humptour.strangertickets.com.

Whole Foods (1440 P St., N.W.) hosts “Drag Bingo on P Street” featuring the Imperial Court of Washington tonight from 7-9 p.m.  There will be prizes and snacks. All proceeds benefit Whole Planet Foundation. For more details, visit wholefoods.com/events.

LGBT personnel assigned to the Pentagon meet at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St., Arlington) today from 5-7 p.m. for happy hour. This monthly event (the third Thursday of each month) is open to military, Department of Defense civilians and military contractors who work in and around the Pentagon.

The band cut/copy plays Echo Stage (2135 Queens Chapel Road, N.E.) tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit echostage.com for details.

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Arts & Entertainment

After COVID hiatus, John Waters resumes touring schedule

‘Every single thing is different after COVID’

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John Watersis on the road again. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For the first time in nearly two years, writer and filmmaker John Waters will be appearing on stage this fall before live audiences in the Baltimore-Washington area, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Waters, who lives in Baltimore, is scheduled to bring his spoken-word holiday show, “A John Waters Christmas,” to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 15, and Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 21. He’ll also be at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and The Vermont Hollywood on Dec. 2.

Waters’ holiday shows were cancelled in 2020 due to the theater closings and travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some book signings for fans were converted to Zoom sessions. He last toured the country in November and December of 2019.

This year, with vaccinations on the rise, Waters has made a few in-person appearances, including a concert with gay country crooner Orville Peck in Colorado in July, where he was “special guest host”; a Q&A session with fans in Provincetown in August and a music festival last weekend in Oakland, Calif. He’s scheduled to visit another 18 cities between now and the end of the year, including a weekend in Wroclaw, Poland, where he’ll be honored during the American Film Festival there in November.

Waters said he has completely rewritten his spoken-word shows to reflect changes brought about by the COVID pandemic. “I haven’t done it in a year and a half,” he said in an interview with Town & Country magazine. “Every single thing is different after COVID. You cannot do the same show. Nothing’s the same.”

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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