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Bold but vague

Out playwright explores political speech in new satire

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Peter Sinn Nachtreib, gay news, Washington Blade
Peter Sinn Nachtreib, gay news, Washington Blade

Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s new play is in the midst of a multi-city rollout premiere. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

‘The Totalitarians’
Through June 29
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St., N.W.
$45-75
202-393-3939

In Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s new political comedy “The Totalitarians,” it takes three words — “freedom from fear” — to turn a lopsided election around.

Former roller derby queen and all-around loose cannon Penelope Easter has political aspirations. Though she has zero knowledge of the issues and stands for nothing, Penny is undeterred. She’s rightfully confident that her big hair and her gay husband’s enormous fortune will open doors. But still, she needs help connecting with voters, low information and otherwise. That’s where Francine Jefferson comes in. Francine is a wannabe political operative with a talent for words. She believes that one killer speech with a catchy slogan repeatedly delivered by an appropriately passionate Penny could put this unlikely candidate on the path to becoming Nebraska’s lieutenant governor.

Meanwhile Francine’s doctor husband Jeffrey wants her to have a baby and stay at home. Besides, he doesn’t trust Penelope — even less when his young terminally ill patient Ben warns him of Penelope’s connection with a nefarious 1 percent cabal seeking to control all American politics.  He joins militant Ben in trying to snuff out Penelope’s campaign.

Nachtrieb is tall (6’6”) and rangy. At 39, the gay playwright retains boyish charm and exudes a quiet intelligence. The inspiration for the “The Totalitarians,” he explains, came from a frustration with the language of politics and rhetoric; and whether anyone is actually saying anything or is it all just sound bites? He felt a need to dive into that.

“Penelope is very seductive cipher,” he says. “Whether she is left or right is uncertain. Seems like she’s fighting for something but you can’t pin down on what she stands for on any issue. Still Francine’s dream gets married to Penny’s. She writes some soaring, beautiful imagery reminiscent of early Obama’s — inspirational but with few specific references.”

And though Nachtrieb purports Penelope is not a commentary on any single party or person, her over-the-top vulgarity definitely come off more like Sarah Palin than Elizabeth Warren. Penelope is so outrageous, says the playwright, that in a different production she could easily be played by a male actor in drag.

“There is an attraction between Francine and Penelope. And the dynamic between Jeffrey and Ben is just shy of being a gay relationship. There are those clandestine meetings in cruisy parks. And the long hernia examination that Jeffrey gives to Ben is interesting.”

Commissioned by the New Play National Network, “The Totalitarians” is currently undergoing a year-long rolling premiere that kicked off at Southern Rep in New Orleans and is now playing at Woolly Mammoth. Later this year it will play at Z Space in San Francisco where Nachtrieb is playwright in residence.

Woolly’s production is staged by talented gay playwright and director Robert O’Hara. The cast features local actors Emily Townley and Dawn Ursula as Penelope and Francine, respectively. Jeffrey is played by Sean Meehan who played Morton in HBO’s production of “The Normal Heart,” gay dramatist Larry Kramer’s seminal AIDS play. Chicago actor Nick Loumos plays Ben. It’s Nachtrieb’s second collaboration with Woolly Mammoth. The first was his dark, apocalyptic comedy, “boom.”

Growing up in affluent Marin County, the suburb across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Nachtrieb who’d been bullied in middle school, found a safe haven participating in musical theater. He majored in theater and biology at Brown University. While there, he came out during a production of “West Side Story.” (“All the other Jets were gay. I thought I must be too.”) He returned to the Bay Area where he entered the San Francisco State MFA Playwriting program, and earned his MFA in creative writing in 2005.

Today Nachtrieb lives in San Francisco’s Mission District with his partner of 13 years, Mark Marino, a nurse. Sometimes his relationship and feelings are reflected in his work, sometimes through straight characters: “Francine and Jeffrey talk about having children and the challenges of busy work schedules. Those are discussions my partner and I have, too.

“And for instance, Ben, the young activist, has a monologue that isn’t just about wanting equality but sometimes you want a little vengeance as well for being treated badly.”

Next up, Nachtrieb is working on a new play concerning house tours. “It’s all about shame,” he says, “and the pleasures of hiding things.”

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Out & About

DC Center to host Alzheimer’s awareness event

‘Seniors & Cognition’ talk to explore warning signs, healthy brain practices

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The DC LGBTQ+ Community Center, the DC Department on Aging and Community Living, and the Alzheimer’s Association are joining forces to host “Seniors & Cognition with the Alzheimer’s Association” on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. on Zoom. 

Guest speakers will walk the audience through understanding Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, their warning signs, healthy brain practices, and more. The lecture series will consist of three 1.5-hour sessions, with the others set to take place in August and September. 

To register, visit the DC Center’s website

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Sports

Brittney Griner and wife celebrate birth of their son

Cherelle Griner gave birth to healthy baby boy earlier this month

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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

Calendar: July 19-25

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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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 thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

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 thedccenter.org/careers.

“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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