The founding of the D.C. Queer Theatre Festival three years ago came about when Matt Ripa and some fellow theater lovers started talking about the need for outlets for LGBT-themed theater and new works.
Conceived as an all-volunteer organization, its founders decided from the start that all ticket sale proceeds would go to the DC Center, which at the time was hoping to expand its arts offerings as well. Now it’s part of the Center’s bevy of arts offerings, which also includes the OutWrite LGBT Book Fair, the Capturing Fire Queer Spoken Word Summit and Reel Affirmations, a film series.
“Theater is just what I love to do and I’ve always been interested in finding new ways to bring awareness to certain issues in a non-threatening way,” says Ripa, a 32-year-old Frederick, Md., native. “Sometimes we get bogged down with donate to this, donate to that and everywhere you turn there’s a sob story — ‘please give us money.’ But this is a fun night … and we’re very clear about where your ticket money goes.”
This year’s event is a one-night-only staged reading of local playwright Bob Bartlett’s work “Kuchu Uganda,” set in 2009 just before the Uganda legislature passed a bill making homosexuality punishable by death and how the violence of homophobia destroys two households. It will be performed Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Anacostia Playhouse (2020 Shannon Pl., S.E.). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased either at the door or online at thedccenter.org.
Ripa worked in special ed for several years but recently joined the staff of his alma mater Catholic University in its drama department.
He and his partner, John, live in Rockville with their dog, Smiley, and cat, Brecht. Ripa enjoys playing guitar, learning the banjo, cooking, directing, reading and crossword puzzles in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out my freshman year of college when I was 18, so 14 years now. The hardest person to come out to was my brother. He works in a church and is very religious. I expected him to react badly, but I could not have been more wrong. He was accepting and positive. In hindsight, I wish I had not waited as long as I did to tell him, but everything happens in its own time.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
In college, I had a professor who had a big impact on me, Dr. Illig. She is a sociology professor at Salisbury University. She taught me a great deal about pride and politics. Dr. Illig also acted as a surrogate mom for those students who were away at college, providing support, advice and a shoulder.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
If I go out, I don’t usually gravitate to LGBT nightspots. I always enjoyed Nellie’s. I liked the laid back atmosphere.
Describe your dream wedding.
Casual. If I could wear jeans and T-shirt to my wedding, that would be the best. I never had an ideal wedding. As long as I am surrounded by friends and family and I am marrying someone that I love and care about, then I could care less about the color scheme or location.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Special education and services for people with special needs. I worked in special education in different capacities for 10 years. It is something that I am very passionate about.
What historical outcome would you change?
The election of 2000. I think our country would be in a very different place if Al Gore (or Ralph Nader for that matter) would have become president.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I remember watching the Michael Jackson concert live from Budapest on TV with a bunch of friends. We all moonwalked and danced and sang along.
On what do you insist?
That people be kind. There is no need for rudeness, bitterness or disrespect. I might not always agree with people or their point of view, but I try to always be kind.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
It was “I love Mellie Grant!” I had just watched the new episode of “Scandal.” I love her.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Because that would be much more exciting.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would not change my sexuality. I love who I am. I am proud of who I am. Sexual orientation is not something that needs to be changed.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I think there is a higher power of some sort. I’m not sure what it is or called. I think we are all cosmically connected. Wow, I didn’t know that 20 questions would get so deep.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Make bold choices. Think globally, but act locally. Also, don’t forget the B and T members of our community.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My parents. My boyfriend. My cat. A large cheese pizza.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The idea of “straight acting.” Let’s just act however we want to act without a stigma as to what behaviors are “straight” and those that are “gay.” I would hate to see what someone considers “gay acting.”
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
It would be a toss-up. “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” because I think it’s beautiful depiction of friendship and an adaptation of one of my favorite plays by Terrance McNally. The other would be “But I’m a Cheerleader” because it’s campy and fun.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Saying yes instead of yeah. My students would always correct themselves when they said “yeah” or “yep” because some teacher somewhere told them they had to say “yes.” Also, raising your hand to speak.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
One of my nieces said I was the “best uncle ever.” I’ll take that.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How to budget my money wisely. And that blonde frosted tips are not hot.
Because Seattle is too rainy. I love D.C. I always discover something new and interesting about this city. Also, as a theater artist, it is the best theater town, hands down.