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‘Orange’ teaser

Alliances deepen on season three which debuts Monday



Orange is the New Black, gay news, Washington Blade

Taryn Manning and Lea DeLaria in season three of ‘Orange is the New Black.’ (Photo by JoJo Whilden, courtesy Netflix)

Jenji Kohan’s Netflix smash “Orange is the New Black” is back to doing what it does best: character exploration.

Season three opens with a new and (relatively) improved Pennsatucky doing her best to be more respectful of others and less uptight about vulgarity. She’s genuinely trying to better herself, and it’s incredibly satisfying to see her transformation from a villain to someone reformed and compassionate. The season builds from there and the first six episodes suggest this season will be the best, most emotionally complex, season to date.

Thankfully, the Piper/Alex drama resolves fairly quickly and focus pulls away from the two just enough to focus on other, more interesting characters while keeping Taylor Schilling as the top-billed actor. The show is able to remain fresh and captivating by not dwelling on this will they/won’t they pairing.

Litchfield has turned upside down as conditions improve for inmates. Little victories following a bed bug infestation change the attitudes of several inmates, like Red. Because only so much happiness can go around, the prison guards are getting the shaft as a change in ownership of the prison means fewer hours and slashed benefits. The question arises as to who the real prisoners are (hint: still the actual prisoners).

This shake-up is thanks in part to the addition of newcomer Mike Birbiglia’s character, who flawlessly brings a layered, subtle and mysterious performance with each line. The show also welcomes Mary Steenburgen. Like Birbiglia does to Joe Caputo, so does Steenburgen, playing former guard Mendez’s mother, complicate the pregnant Dayanara’s life. Daya, meanwhile, grows more and more isolated as she runs out of options for how to take care of her unborn baby.

Unlike season two, there is no clear primary antagonist. The “Clash of the Titans”-esque struggle between Red, Vee and Gloria has resolved, and each tribe is left to deal with the aftermath of Rosa’s escape and hit-and-run, immortalized with the mic-droppiest of lines: “Always so rude, that one.”

The show has shifted from the man vs. man-style of conflict to man vs. self. Nicky battles her addiction more than ever. Morello is depressed, having lost her job driving the van. Chang, in one of the best episodes so far, struggles with immense insecurities and loneliness. Crazy Eyes refuses to accept the loss of Vee, her mother figure. These and other internalized conflicts become more of a prison for the characters than Litchfield itself, as they fight to free themselves from their masochistic choices.

Tribe members intermix less than they have before, with the exception of Soso, who struggles to find her place in the prison. Even Chang, the other prominent Asian character, does not accept her, as Soso is part Scottish.

However, this racial isolation has given room for new bonds to form, like the budding friendship between Boo and Pennsatucky, which began at the end of season two. The unlikely pairing of the unapologetic lesbian and the religious zealot proves to be among the most delightful relationships of the new season. They help each other accept their past mistakes, learn from them and grow. They’ve each toned down their respective idiosyncrasies and welcome each other as friends and equals. Boo’s intellectualism and Pennsatucky’s emotional side complement each other well and they somehow find within the other a support system.

One of the more heartbreaking character explorations focuses on Marisol “Flaca” Gonzalez (Jackie Cruz). We learn the reason for her teardrop tattoo and the guilt she carries. In one episode, her story comes full circle. The promise of a new job assignment quickly changes from a symbol of hope to one of futility, as she ends up right back where she started before being sent to prison. While others thrive under the new administration, she’s lost her light. It’s a powerful moment for Cruz, who has shown she can dominate a scene just as well as Laverne Cox, who is tragically underused this season.

With each season, “Orange” explores themes surrounding motherhood, and season three is no exception. Can bad actions define a good mother? Can a mother’s best intentions still fail to help her daughter? How does motherhood transcend blood bonds? What happens when we have no parental figures to turn to and we’re left on our own? While conflicts in season three are much more internalized than in previous seasons, they are no less thrilling.

Some of the best bits are tips of icebergs that suggest a much more complex story waiting to be unraveled in a future episode. When the enigmatic Blanca Flores attends the “book funeral” (a necessary book burning following the bed bug infestation), she explains sadly that she prefers reading over living her own life. But as always, when things seem darkest in Litchfield, there’s always hope tomorrow will be taco night.



New book explores why we categorize sports according to gender

You can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think



‘Fair Play: How Sports Shape the Gender Debates’
By Katie Barnes
c.2023, St. Martin’s Press
$29/304 pages

The jump shot happened so quickly, so perfectly.

Your favorite player was in the air in a heartbeat, basketball in hand, wrist cocked. One flick and it was all swish, three points, just like that, and your team was ahead. So are you watching men’s basketball or women’s basketball? Or, as in the new book, “Fair Play” by Katie Barnes, should it really matter?

For sports fans, this may come as a surprise: we categorize sports according to gender.

Football, baseball, wresting: male sports. Gymnastics, volleyball: women’s sports. And yet, one weekend spent cruising around television shows you that those sports are enjoyed by both men and women – but we question the sexuality of athletes who dare (gasp!) to cross invisible lines for a sport they love.

How did sports “become a flash point for a broader conversation?”

Barnes takes readers back first to 1967, when Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb both ran in the Boston Marathon. It was the first time women had audaciously done so and while both finished the race, their efforts didn’t sit well with the men who made the rules.

“Thirty-seven words” changed the country in 1972 when Title IX was signed, which guaranteed there’d be no discrimination in extracurricular events, as long as “federal financial assistance” was taken. It guaranteed availability for sports participation for millions of girls in schools and colleges. It also “enshrine[d] protections for queer and transgender youth to access school sports.”

So why the debate about competition across gender lines?

First, says Barnes, we can’t change biology, or human bodies that contain both testosterone and estrogen, or that some athletes naturally have more of one or the other – all of which factor into the debate. We shouldn’t forget that women can and do compete with men in some sports, and they sometimes win. We shouldn’t ignore the presence of transgender men in sports.

What we should do, Barnes says, is to “write a new story. One that works better.”

Here are two facts: Nobody likes change. And everybody has an opinion.

Keep those two statements in mind when you read “Fair Play.” They’ll keep you calm in this debate, as will author Katie Barnes’ lack of flame fanning.

As a sports fan, an athlete, and someone who’s binary, Barnes makes things relatively even-keel in this book, which is a breath of fresh air in what’s generally ferociously contentious. There’s a good balance of science and social commentary here, and the many, many stories that Barnes shares are entertaining and informative, as well as illustrative. Readers will come away with a good understanding of where the debate lies.

But will this book make a difference?

Maybe. Much will depend on who reads and absorbs it. Barnes offers plenty to ponder but alas, you can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think. Still, if you’ve got skin in this particular bunch of games, find “Fair Play” and jump on it.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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An exciting revival of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre

Out actor Caesar Samayoa on portraying iconic role of President Perón



Caesar Samayoa (center) and the cast of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Photo by DJ Corey Photography) 

Through Oct. 15
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.

When Eva Perón died of cancer at 33 in 1952, the people’s reaction was so intense that Argentina literally ran out of cut flowers. Mourners were forced to fly in stems from neighboring countries, explains out actor Caesar Samayoa. 

For Samayoa, playing President Perón to Shireen Pimental’s First Lady Eva in director Sammi Cannold’s exciting revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” at Shakespeare Theatre Company is a dream fulfilled. 

As a Guatemalan-American kid, he had a foot in two worlds. Samayoa lived and went to school in suburban Emerson, N.J. But he spent evenings working at his parents’ botanica in Spanish Harlem. 

During the drives back and forth in the family station wagon, he remembers listening to “Evita” on his cassette player: “It’s the first cast album I remember really hearing and understanding. I longed to be in the show.”

As an undergrad, he transferred from Bucknell University where he studied Japanese international relations to a drama major at Ithica College. His first professional gig was in 1997 playing Juliet in Joe Calarco’s off-Broadway “Shakespeare’s R&J.” Lots of Broadway work followed including “Sister Act,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” and most significantly, Samayoa says, “Come From Away,” a musical telling of the true story of airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. He played Kevin J. (one half of a gay couple) and Ali, a Muslim chef.  

He adds “Evita” has proved a powerful experience too: “We’re portraying a populist power couple that changed the trajectory of a country in a way most Americans can’t fully understand. And doing it in Washington surrounded by government and politics is extra exciting.” 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How do you tap into a real-life character like Perón?

CAESAR SAMAYOA: Fortunately, Sammi [Connald] and I work similarly. With real persons and situations, I immerse myself into history, almost to a ridiculous extent. 

First day in the rehearsal room, we were inundated with artifacts. Sammi has been to Argentina several times and interviewed heavily with people involved in Eva and Peron’s lives. Throughout the process we’d sit and talk about the real history that happened. We went down the rabbit hole.

Sammi’s interviews included time with Eva’s nurse who was at her bedside when she died. We watched videos of those interviews. They’ve been an integral part of our production. 

BLADE: Were you surprised by anything you learned?

SAMAYOA: Usually, Eva and Perón’s relationship is portrayed as purely transactional.  They wrote love letters and I had access to those. At their country home, they’d be in pajamas and walk on the beach; that part of their life was playful and informal. They were a political couple but they were deeply in love too. I latched on to that. 

BLADE: And anything about the man specifically? 

SAMAYOA:  Perón’s charisma was brought to the forefront. In shows I’ve done, some big names have attended. Obama. Clinton. Justin Trudeau came to “Come From Away.” Within seconds, the charisma makes you give into that person. I’ve tried to use that.  

BLADE: And the part? 

SAMAYOA: Perón is said to be underwritten. But I love his power and the songs he sings [“The Art of the Possible,” “She is a Diamond,” etc.]. I’m fully a baritone and to find that kind of role in a modern musical is nearly impossible. And in this rock opera, I can use it to the full extent and feel great about it.

BLADE: “Evita” is a co-production with A.R.T. Has it changed since premiering in Boston? 

SAMAYOA: Yes, it has. In fact, 48 hours before opening night in Washington, we made some changes and they’ve really landed. Without giving too much away, we gave it more gravity in reality of time as well as Eva’s sickness and the rapid deterioration. It’s given our second act a huge kind of engine that it didn’t have. 

BLADE: You’re married to talent agent Christopher Freer and you’re very open. Was it always that way for you?

SAMAYOA: When I started acting professionally, it was a very different industry. We were encouraged to stay in the closet or it will cast only in a certain part. There was truth in that. There still is some truth in that, but I refuse to go down that road. I can’t reach what I need to reach unless I’m my most honest self. I can’t do it any other way.

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Out & About

HRC’s National Dinner is back

LGBTQ rights organization’s annual gala features Rhimes, Waithe, Bomer



Actor Matt Bomer will be honored at the HRC National Dinner.

The Human Rights Campaign will host its annual National Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The dinner’s honorees include world-famous producers, actors and entertainers whose work spotlights the fight for civil rights and social justice, including Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Matt Bomer.

A new event, as part of the weekend, — the Equality Convention — will take place the night before the dinner on Friday, Oct. 13. The convention will showcase the power of the LGBTQ equality movement, feature influential political and cultural voices, and bring together volunteer and movement leaders from across the country to talk about the path ahead.
For more details about the weekend, visit HRC’s website.

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