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SPRING ARTS 2016: TV

‘O’Neals’ finds humor in coming-out journey

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gay tv shows, gay news, Washington Blade
gay tv shows, gay news, Washington Blade

Noah Galvin, center, stars in ‘The Real O’Neals,’ a new gay-themed ABC sitcom. (Photo courtesy ABC)

Chelsea Handler’s documentary series dropped on Netflix Jan. 23. “Chelsea Does” has four 90-minute episodes that each address a different topic, including marriage, drugs, technology and race. In the marriage episode, Handler examines a broad spectrum of relationships, including gay partnerships, Vegas weddings and her own failed romances.

Shonda Rhimes continues to dominate Thursday night television on ABC with “Grey’s Anatomy” at 8 p.m., “Scandal” at 9 p.m., and “How To Get Away With Murder” at 10 p.m. Rhimes’ shows are known for their diverse casts and prominent LGBT actors, characters and plots.

The first season of “The Shannara Chronicles” ended March 1. The MTV fantasy drama is based on the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Ivana Baquero, who is best known for playing Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth, stars as Eretria, who is bisexual.

Openly gay cast member Kate McKinnon continues to be one of the most memorable on Saturday Night Live,” which airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC. She took over the role of Hillary Clinton, once played by Amy Poehler. Ariana Grande will pull double duty as the host and musical guest on March 12.

Season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” kicks off on March 7 on LOGO. Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews and Carson Kressley all return to the judge’s table.

YouTube star Tyler Oakley is a contestant in season 28 of “The Amazing Race,” which airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on CBS. Oakley and his teammate have consistently been finishing each leg of the race in the top two. Each team this season is made up of at least one internet celebrity, including popular YouTube, Vine and Instagram stars.

Rachel Bloom stars in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW. The characters White Josh and Darryl Whitefeather are gay and bisexual, respectively. Bloom recently won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her role in the musical comedy.

Ken Jeong stars in “Dr. Ken,” a sitcom inspired by Jeong’s experience as a doctor before becoming a stand-up comedian. Openly gay actor Jonathan Slavin plays a supporting role in the show, which airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

Martha Plimpton stars in “The Real O’Neals,” airing Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. Openly gay actor Noah Galvin plays Plimpton’s son, who reveals to his Catholic family that he is gay. The Family Research Council has called for a boycott of the series, which is produced by Dan Savage.

“Legends of Tomorrow” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. Gay actors Victor Garber and Wentworth Miller star in the superhero show, which is a spinoff of “Arrow” and “The Flash.” The show includes the recurring “Arrow” character Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), who is bisexual.

Rob Lowe stars in “You, Me, and the Apocalypse,” which airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC. Several interwoven storylines connect an ensemble cast who attempt to stop a world-ending asteroid from hitting earth. Two of the main characters are in a gay partnership. The British-American series originally aired in the UK last fall.

Daniel Franzese stars in “Recovery Road” on Freeform, the new name for ABC Family. The show follows a teenage girl going through rehab in a sober living facility. It airs Mondays at 9 p.m.

“Shadowhunters” airs on Freeform on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. This fantasy series is based on “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare. Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum, Jr.’s characters are gay and bisexual, respectively.

Jennifer Lopez stars in “Shades of Blue,” who plays an NYPD detective caught up in an anti-corruption probe. The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC and was renewed for a second season.

“Empire” returns to Fox on Wednesday, March 30 at 9 p.m. Lee Daniels, who is openly gay, created the series, which includes several LGBT cast members and characters. A central conflict of the show is the tension between homophobic patriarch Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his gay son Jamal (Jussie Smollett, who is also gay).

“Live at 9:30 is an upcoming public access show, which will premiere in April. The music variety show will be filmed at the 9:30 Club and will feature performances by Tove Lo, Jess Glynne, Garbage and more.

Coming to Netflix:

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright return to Netflix on March 4 in season four of “House of Cards.” Spacey plays the bisexual, Machiavellian president in the D.C.-based drama.

Season two of “Marvel’s Daredevil” drops on Netflix on March 18. Charlie Cox plays the title superhero, a blind vigilante who defends Hell’s Kitchen. Prominent LGBT ally Rosario Dawson plays a supporting role in the series.

Also entering its second season is “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The Tina Fey-created series stars her “30 Rock” co-star Jane Krakowski and Titus Burgess. Netflix renewed the show for a third season.

Season two of “Grace and Frankie” premieres on Netflix on May 6. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda star as two women who, despite decades of disliking each other, form a close friendship when their husbands (Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen) divorce them for each other.

In more renewal news, Netflix renewed “Orange Is the New Black” for three addition seasons beyond the upcoming fourth season, which premieres June 17. The series has been lauded for featuring a racially diverse cast and giving significant screen time to trans, lesbian and bisexual characters and actors.

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Photos

PHOTOS: International LGBTQ Leaders Conference opening reception

Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott

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Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The LGBTQ Victory Institute held an opening reception for the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference at the JW Marriott on Thursday.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Meet the husbands and creative partners behind ‘Christmas Angel’

A funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast

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Stephen Gregory Smith and Matt Conner with pugs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron.

The Christmas Angel
Dec. 9-19
Creative Cauldron
410 South Maple Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046
Tickets:  $35. Students $20.
Masks and proof of vaccination are required
creativecauldron.org

“Ours is like a lava lamp,” says composer Matt Conner describing the collaborative creative process he shares with musical writing partner and husband Stephen Gregory Smith. “We move together in motion in a continual ebb and flow.” 

A couple for 23 years, married for eight, and making musicals together for 11, the talented pair’s current offering is “The Christmas Angel,” opening on Dec. 9 at Creative Cauldron in Fairfax. 

A musical adaptation of the same-named 1910 novel by Abbie Farwell Brown, it’s the story of Angelina Terry (Kanysha Williams), a wealthy embittered recluse who learns the lessons of Christmas from a box of old toys that she casts into the street. Also featured in the hour-long one-act are Ryan Sellers as Horton, Angelina’s butler, and Carl Williams who plays her brother. The angel and toys are brought to life by an ensemble of a dozen teens plucked from the company’s musical theater training program. 

Via phone from their home in Arlington, Smith and Conner shared thoughts on their new show and working style. In attendance are pug dogs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron, whom they call Eddie and Byron in public – otherwise “it’s just too much,” says Conner whose ultimate fantasy involves living on a pug farm where he’d write music and present the occasional show.

Rather than finish each other’s sentences, the duo (both Helen Hayes Award winners – Smith for acting and Conner for directing) expound on one another’s thoughts.

While Conner composes the music, Smith writes the book and lyrics, and together they co-direct. “But there’s no end and beginning where my job ends and his begins,” says Smith. “What we do complements each other’s work.”

Still, there are differences. Smith’s approach is focused. He writes pages at night and edits in the morning. Conner’s method is more relaxed, preferring to sit at the keyboard and talk rather than writing things down. But throughout the creative process, there’s never a moment when the project isn’t on their mind. They can be watching TV or buying milk when an exciting idea pops up, says Conner. 

A clever nod to Dickens, the novel is more than just a female “Christmas Carol,” says Smith. And in some spots, he’s beefed up the 55-page book, fleshing out both storyline and characters including the toys whose shabby appearance belies a youthful confidence. 

He adds, “Every holiday season you go to the attic and pull down the box, or boxes in my case, of holiday decorations and it’s all old but it’s new. That’s the nostalgic feeling of toys from the attic that we’re trying to find through the show.”

The music is a combination of traditional carols performed by a hand bell chorus, and original Christmas songs that intentionally sound very familiar. The score includes songs “Don’t Hide Your Light,” “The Sweetest Gift,” and “Yestermore” – the moment when the past, present, and future come together. 

Also, there’s Angelina’s Bah! Humbug! number “Fiddlesticks,” her great renunciation of the holidays. She believes the world a disappointing place to be, and the sooner realized the better. 

Conner and Smith aren’t new to Creative Cauldron. Through the company’s Bold New Works project, the team was commissioned to write five world premiere musicals in just five years. The result was “The Turn of the Screw,” “Monsters of the Villa Diodati,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Witch” and “On Air.”

Judging from some of the titles and their slightly macabre content, it seems the duo was better poised to write for Halloween than Christmas, but nonetheless, they were commissioned. Creative Cauldron’s producing director Laura Connors Hull brought them the obscure yet charming book that surprisingly had never before been reworked for stage or celluloid, and the pair got to work last spring. 

Conner and Smith agree, “The show is a lot of things rolled up into one.”

Not only is it a funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast, but it’s also a story largely unknown to today’s audiences. Additionally, the show boasts intergenerational appeal while holding messages about Christmas, family, and finding light when you’re in a darker place. 

More information about Conner and Smith, including links to their music and popular podcast “The Conner & Smith Show,” can be found on their terrific website at connersmithmusicals.com.   

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Books

‘Capote’s Women’ is catnip to older pop culture fans

Revisiting iconic author’s seven ‘swans’

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(Book cover courtesy of Putnam)

Capote’s Women
By Laurence Leamer
C.2021, Putnam $28/356 pages

Her lips are locked tight.

Your best friend knows all your secrets, and she’s keeping them; you told her things you had to tell somebody, and she’s telling nobody. You always knew you could trust her; if you couldn’t, she wouldn’t be your BFF. But as in the new book “Capote’s Women” by Laurence Leamer, what kind of a friend are you?

For months, Truman Capote had been promising a blockbuster.

Following his success with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood,” he was “one of the most famous authors in the world” but he needed a career-booster. The novel he was writing, he teased, would be about “his swans,” seven wealthy, fashionable women who quite personified “beauty, taste, and manners.”

His first swan was Barbara “Babe” Paley, whom he’d met on a trip with the David Selznicks to Jamaica. For Capote, “Babe was the epitome of class,” simply “perfect” in every way; it helped that the famously gay writer was no threat to Paley’s “madly jealous” husband.

Babe’s “dearest friend” was Nancy “Slim” Keith, who quickly learned that if a lady wanted her confidences kept, she didn’t tell Capote anything. She shouldn’t have trusted Babe, either: When Slim left for a European trip, Babe asked if Slim’s husband could accompany Babe’s friend, Pamela Hayward, to a play.

Slim was aware of Pamela’s predatory reputation, but what could she say?

Of course, Pamela, another of Truman’s swans, stole Slim’s man, a scandal that Capote loved.

Gloria Guinness was highly intelligent, possibly enough to be a spy in Nazi Germany. Lucy “C.Z.” Guest was an upper-crust “elitist” with a “magical aura.” Marella Agnelli “was born an Italian princess”; Lee Radziwill, of course, was Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister.

Through the late 1960s, Capote claimed to be writing his masterpiece, his tour de force based on his swans, but several deadlines passed for it. He was sure Answered Prayers “would turn him once again into the most talked-about author in America.”

Instead, when an excerpt from it was published, his swans got very ruffled feathers.

Every time you stand in line for groceries, the tabloids scream at you with so much drama that you either love it or hate it. Or, in the case of “Capote’s Women,” you cultivate it.

And that’s infinitely fun, as told by author Laurence Leamer.

Happily, though, Leamer doesn’t embellish or disrespect these women or Capote; he tells their tales in order, gently allowing readers’ heads to spin with the wild, globe-hopping goings-on but not to the point that it’s overdone. While most of this book is about these seven beautiful, wealthy, and serially married women – the Kardashians of their time, if you will – Capote is Leamer’s glue, and Truman gets his due, as well.

Readers who devour this book will be sure that the writer would’ve been very happy about that.

“Capote’s Women” should be like catnip to celeb-watchers of a Certain Age but even if you’re not, find it. If you’re a Hollywood fan, you’ll want to get a lock on it.

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