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Evan Wolfson gives commencement speech; says road to equality ‘not over’

gay rights advocate calls North Carolina HB2 law ‘anti-civil rights’

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Evan Wolfson, gay news, Washington Blade

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson gave a commencement speech to Northeastern Illinois University’s graduating class on Monday that explained the organization’s success and noted the fight for LGBT equality is not over.

The Examiner reports Wolfson began his speech noting that he recognized the significance of a gay activist giving a commencement speech, a feat that wouldn’t have been so easy just a few years ago.

“Even as recently as five years ago,let alone in the years in which you all were born,the idea that a gay activist campaigning for the freedom to marry would be chosen by a state school in Illinois as its commencement speaker would have seemed inconceivable to most people,” Wolfson began his speech.

Freedom to Marry, founded in 2003, created its national strategy, known as the Roadmap to Victory, to advocate for same-sex marriage. According to Freedom to Marry, the plan was to win the freedom to marry in more states, build and grow majority support for marriage and end federal marriage discrimination.

Wolfson says “the ability to talk with other people, took not just legal engagement, because there could be no marriage victory without engagement, and then the belief that change can happen” was what led to Freedom to Marry’s same-sex marriage victory in 2015.

“It took us believing and reaching out, engaging non-gay people in conversation, it took trust that we could connect and that others would move,” Wolfson says.

The gay rights activist mentioned North Carolina’s HB2 bill, calling it an “anti-civil rights bill” and  “a way to undermine, and divide the American people.”

“Our work is still not over, as we harness the power of the marriage conversation to the work that still remains in ending discrimination and securing good lives for gay and transgender people across the United States and around the world,” Wolfson concluded.

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Out & About

Blade live chat with ‘Real Housewives’ author Moylan

Interview to ‘spill the tea’ on all aspects of hit Bravo franchise

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Join the Washington Blade for a live interview with Brian Moylan, a former Blade staffer and author of the new book “The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives.” The book explores the origins and ongoing popularity of the franchise. Moylan will be interviewed by his former boss, Blade editor Kevin Naff. The two promise to “spill the tea” Housewives-style about all aspects of the hit Bravo franchise, including whether or not the shows are scripted and just how controlling Bravo is when it comes to marketing the Housewives.

The interview will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 and will stream on all Blade social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The interview will be uploaded to Instagram after it concludes.

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Out & About

SAAM celebrates drag culture, American art

Virtual bingo night hosted by KC B. Yoncé

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum will host “Virtual Drag Queen Art Bingo Night” on Friday, June 18 at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by DC drag diva KC B. Yoncé.

Event attendees are encouraged to register now and request 1 to 4 printable bingo cards featuring artwork by American artists who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

D.C.-area registrants are eligible to get 10% off Red Bear Brewing’s official 2021 Pride Helles lager, Smash Me With A House. This offer is available for pick up only while supplies last. Must be 21+ with proper ID and show SAAM coupon to Red Bear Brewing staff to apply the discount.

For more information, visit the museum’s website.

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Theater

‘We’re Gonna Die’ includes themes of grief, death, depression

But don’t let that deter you from Round House production

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Regina Aquino as the singer in Young Jean Lee's ‘We're Gonna Die’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Harold F. Burgess II)

‘We’re Gonna Die’
Streaming through July 11
Round House Theatre
$30
Roundhousetheatre.org

Round House Theatre’s current filmed offering, “We’re Gonna Die,” could be described as sad words interrupted by upbeat melodies. But it’s not that simple.

Penned by Young Jean Lee, the hour-long solo show is based on real experiences but without details specific to place or year. Its monologues are the memories of a youngish woman (simply called the Singer in the program) who arrives at the harsh conclusion that horrible things happen all the time, and in the end, we die. But it’s not all gloom and doom. The playwright – who’s been called the queen of unease – peppers her work with the unexpected and the uncomfortable as well as some fun surprises and humor. And after every gloomy tale the singer shares, there’s a pop-sounding song with equally unsettling lyrics.

This kind of back and forth between the serious and the not so serious, makes the show interesting.

Director Paige Hernandez, who also provides the show’s happy, informal choreography and the scenic design (a sort of downstairs grungy club look), brings a fresh unpretentiousness to the piece that gels nicely with the available energy of Helen Hayes Award-winning Filipinx American actor Regina Aquino.

Sporting a knotted T-shirt and black leather pants, Aquino comes ready to work. She barrels through (in a good way) a litany of brutal memories with an inviting intensity while radiating an emotional suppleness that keeps you with her throughout the evening’s various twists and turns.

As the Singer, Aquino wastes no time in apprising the audience of the miseries of life. Childhood and tween years aren’t pleasant: she’s shunned by alleged best friends; learning to ride a bike is violently traumatic; and during a playful game of spy, she witnesses her weird Uncle John become reduced to a puddle of tears after reciting his nightly mantra: “I am shit. I am shit.” The singer learns early that life isn’t easy.

Romance proves illusive. There’s no dating in high school. College is a series of one-sided relationships with guys who drink too much. When she finally gets together with what seems the ideal man, he leaves her.

Things continue uncomfortably. At a family reunion she overhears her mother describing her as less lovable than her sister. But it’s her father’s seemingly unfair and tragic death from lung cancer that hits hardest. She knows then that despite what we may want to believe, we all die and rarely prettily.
It’s oddly comforting how she concludes that none of us are special; no one is immune to unhappiness, pain, disease, and the long dirt nap. We all have this in common.

Lee (the first Asian-American woman to have a play on Broadway with “Straight White Men”) wrote “We’re Gonna Die” not long after her father’s death. Perhaps that’s why the harrowing monologue describing the patriarch’s demise is the show’s most affecting. And it’s definitely where Aquino’s gifts for pathos and sensitivity come to the fore.

This is a solo show, indeed, but Aquino isn’t alone on stage. She’s joined by The Chance Club, a four-person rock band featuring Laura Van Duzer, Matthew Schleigh, Jason Wilson, and Manny Arciniega. Aquino and band’s interactions feel spontaneous and not over-rehearsed, infusing the show with the charm of a small live concert.

“We’re Gonna Die” comes with a content advisory: “This production includes themes of loss, grief, death, and depression.” But please, don’t let that deter you. It’s in fact peculiarly uplifting.

And by show’s end, you’ll be humming along to a catchy tune with the memorable chorus: “I’m gonna die / I’m gonna die someday / Then I’ll be gone / And it will be OK.”

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