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Antoni Porowski shared food and laughter at Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch

The event raised funds for Whitman-Walker Health

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Antoni Porowski at Lyft’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch (Washington Blade photo by Mariah Cooper)

Lyft’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch “Belly Laughs” brought plenty of food, laughter and thought-provoking conversation led by co-hosts “Queer Eye” food and wine expert Antoni Porowski and comedian Michelle Buteau at the Eaton DC on Sunday.

The charity brunch was presented in partnership with the ride-sharing app, Lyft. It raised funds for the non-profit organization and community health center serving the LGBT community, Whitman-Walker Health, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Lyft also made a special $10,000 donation to Whitman-Walker Health in honor of LGBT History month.

Fans were only able to receive access to the brunch by applying the code “AVOCADO,” a known Porowski food favorite, into the Lyft app. Winners were then selected to participate in the private brunch.

The event kicked off with mingling as attendees sipped on Bloody Marys and orange juice and vodka courtesy of Smirnoff Vodka. Soon after, Buteau took the stage for a brief stand-up comedy set before bringing Porowski to the stage.

Porowski gave a cooking demonstration for a carrot and date salad, which he said was a recipe inspired by his father. The demonstration got interactive when Porowski chose a participant from the audience to assist with the recipe. Buteau pitched in as well, cracking jokes and banter with Porowski throughout the demonstration, and everyone in the audience received the salads for their own taste test. Porowski finished up by showing the crowd how to make his version of a Bloody Mary.

After a brief intermission, and some more food including tacos, Porowski and Buteau returned to the stage for a Q&A with the audience.

One member of the audience asked what are some of the perks of having a platform to use their voice on issues they care about.

For Buteau, it was important for her to make a positive impact on someone’s day.

“As a woman of color I’m realizing now more than ever what a social media platform is for and what kind of good it can do. Whether it’s reminding people to vote or helping people do whatever that is. At the end of the day what I love is when people slide into my DMs and they’re like ‘I was having such a shit day. Thank you so much for just putting a smile on my face,’” Buteau said.

Porowski noted that his fame has caused him to look at speaking up on issues in a different way.

“For me I think the greatest perk is a forced education on a lot of topics. I tended to be more quiet and private about a lot of things. But with the current climate it makes it more and more challenging not to say anything,” Porowski said.

He also revealed his view on Pride celebrations changed after he was invited to Montreal Pride by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past summer. Porowski shared that despite growing up in Montreal he had never attended Pride.

“Pride was something that when I was in my first relationship with a guy I always stayed away from because I associated it with parties and a lot of excessive drug use. It wasn’t at all the way that I look at it now,” Porowski said.

After a fan from Poland reached out to him on social media thanking him for attending Pride because “it’s so nice to just see somebody who is able to celebrate freely,” Porowski says he felt like a “brat” about his previous views on Pride.

Now, Porowski encourages people to look for the positive things during the current political climate.

“What I still try to do is instead of focusing on all the negative that’s happening and going after He Who Shall Not Be Named [Trump] is focus on all the positive things that are happening because I think we still really need to remember that. It’s very easy to just fall in a hole of ‘What the fuck did he do today?’ and that becomes the new normal, that becomes acceptable. I think it’s important to remember that, we need to shed light on that, because with all the bad that’s going on there’s still a lot of good as well,” Porowski said.

It’s a sentiment that seemed to reflect throughout Bentzen Ball’s numerous comedy shows this weekend. Fellow “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness hosted three live shows of his “Getting Curious” podcast over the weekend including one conversation with Mara Keisling from the National Center for Trans Equality and another conversation with House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Brightest Young Things co-founder Svetlana Legetic told the Washington Blade the goal of the comedy weekend was to get people laughing but also mobilized for action.

“Bentzen Ball is supposed to be four days where you forget about everything but you leave energized to do something,” Legetic said. “You go there and see these people who are incredibly busy and doing all this stuff and they’ve taken the time, they really care, they’re really passionate. And people say ‘Yes, I’m going to vote. Yes, I’m going to say something. Yes, it’s hilarious but I am a 100 percent voting.’”

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PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying, and I’m able to use the some of the languages I speak. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. My being gay was never something I led with. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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Out & About

Orioles to host Pride night on June 27

Baltimore faces off against reigning World Series champion

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The Baltimore Orioles host the annual Pride night Thursday, June 27. (Washington Blade file photo by Kevin Majoros)

The Baltimore Orioles will host “LGBTQ+ Pride Night” on Thursday, June 27. There will be a live DJ at Legends Park before the 6:35 p.m. game against the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers.

The event, co-sponsored by the Washington Blade, will feature Pride-themed activities such as Pride face painting, a 360 photo booth, Pride temporary tattoos, and more. All these events will be in the Bullpen Picnic Area. In addition, the first 10,000 attendees receive a free Pride jersey.

For more details, visit the Orioles’ website

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