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Pride events in New York, Pgh., Philly and more run thru June and beyond

Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Todrick Hall and Whoopi booked for N.Y. events

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regional prides, gay news, Washington Blade
Todrick Hall, who’ll be at Capital Pride this weekend, is also slated to appear at New York Pride later in the month. (File photo courtesy Howard Theatre)

Excitement is in the air as communities through the greater D.C. area celebrate Stonewall’s 50th anniversary with Pride events, many for the first time. 

New York City will host the largest celebration with World Pride events spanning the entire month. The opening ceremony is June 26 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (620 Atlantic Ave.) from 7-10 p.m. and is hosted by Whoopi Goldberg with performances by Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Chaka Khan, Ciara, Daya and Todrick Hall. Tickets range from $45-226. Rally: Stonewall 50 Commemoration is June 28, 6-9 p.m. at Christopher St. and Waverly Place and is a free event. Youth Pride is June 29, 12-6 p.m. at SummerStage, Central Park (5th Avenue at 69th St.) and admission is free for under 21, but registration is required. The VIP Rooftop Party is June 29, 2-10 p.m. at The Park (118 10th Ave.). Tickets start at $100. PrideFest is June 30, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at 4th Ave. between Union Square and Astor. Admission is free. The closing ceremony is June 20 in Times Square from 7-10 p.m. The event is free but registration is required. Margaret Cho is the host with performances by Melissa Etheridge, Jake Shears, MNEK, Deborah Cox and others to be announced. For more tickets and information, visit 2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org.

Pittsburgh Pride runs June 6-9 and this year’s theme is “We are One.” Events begin June 6 at 8 p.m. with the Wheels & Heels drag show at Video Lounge & Cafe (5801 Ellsworth Ave.) hosted by Lola LeCroix and staring Sharon Needles, Dixie Surewood, Daniel Vasquez and Anna Steezia. The event is free, but every dollar tipped to a queen will be matched by a Lyft donation to Proud Haven Pittsburgh. June 7-8 is Pride Rocks PGH with headliners Walk the Moon and Toni Braxton. Tickets start at $39. PrideFest is June 8, at noon to June 9, at 7 p.m. The festival includes vendors, three stages and free STI and HIV testing. Admission is free. June 9 is the Equality March from 12:30-2:30 p.m. from Blvd of the Allies to Liberty Ave. June 28 at 6 p.m. is NYC to PGH: 50 Years After Stonewall, a commemorative celebration unveiling a permanent art installation at the intersection of Ellsworth and Maryland streets, and July 7 is Pride Day at the Pirates and Tailgate. Game time is 1:35 p.m. and tickets are $30. Visit pitsburghpride.org for more information. 

Philly Pride is June 9 starting at 11 a.m. with a kick-off party June 7 from 6-10 p.m. at 12th and Locust streets. The parade begins June 9 at 13th and Locust and ends at the festival location at the Grand Plaza of Penn’s Landing. Refreshments, food, amusements and wristbands for the festival are $10 June 7 and $15 June 9. More information and local Stonewall-related history is at phillygaypride.org

The inaugural Annapolis Pride Parade and Festival is June 29. The parade runs from noon-12:45 p.m. from Amos Garrett to Calvert street, and the festival is from noon-5 p.m. between Calvert street and Church Circle. Planned is a family-friendly event with vendors, children’s activities and entertainment from local artists and DJs. More information is available at annapolispride.org

Howard County, Maryland will also host its first Pride celebration June 29 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Centennial Park in Elliott City. Its kick-off event is June 28 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Carroll Baldwin Community Hall (9035 Baltimore Street, Savage, Md.) and will be filled with food, fun and a friendly atmosphere. For more information visit howardcountypride.org

Eastern Panhandle Pride is June 28-29 in Shepherdstown, West Va. June 28, starting at 5 p.m., is the Pride Pub Crawl supporting local businesses and June 29 from 11-4 p.m. is the North King street fair featuring vendors, artisans, nonprofits and a poetry walk. June 29 is also a dance party/drag show from 8 p.m.-midnight at the War Memorial building (102 E. German St.) honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Visit eppridewv.com for details. 

Hampton Roads Pride in Norfolk, Va., begins with a block party June 21 and culminates in PrideFest on June 22 in Norfolk’s Town Point Park. June 22 is also the ninth annual PrideFest boat parade. Locals and visitors can board the ship American Rover for “Out on the Boat,” a two-hour cruise on the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads Harbor. There will be a DJ on Board as well as a Gourmet Gang lunch and drinks available for purchase. For more information visit hamptonroadspride.org.

Frederick Pride is June 22 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Carroll Creek Linear Park in downtown Frederick, Md. The event is organized by The Frederick Center, which is dedicated to support, educate, link and provide outreach to the LGBT community of central Maryland. This is the city’s eighth annual event and admission is free. More information is available at frederickpride.org

More Pride celebrations occur later in the year. 

Hagerstown Pride, “Love Grows,” is July 13 from 11:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. At this time their plans have not been finalized but will be posted soon at hagerstownhopesmd.org.

The Miss Shenandoah Vally Pride Pageant is July 13 from 7-11 p.m. at the Court Square Theater (41 Court Sq., Harrisonburg, Va.) is also the  hosted by the Shenandoah Vally Pride Alliance. Tickets are $7. The Shenandoah Valley Pride Festival is Sept. 21 at 80 Court Square in Harrisonburg, Va. For more information, look for the event on Facebook. 

The 27th annual Pride Festival of Central Pa. is July 27 at the Soldier’s Grove Memorial Park, Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, Pa. The event runs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and the suggested admission donation is $10. The headliner is Aja, a nonbinary queer artist and performer who brings the art of drag into the masculine-dominated world of hip-hop and had a breakout performance on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Visit centralpapridefestival.com for more details. 

VA PrideFest 2019 is a free and family-friendly event scheduled for Sept. 28 at Browns Island in Richmond, Va. Vendor registration is currently open and more details will be posted as they are available on vapride.org

The Northern Virginia Pride Festival festival will be at Bull Run Regional Park (7700 Bull Run Drive, Centerville, Va.) Sept. 28 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. According to virginia.org, Northern Virginia has a large and steadily growing LGBTQ population and event organizers felt a need to recognize this sizable community. While this year’s event is still in the works, their website notes entertainers from previous years to include local singers, bands, comedians and drag performers are excited to return for another year. Check virginia.org soon for details. 

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Arts & Entertainment

After COVID hiatus, John Waters resumes touring schedule

‘Every single thing is different after COVID’

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John Watersis on the road again. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For the first time in nearly two years, writer and filmmaker John Waters will be appearing on stage this fall before live audiences in the Baltimore-Washington area, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Waters, who lives in Baltimore, is scheduled to bring his spoken-word holiday show, “A John Waters Christmas,” to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 15, and Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 21. He’ll also be at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and The Vermont Hollywood on Dec. 2.

Waters’ holiday shows were cancelled in 2020 due to the theater closings and travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some book signings for fans were converted to Zoom sessions. He last toured the country in November and December of 2019.

This year, with vaccinations on the rise, Waters has made a few in-person appearances, including a concert with gay country crooner Orville Peck in Colorado in July, where he was “special guest host”; a Q&A session with fans in Provincetown in August and a music festival last weekend in Oakland, Calif. He’s scheduled to visit another 18 cities between now and the end of the year, including a weekend in Wroclaw, Poland, where he’ll be honored during the American Film Festival there in November.

Waters said he has completely rewritten his spoken-word shows to reflect changes brought about by the COVID pandemic. “I haven’t done it in a year and a half,” he said in an interview with Town & Country magazine. “Every single thing is different after COVID. You cannot do the same show. Nothing’s the same.”

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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