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Songwriter Diane Warren honored at DIVAS Simply Singing gala to benefit Project Angel Food

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DIVAS founder Sheryl Lee Ralph and honoree Diane Warren at DIVAS Simply Singing 2019 (Image courtesy DIVAS, photo credit: Faye Sadou/MediaPunch)

On December 1, DIVAS 2019 was thrilled to honor Grammy, Golden Globe, Emmy winning, and 10-time Oscar nominee, legendary songwriter Diane Warrenwith the DIVAS Legacy Award.

The presentation took place at the 29th Annual DIVAS Simply Singing, an event featuring spectacular performances of Warren’s many hits. Simply Singing is the longest-running musical benefit of its kind in the country, and this year’s beneficiary was Project Angel Food.

The evening was a star-studded occasion, with guests that included honoree Diane Warren, Broadway legend Sheryl Lee Ralph (Founder of DIVAS), Deborah Cox (Singer), Shanice (Singer/Songwriter), Rhonda Ross (singer, songwriter, speaker, and actress), Kathy Sledge (Recording Artist), Mary Jo Catlett (actress, “Spongebob Squarepants”), Brandon Victor Dixon (actor/producer), Terrell Carter (“Empire”), Brandy (Singer/songwriter), Elaine Gibbs (“The X Factor”), Frankie Grande (Dancer), Shangela (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Lisa Raye McCoy (“Murder In The Thirst”), and many more.      

The DIVA Foundation (acronym for Divinely Inspired, Victoriously Aware) is a nonprofit 501c (3) charitable organization, founded by Sheryl Lee Ralph in 1990 as a memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS while in the original Broadway company of “Dreamgirls.” The organization focuses on generating resources and coordinating activities to create awareness of and combat against HIV/AIDS. The DIVA Foundation utilizes music and entertainment as a vehicle to inform, educate and erase the stigma still attached to this disease. In 2005, Sheryl Lee Ralph and the DIVA Foundation received the first Red Ribbon Leadership Award at the United Nations on World AIDS Day for the unique use of the arts in fighting HIV/AIDS.

The DIVA Foundation is celebrating 29 years of committed service to community health awareness.

Since its inception thirty years ago, Project Angel Food has prepared and delivered 12 million meals – currently 15,000 per week – free of charge to men, women and children living with critical illnesses. Project Angel Food has expanded its initial mission from serving people living with HIV/AIDS to include medically tailored meals, prepared by the staff and volunteers, for those combatting cancer, kidney failure, diabetes and congestive heart disease. The mission has always remained intact, to feed and nourish the sick, by delivering healthy nutritious meals throughout 4,400 square miles of Los Angeles County. More than 98% of Project Angel Food clients are living at or below the poverty level, and Project Angel Food is their lifeline, filling a vital need in all communities. The client demographics are a testimony to this, 38% Latino, 27% African American, 24% Caucasian, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 1% Native American and 4% Multicultural.

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Theater

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ an irreverent romp at Woolly Mammoth

Solo performance by John Jarboe offers much to consume

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John Jarboe in ‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’
Though June 23
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St., N.W.
$60-$82
Woollymammoth.net

With “Rose: You Are Who You Eat,” a solo performance by John Jarboe (she/her), now at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, there’s a lot to uncover and consume.  

For much of the show, the appealing Jarboe comes across as a cute cis gay guy playing dress up in a pair of tighty-whities and sparkly go-go boots, but it’s something else and she’s ready to go there. 

Jarboe is a cannibal. Not in the usual sense. She learned from a well-meaning aunt that while still in the womb, she ate her twin, and that’s what made Jarboe the way she is (a reference to gender queerness).

Despite the aunt’s awkward delivery of family dish, the prenatal news struck a chord with Jarboe: the vanishing twin who would have been named Rose, became increasingly connected to her own identity. Along with the inevitable jokes about eating her sister’s spaghetti thin hair and tasty eyeballs, there’s meaty matter unfolding onstage. 

Not entirely unexpected, Jarboe also harbors mommy issues. Mom, here referred to as “Mother” for the sake of anonymity, is a buttoned-down tax accountant who the more perturbed she becomes the wider her forced smile grows. And while Jarboe needs to have that long overdue talk with Mother, something always seems to get in the way; invariably it’s tax season.

Assisted by some primary source props (a baby book, notes, a string of pearls filched from Mother’s jewelry box), Jarboe further digs into gender expression and identity. Her performance career began in her child bedroom closet with a flashlight and makeshift costume, an obsession to which her parents initially subscribed, later not as much. 

Among the 75-minute-long show’s highlights are five or so songs, rock numbers and redolent ballads composed by Jarboe, Emily Bate, Daniel de Jesús, Pax Ressler and Be Steadwell. 

It’s definitely a solo show conceived and delightfully performed by Jarboe; however, she’s supported by a terrific four-person band (costumed in what appeared from Row D to be rosebush inspired jumpsuits) including Mel Regn, Yifan Huang, Daniel de Jesús, and music director Emily Bate. Bate is a singer, composer and performer who runs a queer and trans community chorus in Philadelphia called Trust Your Moves, an experiment in collective singing designed around liberation and co-creation.

As Jarboe moves into her 30s, she celebrates and incorporates her lost twin as part of herself with a new intensity. She writes letters, yearning for even the most tepid reply. Her obsession with Mother remains a thing too.

Dressed in a sylphlike rosy red gown (by costume designer Rebecca Kanach) Jarboe uses call-and-response (with the audience standing in for Mother) in search of some resolution. It’s beautifully done. 

With various kinds of backing coming from CulturalDC, the Washington Blade, Capital Pride, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and other New York-based groups, there’s nothing itinerant cabaret looking about “Rose.” Directed by MK Tuomanen, it’s an elevated, visually engaging production. 

For instance, set and video designer Christopher Ash’s projections shown on both a serviceable scrim and later a wondrously huge toile curtain, beautifully feature photos from an ostensibly idyllic Midwestern childhood. We see a young Jarboe not only enjoying hockey, fishing, and hunting, but also pulling off a strikingly girly, cheesecake pose.  

At the top of the show, there’s live video of Jarboe’s outsized mouth devouring wings fished from a bucket of fried chicken. Hints of cannibalism? 

“Rose: You Are Who You Eat” is an irreverent romp, deeply personal yet relatable. It’s an evening of poignantly performed moments, off the cuff laughs, and some awkward/sexy audience interaction. 

As a performer, Jarboe lays herself bare, exposing strengths (rich melodious voice, presence, ingenuity) and weaknesses (garrulity and more than a few un-landed jokes) in equal turns. 

Hers is a world that invites audiences to just let go and go with it. Jarboe’s intrepid journey melds the familiar and the startling. In short, it’s a trip worth taking. 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Capital Pride Festival and Concert

Keke Palmer, Billy Porter among entertainers

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Billy Porter performs at the 2024 Capital Pride Festival on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 Capital Pride Festival and Concert was held along Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest D.C. on Sunday, June 9. Performers included Sapphira Cristál, Keke Palmer, Ava Max, Billy Porter and Exposé.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna)

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Out & About

Get ready for Baltimore Pride

Events scheduled throughout weekend

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Baltimore Pride Parade (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Pride begins this weekend on Friday, June 14 in the heart of the city.

There will be a variety of events, the main ones being Mt. Vernon Pride on June 14 at 2 p.m. on the 200 Block of W. Read St., the Parade and Block Party on Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m. on N. Charles St., and Pride in the Park on Sunday, June 15 at 3 p.m. at Druid Hill Park.

For more event details, visit Baltimore Pride’s website

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