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Sydney WorldPride is planning a celebration like no other

WorldPride is heading Down Under in 2023.

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Miss Ellaneous (Ben Graetz) welcomes guests to Sydney WorldPride, kicking off Feb. 17, 2023. Photo: Anna Kucera

WorldPride is heading Down Under in 2023. Sydney, Australia, has been named the official location for WorldPride next year, and the cosmopolitan city is planning to go all-out to welcome LGBTQ+ guests from all over the world.

Consistently named one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries in the world, Sydney has 17 days of events and activities planned for Sydney WorldPride, with an expected attendance of half a million revelers. Whether you are looking to dance into the wee hours, experience art and culture or simply be yourself with 500,000 of your closest friends, there is something at Sydney WorldPride for everyone to explore. 

According to Kate Wickett, Chief Executive of Sydney WorldPride, “Sydney’s streets will be alive as thousands of people come together to celebrate the global LGBTQIA+ reunion the world has been waiting for.”

1,000 people gathered to create a giant human Progress flag in honor of the upcoming Sydney WorldPride celebration in 2023. Photo: Daniel Boud

Events

With multiple events happening daily during Sydney WorldPride, here are some standouts.

The Human Rights Conference (March 1-3) is considered the centerpiece of WorldPride, and will focus on “global, regional and domestic human rights issues facing people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and variations in sex characteristics.” Tickets are available now and speakers include Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Kenita Placide, Senator Sarah McBride and director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, Yanzi Peng. It’s expected to be the largest LGBTQIA+ human rights conference ever held in the Asia-Pacific region.

First Nations Gathering Space will be held at Carriageworks and take place over six nights (Feb. 23–28 ). There will be free exhibits to explore, plus theater experiences, dining and drag shows.

Mardi Gras Parade (Feb. 25) is the largest event of Sydney WorldPride and will celebrate Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ 45th anniversary. Expect to see 12,500 marchers and over 200 floats travel down Oxford Street for the first time since 2020.

Domain Dance Party (Feb. 26) will be the largest circuit party in Australian history. The seven-hour party will include sets from international DJs, dancers and surprise guests. 

Ultra Violet (March 3) celebrates the women of WorldPride with an event curated by DJs and producers Sveta Gilerman and Jess Hill. Not just a dance party, Ultra Violet will also feature burlesque, performance art, visual art, cabaret and drag king performances.

Rainbow Republic (March 5) closes out WorldPride with a day full of DJ sets and live performances from artists including Muna, G Flip, Peach PRC, Alter Boy and BVT. The party will be hosted by actor/musician Keiynan Lonsdale (“Love Simon”).

In addition to official events, there are dozens of Pride Amplified events, from drag brunches to networking events and niche parties.

How to get to Sydney WorldPride

Events for Sydney WorldPride are already beginning to sell out, so if you want to join the celebration, you’ll want to book your tickets sooner rather than later. You might even be able to score a special Pride flight on Qantas out of Los Angeles.

Sydney WorldPride is working with approved travel providers to ensure guests are getting access to genuine WorldPride event tickets. Guests can bundle their World Pride and flight/accommodations with these approved vendors.

If you are traveling from the U.S., check out the following vendors:

Down Under Answers

Goway

Out of Office

Planetdwellers

Guests from other parts of the world, visit sydneyworldpride.com/travel-providers to see what vendors are recommended. And don’t forget your valid passport!

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Photos

PHOTOS: Cupid’s Undie Run

Scantily-clad joggers face freezing temperatures for a cause

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Cupid's Undie Run was held at The Wharf DC on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Cupid’s Undie Run, an annual fundraiser for neurofibromatosis (NF) research, was held at Union Stage and at The Wharf DC on Saturday, Feb. 17.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Photos

PHOTOS: Queen of Hearts

Katie D. Lite was crowned the winner of 42nd annual drag pageant

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Katie D. Lite was crowned the Queen of Hearts. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 42nd annual Queen of Hearts pageant was held at The Lodge in Boonsboro, Md. on Friday, Feb. 16. Eight contestants vied for the title. Katie D. Lite was crowned the winner.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Deaf, gay actor on gripping, funny ‘Private Jones’

Musical makes premiere at Signature with Obie winner Dickie Drew Hearts

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Dickie Drew Hearts (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

‘Private Jones’
Through March 10
Signature Theatre 
4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, Virginia 22206
$40-$99 
Sigtheatre.org

Set against the harsh vicissitudes of the Great War, “Private Jones” a new musical written and directed by Marshall Pailet, is currently making its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington. 

Touted as gripping, unexpectedly funny, and purportedly true, it’s the story of Gomer Jones, a young Deaf Welshman who after wriggling his way into military service becomes a celebrated sniper only to learn there might be more to life. 

The production features a cast of hearing, Deaf, and hard-of-hearing actors including Dickie Drew Hearts, the Deaf, gay, and affable actor who recently won an Obie Award for “Dark Disabled Stories” at the Public in New York, and is probably best known for his performance of Mateo in Netflix’s “Tales of the City” (2019 miniseries).

Gathered around the end of a long conference table in the Sondheim Multipurpose Room at Signature Theatre, Hearts and I along with two top notch interpreters (one to sign my questions and another to voice the actor’s replies) dive into conversation. 

Hearts plays Henry, a Deaf munitions factory worker whose sister Gwenolyn (Leanne Antonio) becomes the love interest of Gomer (played by hard-of-hearing actor Johnny Link). It’s Henry who teaches Gomer sign language and essentially introduces him to Deaf culture, which isn’t unusual, says Hearts. It’s often through other Deaf people that the Deaf themselves get introduced to the Deaf community and signing world.

When the actors met in 2018, says Hearts, “Johnny [Link] was just learning sign language. I assured him that those who are hard-of-hearing are automatically very welcome members of the deaf community. Point blank. There are no qualifications.”

And now, six years later, Hearts is thrilled to be working with Link. “It’s amazing to see Johnny again, and to be having full conversations with him in sign language both on and off stage.” 

Not only is “Private Jones” a physically demanding show, but because it’s performed in spoken English as well as some American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) it presents some extra difficulties.

To play Henry, Hearts – a native ASL user since childhood – has had to learn BSL, tantamount to doing the show in an entirely new and different language. Hearts says, “I hope people recognize that. And signing along musically in BSL adds a layer of challenge beyond signing BSL dialogue.” 

Of course, he remains undaunted. It’s about the job and getting the character right. And for the thirtysomething actor that means going deep.  

“I would like to think Henry is a closeted gay man. Henry has ‘a roommate,’ is how I thought of his backstory.”

Hearts adds, “I know that queer people have always been here and I like to infuse that into the characters I play whether or not it’s stated. I look for those moments of where it might be hinting at sexuality, and ask what was it like at the time, was it safe to be out?”

Born Deaf in Queens, New York, into a hearing family who’d recently immigrated from formerly British Guyana in South America, Hearts grew up in Newport News, Va. 

A childhood spent watching captioned TV shows taught him both English and how to impersonate characters, an obsession that he took out into the neighborhood. “Eventually, somebody said there’s a thing for what I do. It’s called theater,” he signs with a grin. 

While attending Gallaudet University here in D.C., Hearts focused on film until his senior year when he randomly auditioned for the musical comedy “Urinetown” and landed the lead role of dashing Bobby Strong. A love for acting resurfaced and took hold. 

After graduating, Hearts came out and promptly moved to L.A. where he spent the next six years skirmishing over a dearth of Deaf parts. When a gig led him to New York in 2018, his luck changed. 

“Being a Deaf, gay, BIPOC actor was amazing for finding stage and film work in New York. But just when a lot of doors were opening for me, the pandemic hit and everything stopped.” 

Slowly things picked up. And in 2021 he became part of a new project. He was soon reporting to a nondescript high rise in midtown Manhattan workshopping what would become “Private Jones.” 

Now at Signature, Hearts is busy bringing Henry to life. “It’s been an amazing journey and I’m really fortunate to have witnessed its evolution from the beginning. It’s become grander, more elevated, and the characters more complex. It’s a wonderful thing” 

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