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Archive for January, 2012

Local Theater Spotlight: Shadowbox’s ‘Body Language’

Shadowbox is currently running their annual love-themed show for the Valentine’s Day season, this time taking a deeper look at what moves us externally. I finally got a chance to check out “Body Language” this past weekend after its Jan. 5 opening. The show was pretty amazing but not without a few missteps.

The show gets off to a slow start with a few misfires early on. A “Daddy’s Little Girl” sketch, starring David Whitehouse and Katy Psenicka as parents who discuss if their pre-pubescent daughter is ready for “the talk,” plays it a little too safe. The sketch “Unspoken Language” stars Jimmy Mak and Stacie Boord as a couple who meet at a silent film convention and dissolves into parody of the style. The tribute has a pretty interesting premise but lacks in execution.

There are also a few missteps with song choice in the first act. Brandon Anderson opens with a lackluster rendition of “Foxey Lady” by Jim Hendrix, while Julie Klein follows with a healthy belt during Bryan Adams’ “Run to You,” but the arrangement left me a bit cold.

Things take a sharp turn for the better once Stephanie Shull and Shadowbox band Bill Who? bring the house down with a goose-bumps-inducing rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Never Loved a Man,” and from then on the show just keeps soaring. Klein and the voice of Jimmie Mak show brilliant comedic timing in “Long Way Home,” a cleverly written sketch featuring Mak as a mouthy GPS system and Klein as a scorned woman reluctant to take its advice.

Act two gets even better with brilliant arrangements of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” and Prince’s pivotal hit “Purple Rain.” Co-band leader Jennifer Hahn and Boord are a perfect vocal match during their duet on “Velvet,” while “Rain” is transformed into a moving full cast choral ensemble. And they also get the chance to get it right when the go for another try at an “unspoken” sketch. “Battle Stations” stars JT Walker III and Boord as a feuding couple on a road trip using only popular tunes from the radio to play out their hilarious discourse.

Shadowbox definitely takes some risks this time around, most of which pay off in spades. There aren’t very many recurring characters, which shows amazing growth and the show builds on itself, getting better and better with each passing sketch. Take my advice and make room in both you and your love’s schedules for this one.

“Body Language” runs at Shadowbox Live (503 S. Front Street, Columbus) through March 3. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students/seniors. For more information visit www.shadowboxlive.org.

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Queer Film Spotlight: ‘Second Class Citizens’

Ryan James Yezak

I recently came across a really moving video on YouTube called “The Gay Rights Movement” (watch below). It was a beautifully crafted montage of news clips covering the gay civil rights movement from the 50’s to present. The video has gone viral and has been all over Facebook. But what has facinated me is the reason for the reason for the video.

If you haven’t heard of Ryan James Yezak you’ve probably seen his work, especially if you’re a gay YouTube junkie like myself. He’s a 25-year-old Los Angeles filmmaker from Houston that is responsible for a host of overly campy remakes of pop music videos that always go viral. Some of the one’s you may have seen are “California Gays” (remake of KatyPerry’s “California Girls”), Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” and, my favorite, “Only Gay in the World” (remake of Rihanna’s “Only Girl”). (Check out his YouTube channel for more videos.)

For his next project Yezak is ditching the shtick and going for serious with his first full-length feature. He’s putting together a documentary about discrimination in the gay community called “Second Class Citizens,” which he says will be his largest undertaking. The video below features his announcement of the project.

The video that is the topic of this post was his first steps towards promoting “Second Class Citizens” in any major way. And it’s paying off. “The Gay Rights Movement” is well passed 2 million views and it still gaining.

He’s also put out a video (watch below) asking for people to email him their stories of discrimination based on sexual orientation. He also started a Kickstarter campaign that has already raised more than $138,000. His initial goal was $50,000. You can email him at ryanyezak@gmail.com if you have story to share. He’s also started Facebook and Twitter pages for the film.

I am really excited for Ryan and this project, but not without reservation. Over the years he seems to have concentrated all his efforts on these gay remakes of music videos, which he’s become very good at, but I wonder if he’s able to create a serious documentary that our community can be proud of and that will really affect change.

If the Kickstarter campaign continues to bring in money like it has, he could come out with $300,o00 easy by his March 9th fundraiser deadline, which isn’t a lot in the film industry but is enough to make something substantial that’s well-produced. I just hope it works. I am rootin’ for him. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Local Theater Spotlight: ’33 Variations’ by Available Light Theatre

Josie Merkle as Dr. Katherine Brandt and Acacia Duncan as Clara Brandt in "33 Variations" by Available Light Theatre.

A Tony Award-winning script paired with an impeccable cast can turn any community theater performance into theatre gold. And that’s what Available Light Theatre has struck with their local premiere of Moisés Kaufman’s “33 Variations.”

Kaufman’s (who also wrote and directed “The Laramie Project”) 2009 Broadway hit offers an emotionally poignant peak into a successful academic’s deteriorating health as she tries to finish her life’s work, a last effort to discover the origin of Beethoven’s reasonings behind his most famous piece, “33 Variations.” Kaufman pairs the storyline with the story of Ludwig’s own deteriorating health as he created the popular renditions of the Anton Diabelli waltz from which the variation’s derived. Both stories intertwine and practically play out in unison, forming an intricate waltz all its own.

Director Elani Papaleonardos shows genius casting abilities for putting together the stellar ensemble. All of the actors fit their respective characters like a glove, a feat within itself when putting on any local production.

Josie Merkle has a slow start but quickly builds into the stern exterior of Dr. Katherine Brandt, a renowned musicologist who has spent much of her life ignoring her now-adult daughter (Acacia Duncan) for the pursuit of academic respectability. Duncan easily slips into Clara Brandt’s frustration and concern for her mother, hoping to cram a lifetime of connections into a few final months.

Matt Hermiz is a stunning Ludwig van Beethoven. He perfectly captures the thin line between genius and insanity as the iconic composer tries to create a masterpiece as his health and hearing fail him.

The supporting players are also at their best. Mike Clark as Clara’s affectionately nerdy nurse boyfriend Adam Humphrey; Emily Bach as Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger, Katherine’s Russian colleague and loyal friend to the bitter end; Nate Roderick as Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s servant and friend who has become known throughout history for misrepresenting some of facts in the composer’s story; and David Tull as the hilariously campy publisher and fellow composer Anton Diabelli, who couldn’t stop mentioning the fact that his work was the inspiration behind the variations.

Michelle Whited’s modern and period costumes were phenomenally apropos. Papaleonardos’ staging was equally impressive, a raised piano sits behind a backdrop on a stage modestly set with an oak table an a few chairs. This allows for some amazing pacing as the characters from each era weave amongst each other. Dave McMahon beautifully sails though the “33 Variations” throughout, the music becoming a cast member itself as it interacts with the action on stage. The stage is also often lit buy well-timed video projections off the main backdrop.

In a word this show was an Available Light masterpiece. I haven’t seen a top-to-bottom hit from AVLT since their masterful 2010 deconstruction of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” and it is indeed a pleasure no AVLT fan or local fan of theater should miss. My only major criticism is that the show was scheduled for a short run of only two weekends, one of which has already passed. So if you haven’t seen it, you’d better act fast.

Moisés Kaufman’s “33 Variations” by Available Light Theatre has only three shows left (Jan. 19, 20 & 21), showing in the Van Fleet Theatre of the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave., Columbus. Tickets are on the theater’s popular Pay What You Want system. Visit their “33 Variations” Web site for more information

What if Martin Luther King Jr. was gay?

This is a piece I wrote a few years ago during college that I often like to bring back around this time to highlight the “oppression by the oppressed” dynamic that’s unfortunately still very prevalent in the black community. 

I’ve often wondered, what if Martin Luther King had been gay?

What if after “Protestants and Catholics” he’d added “gay men and straight men?”

What if during that meeting with Johnson he’d mentioned Bayard Rustin?

What if he’d ever mentioned Bayard Rustin?

Told the world one of his best friends was gay?

And that he’d known all along?

And this gay man planned that famous march?

The march that broke the camel’s back?

A march that led to the beginning of our social freedom?

The march that led to Obama?

What if one of MLK’s adulterous affairs had been with a man?

What if they all had been?

What if Coretta had been Carl?

Or Cassius?

Or Calvin?

Would the black world still look on us with disdain?

Would the black church still “rebuke them demons?”

Would black leaders still show contempt when the gay rights movement is compared to the Civil Rights Movement?

Would they be “different?”

What makes the gay rights movement “different,” “less than,” “intolerable,” “disgusting,” “unnecessary?”

Is it because we choose?

Choose a lifestyle that attracts discrimination, bigotry, hate?

Are black rights better then the rights of Mexicans, Asians, the disabled?

Does slavery make our movement better?

Souldn’t it make it worse?

Do the many years of gay persecution not matter?

Stoning during Biblical times?

Beheading during the Middle Ages?

Imprisonment during the Renaissance?

Cop bashings since the ’20s?

Civilian bashings since forever?

Does everyone have to go through 300 years of persecution to deserve simple freedoms?

Aren’t we supposed to learn from history, instead of repeat it?

Aren’t we all heading towards the same goal?

Tolerance?

Equality?

Acceptance?

Queer Film Spotlight: ‘Private Romeo’ finally getting NYC premiere

I just received some exciting news directly from the team behind “Private Romeo,” last year’s breakout gay military twist on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” starring Matt Doyle (“War Horse”). They’re planning to finally release the film in a big New York City premiere Feb. 10-15 at the Cinema Village Theatre.

For those who don’t remember, “Private Romeo” is a film I excitedly wrote about back in February 2011 when it was creating early buzz with it’s eye-catching trailer. It is probably the first film to ever deal with gay young people and the military.

Here’s more from the film’s Web site:

Director Alan Brown and members of the cast will attend selected screenings opening weekend for audience Q&A’s.  Join us on Valentine’s Day for a special screening, raffle and prizes!  More news to follow.  Group rates available for all screenings at: $8/ticket for groups of 10-29; $6/ticket for groups of 30 and up.  Student Rate is $8 per ticket, with ID.  Purchase at box office one week before opening. Watch this site for more details, or go to CinemaVillage.com.

Check out the trailer below:

 

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Shrek the Musical’

Lukas Poost as Shrek, Andre Jordan as Donkey, and Liz Shivener as Princess Fiona in SHREK THE MUSICAL 2011 – 2012 national tour, photo by Joan Marcus

A big ugly ogre crooning about love while farting isn’t exactly what most would call high class theatrical art. But somehow that’s what was on display at Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street,Columbus) as “Shrek the Musical” rolls through town this week.

Well, maybe not high class, but definitely theatrical.

The bubbly and brightly cloaked cast romped through two and half hours of DreamWorks’ popular green creation. The book pretty much sticks to the first “Shrek” in the four-part movie franchise. Ogre meets girl. Ogre falls for girl. Girl to marry evil king. Ogre saves girl from evil king. Girl turns out to be an ogre. Beauty only skin deep message beat over your head. Story ends with catchy pop song.

If you’re a fan of “Shrek” you’ll love this show. If nothing else it’ll make you the “coolest guy ever” in the wide eyes of your 9-year-old nephew. And there’s more than a few well-placed jabs at theater favorites, from “Gypsy” and “Les Miserables” to “Wicked” and “Rent.”

Leading players Lukas Poost as Shrek and Liz Shivener (a Columbus native) as Princess Fiona are adorable enough. Shivener adds that sassy kick to Fiona, reminiscent of Cameron Diaz’s take on the role in the films. And Andre Jordan mostly dons the familiar annoying and slap-happy jabber that Donkey, Shrek’s self-titled sidekick, played by Eddie Murphy in the films. But the highlight for me is Merritt David Janes as the short and ultra campy Lord Farquaad. Janes performs a majority of the show on his knees (no pun intended) and his scene-stealing comedic timing garnered most of the night’s big laughs.

The flashy sets and costumes definitely do the job of keeping grade-schoolers intrigued, which makes sense as Tim Hatley’s costume designs were the show’s only Tony Award win, out of 8 nominations, in 2009. It also makes sense that the show isn’t the total disappointment that I was expecting. Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole,” “Good People”) is responsible for the show’s book and lyrics, while Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori Olivier (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) composed the music. And the tour is being directed by Stephen Sposito, Associate Director of the wildly successful recent revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Just imagine you’re watching the film play out live mixed with a host of catchy modern musical theatre numbers in the same style as “Legally Blonde” and “The Book of Mormon” and you’ve got “Shrek the Musical.”

“Shrek the Musical” runs Jan. 10-15 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street, Columbus). Tickets begin at $28, to purchase visit www.ticketmaster.com. For more on “Shrek the Musical” visit ShrektheMusicalonTour.com.

Ohio Senate planning to leave sexual orientation and gender identity out of new anti-bullying legislation

Equality Ohio just sent out the below blast on their listserv. Please read and ACT!

Ohio Senate To Leave Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Out Of New Anti-Bullying Legislation

Take Action Now!

CALL!  E-MAIL!  SIGN THE PETITION!

Tomorrow at 9:30am, the Ohio Senate Education Committee will hear testimony on House Bill 116, which is one of the bills Equality Ohio has been working on.  This bill is being considered tomorrow in a form with important provisions relating to training and cyber-bullying, but it DOES NOT INCLUDE enumeration of specific categories protected from bullying, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is very important that Ohio’s anti-bullying law enumerate specific categories.

  • 56% of surveyed teens in Ohio have been bullied based on their gender, disability, race or sexual orientation.
  • More than 9 in 10 LGBT students in Ohio report being bullied.
  • Research shows that where there are enumerated policies, there is less bullying and harassment than with generic policies.
  • Nearly 18% of Ohio students at schools with generic policies felt unsafe, while only 2% of students at schools with enumerated policies felt unsafe.
  • Students who attend schools with enumerated policies are harassed far less often for reasons such as their physical appearance, their sexual orientation or their gender expression and are less likely than other students to report a harassment problem at their schools.

Call Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner at 614.466.4538 or email her atSD06@senate.state.oh.us today, and tell her to include enumeration with sexual orientation, gender identity and other categories in HB116.  Senator Lehner voted for the Equal Housing and Employment Act in the House in the 2008-09 legislative sessions, and she is supportive of LGBT rights in many ways, so please keep the calls positive and supportive of this bill with enumeration.

Other committee members include:

Gayle Manning, Senator (R – Vice Chair) Phone: (614) 644-7613
Email: SD13@senate.state.oh.us

Tom Sawyer, Senator (D – Ranking Minority Member) Phone: (614) 466-7041
Email: SD28@senate.state.oh.us

Cliff Hite, Senator (R) Phone: (614) 466-8150
Email: SD01@senate.state.oh.us

Bill Beagle, Senator (R) Phone: (614) 466-6247
Email: SD05@senate.state.oh.us

Bill Coley, Senator (R) Phone: (614) 466-8072
Email: SD04@senate.state.oh.us

Larry Obhof, Senator (R) Phone: (614) 466-7505
Email: SD22@senate.state.oh.us

Joe Schiavoni, Senator (D) Phone: (614) 466-8285
Email: SD33@senate.state.oh.us

Shirley A. Smith, Senator (D) Phone: (614) 466-4857
Email: SD21@senate.state.oh.us

Change starts with you.  Make your voice heard for yourself and for our children all over the state.  Together, we can make Ohio schools safe!

Please also make a donation to Equality Ohio today so that we have the resources to advocate on behalf of the safe schools bills.

AND

Sign the Safe Schools Petition here