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Archive for March, 2012

Mass gay marriage makes history in Cleveland with over 2,000 wedding guests! [PHOTOS] [VIDEOS]

Photo by Vision Video Productions

The Ohio Street Protest for Full Equality took over yet another city in Ohio, this time invading Cleveland this past Saturday (March 24). (Check out this post and this post for details on similar protest last year.) But the protest did more than just disrupt traffic. It made history. After the rally on the steps of Cleveland’s City Hall, near Willard Park at the corner of 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue, participants marched down the street to the Galleria to witness a mass wedding featuring over 250 straight and gay couples. A first for the state, and made even the region.

It was also a historic day for me personally as it was my first pro-gay marriage/equality protest! It was definitely a life changing experience. I was the first speaker (introduced by rally MC Ed Mullen, director of Equality Ohio) and spoke about bullying on behalf of the It Gets Better Project and the Make it Better Foundation. I made a host of new friends (thanks Shannon Glatz, Liberty Manos and Tom Morgan!) and bonded with people from all over the state about issues that I’m passionate about.

It will definitely go down as one of the greatest days of my life. I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. In that moment in a crowd of 2,000 I felt like I could truly make a difference. I was a very powerful experience that I’ll never forget.

Several organizations came together to plan this amazing event including Equality Ohio, GetEQUAL, Freedom to Marry. And there were several amazing speakers including Captain Steve Snyder-Hill, who is the plaintiff, along with his partner, in a high profile DOMA case and the soldier who was booed at the Republican debate in September; former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, who is a leader of Freedom to Marry Ohio, which is collecting petitions to have gay marriage added to the 2013 ballot; and a surprise visit from former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy, a long time advocate for gay rights, she’s was just named the new CEO of Freedom to Marry Ohio.

Robert and Joyce Strommen

All the speeches were amazing, but I have my favorite was from Pastor Robert and Joyce Strommen (pictured above) who are a part of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats but were mainly there representing the Cleveland branch of PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays). They were an older couple who gave a tear-jerking speech about the importance of acceptance. I kept think about my own grandparents and parents and wishing they were as accepting as the Strommens.

The rally also garnered lots of press coverage. Check out videos from Cleveland’s local ABC, NBC and Fox news affiliates. and since I was there my journalism bug kicked in I took a few pictures and video (video #1, video #2) of my own.

Here are a couple amazing videos of Vision Video Productions. Overall I think they have the best coverage of the event that I’ve seen.

VVP has been posting video and photos of the event on their Facebook page all week. Here are the ones they’ve posted so far. You can continue to follow their videos on their YouTube page.

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Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’

Ty Forhan (Billy), Leah Hocking (Mrs. Wilkinson) and the cast of “Billy Elliot the Musical.” Photo by Kyle Froman

When hype typically surrounds a Broadway project most critics enter the theater prepared to be let down. By definition hype is the diabolically linked to expectation, and expectations rarely align with reality.

But sometimes something rare makes an appearance. “Billy Elliot the Musical” is rare.

The hype surrounding Elton John and Lee Hall’s 2005 Tony Award winner for Best Musical has been placed, as it should, on the role of the 11-year-old boy fighting against a social revolution swirling around him just to be who he truly is. A dancer. But the real beauty in “Elliot” is how it somehow captures the truth behind the depression and turmoil during the infamous miners’ strike of 1984 in North Eastern England, while still offering a compelling score.

Billy is a boy who recently lost his mother and is son to a father and brother both embroiled in the minors strike. Some may simply dismiss Billy’s family as over-masculine and misogynistic when they disapprove of Billy trading in his boxing gloves for a pair of ballet slippers, but it’s much more than that. This is a family who can barely put food on the table because they’ve decided to fight for what they believe in. When a boy says he wants to dance it’s as if he’s saying he cares nothing about their revolution, which is being fought in the name of their children.

Peter Darling’s award-winning choreography is the production’s true success. The ensembles’ movements are interweaved in the everyday lives of the mineworkers and the brutality of the police’s response to the strikers. One ballet lesson specifically sticks out, featuring the dance class dancing with the miners as they work.

Ty Forhan is utterly spectacular as Billy. How the directors found one boy, let alone four to embody the talent needed to carry this show is mind boggling. The pivotal scene where Billy realizes he can no longer deny who he is and his emotions explode into dance is Forhan at his most breathtaking.

Rich Hebert is also compelling as Billy’s father. Herbert peels back the layers of a man who is simply trying to take care of his family and cope with the death of his wife. In the end giving his son a better life than he’s had naturally leads to acceptance.

Leah Hocking offers comedic relief and few tear-jerking moments as Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy’s eccentric dance teacher. She’s at her best when she finds out her first star student has been accepted into The Royal Ballet School and will be leaving her. Struck by the emotions of departure, Hocking also perfectly delivers the sincerity of a woman who’s overjoyed she’s saved one child from having to grow up in the unrest spilling over the streets around them.

Jacob Zelonky is also a delight as Billy’s cross-dressing best friend Michael. I was personally happy to see that they took care to carry this part of the 2000 movie, on which the musical is based, over to the musical. They actually give him a full fledged show-stopping number, complete with full drag, backup dancers and sequined backdrop.

Ian MacNeil’s phenomenally intricate moving set plays almost like one of the dancers as beds, tables, fences and the like move on and off stage mostly by the actors. An extremely large ensemble (especially for a national tour) is draped in Nicky Gillibrand’s authentic depressive mid-‘80s era garb.

There have been many historic civil disputes put to music (“The Good War,” “Hairspray,” “The Civil War”). But too often the topic is watered down succumbing to a peppy score to keep the audience engaged. “Elliot” gives its audience a little more credit. It’s very reminiscent of “Les Miserables,” the definitive piece on the subject of musicals chronicling social unrest. When the show starts with the beginning of the miners strike, you witness a community on the verge of social mutiny. Much like the French Revolution, if depicted with the truth and resiliency of its depressive reality, you can’t help but to find a relative hit on your hands.

“Billy Elliot the Musical” runs through Sunday, March 25, at the Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad Street, Columbus. Tickets are $28-$78. For more information visit www.capa.com.

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Next Fall’ by CATCO/Phoenix

Actors (from left to right) Tim Simeone (Brandon), Ralph Scott (Butch), Anne Diehl (Arlene), Cole Simon (Luke), Jon Osbeck (Adam) and Ginna Hoben (Holly) appear in CATCO’s upcoming production of Next Fall. Photo credit: Dave Alkire.

Two gay men, one a staunch conservative Evangelical Christian the other a liberal atheist, fall in love. Hijinks ensue.

That’s the popular premise behind Geoffrey Nauffts’ 2010 Tony-nominated play “Next Fall,” but it’s a description that only scratches the surfaces of his 2 1/2-hour dramedy about the five-year relationship of a gay Manhattan couple.

Nauffts disguises a compelling and intricate deconstruction of the American belief system as a hearty sitcom replete with witty one-liners. Luke (Cole Simon) and Adam (Jon Osbeck) meet on a restaurant patio. Adam is trying to escape his prattling friends and Luke is the cute, younger waiter/”actor” that strikes up a conversation with the lonely older gentlemen. Soon sparks fly and later we see them enjoy breakfast together post-coitus. It’s here where Adam notices Luke praying over his food, and when Luke asks, “Is that a problem,” the true meat of our story begins.

But what makes the play so effecting is it doesn’t simply start with love. We begin in a hospital room five years after the restaurant meet cute, where Luke is fighting for his life after being in a life-threatening accident. Adam arrives to the hospital waiting room to Luke’s conservative parents (Anne Diehl and Ralph E. Scott), up for Florida, who Luke has yet to tell he’s gay. Adam and Luke have been together five years.

This better paints a picture of the palpable tensions Nauffts is playing with in “Next Fall,” and CATCO/Phoenix’s production—running through April 1 in Studio One of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street, Columbus—packs an emotional punch that can’t be missed.

Director Jimmy Bohr, from Ohio State University, has a assembled a refreshing cast of new and familiar faces.

Osbeck leads as Adam and impressively rides the wave of emotions his character embodies. Forced to always question his disbelief and racked with the guilt of never giving in to his partner’s one wish of salvation as he lies on his death bed. Osbeck pushes his character just far enough to show the true inner turmoil without becoming cliché.

Diehl and Scott, both local theater staples, are true pros as Luke’s Southern-accented parents. Scott is especially captivating as Luke’s intolerant father. He truly embodies the show’s antagonist, the backwoods  bigot who just won’t get a clue. But he does it with a vulnerability that makes you believe his commitment to political incorrectness. When he asks, “Was the nigger a fag?” during a pivotal scene with Simon, it stings and leaves a mark; as such a comment should.

Simon also shines as Luke, becoming a subtle scene-stealing force throughout the flashbacks that chronicle the couple’s relationship. Luke could have easily become as campy bundle of contradictions, but in Simon’s hands he becomes a realistic portrayal of the dichotomy forced upon many who choose to openly live life in their multiple truths.

Tim Simeone and Ginna Hoben are also impressive as supportive friends grappling with their own insecurities about faith while trying to mitigate the tensions between Adam and Luke’s parents.

Nauffts smartly and often beautifully weaves his thesis on the intricacies of faith and religion into a two-act docu-drama on the lives of two people who in most circles would be considered walking contradictions. It not only entertains while combating myths and stereotypes, but never takes sides, forcing to audience to take a moment and mentally catalogue their own belief systems.

CATCO/Phoenix presents “Next Fall” through April 1 in Studio One of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Tickets are $11 to $40. For more information visit www.catco.org

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ by Shadowbox Live

Shadowbox Live keeps stepping off their well-beaten path with each passing production and their latest offering, “Smoke & Mirrors” (running through May 5), is no exception.

Instead of focusing their spring showcase on cliched seasonal topics of tropical vacations and Spring Break, the sketch comedy/rock ‘n’ roll troupe took on the theme of mystery and illusion, even enlisting the help of popular Columbus illusionist Michael Kent. It’s a great idea that offers a few high points, but the follow through doesn’t always hit the mark.

The second act is much stronger than the first, offering as a highlight of the evening “Perplexity,” lifted from their Ballet Met collaboration “7 Deadly Sins.” Julie Klein and Stacie Boord’s strong vocals belt above dancers clad in medieval Phatom of the Opera garb. The routine features a superb  Renee Horton as a central ballerina being “puppeted” by Klein and Boord.

One of my favorite Shadowbox sketches, the radio sleuth spoof “Dr. Mystery” returns featuring a hilarious Robbie Nance as Vaudevillian. Klein and Boord also shine in the sketch “Political Figures of Speech,” where a political candidate (Boord) surprisingly wins over a crowd when her campaign manager (Klein) accidentally fills her speech with bedroom innuendo.

The first act sees a few misses including “Wizard of Pawns” a well staged but poorly executed satire mixing fairy tale characters with the show “Pawn Stars.” And the skit  “Genie Adviser” goes off the rails early, a cliched look at two typical chauvinistic males (Nance and Billy DePetro) who find a genie (Klein) and are offered three wishes.

Shadowbox house band BillWho? shines throughout the night. The Stephanie Shull-led “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is a delectable treat as is the three harmonied “Killer Queen,” featuring Boord, Amy Lay and Nikki Fagin.

“Smoke & Mirrors” is definitely a bit uneven artistically but this may be accounted for with the fact that the show opened during the run of their Stage 2 production “Torch Songs” and their popular run of the musical “Rent.” The show is definitely enjoyable, as are most nights at Shadowbox, but even Superman knew when he was wearing himself to thin.

“Smoke and Mirrors” runs through May 5 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front Street, Columbus. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. Fore more information visit.   

Local Theater Spotlight: Broadway in Columbus 2012-13 (BEST. SEASON. EVER.)

CAPA just released the Broadway Across America schedule for Columbus and I’m in total shock. The 2012-2013 season will be my fifth year covering the theater scene here in Columbus and this will definitely be the best yet. The list surprisingly features a host of very recent hits (“War Horse,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “American Idiot”), a couple crowd-pleasing Broadway blockbusters (“Wicked,”  “Beauty and the Beast”) and some of my favorite classics (“Les Miserables,” “White Christmas”).

Check out the full list below with descriptions courtesy of CAPA.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
October 9-14, 2012
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won over the hearts of more than 35 million people worldwide. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed on him by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. This timeless musical love story is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song.www.BeautyAndTheBeastOnTour.com

WHITE CHRISTMAS
November 20-25, 2012
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

The classic holiday movie White Christmas comes to the stage at last! This brand new musical shines with classic Berlin hits like “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean?” and of course, the unforgettable title song. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magicalVermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process. Full of dancing, laughter, and some of the greatest songs ever written, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas promises a merry and bright theatrical experience for the whole family! www.WhiteChristmastheMusical.com 

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
February 5-10, 2013
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Million Dollar Quartet is the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical inspired by the electrifying true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians were gathered together by Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll,” at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Matchbox,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog,” and more. www.MillionDollarQuartetLive.com 

AMERICAN IDIOT
March 19-24, 2013
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Direct from Broadway, the smash-hit musical American Idiot tells the story of three lifelong friends forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia. Based on Green Day’s Grammy® Award-winning, multi-platinum album and featuring the hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday,” and the blockbuster title track, American Idiot boldly takes the American musical where it’s never gone before. With direction by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening), choreography by Steven Hoggett (Black Watch), and orchestrations and arrangements by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), the result is an experience Charles Isherwood of The New York Times declares, “thrilling, emotionally charged, and as moving as any Broadway musical I’ve seen this year!” www.AmericanIdiotTheMusical.com

WAR HORSE
April 23-28, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

A remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship. England, 1914. As World War One begins, Joey, young Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped from England to France. He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary journey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home. This powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, is a show of phenomenal inventiveness that is currently playing to packed houses in London andNew York. At its heart are astonishing life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, that bring to life breathing, galloping, charging horses strong enough for men to ride. www.WarHorseOnStage.com

LES MISERABLES
May 14-19, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, LES MISÉRABLES, with glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo.  This new production has been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. The New York Times calls this LES MISÉRABLES “an unquestionably spectacular production from start to finish.” The London Times hails the new show “a five star hit, astonishingly powerful.”  The Star-Ledger says “a dynamically re-imagined hit.  This ‘LES MISÉRABLES’ has improved with age” and NY1-TV proclaims “this new production actually exceeds the original. The storytelling is clearer, the perspective grittier and the motivations more honest. Musical theatre fans can rejoice: ‘Les Miz’ is born again.” Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, LES MISÉRABLES is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit.  The magnificent score of LES MISÉRABLES includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master Of The House” and many more.

WICKED
June 5-23, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Back by “Popular” demand! Variety calls Wicked “a cultural phenomenon,” and when it last played Columbus in 2010, it broke box office records for attendance and sales. Winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, Wicked is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” (The New York Times). Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery, and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete – and completely satisfying – new musical in a long time” (USA Today). www.WickedTheMusical.com

Ohio Street Protest for Full Equality in Cleveland will feature historic mass gay wedding March 24

Equality Ohio and GetEQUAL Ohio are teaming up for the Ohio Street Protest for Full Equality taking over Cleveland March 24. This is the third rally of its kind, with average crowd of 400 taking over the downtowns of Cincinnati and Columbus late last year.

The protest’s organizers are expecting a slightly bigger turnout in Cleveland, since this time they’ll be staging a mass wedding featuring 200 couples, the first of it’s kind in Ohio. A rally highlighting speakers from both of the sponsoring organizations along with community leaders from around the state (including yours truly) will be followed by the biggest gay wedding Ohioans have ever seen.

Ed Mullen (Equality Ohio’s executive director) and Tom Morgan (director of GetEQUAL Ohio) both spoke to The Plain Dealer about the protest:

Rallies were held late last year in Columbus and Cincinnati, but Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, said this may be the first such event in the Midwest, featuring a mass wedding.

“The more people see what same-sex couples look like and who they are, it enables us to change people’s minds about stereotypes they might have about these couples,” he said.

Mullen noted that this “soft” approach to the issue was a deliberate way of showing how these couples view marriage as “a continuation of loving relationships, and committing yourself to be with someone for the rest of their life.”

He added, “It’s more effective than shouting through a bullhorn, ‘You’re oppressing us.’ If you don’t put people on the defensive from the outset, they might be more willing to listen and learn.”

He believed this rally and similar public events such as the 2014 Gay Games in Northeast Ohio could change attitudes about the gay community and provide “the ability to get the civil rights that we do not have in Ohio.”

Tom Morgan, state lead organizer for GetEQUAL Ohio, said, “Everyone knows they’re not really getting married. This is a tangible representation of the rights we are not afforded, a physical demonstration of the state of inequality in the country and within Ohio.”

Morgan said part of the event also will include collecting signatures on petitions to legally re-define marriage in Ohio.

The protest is set to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Willard Park located on E. 9th Street and Lakeside Ave. Over 2,400 people have RSVP’d on Facebook. I hope you all can join us, it’s going to be a great day for equality!

The Other Side: Multicultural Gay Love – Showing the World How to Make Love Work

I’ve been commissioned by Outlook Columbus, Central Ohio’s premiere lgbt publication, to write a new monthly column titled “The Other Side” that will offer stories and detailed analysis about the plights faced by gay people of color. I’ll be posting an excerpt from the story here each month with a link to the full story on Outlook’s Web site. Please support those who support us! 

Tommy & Arend

“A tiny all-white church in the rural South has voted to ban interracial couples from joining its flock, pitting members against each other in an argument over race. Members at the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Kentucky voted Sunday on the resolution, which says the church ‘does not condone interracial marriage.’”

When do you think the Associated Press printed the above story? 1952? 1975? How about 1986? Nope. It was December 1, 2011. Just four days after the story surfaced it was reported that the pastor declared the vote null and void because “the vote was not only discriminatory, but it was against the law.”

As someone who grew up in predominately white, rural Delaware, Ohio, I’m well aware of the fact that racism is still alive and well in America, but I was still taken aback by this story. The landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia declared interracial marriage legal nearly 45 years ago in 1967, yet the jury of public opinion still seems to be out on this issue.

This led to me to ask, what about gay multicultural relationships? Racial disparity is definitely still a major issue within the LGBT community. As a black, gay male I definitely feel the sting of double discrimination on occasion. But are couples in multicultural gay relationships dealing with a “triple layer” of injustice?

I’m in a new relationship myself with someone of a different race, so personal curiosity paired with a professional propensity toward analyzing social trends led me on a quest to search out gay couples in such situations to see how they navigated the world of multicultural love.

Finish this article over at OutlookColumbus.com