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Archive for April, 2012

Queer Minded #6: Ohio Gay Marriage Petition Pt. 1

Queer Minded is a new online talk radio show that I host featuring local and national LGBT news and entertainment. Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. and podcasted at TalktainmentRadio.com! Visit Queer Minded on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Ed Mullen, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, talks about the organization’s issues with the Freedom to Marry Ohio gay marriage ballot initiative and why they chose to publicly air their grievances with the petition that’s currently circulating around Ohio.

Local writer Malcolm Varner also discusses his new book “Creating Positive Ripples: 100 Messages of Encouragement” and our Guest Host Stephanie Hnidka gives us the latest and hottest in local music news.

Next Ian James from Freedom to Marry will join us with an update on the petition and their response to Equality Ohio’s statements.

Listen at the link below!

http://www.talktainmentradio.com/podcasts/042312%20Queer%20Minded.mp3

Queer Film Spotlight: ‘Bully’

Imagine being an 11-year-old pallbearer at your best friend’s funeral.

This is just one of the many tear-jerking moments in Lee Hirsch’s popular and controversial film “Bully,” currently receiving a limited release in theaters nationwide, which I finally got the chance to see during a special screening held by Drexel Theater and Stonewall Columbus tonight .

Watching this film was one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my life. (Which I think is actually one of the film’s detriments. More on that later.)

I do think every student, teacher and parent in America should be required to watch this film. Every administrator who says “kids will be kids” needs to watch this film. Every principal who’s uttered the words “we don’t have a bullying problem at my school” should be required to watch this film. At the beginning of each school, year junior high and high schools should be mandated to hold a school-wide assembly that screens this film.

I had such a very strong emotional reaction to “Bully.” I kept seeing myself in each of the kids that were featured. Alex, 12, being chastised by his father for not sticking up for himself, when he knows deep down there’s nothing he can do to stop the kids from picking on him, though he wishes it with all his might. Kelby, 16, coming to the realization that if it wasn’t for the love and support of her close group of friends she’s not sure she would be strong enough to deal with the bigotry.

These are not only scenes from the film but personal flashbacks from my youth, growing up a gay preacher’s kid in small town Delaware, Ohio. This is the power behind “Bully.” it instantly connects with any audience. Everyone has been bullied in some capacity in their life.

That being said, “Bully” isn’t without it’s flaws.

I thought it spent to much time on the “shock value” and not enough time on how we can end the bullying epidemic. Where was the call to action?

I’m still debating how I feel about the intimate details shown of 11-year-old Ty Smalley’s funeral. On one hand I think it was gratuitous and distasteful. But on the other hand, it kind of reminded me of Emmett Till. (I know this opinion is going to get me in some trouble.)

Obviously the circumstances of each situation are completely different, but Emmett Till’s mother made it very clear that she wanted an open casket and the press present at her son’s funeral so that the world could see the brutalization, in hopes it would save another child for the same fate. I can’t help but compare this with Ty Smalley’s grieving parents.

Maybe seeing the devastation faced by parents whose son committed suicide, in part, due to bullying, will make a student think twice before saying something vile about another student just because they can, or may make a parent pay closer attention to whether their kid is the bully or the bullied and start taking the proper steps to address the issues therein, or it could force a administrator to start looking at bullying in their schools are little more closely. Maybe.

But in the end, despite it’s flaws, “Bully” is a powerful experience that can’t be missed.

Watch the trailer below:

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Titanic the Musical’

The world is all abuzz about Titanic. The 100th anniversary has spawned a re-release of James Cameron’s famous film, a multitude of televised and printed tributes, and a remake of the voyage itself, complete with a replica boat that traveled the exact same route. (Talk about karma waiting to happen.)

SoColumbus, of course, couldn’t get away from the hype. Curtain Players’ staging of “Titanic the Musical,” running through April 29 at the troupe’s Playhouse inGalena, has sold out EVERY production. (One seasoned local thespian sitting near me put it best, “Getting a ticket to this show was like winning Willy Wonka’s golden ticket!”)

Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s ode lit up Broadway, winning five Tony’s, including Best Musical, in 1997, the same year as Cameron’s film. But I’m having trouble understanding why.

Curtain Players’ production is phenomenal (more on that later). But the book and music left me flat. The script is in the same vein as “Anything Goes” with the musical stylings of “Phantom of the Opera,” but doesn’t quite live up to those classics. The show is riddled with clichés and stunted character development. It’s fun, but not exactly phenomenal.

Despite my misgivings about the show’s original artistic integrity, director April Olt pulls out all the stops, adding a plethora of the necessary bells and whistles for this local blockbuster.

Having to guide more than 40 actors makes the task of putting this show together much like captaining the Titanic, and it looks like Olt handles it with ease. Every inch of the small Galena Playhosue is put to use. Boat staff climb ladders on the walls, people are singing from the balcony and the aisle ways are constantly filled with performers.

Cleverly built moving set pieces (also designed by Olt) transform the stage from deck to captain’s quarters to dining room and back again. But the bank could’ve easily been broken with the intricate costumes donned by each of the entire cast. Debbie Hamrick, of Debbie’s Costume Shop, adds striking nuance to the period aesthetic for the ship’s first class, second class and third class passengers.

I was also thoroughly surprised by the talent. There wasn’t a single off vocal throughout the night. A hefty task when dealing with that many voices. Most noteworthy are the show’s leading men. Jay Rittberger, Doug Browell and Randy Benge (as designer, owner and captain respectively) are phenomenal, especially during high-charged “The Blame” once it’s realized the ship is lost. But this was truly an ensemble show. The harmonies during “Godspeed Titanic,” “Lady’s Maid” and “We’ll Meet Tomorrow” are goose-bump inducing.

I have to admit, I did get a bit teary towards the end as the ship was going down and women and children were literally being ripped from the arms of the men, but this is more a credit to the cast’s amazing acting chops, rather than anything done by Yeston and Stone.

You should definitely go see “Titanic the Musical” (if you can get a ticket!), but because it’s a tribute to what the amazing theater talent Central Ohio has to offer, not because you’re suffering from Titanic Mania.

“Titanic the Musical” runs through April 29 at the Curtain Players Playhouse in Galena. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for students/seniors. All shows are sold out but there is a waiting list. Visit www.curtainplayers.com for more information.

Queer Minded #4-5: Behind the Drag

Queer Minded is a new online talk radio show that I host featuring local and national LGBT news and entertainment. Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. and podcasted at TalktainmentRadio.com! Visit Queer Minded on FacebookTwitter and YouTube

Columbus drag performers Dusti Hymen and Cool Ethan

My new online radio show, Queer Minded, took on the Columbus drag scene with a two-part series called Behind the Drag. Listen to both shows by clicking below!

BEHIND THE DRAG PART 1: DRAG KINGS

BEHIND THE DRAG PART 2: DRAG QUEENS

Myself and my co-host, Deo, have decided to put our money where our mouth is and dress ourselves up in drag! Come see the final result at QUEER MINDED’S OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTY 7-9 p.m. Sunday, April 22, at Club Diversity (863 S. High Street) 7-9 p.m. Check out all the details on the Facebook event page!

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘The Big Picture’

Jessica Studer, Carmen Scott, and Greg McGill in "A Fit of Pique" by Mark Harvey Levine.

Raconteur Theatre Company is in the midst of hosting their Annual Flex Series, a night of several shorts broken into two acts. Patrons have the option of paying to see half or all of the shows depending on their budgets and time commitments.

This year’s series, titled “The Big Picture,” is dedicated to Pittsburgh-bred, but nationally known, playwright Mark Harvey Levine. Raconteur partners with MadLab Theatre (who produces a Levine show it seems every year) to present 12 of Levine’s short for a night of great writing, but with equal parts hit and miss on the production front.

My favorite sketch of the night is “Shades” featuring Jenn Barlup, Andy Batt and Stephen Woosely who play out variations on the soap opera theme girl-caught-cheating-with-ex. Played at first as Rick the Art Dealer (Batt) trying to sell a piece to an interested wife (Barlup) and uninterested husband (Woosley), Levine leads you through several different perspective, at one point employing an animalistic tone where each character only communicates with each other using monkey noises. And then ends with a version where you finally see that the wife is making Rick act like an art dealer to hide the true reason why he’s there.

I also enjoyed “Howard,” a time traveling spoof featuring Batt, John Feather and Sean Reid, all as Howard at different ages trying to stop himself from making the biggest mistake or best decision of his life, depending on the age that tells the story.

“A Walk in the Ocean” featuring Thanh Nguyen and Jill Ceneskie is lackluster. A woman walking on the beach with her boyfriend decides to break off the relationship but her blathering partner waxes poetic and somehow convinces her to stay. And “A Fit of Pique” was a bit over the top. Carmen Scott plays a woman who can only be tolerable in a relationship when she’s constantly being pestered and annoyed by her sister.

The night continues in this fashion, each skit residing on one end of the spectrum or the other. The “flex” part of this deal doesn’t really help, however, as both acts are equally lopsided. I’ve been a fan of Levine for some time and would recommend, at the very least, you check out the full show just for his sure fire wit.

“The Big Picture” finishes it’s run at Club Diversity, 863 S. High Street, Columbus, this weekend. Tickets are $15. For more information visit http://www.raconteurtheatre.com. 

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘West Side Story’

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

It gets me every time. That gun shot goes off and I loose it.

That’s the power of classic like “West Side Story.” Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s 1957 musical remake of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” has stood test of  time and seems to be in the midst of a 10th wind.

The WSS at Ohio Theatre through Sunday is the 2009 revival featuring the hyped modern new look that was all the rave a few years ago. An expanded focus on Jerome Robbins award winning choreography and a much more bilingual book making the show more culturally competent than ever are welcome changes.

Ross Lekites’ smooth deep tone and Evy Ortiz’s operatic overtures make them a match made in WSS heaven as Tony and Maria. And the rest of the stellar young cast dressed in 90s era denim cut-off grunge give a lively finish to the musical.

I only had two small issues with the remake. “America” was cut down to an all female number and the iconic “There’s a Place For Us” was relegated to Kiddo (xx) instead of that historic Tony/Maria duet.

Broadway caliber sets and lighting also helps bring the show into the 20th century. I and my 12-year-old niece were mesmerized. Inter-generational wonder. For a classic, it doesn’t get much better than that.

“West Side Story” runs through Sunday at Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State Street, Columbus. Tickets start at $28. For more information visit www.ticketmaster.com.

The Other Side: On the Right ‘Traxx’ – Traxx Columbus is Just Getting Started

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! 

The Traxx Team: Roderick Simmons, Kim Godfreed and Brandon Chapman

This issue is dedicated to the people we love, but I thought I’d switch gears and talk about a place that’s started a love affair with Columbus residents all its own. Traxx Columbus has been in the city just over a year and has already made a pretty large mark.

If you’re a gay person of color living south of the Mason Dixon you’ve probably heard of Traxx. Traxx Atlanta started in 1989 as one of the first night clubs to cater specifically to LGBT people of color. What started as a simple space for black gay and lesbian college students to come together to listen to music that typically wasn’t played in mainstream gay establishments, soon became a Southern phenomenon.

Finish this article over at OutlookColumbus.com