Thursday, November 29, 2007

World AIDS Day: AIDS Memorial Quilt

December 1st is World AIDS Day. I am again remembering the loss of friends, artists and co-workers. One of the goals of the AIDS Memorial Quilt is to provide creative means for remembrance and healing, to effectively illustrate the enormity of the AIDS pandemic. Cleve Jones came up with the idea for the Quilt during the candlelight memorial for Harvey Milk in 1985. San Francisco Supervisor Milk and Mayor Moscone had been assassinated by a former conservative supervisor, Dan White, on November 27, 1978.

Last year for World AIDS Day, I wrote about my friends and co-workers I knew that died of AIDS. While researching for more information about their lives, I discovered the NAMES Project Foundation’s website. They have a database where one can look up names or see a block of the quilt. Below are several panels at honor and remember those friends and co-workers.

The above quilt remembers two men I knew. The first was my best friend, David DeLong. His panel is in the upper left corner. David and I worked together at San Jose Repertory Theatre (note theatre masks on panel). He also worked with the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (note the museum logo). I wrote some personal memories of David two years ago. David died October 15, 1987 at the age of 36.

The dark quilt panel in the middle of the bottom row honors Peter David Heth. Peter, one of the early casualties of AIDS, died at the age of 48 in 1984. He was a director, designer and actor. He did a lot of work for a theatre now know as American Musical Theatre of San Jose. One of his last production designs was for "Tokens: A Play on the Plague" (note play title on panel) produced by Blake Street Hawkeyes, in association with Theater Artaud. It was a story about the 1665 Great Plague in London.
I believe I only met Peter once but I heard stories about his artistic legacy for years.

The second quilt has panel on the top row in the middle that remembers as very talented designer, Ken Holamon. Ken succumbed from AIDS complications on January 9, 1993, at the age of 45. His panel features his sunburst design for a production of "A Chorus Line". His signature runs down the right side. Many of his designs and research are housed at AMTSJ’s Holamon Research Library of Theatrical Design. American Musical Theatre San Jose provided the resource space for the study on theatre history and design for theatre teachers, designers and artists in the community.

The final panel I am going to share is totally devoted to David Lemos. David died in August 1995 at age 38. David was a co-founder and the first producing artistic director of San Jose Repertory Theatre. He went on to write and direct “Remember My Name”, a theatre piece about the AIDS quilt for the NAMES Project. He worked for the NAMES Project as chapter development coordinator, chapter managing director and executive director.

More details about these men’s lives and artistic accomplishments can be found in last year’s World AIDS Day entry.

Another interesting website is The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS. Their mission:
* to provide practical estate planning advice to all artists, especially those living with HIV/AIDS
* to document and offset the immense loss wrought by AIDS in all artistic disciplines
* to preserve the cultural legacy of the AIDS crisis so that future generations can enjoy, study and engage artworks as aesthetic achievements and historical documents

Monday, November 26, 2007

Greetings from Paris!

Welcome to Paris, TennesseeWe had a fun and adventuresome trip to Tennessee that involved a tornado, Pat Robertson, a dry Thanksgiving sandwiched between bouts of drinking, an amazing Vols University of Tennessee football win and a family visit to a nice gay bar.

This visit was going to accomplish a number of family obligations. I was finally going to meet E’s father and brother. It was not easy for them to accept E’s divorce and coming out. Now, five years later they were ready to meet his partner. The trip was also an opportunity for two of E’s three sons to spend time with Tennessee side of the family. (The youngest son did not go because he had work obligations.)

The four of us had no delays or problems traveling from San Francisco to Nashville. We arrived Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. We took E’s mother out to dinner to a sports bar/restaurant that was located in small shopping mall across from the evil Walmart. Just as we were finishing our meal, the waitress comes over in an agitated manner and informs us that a tornado has been spotted in the area and we need to move to the back of the restaurant near the bathrooms. We all huddled there for about a half an hour drinking beer and watching the rain and lighting flash through the front windows of the place. We chatted with another group of patrons visiting from Southern California whose house had just escaped the wild fires. The all clear came when Walmart reopened across the parking lot.

Grandpa and the boysLater that night I met E’s conservative father and his second wife. We sat around talking and drinking with them for a couple of hours. The large flatscreen TV was on but muted. When I noticed religious extremist, Pat Robertson, on the screen, I loudly blurted out “that man hates me”. One son started kicking my leg to hush me up while the second wife quickly reached from the remote to change the channel. Controversy was swiftly quelled.

Thanksgiving dinner at the brother’s house went well considering nobody was sure until mid-morning who was invited or was going to attend. But it all worked out and there were no family issues.

Because our flight back was first thing Sunday morning, we headed back to Nashville on Saturday afternoon. We had a couple of rooms at the Holiday Inn Express downtown. We finished our holiday by taking our two (straight) sons to our favorite gay music video bar, Tribe, and restaurant, Red. We had a nice time.

We didn't attend any theatre but we did see two good movies: Enchanted and American Gangster.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gay Paree

A 60 ft. tall replica of the Eiffel Tower stands in a park in Paris, TN.Yup, we’re goin’ to Paris for Thanksgiving! Taking the two oldest sons with us. We fly from California to Nashville, Tennessee and then rent a minivan and drive across the state to NW corner to the home of the "World's Biggest Fish Fry", Paris, Tennessee!

On a more cultural/theatrical note, it is where the Tony Award-winning actress, Cherry Jones, grew up. As a young girl she was served ice cream by E at the soda counter of the local drugstore.GuyDads with Cherry Jones We last made a trip here to visit relatives over a year ago.

Trivia: There is a “Paris” in 13 states: Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and two in Wisconsin. There is also a variation of the Paris name in six states: “New Paris”, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; “Paris Township”, Michigan; “South Paris” and “West Paris”, Maine; “St. Paris”, Ohio.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Frog and Toad are gay

My favorite children’s book of all time is the “Frog and Toad” series. There were four easy to read chapter books written in the 1970’s: “Frog and Toad are Friends”, “Frog and Toad Together” “Frog and Toad All Year” and “Days With Frog and Toad”. I loved reading these books to my kids. At the time I had not come out. I envied the special relationship Frog and Toad had with each other.

My oldest daughter called a couple weeks ago all excited. She recently started a job as a children’s librarian and had checked in a copy of the children’s book, “And Tango Makes Three”. It is a children’s picture book based on a true story of two male penguins that hatch and raise an orphan egg. “Have you heard of the book? You have to get it. It is so cute.” Although I don’t have a copy, I am very familiar with it. In fact, according to the American Library Association it is the most challenged book requested to be removed from public libraries and school shelves because it promotes homosexuality, and is anti-family, and unsuited to age group. “Harry Potter’s” author, J.K. Rowling, is frequently challenged for claims that she promotes occult themes. Now that she says Dumbledore is gay, she will now be challenged for promoting homosexuality too even though there is nothing in the series that implies that.

What surprises me is that none of these wacko fundamentalist have discovered or figured out that the “I Can Read” children’s four-book series, “Frog and Toad”, is a primer for same-sex relationships. Whether you and your buddy are “best friends forever” or a married couple, this series will model the skills needed to have a long-term same sex relationship. The series takes you through the everyday circumstances of Frog and Toad with simplicity and humor, without moralizing, on what characterizes an enduring gay relationship: compassion, affection, gratitude, generosity, creativity, thoughtfulness, laughter, and sharing life together.

In our relationship, my husband, E, is the tall, lean Frog and I am the shorter, stockier Toad. Frog (E) is clearly the calmer of the two and the one more eager to get outdoors and to organize and plan things. Toad (me) is more temperamental and impatient, and a consummate worrier. He is frequently repentant and constantly devoted to his more rational counterpart. Toad (me) regularly grumbles and whines, while Frog (E) quietly and thoughtfully goes about helping his friend get over his upsets. Like Frog, I have a hard time not eating cookies and I also look funny in a bathing suit.

I had assumed that author and illustrator Arnold Lobel was gay because I had come across his name on the AIDS Quilt website. When I looked up biographical information on him I found he was married with two kids. The cause of death listed in the obituary was cardiac arrest on December 4, 1987. It could be he wasn’t gay but had contacted AIDS from an infected blood transfusion or blood products. (Or maybe like me, he lived a closeted life as a gay married man.)

TRIVIA: The Broadway musical “A Year with Frog and Toad” was produced by Lobel’s daughter, set designer Adrianne Lobel, and stared the designer's husband, Mark Linn-Baker, as the lovably cantankerous Toad.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gay Sacramento

A chance to see an obscure musical in a full staged production was the motivation to make a weekend trip to Sacramento. It had been over ten years since either one of us had been to California’s state capital. We decided to see if we could make a gay and theatre weekend out of it. Surprisingly, the city has a lively gay scene and a vibrant theatre community. We were impressed and would make another trip to the area.

Our bed had a mirror over it. Sprit room at Inn at ParksideOut in Sacramento: We stayed at a gay owned bed and breakfast, the Inn at Parkside. It is one of the most beautiful B and B’s we have stayed in. The place offers many extra amenities and also operates as a high end day spa. Although the inn is gay owned, most of the clients/guests are straight.
Both Friday and Saturday evenings after attending theatre, we headed to the Midtown area of Sacramento for dinner and dancing.
Badlands in Sacramento was much nicer than the Badlands in San Francisco.Midtown is the happening place in town. It has a wonderful selection of restaurants, shops and art galleries. It also has the gayest corner in town: 20th and L Streets. There are several gay clubs and bars located there: Badlands, Faces and The Depot. We spent both nights dancing at the club Badlands. The club is spread out over three floors. It has four bars, a patio area and a balcony that overlooks the dance floor and the outside street. The crowd was diverse and friendly. The music and videos were good.
There were another group of clubs, bars and gay establishments we didn’t have time to check out:The Bolt, Bojangles, Headhunters Video Lounge & Grille,
Other resources:
Newspaper – OutWord; On-line – Out Sacramento, Valley Rainbow Pages

Whistle Down the Wind by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim SteinmanTheatre Beat: Sacramento has several excellent theatre companies. The reason for our trip was to see “Whistle Down the Wind” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman (known for his work with Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler and others). It was being performed at Broadway Sacramento. The musical has been a hit in London but has never played on Broadway. Many of Lloyd Webber’s favorite themes and elements from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Evita”, “Phantom of the Opera” are part of the show. There is a large children’s choir, soaring anthems, strong male tenor solos, a tormented potential savior/liberator, a climactic manhunt and impassioned emotions. The story is a study of childhood innocence and the simple faith of three motherless children that discover a fugitive in their barn that they believe is Jesus. It is set in a small town in Louisiana in 1959. The show was fun.
The other show we saw was the play “A Skull in Connemara” by Martin McDonagh at the B Street Theatre. McDonagh, a young Irish playwright, writes very dark, bleak, violent, black comedies. He wrote seven plays, all produced in London and NYC, and says he will not write any more. He wants to do movies now. I believe his main claim to fame will be that he was able to bring to the live stage the film esthetic of glorifying gratuitous violence to a high art form as seen in the movies from Sam Peckinpah to Quentin Tarantino. “Skull” revolves around the question: Did the gravedigger's wife die when he was drunk at the wheel or as a result of a deadly blow?
There are a couple other theatre companies we will have to go back and try:
Sacramento Theatre Company, and a LGBT theatre Lambda Players Theatre.

Trivia: Wikipedia claims that the song "No Matter What" from “Whistle Down the Wind”, was released as a single by Boyzone (an Irish boy band from the 90’s) and had unprecedented success: it went platinum, was voted the UK's Record of the Year for 1998, and hit #1 in 18 countries, becoming the most successful single produced from a musical in history. I never heard of it or any Boyzone song.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Anything Goes

GuyDads in costume from musical Pacific Ovetures for 'Anything Goes' Gala A couple weeks ago, our favorite local theatre company, TheatreWorks, had their annual gala to raise money. The premise for the event is that all the guests rent show costumes from the theatre’s costume shop. Then a fun and festive evening of food, drink and dancing ensues in the theatre’s scene shop that is decorated with show props and flats. We bought and hosted a table and invited a bunch of our gay, theatre loving friends. Gay table at Anything Goes GalaOur fabulous table was the only gay table at the event. The other two dozen tables were all/mostly “heteros”. The evening of frolic and fantasy raised over $300,000 and was attended by 270 guests. A great time was had by all. Everyone shared the dance floor, gays and straights, to the swinging sounds of a nine-piece band playing the hits from the Motown era through the 1980's.
Our costumes were from the Stephen Sondheim musical “Pacific Overtures”.
One of our guests took this video of a talented young actor that was in a show earlier this season. He sings “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent”.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

October theatre reviewed

Surprisingly, October turned out to be a busy month to see theatre. We attended 10 shows. Here is a recap.
4*, Six Degrees of Separation - John Guare, San Francisco Playhouse
[A young man gains access to upper-class New Yorkers by pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier, in a witty, biting, social commentary on money, fame, community standing, and a desire for human connection. Earlier blog entry here.]

5*, Heartbreak House - George Bernard Shaw, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[“A masterfully moving comedy about smart and sophisticated people hopelessly adrift in a nation at war.” Earlier blog entry here.]

5*, Appomattox - Philip Glass, Christopher Hampton, San Francisco Opera
[World premiere opera. Haunting and socially prescient of the Civil War and its aftermath. Lee surrenders to Grant.]

Ron Campbell and Danny Scheie in The Triumph of Love4*, The Triumph of Love - Pierre Marivaux, adapted & translated by Lillian Groag, Frederick Kluck, San Jose Repertory Theatre
[Quick-witted Princess disguises herself as a man to win the heart of the rightful prince. Over done deception, gender confusions and complexities of l’amour. There were some strange choices in direction. Ron Campbell and Danny Scheie as the two clowns where hysterical. Was a joint production with California Shakespeare Theatre.]

5*, The Color Purple - Alice Walker, Marsha Normaan, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray, Best of Broadway
[Family saga about an abused and uneducated black woman's struggle for empowerment. Even better a 2nd time. More detail review here. Jeannette Bayardelle is dong the lead role in the touring production with Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child, Latoya London from American Idol, and Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Fields.]

3*, Golda's Balcony - William Gibson, TheatreWorks (Camille Saviola)
[One woman show of Golda Meir, former Prime Minister and one of the founders of the State of Israel. Weaker performance than Tovah Feldshuh's at ACT' we saw in 2005.]

Ben Randle and Bradly Mena in Holding the Man5*, Holding the Man - adaptation Tommy Murphy, book Timothy Conigrave, New Conservatory Theatre Center
[Australian love story of a 15-year relationship that weathered disapproval, separation and temptation. The book was a winner of the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction.]

4*, Candida - George Bernard Shaw, ACT's Master of Fine Arts Program
[Questions Victorian notions of love and marriage, asking what a woman really wants her husband to provide. She must choose between a young poet and her husband the clergyman.]

Christopher Maltman in The Magic Flute5*, The Magic Flute - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emanuel Schikaneder, San Franciso Opera
[The bird catcher, Papageno, searches for love and struggles to attain wisdom and virtue. Features Gerald Scarfe's eye-catching sets and costumes. He was the illustrator for Pink Floyd’s The Wall and is a British editorial cartoonist.]

Schoolhouse Rock Live! - David McCall, Scott Ferguson, George Keating, Kyle Hall, Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, Palo Alto Children's Theatre (no rating, children's theatre company)
[Based on ABC's short cartoon films featuring songs about grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and politics.]

Ratings Legend:
5* - Loved It – would see it a second time.
4* - Really Liked It – strong production but not worth seeing a second time.
3* - Liked It –good production but something is lacking or not clicking.
2* - Just OK – had at least one interesting element.
1* - Did Not Like It – waste of time.
No rating – A work in progress (reading or workshop), or children’s production.

Rating*, Show Title - Author, Presenting Theatre (comments)
[Synopsis or review]
TIP: Half-price tickets for many select performances, sporting events and family activities are often available on Goldstar Events. Areas include San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago.
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