Monday, March 30, 2009

"Sea of Birds" is a Feast for the Senses from Sebastienne Mundheim

Sea of Birds is a multi-media show.

You have to be pretty adventurous and open to new experiences to venture up to Mass MoCA to see their art. When it comes to their performing arts offerings, most of them are not household names. So we have to rely on their taste, advance stories and gut instinct to decide which might be worth the time, trip and ticket expense.

It only took the You Tube video that I have posted below to convince me that Sea of Birds might be a winner. It will be presented this Saturday, April 4 at 4 and 8 PM in Mass MoCA's Hunter Theater. The video clip is sufficiently detailed so that we can make an informed decision. (You can opt to watch it in HD if you have a high speed connection.) You may not know much about Sebastienne Mundheim and her new performance piece, Sea of Birds, but it certainly looks very promising.

There is also a splendid preview piece in the Valley Advocate, so I have little doubt that a lot of our neighbors will be heading over from Northampton to see this rising star's work. The performance piece has choreography by Philadelphia based Kate Watson-Wallace, who collaborated with the troupe. The music was composed by James Sugg, and the combined effect of all this artistry, along with that provided by Mike Riggs' lighting design, is intensely dream-like. Music, dance, sculpture, puppetry and lighting all combine into an evening that will be filled with memorable and indelible images.

So turn off that cellphone, stop multitasking and watch something that requires your full attention and concentration. It's this weekend's recommendation. Ticket information is available on the Mass Moca website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gay Events in the Berkshires - Dance Saturday, Potluck Wednesday

This song is for you.

Yes there is another GLBTQ Dance on Saturday from 8:00 pm-12:00 am sponsored by the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition at The Elks Club, 27 Union Street, Pittsfield (across from Barrington Stage Mainstage). You must be 18 to attend, and have ID. But you do not have to be a BSCC member to attend and all are welcome. There is a $5 charge to defray expenses.


Then there is the monthly BSCC Potluck Dinner on Wednesday, April 1 at 7:00 pm. Unitarian-Universalist Church, 175 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA. This event is open to the GLBTQ community and our friends. Bring a main dish, salad, veggie or dessert to share. Beverages are provided. There is always a need for volunteers (come early or stay late) to help host and welcome newcomers, to serve, and of course, the dreaded but important clean up afterwards.  

In honor of the impending arrival of April Fool's Day (always a good excuse to have a laugh at aourselves) we have posted an assortment of funny ads by straight marketers trying to reach the GLBT market. Some of them hit the nail on the head, but others miss the mark by a mile. They appear under this post. Enjoy.

A Buffet of Gay and Lesbian Commercials

Gay and lesbian ads are fairly common, and are usually created along the same lines. Initially they pretend to be about normal heterosexual couples, and then pull a surprise switch before the end. Still, it's nice they want to remind us they want our business.

The only complaint I have is that they rarely portray the gays and lesbians I know. Of course, neither do straight commercials. But if most lesbian commercials seem to feature lipstick lesbians is that so that it appeals to straight males as well?

And if that is the case, then do they cast all those virile, butch guys in gay commercials to appeal to the straight women as much as the gay boys?

For example, the lesbian Toyota commercial:

This touches all the bases - a bisexual-metrosexual-gay cologne one:

And this great Levis 501 ad which has more realistic lesbian characters:

And here two lipstick lesbians get married:

And finally there are the idiotic but delightful parodies like this:

The Queer Quiznos Ad

For those who long for a tasty torpedo, watch this soft-porn dialog commercial as it says..."Put it in me, Scott..."

Now we have something to get excited about beyond Mr. Clean and the Brawny man.

As David Griner wrote on his blog AdFreak:

Say what you will about the disturbing implications of this Quiznos ad from Nitro, but you'd be hard-pressed to forget the point: that Quiznos has foot-long meat tubes just waiting to be jammed in the hotbox for you. Oh, and they're $4. The talent deserves credit for squeezing a lot of subtle acting into a 30-second space. If you don't believe me, check out the guy's reaction when the oven says, "Put it in me, Scott." If those aren't the eyebrows of a man being propositioned by a horny appliance, I don't know what are. UPDATE: A slightly sanitized, less sexualized version of the ad is airing in earlier timeslots.

Check out the comments following Griner's item. The only detail missing is the name of the actor. He's brilliant.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chad Allen Receives Special GLAAD Media Award Tonight

Chad Allen will accept The Davidson/Valentini Award tonight at the GLAAD awards ceremony, hosted in New York by comedian Kate Clinton. Chad has gotten close to the Berkshires, but has yet to appear here. He's been on stage at TheatreWorks in Hartford, and of course you can find DVDs of both his new films and old tv shows. He is one out and proud gay actor.

In 2008, Chad Allen produced and starred in the film Save Me which offered audiences a look into the world of so-called "ex gay" ministries. The film is nominated for Outstanding Film – Limited Release at the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. You can read my take on it on the Arts America blog.

I have also chatted with Allen about his Donald Strachey Mystery series produced for here! television. Two of the films in the series, Ice Blues and On the Other Hand, Death, are nominated for Outstanding Television Movie at the GLAAD Media Awards this year. My conversation with him about On the Other Hand Death can be found here.

As an openly gay actor, Allen has demonstrated a commitment to bringing fair, accurate and inclusive images of the LGBT community to films and television and has advocated for marriage equality in interviews with media outlets including Larry King Live.

The Award is named after Craig Davidson, GLAAD's first executive director, and his partner Michael Valentini. The award is presented to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for our community. Previous recipients include Ilene Chaiken, Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, Alec Mapa, Robert Gant, Sandra Bernhard, and the wonderful B.D. Wong who has appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

A Gay Love Story: "Chris and Don"

The DVD of the film is now available.

Fifty years ago, Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy scandalized Hollywood. People were shocked because they were out before it was cool to be out. They went to Hollywood parties as a gay couple when every gay and lesbian actor was deep in the closet. And they stayed together until death separated them.
Don was star stuck as a teen. Here he is with the legendary Marilyn.

The rusty daggers came out for another reason, too: Chris was 30 years older than Don who was 16 years old when they first met and 18 when the relationship began. It is only in hindsight that this becomes o.k. because in “Chris & Don” we learn that Isherwood’s intentions were honorable and the emotional bond between the men genuine. The couple was friends with Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham. They were out when Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter were deep in the closet and allowed themselves to be manipulated into straight dates and marriages by the Hollywood PR machine.
15 years into the relationship, their love remained strong.

This film is unlike any other about gay relationships. It will make you smile. Then you'll reach for a tissue to dab away at the tears of recognition that only couples - straight or gay - can fully appreciate. Chris & Don is a keeper because it documents what might otherwise been lost to gay history: a loving relationship from a time when such things never happened publicly. Thank goodness that Bachardy, now in his 70's, lived to help put their relationship on film.
Given room to seek it out, Don Bachardy developed his own unique artistic identity.

You can rent it from Netflix, or you can buy it from Zeitgeist Films. Here is the trailer from YouTube, and this Zeitgeist Page links to a HD version.

Cabaret was Christopher Isherwoods's best known work and it had a long evolution. It started first as the book, Berlin Stories and then received its first dramatization as the play I Am A Camera which gave the Catholic Church and its "Legion of Decency" apoplexy.
Cabaret still raises eyebrows.

It then was adapted into a Broadway musical, the 1966 Kander and Ebb Cabaret. Finally it was made into the 1972 film with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York.

Seeing this film added a great deal to my appreciation of gay history.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Note from Vince Gatton About the May 17 AIDS Walk in NYC

Here's a photo of Vince I took when we visited the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield.

It's been a while since I heard from Vince, who created a sensation here in the Berkshires with his one-man-show, I Am My Own Wife at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. That was last May and June, and previous to that he was here for another tour-de-force, Fully Committed. I had a serious, in-depth conversation with Vince for Berkshire Fine Arts about his role as Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite and antiques collector who survived and outwitted both the Nazis and the Stasi of East Germany. He loves the Berkshires and looks forward to returning soon.

Hi -

First, a bit of bragging: this Tuesday, my sister, Dr. Barbie Gatton, is being inducted into the AIDS Walk Hall of Fame, in honor of her volunteer efforts over the last twenty years.

She and her friend Carron Leon have been running the first checkpoint at AIDS Walk for ages now, and on Tuesday they're being honored for it.  Brava, ladies!  If you've ever been to the Walk, you've seen them: always at Checkpoint 1, passing out water and snacks, shouting into headsets, pointing, sweating, and cheering. 
(Barb's on the left, Carron on the right)

They're awesome.

Now, I'm nowhere near as impressive.  But I have been doing the walk and raising money for the last six years, and AIDS Walk New York 2009 is coming up on May 17th; so I'll be walking again this year with my Salty Bitches team.  (It's a Shakespeare thing.) Rah!

Thank you so very much, and I hope you are well and happy.


Here's a link to Vince's AIDS Walk page where you can become one of his sponsors and see who his friends are. Some are from the Berkshires.
The GMHC AIDS Walk is a big deal.

Of course, GMHC , sponsors of this AIDS Walk, is a worthy organization, not just for the HIV/AIDS community, but for their work with elders - they coined the phrase Eldersexuals - and with Women's Issues. They are co-sponsors of the We're Not Taking it Laying Down campaign with the Women's History Month project, and dozens of other initiatives. You have to admire their spunk, imagination and energy.

While we are talking about Vince, here are some photos and video clips of his performances. You can also visit his website for more if you get hooked, like me.

I Am My Own Wife Videoclip from the Barrington Stage Production:

Fully Committed Videoclip from the Barrington Stage Production:

Here are a few of the shows he has starred in:
Vince as Candy in Candy and Dorothy at Theater Three. He was nominated as Outstanding Actor by the Drama Desk Critics for this role. Rajav Segev photo

Vince in Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told at the Theater at St. Clements. Stephen Mosher Photo.

Busted Jesus Comix at the Coyote Theatre Group. Photo by Don Hogan and Kyle Ancowitz

There's a Berkshire AIDS Walk, Too!

There is a Berkshire AIDS Walk each September in Pittsfield. According to Pat Wood at the ARC it was created, designed, and is owned by the Red Cross HIV/AIDS Program (the AIDS Coalition was invited to participate). Many Red Cross staff and volunteers donate their off-duty time to make this happen. And they always welcome more help. All the more reason to be sure to make Red Cross donations to the local chapter, not the generic national campaign in which no funds - zero, nada, zilch - gets back to the Berkshires. We will post more local details this summer.

There are many AIDS Services offered by the Berkshire Chapter of the American Red Cross, and many types of volunteers needed as well as on-line donations. It is always a good idea to let them know which program you are supporting, too. (There is no place for a note on the online form, but perhaps you could mail them a check. The address is on their website.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

OMG - It's Gay Ballroom Dancing in the Berkshires!

Tonight the subject of same sex dancing is going to be fully explored at the Rhythms Dance Center, 55 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, MA. Two fun dance styles will be the focus of films, readings, and some hands on "Out Dancing" at the Tango-Pulse Milonga March "Hair" Event. The fun starts at 8:00 and runs until just after midnight. Admission is only $10.00. Info, call 413-637-2727.
The Dream: Ballroom Dancing Competitors Richard Lamberty, left, and Stuart Nichols. Photo Eric Sutton.

When same sex couples dance, there are a couple of general rules which help. First, the taller person leads. Another approach is that you should consider the lead dancer the frame, and their partner the pretty picture you want to show off. Seems pretty simple to me. And sounds like fun. This is not the square box dance I learned in that horrid high school gym class.

The two short films to be shown are just marvelous and here are very brief samples from both of them. The films themselves are relatively short. Out Ballroom is 23 minutes, and shows couples preparing to dance their ways into the 2006 Gay Games.

Tango Con-Fusion

Tango Con Fusion follows five indominatable women who have turned the male dominated tango form into a furious adagio for two women, too. This 22 minute film opens a world of new possibilities for women to express themselves.

Out Ballroom Clip

Want to know more? Check out this wonderful article in the British Currents.

Also slated is a short reading by Violet and Durant. For more information on this event you can visit the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition website which keeps up to date on activities for the Berkshires.
Strictly Ballroom is an Australian film. Here we see participants in the Gay Games ballroom dancing event at Sydney (Australia) Town Hall. Mainstream ballroom dancing does not allow same-sex partners. Photo: Steven Siewert

Friday, March 20, 2009

Opera Queens - La Sonnambula is a Must See at the Mahaiwe

Short notice, I know, but you simply must drop everything and get down to Great Barrington's Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center to see The Met's new production of Bellini's La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) telecast in HD because the bel canto singing is not the only attraction, the cast is gorgeous too. It is slated for Saturday, March 21 at 1 pm.

The musical purists - you know the ones who are loathe to see any sacred cow gored - were horrified that The Met dared to do a new - gasp! - modern production. But oh, that rascal Peter Gelb, their young and daring General Manager is desperately trying to repot that root-bound institution to prepare it for the future. Clearly my colleague (and former rock critic) Charles Giuliano not only liked it, but loved what they did to this great, if silly, old chestnut. He gives it the once over at Berkshire Fine Arts. It's an opera review for the masses, not for musicologists. About time someone woke up and saw the future.

For more information on the Metropolitan Opera High Definition Telecasts, and list of theatres that show them you can visit The Met site.

We Will Survive - Acts You Will Never See at Mass MoCA

A Little Nightmare Music

If there is one things that gays share, it is a wicked sense of humor. And if there is one thing lacking in much of the Berkshire art scene, it is just that. Oh you can find tasteless ka-ka fuggayou topical homer - especially at the comedy clubs, or once in a blue moon we get lucky and an act like the Tiger Lillies or the glorious Ballets Trockadero will appear at the impenetrable Mass MoCA, but the down to earth creative stuff, that's hard to find. This example requires a little depth of knowledge into Jewish culture (the short pants) classical music (Kim-Ax-Ma), The Three Tenors, Spike Jones and above all, the goddess herself, Gloria Gaynor. Disco is not dead, it's just resting, dear.

A trip to the Igudesman & Joo website will open up a whole new world of A Little Nightmare Music and cleverness for you to enjoy.

First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side
But I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
I grew strong
I learned how to carry on
and so you're back
from outer space
I just walked in to find you here
with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed my stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I had known for just one second
you'd be back to bother me

Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now
'cause you're not welcome anymore
weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
you think I'd crumble
you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
as long as i know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart
kept trying hard to mend
the pieces of my broken heart
and I spent oh so many nights
just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
Now I hold my head up high
and you see me
somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person
still in love with you
and so you felt like dropping in
and just expect me to be free
now I'm saving all my loving
for someone who's loving me

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gay Wedding Attracts Many to Berkshires

Do two men dare do this on the Ashtuwilticook Trail?
LENOX, Mass., June 16. -- This has been a gay week in Lenox on account of the Post-Adams marriage. Many young people who came up to the wedding have been members of various house parties, and informal dances and dinners galore have been given to them. Among those who have had house parties this week are George H. Morgan, William D. Sloane, Dr. Greenleaf, and Anson Phelps Stokes.

That was from the New York Times Archives of June 16, 1894. And today, as then, lesbian and gay weddings are routinely celebrated throughout Massachusetts, where they are legal and accepted. But can you think of any recent gay weddings in the Berkshires? Has the Berkshire Eagle or North Adams Transcript run any news of gay events, gay activities?
The Berkshires supposedly welcomes gays and lesbians. Yet try to find the word lesbian or gay anywhere on the thousands of Berkshire promotional materials.

Gays and lesbians in the Berkshires are still harassed by Jack Murphy whose hateful screeds are happily published, among others, by the weekly Advocate, the same basic vitriol he wrote the last time, and the time before that.

Are the Berkshires gay welcoming, or just the one place in Massachusetts you can't find a gay bar.

These and other questions will be explored in the weeks and months ahead. Your comments, opinions and insights are requested. Let's air out the Berkshires closet and deal with the dirty linen.

So, if you wanted to get married in the Berkshires, who would get your business, who would do the reception, where would your guests stay?