Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don't Ask - Don't Tell - Don't Hide

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As the discussion of gays in the military continues, many of us wonder just how many are actually on active duty, in harms way. By its very nature of not asking and not telling there is no way for the military to know. And there is certain to be a component of questioning service members who are not yet fully out.

According to organizations like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the generally accepted number of gays, lesbians and bisexuals is in excess of 60,000. This conservative figure accounts for approximately 13,000 active duty service members, equal to less than 1 percent of those currently deployed. About 53,000 others serve in the National Guard and reserves, equaling about 3.4 percent.

The issue itself is expanding on the network and cable news, and will peak with the Senate committee hearing on Tuesday. Rosa Sow from Newsy sent along this clip which summarizes a lot of the debate. (Newsy has one of the best iPhone apps of any news site.) With the forward movement, the foes have been sharpening their attacks, and it is clear that many gays are disappointed at the glacial pace of progress.

The debate seems to center on why President Obama did not simply issue an executive order and be done with it. It is true that the devil is in the details. Part of the problem is resolving issues like where LGB military will be bunked. When women were integrated into the military, distinctly separate quarters were created. Do gay males get to bunk with other men, lesbians with women, or what? This is the nub of the debate, the source of much unease among the homophobic.

Ed. Note: In the original blog entry I stated that women were allowed to serve on US submarines, but that is not accurate. Though women have been on American warships since 1993, they are only rarely on submarines, and only under special circumstances. They allow women technicians for a few days at most, female midshipmen during summer training for both ROTC and Annapolis and family members during "fam" cruises. The policy is currently under active debate and the hatch is expected to open for women on submarines soon. Women have been successfully integrated on submarines in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and Canada.

These are questions that will not be easy to answer, and Secretary Gates is sure to take hostile fire on Tuesday from both sides of these issues. The military has long had separate arrangements for officers and enlisted men and women. When I was in the Navy I was surprised to find a special section on each ship was called "Officers Country" where the enlisted personnel were not welcome. Officers usually do not have to line up cafeteria style for their meals. They have it served to them, by third world enlistees. Since I was a gay person booted out of the military, things may have changed. However, officers always have better food, transportation and living arrangements than the rank and file.

Other discrimination concerns are waiting in the wings, too. Things like whether gay service members will be passed over for promotions, or given the least desirable assignments, or even used for suicide missions to deplete their numbers. These are passive-aggressive ways that some might use to rebel against a federal mandate. It has happened before. It happens every day to gay police and fire fighters.

The macho male culture can make life a living hell even if the law is on our side. When the change is made, the full force and might of the military leadership has to stand behind it. Unlike the ban on torture which was a wink-wink arrangement that led to horrible abuses, the military leadership must be solid on this subject once it is decided. Abuses should not be tolerated, from either gay or straight.

Click here to find out how you can help.

For those who are gay and serving in the Middle East, the news of political action comes as long delayed good news. "I worry a lot about being outed and kicked out," says an email from a Marine in Afghanistan, "The military is my livelihood and I don't want that taken away and me being discharged anything but honorably."

There are real lives, real careers and our nation's security at stake here. Making lesbian and gays a regular part of the military is complicated and will not be easy, but must be done.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gates to unveil plan to implement Gays in the Military

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Eric Alva, a gay Marine, just one of many LGBT's who paid the price in war.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee was scheduled to hold a nuts and bolts budget hearing, but those plans have been scrapped due to the resurgence of the President's intention to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

According to the Senate web site, a full hour, and possibly more, will be spent on how to make the acceptance of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military a reality. And if this is complicated, I can't imagine how taking up the subject of transgendered military personnel would fare. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will unveil the Pentagon's plan for repealing that law. In addition to Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen will also testify.

"The Defense Department leadership is actively working on an implementation plan and the secretary will have more to say about this next week," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said yesterday. I called the office of US Representative John Olver (who represents the Berkshires) for a reaction, but their Washington office (where his press spokesman is located) is closed until Monday. I hope to get a local reaction for a follow up story.

One thing we can be sure of is that this will not be a quick process. Already the radical right is ratcheting up the noise machine, from John McCain to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, who are dead set against gays in the military. They often use softer language about "unit cohesion" but their unreasonable fear of lesbians and gays in the military is clear.

In terms of the Senate, John Kerry will vote to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But newly elected Mass. Senator Scott Brown is another story. Brown opposes "gay marriage" and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and supports the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

And let's not kid ourselves, either. Making the military more reflective of our nation as a whole has been exceedingly difficult. We still have far too many racial incidents, and women in the military are often preyed upon by the men. Still changing from an all white, all male institution to a fully integrated one has been remarkably successful.

As my brother-in-law, the retired Admiral once explained to me: "The resistance is not so much from the young officers and men, but from the old line Infantry types who see the military in different terms." For several years now, public opinion polls have showed a majority of Americans favor integrating gays into the military.

The problem comes when you break down this support which is skewed to women and younger voters. A majority of the older men who make up the military and political leadership are horrified at the prospect and will fight it tooth and nail. Fox and the firebrand radio talk jocks will have a field day with it. Rush Limbaugh could probably go on for a week with pot stirring hate talk.

This all comes as a response to President Obama's State of the Union speech - and the serious needling he has been getting from his LGBT supporters for not following through on his campaign promises to repeal the ridiculous sssshhhh! policy.

Tuesday is another step on the road to integrating gays into the military. Let's hope it is one that goes forward, not backward.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New LGBT Films Debut at Palm Springs International Film Festival

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(This review by Chris Carpenter originally appeared in the Movie Dearest blog and is reprinted here with permission.)

The 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival ran January 5-18, ending just before torrential rains hit southern California. Chances are the celebratory crowds who attended wouldn't have minded if the storm had arrived earlier. This year's fest featured nearly 200 movies from over 70 different countries, and saw Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren mingling with the likes of Mariah Carey and the super-cute stars of The Big Gay Musical!

Indeed, the festival's 21st annual edition included 20 GLBT-themed movies, an all-time high. It's Gay!La centerpiece on January 14 was the California premiere of I Love You Phillip Morris, in which Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor play imprisoned, star-crossed lovers. The fact-based comedy, co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, was enthusiastically received by a sold-out audience. It is scheduled for theatrical release in March.

Other GLBT films from the fest that I was able to screen were:

Eyes Wide Open (Eynaim Pekukhot), an extraordinary Israeli story about two orthodox, Jewish men in Jerusalem who have an affair. One is a married father of several children who works as the local butcher; the other is a younger rabbinical student recently kicked out of his yeshiva due to his homosexuality. As the older man eventually admits of his feelings, "I was dead, and now I'm alive." Written and directed by the talented Haim Tabakman, the film is sure to be controversial and is not to be missed. Eyes Wide Open won the fest's John Schlesinger Award for Best First Feature.

Brotherhood (Broderskab), a Danish film by Nicolo Donato features — in contrast to Eyes Wide Open — two neo-Nazis who fall in love with each other. Initially members of a racist, gay-bashing club, the young men gradually come to see the errors of their ways. Of course, their leaders are less than pleased when the relationship is discovered. The movie effectively shows how easily the disillusioned can become conscripted by such ideologies, as well as their hypocrisy.

Paulista (Quanto Dura o Amor?), which had its world premiere at the fest, depicts the romantic successes and failures of several different people in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Writer-director Roberto Moreira pays tribute to both playwright Anton Chekhov and filmmaker Hector Babenco (who cameos) in this sometimes affecting, sometimes heavy-handed dramedy. Silvia Laurenco, as a transgender legal secretary, and the sexy Gustavo Machado, as her would-be husband, give noteworthy performances.

In the documentary Dzi Croquettes, also from Brazil, former members and supporters reminisce about the late gay performance group of the title. The scantily clad Croquettes emerged in the late 1960's, in the wake of a particularly conservative turn in Brazilian politics. They provided subversive amusement to their countrymen and became an international sensation when they eventually went on a European tour. Sadly, AIDS claimed many of the troupe's members in the 1980's and 90's. The documentary becomes repetitive and overlong, but archival footage of the Croquettes' performances and commentary by one of their champions, Liza Minnelli, will keep most gay viewers' interest.

The Big Gay Musical, directed by Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso, is a thoroughly silly, occasionally overbearing but ultimately entertaining tale of two gay actors who strive to overcome their personal issues while starring in an off-Broadway production of Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made 'Em. The musical numbers are fun, the men are hot, and the film's good-natured attack on the religious right is timely. Gossip columnist Michael Musto has a funny cameo, as does Trick's Steve Hayes as God in the show-within-a-show.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival got 2010 off to a fabulous cinematic start! Look for these GLBT films on the big screen in your area and/or on home video later this year.

Ed. Note: We hope one or more of these might find their way to the Berkshire International Film Festival in Great Barrington or the Williamstown Film Festival. Or perhaps to the Beacon, Triplex or Images just because there is an audience for LGBT films that goes beyond the obvious.

This review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Miss Bubble Wrap Pops up in the News

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Miss Bubblewrap in all her glory - one of the great creations of Jeff DeMoura when we were both in Provincetown.

A decade ago I was living and working in Provincetown, where creativity is expected and mediocrity is barely tolerated. Since the last Monday in January is officially Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, I thought I would write about my former business partner, Jeff DeMoura who was always in creative ferment.

He ran a packaging store, me a gift store by day and a mail order bubble wrap business by night. For P-Town's Carnival he decided to use some of the stuff to make his costume and debuted it at the huge Sunday Drag Brunch that year, and won first prize. Of course the bubble dress was gorgeous, like him, but it was also hot - especially when he had to hike it up to cool down.

Jeff as I remember him with one of his naughty cocker spaniels.

It's a long time sine he and I have done business with the folks at Sealed Air, the company formed in 1960 to manufacture and market what we know as "the real" Bubble Wrap. They're marking this year as their product's 50th anniversary. More than 250 Facebook pages are dedicated to Bubble Wrap.

Jeffrey is now in Plymouth, New Hampshire where he owns and operates the totally original Junkyard Dawgs. He is also a regular on Facebook.

The Provincetown Carnival Festival is August 15-21, 2010 and the theme is on the Wild Side. Read more on the Business Guild site.

And memories of Miss Bubbles keep "popping" up. Happy anniversary, Jeff!

The Trocks are coming! The Trocks are coming! (To Jacob's Pillow this summer)

In the summer, Jacob's Pillow is where the dance world gathers to show off its latest work.

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The 2010 Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival has just been announced by Executive Director, Ella Baff. "In 2010 you will see a phenomenal range of imagination, style, form, subject matter, geographic scope, and let’s not forget, spectacular dancing," she promises. She is right. Simply view the brief You Tube snippets we have embedded and you will see that there is much that will interest not only LGBT dance lovers, but everyone this year.

The social media are already busy spreading news about Bill T. Jones and the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. The LGBT community is especially happy to see that those glorious men on pointe and in tutus, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will return. The Trocks were last seen in these parts in 2008 at two sold out performances at Mass MoCA in North Adams. My review of them was pretty gushy, but I don't regret it, every word I wrote was heartfelt! I love the Trocks. And many more of the companies that will grace the Berkshires in 2010.

This video runs 8 minutes, but all the others here are about 40 seconds each.

Below are the more than four dozen dance companies who will make their way to the Berkshires this summer. Thousands of dance fans will follow, and many LGBT folks know that if you are looking for great art, kindred spirits and a welcoming environment, not to mention eye candy, the Pillow is the place to be.

Here is the lineup for 2010, with brief video snippets, courtesy of the Pillow Channel on YouTube. Of all the arts organizations in the Berkshires, Jacob's Pillow continues to have the youngest following, partly because dance is a young person's art, but mostly because the music more closely reflects the diversity of taste of its audience, always open to new sounds, new ideas and new experiences. What follows is directly from their season announcement:

The 2010 Festival artists hail from 9 countries and 4 continents and explore classical to very contemporary dance forms and styles, fusing movement with theatre, art, photography, technology, and classical, contemporary, and world music. Choreographers address a wide range of ideas about love and relationships, wit and humor, history, culture and tradition, current events and social issues, religion, and science. Exclusive programs, live music, and premieres from around the world are found throughout nearly three months of dance.

The Festival runs June 19 through August 29, and features more than 110 ticketed events and 200 free events, including performances on three stages, moderated interviews with artists, talks by experts, film showings, exhibits, the opportunity to observe training at The School at Jacob’s Pillow, receptions, tours, and over 75 dance classes for the community including weekly master classes with Festival artists.


Season Opening Gala
Saturday, June 19

The Season Opening Gala is a one-night-only event and a highlight of the Berkshires social season. The evening includes an exclusive program featuring a solo performance of “The Dying Swan” by beloved ballet star Nina Ananiashvili, Pillow Creative Development Residency artist Monica Bill Barnes & Company, and other surprise guests. The event also includes a world premiere created by acclaimed choreographer Karole Armitage on the dancers of the Ballet Program of The School at Jacob’s Pillow. A new short film highlighting the Pillow Archives will be shown, and the prestigious 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award will be presented to a distinguished artist. Dinner, dancing to live music, and silent and live auctions on the Pillow’s Great Lawn follow. The Season Opening Gala is a benefit event; funds raised support the artistic and educational programs of Jacob’s Pillow, a not-for-profit organization. The Gala is co-chaired by Pillow Board members Helice Picheny and Hunter Runnette. For tickets and information call 413.243.9919 x25.

Nina Ananiashvili and the State Ballet of Georgia
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, June 23 – Saturday, June 26, 8pm
Saturday, June 26 & Sunday, June 27, 2pm

Nina Ananiashvili, named the “definition of grace” by Masha Savitz of The Epoch Times and “classical ballet’s undeniable superstar” by Clive Barnes of The New York Post, is considered one of the greatest dancers of our time. Former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet and principal of American Ballet Theatre, she now directs and dances with her homeland’s national company, the State Ballet of Georgia, which showcases classical and contemporary technique in this engagement. The program features Falling Angels by acclaimed Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián, Bizet Variations by Alexei Ratmansky, called a “dance poet” by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times, and four rarely seen pas de deux by Sir Frederick Ashton, whom Macaulay has identified as one of “the world’s foremost choreographers of classical ballet.” Tickets $52-63. $10 Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday matinee youth tickets (sponsored by ALEX®; must be accompanied by an adult).

Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, June 23 – Saturday, June 26, 8:15pm
Saturday, June 26 & Sunday, June 27, 2:15pm

Dance Theatre of Harlem has helped shape American dance for decades. A gifted new generation carries on the company’s signature style of contemporary ballet in the form of the DTH Ensemble, a company comprised of talented young dancers who have received their training from the DTH School. The Ensemble is in the midst of a national tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of its parent organization, which made its official debut at the Pillow in 1970 and is now under the direction of Virginia Johnson. This engagement includes New Bach by Robert Garland, set to Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor; Episode by Peter Pucci set to music by Shostakovich; and South African Suite by iconic DTH founder Arthur Mitchell, set to a jazz and afro-inspired score by the Soweto String Quartet. Tickets $30-36. $10 Friday evening and Sunday matinee youth tickets (sponsored by ALEX®; must be accompanied by an adult).

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, June 30 – Saturday, July 3, 8pm
Saturday, July 3 & Sunday, July 4, 2pm

Sleek, skilled dancing and works by a new wave of choreographers make Les Ballets Jazz among the most popular contemporary companies of today. Founded in Montréal in 1972, the company is led by Artistic Director Louis Robitaille, a former principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. International choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Zip Zap Zoom creates a spectacular virtual video game on stage, and dancers become avatars who move to a score by Francophone hip-hop artist MC Solaar. Les Chambres de Jacques, by Aszure Barton, explores love and lust in an “entire world, full of surprise and humor, emotion and pain” (Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times) and is set to music by a wide range of composers from Antonio Vivaldi to The Cracow Klezmer Band. Tickets $52-63.

Camille A. Brown and Dancers
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, June 30 – Saturday, July 3, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 3 & Sunday, July 4, 2:15pm

A former dancer with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence described as “a pixie-ish powerhouse with the determined air of a high priestess” (San Francisco Chronicle), Camille A. Brown creates powerful work and has been commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, and Urban Bush Women. In 2006, Brown was the first woman to win the Princess Grace Award for Choreography. Energy, style, and personality are hallmarks of her ensemble, which will perform a world premiere co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow and created in part during a Pillow Creative Development Residency, The Evolution of a Secured Feminine with music by Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, and Nancy Wilson, and excerpts from The Groove to Nobody’s Business which was premiered by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2007. Tickets $30-36.

Let’s Dance! at the Pillow
Sunday, July 4, 10am-1pm

The Pillow will offer a new community-wide event on the morning of July 4, aimed at encouraging participation in dance. Let’s Dance! at the Pillow will include free performances; open dance classes and workshops especially suited for adults and teens in a variety of movement styles including yoga, Pilates, social dance, and more; a master class and meet and greet with Doris Duke Theatre artist Camille A. Brown; music; raffles; food and drink; and other attractions. All performances, classes, events, and workshops are free.

Barak Marshall’s MONGER
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, July 7 – Saturday, July 10, 8pm
Saturday, July 10 & Sunday, July 11, 2pm

Intensely athletic dancing is heightened by surreal theatrical vignettes in the U.S. premiere of Barak Marshall’s MONGER. This evening-length work, which explores the dynamics of hierarchy and power, fuses contemporary dance with humorous character narratives inspired by the life and work of Polish writer Bruno Schulz, Jean Genet’s The Maids, and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park. Called “unique, refreshing, and powerful” by Ruth Eshel of Ha’aretz, MONGER is set to an eclectic score with music by Balkan Beat Box, Handel, Verdi, NPR’s The Yiddish Radio Project, and many others. Marshall, former resident choreographer of Batsheva Dance Company, is noted for his unique vocabulary, combining ethnic themes and motifs with current traditions in an eloquent, theatrical synthesis that “is muscular, original, fevered, carried by excellent dancers, and by an internal force and intelligence” (Raphaël de Gubernatis, Nouvel Observateur). A Suzanne Dellal Centre production. Tickets $52-63.

Shantala Shivalingappa
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 7 – Saturday, July 10, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 10 & Sunday, July 11, 2:15pm

Shantala Shivalingappa’s extraordinary talent has been acclaimed by the likes of the legendary Pina Bausch and she captivates audiences with the precise storytelling embodied in her interpretation of the Kuchipudi form of classical Indian dance. Praised by The New York Times’ chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay for her “witty charm,” Shivalingappa was born in India and raised in Paris, earning the moniker “child of east and west.” Accompanied live by master musicians, this star of international dance performs Shiva Ganga, a U.S. premiere. Shiva Ganga explores the balance between the energies of the Hindu god Shiva, who creates and sustains the universe through dance, and Ganga, who embodies grace and elegance. Tickets $30-36. $10 Friday evening youth tickets (sponsored by ALEX®; must be accompanied by an adult).

Armitage Gone! Dance
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, July 14 – Saturday, July 17, 8pm
Saturday, July 17 & Sunday, July 18, 2pm

Karole Armitage, former member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, has worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham, and Madonna, and her dance repertoire ranges from ballet to Broadway. Her unique choreographic voice pushes the boundaries among movement, music, and the visual arts to embody dance that “explodes in every sense and dazzles the eye” (Nouvel Observateur). Her company will perform Three Theories, a new work that blends music, dance, text, and projected imagery, inspired by the book The Elegant Universe by physicist Brian Greene and set to an original score for guitar and cello composed by Lukas Ligeti. Armitage will also create a world premiere on the ballet dancers of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, set to premiere at the Season Opening Gala on June 19. Tickets $52-63.

Pichet Klunchun Dance Company
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 14 – Saturday, July 17, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 17 & Sunday, July 18, 2:15pm

In the U.S. premiere of the full-length Chui Chai (Transformation), internationally acclaimed performer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun entwines traditional Thai dance with virtuosic contemporary movement. Klunchun notes that the term “chui chai” means not only transformation, but also “language that shows elegant and abstract emotions.” Intricate traditional Thai masks and costumes and haunting music by composer Sinnapa Sarasas create a world of ancient beauty and drama that is juxtaposed with elements of modernity. Noted for their “unearthly, mesmerizing” movement (Joel Lobenthal of The New York Sun), Klunchun and his company of female dancers explore themes of change and culture through captivating choreography. Tickets $30-36.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, July 21 – Saturday, July 24, 8pm
Saturday, July 24 & Sunday, July 25, 2pm

An eminent choreographer, Tony Award-winner, Broadway director, and “Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” (so named by the Dance Heritage Coalition), Bill T. Jones is considered an artist of extraordinary brilliance. In celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 25th anniversary of the company, Jones has created a trio of works that examine Lincoln and American history. Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will perform part one of the trilogy: Serenade/The Proposition, a work that is steeped in the ensemble’s tradition of diverse collaboration. The work is presented as a multilayered, theatrical collage of powerful physicality, history, and striking visual design. Noted for its “elegantly minimal partnering” and “tableaus reminiscent of daguerreotype portraits” (Claudia La Rocco of The New York Times), Serenade/The Proposition features live folk and classical music as well as spoken word. Tickets $52-63.

Jacoby & Pronk and Dancers
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 21 – Saturday, July 24, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 24 & Sunday, July 25, 2:15pm

In addition to sharing the cover of the Pillow’s 2010 Festival brochure, Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk have been bringing their expert technique and intense chemistry to leading contemporary ballet companies, including Christopher Wheeldon’s celebrated Morphoses. As described by Kina Poon of Dance Magazine, “Jacoby’s steely strength and Pronk’s fluid hyper-flexibility defy the usual gender norms of a ballet partnership.” Accompanied by fellow international dance stars including Shirley Esseboom, formerly of Nederlands Dans Theatre, and Victor Mateos Arellano of Dresden SemperOper Ballett, this duo performs an exclusive program featuring choreography by Jirí Kylián, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and others. Tickets $30-36.

Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, July 28 – Saturday, July 31, 8pm
Saturday, July 31 & Sunday, August 1, 2pm

Based in Madrid and rarely seen in the U.S., Compañía Nacional de Danza 2 (CND2) returns to the Pillow with its superbly trained contemporary ballet dancers, noted for their combination of “classical grace with contemporary looseness” (Moira Macdonald of Seattle Times). The young second company of Spain’s national contemporary dance company, CND2 has become a headliner in its own right. The program includes the U.S. premiere of Insected, choreographed by co-artistic director Tony Fabre and set to a diverse score including music from tribes of Northern Ghana. Founder and co-artistic director Nacho Duato contributes the movingly spiritual Kol Nidre, with music by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt and John Zorn, and Gnawa, a “handsome dance” praised for its “striking group patterns, infused with echoes of flamenco and various earthy folk-dance touches” (Claudia La Rocco of The New York Times). Tickets $52-63.

Monica Bill Barnes & Company
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 28 – Saturday, July 31, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 31 & Sunday, August 1, 2:15pm

The work of Monica Bill Barnes, who has been called “one of the wittiest young choreographers around” (Deborah Jowitt of The Village Voice), possesses a quirky blend of theatricality, humor, and intelligence. Her focus on the innate presence of these qualities in everyday life yields a tender insight within this world premiere program. Co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow and created in part during a Pillow Creative Development Residency, Barnes’ The Headdress Project (working title) inspired by the music of Nina Simone, explores how costume influences life and art, will premiere during this engagement. Expression and innovation shine in Another Parade, noted for its “genuine wit and humor” (Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times), set to a varied score including Bach’s Cello Suite No. 4 and songs by James Brown and Tina Turner. Tickets $30-36.

Trey McIntyre Project
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, August 4 – Saturday, August 7, 8pm
Saturday, August 7 & Sunday, August 8, 2pm

Trey McIntyre’s appealingly athletic brand of contemporary ballet, with its expert manipulations of spatial patterns and innovative musicality, has made him one of the most popular dancemakers in the U.S. Trey McIntyre Project performed at the Pillow in 2005 and 2006 and debuted here as a full-time company in 2008. McIntyre’s exceptionally versatile dancers will perform Jaialdi, a new work honoring Basque music and culture, as well as (serious), called “riveting, puzzling, and breathtaking” by Karen Campbell of The Boston Globe, and The Sun Road, a look at man’s relationship with the environment, set to the music of Paul Simon and Native American artist Young Grey Horse and featuring a film background shot on the ice-capped mountains of Montana. Tickets $52-63.

Yin Mei Dance
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, August 4 – Saturday, August 7, 8:15pm
Saturday, August 7 & Sunday, August 8, 2:15pm

In City of Paper, Yin Mei, a “dancer of exquisite lyricism and delicacy” (Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times), creates a post-modern dream landscape of strong, sensuous movement and multimedia design. Yin Mei is joined in this evening-length work by dancer and choreographer Kota Yamazaki and Beijing Opera star Weng Guo Sheng. Digital set design and an original music/sound score provide a compelling atmosphere and accompany Mei’s choreography, which tells the powerful story of her experiences growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Tickets $30-36.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, August 11 – Saturday, August 14, 8pm
Saturday, August 14 – Sunday, August 15, 2pm

Founded in 1974 as a dance satire troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (or “the Trocks”) have since become a beloved phenomenon and toured the world over from Japan and Italy to Brazil and Australia. Called “one of the great comic creations of the American stage” by The San Francisco Chronicle, the all-male company tackles bourrées and fouettés on pointe with grace, bravura, and a singular personality. This program of technical expertise and spot-on references to Balanchine, Bolshoi, and Russian greats will mark the ensemble’s Jacob’s Pillow debut. Tickets $52-63.

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, August 11 – Saturday, August 14, 8:15pm
Saturday, August 14 & Sunday, August 15, 2:15pm

Kyle Abraham has been lauded as a performer of “equal parts power and grace” by Steve Sucato of Dance Magazine, which listed him among its elite “25 to Watch” in 2009. Abraham’s diverse training in classical music, visual art, and numerous dance forms give range and depth to his work. He has worked with David Dorfman Dance, Nathan Trice/Rituals, and toured with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company before shifting his focus to his own choreography. Abraham and his company will perform The Radio Show, which explores the function of radio in urban history, culture, and community through music from the 1960s, 70s and today, and a world premiere inspired by the photography of Eadweard Muybridge, co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow and created in part during a Pillow Creative Development Residency. Tickets $30-36.

The Göteborg Ballet
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, August 18 – Saturday, August 21, 8pm
Saturday, August 21– Sunday, August 22, 2pm

The Göteborg Ballet, a company of classically trained dancers that has transitioned to contemporary innovation, can be seen in the U.S. for the first time at Jacob’s Pillow. Johannes Öhman, a former soloist with the Royal Swedish Ballet and artistic director of Stockholm 59° North, now directs the company, one of the largest contemporary ensembles in Scandinavia. They will perform 3xBoléro, three diverse works by different choreographers, all inspired by Maurice Ravel’s classic Boléro. 3xBoléro includes Walking Mad by Johan Inger with music by Ravel and Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt; OreloB by Kenneth Kvarnström, a futuristic work with stark lighting and innovative partnering; and Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s theatrical whirlwind Episode 17. Tickets $52-63.

Lucy Guerin Inc.
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, August 18 – Saturday, August 21, 8:15pm
Saturday, August 21 & Sunday, August 22, 2:15pm

Before founding her own company, Lucy Guerin worked with Danceworks, the Bebe Miller Company, and Chunky Move, among others. In the company’s Pillow debut, they perform Structures and Sadness, winner of the 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Dance Work and an Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Performance by a Company. Inspired by the 1970 collapse of Melbourne’s West Gate bridge, the work has been called “an artfully constructed and sensitive study of fragility and memory” by Trespass Magazine (UK). The evening-length work uses a detailed dance language and accompanying visual effects as metaphors for the precarious architecture of life, as the dancers literally build a set on stage. Tickets $30-36.

A Jazz Happening
Sunday, August 22, 8pm
Benefit Event for The School at Jacob’s Pillow

The Inside/Out Stage is a delightful setting in which to enjoy dance.

This one-night-only event features dancers of the Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program, performing alongside Broadway stars after three weeks of intense study and preparation at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. Directed by Broadway's Chet Walker, A Jazz Happening includes original choreography by the Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance artist faculty and live music by an onstage jazz band. Former guest performers have included Donna McKechnie, Andrea McArdle, Malcolm Gets, Teri Ralston, and Desmond Richardson, and this season’s event will feature an all-new program and cast. Proceeds benefit The School at Jacob’s Pillow; $100 level tickets include a reception with the performers. Tickets $100 and $60.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, August 25 – Saturday, August 28, 8pm
(Additional matinee)Thursday, August 26, Saturday, August 28 & Sunday, August 29, 2pm

Hubbard Street has been called “one of America’s foremost modern-dance repertory companies” by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times. The celebrated company returns to the Pillow by popular demand for a dynamic Festival 2010 finale under the company’s new artistic director Glenn Edgerton. This evening of works includes Jorma Elo’s Bitter Suite, a “suggestively extraterrestrial work” (Lucia Mauro of The Chicago Tribune) set to music by Mendelssohn and Monteverdi, and Tabula Rasa by Batsheva Dance Company’s Ohad Naharin with music by Arvo Pärt. Also on the program are new works by Aszure Barton and Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Tickets $55-68.

The Vanaver Caravan
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, August 25 – Saturday, August 28, 8:15pm
Saturday, August 28 & Sunday, August 29, 2:15pm

The Vanaver Caravan, an American folk-dance troupe applauded for its "unpretentious down-home spirit and considerable technical skill” (Karen Campbell of The Boston Globe), presents Earthbeat in celebration of its 30th anniversary. This international dance excursion will engage dance and world music fans of all generations in a show of rhythm and percussion. Accompanied by live music, Vanaver Caravan takes audiences on a rousing global journey with Romanian stick dances, Appalachian clogging, and traditional and original choreography from India, Brazil, South Africa, and Spain. Tickets $30-36.$10 Sunday matinee youth tickets (sponsored by ALEX®,;must be accompanied by an adult).

Planning Your Visit
2010 Ticketing Information

Subscriptions: Jacob’s Pillow Subscribers receive early ordering and renewal privileges, free ticket exchange (up to 48 hours prior to performance) and the deepest discounts. Subscription options include: Full Season Subscriptions, in which subscribers purchase tickets to all ten Ted Shawn Theatre or Doris Duke Theatre performances, and Flex 5+ Subscriptions, in which subscribers create their own schedule choosing five or more performances, any day, any time. Jacob’s Pillow Members receive earliest ordering privileges as Member subscription orders are processed before Non-Member subscription orders. Memberships are available at any time, starting at $60/year and $40 for students. All subscription orders are accepted online at and via mail or fax, beginning January 25. Box Office phone ordering begins March 1, Monday-Friday, 10am - 5pm, with additional hours during the Festival. Box Office: 413.243.0745 (phone) or 413.243.0749 (fax). For complete ticket policies, visit

Single Tickets: Jacob’s Pillow Member single ticketing begins Wednesday, March 10. Single ticket ordering opens to the public via phone, fax, mail, and online on Wednesday, April 7. Specially priced $10 youth tickets (sponsored by ALEX®, for children ages 8 – 16) are available for certain performances of Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble, Nina Ananiashvili and the State Ballet of Georgia, Shantala Shivalingappa, and The Vanaver Caravan. Box Office phone ordering begins March 1, Monday-Friday, 10am - 5pm, with additional hours during the Festival. Box Office: 413.243.0745 (phone) or 413.243.0749 (fax). For complete ticket policies, visit

Free Public Programs

Inside/Out: In addition to the more than 110 ticketed performances presented each year, Jacob’s Pillow offers many free activities and other opportunities to enjoy dance. Of the more than 50 dance companies to be presented at Jacob’s Pillow in 2010, more than half can be seen performing on Inside/Out, a unique outdoor performance space nestled in the bucolic hills of the Berkshires, for free. The Inside/Out series includes presentations of emerging dance companies, artists from all over the world, and informal showings by the professional-track students of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 6:15. Roster of performers to be announced in April; visit for additional information.

Exhibits and Archives: Annual exhibits in four venues throughout the Pillow’s National Historic Landmark grounds display photographs, video, artifacts and other engaging visual material that enrich the visitor’s experience of dance. The Archives, documenting dance and Pillow history from 1894 to the present, welcome both the general public and artistic and scholarly researchers to view videos of recent performances or historic films from years past, and browse dance or related art and history books. Two interactive touch screen kiosks, one in Blake's Barn and another in the Welcome Center, offer video clips, photos, and information spanning the Festival’s history. The full resources of the Archives are available to the public free of charge on a drop-in basis Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon until final curtain.

Talks: More than 140 enlightening and informative talks range from in-depth hour-long PillowTalks, to brief Pre-Show Talks which introduce audiences to the performance they are about to attend, and Post-Show Talks with the artists just after they step offstage. All talks are free and open to the public. PillowTalks take place in Blake’s Barn, Thursdays at 5pm (NEW DAY) and Saturdays at 4pm, providing varied opportunities to gain insight from dancers, choreographers, musicians, filmmakers, visual designers, historians, and other experts. Pre-Show Talks are given by Pillow Scholars-in-Residence and take place in Blake’s Barn and on the Doris Duke Theatre porch 30 minutes before every performance. Post-Show Talks with artistic directors and dancers are moderated by Scholars-in-Residence and take place following the performances on Thursdays in the Ted Shawn Theatre and Fridays in the Doris Duke Theatre.

Tours, Classes, Observations, and More: During the season, free guided tours of the 163-acre campus leave from the Welcome Center every Friday and Saturday at 5:30pm, and patrons can pick up a self-guided tour map anytime to explore the grounds on their own. Patrons are also welcome to visit The School at Jacob’s Pillow and observe renowned artist faculty working with emerging professional dancers, either on a drop-in basis or pre-arranged for groups larger than four. Dance and Pilates classes are offered to the public Mondays through Thursdays at 8am and are open to all experience levels (modest class fee required). Master classes with artists of the Doris Duke Theatre are offered every Sunday at 10am for intermediate to advanced dancers (modest class fee required). Master classes are also open for public observation, without charge. For Community Class information call 413.243.9919.

Dining: Jacob’s Pillow offers many dining options including the Pillow Café, a full-service open air restaurant on The Great Lawn; the Pillow Pub, offering casual fare, ready-to-go picnics, and a full bar; and the Coffee & Ice Cream Bars. Many visitors bring a picnic lunch or dinner from home and dine on The Great Lawn or while taking in a performance on the Inside/Out stage.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Advocate Declares Springfield, MA one of America's gayest cities

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The top places for LGBT's to settle down in are surprising.

All across the nation, LGBT folk are scratching their heads at the cities The Advocate.Com picked as America's gayest. They admit it was not a precisely measured study, but a subjective one based on things like gay civil rights and marriage, openly LGBT elected officials, the number of gay bars, social organizations and number of cruising spots. The obvious choices like Manhattan, San Francisco, Provincetown and even Northampton do not appear, since some of the measurements were based on per capita same sex couples living together according to the census.

Former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano dragged that backwater into the 21st Century.

It is surprising that Burlington, Vermont is #2, but not as jaw dropping as Springfield, Massachusetts being in the top fifteen. The reason Springfield was chosen, they wrote, is "When you think of gay Massachusetts, you may think Northampton or Provincetown. But now, thanks to a string of pro-gay municipal actions and progressive former mayor Michael Albano, Springfield has become an example of how a state’s pro-gay legislation can transform a city."

Another reason for increasing gay tolerance in Springfield is a newspaper that encourages positive change and the development of a gay community.Not everyone agreed.

Burlington, Vermont made second place. "Vermont’s largest city may seem deceptively sleepy (Vermonters tend to be quiet about their beliefs), but it’s the epicenter of the state’s equality efforts. There are several out members in the state legislature (if not on the city council), and nearby Ben & Jerry’s renamed its Chubby Hubby flavor “Hubby Hubby” to celebrate the state’s marriage equality law."

Vermonters didn't keep their openess to gay unions a secret.

Here are the rankings according to their fascinating survey:

1. Atlanta, GA
2. Burlington, VT
3. Iowa City, IA
4. Bloomington, IN
5. Madison, WI
6. New Orleans, LA
7. Fort Lauderdale, FL
8. Portland, ME
9. Austin, TX
10. Seattle, WA
11. Gainesville, FL
12. Asheville, NC
13. Springfield, MA
14. San Diego, CA
15. Albuquerque, NM

Burlington with a population of about 40,000 manages an impressive Gay Pride parade each year.

Read the full story in The Advocate. (Not to be confused with the embarrassing local Advocate here in the Berkshires, once a usable arts guide but which regularly gives up its precious space to homophobic letters for some reason. Homophobia continues to appear in the Topix columns of the Eagle and Transcript as well. Sometimes openly, more often disguised, but clear to anyone who reads there. Not only are these continuing attacks hurtful, but the hostility of anonymous cranks who bash every business in the area are driving advertisers away.)

GLECA's Dorian Award Winners Announced

Best Performer in a Film - Colin Firth

The Dorian Awards were announced and A single Man won top honors as the Film of the Year and its star Colin Firth, Best Film Performance of the Year. The new series Glee was declared the Best TV Musical or Comedy. Other top winners include MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow as 2009's top Savage Wit; Lifetime's gay teen suicide tale Prayers for Bobby as best LGBT-Themed TV Drama, and Cloris Leachman nabbed GLECA's Forever Ageless Award.

Jane Lynch - Best TV Performer

HBO's Grey Gardens was the TV Drama of the year as well as GG's star, Drew Barrymore for Best TV Performance in a Drama. Jane Lynch of Glee got the nod for Best Comedy performance. The Breakout Award went to Gabourey Sidibe for Precious. The stalker thriller Obsessed took Campy Film of the Year honors.

Rachel Maddow - Savage Wit of the Year

MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow was named 2009's top Savage Wit; and Cloris Leachman nabbed GLECA's Forever Ageless Award.

So who is GLECA you wonder? Well, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association is comprised of film and television journalists and historians writing or commenting for such media outlets as US Weekly, the Advocate, TV Guide, Sirius XM radio, Fancast, Alaska radio station KUDO, and yours truly who writes for this Gay in the Berkshires blog, Arts America and Berkshire Fine Arts.

You can find our earlier entry on all the nominees here.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gay Ski Holidays and Winter Pride Events: An Overview

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Winter Pride includes lots of skiing.

Winter has two destinations for the LGBT community: sunny and snowy. Among the most popular sunny locales are South Beach, Key West, Palm Springs and Puerto Vallarta.

Key West has never been shy about its LGBT population.

But winter is also a wonderful excuse for getting outside, skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing, only to return to the warmth and joie de vivre of a roaring fireplace, friends and maybe a hot rum toddie or mulled cider. Winter Pride events have been, well, snowballing, as young LGBT 's opt for more than just a tan and a hangover. Of course, you can get both skiing too, so if that is your goal, fear not. The sun is wicked strong on the slopes.

Lots of LGBT ski holidays take place in the next couple of months around the US and Canada. They co-exist as both part of and separate from the mainstream mountain crowds. On the lifts and trails it's all about the terrain, the challenge, the fun of a great downhill run. Afterwards, in the chalets, clubs and base lodge, it's the camaraderie, companionship and comedy headliners.

This weekend you can head up to Gay Stowe in Vermont for the annual Winter Rendezvous ski week which runs until January 24. Stoweflake Resort and Spa is the official host hotel. Plus plenty of rooms at the Stowe Motel & Sun Ski Hotel. Call directly for discounted rates.

Some of the OutRyders at Sugarbush.

For other mountains in New England, you could hook up with the OutRyders who have plans to hit Magic Mountain or Mount Snow on January 30, Stratton on the January 31 and Killington on February 6.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no gay welcoming ski resorts or events in the Berkshires. If there are, I would be writing about them, and they would be listed in guides all over the LGBT universe.

Drag skiing? Absolutely daring, darling!

One of the biggest and best ski weeks ever is WinterPRIDE (March 1-8, 2010) at Canada's Whistler which is close to Seattle. This has replaced the Altitude event that preceded it. Whistler itself is an incredible ski destination, with more than 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, 200 runs, and the longest ski season in Canada. The list of activities, entertainment and social festivities is incredible. It has grown over the years because of the dedication of its planners, and the support of the gay community.

There are lots more. Like Lake Tahoe's Winterfest, the Gay and Lesbian Ski Week, March 7-14. There you can ski day and night. Best fun of course are the Drag Races on skis.

Mammoth means great outdoor living.

Also worth checking out are Aspen Gay Ski Week, Vail Gay Ski Week, both of which happen in January, Mammoth Gay Ski Week (March 17-21) and the fabulous Telluride Gay Ski Week (February 20-27) now in its fifth year which was recently featured (watch it here)on Logo, the gay cable channel.

The Ski Bums make Stowe one of their destinations.

The Berkshires are Ready for Gay Skiiers!

Although there are no LGBT ski events in the Berkshires, there sure are some fine possibilities. I first skied the Berkshires with gay friends. The mountains are still here and have more interesting runs than ever before: Butternut, Jiminy Peak, Berkshire East, and Bousquet. Nearby is Catamount in Hillsdale, NY and a score of Vermont areas.

One hopeful sign that something may develop is that the Berkshires Visitors Bureau is hosting a discussion of gay tourism next week that is open both to its members and to those interested in tourism on January 27 at 3:30 at the Visitors Center in Adams. That the first session will focus on gay tourism, and how to capture more of it is encouraging. I will be there taking notes.

Perhaps one of our wonderful ski resorts wil team up with some gay promoters to pull together a gay ski week that could attract LGBT visitors from both New York and Boston, as well from our own area. It may take a few seasons to establish it, but we should be a player on the national scene. All of our Berkshire mountains are near to our legendary cultural attractions, both museums and performing arts.

They are in a unique position to present the Berkshires as more than just another downhill run, but a workout for the body, the mind and the spirit. A Berkshire ski vacation comes with lots of great food and entertainment nearby. Anyone who has gone looking for a great, affordable restaurant in Rutland,Vermont, near Killington and Stratton know what a task that is. From Williamstown to Sheffield, there are dozens.

Where to Stay in the Berkshires when you Ski

Near Butternut and Catamount in Sheffield is the 1802 House. The 1802 House is a well located and a classic bed and breakfast that is owned and run by Dan Rossi and Ronald Smith. 413 229-2612. They are one of the few Berkshire guest houses that are gay owned, and anxious to help make LGBT visitors feel welcomed and pampered. They also are very familiar with the ski areas nearby. Skiers and hikers are off-season guests, but so are couples from other states who want to get married in Massachusetts. They recently catered a reception for two lesbians who tied the knot, and provided accommodations for many of their guests. If you are thinking of skiing the Berkshires, this should be your first call.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Frank Rich, Side by Side with Stephen Sondheim at Williams Jan. 23

Stephen Sondheim (L) and Frank Rich have taken their show on the road.

In what is likely the best free event of the year, critic and New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich will settle into Chapin Hall at Williams College this Saturday, January 23 for a nice chat with Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. Rich first met Sondheim when he was writing for the Harvard Crimson and reviewed the pre-Broadway tryout of Follies in 1971. It's a classic.They have been fast friends ever since.

In these sit-downs, Rich asks the questions, and Sondheim answers them with creativity, clarity and class. There are no secrets between the men, and because of that, we get to know both much better. While the session is free, reservations are a must, and needs to be done asap. Go to this link and click on the Read More to reserve tickets. Or go directly to the request form.

Since Rich and Sondheim have taken this "show" on the road before, I found this question Harvard Arts Beat recently asked Rich very apropos:

How do you keep ongoing conversations with Sondheim fresh? Do you have to repeat information?

Rich: Not much. I follow my nose. It’s not pre-scripted. I keep a running list of things I want to ask him. He’s incredibly candid and will answer anything. He’s really thoughtful. Obviously, he has a way with words, and he is quite brilliant and takes himself lightly.

And if you don't read the weekly Frank Rich op-ed political column in the New York Times, here's a link to his latest. He covers the political scene as if it were theatre. Elections, after all, are nothing but acting, artifice and illusion anyway, aren't they? And all too often real life decisions are made on the basis of how they will play in the media rather than in real life.

That's why I think the more time you spend with people like Rich and Sondheim, the more you know about life.

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Outing Edna St. Vincent Millay Friday at Chapters Bookstore

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Edna St. Vincent Millay 2008" oil and silkscreen on canvas, 30 x 23 in. George Krevsky Gallery.

When Peter Bergman and James Kraft talk about poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, she lives again, and you feel like you have time travelled back to a different age. Not everyone knows she had many affairs with women before marrying, and may have had affairs on the side all through her adult life. But we are talking about a time when being "out" was not common, and while Millay hid little when a young rebel, as a wife she was more circumspect. One hopes the evening will turn to whether Millay continued her affairs with women after she was married, and which of her poems are written about women rather than men.

Writer, playwright and critic Peter Bergman is a familiar face at Berkshire openings. Here a rare photo of him from Rural Intelligence.

In any event, this evening promises to be a celebration of Millay and her work. It will take place at 6:00 PM, January 22 at Chapters Bookstore, 78 North Street, Pittsfield. (413) 443-2665. Kraft is a Professor of Literature and author of several books about writers, while Peter Bergman is the director of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society. A colleague and fellow critic, his byline is familiar to Berkshire theatre goers as the chief critic of The Advocate weekly. With Clark, he will read and discuss Millay's poetry, her life and her relationships with other women. The reading and discussion is co-sponsored by Chapters and the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition.

In her younger days, when she discovered lesbian love, she gave herself fully to it.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a hot poet and playwright in the twenties, and lived in the Berkshires (or more precisely, the Taconics) from 1925-1950. She made no bones about being both a homosexual and a heterosexual so if one insists on a classification, bisexual is probably most accurate. How much of her love life is incorporated into her works the upcoming evening will reveal.

"Vincent" as her friends called her was certainly her own person. She attended Vassar and her time there was some of her happiest and carefree. Despite the repressive restraints of the time at Vassar she was able to explore her sexuality with friends and classmates with few inhibitions.

Millay's life was not all love and roses. She suffered from depression, alcohol abuse and died alone.

For those who attend, the evening at Chapters will reveal more personal details about her love life than you are likely to see on the Biography channel. The speakers are not superficial reporters of pop culture on another assignment. Peter Bergman, for example, spends his days in Austerlitz, New York, home of Millay's beloved home Steepletop.. In fact, he is executive director of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society and has spent much of his adult life immersed in her world.

Is Millay still relevant? Of course. Even today one of her poems has been inked onto a current fan's backside.

For more background on Millay's lesbian side there is an interesting entry at that gives a fine overview of her life, public and private. You could also join the ESVM Society and share in a number of special events they sponsor each year to celebrate her life. The restoration of her home is an ongoing project, and contributions are always welcome.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, "Gay Bigot of the Year"

Le Scandale du jour.

It is sad, though somehow satisfying to see the homophobes fall. Excoriating the LGBT community with Bible in hand, they also go to Congress and Parliament to make sure "God's Laws" become their legislative initiative. Almost invariably, they eventually fall, victims of their own hypocrisy.

So it is with Irish MP Iris Robinson who has been all over the news for having had an affair with a 19 year old boy toy. During the affair (it's been over for some time) she twisted a couple of developers arms to find him $100,000 in cash so he could open a restaurant/cafe in Belfast. And then, took out 10% of the sum for herself. To his credit, the lad has repaid almost all of the loans, her takings are another story.

Kirk McCambley is described as "scruffy and a bit shy."

Kirk McCambley, the teen Boy Toy, then claimed to have developed testicular cancer in order to end the relationship. McCambley who is a bit scruffy and shy, is now 21, and being courted by gay magazines to become their cover boy. Seems he did us a favor bringing down the MP who was notoriously homophobic. Robinson was a foe of the gay community which had had tried to defang her for years without success. Yet news of the affair discredited not only her pious preaching, but that of the Light 'n Life Pentecostal Christian Church to to which she proudly belonged. Indeed, on their billboard in the city, someone had scrawled "adulterers" in black paint on it.

Her comments about gays were particularly hurtful and divisive. She claimed that homosexuality was an "abomination" and it made her feel "sick" and "nauseous", and offered to refer homosexuals to a psychiatrist she knew. Worse of all she compared it to pedophilia, saying: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children"

The lad's coffee usiness is booming since the scandal broke.

She was 60 at the time of her affair with McCambley, he was 9 when she first met him, when she was having an affair with his father (how passed away) and her interest switched to him. Now 21, he was a teen at the time they did the deed.
And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know...
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Ev'ry way you look at it, you lose

-from the Simon and Garfunkel song

One can only wonder why this God-bothering fundamentalist Christian mother of three grown-up children, known for her outrageously ignorant and offensive anti-gay views, succumb to old-fashioned lust at the age of 58. Especially since this was not her first extra-marital affair.

Her husband, Peter Robinson is Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader and First Minister Peter. Having learned that this is his wife's third dalliance, he has resigned his duties "to sort it all out."

In November of 2008 Robinson received The Bigot of the Year award from the UK's Stonewall supporters. The Anita Bryant of Northern Ireland, and perhaps the entire United Kingdom, she won "overwhelmingly," according to a Stonewall spokesperson.

The awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was attended by celebrities from the worlds of music, politics and the arts.

Bishop Robinson provides a little irony.

Interestingly, it was another Robinson - Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, and the only out gay bishop in the Anglican communion, who was voted Hero of the Year. Stonewall sure made some preceptive picks.

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