Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Video of Matthew Lopez and "The Whipping Man"

Nick Westrate (L) and LeRoy McClain in The Whipping Man in Pittsfield. Kevin Sprague photo.

Although we wrote a couple of entries about Matthew Lopez a few weeks ago, and interviewed both the playwright of "The Whipping Man" (TWM) and its director in the Berkshires, Christopher Innvar, there's plenty more.

TWM is getting twin premieres - tonight, as I write this, it is having its first preview at Barrington Stage Company's Linden Street Stage II. A week ago it had it official West Coast opening in San Diego.

In the video below, Lopez seems taken with San Diego, but now that he is in the Berkshires, he's bound to find ample reason to like it here, too. Unfortunately, we can't offer him a stipend to be the "playwright in residence" as San Diego's Old Globe has done.

In terms of tickets for this play, the first week is already sold out, and I suspect that this is going to be very popular with Berkshire audiences, all the more so because Matthew is one of us. They've added two Sunday matinees to the original schedule, too. Go here www.barringtonstageco.or to get your tickets before they are gone. It has been selling out, especially on weekends, though new performances have been added through June 17.

Read my interview with Christopher Innvar.

Read my interview with Matthew Lopez.

Get the dish on Matthew Lopez.

Pittsfield Prom June 5. Corsages not mandatory.

Now, there's an idea.

Just like you remember, only better!

OK -this if for all of you in school whose choice was no choice. It's for those of us who never got to take our special love to that school prom, back in the day, too. Take a chance and go stag if so inclined.

Prtty Pitty Productions presents...

Pittsfield Prom: Party On!

Saturday June 5 from 8:00pm to 1:30am at Jae's Spice, 297 North Street, Pittsfield.

"Yes, I went to hella gay prom with my girlfriends!!! even if some of my girlfriends are guys IT WAS SOOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!! I love these people!!! I put their little names on the pic, so look at it!!! OMG if you have a gay prom around where you live, you have to go to it!!! you have not lived until you have!! EVEN IF YOU'RE STRAIGHT!!!! oh, and I just met Lily that night, but DAMN that girl can dance!!......But no one compare to Alanna!!"

"lol, It's where we go to party, istead of regular prom, because we'de get weird looks and people herasing us at the normal dances. It alot more open to. You can wear whatever you wnat, and the whole night is basicaly just a time to campleatly let go. You just dace with everybody, talk to everyone, and forget that you don't know the person you're dancing against. It's a substance free place, but that sure dosn't stop people from getting crazy. About an hour form the end of the dance, all the girls will inevitably take off their shirts, and no one cares, cus the likly hood of any one getting pregnant there is zero to nill, thanks to the faggyness!!! wow I was rambling!! sorry, I just realy love it!!!!!!!"

(Random comments on other proms found on the internet)

Bring a date, bring a friend, bring everyone you know - just make sure you want to have a good time! Relive your best prom memories, undo your worst, and make new ones, all in one night. Semi-formal attire suggested, fun required!

- live DJ with dancing all night
- complimentary cake
- on-site makeup and touch-ups by makeup artist Ericka Hanger
- balloon archways, streamers, and confetti

June 5th, 8pm
Jae's Spice Upstairs
$10 | 21+
$15 | 18+
$8/$13 | BCC, MCLA, and Williams College Students with valid student ID.

The organizers say: "It's all happening the weekend before the NAMA Prom 2010! and we hope that the adults of Berkshire County have as much fun this prom season as the high schoolers! Hope to see you all out looking classy at both proms, getting your party on!

Monday, May 24, 2010

With "Brief Encounters", Paul Taylor Dance comes out of the closet

Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano in Paul Taylor's Brief Encounter Photo: Tom Caravaglia

What was once a whispered secret is now on stage for all to see. And enjoy. Paul Taylor's Dance Company has always had the knack of hiring not only accomplished dancers, but some pretty nice eye candy too. Now as they prepare for their fifth appearance May 29 and 30 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, you will be able to see one of the most important dance pieces he has created in a long a distinguished career.

It is one of two new ballets which will get their Massachusetts premiere this weekend. The first is a fun piece celebrating vaudeville titled Also Playing.

The other is named Brief Encounters, and it is about homo and hetero encounters with love. Here is how Arts Journal blogger Tobi Tobias put it:

"Two trios--two men with a single woman, two women with a sole man--dance simultaneously until one person drops out of each group, leaving a male pair and a female pair.

This initiates the most recent step in Taylor's slow progress toward allowing himself to depict same-sex couples onstage, celebrating the love (and lust) that can now finally speak its name.

Later in the piece, the choreographer throws reticence to the winds and links two men in a series of handsome acrobatic postures, making them look like copulating gods."

The whole article is a fascinating preview of this weekend's featured works.

Julie Tice (left) and Michelle Fleet lend each other a hand in Paul Taylor's Brief Encounter. Photo Tom Caravaglia.

Now here's the rub. While the company will perform twice, the erotic Brief Encounters will only be performed on Saturday night, while the busky Also Playing will be seen at the Sunday matinee.

Silvia Nevjinsky and Michael Trusnovec in Piazzolla Caldera which will be seen at both performances. Photo Paul Goode

Here's the rundown of the programs. On Saturday, May 29 at 8pm, the program features the satiric Public Domain, the aforementioned Brief Encounters, and Taylor's red-hot look at the culture of tango, Piazzolla Caldera. The Sunday, May 30, 3pm family-friendly program includes the blissful Brandenburgs, the comic Vaudeville tribute Also Playing, and Piazzolla Caldera.

The Mahaiwe is located at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, Mass. Tickets are $12 to $62, with a 25% discount when purchasing tickets for both Taylor programs. To purchase tickets, visit or phone the Mahaiwe box office at 413.528.0100.

Monday, May 17, 2010

All Male Version of the musical "Forum" onstage in Williamstown June 30

Paul Castree (l) is remembered from 9 to 5 and Young Frankenstein. Here he is with pal Gavin Creel who does not appear in the show.

Kevin Cahoon was in The Who's Tommy and The Lion King.

Jeremy Shamos (l) played in Clybourne Park and Reckless. Christopher Fitzgerald (r) was Tony nominated for Finians Rainbow, Wicked.

It's going to be a fun summer, theater fans, because Nicholas Martin over at the Williamstown Theatre Festival has just announced the outrageous, gorgeous, amazing, all-male cast for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Mark my words, kiddies, some local jaws are going to drop and some very big smiles are going to be plastered on the faces of the normally taciturn Berkshire crowd.

Forum, as most of you know, is a Stephen Sondheim musical, a spoof of ancient Rome and this production by WTF will undoubtedly get the full treatment - pit band, great sets and costumes, and above all, a glorious cast of some of the best actors around.

People I trust estimate that almost half the cast is gay, too. Let Newsweek criticize that! (You know they declared bankruptcy immediately after dishing Sean Hayes, don't you. Serves them right. Next they will insist that any actor playing Hamlet will have to be Danish to be believable. They are trying to put out the critical fire, too.)

Leading the legion of Roman actors is Christopher Fitzgerald, plus a dozen other top players who will be doing the love scenes in drag. It should be something to see.

To see the entire cast and read the background story, visit Berkshire On Stage for photos of the whole cast.

How Far Will You Go? We preview the new series about gay models

Monday nights in the Berkshires are best spent at home, relaxing. It's also your chance to preview a new series just for us, "How Far Will You Go?" The show follows a group of aspiring gay models as they claw their way through hard work and heartbreak towards careers in gay modeling.

In episode 2, the model hopefuls learn choreography with dance coach Rob Trinh and only the best will be selected to dance as go-go boys at Whistler's Snowball event.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

First Photos from "The Whipping Man", San Diego and Pittsfield

LeRoy McClain, Clarke Peters and Nick Westrate star in the Barrington Stage Company production of The Whipping Man, May 26 - June 17. Photo by Kevin Sprague

Playwright Matthew Lopez is juggling two openings for his play, The Whipping Man. Tonight, in San Diego, the Old Globe production gets reviewed. Meanwhile under the direction of Chris Innvar, rehearsals at Barrington Stage Company are well underway as they prepare for the BSC debut in two weeks.

Matthew reports that he has put on eight pounds since they started rehearsals, and blames the whirlwind schedule for causing his usual discipline to lapse. For the latest on this up and coming gay playwright, see the article immediately below this one.

Matthew Lopez will soon be in the Berkshires where he can hike those San Diego pounds off.

Julianne Boyd, Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company thinks Matthew "Is such a fun person because he's so effervescent. He's very witty, and it's no secret that I am in love with his play, it's fabulous. The only problem is he's so up all the time, he makes me look downright boring."

Julianne Boyd of Barrington Stage thinks The Whipping Man is a fascinating play. Photo by Charles Giuliano-Berkshire Fine Arts.

The writer has a more serious side, too. Lopez talks candidly with me about the genesis of The Whipping Man here in Berkshire on Stage.

Above is one of the first photos of the Barrington Stage cast together and below are some fresh production photos from San Diego that are in tonight's press kits. The energy and tension apparent in these images testify to the compelling nature of this show. And it is visual proof as to why you should not, can not, must not miss The Whipping Man.

Mark J. Sullivan as Caleb in the West Coast Premiere of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, directed by Giovanna Sardelli at The Old Globe May 8 - June 17, 2010. Photo by Craig Schwartz

(l. to r.) Charlie Robinson as Simon, Mark J. Sullivan as Caleb and Avery Glymph as John in the West Coast Premiere of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, directed by Giovanna Sardelli at The Old Globe May 8 - June 17, 2010. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

l. to r.) Mark J. Sullivan as Caleb and Avery Glymph as John in the West Coast Premiere of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, directed by Giovanna Sardelli at The Old Globe May 8 - June 17, 2010. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Just in! The first San Diego review: and they love The Whipping Man.

Performances (May 26 to June 17) of "The Whipping Man" are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 3:00 and 7:3pm at BSC Stage 2, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield. Opening Night: Sat., May 29 at 8pm. Tickets: $15-$45. Seniors: $20 all matinees. Pay What You Can Night for 35 year olds and younger: Fri., June 4 at 7:30pm. For ticket information call 413-236-8888, stop by the BSC Box Office at 30 Union Street, or visit

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting familiar with Matthew Lopez and "The Whipping Man"

Playwright Matthew Lopez started out as an actor, but found that writing used his talents best.

Playwrights like Matthew Lopez have a keen eye and ear for what turns audiences on, and, it turns out that Matthew has a finely tuned sense of irony and humor as well. Here's a video he recently shared. This takeoff on Dreamgirls by Israel Cortez (who could be his stunt double) is a hoot, a real knee slapper. Creative souls need lots of clever nourishment to keep the good stuff coming, and the video proves that good performances are a lot more than just lip synching.

While the Matthew Lopez drama The Whipping Man is serious rather than funny, it is a fascinating look into a subject you have probably never thought about.

Lopez likes to write about underdogs ... people who don't make it into the history books but are somehow caught up in the wheels of historic events. One of his plays is about a young man dealing with the after-effects of a gay-bashing. Another is about a New York family of Puerto Rican performers who are evicted from their home in 1959 to make way for Lincoln Center. The Whipping Man tackles an even more arcane subject.

Berkshire Cast for The Whipping Man: CLARKE PETERS, LE ROY McCLAIN and NICK WESTRATE at Barrington Stage Company

It's about a post-Civil War Jewish Confederate soldier and his former slaves, who share his faith. He returns home to find the place in ruins, but with his now freed slaves still there. Filled with twists and turns, Lopez's play examines Caleb's moral ambiguity, Simon's guileless loyalty to his former owner, John's ideas as a newly radical freeman, and the approaching Exodus in the post-Emancipation South. The production will feature Clarke Peters (HBO’s Treme and The Wire), LeRoy McClain and Nick Westrate. Christopher Innvar directs the Barrington Stage production at Stage 2 ( 36 Linden Street , Pittsfield ).

To read more about Matthew Lopez and the reasons he wrote this play, visit my primary site, Berkshire On Stage

In San Diego: Matthew Lopez (front) with actors Charlie Robinson, Avery Glymph and Mark J. Sullivan. The West Coast Premiere of The Whipping Man runs at The Old Globe May 8 - June 13, 2010. Photo courtesy of The Old Globe.

The Whipping Man has just begun rehearsals at Barrington Stage Company. There will be several low cost previews beginning on May 26 with the official opening May 29. (NOTE: Now opened to universally positive reviews, it has been selling out and the run has been extended to June 17.) It has had an almost simultaneous opening at the Old Globe Theatre is San Diego. Lopez was just named playwright in residence for that company.

For more information and tickets, visit Barrington Stage Companyand while you are at it, be sure to check out Berkshire On Stage for the latest performing arts news and reviews.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

DJ Dennis da menace to DJ "Faux Q" Black and White Dance Party

Another great event for the LGBTQ community and its allies
organized by Quite Queer and Timothy Michael Kushi.

Quite Queer and Wet have gotten together (the first time publicly!) to throw a kick-ass queer dance party on Saturday May 15, another in their series of fun dance events in the Berkshires.

There's great news, too. DJ Dennis da menace has been announced as one of the spinners. DJ Absent is another.

Dennis da M will bring his special brand of turntablism to Jaes where the dancing begins at 8:30 and goes to 1:30.

Dennis da Menace will make your feet happy this Saturday at Jae's Spice for the QQ "Faux Q" Event.

This naughty master of music is well known in Spanish Harlem for the good times he brings with him. His choices have strictly urban creds and are tinged with hip hop, reggae and latin beats. Having been at this for several years now, he's a rising celeb, in demand in Miami, California and other hot spots of the club scene.

Sample the danceable soundblends on his MySpace page and then try to resist his only Berkshires appearance next weekend.

Suggested dress theme is black and white, with maybe a little creative use of red.

And if you need more incentives, remember there will also be a Chinese raffle with the chance to win some amazing prizes, a professional photo booth to get photos so you can remember this magical night forever, and some useful and interesting party favors courtesy of Wet! lubricant company. Full open bar for 21+ too.

Advance ticket prices are $8 for 21+ and $12 for 18+. Admission at door: $10 for 21+, $15 for 18+ Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gay Teens Plan Semi-Formal Ball, Face Down Homophobia

Since this column began people have said that the Berkshires are very LGBTQ accepting and that there really wasn't much need to cover the "out" scene, gays and lesbians being well integrated into the community.

That's pretty much true, but there are still some problems.

For example, today's Berkshire Eagle had a wonderful story by Jenn Smith on the "Crooked" event. It's a LGBTQ Prom being organized by the Live Out Loud Youth Leadership Project of Western Massachusetts. It will take place at Jae's Spice in Pittsfield on Friday, May 14.

But within an hour of this upbeat and factual article being published, the hatred began. The paper's Topix comments linked to the story started to accumulate gay bashing comments. Anonymously of course. The haters are mostly nervous nellies who would never dare sign their name to such vitriol.

The cover of anonymity the Eagle provides these nabobs enables them to act as the Berkshire's own shadow Ku Klux Klan. The KKK wore hoods to conceal their identity and avoid being held responsible for their terrorist tactics. So too does the Eagle provide cover for these cowards. Already several comments have been deleted because they contained clearly hateful and threatening comments. The Topix columns will remain a haven for the local lynch mob until they require people to sign in and identify themselves before posting. The fact that this has not happened after repeated requests to do so can only prove that the Eagle would rather have the hatred and controversy than rational community discussions in their public forums.

The same people who cheered when the original Jae's closed are now threatening to boycott it. And promising violence outside the event. Fair minded people will remember that Jae's has provided a warm welcome for everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other divisive term.

While I defend the right of these Topix dwellers to their own narrow version of free speech, it is perverse how they would refuse other Americans the right to free assembly. Or the pursuit of happiness. How un-American. How un-Berkshire like.

Lincoln's concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness still is lost on some people. They probably think the wrong side won the Civil War.

Here is a smattering of some of their comments: "Sure to be a big fight out side SPICE the night of this venue
SICK...a pedophile's delight....Go back in the closet." Some of the more colorful ones are gone, I will not repeat them here.

The article can be found here. It is titled "A Chance to be Yourself."

"This ball is purposely being launched during prom season to offer an additional venue for LGBTQ kids and allies to go to feel safe. Our dance aims to provide an avenue where couples of all types can be celebrated in a safe setting," said Kelly Shuff-Heck, who co-advises the Live Out Loud Youth group.

In recent weeks we have read about controversies over gay and lesbian teens being refused permission to attend proms in other states, and though there have been no overt refusals in the Berkshires, the undercurrent of disapproval still deters many students from participating. "We wanted to have a dance where you can be yourself and have fun," said Tiffani White, a student of the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center and a Live Out Loud member.

La Cage, Sean Hayes get Tony Nominations

Robin De Jesus of La Cage: "The last time I was nominated, I ended up in therapy."

The 64th Annual Tony Award nominations gave a huge boost to the Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles with 11 nominations. The new Bill T. Jones musical Fela! tied La Cage with 11 nominations of its own. La Cage is in the running as Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Robin de Jesus, and Best Lead Actor in a Musical for both Douglas Hodge and Kelsey Grammer.

There were other gay favorites getting the honor. Elton John's Next Fall (he and David Furnish are producers) received several nominations including one for Best Play. Next Fall's director, Sheryl Kaller got a Best Director nod.

Meantime a battle of the Broadway divas is shaping up as both the legendary Barbara Cook (Sondheim on Sondheim) and Angela Lansbury (A Little Night Music) are in the running for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

From soap operas to the stage: Levi Kreis.

Gay performers being recognized include Levi Kreis frm Milion Dollar Quartet for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and Sean Hayes for Best actor in a Musical, for Promises, Promises.

Sean Hayes already has a mantel full of awards.

The full slate of nominees and a more detailed story is now posted on my Berkshire On Stage website.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Great Food and Company - the BSCC Potluck May 5

The Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition will be hosting their bi-monthly potluck dinner on Wednesday, May 5th at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on Wendell Ave in Pittsfield. This in-person social event supplements its online presence (Website and Facebook) and is free and open to all members of the GLBTQ & Allied Communities. You don't have to be out, or even gay to attend this traditional Berkshires social event. Just bring an open mind.

Attendees need only bring a food dish to share, themselves, witty conversation and charm. Donations to the coalition are always appreciated.

Just prior to the potluck, the Board of Directors will hold the monthly board meeting at the Unitarian Church from 5:30 - 7 p.m.

The Board will be discussing several important upcoming events, including the Live Out Loud Youth Project's Youth Ball on May 14th, and BSCC's Annual Fundrasier to be held on June 19th. Both events will take place at Jae's Spice. The Board meeting is open to the public, with the last 15 minutes of the meeting for community questions, comments, and input.