Archive for September, 2010

Quarter Auction Benefits Harrisburg YWCA

September 28, 2010

Want to help the YWCA? Wed., Nov. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. the organization will hold a “Quarter Auction” at the Harrisburg YWCA Chapel, 1101 Market Street, Harrisburg, Pa. Vendors include jewels, home crafts and decor, purses. Get your holiday gifts for just quarters! Food and drinks will be sold. $5 admission. Proceeds go to the YWCA.

Here’s how a Quarter Auction works, according to Pam Hartmam: Vendors decide what they want the participants to bid. Some bids can be $.25 and usually up to $1. People pay $5 to get in and they get one number. You can pay more and get more numbers. The numbers are on little balls and when you bid and if your number is called, you get the item for auction.

What a great way to help a worthy organization.

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Phila. Fringe Festival Review

September 24, 2010

Phila. Fringe Festival Review: 16 Days of Music, Film, Visual Arts
By Debra Miller

Photos Below
The 2010 Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival is over, after 16 days of nearly non-stop performances. As anticipated, Lucinda Childs’ Dance, with music by Philip Glass and film by Sol LeWitt, was the exemplar to which all other avant-garde work should aspire. With their roots in the original “fringe” of conceptual artists at New York’s Judson Memorial Church in the early 1960s (which offered unconventional figures like Yoko Ono, Allen Kaprow, and Claes Oldenburg a place to show their work), these trailblazers redefined dance, music, theater, and the visual arts, and had an immeasurable impact on the Post-Modern generation that followed, including the minimalist underground films of Andy Warhol.

Surprisingly, the show’s three-day run at the Kimmel Center was not sold out, but its opening night was populated by the illuminati of Philadelphia’s cultural scene, all in agreement about the profound artistic experience they lauded with a prolonged standing ovation. Dance began at a breakneck pace and never relented, leaving the performers and audience breathless. The live dancers’ stylized symmetrical movements, choreographed by Childs, were performed behind a scrim, with silent video projections of the original performance from1979, shot from a variety of floating angles by LeWitt, and set to the frenetic redundancies and variations of the score by Glass. The stark blue lighting, empty stage, and unadorned white costumes were in perfect accord with the collaborators’ less-is-more aesthetic; all elements were consistently subtle, hypnotic, visually impeccable, and flawlessly synchronized. This piece defines art; it is a transcendent work that truly transports its viewers to a different plane.

Another minimalist offering in dance was Jérôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux. Presented as a live resumé, the solo eponymous dancer reviewed his career at an excruciatingly slow pace, with a soft-spoken humble demeanor bordering on insecurity. As a result, the audience experienced firsthand the tedium of seemingly endless auditions, warm-ups, and rehearsals, the impossible contortions and physical battering expected of professional dancers, and the brutally demoralizing criticisms they receive at the hands of their mentors. Each segment was followed by Andrieux trying to catch his breath, panting heavily into his headset for countless empty minutes. For me, he was sympathetic and engaging, with occasional understated touches of humor, as he imparted a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it means to be a well-known well-toned dancer. Others seated around me found the 75-minute performance interminably boring and self-indulgent. Though the audience reaction was mixed, I found Andrieux’s delivery completely in tune with the message: it’s worth all the emotional and bodily torture for that moment of supreme ecstasy onstage.

Two solo theatrical performances were also among my Top Picks for the Fringe, and they didn’t disappoint. Both Nevermore Theater Project’s The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe and Luna Theater’s Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno were devastating studies of mental instability, acted with masterful intensity by John Zak and Christopher M. Bohan. Under the direction of Domenick Scudera, Zak, who has one of the most expressive faces in Philadelphia, drew us into the deteriorating mind of Poe’s fictional killer, from the carefully modulated and logical introduction to the increasingly agitated finale. Bohan’s stand-up monologist Thom Pain was crazed and depressed, distracted and haunted; director Gregory Scott Campbell adeptly guided Bohan’s physical transformations through each bipolar cycle, from the wildly gesticulating arms and hands of his mania, to the downturned head and turned-in hands of his thoroughly dejected sadness, to the ambiguous twinkle in his eye and smile, as he expressed a final wish of “stability” for his audience. This is not theater for the fainthearted; it is powerful, disturbing, and uncompromisingly human. These heart-wrenching performances by Zak and Bohan will stay with me.

Lighter fare was provided by Plays and Players’ Hear Again Radio Project, a visual recreation of two 1950s radio dramas, replete with commercials and sound effects. Every detail of the now camp production was well researched and accurate, from the costumes, hairdos, and make-up, to the trained radio voices reading the vintage scripts. Staged in the Skinner Studio of Plays and Players’ historic building, it was an entertaining and nostalgic step back in time, even for those of us who are not of that time. A stand-out in the cast was the young Vayia Karavangelas, whose delivery and timing in Zero Hour were spot-on as the pre-teen accomplice to Martian invaders.

One of the most original new works in the Live Arts Festival was Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental’s ¡El Conquistador! Supported by a cadre of Latin American telenovela stars filmed in Bogotá, Colombia, Thaddeus Phillips’ protagonist walked freely from live stage into (and out of) the well coordinated film clips, as he rose from rural poverty to the soap-opera life of a doorman in the big city, to a man of leisure at a beach resort, after escaping an assassination attempt and hitting the lottery! The exaggerated characters and outrageous plot twists, delivered completely in Spanish and derived in part from Hamlet and The Count of Monte Cristo, were hilarious.

So too was Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliet, whose unique premise was to present Shakespeare’s classic based on a series of ten phone calls to people who were asked to recount the story. None could remember the exact details, so embellished, invented, and went off on personal tangents. Actors Robert M. Johanson and Anne Gridley alternately recited the telephone soliloquies verbatim, applying Elizabethan dialects and histrionics to the colloquial American versions. It was a stroke of comic genius that kept the audience in hysterics, and one of the funniest productions I’ve ever seen. The show closed with the stage and house lights going down, and the actors reciting Shakespeare’s true text in total darkness, in conversational tones without theatrics, faux English accents, or visual distractions. The contrast between the inarticulate telephone accounts and the exquisite beauty of Shakespeare’s language confirmed why he remains the world’s greatest playwright.

Visually and vocally, Marcel Williams Foster’s drag parody of anthropologist Jane Goodall in Hypen-Nation Arts’ The Jane Goodall: Experience was a comic delight. Though the story, writing, and music were not on par with Foster’s uncanny impersonation of his mentor in Tanzania, the promotional photos are stunning, and the production certainly fit the bill of “Fringe.” The running time, which was listed as 90 minutes in the Festival catalogue, was much shorter—presumably the show is still a work-in-progress, and worth the effort of reworking for future presentation.

Another work-in-progress, by David Robson and John Stanton, and presented free of charge as a reading, was Madhouse Theater Company’s Playing Leni (formerly titled Dysfictional Circumstances). Brilliantly performed by Colleen Corcoran, Robert DaPonte, and John Galla, the dark comedy about Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, is clever, well-written, and thought-provoking. Conceived as a Riefenstahl-directed autobiographical film-within-a-play, and set in the Austrian countryside during her post-war capture and detention, it humorously raises serious questions about personal ethics, opportunism, self-preservation, and the accident of birth. Be sure to see the full-stage production in May 2011.

Other established companies that extended their seasons into the Fringe and presented the most compelling and accomplished productions of the Festival were EgoPo and Theatre Exile. As my top picks of 2010-11, both succeeded in cementing their reputations as legitimate theaters on the cutting edge, featuring work by two of Philadelphia’s most outstanding directors, Brenna Geffers and Deborah Block.
Geffers launched EgoPo’s “Theater of Cruelty” season with The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Staged in the University of Pennsylvania’s classical Rotunda of 1911, the dilapidated space was the perfect metaphor for the deteriorating state of the French Revolution, the sanity of the asylum’s inmates, and the morals of de Sade. There is no formal stage in the circular building, but the interior was used to full advantage by Geffers; actors appeared on the balcony for their impassioned revolutionary addresses to the crowds, and at floor level with the audience (seated just two rows deep in a semi-circle around the action), for an in-your-face intimacy and intensity. Led by award-worthy performances from David Blatt as de Sade, Steven Wright as Marat, and Jered McLenigan as the emcee, the ensemble of thirteen was consistently stellar, as was the original music by Mathew Wright and lighting by Matt Sharp.

Block, too, gave us a tour-de-force of directing with Iron, converting Exile’s newly restored Studio X into a catwalk stage for the penetrating prison drama. Within inches of the audience, Catharine Slusar and Kim Carson not only mastered the requisite Scottish accents, but gave stirringly convincing performances as the estranged mother and daughter trying to come to terms with their lives and the past. The heartbreaking story of these strong and oddly sympathetic women provided no easy resolution, no politically correct excuses, no surprise ending; it was as real as theater can be, and deserving of the highest accolades. Even Caitlin Antram and Michael Hagan, playing the prison guards, remained in character throughout the performance, keeping close watch on the audience, and thereby giving us a brief taste of what imprisonment means.

One additional production I had the good fortune to see, when my return flight from Chicago arrived early, was Polaroid Stories at the University of the Arts. An experimental combination of live actors, video, live music, and graffiti, the original play is an intelligent reworking of themes and characters from classical mythology, reconfigured as a lost generation of contemporary runaway kids (victims of abuse, drugs, poverty, and sexual exploitation), living their tragic lives in an urban hell. Participating students had the opportunity to work with professional actor Russ Widdall (one of Philadelphia’s finest, who gave a characteristically powerful performance), and sound designer Nick Rye (who created the show’s original music).

I hope the masses of attendees at the many sold out Festival productions continue to patronize Philadelphia’s small theater companies, many with tickets priced below those of the Fringe, and performance dates spread out at a leisurely pace over the entire 2010-11 season. Season subscriptions to EgoPo, Flashpoint, Inis Nua, Luna, New City Stage, and Theatre Exile, combined, total less than the Fringe’s $325 all-access pass. At those prices, and with their proven quality and professionalism, why not support Philadelphia’s outstanding theater scene throughout the year, not just for 16 harried days?

BREAKING: Harrisburg & Reading Pride, Lancaster Rally Noted in State Intelligence Reports

September 18, 2010

Central PA Pride Festival, Reading Pride, and Lancaster rallies opposing closing of that county’s Human Relations Commission are among many events listed in intelligence bulletins released earlier today by The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security.

The intelligence reports, prepared under a $125,000 state contract with the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, first became controversial when media outlets reported the Institute had been tracking anti-drilling activists opposed to development of the Marcellus Shale. Earlier this week, Gov. Ed Rendell cancelled the contract.

Pa. House Rep. Babette Josephs, chair of the House State Government Committee overseeing the Homeland Security Office, today called for the release of the intelligence bulletins today. “If this information is not fully disclosed,” she said, “I intend to file a Right To Know request with the Office of Open Records and conduct committee hearings on the matter.”

The July 19 listing says:
PrideFest in Harrisburg, Celebration in Reading
On 24 July 2010, a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender, “Gay pride”) parade and subsequent festival, PrideFest, are scheduled in Harrisburg. On 18 July 2010, the Reading Pride Celebration is slated to be held in Centre Park, Reading. There are increasing indications of focused, anti-gay rhetoric and actions among White supremacists and right-wing militia supporters. Analysts and researchers are continuously monitoring sources for details on protest/counter-protest activities. (PAIB No. 105) Source: Pennsylvania Actionable Intelligence Bulletin No. 113.

The July 23 listing says:
Rallies ‘to Defend Lancaster County’s Civil Rights’
The Committee to Defend Civil Rights in Lancaster, a coalition of civil action groups, is planning two “Unity Rallies” for 24 July and 29 July 2010. Both events, called to oppose “the elimination of the County’s Human Relations Commission,” are to be held in Binns Park in Lancaster County.

After the 29 July gathering in Binns Park, protesters “will march in unity to the public hearing on the elimination of Lancaster County’s Human Relations Commission.”

Speakers at the events include local politicians, church leaders, NAACP branch representatives and a member of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Sponsoring organizations behind the rallies include: American Civil Liberties Union, Congregation Shaarei Shomayim, Equality PA, Crispus Attucks Community Center, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, Lancaster Coalition for Peace and Justice, Lancaster County Council of Churches, Lancaster City Human Relations Commission Board, Lancaster City Human Relations Commission, Lancaster County Coalition for Religious and Social Justice, Lancaster County Democratic Committee, Lancaster County Democratic Women’s Association, Lancaster Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Organizing Committee, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, Spanish American Civic Association, Theatre For Transformation, Vision of Hope MCC, YWCA of Lancaster.
Source: Pennsylvania Actionable Intelligence Bulletin No. 115

Fall Achievement Benefit Oct. 16

September 17, 2010

The Fall Achievement Benefit – FAB – is Sat., Oct. 16. The event is a key source of funding for the region’s LGBT Community Center.

The event will be held at Hershey Lodge, 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA 17033, 717-533-3311. Black Tie Optional.

Tickets are now available at http://www.FAB2010.org.

VIP Ticket, $200 per person, includes:
* VIP Reception
* Swag Bag (≈$100 value, limited to first 125 VIP ticket-holders)
* Silent Auction
* Complimentary Drink Tickets
* Main Event & Dinner
* After-Party

Classic Ticket, $100 per person, includes:
* Classic Reception
* Silent Auction
* Complimentary Drink Ticket
* Main Event & Dinner
* After-Party

This year’s event will feature a Red Carpet entrance leading attendees into an atmosphere reminiscent of a 1940s Supper Club. The ambience in the VIP lounge will have the feel of a classic lounge like the Club El Morocco of 1940s New York City. A Standards Band, featuring lead vocalist Lindsay Bretz, will delight the crowd with sounds from the era. Soft lighting, graceful flowers, and sensual music in a hazy atmosphere will transform the Great American Hall at the Hershey Lodge into an elegant 1940s Supper Club experience.

The VIP Reception will begin at 6:30. The Classic Reception will begin at 7:00 in the Lobby of the Great American Hall. Dinner is scheduled for 8:00 followed by dancing to the sounds of a high energy DJ until 1:00 a.m. The entire evening will include fine dining, great wine, and FABulous music. It promises to transport you back to a time when clubbing was the ultimate experience!

Mike Greenwald, formerly of WITF, will emcee the program for the evening. It will include testimonials from participants involved with Common Roads, the youth programming arm of the Center. The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 2010 FAB Award honoring those who have made important contributions to the economic, political, cultural, spiritual and social progress of LGBT causes within our region.

This year’s sponsors are:
McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, Sam’s Club, Capital Blue Cross, Central Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Dasher Services Inc., Equality PA, Members 1st, MyCommunityTickets.com, Nauman Smith Shissler & Hall, LLP, Wachovia, Hilton Harrisburg, Kades-Margolis Corporation, Pennsylvania State Education Association, and Central Voice.

US Senate to Take Up DADT Week of Sept. 20

September 14, 2010

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, applauded today’s announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office that Senator Reid will finally bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) up for debate during the week of September 20th.

The NDAA contains an important provision that would authorize the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, in addition to authorizations for annual pay and equipment funding for the entire military.

“We are both pleased and relieved that Senator Reid has decided to schedule the defense authorization bill for floor time next week,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “We are fairly confident that we will have the 60 votes to break a filibuster of this bill. It would be shameful for lawmakers to vote to hold up an important and expansive piece of legislation like the defense authorization bill simply because of their opposition to one or two provisions within it.”

Servicemembers United has been leveling sustained, heavy pressure on Senator Reid over the delay in allowing the NDAA to move forward, including sharp criticism just this morning in the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill (“Reid My Lips: No Forgiveness for No NDAA in September”).

US District Court Overturns “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

September 10, 2010

In a suit the organization brought in 2004, Log Cabin Republicans are celebrating the decision (Sept. 9, 2010) by a US District Court judge to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as an unconstitutional violation of a service members’ rights to free speech and due process.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane Don’t Ask Don’t Tell statute violates the Constitution,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members.”

“We are delighted with the court’s ruling in favor of Log Cabin Republicans in this important case. The court’s opinion finds that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional, and the court will issue a permanent injunction preventing the government from further enforcement of this unconstitutional statute,” said Dan Woods, lead attorney for the case and partner at White & Case. “This is a major victory in the fight for equality and means that military service will be available to all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Log Cabin Republicans brought this suit in October 2004. The case went to trial in July 2010 before the United States District Court of the Central District of California and was decided by Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Judge Phillips ruling can be found here: http://online.logcabin.org/dadt-9-9-2010-decision.pdf

Community Responders Network Launches

September 1, 2010

Community Response Network forms. Silent Witness Peacekeepers one participating group.

Formed to address intolerance, the Community Responders Network launches Sept. 12, 3 p.m. at an Interfaith Service in remembrance of 9/11. The service will be held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral, 221 North Front Street, Harrisburg.

The network will provide concerned citizens with guidance and procedures on how to deal with the immediate impact of intolerance.

Later this month on Sept. 21, Silent Witness Peacekeepers activist Alanna Berger, Rabbi Carl Choper, Margee Kooistra, and Rev. Jim Brown will accept the Jane Addams Peace Award from the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg for their work in bringing the group together.

The CRN originally started in response to the anti-Muslim DVD that began circulating during the 2008 election campaign. Berger, and others, was asked to join the network because of Silent Witness Peacekeepers philosophy of non-violent response to spiritual violence. Silent Witness is best known in the region for its participation in the annual Central PA Pride Festival.

During the network’s planning stages, the group discussed possibly responding to physical attacks, graffiti, vandalism, KKK or other supremacist groups, as well as lgbt-related events. Recently, the network responded to the Aug. 13 appearance at the state capitol by the National Organization for Marriage. NOM opposes same-sex marriage.

“We want to them know they are not alone,” Berger said in an email. “If necessary, we will make public statements denouncing the attacks and in support of the people or groups attacked.” The network works closely with the Pennsylvania Human Relations commission Task Force on Civil Tension. “Our role would be to make sure the victims know where to get help,” Berger said. The network will not take the place of police.

The rationale for forming the network addresses what Berger called “the lack of an effective way to speak out on behalf of members of our community who have been the targets of harassment, intolerance or hate.

The group’s news release states that “whether African American, Jewish, Native American, or someone whose ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical limitations sets them apart, there are those in our community who have been the victims of inhumane and even harmful treatment by others.” The release notes that since 9/11, Muslims in this area and throughout the US have been subjected to increasing incidents of intolerance. “Frequently, these individuals have not received support from the larger community,” the release said, continuing “The Community Responders Network was created out of this concern by a diverse group of religious and community leaders because in addition to Muslims, there are many other groups who are set apart and attacked. The network’s intention is to support those who are victimized and to speak out with a moral voice to say: “Intolerance is unacceptable in our community”.

Information: http://www.pacommunityresponders.org