Archive for June, 2011

Harrisburg Men’s Chorus Seeks Artistic Director

June 22, 2011

Want to be an artistic director?

Harrisburg Men’s Chorus today announced the retirement of artistic director David Walker, who has served for eight years. The 2011-2012 season will be his last.

Walker is credited with taking the chorus to new heights under his talented leadership. They have attended 2 GALA (Gay and Lesbian National Choral Association) Festivals in Miami, Florida and San Jose, California with Denver, Colorado in 2012.

David has encouraged collaboration with other musical groups both in Central Pennsylvania and abroad, including the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus, the Central Pennsylvania Womyn’s Chorus and the Arcona Reel Band. In the Harrisburg area, David has been instrumental in leading the Voices United concerts for 7 years. His sense of humor, wit and talents will be dearly missed.

The chorus is on the search for a new Artistic Director. The search will be opening in the Fall of 2011 to have a director in place by the Spring of 2012. If you or anyone you know has an interest in leading this dynamic chorus, please visit our website at http://www.harrisburgmenschorus.org where a job description/application is posted or send us a resume at Harrisburg Men’s Chorus, P.O. Box 62201, Harrisburg PA 17106.

The group’s mission continues to be one of sharing the message of inclusion and tolerance with new audiences while maintaining the tradition of fusing humor and sentiment to create an unforgettable musical experience.

The chorus brings the unique sound of a men’s chorus to a variety of genres, effortlessly switching from jazz to show tunes to folk songs, making it a must-see Harrisburg staple.

Bethlehem City Council Unanimously Passes Civil Rights Ordinance

June 22, 2011

Following a three hour public meeting last night (June 21, 2011) Bethlehem City Council unanimously passed a non-discrimination ordinance. The next step is for Mayor John Callahan, who introduced the measure, to sign the ordinance.

Adrian Shanker, who led a coalition effort to pass the ordinance, is vice president of Pennsylvania Diversity Network. The coalition represented more than 100 business, faith, labor, arts, education, and civil rights organizations in support of the ordinance.

“We won tonight, but there were no real losers,” stated Shanker. “The Bethlehem community was loud and clear that they want civil rights protections, and city council tonight listened and voted accordingly.” Shanker said, “This law helps working people, it helps small business, it protects religious freedom, and most importantly, it makes discrimination illegal in the City of Bethlehem.”

“I would be hard-pressed to find a vote that I support more than the one I’m voting on tonight” said councilman J. William Reynolds as he cast his vote in favor of the bill. Reynolds is not alone in his sentiments. Mike Fegley of the popular Bethlehem Restaurant, the Bethlehem Brew Works stated, “this is the ethical thing to do in Bethlehem.” Before passing the ordinance, council voted to clarify the religious exemption and retain expanded powers, such as subpoena power, for the Human Relations Commission, following requests from many supporters of the ordinance.

Testimony was provided by the AARP of Pennsylvania, Equality Pennsylvania, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Communities in Schools, and the Indian American Association of the Lehigh Valley, among others.

Ted Martin, executive director, Equality Pennsylvania attended three of the four public meetings on the issue. Following tonight’s vote, Martin said, “I can only hope that the Pennsylvania legislature will follow Bethlehem’s lead and pass a fully inclusive statewide non discrimination law.” Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) has introduced this legislation in the Senate, and Representative Frankel introduced companion legislation in the House. The lack of a fully inclusive state law has caused 21 municipalities, including Bethlehem, to pass their own versions on the local level.

Bethlehem follows neighboring Allentown, Easton, and Reading in passing this law. Liz Bradbury led a similar effort in Allentown more than ten years ago and attended tonight’s meeting. “I am so pleased that I can now recommend Bethlehem as a safe place to live or work for members of the lgbt community” said Bradbury.

Bethlehem Council Readies for Final Non-discrimination Vote

June 21, 2011

Bethlehem Council is scheduled for a final vote tonight (June 21, 2011) on the city’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance, according to Adrian Shanker who has led a broad coalition urging passage. Tonight’s meeting serves as the fourth, required public meeting after which a vote is anticipated.

Shanker says Bethlehem is currently the largest municipality in Pennsylvania lacking a non-discrimination law. If passed, the city joins 20 other municipalities in the state in banning discrimination in housing, education, employment, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation.

The effort is led by Pennsylvania Diversity Network, Equality Pennsylvania and the ACLU of PA and support from more than 100 businesses, faith leaders, and organizations in Bethlehem, including AARP, ArtsQuest, Lehigh Valley Labor Council, Lehigh University, Shanker said.

Bethlehem resident Rob Hopkins started a petition on Change.org which was signed by more than 500 supporters.

Lancaster Pride Draws Crowd

June 20, 2011

Lancaster Pride Festival June 18

June 16, 2011

At noon Sat., June 18 Buchanan Park will be the sight of the Lancaster’s 4th Annual Pride Fest. Pride festivals are organized around the country to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which are seen as a turning point in the lgbt civil rights movement, and Lancaster Pride is one of the largest in the region.

There are over 50 vendors selling everything from art and jewelry to Pride wares to food of all sorts. This years theme is CARNIVAL featuring jugglers, mimes, street performers, face painting, and a dunk tank where you even get to test your skill at soaking a drag queen!

Three stages will entertain you throughout the day with dancing, live music, and, of course, the ever popular drag queens and kings. This years will include a Kids Corner with games and Arts & Crafts in recognition of the importance of families to members LGBT community.

“The tremendous support for Pride from the community continues to be an inspiration for the LGBT community. Pride isn’t just for us, it’s serves as a way to celebrate with our straight allies how far we’ve come,” says Lancaster Pride Co-chair Erica Millner, “and re-energize us as we work towards full equality.”

“As we continue the struggle for full equality for our community, our Pride festival is an important way to demonstrate our diversity and unity” said Adanjesus Marin, Chair Lancaster City Human Relations Commission and Advocacy Chair for Lancaster Pride.

“Lancaster Pride carries on the long tradition of celebrating diversity in Lancaster County,” explained Melody Keim, Fundraising Chair for Lancaster Pride, “just as our ancestors came to this county for its religious tolerance and freedom, Pride is a way for the county to show it welcomes our LGBT community.”

Madhouse Theater Company’s Playing Leni: An Artist’s Dilemma

June 9, 2011

Robert DaPonte as The Soldier and Amanda Grove as Leni; photo by Paola Nogueras.

by Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

You’re offered support, acclaim, fame, and prestige as an artist, given a blank check, with everything at your disposal. But there’s just one catch: you’ll be working for the Nazis, to create propaganda for the Third Reich during World War II. Such was the dilemma of Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl.

How would you play it?

Madhouse founder John Stanton, who co-authored Playing Leni with David Robson, was fascinated by the question of “how far someone is willing to go for fame and success.” Did Riefenstahl truly believe in the Nazi cause she promoted in her films, or was she a mere opportunist, who let blind ambition triumph over moral conscience?

The new dark comedy is a fictionalized account of Riefenstahl’s capture, arrest, and transfer to a detention center by an American Allied soldier. In it, their journey offers Leni a compelling theme for a film, starring herself and her captor – her own story, which she composes, directs, rewrites, and edits along the way.

Playing Leni already won the Spark Showcase in 2010, when it debuted its first scene under the title Dysfictional Circumstances; it also numbered among my Top Picks in last year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival, where a reading of the early script was presented. The current full-stage production, which runs through June 11, in the Adrienne Theatre Skybox, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, more than fulfills the promise of its previous incarnations; it is a well designed, witty, and thought-provoking hit for Madhouse.

Employing video projections as a backdrop, the two-person cast moves through Germany, and Leni’s self-edited recollections, doing take after retake to recount their own slanted versions of her affiliation with the Nazis. Robert DaPonte as The Soldier cements his status as one of Philadelphia’s finest young actors, equally adept at physical comedy and committed characterizations, at accents and impersonations. Amanda Grove as Leni faced the difficult task of following the brilliant Colleen Corcoran, who originated the role in Spark and the Fringe, but had to withdraw from the current production due to an injury. Grove did not disappoint. Under Seth Reichgott’s inspired direction, her Leni was powerful and commanding, comical and conflicted, but steadfastly unwilling “to shoulder the burden of other people’s crimes.”

Madhouse’s imaginative interpretation of Riefenstahl is remarkably even-handed, considering the resonant nature of the subject for gay and Jewish members of the cast and team—though it should resonate for everyone. The audience feels both sympathy and contempt for Leni, and recognizes that we could all be like her, depending on the circumstances. The play raises ethical issues without being preachy, allowing each of us to decide for ourselves if Riefenstahl was complicit or unknowing, a chameleon who could adapt to any situation, or a survivor who made the movies because she had no choice. And it manages all the while to be very, very funny.

In reality, the filmmaker was arrested in 1945 and detained for three years in various Allied facilities, but was never convicted of any crime. Nonetheless, she is inextricably bound to the Nazis, and as The Soldier tells her in the play, “Once you sell your soul, you can’t buy it back.” The verdict is still out on Leni Riefenstahl, but it’s a resounding victory for Playing Leni.

For more information and tickets, visit the website at www.madhousetheater.org.

Southern Baptist Petition to be Hand-Delivered; Want to Sign On?

June 8, 2011

A new coalition announced today (June 8, 2011)that it was starting a petition today on the GetEQUAL website (www.getequal.org), calling on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to apologize for the harm its teachings are causing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Pointing to current teachings and ministries of the SBC, the coalition is attempting to shed light on harmful teachings and actions that individual congregations, pastors, and SBC leadership have embraced, targeting the LGBT community – particularly LGBT youth. These words and actions include everything from counseling parents to kick gay youth out of their homes to the horrifying practices of its “ex-gay” program. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention is one of the nation’s leading promoters of the so-called “ex-gay” industry, currently being profiled by CNN as part of a three-part series called “The Sissy Boy Experiment.”

The Southern Baptist Convention will be meeting next week in Phoenix for their annual convention, and petition signatures will be delivered there.

“We call on the Southern Baptist Convention to stop misusing the Bible to promote religion-based bigotry and start recognizing the enormous pain and suffering caused by its mistreatment of LGBT people, particularly vulnerable youth,” said Dr. Jack McKinney, a former Southern Baptist minister and spokesperson for Faith in America. “History has not been kind to the Southern Baptist Convention’s record on minorities, and it is making the same awful mistake today by perpetuating abuse against gay people.”

“The anti-gay teachings of the Southern Baptist church nearly led me to suicide,” said Dr. Jerry Stephenson, a former Southern Baptist minister and board member for Truth Wins Out. “I entered an ‘ex-gay’ ministry that falsely claimed I could change my sexual orientation and this led to a deep depression. Only after I accepted my true self was I able to reconcile my faith and sexual orientation. The Southern Baptist Convention needs to apologize because its policies are hurting real people.”

This petition drive is being organized by the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Believe OutLoud, Faith in America, GetEQUAL, Soulforce and Truth Wins Out.

“Given the arc of justice and the trajectory of history, there is no doubt the SBC will offer a full-fledged apology to the LGBT community in the future,” reads a letter that petition signers will send to SBC’s leadership. “We ask the Southern Baptist Convention to prayerfully consider whether the motive behind the mistreatment and harm toward LGBT individuals, especially youth, is born of political gain and agendas rather the spirit of Christ.”

“The time for this discrimination – especially the insidious bigotry that has been wrapped in the cloak of faith – to end. It’s time for religious entities like the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for the immense harm they’ve done to our community, and to stop providing cover for politicians to disguise their political bigotry as courageous,” said Robin McGehee, executive director of GetEQUAL. “Stop it now, apologize now, and let us all move forward together.”

Further details about the petition delivery next week in Phoenix will be available in the next few days.

GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit: http://www.getequal.org. You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/getequal.

Faith In America was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization in 2005 to effectively counter-message the bigotry, prejudice and hostility toward the LGBT community being sold to the public for several decades under the guise of religious belief and religious teaching.

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism. TWO monitors anti-LGBT organizations, documents their lies and exposes their leaders as charlatans. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality. TWO’s goal is to create a world where LGBT individuals can live openly, honestly and true to themselves.

Film Series Explores Intersection of LGBT Community & Religion

June 7, 2011

Queering the Faith is a film series exploring the intersection of the LGBTQ Community and Religion.

Film include:
Fish Out of Water
Sunday, June 12
Examines what the Bible says about homosexuality
First United Methodist Church
29 E Walnut St., Lancaster

Trembling Before G-d
Sunday, July 17
Orthodox Jews reconciling their sexuality and their faith
Congregation Shaarai Shomayim
75 E James St., Lancaster

A Jihad for Love
Sunday, Aug. 21
From the heart of Islam, stories of lesbian and gay Muslims
First Reformed Church UCC
40 E Orange St., Lancaster

For the Bible Tells Me So
Sunday, Sept. 25
Christianity, homosexuality and the family
First Presbyterian Church
140 E Orange St., Lancaster

Town Hall Discussion: From Dialogue to Action
Sunday, Oct. 30
First United Methodist Church
29 E Walnut St., Lancaster
Facilitated public discussion of the films with a panel featuring speakers from a diversity of religious & institutional perspectives on how to build interfaith dialogue into local action.
2–4:30P.M.

These sessions feature films of specific faith
traditions. A discussion follows each, examining
how the film relates to the LGBTQ community
and faith. This series is sponsored by
Embrace, a Lancaster group promoting dialogue and
assisting individuals, faith communities, and organizations in their growth to affirm
and welcome lesbian, gay, bi-, trans-, and other queer folk and their allies.

Info – EmbraceLanc@gmail.com
or follow Embrace Lancaster on Facebook.
717-380-1071

Lantern’s Vigil for Human Acceptance

June 1, 2011

By Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

Photos by Mark Garvin

In 1991, famed drag queen and Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn dedicated her autobiography, A Lowlife in High Heels, to “those who have known the struggle of being different, endured the fear of rejection, and mustered the courage to survive.” She also paid homage to her parents, who, she wrote, “loved me, cried for me, and supported me when I was up, down, and sideways!”


Holly was far more fortunate than Kemp, the protagonist in Lantern Theater Company’s heartbreaking production of Vigil, by gay Canadian playwright Morris Panych. Focusing on the emotional abuse and loneliness resulting from confused gender identity, and relating it to the plight of the elderly as the “throw-aways” of our society, Vigil is the darkest of comedies. But the best of it is not a comedy at all; it is a love story between two lost souls, who accidentally come together and briefly connect.

The play is composed of 38 short scenes, in which Kemp progressively reveals the horrors of his childhood to the wealthy old woman he presumes to be his dying Aunt Grace, from whom he has been estranged for 30 years. Unloved, misunderstood, and damaged, Kemp viciously plans the details of Grace’s imminent death and funeral services with shocking insensitivity. Among the most comical and slapstick is the suicide machine he builds for her – constructed with great imagination by set designer Nick Embree and his interns – which goes awry and elicits the loudest laughs of the play.

Grace endures Kemp’s outrageous diatribes in silence, but with hilarious, readily legible facial expressions that mirror the audience’s reactions to his venom. In the end, Grace and all of us come to understand the source of his torment and empathize with his pain: Grace because she, too, was lonely; and the audience, because we realize that any one of us could end up in the same situation, alone and unwanted. In the words of the playwright, “I want to write more about lost children; since my parents both died, I feel I have become one.”

Under the masterful direction of Peter De Laurier, the two-person cast of Lenny Haas as Kemp and Ceal Phelan as Grace is superb; their performances are nuanced, their characterizations at once funny and anguished, brutal and bittersweet. They draw us into their growing bond as they become more open and comfortable with each other, and forge the attachment they both so desperately need. As Kemp begins to come out in articles of Grace’s clothing, she knits a dainty sweater for him, which sits vigil over her deathbed in his absence. Their final mutual acceptance is a poignant conclusion to a meaningful production that will make you laugh, cry, think, and connect. In other words, it will make you more human.

Vigil runs through June 12, at St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia. For more information and tickets, visit the website at www.lanterntheater.org.