Archive for September, 2012

The Philly Fringe Rocks with Brat Productions’ RockPile

September 17, 2012

By Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

Brat Productions is keeping the Philly Fringe on the fringe with RockPile, a double-header about the rock-music scene and the American youth culture of the 1970s and ‘80s. Featuring Popsicle’s Departure, 1989 by Madi Distefano and Eternal Glamnation by Jess Conda, the high-energy shows are filled with funny and compelling gender-bending scenes of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, and with the company’s signature experimentation, power, and audacity.

Popsicle’s Departure, 1989, is a post-modern love story in which Distefano plays the roles of both Dido and Jeremy, a punk-rock couple at the end of their toxic relationship. She brings wit and poignancy to her roles, and an in-your-face attitude that won her awards in the Fringe Festivals of both Edinburgh and New York in 2007. This original tour-de-force performance by one of Philadelphia’s most enthralling artists is one you shouldn’t miss.

Eternal Glamnation, part of Conda’s Rock & Awe series, was developed during her 2011-12 artist’s residency with Brat. It’s a camp and glittery cabaret spectacle combining live music with theater, inspired by the glam-rock heroes and drag icons of the ‘70s. Performed by the outrageous, and outrageously talented, ensemble of Conda, Erik Ransom, Kevin Jordan, Frances Distefano, and Bobby Fabulous, and accompanied by Ben Diamond, Peter Gaffney, and Andrew Nelson on drums, keyboard, and guitar, Eternal Glamnation will take you back to the era of platform shoes and space-age fashions–and it will keep you rocking!

For information and tickets, visit, or log on to the Fringe website at–eternal-glamnation/#view=calendar. RockPile runs through September 26 at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia. Underground Arts is also the site of this year’s Festival Bar, so plan to stay late and to meet the artists.

BREAKING NEWS: Milton Hershey School to Pay $700,000 in HIV Discrimination Case

September 12, 2012

A 14-year-old ninth grader and his mother will receive $700,000 from the Milton Hershey School in a federal AIDS-discrimination lawsuit settlement announced today by the nonprofit AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

The school also will pay $15,000 in civil penalties assessed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which thoroughly investigated the complaint and concluded that the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The settlement requires the school to provide HIV training for its staff and students and to pay an undisclosed amount of attorney’s fees to the AIDS Law Project.

The Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa., founded in 1909 by the chocolate magnate and his wife, had refused to enroll the honor-roll student because he has HIV, saying his presence would be a “direct threat” to the health and safety of other students. The school held to its position for more than a year, even after the Philadelphia-based public-interest law firm filed the suit on Nov. 30, 2011, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging violations of anti-discrimination laws.

On June 1, in denying the school’s request to move the case from Philadelphia to central Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones II wrote that “the issue involved in this case is … relevant to the lives of over one million HIV-infected people nationwide, many of whom are currently in congregate-living settings and are not creating a direct threat to others.”

Finally, on Aug. 6, the school’s president, Anthony J. Colistra, publicly apologized to the student and to his mother, offered to reconsider the boy’s application, and announced “a new Equal Opportunity Policy clearly stating that the School treats applicants with HIV no differently than any other applicants.” Colistra said the school also was “developing and providing mandatory training for staff and students on HIV issues and expanding our current training on Universal Precautions.”

The student and his mother have decided it is not in his best interest to attend the school, and they will use the money to provide other educational opportunities for him.

In announcing the settlement today, Ronda B. Goldfein Esq., executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, said it removes any lingering doubt about whether someone with HIV poses a threat in everyday life.

“This case renewed a nationwide discussion about whether people with HIV represent a risk to others in casual settings,” Goldfein said. “The question has once again been definitively answered: They do not.”
Goldfein said a settlement of this size acknowledges that the pain of stigma is just as real as any other type of injury or harm inflicted upon a person. “In this case, our client suffered from learning that simply because he has a virus, he was considered a threat,” Goldfein said.

Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen Esq., who worked with Goldfein on the lawsuit, said the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws clearly “prohibit discrimination on the basis of a real or even a perceived disability, including having HIV.” She added that the National Association of State Boards of Education has decreed that “the presence of a person living with HIV infection or diagnosed with AIDS poses no significant risk to others in school, day care, or school athletic settings.”

Identified in court filings by a pseudonym to protect his privacy, “Abraham Smith” is a public school scholar-athlete who lives in Delaware County, Pa, near Philadelphia.
“I am very glad this is over,” Abraham said today. “It should have never been an issue in the first place. I will never recoup my eighth-grade year in school. Though I had a good one academically, I was too engulfed with this … to enjoy the fun of going to high school. Now it’s time for me to start healing internally and my mother said that will come in time also.”