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Photo: Courtesy of SMYAL
Photo: Courtesy of SMYAL

DC Celebrates Pride

When one thinks of Pride in our area, visions of big celebrations with copious amounts of drinking and dancing often come to mind, but there’s much more to appreciating and championing this impactful time than big spectacles. In fact, many organizations use Pride for advocacy or to bring attention to important initiatives in a serious way.

Capital Pride weekend obviously gets a lot of the attention this time of year, and its collection of events and activities is bigger than ever, but there is a lot going on throughout the DC community that shouldn’t fall through the cracks.

Empowering the Youth

Adelphie Johnson, program director at SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders), says SMYAL youth intend to fully celebrate their various identities of being queer, black, young and amazing leaders in accordance with this year’s theme of “Elements of Us.”

“We seek to empower our youth by letting them be the drivers of our involvement,” she says. “Pride is an opportunity to both remember the struggles that our community has faced and is still facing, as well as to celebrate our existence. That can be a very powerful moment for a young person who hasn’t always been told, ‘You’re loved,’ or ‘You can be proud of who you are, however you are.’”

SMYAL youth will participate in some events, from speaking at Black Pride to handing out information at Trans Pride to walking in the Capital Pride parade. SMYAL is also hosting a youth dance following the parade to give young people a place to continue the party while DC’s adult population hangs out at house parties, bars and restaurants in the area.

“We’ve seen an evolution in how the community has increased their involvement of youth-specific spaces or youth-friendly spaces,” Johnson says. “Young people don’t always have the same availability or resources as adults, so ensuring we intentionally make space for our young leaders in a way that works for them is important.”

Thankfully, she adds, Pride is so openly celebrated across the city in all different communities that it shows our youth that there are places where they can be accepted as they grow into adulthood.

“Sometimes people forget that the first Pride marches were protest marches, and that advocacy is built into Pride from the ground up,” Johnson says. “One specific thing we’re doing this year is partnering with DC Black Pride to cohost a Youth Town

Hall led by a group of youth panelists, and the topics of discussion will center around healthy relationships.”
pride at the Wharf

District Wharf is partnering with LGBT newspaper Washington Blade on the first annual Pride on the Pier, which will have the District Pier open to all ages and a dedicated Transit Pier as its “Family Pier” with activities for all ages.

“Our goal is to make a fun event that the whole community will enjoy,” says Stephen Rutgers, director of sales and marketing for Washington Blade. “Pride allows us to showcase the community to anyone and everyone, and hopefully bring awareness to the important issues and struggles LGBTQ+ people face every day.”

Rutgers feels it’s important to make sure everyone in the community feels welcome, so creating new community events like Pride on the Pier provides an opportunity to do that.

“Pride is a time to celebrate the community, no matter who you are or how you identify. Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean that everyone likes the same things or has gone through the same struggles. We have to remember that we are all a family and need to make sure anyone and everyone feels welcome. If just one person feels left out, then we are failing ourselves.”

A Sharp Design

Washington Blade also has a partnership with DC Brau on Pride Pils cans, which raised more than $7,000 last year for SMYAL and the Blade Foundation.

“While Pride is used to celebrate ourselves, it is also a time to give back to the community as well,” Rutgers says. “This year, we are producing over 28,000 cans of the Pride Pils that was designed and voted upon by the community.”

Last year, the design was of a unicorn holding the rainbow flag, but this year, Rutgers notes the design really represents everyone in the community. DC-based artist Alden Leonard chose to show the juxtaposition of Pride – both a celebration and an act of protest – with a colorful design featuring three figures in defiant poses with their eyes fixed on symbols of tradition and order.

“The LGBTQ+ community in DC includes people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and this year’s design by Alden Leonard really shows our diversity,” he says. “All three individuals on the can could identify as anyone in the LGBTQ+ community, and really gives everyone their own voice in how they see themselves.”

The design will appear on more than 28,000 cans of DC Brau’s flagship pilsner this summer in the District and will officially launch at a Yappy Hour at Town on Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m.

“2018 has been a year when a lot of marginalized groups have had their voices amplified and celebrated,” says Brandon Skall, CEO and cofounder of DC Brau. “We loved that Alden’s Pride Pils design on first glance was summery and poppy, but on closer inspection, carried such a subtle but profound message of diversity and inclusiveness.”

DC Brau is also participating in the Pride Run on Friday, June 8, and Skall says there is “always a fun group that walks in the Pride Parade, which really is the highlight of the weekend for us.”

Everyone Gets Involved

Outside events are coming into the city more and more and really making DC Pride an event for all, so no one feels left out. The leather community kicked off its DC Leather Pride celebration earlier in May, which included a fundraiser at Town to raise money for the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, an expo at the DC Eagle (followed by a rubber social and dance party) and a brunch fundraiser on the last day.

“There’s been an embrace of the different aspects of being LGBT,” says Miguel Ayala, cofounder of DC Leather Pride. “We see who people are and who we are as a community. Younger people are coming out, trans folk are more visible now, and there’s been an embrace of different styles and different aspects within our community.”

Trans Pride and Black Pride both had speakers and panels throughout the month of May, offering people a chance to talk and help people learn from past experiences. Latino GLBT History Project hosts DC Latinx Pride annually, now in its 12th year representing the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. This year’s theme is Belleza Latinx, representing the beauty of the community in all colors, shapes, and range of languages and genders.

“As the hosts of annual festivities, we constantly reach out to the community to see what their needs are,” says Nancy Cañas, president of the Latino GLBT History Project-DC Latinx Pride. “For example, this year at La Platica, we are discussing issues pertaining to older LGBTQ+ folk. Our panel focuses on economic resilience, how this group and us as well – as we become older – how we will continue to support ourselves and our family.”

Then there’s the Department of Justice Pride and FBI Pride joining forces to march under a joint banner in the Capital Pride Parade. The DOJ also presents its annual award during Pride to the person who has made outstanding contributions in the LGBTQ+ community.

“No matter your age or how you identify, it is great to see events that everyone can enjoy,” Skall says. “Giving people options of what they can do really helps DC celebrate in new and exciting ways.”

Learn more about Pride events and partnerships, as well as participating LGBTQ+ organizations, below:

Capital Pride: www.capitalpride.org
DC Brau: www.dcbrau.com
Latino GLBT History Project: www.latinoglbthistory.org
Pride on the Pier: www.prideonthepierdc.com
SMYAL: www.smyal.org
Washington Blade: www.washingtonblade.com

Photo: Wilson Chin
Photo: Wilson Chin

Studio Theatre’s The Remains: World-Premiere Comedy Explores Gay Divorce

Stories about failed relationships are nothing new in theatre, as many a play have tackled the subject – be it with humor or on a more serious, darker level. But Studio Theatre is presenting a new work that puts a different spin on the subject, with Ken Urban’s world-premiere play The Remains, which explores a gay couple going through the process of a divorce.

The play follows Kevin and Theo, a Boston-based gay married couple, who 10 years after their historic coupling decide marriage isn’t for them and must reveal their truth to loved ones. Urban based the comedy loosely on events from his own life.

“I got divorced from my partner of 18 years in 2015,” the playwright says. “I filed the paperwork just about the same time that the federal same-sex marriage ban was removed, so it seemed like an interesting time to think about those two things together. It also got me thinking about what it means to be in a relationship, and what it means to be in love.”

Urban notes that those in the LGBTQ+ community are only a few years into the whole concept of being asked, “When are you two going to be married?” He’s acutely aware of that pressure and understands that with gay marriage sometimes comes gay divorce.

“Before marriage for gay men and women was an option, we had to define what we meant by being in a relationship,” he says. “When I first met my partner in 1996, I didn’t know any other gay couples and what it meant to be in a long-term gay relationship. With marriage, you can try and rearrange the definition, but more pressures suddenly come upon you.”

Actor Glenn Fitzgerald plays Theo, and stage and TV vet Maulik Pancholy (Weeds, 30 Rock) stars as Kevin. Urban wrote the part with him in mind and asked his friend to take on the role. The two had previously worked together on Urban’s The Happy Sad in 2009 and The Awake in 2013.

“He is an incredibly sensitive actor and someone who dives really deep into himself when he’s working on a part,” Urban says. “What I love about Maulik is you can give him all types of challenges offstage, and he always rises to them.”

For his part, Pancholy was excited about tacking dramatic terrain that hasn’t really been explored in theatre onstage before, especially being a gay man himself.

“What is fascinating about this is it’s one of the first gay-themed plays that I’ve read that isn’t about the fight for equality or the fight to be treated as an equal human being, and yet it is,” he says. “We are in a time period now where, thank God, we won a lot of those rights – though given the current temperament, things can feel a little tenuous at times – and there’s still a long way to go in the way LGBTQ+ people are perceived in our society.”

Furthermore, he was intrigued at how Kevin and Theo’s story impacted those around them – those who had seen them fight so hard to be treated as equals and were now watching it be torn apart. Though it has nothing to do with his real life – Pancholy is happily married – he thinks it’s an important story to be told.

“In my own wedding, there was a sense of it being more special than a heterosexual wedding because with it comes all the history and legacy for the fight of equality, and a lot of hopes pinned on that and a lot of meaning attached to that kind of love.”

Pancholy says the play posits the question, “What does it mean when you fought so hard for the right to love, but then find you may not want to be with that person you fought to be with – not just for the couple, but those around them?”

Studio Theatre’s Artistic Director David Muse is directing the play and was brought to the project by Pancholy. The pair went to graduate school together at the Yale School of Drama.

“We’re friends and we last worked together about 16 years ago,” Muse says about Pancholy. “The chance to have an artistic reunion with him was a big reason why I wanted to do this. He acted in more plays that I directed [in school] than anyone else – something like five times!”

The director shares that the play also sits in Studio’s sweet spot in that it’s a realistic, living-room drama with funny, emotional things going on, and he likes the fact that it’s something of a “next generation” gay play.

“There are a series of plays with contemporary themes dealing with what I call ‘second-stage assimilation’ concerns: questions like gay parenthood and squaring the idea of monogamous marriage with a more liberated approach to sexuality that we tend to associate with gay culture,” he says. “Watching the gay play evolve on some level with less to struggle against really interests me.”

The Remains is at Studio Theatre through June 17. Tickets start at $20. For more information, visit www.studiotheatre.org.

 Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; 202-332-3300; www.studiotheatre.org