Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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6 Politically-Minded Plays and Musicals Not to Miss

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In today’s political climate, it’s important for artists to emerge and express the world we live in, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

The whole point of art is to hold a mirror onto nature, to show the experiences of humanity at its purest form — its beauties, vulnerabilities, and imperfections. Considering the tumultuous times we’re in, audiences seem to be searching for some kind of escapism. What better way to escape than by going to the theater?

Artists have captured the ugliness (and beauty) of human history throughout the ages by chronicling it in various forms of performance art. When it comes to Resistance, some performances just can’t be missed. While the following productions are simply a handful of projects displaying the courage artists require to inspire change, they certainly represent the underground world of Resistance Art. 

Get a glimpse on the following pages. 

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As Much as I Can

As Much as I Can is the community project of ViiV Healthcare’s ACCELERATE! Initiative, a four-year, $10 million, collaborative health-impact initiative to reach out, educate, and support the well-being of those living with HIV, particularly in Jackson, Miss., and Baltimore — both of which are among the cities with the highest rates of new HIV cases. 

The production is a response to the disproportionate impact of HIV on black Americans, especially gay and bisexual men. To tell the true stories of people who are both affected by HIV, ViiV Healthcare collaborated with production company Harley & Co. to bring the project to life. And trust me, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.

Exploring the themes of faith, family, community, friends, and self-acceptance, As Much as I Can takes audiences on an immersive experience through the lives of four men who are impacted by the news of an HIV diagnoses, and deal with it in various ways.

While audiences are allowed to break the “fourth wall” (a theater term used to describe the separation between actors and audience), they are quickly reminded that these people are not statistics, but real, breathing, living humans who are doing as much as they can to accept their own realities.

Based on hundreds of interviews with residents of Baltimore and Jackson, many of whom served as inspiration for the show, the goal of As Much As I Can is to have people walk away feeling empowered to take action, including getting tested and demonstrating compassion.

As Much As I Can is running from September 7-14. Tickets are free, but reservations are required and they’re going fast. Buy your tickets here.

Learn more about ViiV Healthcare and the ACCLERATE! initiative by going to us.ViiVHealthcare.com.

Read more about the show here. 

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Above photo courtesy of Harley & Co. (Actors Monique Scott, Brent Whiteside, P.J. Johnnie, Carltaise Ransom) 


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Mati Gelman (Brandon Haagenson and Patrick Reilly)

Afterglow

Compelling, raw, and sometimes uncomfortable (as any honest theater piece is), Afterglow is a one-act play exploring the emotional, intellectual, and physical connections between three men: a couple and a third man who intersects with the relationship through a series of sexual encounters.

Tapping into a wider dialogue of what having an open relationship is — and what it means for those involved — Afterglow penetrates the psyche in a way that many gay men will find relatable. A gritty tale of commitment on the cusp of questioning its boundaries, the incredible acting and intense writing propels the audience’s minds and hearts into their emotional plights.

Starring Joe Chisholm, Brandon Haagenson, and Patrick Reilly, playwright and director S. Asher Gelman gives a stellar observation on what “openness” really means, and how fragile it can be. This is a show not to be missed!

Tickets are selling through the fall at the Loft at the Davenport Theatre in New York City. For tickets, visit AfterglowThePlay.com.

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Photo courtesy of TheSecretThings.com

The Secret Things

Los Angeles-based rock trio the Secret Things is releasing a music video and will be performing a concert benefiting the LGBT nonprofits It Gets Better Project, TransLatina Coalition, and TeenLine.

Secret Things members Cynthia Catania, Steve Giles, and Dan Nelles will showcase their “Down by the Water” music video at the Hotel Café in L.A. September 15. Directed by Sue Ann Pien, the benefit will bring together music, passion, and above all, a shared vision for a greater future — and it’s only $10!

“When I direct a music video, I'll often get a flood of imagery and concepts that free flow down from the ethers,” Pien said in a statement. “As if I'm tuning into an idea which wants to birth itself through my creative endeavors. This last music video for the Secret Things’ PJ Harvey cover of ‘Down By the Water’ happened similarly. Learning the original song was about filicide, my ideas for updating that theme to bring awareness to transgendered people's journeys felt mystically right.”

Purchase your tickets for the September 15 performance at HotelCafe.com

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Teena Pugliese (R to L: Vanda Mystere, Burgundy Kate, Sweet Tee)

Toil & Trouble

Toil and Trouble is Los Angeles’s first Shakespearean burlesque company, made up of some of the country’s best-known performers and rising stars. With each show centering on a new theme (recently “betrayal,” “villainy,” and “unrequited love”), audiences are going mad over the troupe’s fearless performances and bold storytelling — all of which were conceived by the company’s creator, Angie Hobin. 

Hobin, who is known in the burlesque world as Burgundy Kate, thought of the idea of merging her passion for burlesque and Shakespeare three years ago while at a disappointing waitressing job. “I got a bottle of wine, sat down at my desk, and wrote up a list of everything I could think of that made me truly happy,” she tells The Advocate. “At the top of the list were performing, Shakespeare, and burlesque.” 

One of the most ingenious things about Shakespeare is that he wrote for everyone. You didn't have to be a scholar to enjoy his plays. The same thing rings true for burlesque.

“Burlesque is a platform for an artist to express without restrictions,” Hobin explains. “I've seen everything from lovely retro artists performing acts reminiscent to something you would have seen in New Orleans circa 1940 to a woman chopping up a lifelike baby doll and drinking the blood from its limbs and smearing the rest of it onto her bared breasts. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any limits as to what you can and cannot do … [Burlesque] is an invitation to do and be whatever you want, for five to 10 minutes, mostly naked.” 

With the enormous help of co-producers Teena Pugliese and Kayla Emerson, the company is in for a long and joyous ride. Currently, they’re working on doing a full-length version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with about eight to 10 burlesque acts peppered in and throughout.

“Doing what you love, no matter how weird you think it is creates a certain kind of energy that other people want to be a part of,” Hobin says. “We work really hard, so that when the curtain goes up, we can all relax and have fun.”

Toil & Trouble currently does one show a month. To find out about its next show, visit ToilAndTroubleBurlesque.com

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Jimmy and Carolyn

A true-to-life world premiere play, Jimmy and Carolyn is a funny, honest, and sometimes ironic piece centering around James and William, a gay couple trying to enjoy life in their Rhode Island beach house when they receive a rather unwarranted visit from James’s parents, Jimmy and Carolyn. 

A passion project from playwright James Andrew Walsh (who cowrote the Broadway-bound Liberace bio-musical All That Glitters), Jimmy and Carolyn exposes dark truths about what it means to be a family, how to make sense of irreconcilable memories of the past, and the choices to make moving forward.

The cast includes Lisa Harrow (Off-Broadway’s Wit), Brad Bradley (Spamalot, Billy Elliot, Annie Get Your Gun), Luis Carlos de La Lombana (La Vida Inesperada, Gal), and Sam Tsoutsouvas (By Jeeves, The Immigrant).

Directed by Brooke Ciardelli, the play will be opening Queens Theatre’s 29th Season after being developed as part of Queens Theatre’s New American Voices Project.

Jimmy and Carolyn plays through October 1 at Queens Theatre. To buy tickets, visit QueensTheatre.org

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Photo credit: Jackie Abbott Photography

Aliens Coming

Sometimes the strangest things end up leaving us with the highest hopes for the future — even if they involve crazy aliens coming down from space hungry for the private parts of earthlings. That’s exactly what you’ll see in the musical comedy Aliens Coming, produced by New York City’s the People’s Improv Theater.

Following a sold out run in March, the show is back under the directorship of Griffin Osborne, writer Joe Kelly, and musical director Jonathan Evans.

Following the two journey of two best friends experiencing pressures of graduating high school, who end up being at the center of an alien abduction, ultimately teaching them what sex is (and how it’s done correctly), Aliens Coming merges contemporary music, classic show tunes, and campy humor to bring a laugh-out-loud show you definitely don’t want to bring your kids to.

Produced by Jonathan Evans, Joe Kelly and James Young of Ashcat Productions, the cast features Alice Kors, Maia Scalia, Andrew L. Ricci, Trevor McGhie, Ariana Raygoza, Rebecca Lampiasi, Ashley Hutchinson and Tessa Stokes.

The show runs till September 18, and tickets are available for only $10. Visit the People’s Improv Theater for more details. 

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