The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) does a wonderful job annually of bringing the best and brightest in independent and foreign film to the Twin Cities, right at St. Anthony Main in the heart of Minneapolis. There are always some “must sees” for the LGBTQ+ crowd, and this year MSPIFF has included seven films in their “LGBT Currents” section. These films run the gamut from fictional love stories to documentaries, and stories come (as you can tell by the name of the Festival) from all over the world.
One film that does take place here in the US is The Blessing, a documentary that documents a Navajo family’s struggle to find their footing after the coal mining industry devastates their town. The film focuses on a coal miner who’s guilt is crushing him as he tries to raise and connect with his daughter. This project is directed by the Emmy winning filmmaking duo Jordan Fein and Hunter Baker, who will be here for this film’s showings.
Another US based documentary is Not In My Lifetime, which is a Pam Colby project highlighting the fight for marriage equality from the baby boomers in our community. I’m really interested in the uplifting approach this film takes, choosing to focus on the love romantic couples share and the bonds activists form. Colby will be attending MSPIFF as well.
I’m really happy to see Mr. Gay Syria included in this year’s lineup. Mr. Gay Syria is a documentary in Arabic with English subtitles. This film is being marketed as a “celebration of expression and identity,” but does hit hard when showing the bigotry and institutionalized homophobia that the LGBTQ+ Syrian refugees living in Istanbul face against the backdrop of preparation for the Mr. Gay World pageant in 2016.
All of the films being showcased in the LGBT Currents program at MSPIFF are crushingly relevant right now, but that’s especially true of the documentary TransMilitary. Though there are over 16,000 transgender troops in the Armed Forces right now, they face constant discrimination and now, threats to their livelihood. This documentary showcases four transgender troops and highlights their struggles and determination to change the system.
Three fictional films round out this year’s LGBT Currents program, all focusing on connection among queer people, even if that need for connection is wrapped up in love stories. Like most queer women I know, I’ve been chomping at the bit for Disobedience to hit a local theater. This love story between a woman returning to a strict religious community that once shunned her and a childhood friend she reconnects with stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as the two lovers. Honestly this film could go either way, but I’ll probably love it regardless.
Love and loss both feature heavily in The Cakemaker, a story of a closeted love affair told through the eyes of a grieving partner. This one sounds like it has everything I love in foreign and independent film: sweeping shots of foreign-to-me countries (Israel and Germany in this case), deep love between characters, and a sense of loss and grief that somehow makes us feel full. This one is in Hebrew but does have English subtitles.
Finally we’ve got A Moment in the Reeds, a Finnish film about a Syrian refugee and a Finnish literature student connecting over house renovations and shared experiences. Director Mikko Makela will be on hand to answer questions. This one is in Finnish and English and has English subtitles.
All of these films are being show between April 12th and 28th as part of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival at St. Anthony Main. Their website is the best place to get information and tickets for these showings (as well as the specific dates and times). Generally speaking, tickets are $14 to the general public, $11 for Film Society members, and $8 if you’re under 25 or have a current student ID.
The Three of Pentacles is a tarot card that show up to assure us that step by step methods of gain pay off. It’s a card where collaboration is queen. It’s a card where slow and steady really, really does win the race. After an Ace of sudden news and opportunity and a Two where things look a little less steady, this Three promises that the effort you put in after the Ace pays off. Working with others is also well-aspected, and long time dreams of collaboration often come to fruition. In The Spiral Tarot, one of my oldest and dearest decks, we see a ballerina being applauded and praised for their work. I’ve internalized this card as also meaning then that the right people are paying attention, and that’s what will lead to your day in the spotlight. Ballet is tedious, hard work and it’s easy for dancers to feel disheartened or discouraged. Yet here one is, with every bit of that work paying off because someone saw enough in them to grant them a role where a whole room full of people would stand up and applaud. It’s a beautiful card, and one I’ve cried upon receiving. This work might feel thankless, but your loved ones, your superiors at work, your favorite diety–they’re watching, and you’re going to be so thrilled that you took all the right steps to get here.
As an LGBTQ+ person, this card does lend itself to the activist collective in spite of the microcosmic nature of the Pentacles suit. Brick by brick we are building a better world. Little by little, the people in charge are noticing. Piece by piece we are covering up the scars that our kyriarchy has left on it’s individuals. That’s magical. It’s also logical. Along this line, when we’re talking about resource building and giving back to our community, this card urges us not to get discouraged so easily. Maybe no one hears about your space or opportunity at first, but a Three of Pentacles tells you stick with it. The right people will hear about it, and you will end up giving back and making your mark in your community.
Because this suit is so personal, I have seen mountains be moved in client’s families of origin with this card. There are clients who get a lot of pushback on their identity from their family but who don’t want to give up or disown those people. No one HAS to make that choice, but it is a totally valid (and totally human) one to make. The Three of Pentacles does promise those querents that the work of trying to open those hearts and minds will pay off, and better yet, assures us that you have allies in the situation even if you didn’t know that.
The Three of Pentacles is one that really does almost always show up regarding career. It has definitely had those other manifestations I’ve talked about, but nine times out of ten, this is a career card. Many of us who are LGBTQ+ have our identities built into our career or branding, or are professional policy makers and activists. This card essentially promises that those were worthwhile chances to take. We see the right clients coming to us, the right supervisors paying attention, and we see that other people’s identities or allyship come to our rescue and push us from where we are to the next step. This is a card where I urge people not to hide in their careers. It’s a card of assets, and trusting that the assets we are using will bring about the conclusion we desire. We are our own greatest asset though, and the Three of Pentacles promises we can put our whole queer selves in the spotlight and come out with the stability and career growth we crave.
Milwaukee officials sent the mayor a proposal to prohibit therapists and counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation.
The vote Tuesday came amid a charged environment in city hall as supporters of the ban applauded and waved a rainbow-colored flag while opponents yelled “evil” at Common Council members. Two of the 15 council members voted no.
Mayor Tom Barrett has until April 7 to sign the ordinance and he plans to do so.
A new drop-in center for Milwaukee’s LGBTQ youth has opened, NBC reports:
Courage House, which is expected to open its doors in November, will be Wisconsin’s first group home and drop-in center specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth.
“I would love to say that it makes me feel amazing, but it makes me sad I have to do it at the same time,” Brad Schlaikowski, co-founder of Courage House, told NBC News.
Together with his husband and co-founder, Nick, Brad has spent the last two years raising money to open the eight-bedroom home in Milwaukee. It will be the one place these teens can go without fear of rejection, he said, noting that LGBTQ foster and homeless youth are rejected more often than their straight peers.
Students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender feel less safe and supported at school than their peers, according to a new state analysis of student survey data.
Students from marginalized groups also are more likely to feel anxious and suicidal.
It’s the first of many reports state officials are releasing in the deepest look they’ve ever taken at disparities and mental health based on data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The 2017 survey collected data from over 2,000 high school students in 43 schools around the state. It is conducted every two years in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An Iowa Republican is pushing back against Trump’s ban of transgender troops, The Hill reports:
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sunday broke with President Trump over his new ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.
In an interview on “Face the Nation,” Ernst told CBS News’s Margaret Brennan that she supports allowing transgender people to serve in the military as long as they fit the physical and mental standards required.
“I have asked transgenders myself, if you are willing to lay down your life beside mine, I would welcome you into our military,” she said.
“We do want to make sure that they meet physical requirements,” Ernst said. “We can’t waive that. That is true across any demographic within our military, making sure that they are physically fit and they meet the mental standard.”
Trump issued a memo late Friday effectively banning most transgender people from serving in the military, “except under limited circumstances.”
The American Legion is taking criticism for denying a transgender boy from participating in its youth program, the Des Moines Register reports:
A transgender Iowa boy has been denied acceptance to an American Legion’s high school program despite support from his local chapter, his family says.
Emmet Cummings, a transgender high school student from Center Point, said he was denied by the organization’s state board of directors Monday after he was nominated by his local post in November to attend the weeklong governmental educational program.
In interviews with the Register, Emmet and his mother, Halane Cummings, expressed frustration that he could not participate. The Center Point-Urbana High School junior, a 17-year-old twin, was born a female and has been transitioning to male for three years.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Emmet said, “especially knowing there could be more transgendered people who are interested in government because (the board) does not want transgendered people.”
Daniel McClure, one of six members of the legion’s Hawkeye Boys State board of directors, said the board was reinforcing its decades-old rules when it emphasized: You must be a biological male to attend Boys State.
“You must be male if you’re going to participate,” McClure, who also serves as a state chaplain for the legion, told the Register. “You must be a boy.”
Iowa tax dollars could go to schools that deny admission to gay and lesbian students if lawmakers move forward with legislation allowing education savings accounts for K-12 students, according to LGBTQ advocates.
Iowa lawmakers are considering Senate Study Bill 3206, which would allow students enrolling in private schools to be eligible for about $4,000 a year in state money.
Proponents of the school choice legislation say it would likely help families who don’t qualify for financial assistance, but who can’t afford private school tuition.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Association of Christian Schools and the Family Leader, a conservative Christian advocacy group, are among those backing the measure.
But One Iowa Action, a group that works to advance the rights of LGBTQ Iowans, says tax dollars should not support schools that discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some private school policies say they will refuse admission based on a homosexuality, the group says.
“This cannot be allowed to stand,” said Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, One Iowa’s executive director.
Amid a call from some community members to segregate library materials containing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning — or LBGTQ — themes, the Orange City Public Library’s Board of Trustees plans to experiment with a new way of classifying books.
The new method, which is used in some other Iowa libraries, would group books by subjects and subcategories rather than solely in alphabetical order by author’s name.
Also, in response to any concern from the community over individual librarians pushing an agenda, the library may have more staff members review the acquisition of new materials.
The proposed changes, discussed Tuesday during the board’s monthly meeting, come a month after community members presented a petition with more than 340 signatures to specially label and separate books with LGBTQ themes from the library’s main collection and to halt any new acquisitions of such materials without public input.
The board also on Tuesday voted unanimously to keep a pair of challenged children’s books — one accused by a community member of trying to “indoctrinate” youth into “transgender normalization” — in the library’s collection despite statements of concern brought forward by community members.
With hate graffiti sprouting up on its unity walls, and a near-brush with proposed legislation many say would have legalized LGBT discrimination, the University of Iowa’s heritage of diversity and openness might seem a little fragile right now.
But behind the scenes — especially at the LGBTQ Resource Center, a quaint building just off the infamous “roundabout” at the end of Grand Avenue — the UI’s long tradition of LGBT-friendliness is thriving stronger than ever.
A total of nine LGBTQ+ groups now exist to provide moral and networking support to students. That’s more than ever before in the university’s history.
April is upon us and once again Spring’s sense of joy and renewal brings us some really, beautiful solid options for queer and queer led art and entertainment throughout the month. Plays about mermaids, fashion shows for the rest of us, and Patrick’s Cabaret’s Sunset season are all taking a spotlight this month, promoting queer introspection, appreciation, and visibility. Read below for more on these and other great events.
Theatre & Film Mixed Blood Theater is producing is producing Mermaid Hour: Remixed, “a new chamber musical exploring the gender continuum through the prism of a pre-pubescent transgender biracial girl” according to their website. This starts April 6th and runs through the Month. Their website has more. On April 28th you can also catch further discussion about trans representation in theatre and hear some staged readings with trans content (or by trans writers). That day’s events are called On Our Own Terms. That info is here.
Theatre Unbound and Raw Sugar Theatre also start a show on April 6th; specifically the two companies are teaming up to produce WTF: The Women/Trans/Femme Playwriting Workshop. There are three very different, very funny scripts full of characters grappling with identity, presentation, and sexuality. Find out more at eithercompany’s website.
Caryl Churchill is primarily known for queer heavy hits like Cloud 9, but April’s The Skriker (being produced by Fortune’s Fool Theatre) starting April 7th is something else entirely. The company is doing some really immersive stuff with the script, and while the content itself isn’t queer, there are several LGBTQ+ performers and artists involved. Find out more at their website.
The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is back on April 12th, and this is a thrilling time for LGBTQ+ film fans everywhere. I’ll have a longer piece coming out soon about some of the highlights the queer community can look forward too, but their full line-up is available here.
Opening April 20th is Uprising Theatre Company’s newest work by Artistic Director Shannon TL Kearns. Twisted Deaths features a story about a young transgender man and an older conservative who’s lives become intertwined when they are both diagnosed with cancer. Find our more at the company’s website.
Queer led theater company Savage Umbrella is workshopping an exciting new script for mythology fans. Wolf Song will premiere as a workshop on April 23rd and 24th at Squirrel Haus Arts. Wolves and complex women are both promised, according to the company’s website.
Visual & Literary Arts The Walker Art Center is bringing an exciting exhibition of “ephemera, video, and photographs” of the shocking and evocative art brought to us by inventive LGBTQ+ artists from the ‘80s and ‘90s like Karen Finley, Split Britches, and the Twin Cities own Patrick Scully. Technically this started on March 29th, but is running on an ongoing basis. Check out their website for more information.
April 7th starts one of the most magical times in the art year; the Unicorn Art Show! This year they’re at the Artspace Jackson Flats and feature over eighty artists. That includes several LGBTQ+ artists and the space promises to be friendly and inclusive. Find out more (and get excited) here.
The Girl on Girl Gameshow live recording is back on April 8th, this time at Chef Shack. This sapphic game show that puts couples’ knowledge of each other to a test is one of many great events being held by Girlpond Productions. You can find out more about them here, or check the Facebook event for details on the 8th.
Flagrant: Fashion of the Fringe is a one of a kind fashion show being hosted by the Fox Den Salon on April 24th. This runway show will exclusively feature designers from the fringes of the queer community and allows a rare chance for them to take center stage and show off their incredible work. The ticket link has all you need to get excited and grab your ticket.
Drag, Burlesque, Cabaret & Music Patrick’s Cabaret is really winding down, y’all. They have just a handful of amazing queer led art events left. Luckily April allows us a couple of opportunities for us to get them before they’re gone. One such event is Aliveness Live on April 7th where the cabaret partners with The Aliveness Project. April 20th and 21st bring us the Anything But English Cabaret which is exactly what it sounds like, but even better. Plus Patrick’s still has some amazing events in the Artist Education series. Check their calendar for full events and details.
One Voice Mixed Chorus has a fabulous Transgender Voices Festival on April 13th and 14th in St. Paul. There are guest artists like Mari Ésabel Valverde, Eli Conley & Erik Peregrine, and even Venus DeMars is popping in. Find out more at the One Voice website; it’s a really jam packed two days and you’ll want to catch as much as possible.
I’m so excited to the Second Annual Pink and White Ball, an Elektra Cute produced event, returning to the Lab Theater April 26th-28th. This burlesque event benefits Planned Parenthood and features some of the absolute greatest burlesque performers you’ll find, including some that travel in from out of state. Check out the event at The Lab’s website.
Recurring Events Huge Theater has an open Queer Improv Jam for queer improv artists to come and laugh and play together on the first Sunday of the month at 5:00 P.M. No need to register, just come to 3037 Lyndale Ave S. to jam with great professional and amateur improv-ers. No cover.
You definitely don’t want to miss OutSpoken, a queer open mic hosted by Paul Canada, Marcel Michelle Mobama and Blaze Bordeaux on the second Wednesday of every month. This great event is now hosted at Lush! More informationhere.
Every Thursday nightCan Can Wonderland puts together a variety show like none other. Six to eight acts share Can Can’s stage. Local LGBTQ+ talent and those known to the community for legitimate allyship often feature. The event is free, 21+, and starts at 9:00 P.M.
The second Thursday of the night is a special time in comedy here in the Twin Cities. Pssy Ctrl is an all female & queer comedy event happening at the Comedy Corner Underground. It’s hosted by Rana May and Shelley Paul and is just $7 unless you’re a student—then it’s free. No reservations, just show up!
Telling Queer History is a story-telling and community building event that happens on the second Sunday of every month and changes locations. Check outtheir Facebook page for more information and to keep up with their rotating spaces.
Another amazing storytelling event is curated and hosted by the one and only Andrea Jenkins and John Medeiros. It’s called Queer Voices: A Reading Series and takes place monthly with amazing features each month. Intermedia Arts’website has more.
Lush’s entire nightlife entertainment line-up is incredible. Must sees include:
Black Hearts Burlesque every Friday night at 10:00 P.M. featuring Black Hearts Founder Elektra Cute.
#DragRevolution every Saturday at 10:00 P.M. hosted by Twin Cities legend Victoria DeVille.
Deviance: A Transmasculine Cabaret featuring music, drag, boylesque and more every fourth Saturday at 7:00 P.M.
Local lesbian comedy darling Sarah McPeck’s variety show The Big Fat Comedy Hour on the second Sunday of the month at 7:00 P.M.
Drag Brunch every Sunday at 11:30 featuring an all-star line-up and always with a theme that guarantees the most fun for your money.
For tickets to events at Lush head over totheir website. They’ve got an event space that seats plenty, but it does sell out regularly so grab your tickets in advance.
The Gay ’90s has a rough reputation in the LGBTQ+ community, but they’ve spent the past year or two cleaning up their act and bringing in some great new acts. Fan favorites include:
Sweetpea and Mistress Mara hosting Kinky Friday on the first Friday of every month. This 18+ event is part performance, part kinky party, and all around great time.
GLAM! Boylesque shows up intermittently at the Ladies of La Femme Lounge. The next one is June 9th. Don’t miss out!
Speaking of Ladies of La Femme—there are nightly drag shows at this huge lounge for plenty of you and yours to show up and see some great drag. Many of the queens have been there for years, and those legends alone are worth seeing. The new talent that gets brought in is also absolutely wonderful.
One of the first LGBTQ+ bars I came to regularly when I first came to Minneapolis was The Townhouse in St. Paul. While the entertainment line-ups are obviously completely different now than the were almost a decade ago, they’re still diverse, entertaining, and full of solid artists. Best shows include (but are not limited too):
Pumps and Pearls Drag Revue at 9:30 P.M. Every Wednesday night.
Dragged Out, a cast of Drag Kings with special guests that fills up the main room on the third Friday of every month.
A great trial run for aspiring burlesque performers and other awesome performances happens the second Friday of every month at 10:30 P.M. And the Nudie Nubie’s Show hosted by Red Bone and Foxy Tann.
Please note: we’d love to include YOU and YOUR work at TheColu.mn’s Arts Calendar. Please submit events to [email protected]. As a fun bonus, if your event is super innovative or exciting, we’re likely to reach out for a deeper feature or review.
Join Gadfly Theatre Productions and The Column for Queer Trivia! This unique event will test your knowledge of all things queer in Minnesota and worldwide while also supporting two amazing queer-led nonprofit organizations.
Queer Trivia will be 3 rounds of 20 questions with prizes for the winner of each round and an overall prize for the highest point earner for all three rounds.
Trivia is $10 per game per person, but folks can pre-order all three games for just $20. Get yours today!
Teams are allowed up to 4 people.
Questions will feature a range of LGBTQ knowledge drawing from history, the arts, pop culture, and geography. We’re aiming for games that are both accessible and challenging, so that everyone will have a good time and also learn some new things about queer folks, queer culture, and queer liberation!
If that’s not enough to entice you, did we mention that Butter Bakery Cafe — our gracious hosts — has some of the best biscuits in town? They do! Join us at Butter for Queer Trivia from 3-5pm on Saturday, March 31st!
Gadfly Theatre Productions produces queer and feminist art that everyone can laugh, cry, and relate to. We are currently starting our EIGHTH season of highlighting stories and voices of LGBTQ+ people and marginalized women.
The Column is entering its NINTH year as the only nonprofit news source for by and for Minnesota LGBTQ communities. Our mission is preserving and elevating the rich and unique history, arts, and culture of LGBTQ Minnesotans; holding government, businesses, and our own community institutions accountable to full equity for the entire spectrum that makes up our communities; and promoting, and providing a platform for, LGBTQ and allied creatives.
A campaign to change the way LGBTQ youth view themselves launches in Milwaukee, Madison 365 reports:
To that end, Milwaukee-based artist Lex Allen helped Diverse and Resilient create a campaign to help youth realize they are beautiful.
Lex Allen wrote a song called “Colors in Bloom” and a music video to coincide with it to help youth know that the complexities of their identity are perfect the way they are. The goal is that LGBTQ youth would see it and see people who are like them and look like them surviving.
Colors in Bloom is also a statewide awareness campaign. Lex Allen Productions has utilized a graphic artist to make billboards that will be going up around Wisconsin later this Spring imploring LGBTQ youth to recognize that they are loved and beautiful.
Flores said at least one of these billboards will be placed adjacent to a Conversion Therapy school so the youth there can see it.
“We have billboards going up in the Fox Valley and Milwaukee and one to go up by a Conversion Therapy school,” she said. “We are trying to bring up some funds to put up billboards in all these Conversion Therapy places. We want youth to see this and see hope and be able to hold on because it will get better, but it will only get better if we can work with youth and people supporting youth. In Milwaukee, the City Council is trying to ban these conversion therapy practices. We’re losing lives because of this damaging therapy. Some of the people who have survived these places have been able to find loving places and churches. But the fact that so many youth are exposed to this is so heartbreaking and dangerous.”
One of the billboards goes up in two weeks. The others will most likely go up around the end of May and into June during Pridefest. One of the locations will be along Highway 151.
“This has been a good campaign to work on,” Flores said. “It has given me hope. Just reminding people that they’re beautiful, worthy and acceptable the way they are.”
A Milwaukee council committee approved a measure Thursday to ban a controversial therapy practice that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, sending it on to the full Common Council.
Ald. Cavalier Johnson introduced the ordinance to ban the practice, commonly known as “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy,” for anyone under 18.
He called it a “proactive piece of legislation” to address the practice that is commonly tied to religious values.
Last year, state lawmakers proposed a bill to penalize mental health providers or counselors who performed conversion therapy, but it did not get a hearing or committee vote. Several other states and cities have passed similar bans.
RELATED: Legislator seeks LGBT conversion therapy ban
Major medical and mental health organizations have condemned conversion therapy, said Tony Snell, a member of the city’s Equal Rights Commission.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is making it easier for folks to get transition-related care, WPR reports:
If a transgender student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to start hormone therapy, they’d have to do more than talk with their doctor. They’re also required to get written consent from a therapist or mental health counselor.
But now, the university is working to change that.
University Health Services is switching to an informed consent model for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary students. That means students won’t have to get written consent or go through the campus’ Gender Identity Consultation to receive hormones. Instead, they’ll be able to work directly with their doctor.
Wisconsin has its first group home for LGBTQ youth, TMJ-4 reports:
“We started Courage in December of 2015 so in two years the community has supported us enough to allow us to pay cash for this house,” Schlaikowski said.
The property on South 6th Street in Walkers Point and the home behind it cost a total $50,000. One of the three bedroom homes will be used to house eight teens. The other will be used for counseling or just a hangout spot for the teens.
Both houses serve as a safe haven for young people ages 10 to 17, who have been living on the street. This group home is first of its kind in the state.
“The fact that we have this house already and that in less than a year we can open the doors and put eight children in it and get them off of the streets is phenomenal.” Schlaikowski said.
He says when renovations wrap up, the properties will be called “The Courage House.” So why Walkers Point? Schlaikowski said he wanted to have a group home here because there aren’t many shelters on the south side.
A “religious liberty” bill did not make a committee deadline in Iowa and appears dead. The bill would allow campus student groups to deny membership to LGBTQ students, the Des Moines Register reports:
A contentious bill appears dead in the Iowa Legislature amid strong opposition from Iowa’s business community and civil liberties groups who believe it could allow businesses to refuse services based on religious beliefs.
Senate File 2338, which was described by supporters as Iowa’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” was referred Thursday from the Senate debate calendar back to a Senate committee by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. The move effectively kills the bill for the 2018 session because Friday is a key legislative deadline for policy bills to advance or be declared dead this year.
The bill’s proponents said the legislation would have protected their ability to exercise their religious beliefs. Critics contended it could have resulted in discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, disabilities, and race and ethnicity.
The measure’s apparent death in Iowa means, at least for now, the Iowa Legislature will retreat from a national battle already fought in Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi and other states. Similar “religious freedom” measures have led to boycotts and demonstrations elsewhere.
Last year Patrick’s Cabaret took their already radical mission and added a unique spin on flash theatre to their mix, creating a night of pressing and important theater. Lightning Rod was a magical night as several different one act plays took stage, each with its own viewpoint, aesthetic, and agenda. As an audience member I sat riveted for the duration of all four innovative plays, each totally different from the next yet completely in line with the Cabaret’s general tone.
Lightning Rod is created completely in one week. Everyone meets early in the week to talk about what’s important to everyone regarding messaging and creation right now. After that meeting, writers punch out plays as quickly as they can. Directors have just a couple of days to get the play on its feet, and that weekend, the curtain opens and the magic is revealed.
Freelance director and theatre artist Kat Purcell led the charge last year, producing, curating and organizing this huge project. Some of the biggest names in the local arts scene joined them for the night, alongside people with no experience but plenty of talent. Most art that we cover here at The Column is unique, progressive, and exciting but Lightning Rod pushed both Patrick’s Cabaret and flash theater to new heights. Round Two of Lightning Rod is following a lot of the same format but Patrick’s never settles for the same show twice. Purcell is being joined by emerging arts leader Marcel Michelle-Mobama. The two will co-produce this year, with Michelle-Mobama adding a thrilling new voice to this important work.
This year’s line-up includes writers Seth Matz, Nina Medvedeva, Yoni Tamang, Zeam Porter, Malakai Greiner and Diana Siegel-Garcia. Their original plays will be directed by Dua, Keila Anali Saucedo, Adrienne Kleinman, Xochi de la Luna, Rica de la Concha and Christie Dove.
Performers come from all mediums and include Nikki Abramson, Mike C: Dancer on Wheels, Deep Roots Jessica, Ari Newman, caspian wirth-petrik, Mike Curran, Zealotron, Kallie Melvin, Jessica Eckerstorfer, Ogechi Egonu, Lucas Scheelk, Wolf Valencia, sente, Kenny Ngo, Ricardo Beaird, Erika Dani, Kevin Kaoz, Julia Gay, Seng Xiong, Lelis Brito, Lizzette Chapa, Sophea Ek, Amy Salloway, Kassia Lisinski and Camille Mitchell. It’s an all-star line-up for sure, with enough newbies to keep us in anticipation until the big event.
As Patrick’s continues its season of sunsetting (by which we mean closing its doors forever), it’s more important than ever to come out and see exciting art. It’s more important than ever to support queer-led art but please remember that the art being created in our community is worth seeing for your own benefit. It’s not just about showing up and supporting, though it’s about that too. It’s about taking an evening to experience something completely new and mind-blowing. It’s about recognizing the wealth of art and entertainment happening here and deciding to better your own life by participating. It’s about enjoying innovative audience experiences, and soaking them up before they disappear. Lightning Rod is offering something of true value. Don’t miss your chance to see it.
Lightning Rod is happening March 30th and 31st at Phoenix Theater at 7:30 p.m. More information including tickets are available at Patrick’s website. You can see sneak peeks at their Facebook event here, or buy tickets immediately here.
Paula Vogel’s Indecent is a very good play, and the Guthrie’s production is top notch. This Pulitzer Prize winning play is based on a true story about censorship and brilliantly ties together the way censorship leads to further fascist action. The play centers around the real life writer Sholem Asch, and his play God of Vengeance that came under fire for “indecency” and “obscenity” leading up and during the events of the Holocaust and World War II. The show features a small cast playing multiple characters, a band that sits right on the stage the whole time, and a couple of theatre tricks that tickled even me, as cynical as I am about spectacle on stage.
I frequently feel like acting ensembles at the Guthrie mix performance styles in ways that make a play harder to stay pulled into, and often highlight one Very Big Talent to the detriment of the rest of the cast. Indecent does not do any of that in spite of having a number of Very Big Talents in the cast, most notably Sally Wingert blending beautifully into her ensemble role. I am also not someone who is impressed by Big Impressive Sets alone, but Indecent uses the thrust beautifully, creating a singular set that is believable as several different stages, an attic, a living room, and more. The set contributes a lot to the show thematically as the carefully planned look of ruin and debris highlights the despair that the world is sinking into. Paula Vogel is obviously an immensely talented writer, and has long been one of my favorite playwrights. For the most part, she outdoes herself with Indecent. The conception and delivery of this piece from Director Wendy C. Goldberg is nothing short of exceptional too. There is an “X” factor missing from a lot of plays: love and care of the piece and the craft itself. Goldberg and the cast exhibit that tenfold, and create a really stunning and marvelous night at the Guthrie.
All of that being said, Indecent is not a perfect play. Culturally, I am frustrated that we don’t get to hear more from Jewish culture and artists beyond the Holocaust at mainstream arts venues. The events of this time period are undeniably heinous, and still we have people who deny them or even want to go through this again. That’s atrocious. Yet the Holocaust and the events leading up to it are not the only times Jewish people have been discriminated against, silenced, and oppressed. While Indecent is an exceptional piece of theatre, there are other exceptional plays about anti-Semitism and Jewish oppression too that do not take place prior to and during World War II. This is not a critique of this specific institution and it certainly is not a critique of Indecent, but I am concerned about a culture that struggles to find parallels and humanity in stories that we don’t know yet. What’s most uncomfortable about Indecent is that there are a couple of scenes where both the open queerness of pre-Hitler Germany and some of the Jewish stereotypes are played for laughs to an audience full of people who are likely not those things. It’s a really good play, but a couple of scenes seem really out of place as they inspire little but laughter at marginalized character’s expenses.
I spoke with a local Jewish queer actor, who not only clarified some of her own thoughts around the aforementioned concerns we both had of the show, but brought up that for a show marketed largely to the queer community, the actual queer characters are fairly sidelined. God of Vengeance features two lesbian leads, and there are LGBTQ+ characters in Indecent beyond that, but they aren’t the main focus of the play. That’s definitely not wrong, and there is a lot The Column readers will still get out of the show. Many of the performers and crew, and certainly Vogel herself are LGBTQ+, and their talent is immense. That fact leaves me wanting even more from the queer storylines in the play that do get buried though, and I do want the play to dig even deeper than it does to tie these various forms of oppression together.
Even so, what Vogel does with this source material is great. I have a personal unpopular opinion about plays about plays which is, basically, that I don’t like them. Nonetheless, Indecent plays with this convention in a way that subverts it, creating instead a beautiful story about love, hope, and heartbreak in a time of censorship that leads to unspeakable terror. The show is not about a play, it centers around a play. Non-standard theatre audiences will still find this show accessible, and because the play features music as well the show is enjoyable and palatable to most, even as it starts hitting on harder topics. This script is incredibly smart in ways I am still mulling over. It really refreshes and reinvents a lot of standard theatrical format, and it’s a play I am still thinking about a week later.
We don’t talk nearly enough about how censorship is often the first step towards total fascism and tyranny, and this show covers that topic expertly with this based-on-a-true-story rooted in that very subject. We also see America’s complacency in the horrors that happen in the rest of the world, as it’s the USA where the actors in God of Vengeance are tried in court. This is a very unusual and necessary look at world history, as our history books like to paint us as the heroes in this particular series of events. In Indecent we see the cast of characters go from eager and excited about a show to victims of actual genocide in roughly ninety minutes, and it is a powerful and important message about how quickly things spiral out of control and who’s to blame when they do. While I would like to see more from the plethora of Jewish stories available to us, this show’s focus on what leads to things like the Holocaust and its original point of view regarding those events is still refreshing. While not perfect, this show leaves us with plenty to chew on and mull over for weeks after the fact. That’s art, warts and all, and I’m grateful to see The Guthrie taking on such powerful work.
If you’d like to see Indecent, it is running daily at The Guthrie through March 24th, with the exception of Mondays. Tickets are available at the Guthrie’s website here.
Queer artists in the Twin Cities are all too familiar with the critical dearth of affordable, accessible space to develop and showcase the radical work that is our trademark. As we are pushed to the margins, we affirm with greater conviction that our place is actually in the vanguard. We do this by entrenching ourselves again in the DIY. We see this as a phase in a cycle that we will not simply outlast, but rather are prepared to instigate and ride whatever the next wave may be as culture makers and prophets.
One place to catch a taste of what is to come is in the work of Xochi de la Luna: independent producer, musician, emcee, comic and performance artist. Xochi is currently best known as the creator and curator of Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories, a monthly show with a mission to push art in new directions, while giving under-represented and new artists a platform to be seen and heard in a fantastical environment. Part showcase, part variety show and part theatrical production, the event is hosted by the interdimensional being known as “The Real Mother Goose”, who interviews each act for the audiences’ entertainment and education. Mother Goose also provides updates on the ongoing narrative arc of her travels though the universe’s infinite dimensions, her ongoing conflict with the Skeleton Witch and other parables.
Xochi also hosts Vector 9 at least monthly at Dead Media–as nemself, also known as the earthly conduit of The Real Mother Goose–and fronts a newly formed band called La Curandera & The Ritual. When asked what it’s like to be to be an independent producer right now, ne of course lists the challenges of finding resources and exposure, but also: “It is very comforting and healing to see an audience that seems to include so many different components of the community. I hope that audience keeps growing and everyone continues to feel that they belong. For everyone to be exposed to each other’s light, and be laughing with one another. That is what feels good.”
Vector 9 shows can be found at Dead Media, and costs a $5 suggested donation. All revenue is paid directly to the artists. Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories is currently hosted by LUSH, and costs $5 pre-sale or $10 at the door. To stay up to date on shows, you can like Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories Facebook page here. Catch La Curandera & The Ritual on March 21st at Moon Palace Books (Facebook event page here). The next Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories installment (The Spirit of the Chimera) will be at LUSH on April 8th. To view the line up and purchase tickets, check out the Facebook event page here. The next Vector 9 at Dead Media will be April 6th featuring Idle Empress, Kate McCarthy, Midas Bison and Perfume.
This card of balance and fluctuation is a necessary evil in our Earthly journey. If the Ace promises news and growth, the Two reminds us that life is still life. That brilliant business adventure will hit some snags and potentially even lose money to start. Our dream home will see a pipe burst. Our family, chosen or otherwise, will still fight because it is comprised of other human beings who each have their own trauma and emotional needs. We will start that valuable resource for our community, and then we will see it run dry at times. That’s okay; yes, that’s fluctuation and it’s hard. It’s also absolutely critical for us as we learn to grow and thrive. We do not know who we are based solely on the best of times; we know who we are when we have suffered and handled it. That is balance, taking the bad with the good and learning to find the funny story or the warm hug in the middle of it all.
A card of balance in a suit about career, money, home, and family also reminds us that there are other things in life. There’s our spiritual journey, our friendships, the fact that we like sitting on our couch and binge-watching The Gilmore Girls. There’s a million aspects of life and this card reminds us that they all need our attention right now. I get this card a lot as a multipassionate (that is, someone with careers and goals in multiple fields), telling me that now is not the time to slow down anywhere and I just have to handle it and keep going. Yet it also shows up to remind me that I have a sick body and a traumatized heart, and sometimes I just really need that Netflix binge. It’s not contradictory at all, rather every message of this card reminds us to nurture all parts of ourselves.
As a bonafide queer person who is disabled and has struggled forever with poverty, I sometimes feel like my whole life has been about learning to navigate the Two of Pentacles. That’s not at all unusual for ANY LGBTQ+ person, but especially those who are wading through multiple intersections of marginalization. In our activist lives we see it daily. As soon as we gain a cool piece of legislation, we lose another one we were counting on. In the personal, it so very often seems like one step forward and two steps back to create a safer art space, food shelf, or youth program for our community. I have a day where I feel out and proud and great, and then a day when I feel scared and small. Some of this imbalance is important for learning. Do I still create space when a physical space is lost, and how? Do I still behave bravely on days I feel scared and small? Sometimes though, I have learned all of these lessons, and what I needed was another good day for queer people, and receiving something different is jarring. Unfortunately the Universe (or any divine you believe in) and the world around us don’t always behave specifically according to what I as one person needs. Sometimes someone else needed that win more, and sometimes someone else fought harder to get their idea through. That’s life, and that’s balance.
So where does the Two of Pentacles take us queer kids in those darker times then? The more important keyword in this card is balance. Our whole lives we have striven to find ourselves and live our lives as those selves no matter what was going on in the world around us. That is unequivocally a lesson in balance. When you can find yourself, your voice and your heart at the center of the whirlwind, you have found true balance. That’s what the Two of Pentacles urges the marginalized to do when it shows up. This card wants you to think through what makes you feel calm, centered, and focused no matter what is falling down around you. You need that center in the worst of times, sure. You also need it in the best of times when everything is happening quickly and unapologetically. You want to retain your place in your community, your home, your body, and so you must quickly learn to find that inner peace. That is the biggest and most important lesson in the Two of Pentacles, and something every queer person needs to have tucked away in their self-care toolkit. The world will continue to be cruel and kind to us in turn, and as survivors of this floating ball in the sky, we’ve got to find a way to make it work.