B Scene

Sun. July 31, 2005 12:00 AM
by Jason Paul

LAMDA Legal Defense, HRC, NGLTF, riots, protests and proceedings – what has it gotten us? "Lifestyle" publications still get shunned to "special interest." Compromising civil unions ultimately get turned down. After 36 years of Gay Rights Activism advancing in all branches of government, it seems we're still fighting that good fight. What's up with that? In recent times I have seen how both the LGBT and straight worlds can peacefully, as well as happily and productively, coexist, and those who strive to make it happen.

Take the Frankie Knuckles Independence Day Live Party . After years of making an esteemed name for himself mixing music at popular discos, Mr. Knuckles has amassed a huge following the Gay and African American communities. Both were brought together downtown at the House of Blues, right in between the divisible North and South sides, Sunday night July 3rd. With all the places RtVR has taken me in the last several months, it was there I felt most comfortable in my own skin.

The shirtless circuit boy with his waxed coiffure and plastic-like moisturized face shared the dance floor with the inner city hipster, thick bold bling dangling from his neck, as well as the perky blonde blue eyed trixy and her bouncing boobs. No pressure to be pretty, perfect or popular, I was free to join them wearing my summer blazer that covered up the XXL T-shirt worn underneath -- which was worn to cover up something else. Bonded by music, nobody cared about anyone else's business. Even Nightspots Music Correspondent Peter Mavrik and I made nice nice.

And did you see the Open House Dance Company 's recent show R/Evolve like I told you to some issues back? If not, you not only missed an amazing local community performance but a pivotal opportunity to see how cultures can collide without conflict.

Founded by openly gay Artistic Director Ken Gasch two years ago, the very purpose of OHDC, as stated in its mission, is to "... include the community at large." With no gay agenda, the troupe's 10 dance professionals create unique and varied pieces incorporating dancers of all skill levels and backgrounds. One of which was a forty-something Catholic school teacher. Another extended her already expired visa in order to perform in the show while another was recently released from a Cambodian internment camp. Remarkable members in their own right, now made more so by their commitment to art and aid. The diverse dancers also pull a distinctive audience, very different from most dance concert attendants. As stated by Ken, "The right wing husband of one dancer [could be] sitting next to the gay partner of another dancer with no debates, no politics, no religion, just being there and being – people." At show's end, OHDC raised thousands not only for the Center on Halsted, but also for battered women and children, The American Cancer Society and The Shannon Hardy Project for teen suicide prevention. Per Ken, at OHDC, "Everyone gets the same chance regardless of who they are."

Side Note: During the piece entitled, What Separates Us, was dancer Ivan Torres wearing a cup? His stuff was way out there!

Hopefully you had the chance to catch yours truly alongside of YeastRadio.com's Madge Weinstein in their guest chaperone appearance in Hell in a Handbag Productions' latest hit, Scarrie – The Musical. Madge brought the bagels and lox while I fetched a publicized promotional evening sponsored by ChicagoPride.com. To quote a local paper's reviewer, it was "gratuitous" good fun and we'll never get asked back. (We didn't exactly follow the script)

Dedicated to the "preservation, exploration and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture," HIAH's Scarrie, based on the 70's cult film Carrie, is certainly no exception. Yet you may be inclined to think this company, that features performers in drag and gay subtext, intends only to appeal to specific benefaction. Not so, according to Artistic Director and playwright David Cerda . "Sure there's a lot of queer friendly humor [in their shows], but that's all over the place now. It's not shocking anymore." David continues to account for the dissimilar range of the HIAH's audience with the success of their original production, Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical, and a human desire to be entertained, "People like to sit together in a room and laugh. In a darkened theater is doesn't matter what your sexual persuasion is."

HIAH has have used their performances to raise money for Season of Concern, Tippi Hedren's Shamabala Preserve, GroceryLand and Vital Bridges.

From arts to action, as we continue to evolve and see beyond ourselves, hopefully one day all people will live as one community apart from personal background or interest. I know this can happen. I've seen this happen. Perhaps with music, or maybe with dance or laughter or maybe by some other means entirely. Regardless, let's all do our part to help to make this happen.

For more information on these organizations, or on other ways you can volunteer to better the community, feel free to write Jason Paul.