Review: PARADISE SQUARE Is ‘Bold, Heartbreaking, And Glorious’

The cast of the new Broadway show Paradise Square
Cast of Paradise Square via Instagram – photo by Kevin Berne

Guest review by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  Occasionally it raises a theater’s roof with the power of a musical like Paradise Square which opened last night at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theater. Continue reading “Review: PARADISE SQUARE Is ‘Bold, Heartbreaking, And Glorious’”

Pride 2021: Pride At Work

Guest post by B.A. Schaaff from the Department of Labor and vice president of Pride at DOL
Guest post by B.A. Schaaff from the Department of Labor and vice president of Pride at DOL
(image via Pride at DOL)

Guest post by B.A. Schaaff

Pride Month is a chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people to be proud and visible in a world that tells us not to be. Pride Month is a chance to celebrate and honor the work of LGBTQ+ people as we fight every day for equity and inclusion in society, in the law and in our workplaces.

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, we’ve had many recent encouraging wins at the national level:

  • Last June, in Bostock vs. Clayton County, the Supreme Court affirmed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • In January, President Biden issued an Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, and  another executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which includes LGBTQ+ persons. He also rescinded a 2020 executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping that had a chilling effect on diversity and inclusion training programs among federal agencies and contractors.
  • The Biden-Harris administration has stated strong support for the Equality Act, which would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include non-discrimination protection on the basis of sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ people in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health care and other federally funded services, credit and more.
  • In March, President Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility.

In the past year, anti-racism protests have sparked important conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. The Department of Labor has recommitted to being an inclusive workplace, and continues to offer trainings related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including those related to the use of gender-inclusive language and pronouns. I’ve been proud to provide these trainings and support those efforts as a vice president of Pride at DOL, an affinity group for the department’s LGBTQ+ employees and contractors and our allies.

As part of the department’s efforts to implement the sexual orientation and gender identity executive order, our Civil Rights Center – a member of the Title VI/Title IX Interagency Working Group led by the Department of Justice – will serve on the Title IX and Executive Order 13988 Committee. This committee will serve to provide opportunities for interagency collaboration to advance EO 13988’s goal of protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ensuring the Bostock decision is applied to Title IX and other relevant statutes, and making federal agencies welcoming to LGBTQ+ people.

The department is also working to reverse the impact of the prior administration’s executive order on diversity training. Our Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs is examining promising practices for diversity training as one component of broader efforts to eliminate bias from employment practices. In addition, the department is conducting an equity review to better understand how well our policies and programs are reaching historically underserved populations, and launched a related data challenge.

But there is still more work to do, and our pride can come at a price. Being visible sometimes means being exposed to harassment, discrimination, and violence. This is especially true for transgender people, particularly those who are women and people of color. Equity and inclusion require creating an environment — through language, policies and practices — that not only tolerates but recognizes and affirms people’s identities and relationships. Only with this can employers create a sense of belonging and value in their organization.

So as we celebrate Pride Month this year and every year, let’s recognize all the work that has been done and that is necessary to keep pushing forward.


B.A. Schaaff (they/he) is an attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor and is vice president of Pride at DOL.

Trailer: Award-Winning Movie Musical ‘Still Waiting in the Wings’

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

You can turn off its bright lights, lock up its stage doors, and silence the “Lullaby of Broadway,” but you’ll never take away a gay man’s dreams of being a musical theatre star!

But while the rest of us wait for theatre marquees across America to light up again, we can follow Anthony on his journey in the new movie musical comedy, Still Waiting in the Wings is set for its worldwide release May 15, 2020, on DVD and all digital platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Still Waiting in the Wings is a light-hearted musical tale following the triumphs and trials of actors dreaming of the Great White Way, mixing sweet aspirations with bitter drama. Our stars sing and dance while living the reality of slinging hash under the florescent lights at Times Square’s famed “Café Broadway.”

There are truly no people like show people and there’s no telling what can happen when they’re pitted against each other. Sprinkled along the way are special appearances by Nick Adams, Ed Asner, Carole Cook, Lee Meriwether, Patricia Richardson, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky, Sally Struthers, Bruce Vilanch, and Cindy Williams.

Jeffrey A. Johns and Chita Rivera in ‘Still Waiting in the Wings’

“Since theatres all over the country are closed right now, many of us are missing the arts in our life,” says star and co-writer Jeffrey A. Johns. “If this movie can bring the joy of musicals to people right now, I couldn’t be more thrilled. We could all use a smile and some laughter right now and hope the film can bring that to people during this difficult time.”

Still Waiting in the Wings has screened at film festivals across the world and has won several top awards. Highlights include Q Cinema: Fort Worth (“Best of the Festival”), qFlix: Philadelphia (“Rising Star Award in Acting –Jeffrey A. Johns”), Garden State Film Festival (“Best Musical Feature”), FilmOut: San Diego (“Best Ensemble” and “Best Soundtrack”), California Independent Film Festival (“Best Feature Film”), qFlix: Worcester, New England’s LGBT Film Festival (“Audience Favorite”), Cinema Diverse: Palm Springs (“Festival Favorite”), and California Independent Film Festival (“Best Actress in a Feature Film – Rena Strober”).

The movie is directed by Q. Allan Brocka and written by Jeffrey A. Johns and Arie Gonzalez. The cast includes Jeffrey A. Johns, Joe Abraham, Rena Strober, Adam Huss, Blake Peyrot, Harrison White, and Rebekah Kochan.

Still Waiting in the Wings and CD soundtrack are currently available for pre-order at www.JJSpotlightProductions.com

 

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.

Earth Day 2020: Uniting The World For Climate Action

(image via TheOUTfront.com)

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, some images tell stories which change the course of humanity and whose values are immeasurable by any standard known to mankind. Such is the case of the photograph taken in 1968 by the crew of Apollo 8 and became globally known as “Earthrise.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains:

Today the Blue Planet marks not only the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but even during a global pandemic and social distancing, the world is coming together in one common goal, Climate Action. The vision is straightforward and simple. From the website:

“Our world needs transformational change… As an individual, you yield real power and influence as a consumer, a voter, and a member of a community that can unite for change… When your voice and your actions are united with thousands or millions of others around the world, we create a movement that is inclusive, impactful, and impossible to ignore… The time is long overdue for a global outpouring of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet. Earth Day 2020 can be the catalyst that galvanizes an unparalleled global collaboration.”

How can you help S.A.V.E. our planet?

For 24 hours “Earth Day Network” will be inspiring change with streaming content bringing viewers together for performances, teach-ins, calls to action, and global conversations meant to empower people to make a better environmental future for our planet.

Earth Day Network LIVE

“We must build the largest, most diverse online mobilization in history in defense of the environment. Our world needs a united response for bold action.

On Earth Day 2020, we say enough is enough.
We say we believe in science. We say that everyone can make a difference.
We say that the protection of our planet and the wellbeing of the people who live upon it are the top priorities.
On Earth Day 2020, we say that we’re committing to vote, we’re registering to vote and we’re showing up to vote.
Human health and planetary health are inextricably linked.
Learn more about Earth Day activities, Climate Change information, and joining forces with others around the world making a difference in their future at EarthDay.org

Our Planet Our Home credit: Ernesto Yerena Montejano)

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.

Out Music: Spencer Day & Effie Passero ‘State Of Emergency’

L-R Effie Passero, Spencer Day (screen capture)

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Ever been minding your own business, just gigging in Mexico with an American Idol finalist, and the next thing you know you’re both quarantined because of a global pandemic?  Well, that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago to out singer/songwriter and #1 Billboard chart-topper, Spencer Day.

Now we’ve all had our lives upended by the coronavirus crisis, but not many of us are stuck in a foreign country like Spencer and Effie Passero.  If we were, suffice it to say we’d probably be handling it with anxiety and panic, rather than humor and music from a rooftop.

But their new collaboration, “State of Emergency” proves even in the worst of times, it can be the best times if you’re there for each other.

“Like many of you, we are trying to make the best of the worst and keep looking on the bright side of life,” the duo commented. “Earlier this month we came down to Mexico for some concerts, and then a week later it felt like the world was falling apart.”

“This is a brand-new song we wrote after finding ourselves with the need for ‘social distancing’ down here in Mexico,” continued the artists. “We hope everyone is safe, healthy, and finding moments to smile.”

“STATE OF EMERGENCY”
Written by: Spencer Day & Effie Passero
Performed by: Spencer Day, Effie Passero, Zoe Wood, Eduardo Leon
Videographer: Daniel Marquez Ortega (The Groove House Studio)

SPENCER DAY is one of the most acclaimed young artists creating witty and sophisticated pop songs in the tradition of the classic American writers. He has been called “compelling” by Time Out New York, “prodigiously talented” by the Village Voice, and “brilliant” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The Washington Post praised his “cool jazz sensibilities” and “cleverly crafted tales.” Day has wandered amid the expansive and diverse landscape of American music, developing an artistic sensibility that borrows from numerous sources: jazz, musical theater, cabaret, soul, folk, traditional and contemporary pop. He uses intuition and improvisation as his primary tools to craft a sound that is familiar, yet fresh and innovative at the same time. Day’s album Vagabond peaked at #11 on the Billboard Album Chart and stayed on the chart for 47 weeks. The lead single, “Til You Come To Me,” peaked at #3. His recent album, Daybreak, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Jazz Chart. Spencer’s first collaboration with Postmodern Jukebox just surpassed 1.5 million views on YouTube. Broadway By Day, his upcoming album of reimagined theater songs with surprising and inventive genre-blurring arrangements, will feature special guests Jane Monheit and Dave Koz.

Follow Spencer Day on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here.

EFFIE PASSERO is a classically trained performer turned singer-songwriter. After 12 years in Opera Theatre, she discovered her passion truly lies in storytelling and sharing her own life through music. In early 2018, she was seen on ABC”s first season of “American Idol,” placing in the top 20 contestants. In late 2018, she won the Hollywood Media in Music Award for her original song, “Sarsaparilla.” Effie has been brought into session singing, working on both Leonard Cohen and Barbra Streisand’s latest albums. She is currently finishing her first EP to be will be released in the fall.

Follow Effie Passero on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here.


Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.

World AIDS Day 2019: Attention Must Be Paid

December 1 is recognized around the globe as World AIDS Day

December 1 is recognized around the globe as World AIDS Day

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr

Every year as World AIDS Day approaches, I struggle with what to write about a subject so deeply woven into the fabric of our community, but this year the story was unfortunately clear.

Three decades after “the first-ever world health day” was declared by the World Health Organization as “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV; show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died,” World AIDS Day is largely forgotten.

In New York City, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, home of GMHC, BroadwayCares/EquityFightsAIDS, ACTUP, and openly HIV-positive City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the Empire State Building won’t be lit red in recognition again this year.

The last time was in 2015 when I noticed World AIDS Day wasn’t on the lighting schedule and submitted the request as a private New Yorker living with HIV/AIDS.  (Requests are usually made by a major organization/corporation.)  When I made the same request the following year, it was denied even though nothing else was scheduled. The Empire State Building hasn’t recognized World AIDS Day since.

Empire State Building

World AIDS Day isn’t important enough to get the attention of mainstream media. It even goes largely ignored by our own LGBTQ media. The argument is, HIV/AIDS is not a “serious” problem, but the facts* are:

  • 9 million people across the globe with HIV/AIDS in 2018.
  • 2 million were adults and 1.7 million were children
  • 7 million were newly infected
  • 770,000 died

And there is still no cure and no vaccine.

What they’re really saying is HIV/AIDS isn’t killing enough people anymore; it’s not the “disease of the month;” and/or it won’t get enough “clicks” for their advertisers. Here are the results of that attitude and the stories not getting told.

Current retroviral medications that are allowing people like me to live healthy full lives and PrEP – which is helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS – are lifesaving, but only if you have access to them.

Many people in our community, especially people of color, don’t have the same access to treatment let alone afford the medication’s $1800/month price tag.  Moreover, only 79% of people with HIV know their status.  The 21% who don’t is due in great part to a lack of access to testing.

A recent article on The Randy Report published the data from a study on the attitudes and behaviors of the youngest generations towards people with HIV and the results were horrifying.

  • 28% of HIV-negative millennials said they have avoided hugging or interacting with HIV-positive people.
  • 41% of Gen Z respondents were either somewhat informed or not at all informed about HIV, compared to 23% of millennials.

*via HIV.gov 

Even in our own community, there is a shocking lack of knowledge about HIV transmission which has fostered a campaign to educate, “Undetectable = Untransmittable.” Still, the stigma of HIV/AIDS continues, not so much out of fear as before but out of sheer ignorance.

At the other end of the spectrum are the long-term survivors of the AIDS epidemic which even fewer are talking about.  I know many with severe health issues caused by the ravages of early drug treatments like AZT which are only now catching up with them.  Coupled with growing older in a Community obsessed with youth who are oblivious to the basic facts of HIV/AIDS, it’s yet another bitter pill to swallow.

Finally, an original purpose of World AIDS Day was to commemorate those lost in the plague, and those people still deserve to be remembered especially by our Community.  The health care providers, researchers, activists, fundraisers, caregivers who fought for them (and continue to fight) expect nothing less.

If we don’t care about their lives who will?  Their stories are part of Our Story.

World AIDS Day – attention must be paid because lives depend on it.