In 1990, documentary filmmaker Jennie Livingston premiered her film uncovering the wild and unique “Ball Scene” that predominated N.Y.C. Harlem queer culture in the 1980s. Long before Ru Paul became the drag queen zeitgeist, drag royalty – Pepper LaBeija, Angie Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja, and Dorian Corey were tearing up Harlem in a celebration of gender fluidity and protest. The documentary film Paris is Burning is the story of these important pioneers of drag in the years before the AIDS crisis ravaged the gay community. Weekly, contestants would gather in dilapidated gymnasiums and auditoriums in Harlem to compete in runway shows. The politics were complex in this world where queens are divided into “houses” similar to the great fashion houses in Paris (e.g., the House of Chanel). While the competition was intense, the support was endless for these young people wrestling with sexual orientation and gender conformity. It is in Livingston’s film that we learn terms like “werking,” “walking,” and “reading,” as well as the roots of “voguing” long before Madonna hit the dance floor.
Fun Home, the 2015 Tony-award winning musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, takes the stage this month at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. Running from April 18th to May 13th, Fun Home is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Karen Eilbacher, who plays Joan in the musical, to discuss her character, the show’s underlying messages, and what audiences can expect.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus brings its “Out of This World Tour” to Baltimore for one final act before permanently closing in May of this year. Running from April 20th to 30th at the Royal Farms Arena, audiences will be captivated by an interactive, action-packed storyline filled with space-age family fun and technology.
Jonathan Larson once wrote, “In these dangerous times, where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and [we] should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.”
It’s always exciting to see new theatre work happening in Baltimore. While the Hippodrome presents revivals of popular Broadway musicals, Everyman Theatre (just a few blocks west) is taking a big risk by bringing an entirely new musical theatre to Baltimore.
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