Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Normal Heart put some things in perspective


I saw Arena Stage's production of The Normal Heart last week, and it put a lot of things in perspective. I also couldn't take my arts management lens of, so I actually blogged from that point of view at my J Street Jr blog. This one's a little more personal.

First of all, there were definitely a lot of tears involved. Had to make a run for some napkins or paper towels at intermission because you just knew Act II was going to bring on the water works. But I digress.

The picture to the right is of patches from the AIDS quilt. And, if you aren't familiar with
 The Normal Heart, here is Arena Stage's blurb for it:

Tony winner George C. Wolfe, (Angels in America) directs Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning Broadway production of The Normal Heart. Fueled by love, anger, hope and pride, a circle of friends struggle to contain the mysterious disease ravaging New York's gay community. Dismissed by politicians, frustrated by doctors and fighting with each other, their differences could tear them apart - or change the world. Hailed by critics as “riveting” (Newsday) and “a great night at the theater” (New York Times), Kramer's masterwork is an outrageous and totally unforgettable look at sexual politics during the AIDS crisis and remains one of the theater’s most powerful evenings ever.
So that being said, here are some things it put in perspective for me.

The first, being an LGBT person in their early thirties, not only did I think of the world, the time that these men lived in, but I realized that this was also the exact same time my parents began to raise me in this world. I was born in 1981. And, for better or worse, this was probably one of the formative things they learned about gay men, which explained their concern for my health when I came out. Don't get me wrong, it in no way excuses their past ignorance. At the same time if that's all they knew, then that's really all they could speak to. But that was over a decade ago and is all water far under the bridge.

Another thing it put into perspective was conversation I have had with many of my LGBT friends, talks about Pride, discussions about how we represent ourselves to each other and the public, trying to agree on caring just enough for those who cared too much and those who didn't care at all. It's funny how fresh and immediate something like that can seem when you're talking with your friends and acquaintances. Then you watch something like this, a play that was written decades ago, to realize that the only thing new is the current reiteration of an aged discussion. And this topic came up in much the same way it does now, does our image work for or against the things we fight for.

One of the final things the play put into context was how far we've come on one hand, but how much more work there is to do. I can't even count how many times I've had a friend or an ex come to me to tell me they're positive, older, younger, doesn't really matter.  And with the DC area having a rate higher than the national average...

It's said best in a letter from the playwright, Larry Kramer, which is handed out after you leave the theatre. This is still an epidemic, in the DC area and all around the world. That is grossly oversimplifying the letter handed out, as there is much depth and a lot of weight behind his words.

Arena Stage has partnered with multiple organizations, including the AIDS Quilt, to give context to the piece, as well as continue the conversation after the curtain. In fact, throughout July, there are a series of panels in addition to other events.

That's about it. If you're in the DC area, I highly recommend seeing this production before it closes, July 29.

- JR

P.S. Check out a first look at The Normal Heart at Arena Stage, below.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Making a FB page cover photo

Hey everyone,

So I finally got around to making a Facebook cover photo for AWoL Productions's FB Page. AWoL Productions is a performing arts company I started fresh out of grad school in 2010.  We've produced one show a year so far, each time presented as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. I'm very happy with it!!

And with this being the first show put up since the new cover photo addition, I thought a compilation of the three shows produced would be a good first one. I consulted FB's How should I choose a cover photo for my page?

The first thing I was looking for was the dimensions, which (if you care to optimize the image for the page), are 851 pixels wide & 315 pixels high. And in case you're another Mac user like me and don't have the software to edit photos, I recommend checking out Seashore, which you can learn more about here.

They have other recommendations for format, size, etc. which you can check out yourself, but what I made sure to take particular note of was what was not allowed:
  • Price or purchase information, such as "40% off" or "Download it at our website"
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page's About section
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as "Get it now" or "Tell your friends"
In the end, it makes sense, and I kind of like this. In a number of webinars and trainings on social media, you find that a well selected or composed image can be just as, if not more effective than hitting your audience and community over the head with yet aNOther call to action if you're with a nonprofit like me.

SocialMediaDelivered actually has a great post, Facebook Brand Cover Photos: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in which they shared thoughts on why the image below was not a good choice for Microsoft, with which I agree.

Granted, I am certainly not comparing my small little arts company to a brand like that, BUT best practices are best practices, regardless of how small or large your organization is.

Anyway, that's it. Would love to hear thoughts on my cover photo, what works about it, what doesn't. And definitely share your own, especially if you want feedback.

- JR

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Bacchant Tale: Day 0

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, inspired by being in the chorus of Avant Bard's The Bacchae, which is playing at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, VA, and closes July 1, 2012

Bacchant Captain
Day 1


So we're getting ready to head to Thebes to spread the word of Dionysus. We've even got some great slogans on display scrolls, including "Dionysus lives!!" and "Rock Out With Your Bacchout".

He  leads us in spirit and body, but we can't tell the noobs that. Where we're going they think us barbarians. We'll show them. We'll come from the hills in the east, and like the rising sun, hopefully shed a little light on their western sensibilities, teach them to live a little.

Our leader, who wants to remain anonymous when we get there, has alluded to having relatives there he hasn't seen in a while. He says he has plans for them, and we know he knows how to party, so it'll probably be some outlandish and lavish surprise family reunion.

Well, that's it for now. We've got the wine packed and ready to go...and that's really all we ever need!!


1st GMCW rehearsal for GALA 2012

Hey there,

So I just got home from the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington's first rehearsal for this year's GALA Choruses Festival.  As you might know, I've sung on and off with GMCW for the past several years or so. I missed the last GALA Festival, two years ago in Miami, and I'm very stoked to be able to attend this one.

This year, GMCW is participating in a new feature of this festival, this year: Coffee Concerts. As if the days weren't already jam packed with LGBT gatherings and music making, this will be an early morning offering, and we'll be performing in the first one, a piece called Alexander's House:
Alexander's House is an innovative, one-act musical that tells a heartfelt, funny and powerful story about family: the one we are born into, the one we choose, and the ties that bind them. Alexander, a gay man suddenly passes away leaving behind his two unreconciled worlds: his partner and friends, and his estranged son who finally meet at his summer home. The story explores finding truth in one's life and the empowerment that comes with self-knowledge.
It's weird, I haven't performed with the guys since February, but jumping into rehearsals today, it felt like no time had passed. The picture to the left, by the way, is from the most recent holiday show, Red & Greene (we performed with Ellen Greene); I'm in front, downstage almost center, with the white pants on.

But, anyway, being back with the guys...well it's like a family, a brotherhood. And I've started to get really excited about meeting all the other groups coming together from around the country and around the world, in some cases, in Denver.

And, yes, I'll be tweeting and blogging from there and probably well after, about the experience, the memories, and the connections made.

- JR