12th Cincinnati AIDS Walk has sunny skies, sobering message
by Doreen Cudnik
Cincinnati--Three simple words on the cover of the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnatiís 2000 annual report summed up the necessity for the September 22 AIDS Run and Walk.
"It isnít over."
The 12th Annual Red Ribbon Run and Walk was held under sunny skies to raise funds for AVOCís programs and services and to send the message that AIDS is still very much among us, and still a devastating illness.
According to AVOCís annual report, HIV and AIDS now affects heterosexuals more often than gays and lesbians, but new infections are on the rise for many segments of the community. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control reported that one in every three gay or bisexual African-American men was infected with HIV; 15% of Hispanics, 7% of non-Hispanic whites, and 3% of Asian-Americans were HIV infected.
The CDC-sponsored study of gay men from 1998-2000 also indicated that HIV infection was highest among those who were transgendered, and particularly high among blacks, Latinos, and young men of mixed race. The CDC soberly concluded that the study indicates "a critical and widespread public health problem."
AVOC executive director Victoria Brooks, who deals with this ongoing public health problem everyday, said there is much misinformation among younger gay and bisexual men about the disease.
"Younger gay men are not connecting with the epidemic because they havenít lost two and three rounds of friends like some of the guys who have been around longer," Brooks said, "so theyíre not really as in touch with the disease." She added that thereís a "false sense of security and a belief that if they do get sick itíll be ten years before they see any symptoms, and then thereíll be a cure, and if not, then I just have to take a few pills and Iíll be fine."
There is also a sense among some that a vaccine is right around the corner. Brooks said though that even the most optimistic estimates from the National Institutes for Health indicate that a vaccine is at least ten to twelve years away, and thatís if testing that is currently being conducted is successful.
Until that vaccine arrives, AVOC continues to provide support services for HIV infected individuals, and provides AIDS prevention education throughout the Cincinnati area.
The number of walkers and runners for the five-kilometer run and five-mile walk were up from last year, Brooks said, but financial information was not yet available. The goal of the event is to raise $150,000, a "significant chunk" of AVOCís $1.7 million annual budget.
"The best part about the funds we receive from AIDS Walk is they are funds that we can put where we most need them," Brooks said. "With every funding source there is always some restriction, but with this money we can basically use it at our discretion in terms of services to clients, so weíre able to supplement and enhance services. Thatís why this money is so vital."
Nicole Kowell and Amy Ashcraft walked with eight of their fellow Oak Hills High School Gay Straight Alliance members in the event, and stayed to enjoy the after-party.
"Itís just really important to come out here and support AIDS work, Kowell said. "Iíll keep walking until there is a cure for AIDS."
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland--Shaking off the shock of the past two weeks, over 2,500 people went to the 11th annual John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk on September 23.
The crowd justified organizersí decision to hold the walk as scheduled instead of postponing or canceling the yearly event, Northeast Ohioís largest AIDS fundraiser.
Alicia Calaway cuts the ribbon to begin the AIDS walk.
Despite the good spirits, near-tropical weather and the presence of Alicia Calaway, seen on the television show Survivor 2: the Australian Outback, participation at the Edgewater Park event was down slightly from last year, and is expected to bring with it a commensurate drop in donations.
Last yearís event raised $250,000 with 3,000 walkers. Early indicators suggest that this yearís day-of-event donations are down $15,000, with no word yet on whether matching donations and corporate sponsorships maintained their levels.
The slight dip is attributed to the events of the last two weeks, according to Marty Hiller, executive director of the Free Clinic and member of the walkís steering committee.
"Those of us that were involved this year and in years past were pleased with Sundayís results given the events earlier in the month," Hiller said. "The decision to go on was right."
Calaway first manned a booth where she met with walkers and other attendees, then moved to the stage and led people in a workout to warm up before the walk, which this year also added a five kilometer fun run, an addition welcomed by a number of people who arrived wearing their numbers for the run.
"I think she added an element missing in previous years," Hiller said of Calaway.
Despite the dip in numbers, which have yet to be verified, the AIDS Walk has come a long way from its beginnings in 1991, when it was organized by, and a benefit for, the Health Issues Taskforce, now known as the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. That year, the event raised $5,000. Two years later, operated by an independent committee, the event was already up to $150,000 to support AIDS services in the Cleveland area.
The event also seems to be avoiding the fate of many other similar walks across the country, whose attendance and fundraising levels have dropped precipitously over the last few years, according to Hiller.
"I think itís a testament to the organizers and the walkers," he said. "It says a lot about people in our community."
Given the events of recent weeks and the slight decrease in figures, Hiller was still quite happy with this yearís AIDS Walk.
"The event went without a hitch," he said.
by Doreen Cudnik
Cincinnati--Crisp autumn weather and internet rumors of cancellation did not deter nearly 3,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their friends from attending the fifth anniversary of Pride Night ant Paramountís Kings Island. The event is held annually as a fundraiser for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Cincinnati, and provides for a significant portion of their annual operating budget.
Some people had thought the event may be cancelled this year due to concerns about safety in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But a well-circulated e-mail from center president Bruce Beisner just prior to the event corrected the rumor and encouraged people to attend the event.
Although attendance was down slightly from around 3,500 people last year, Beisner said the event would still be a financial success for the center.
"Last year, after expenses, the center received around $24,000 from this event," Beisner said. "Our attendance was slightly less, but by no means dramatic, and the final figures will reflect that."
Most importantly, Beisner said, "Itís great to be able to have a fundraiser that makes almost your entire annual budget, and people can come to it and have fun."
Fun was definitely in the air throughout the park, as people rode the rides as often as they wanted, made new friends, and ran into old ones.
Michael Anderson drove all the way from Washington D.C. for the event. A self-described "lifelong amusement park freak," Anderson said that the long drive was well worth it.
"Iíve never been here to Kings Island, and I wasnít aware until a couple of months ago that there was a day set aside for gay folks. Once I found out I thought I just had to be a part of it."
Anderson said there is a "gay friendly" day at Kingís Dominion near the nationís capitol, "but the park isnít closed to the general public and itís on a Saturday in the middle of summer and itís overwhelmingly crowded. Iíd rather ride rides than wait in line."
Anderson added that he felt Kings Island was a "sensational park--third only behind Cedar Point and Magic Mountain in California."
Gary Miller and Wilfredo Pardo of Indianapolis were among the many people who made new friends at the event. Cavorting on the carousel with Melissa Martin and Logan Abram of Westchester, a Cincinnati suburb, youíd think the foursome had known each other for years.
But, as Kings Island season pass holder Martin said, "We just met all these people tonight and weíve just been having the time of our lives. Itís amazing the feeling of community here at Pride Night, the way everybody gets together here. They need to do it more often."
Like Martin, Pardo added that the best thing for him as a first time Pride Night visitor was the unity.
"Iím here to show everybody that weíre proud of being gay, that thereís nothing to be afraid of! The best thing that we have here is how we are together. We show each other that we love each other no matter how different we are."
The event also included dance club entertainer Shannon, karaoke in the parkís Festhaus, a raffle and Fifth Anniversary Pride Night memorabilia--just some of the ways that the center worked to make the event an even "bigger and better event for everyone who attends" said Pride Night marketing chair Troy Hanson.
While Pride Night has always been in mid to late September, no date has been set yet for Pride Night 2002.
by Eric Resnick
Toronto, Ohio--A man challenging police use of video cameras inside a public restroom is attempting to suppress the resulting tape.
James Henry is the only one of 13 men arrested in the case to mount a challenge to the tactic, saying it violates the right to privacy.
Police in Saline Township hid video cameras earlier this year inside a highway rest stop on Ohio 7 at Ohio 213, about a mile south of Wellsville, near the Ohio River.
The cameras, running for at least eight hours every day from January to May of this year, videotaped men as they used the restroom, in an attempt to catch public sex.
Police then mailed arrest notices to 13 men, which arrived July 5, a day after their names appeared in local newspapers. Twelve of the men plea-bargained and paid fines for a lesser charge. Henry, 45, of Empire, is fighting his charges of public indecency and disorderly conduct.
Henry is an openly gay maintenance supervisor for the Jefferson County Sheriffís Department. His boss, Sheriff Fred Abdalla, is outraged at the police tactics. He says that the arrests were not proper, and suggested that some of the evidence used to make the arrests was groundless.
"I am not going to condone anyone breaking the law," Abdalla said, "but arrests need to be clean, and these were not."
Abdalla has been subpoenaed as a defense witness at Henryís trial.
Restroom privacy guaranteed
At a September 25 hearing, Judge Joseph Corabi granted Jefferson County prosecutors a one-day continuance in Henryís trial, but declined to rule on his motion to suppress the video evidence.
Henry, and his attorney, Sam Pate of Steubenville, argue that the hidden video cameras constitute an illegal search, and cite U.S. Supreme Court case law guaranteeing the right to privacy in public restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and jail cells.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Bryan Felmet and Saline Township Police Chief Ken Hayes, who designed and supervised the investigation, did not obtain a search warrant to mount the cameras. They say there is no privacy violation here because, Felmet said, "the cameras didnít see anything that couldnít be seen by anyone just walking into the restroom."
Assistant prosecutor Richard Ferro told the judge that he needs the additional day due to scheduling conflicts. The trial is now set for October 4.
Informant solicited Henry
The video submitted by prosecutors shows Henry in the restroom a total of 47 seconds on May 9, most of it standing at the urinal. Felmet said it supports the public indecency charge against him.
Prosecutors added audio evidence to their disorderly conduct charge against Henry at the September 25 hearing. These were added to video log sheets accumulated over six months from viewing the videotapes and observations of undercover officers, that have entries like "J.H. waving arm" and "J.H. drives through lot and leaves."
The audio recording was made by informant Jack Howard for the township police. According to Henry, Howard, who was wired at the time, approached him in the parking lot of the rest area and attempted to solicit him, which Henry refused.
The date of the audio recording is April 17. But according to the bill of particulars delivered by Ferro, the incidents supporting Henryís disorderly conduct charge occurred April 2.
On the disorderly conduct, the bill accuses Henry of causing "inconvenience, annoyance or alarm" for "no lawful and reasonable purpose."
Ferro defines that as "entering and leaving the rest area three separate times in less than two hours," and flashing "headlights and taillights at vehicles on several occasions."
The bill defines the public indecency charge stating, "Defendant did engage in conduct that to an ordinary observer would appear to be sexual conduct or masturbation."
It continues, "in plain view and while in the presence of another individual attending the restroom . . . Henry, moves his hand up and down the shaft of his penis in the form of masturbation."
The Gay Peopleís Chronicle has obtained copy of the videotape, which shows that the only other person in the restroom with Henry was in the stall with the door closed. The two men did not visibly acknowledge each otherís presence.
However, another man, who arrived in a car with a woman, entered the restroom 15 minutes after Henry left. He walked around the restroom with his genitals exposed, then pulled his pants up before leaving.
That man was not arrested.
"Of course not," said Henry. "He showed up there with a woman."
"This whole Goddamned case is ridiculous," said Pate, who contends that with or without the videotape, no jury will see anything illegal in what Henry did.
ĎThis place is being watchedí
Henry said he remembers when the solicitation was made at him that is now being entered into evidence.
"I was in my truck and he approached me," said Henry.
"He asked how it was going, and said that if he was in Youngstown right now, he would have a woman sucking on his cock."
"I told the guy, ĎYou are not in Youngstown and you better be careful because I have heard this place is being watchedí."
According to Pate, part of his strategy in defense of Henry is for the purpose of alerting the court of appeals to what the prosecutor and police chief are doing.
At least two of the 13 men were charged with importuning, an Ohio law ruled unconstitutional by the Eighth District Court of Appeals September 13. The law makes it a crime for a person to ask someone of the same gender for sex, if it would offend the other person.
When asked how people were charged with importuning using a silent video, Felmet responded, "I donít know."
One man charged wasnít there
Another man, Malvin Lilley, 74, of Toronto, was charged with public indecency, felony pandering obscenity, importuning, and disorderly conduct.
Lilly paid the fine and costs of the disorderly conduct in exchange for the other charges being dropped, even though he was not at the rest area and is not the man in the video.
"My car was there, but I was not," said Lilly.
Lilly said he knows the man who took his car to the rest area, and described him as "significant" in his life.
Lilly said the other man "couldnít take it," and "I pleaded to make the whole thing go away and keep his name out of the public."
Lillyís attorney, Dennis McNamara of Columbus, said the man in the video is not Lilly. "Mal is shorter than the guy on the tape, and in order for his head to be as high to the window as the man in the tapeís is, Mal would have to be on a stool."
Felmet insists that Lilly is the man in the tape, and they were right arresting him.
"You would expect the prosecutor to say that," said McNamara, "but his assistant, Ferro, knows it isnít so, and that is why they let it all go for $100 on disorderly conduct, even though there were two felonies pending."
McNamara said he believes that Lilly would have prevailed had he fought the charges, but would have been worse off in the end.
According to Lilly, the other man has suffered a minor stroke as a result of the ordeal, and Lillyís hairdressing business has lost customers from having his name published in the newspaper.
Lilly says he is not sorry he took the disorderly conduct plea and paid the fine.
Regardless of the outcome of the case, Henry and Pate are considering a federal suit against the county and the parties involved.
McNamara said Lilly could file a suit of his own, but doesnít think it would be a strong case, unless evidence came out showing that the arrests were made due to malice, not mistakes.
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland--The North Coast HIV/AIDS Coalition hosted a mayoral candidate forum on September 24, bringing six of the contenders to the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center to face questions about their views on AIDS policy.
Present for the event were Ohio Rep. Mary Rose Oakar, who left early for a radio spot, Cuyahoga County Commissioners Tim McCormack and Jane Campbell, former Clinton education department member Raymond Pierce, Ricky L. Pittman, a political newcomer, and Bill Denihan, who has held a number of government positions, most of them by appointment. The forum was moderated by Leah Shaikh from St. Lukeís Society.
Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce themselves, and most took the opportunity to stress their prior efforts in the realm of HIV and AIDS prevention, education and treatment, or their work for the gay and lesbian community.
Shaikh then asked the candidates three questions about AIDS policy and what they would do if elected mayor: How would they allocate money for AIDS, how would the candidates work with city council, and what the candidates would do about housing for people with AIDS.
Campbell, who answered first in alphabetical order, stressed that no specific formula could be used to determine allocation of funds. She also pointed to the rise in HIV infection rates among young gay men as evidence that efforts can never be relaxed in one constituency to enforce them in another.
"Our federal government is doing a great job of funding AIDS research," Pittman said, insisting that he would hire gay people to meet the need of the gay community and people with AIDS.
In the second question, perhaps the most pointed given outgoing mayor Michael Whiteís troubles with city council, Pierce noted his own previous work with the council, but reminded those in attendance, "What is essential here is, lives are at stake."
McCormack and Campbell then pointed to John Carey Village, a residential center for people with AIDS, as a model to be followed in dealing with issues of homelessness among people diagnosed with the disease. Denihan urged that grant money from the state and federal government should be used in part to build low-income housing.
The audience was then invited to write questions on note cards, which were then asked of the candidates. The questions covered everything from the mayor of St. Louis removing AIDS education billboards he thought were offensive to the continuation of the needle-exchange program to check the spread of the disease among intravenous drug users.
by Rex Wockner
Washington, D.C.--The new U.S. ambassador to Romania is openly gay.
Thatís ironic, activists say, since Romania repeatedly has rejected the European Unionís demands that it repeal all anti-gay laws prior to joining the E.U.
According to the Washington Post, Ambassador Michael Guest will be joined in Bucharest by his partner, Alex Nevarez, who was onstage at Guestís swearing-in and was verbally acknowledged by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"That small gesture spoke volumes," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman David Smith.
Moscow gay leader Nikita Ivanov agreed. "This is fabulous," he said.
When Bill Clinton tried to appoint openly gay James Hormel ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997, the Senate blocked him for 21 months. Clinton finally appointed Hormel in 1999 without Senate confirmation, while it was in recess.
"It is amazing, the contrast of the opposition to Mr. Hormel and the ease with which this gentleman was confirmed," Smith said. "In normal circumstances, this probably would have received a lot more attention.
President Bush named Guest to the post in June, and he was confirmed by the Senate without controversy.
"Mr. Guestís confirmation hearing transcript did not contain any mention of his sexual orientation, though he said he was not married," Smith added. "He is a career foreign service officer, has a lengthy career within the State Department, and was head of the legislative office, so he likely enjoyed stellar relationships with every Senate office."
Sydney Levy, communications director for the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said Guestís confirmation "shows progress on the part of the U.S. government."
"It is ironic that itís Romania," Levy said. "Ambassador appointments have great symbolic importance, but we also need the U.S. government to say loud and clear that human rights for sexual minorities in Romania are important."
State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs spokesperson Kate Byrnes said Sept. 20 that Guest would not be granting any interviews prior to his departure for Romania.
by Bob Roehr
Washington, D.C.--The Pentagon has begun to prevent key service members from leaving the military under a procedure known as "stop-loss." Similar orders were issued during the Persian Gulf War and when forces were called up for action in Kosovo.
President George W. Bush authorized Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to initiate the action, who, on September 19, in turn delegated that authority down the chain of command to each of the service chiefs to implement as they see fit. The result is several different policies rather than a single policy.
The Air Force was first out of the gate on September 24. Their stop-loss policy applies to all active duty, Reserve, and Guard forces and takes effect October 2. It freezes for one month all discharges and separations unless a waiver is issued. The policy will be reevaluated during that period and will be modified or extended.
The Navy is implementing a limited policy that applies to an estimated 10,500 sailors in 11 specialties. It will take effect on October 10.
The Army is not implementing a stop-loss program at this time, while the Marines were expected to announce their policy later this week.
"Service members should continue to act as if Ďdonít ask, donít tellí is still in effect," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
The main effect of the announced policies on "donít ask" is that they are likely to reduce or eliminate the option of service members declaring that they are gay as a way to be discharged. As usual, the needs of the service will prevail.
Some heterosexuals as well as gays and lesbians have used a declaration as a way to avoid service, while other gays and lesbians have used it when they have felt that their physical safety was threatened by antigay harassment.
"This shows the abject hypocrisy of the DADT policy," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Civil rights are not a matter of convenience. If gays are qualified to serve in times of national crisis, what possible argument can be made that they are not qualified to serve openly in time of peace? Excepting bigotry, there is none."
Kevin Ivers, spokesman for Log Cabin Republicans, said that they have been working for months within the White House "to build support for a major relaxation" of "donít ask" until it become politically possible to reverse the law enacted by Congress in 1993.
"If gay Americans are to serve in our military in this national emergency, and we want to and we should, then we must serve on precise parity with heterosexual Americans," said Frank Kameny, who has served as an advisor on such issues for decades. "That is what America is truly all about. Anything less or different is unacceptable and will not be accepted."
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Rex Wockner and Patti Harris.
After 9 years, House allows D.C. partner law to take effect
Washington, D.C.óReversing a nine-year policy, the House agreed September 25 to allow the District of Columbia to use local funds for a program extending a city employee health care plan to unmarried domestic partners.
By a 226-194 vote the House defeated an amendment to a D.C. spending bill that would have continued the current ban on using both federal and local funds for domestic partnership benefits.
Washingtonís city council in 1992 passed a law allowing domestic partners to purchase health insurance at their own expense. However, the law has never been implemented because of the congressional ban.
This year the House Appropriations Committee did not include the ban on local funds in approving the $398 million in federal money for the District in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The Senate version of the bill, still awaiting Senate Appropriations Committee action, does not include the ban.
Partner bill on governorís desk
Sacramento, Calif.óAnti-gay activists have submitted a petition with 15,000 signatures to Gov. Gray Davis, urging him not to sign a bill that would grant wide-ranging rights to domestic partners.
The Campaign for California Families has also run print, television and radio ads against the measure, which passed the state legislature last week.
Davisí spokesperson Hilary McLean, however, indicated that he had already said he would sign AB 25. McLean also said that Davisí office had received over 10,000 letters, calls, faxes and e-mails supporting the measure.
Among the rights granted by the bill are the ability to make health care decisions for partners, spousal status in wills and inheritance and use of sick leave to care for a partner or a partnerís child.
The bill is one of hundreds waiting for Davisí signature in the next few weeks.
Radio station drops Schlessinger
ClevelandóA radio station heard in seven states has dropped the Dr. Laura show from its lineup.
Laura Schlessingerís radio show had been on the 50,000-watt WTAM 1100 AM since 1996, but, according to programming director Kevin Metheny, her audience figures have been less than noteworthy.
Replacing her in the 9 am to 11:30 am time slot will be Glenn Beck.
According to Metheny, Beck is more interested in relating to listeners and entertaining them than proselytizing to them, as Schlessinger often did.
Egyptian teen jailed
Cairo--A 15-year-old Egyptian was jailed for three years Sept. 18 for having gay sex ("practicing sexual immorality").
Mahmud Abdel Fatah was one of the 53 men arrested in a May 11 swoop on Cairoís Queen Boat gay nightclub. He was tried separately because he is a minor.
Prosecutors claimed that medical exams proved Fatah engaged in gay sex. Fatah screamed and cried when the verdict was handed down.
The rest of the detainees remain jailed at Tora Prison as their trials continue in an emergency state security court, the rulings of which cannot be appealed.
They are charged with practicing sexual immorality and "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas."
International human-rights groups, including Amnesty International, have denounced the arrests.
Taliban kill gays with falling walls
New York City--Homosexuality is routinely punished with death in Afghanistan, the New York Post reported Sept. 23.
Under the Taliban version of religious law, men who have sex with men are forced to lie in a hole in the ground while a wall is knocked down on them.
Afterward, the bulldozer that knocked down the wall runs over them.
Taliban leaders considered but rejected two other options for killing gays, the Post said--pushing them off a cliff or forcing them to jump from a tall building.
According to the U.S. State Departmentís 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, "Those found guilty of homosexual acts were crushed by having walls toppled over them . . . In 1998 at least seven such punishments were reported; five persons died after having walls toppled on them."
Nazi victims can seek compensation
Geneva, Switzerland--The 100 or so living gay men who are survivors of Nazi concentration camps are being urged to file claims for compensation with the International Organization for Migration.
Unlike other groups targeted by the Nazis, gay men rarely have received any compensation, mostly due to the anti-gay sentiment of past eras. Some 50,000 gays were believed to have been imprisoned by the Third Reich.
Maryland, Florida review petitions
Annapolis, Md.óAn attorney was appointed September 24 as a special master, given the task of verifying petitions submitted in an effort to force a referendum on the stateís gay-inclusive antidiscrimination law.
Walter S. B. Childs was appointed by Judge Eugene M. Lerner. With a staff of three, he will individually verify each of the 47,539 signatures on the petitions. Childs must judge the signatures and petitions on the basis of 23 legal requirements.
Two similar petition drives in Florida are seeking to overturn county ordinances protecting the rights of LGBT people in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Both are under high levels of scrutiny with allegations of wrongdoing being leveled at the groups that collected the signatures.
Miami-Dade elections supervisor David Leahy has twice invalidated samples of signatures. Last December, Leahy could not verify 38 signatures in a sample of 200. According to Florida law, Leahy must use the sampling method 43 times before moving to verify each signature individually.
The sampling resumed this week after the return of the petitions, which had been seized by the state in an investigation into allegations of fraud.
In Broward County, Equal Rights Not Special Rights turned in just over 66,100 signatures, 5% more than was required. A political consultant for Americans for Equality warned that most petition drives need a 9-15% margin of error, though.
The Broward anti-gay effort has also been the subject of allegations that petition gatherers forged signatures and that people signed the petitions, which are only open to registered voters, and then mailed in voter registration cards that the petitioners handed to them.
by Anthony Glassman
Toledo--Going to the country for the weekend is the perfect summer getaway. Relaxing, slow days, surrounded by friends and nature; nothing to do but sit and read, watch the birds, swim in the pond, and contemplate the passions, love, anger, life and death that surround everyone every day.
Terrence McNallyís Love! Valour! Compassion! is most familiar as a 1997 film starring Jason Alexander as Buzz Hauser, a man with "fat guy complex," and John Glover as John and James Jeckyl, twins identical in every way but personality. It was a magnificent, moving film of a group of gay male friends spending several weekends at a country home, based on the winner of the 1995 Tony Award for Best Play.
In October, the Toledo Repertoire Theatre presents this moving, moody piece by one of the most controversial playwrights of the twentieth century.
"Itís a play that has been on the periphery of the season selection committee for some time," said Dr. Brian Bethune, the theatreís artistic director, who also has the enviable task of portraying the sweet-and-sour Jeckyl siblings. "It was the right time, and the right combination of shows."
The play will be part of the theaterís Studio Season, plays performed as a counterpoint to the main stage season. Both Studio Season plays this season will be gay-themed, with Moisés Kaufmanís Gross Indecency following the main stage run of Oscar Wildeís The Importance of Being Earnest.
"With the Studio Season, we try to be more experimental, out of the norm," Bethune noted. "Last year, we ran plays that had a lot of big roles for men, so our Studio Season featured plays with strong female roles."
A big challenge in producing a play that has already been turned into a movie is coping with the scale. The film version moved throughout a large farmhouse, to the pond, to the front yard. The play, by the very nature of the theatrical confines, cannot do the same. That, however, is not a problem for this play.
"It just requires more imagination," Bethune says. "Itís more intimate, in a way."
Love! Valour! Compassion! as a movie is also famous for introducing the world to Jason Alexanderís naked buttocks. With nudity in the theater an ongoing controversy, will this production have the nudity intact?
"The answer to that is yes," Bethune said. "The answer all along was, weíll do that if the director thinks itís appropriate and the actors feel comfortable."
"If an actor feels uncomfortable in a scene," he continued, "it can make all 200 members of the audience uncomfortable."
So far, the vast majority of response to the announcement of the production has been positive, save for a sole letter of protest from someone who has never purchased a Toledo Repertoire Theatre ticket, so the theater is pleased.
Itís a less controversial show than McNallyís Corpus Christi, but can be equally as intense as the relationships between the men at the house begin to unravel.
Itís a rare opportunity for the area to have as big a play as this in production, targeted to the Northwest Ohio gay community, and everyone should take advantage of the Studio Seasonís offerings.
Toledo Repertoire Theatreís production of Love! Valour! Compassion! will be performed October 5-20. For showtimes and tickets, call 419-243-9277.
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