Community Palette

Patti LuPone at the Harman Theatre

February 18, 2014

On Monday evening Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, did one of his famous interviews. This time it was with Diva Patti LuPone. It was a fun evening in the theatre.

Very few people do this kind of a one-on-one interview better than Kahn. He has a great way of bringing out the best in people and getting them to talk. But in LuPone’s case it was easy. Michael didn’t even get to finish his question before she was off and running with an answer and her answers were frank and often funny.

Alan Paul and Michael Kahn (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Alan Paul and Michael Kahn

LuPone was a student of Kahn’s at Julliard in 1968. She is a graduate of the first class of the Drama Division at the school and went on to become a founding member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company. She likes to remind people that she is a classically trained actor and suggested that we need more of them today and less focus on the Kim Kardashians of the world. We clearly know what she doesn’t like and that includes what Michael Bloomberg has done to Times Square. She riffed on her inability to get out of the theatre last New Year’s Eve because the streets were blocked off for the mass New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. She even complained that police in New York no longer give deference to actors.  She was asked what role she ever took that she regretted and she said none. I expected her to say the lead in Sunset Boulevard from which she was let go early in the London production. She did tell us she took much of her wardrobe with her from that show when she left.

In reality ever since I saw her in Evita on Broadway back in the 1970s I think of Patti LuPone as a star. She jokingly admitted to being in many flops but the successes have been incredible. She was an amazing Mama Rose in Gypsy and has received numerous Tony nominations including for Anything Goes and Sweeny Todd, and the Tony award for her role as Evita. She has won a number of Drama Desk Awards and many forget she was Fantine in the original production of Les Miserables for which she won an Olivier award.

There was a reception for her after the interview but she didn’t stay too long and was picture shy. She is in D.C. for An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at the Kennedy Center now through February 23rd. She and Patinkin first met when co-starring in Evita.

One of the interesting people at the reception was Director Alan Paul who just won his first Helen Hayes award nomination for his direction of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Shakespeare Theatre. He will be directing Man of LaMancha next season.

A night at the Shakespeare Theatre is always worthwhile.


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Why I Am Voting Vincent C. Gray for Mayor

January 31, 2014

On April 1, 2014 I will cast my ballot for Vincent C. Gray for Mayor. It was an easy decision for me but may not be for many other voters. The open investigation surrounding his 2010 campaign is entering into many people’s decision. I am convinced that the majority will come to the same conclusion and believe the Mayor when he says he has done nothing illegal. I choose to accept his apology. One look at his life, not just the politician, you must conclude it is not in his DNA to lie or cheat. Gray’s life has been spent working for those who couldn’t fight for themselves and he dedicated himself to the non-profit field eschewing the money track. Many in government, including current councilmembers, have made millions being paid for their influence in office. Gray’s time in politics and government, only 13 years out of a long career, was fulltime and didn’t include looking for sources of outside income. 

By every measurable indicator his administration has been successful. So for those who will consider voting against the Mayor based on supposition and innuendo, which is all there is regarding his personal role in his 2010 campaign, it would be my hope they take a second look before casting their ballot. They might just reconsider voting for him in the primary and ensuing election based on the health of the city. The District is moving in the right direction in every area including public safety; education reform; and fiscal stability. Moreover his administration is doing everything possible to improve the lives of the residents of every Ward.

The continued success of a city means giving credit to those who came before.  Mayor Gray, along with starting new initiatives in the areas of employment and economic development; upping the level of service delivery; education reform and strengthening the safety net; has built on the positive initiatives begun under former Mayor Anthony Williams. That progress continued under former Mayor Adrian Fenty, elected overwhelmingly in 2006. He continued the reforms that Williams began and added his signature accomplishment, wresting control of the education system and placing it in the Mayor’s office. He did that with the help of then Council Chair Vincent Gray. His chosen Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, made great strides in reforming the system but after three years was under fire for how she worked, or didn’t work, with the community and her desire for personal publicity. While the Fenty administration made continued improvements in delivering city services it also spent down the city’s reserve fund by $600 million leaving the District at serious risk for lower bond ratings.

Vince Gray became Mayor at the time the nation was coming out of a recession and had the opportunity to make great strides in a fairly short time. He used all those opportunities. He continued education reform with Kaya Henderson as Chancellor and in 2013, based on national tests, the children of the District improved more than children in any other urban district. Vincent Gray authored and introduced the bill for universal pre-k education when he was Council Chair and that has resulted in some of the great strides our children are making.

Vincent Gray inherited an underfunded reserve and worked to rebuild the District’s fiscal solvency. He has been wildly successful while at the same time improving the delivery of city services. Because Gray rebuilt that reserve to $1.6 billion he was able to keep the D.C. government open during the federal shutdown. Then working with delegate Norton he ensured that the District is now exempt from federal shutdowns through 2015. Gray is the first Mayor to not only stand up to the federal government but along with some members of the Council and brave citizens sit down for their beliefs. His led that act of civil disobedience and again showed what he is made of as a person. Another indication of the man is that Vince Gray has been the most openly supportive elected official the LGBT community ever had. He has lost friends because of his principled stands but never hesitated to speak openly about his support for the community.

The Gray administration has been very successful in attracting new business to the District. During the first three years of the Gray administration the District has earned high marks from those who rate cities and their achievements. In 2013 Forbes Magazine rated the District the #1 New Tech Hot Spot; Politicom rated us the #1 strongest economy in the United States; and the American College of Sports Medicine rated us the #2 fittest city in the nation. The Mayor created the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Nutrition and pushed fitness in the schools and continues to build new bike lanes. In 2012 we were rated #1 for LEED-certified Projects by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Mayor initiated the strongest plan for turning a city green in the nation. To continue reading this column please click on Washington Blade where it was first published.


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D.C.'s Foundry United Methodist Church Again Stands Up for Equality

December 23, 2013

Once again Senior Pastor Rev. Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia have taken a stand in support of the LGBT community. This time they invited recently defrocked pastor Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon PA. to speak from their pulpit.

On Sunday, December 22nd Reverend Schaefer spoke of his love for his son for whom he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 2007. He also told the congregation of his continued love of his church. He told them that after his trial was over, because he knew of Rev. Dean Snyder's commitment to equality, he called him and asked to come to Foundry. Rev. Snyder not only asked him to speak but invited him and his family to become members of Foundry which they did on Sunday. It was an incredibly moving service and reinforced how welcoming to all Foundry is.

Rev. Schaefer was defrocked by the United Methodist Church because he would not denounce same-sex marriage and would not commit to never performing another same-sex ceremony. The final decision was made to defrock Schaefer after a full church trial. The terms of the guiltyverdict as reported by MSNBC were "A 30-day suspension and if at the end of 30 days, Schaefer still refused to denounce same-sex marriage; he would have to give up his credentials".

This trial came about because a congregant with a grudge filed a complaint about him with the church last April. That complaint came one month before the statute of limitations on this "crime" was to expire. It only took that one person to complain that Schaefer went against the Methodist 'Book of Discipline' which doesn't allow the church to recognize or perform such marriages. It was Rev. Dean Snyder and the courageous members of Foundry United Methodist Church who led a losing fight last year to change the Methodist Book of Discipline at their worldwide General Conference.

Snyder has said that there may be other trials to follow as congregants in other churches who see this may take the opportunity to file charges against their pastors who have performed such weddings. In previous statements Dean Snyder has said he is well aware of the risk to him and his family when he performs same-sex weddings but because of his strong belief in equality he is willing to do so.

MSNBCreported that prior to the final verdict "Schaefer and 43 other U.M. clergy members sent a petition to Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference asking her to acknowledge the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline, and stop LGBT-related trials. Johnson did acknowledge that several statements in the Book of Discipline on homosexuality were "discriminatory," and that church trials over such matters were "not helpful." But said she did not have the power to change the course of Schaefer's proceedings." Other Bishops in the church have disputed her claim that this was the only way she could have handled this.

Speaking at Foundry Rev. Schaefer pointing to the stained glass window of Jesus with open arms said, "I was following the message of Jesus of Nazareth who told us to be a church of inclusion, grace and love." He told congregants that he couldn't denounce same-sex marriage because in his heart he believed that we are all equal and the church must be a welcoming place to all God's children. He spoke of God giving him the words to speak at the trial when he wasn't sure he could say them. He kidded that when he told his lawyers what he wanted to say he thought they would have a cow. Instead they told him to speak his heart which he did. He also told the congregation that he has already appealed the decision and believes that there is a possibility he could win the appeal.

I am Jewish, not Methodist. But the welcome atFoundry extends to all. Gay or straight, Methodist or not, one can't help but feel the warmth that emanates from the pulpit and runs through the congregation. People like Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry will not only change the church but can change a community; and with enough of them they can change the world.

Rev. Schaefer said that this experience has taught him that he can no longer be a silent supporter of theLGBT community but must speak out. He spoke of his commitment to do that wherever he will work. Rev. Snyder reminded the congregation that when a Methodist minister is defrocked and loses his church he also immediately loses his salary, his health insurance and his home allowance. Foundry has set up a portal on their website for those who would like to make a donation to ensure that Rev. Schaefer and his family don't suffer unduly for his courageous act.

This column was first printed in the Huffington Post.


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