The latest at McCarter is fast. It’s funny, and it’s not going to be around forever
The McCarter Theatre Center has had a long and fruitful association with playwright Ken Ludwig. Over the past four years, McCarter has been the home of three world premiere productions: Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery; A Comedy of Tenors; and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Now Mr. Ludwig is back with his latest humorous creation, The Gods of Comedy. Let me cut to the chase: It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s not going to be around forever, so go see it!
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.
Daphne (Shay Vawn) is a workaholic college professor doing research in Greece when she saves a life of a young boy. In gratitude, his father (George Psomas) gives her a talisman which, if she is in dire need, will summon the Greek gods to assist her. Back home, she misplaces a priceless manuscript discovered by another professor, Ralph (Jevon McFerrin). In her panic, she uses the amulet, and — TA-DAAAA! — the Greek gods come to her aid. Except the gods who appear are Dionysus (Brad Oscar), god of wine, revelry, and theatre, and Thalia (Jessie Cannizzaro), the muse of comedy. Their assignment from Zeus: give Daphne an adventure and a happy ending — or else. Mixed into this stew are the college’s dean (Keira Naughton), immigrant janitor Aleksi (George Psomas), movie star Brooklyn (Steffanie Leigh), and god of war Ares (George Psomas). Toss together with a mythologically-themed costume ball, mistaken identities, mismatched romances, chases, and a touch of divine magic and you have a recipe for comedic pandemonium, providing plenty of laughs to go around.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.
Under the sharp direction of Amanda Dehnert, the cast sparkles. Leading the fun is two-time Tony Award nominee Brad Oscar in a role that seems tailor-made to his comedic strengths. The rest of the case is also excellent. Special credit goes to Jessie Cannizzaro’s enthusiastically theatrical Thalia; Shay Vawn’s frantic, hyper-responsible Daphne; and George Psomas as three totally different and fully realized characters.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.
McCarter’s design team transforms the stage into an outdoor street scene in Greece, Daphne’s quarters, and an outdoor terrace at the college. Credit for this is shared by scenic designer Jason Sherwood, lighting designer Brian Gale, and sound designer Darron L. West. Jim Steinmeyer’s illusion designs are magical fun. Linda Roethke’s costumes are a fine mix of contemporary design, costume party fun, and garb fit for the gods.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.
In times like these, a good comedy can be an antidote to outside agitas. While this might not be the perfect comedy, it is a very fine example of Ken Ludwig’s way with humor with an off-the-wall touch. You can’t go wrong by spending an evening in the company of The Gods of Comedy before they have to head back to Olympus!
The Gods of Comedy is presented by the McCarter Theatre Center at the Matthews Theatre on the campus of Princeton University through March 31, 2019. For tickets and information, visit mccarter.org.
New Jerseyans can now fly with matching gender identity
United Airlines announced it is the first U.S. airline to allow customers to select a non-binary gender option when booking flights and travel. United Airlines accounts for roughly two-thirds of all passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Garden State Equality Executive Director Christopher Fuscarino. 2016 file photo.
“Airports are already stressful enough without having to worry if your boarding pass matches your gender identity. And United’s new policy is an important step forward. It ensures all of their customers are treated with dignity and respect,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality. “United is a central piece of Newark’s airport that millions of people in our state rely on every year. And inclusive policies that respect LGBTQ people and non-binary individuals will only serve to make our state more equal, more fair, and more competitive.”
The Babs Siperstein Law is now in effect in New Jersey
The Babs Siperstein Law, which went into effect in the Garden State on February 1, created a new undesignated gender status in New Jersey for non-binary individuals. Presently, New Jerseyans can update their birth certificates. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is updating its policies to allow New Jerseyans to update their gender marker on their driver’s licenses. A rollout of MVC’s new policy is expected in the coming months.
Last month, the trade group Airlines for America announced plans for individual airlines to implement the non-binary gender option before June 1, 2019. United Airlines is a member of A4A along with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest.
While flying United Airlines, customers now have the ability to identify themselves as M (male), F (female), U (undisclosed) or X (unspecified). In many cases this will correspond with what is indicated on their passports or identification. Customers will also have the option to select the honorific title “Mx.” during booking.
At present, the U.S. federal government only has “male” and “female” options on federally issued identity documents, including passports. With an undesignated “X” marker on a New Jersey birth certificate, New Jerseyans would still be able to get a passport. However, they would still need to select “male” or “female” on that form.
Photographer Angus Malcolm is breaking the barriers of toxic masculinity
The rule book isn’t clear. You leave the gym floor and enter the locker room understanding there is a rule book. An older gentleman who just finished a racquetball game stands by his locker naked, no shame in how the passing years have embraced gravity. A skinny teenager longs to gain muscle and sheepishly hides behind his towel, glancing at more muscular men that surround him.
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
Drying off by a mirror is a man with confidence that seems unattainable to some. He shows off every muscle surrounding an aesthetically impressive physique. Leaving the shower, a closeted gay guy, ashamed by his attraction to men, wonders if he followed every rule: don’t look at the others, don’t make eye contact, don’t be found out.
Angus Malcolm, activist, humanitarian and photographer, with a heart full of passion and talent is changing these impressions of toxic masculinity. His vehicle for success? An annual calendar celebrating the male body. The calendar, originally intended to raise money for a university rowing team, gained momentum with a significant gay male following. Now, the project has grown into a movement allowing all types of men and women to celebrate the male body without shame or inhibition. With camera in hand, a group of naked straight men as his subject, Malcolm is on a mission to tear down barriers of what society calls “masculine,” and shares a message of inclusion that is inspiring.
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
Thanks for taking the time with us!
Angus Malcolm: Thank you! I’m delighted to be able to speak to our supporters in New Jersey; I know we’ve got a lot of them. We couldn’t be where we are without our supporters. We’re grateful to your readers for all the help!
You’ve done a lot of work in LGBT activism, what drives your passion?
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
AM: My life experience is the source of my passion! I grew up in Northern Ireland in a religious community at a time when being LGBT was a very difficult thing. I’ve seen how things have gotten much better for some people, but for others they are just as bad, maybe even worse.
AM: My interest in photography was entirely about looking at men naked, and I realized that I had issues around looking at men naked. I wanted to look at man naked and I felt guilty about it, embarrassed. I wanted to address it because I felt it was about the struggles I endured coming to terms with my own sexuality. I came out when I was 19, but never felt full ownership of my sexuality. Officially I was gay, but a part of myself was still in the closet hiding. Photography was my way of trying to deal with how I could look at men and how a broader society could look at men. They are very different rules — how we look at men and how we look at women. It annoys me, for example, how shampoo commercials always have a naked woman in the shower and never a naked guy. I thought, “I want to do something about that. I want to change my society.” If we are going to look at women naked, we should also look at men naked, otherwise its abuse.
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
So, how did it start?
AM: This is the 10th anniversary. Our first calendar we shot in 2009. It began because I met one of the rowers in London. I said, “Hey so you’re a part of this rowing team. Have you ever thought of doing one of those calendars?” At this time, lots of student universities were doing these naked calendars to raise money for their group or charity. It happened to be that the club was very short of money and he responded, “We have thought of doing one!” I said, “I’ll shoot it for you.
A simple start led you into a revolution!
AM: I’d like to think it’s revolutionary!
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
Has this calendar helped to heal any past struggle in your own journey?
AM: Very much. I think I grew up with a sense if I look at a straight man naked, I’d be doing it without his permission, and I’d have to in secret, because he would not “allow” it. When I was 13 years old, I came to realize that my sexuality, whatever it was, was not what was considered so impossible by the society I lived in. They had no rules. It was ok for guys to shower together and girls to shower together, and not for guys and girls to shower together. Heterosexuality was the only sexuality that existed. My sexuality was so insignificant that they didn’t need to have a rule for it. I’ve come to realize through the Warwick Rowers that straight guys can be respectful of my sexuality. They don’t have to have sex with me to do that, but they can say, “I’m going to take my clothes off, and as a guy I realize this is probably quite nice for you. And you know what, I’m good with that.”
The Warwick Rowers Calendar has left a big impact on admirers. In its stand against homophobia, do you have a story about a changing perspective outside of our community?
Warwick Rowers Calendar photo by Angus Malcolm
AM: When I started this calendar, there was absolutely no way that the guys would have done full frontal nudity. Six years later, they were ready. I think that would not have been possible without the journey we’ve gone on together. This was really a part of a group of young heterosexual men deciding to do something that is really quite intimate in support of LGBT advancement. They’ve learned how to be more relaxed with each other. If you’re not here to have fun, then what’s the fucking point?
In the United States we are struggling to be a kinder, more tolerant world, what message of encouragement can you offer?
AM: Much of how we have defined and pursued an agenda that supports LGBT freedom has come from the United States. That will never change. It’s a fact of history that the States lead the world in LGBT freedom in the last 100 years. Within the modern Western era, the States have led the way in LGBT advancement, because that is what America is about. It’s such a fundamental part of your country. I don’t think one idiot is going to destroy it overnight.
How can we stay connected to you?
AM: Join the conversation because we’ve got big plans for the future. We want to reflect the diversity in the world. We want to invite men from a much wider constituency to joint the movement. Oh, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! Check out warwickrowers.org!
George Street production is an antidote to modern-day fears of the “other”
Playwrights Mark Harelik and Randal Myler honor Harelik’s grandparents, refugees from Russian pogroms who settled in Texas in the early 1900’s, in the bittersweet memory play The Immigrant now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. It is a gentle, loving look at the courage required to come to a strange land, penniless and alone. A play of growth and understanding, it is an antidote to modern-day fears of the “other.” It serves as a reminder that America’s strength, America’s growth, comes in large part from the waves of immigrants that seek a better life here.
“The Immigrant” by Mark Harelik is at the George Street Playhouse. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
In the early 1900’s, Chaskel Garelik (Benjamin Pelteson) arrives in Hamilton, Texas from Czarist Russia via the port city of Galveston. Peddling bananas from a laden wheelbarrow, he stops to rest outside the home of local banker Milton Perry (R. Ward Duffy) and his wife Ima (Gretchen Hall). Chaskel, playing on Ima’s sympathies, talks them into renting him a room.
“The Immigrant” at George Street Playhouse with Gretchen Hall, Benjamin Pelteson and R. Ward Duffy. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
He teaches himself English at night, saving his money to bring his wife Leah (Lauriel Friedman) to America. Helped by loans from Milton’s bank, Chaskel — now called Haskell Harelik — progresses from the wheelbarrow to a horse and wagon to his own store. As the years pass, the Harelik family grows and prospers, forming closer ties with the Perrys. However, simmering frictions between Haskell’s and Milton’s points of view result in an argument during the Perrys’ first Shabbos dinner at the Hareliks’ home.
The plays characters are handled with sensitivity and simple honesty
Harelik and Myler’s play finds moving interpretation from the cast, sensitively directed by Jim Jack. Benjamin Pelteson and Lauriel Friedman capture the fears and exhilarations of the many who, with unshakeable determination, make a life for themselves that they could never have had in their birth lands. R. Ward Duffy and Gretchen Hall embody those who, slowly and at times reluctantly, see past the otherness of strangers to the shared humanity within. The journeys of their characters is handled with sensitivity and simple honesty nearly every step of the way.
“The Immigrant” at George Street Playhouse with Gretchen Hall and Lauriel Friedman. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
George Street’s production team has made good use of the stage space, depicting the exteriors of both couples’ homes and using the center stage space for other locations both external and internal. Credit goes to scenic designer Jason Simms, lighting designer Christopher J. Bailey, sound designers Scott Killian and Christopher Peifer, and projection designer Caite Hevner. Asta Bennie Hostetter’s costumes gracefully depict not only the passing decades but also the rising fortunes of the Hareliks.
The Immigrant is a truly American tale in every sense of the word. Common conceptions about the immigrant experience are refreshed by being set in a locale not usually connected with the European migration of the early 20th century. To get a taste of the America described as a “nation of immigrants” and a “melting pot”, I recommend you see George Street Playhouse’s moving presentation of The Immigrant.
The Indigo Girls are on tour, and this time they have three dates in the Garden State! They are promoting their latest album, Indigo Girls Live with the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and in addition to playing their many hits, they will also share brand new songs from an upcoming studio album, slated for release in the fall of 2019.
I had the pleasure of chatting with one-half of this dynamic duo, Emily Saliers. We discussed their return visit to New Jersey, who influences her, and what she thinks about our current political state.
Thank you so much for making some time for a quick little interview. The Garden State is very excited about your upcoming shows in New Brunswick and Collingswood.
ES: Yeah, it’s a fun place to play in.
First of all, I’m a huge fan. I was a young “dykling” in the early 1990s in North Texas, and your music and Amy’s music really empowered me and influenced me as a singer/songwriter. So thank you for that on a very personal level.
ES: You’re welcome. Thank you.
So big congratulations on your new album. Do we still call them that?
ES: Yeah, WE do! (laughs)
It’s a pretty epic project. I just love it. The orchestration adds so much depth to the music. I feel like it enhances it beautifully. You guys were working on this for seven years or more?
ES: Well, we’ve been playing symphony concerts for at least five years now, maybe even more at this point. So, we just finally were seasoned enough and it came to the point where we want it to make an album. We’ve been talking about making an album for probably at least three years or so. Then there’s a matter of finding just the right orchestra and working out all the details. So that takes time. But once we chose University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boulder, everything just fell into place. They’re a wonderful orchestra and we went in there and we’re all prepared.
We did two runs. We did a rehearsal run and then we did a live run. Everything was all mic’d up. We had Trina Shoemaker mix it. And she just did a brilliant job. I mean really the work she put into it and her ability to harness all of that. To be able to hear the orchestra as clearly in all the parts as much as the songs and our voices was such an important part of what we wanted listeners to be able to experience. So it was a labor of love. We continue to play symphony shows and it’s just a fantastic experience for us.
Full body experience I imagine.
The latest tour is with violinist Lyris Hung
ES: Full body, yes that’s a good way to put it.
This tour now is it just you and Amy or do you have a band?
ES: A lot of the shows will have Lyris Hung playing with us. Lyris will be in New Brunswick and Collingswood with us. She’s a violinist, but she’s not your typical violinist. She’s got a pedal board of incredible effects. She’s kind of like a soundscape. She plays and brings different parts from the albums and plays them herself on the songs. She’s a remarkable player. We love playing with her and have played with her for years now. So she’ll be there for those shows.
ES: We usually have the opening bands sing “Closer to Fine” with us or collaborate in some way, and that’s always fun. It makes it different. But we’ve just finished tracking for newest album. It’s going to come out either in the Fall, or possibly 2020, but hopefully in the Fall. So we’re going to be playing a handful of brand new songs that we’ve never played live before.
Oh, that’s exciting. That brings up a question I had. You both do solo albums as well as Indigo Girls. What is it about a new song that when you write it, it tells you this is a solo, versus an Indigo Girls song? What’s the process in your head for that?
ES: That’s a good question. Amy may look at it differently from the way I do. But basically knowing that we’ve slating a time to begin a new Indigo Girls record. I started writing songs just for that project in mind, which doesn’t mean that I tailored the songs in any way. But typically I will write songs for the project at hand. I’ve been writing these songs (for the new album) for the last year and a half or so. There may have been a couple that I started… that started feeling sort of like the songs I would do solo rather than with Amy. That’s because either they were like super, super, intimate or personal in a way that, you know, harmony, it’s what we’re known for. But it doesn’t always treat well with every single song. It’s not always the best thing… just add our harmony to this song or make it a duo. So if I experienced in my writing a couple of songs like that, then I’d probably just let them aside, at the wayside for now. Because I need to focus on songs that Amy and I could do together.
So for me its project based. When I’m going to make a solo album, I start writing songs that just naturally fall into a different place than the ones that Amy and I do together.
One song, by Amy, in the new album is called “Favorite Flavor”
Do you ever go back to stuff that you started years and years ago and say this was that I had a really great hook in there, but it just didn’t go anywhere and now feel like you’ve got the rest of it.
ES: I do. Sometimes I try to not try not force it. But sometimes I remember an old song and I think, oh wow. Yeah, that has a good vibe to it. Then I’ll try to see if I can bring it back. A lot of times it’s difficult for me. Because once I’ve written a song in a certain way, it’s very hard for me to pick it apart and edit it, or pull out a chorus or something like that. I don’t know why I just get stuck with the original. But I know that Amy puts songs together at times. Like she’ll have sections that she writes and then she’ll combine sections or she’ll pull up an old idea that she’s had.
One song in the new album I love called “Favorite Flavor,” she wrote that sort of with her daughter Ozie. I was thinking about that experience. You never know where songs are going to take you. I don’t think at the moment she thought that, oh, this song is definitely going to go on the Indigo Girls album. But, but as time went on, she kept thinking about it. And then she sent me a demo and I was like, I love that song. It’s a little bit punky, little bit pop. And so that’s an example of a song that may have sat there and not be considered fully at the moment. And then as time passed, it’s like, yeah, we gotta do this song.
Is that going to be one of the new ones you’re going to play?
ES: I doubt it because it’s very it’s a really big sort of band arrangement of the album. So I think we’ll probably want to present it that way first. And then eventually we’ll end up playing it, you know, acoustically.
What is it like touring with your daughter?
Both of your daughters are about the same age, is that right?
ES: My daughter Cleo is a year older than Ozie.
Congratulations on being mothers. Do you ever tour with them?
ES: Very rarely, only because they have school, preschool, but still school. It’s important that they get a good sleep schedule. But recently we did a Brandi Carlile’s “Girls Just Wanna” down in Mexico and both kids were there with us. They played together all day and it was so real. I love it when they spend time together. It’s really sweet and they get along. They have got this special connection that is really, really cool. Like the next generation. That’s a really neat thing. But they don’t come out a lot with us just because, schedule is hard, we’d have to bring a caretaker. Just hasn’t worked out.
You and Amy met when you guys were in elementary school. That’s quite a long relationship. I’m sure you guys have been through every single life event possible.
ES: Yeah, that’s true. Our families have known each other and been through everything together. So that’s a powerful connection.
“It is important for us to stick together and to remain political and vigilant”
Do you have any words of advice for the LGBT youth of today? Do you have any commentary about the politics of today?
ES: Well, I mean, our whole community is under threat again. And now with Trump as president, people who feel this way, they don’t have to hold back any of their vitriol against queer people, or anybody who’s different for that matter. There’ve been so many trans people who have been killed. And now they can’t serve in the military. It’s terrible, just brutal. I think that we have to just keep standing together. Do whatever work we can do to let our representatives know, either locally or statewide, or nationally, that we stand for the LGBTQ community.
Also I think that those in the communities that find themselves alone or having a difficult time, seek out the resources, whatever they may be. So that they can be in community with those who are like minded, or like being. I think it’s really important. It’s fine to have straight allies and that’s wonderful, but it’s important to be around queer allies and have your queer community. So I think it’s really important for LGBTQ people if they’re struggling with loneliness or feeling really isolated to find groups that they can seek out. You know with the Internet now, there’s all kinds of ways to seek out support. It’s harder if you’re rural and isolated. But it’s important to stick with our communities.
Good point. Yes, having straight allies is great, but having queer families, it’s different.
ES: Well a lot of us have to choose our own family, or choose our family. And there’s family out there to be had. So it’s just important for us to stick together and to remain political and vigilant. We can’t assume that the rights that we’ve got up to this point are going to be protected in perpetuity.
Well that’s certainly apparent now.
ES: Yeah, exactly. It’s apparent. So, I think mindfulness, community, political action, those things are critical for us now.
I don’t know if you’d agree, but I feel like a lot of the youth don’t care if people are gay, and so they don’t understand what the big deal is about being LGBT. I fear what they don’t grasp, like you said, that it could be taken away. It’s not written in stone. It can be rescinded. And what does that mean to them and their friends?
ES: I think that no matter what rights we gain, we’re still going to be “other than.” You know, we’re different from the Hetero normative majority. So I think, I can’t speak for the way an African American feels, but I know there was a lot of joy that a black president got elected. I think that, and I’m not comparing the gay struggle hand in hand with the black struggle. But I think any struggle for groups of people who are oppressed, it’s just important to reinforce our humanity, our value, our place, no matter what mainstream politics. No matter what the haters say. I’ve spent a lot of time working through my own self homophobia because it was so difficult for me to be different, to be outside, you know?
The more I’m around people and we validate each other and hold each other up, the stronger I’ve become through that. I think it’s important to stick with your people when you’re working through difficult issues like that.
Back to the beginning of this conversation when I said I was young and coming out in Texas. I found my people, I found my tribe. They introduced me to you guys and Ferron and, just all this wonderful music of the era. Curious who influenced you as a songwriter?
ES: The first album I ever bought was the Jackson Five. I grew up and was born into a largely African American community in New Haven, Connecticut. So everybody I knew was listening to James Brown and Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. I was totally into the Jackson Five. So in some ways, although you don’t see it in the acoustic singer songwriting stuff that I do, I was heavily inspired by African American R&B music.
Then as far as like putting more lyrics with guitar, Joni Mitchell was my number one direct influence and inspiration. I mean, I just listened to her over and over and over again. It’s true that music saves your life. It can be like you, it’s not getting lost really, it’s getting found in a world of music. So I listened to her incessantly. Ferron was a very, very strong influence because of her, the power of her lyrics, how she put her words together, how they moved with her music, with the guitar chords. So Joni was the absolute number one, most highly influential, but then there was also Jackson Browne. I mentioned Ferron, Neil Young and most recently the work of Bonnie Vare. I absolutely love Justin Vernon’s work. And I’m sure I can think of a million of their artists. But Joni was the early one.
There so many I’ve been inspired by. Janelle Monae’s album absolutely blew my mind. I saw her in concert. I don’t how to say how experiencing that and being inspired by that directly affects my songwriting. But it has to, in some ways, it’s just easier to say, to point to this lyricist or that lyricist inspiring my lyrics.
They all told stories with their lyrics and you’re a wonderful storyteller. Have you thought about writing a children’s book?
ES: Oh, my gosh, my wife keeps saying I should write a children’s album or children’s book. I love children’s books. My mom was a children’s librarian for 40 years and we have a lot of books in the house and I love them. I went to the bookstore and there’s like a zillion children’s books. I don’t know if I have a talent for that or not. I’ve never tried. But I definitely have an interest in writing children’s songs. I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Trying to balance work and family, it’s a good problem to have, but it does take up the time. And the time goes by super-fast.
If you could go anywhere in time or space and speak to any one person, who would that be and what would you say?
ES: I would want to talk to Jesus. I’d want to know if what he thought, and taught, was what he really believed. And I would just want to talk to him about the way it was then and what’s it like to be so close to God. Stuff like that. I could have about 10 people on my list, but I think he’s probably at the top.
Yeah, that whole, love your neighbor; treat others as you’d want to be treated. The Golden Rule.
ES: Yeah, that’s what I try to live by. He had so many cool women friends. Women were so important in his story. You know, I just like to talk to him about all that. I think a lot of us have just missed the boat on why Christianity became such a powerful message of redemption, and love and acceptance because of what happened along the way.
Which makes it so difficult to listen to all the rhetoric that goes on from the Christian Right.
ES: It’s horrifying. My dad is a theologian and I get to talk to him about why this happened. A lot of it is psychological. If you have a certain mindset, or if the church kind of reigned in the insecurities of life for you and made it simple. I don’t know why people respond to the Bible and Christianity, in general, in the way that they do that oppresses other people. I understand it psychologically. But I don’t understand why those hearts can’t be turned to love and openness. But that’s not for me to know. I’ll never know. But these are the things I think about and write songs about.
It’s absolutely comforting to know that what I believe is what I believe, and it’s loving. And I don’t have any doubt about what I believe in. Maybe I should believe that with regards to religion. So that’s quite comforting to feel good and in that space with my faith.
That’s beautiful. Amen to that. I feel the same way. Thank you so much, Emily. I, really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
A police officer fired last year after lodging complaints against a councilman has filed a suit against the borough of Palisades Park, NJ. Robert DeVito, Jr. also named Police Chief Mark Jackson, Councilman Henry Ruh, and former Mayor James Rotundo in his suit, claiming discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination.
DeVito was hired as a probationary police officer in 2017. During his tenure with the police department, DeVito claimed he had witnessed discriminatory and homophobic behavior from Jackson and Ruh. He said he reported this ant-gay behavior to supervisors and town administrators. The lawsuit cites different times where DeVito said he felt that he was being targeted for either his sexual orientation or political affiliations within the borough. After publicly supporting Rotundo’s challenger during a mayoral race, Rotundo’s wife allegedly told DeVito, “wait to see what happens to you.” Other town employees who supported Rotundo’s opposition were told their jobs were under review says the lawsuit.
In another instance involving Ruh, the lawsuit alleges that the councilman made derogatory and homophobic comments about a school trustee in DeVito’s presence. Ruh then looked at DeVito and “corrected” himself, changing the slur initially used to “pedophile.” DeVito reported the incident to the town administrator for the purpose of pursuing a complaint against Ruh. He stated that he had video showing the councilman committing official misconduct.
When DeVito expressed concerns to the chief that his job as a police officer was being threatened and his complaints were going straight to the mayor and the town council, Jackson filed an internal affairs complaint against him. Shortly thereafter Ruh filed another, claiming harassment.
DeVito was fired before his probationary year was up. Jackson and the town council cited the internal affairs investigations. DeVito went back to his former position as communications manager for the borough. There he claims he is still subject to harassment and discrimination. DeVito’s partner, Corey Havens, who lost his job as a information technology employee with the borough, has also filed notice against Palisades Park. Havens said in his lawsuit that his firing came as retaliation against DeVito rather than the cited budgetary concerns.
“Being a police officer was his lifelong dream and he worked very hard to get there,” DeVito’s attorney Matthew Priore said. “He was an exemplary officer during his time there. The only reason he was terminated was for his exposure of misconduct of a councilman.”
DeVito is looking to be reinstated as a police office, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief in the six-count lawsuit.
The health care needs of LGBT residents are provided for with certification
Green Hill, a senior living space in West Orange, NJ, is celebrating its second year as the only senior care provider in the state to earn a Sagecare Platinum Certification. “Seniors are one of the most marginalized groups in our culture,” said Amy Simon, Communications Director. “LGBT seniors are the most vulnerable when it comes to health care services and safe and welcoming housing.”
The Sagecare certification indicates that care providers at Green Hill are well-trained in cultural competency and the health care needs of their LGBT residents. According to Green Hill’s 2018 Annual Report: “LGBT seniors who currently live openly fear they will have to go ‘back into the closet’ to avoid discrimination, harassment or assault. That their partners, allies, family members and friends will not be safe and welcomed in the community where they live. That they will not have access to healthcare from providers who are experienced in serving the needs of the LGBT community.”
Green Hill does not want to be the state’s only accredited option for aging members of the LGBT community. So, Green Hill is working with the senior care industry leaders and the LGBT community. The goal is to establish the LGBT Senior Housing and Care program. It is a best-practices model of care for both new and existing senior communities throughout the state.
Green Hill will be hosting their second annual Senior Housing And Care Expo on May 19, 2019. It will offer educational seminars, vendors, and a networking lunch. It will be held at their facility at 103 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, NJ 07052. For more information, go to their website, greenhill.com
As 2019 was being welcomed in as the New Year, Out In Jersey magazine editor emeritus Toby Grace was speaking in his home about the perils in the world, and in our own communities. He was not optimistic. This was a bit out of character for Toby, but not really. Since the 2016 election, like so many of us, he was feeling… let’s just say disappointed at best and disgusted at worst. 2019 — The Year of the Wolves was his last online article. It encompassed his thoughts on January 2nd, please check the article out on our website.
Out In Jersey magazine’s Editor Emeritus Toby Grace
To say I miss him is an understatement. Toby Grace was not just my friend, but also a writer and editor emeritus at Out In Jersey. 17 years ago, he helped to launch the business. He was editor for the first 10 years. He was one of the few that knew everyone and how LGBT advocacy should be. We disagreed often, but through it all he was still a close friend. He mentored dozens of young writers in those early days. He mentored me too! To me, and so, so, many others, he was the heart and the soul of Out In Jersey. We will all miss him.
Here is what others have been saying on Facebook about this incredibly talented LGBT advocate and teacher.
Billy George wrote for Out In Jersey magazine in the early 2000s.
Billy George: Professor Tobias Grace, educator, editor, fantasy writer, lover of British history and veteran of the Stonewall era, gay liberation, AIDS, and marriage equality passed away in his home today. He was a very important person in my life and I will miss him terribly.
I met him at a very vulnerable time in my life. I was at a low point in many ways and needed guidance, patience and love. He provided all that and so much more. He became a mentor, friend and family member. He gave me so many amazing people who will continue to be a part of my life. He brought me food when I was too poor to buy it. He gave me comfort when I was sad. He edited every single one of my papers in undergrad and taught me to write.
He helped me develop my spiritual side and was a vesicle of great knowledge. I could go on and on. Most importantly, he was a kind, loving soul in a world that needed one. I know many of you didn’t know him but he was a very important person.
Trenton, NJ mayor Reed Gusciora was the first NJ State government legislator to be an out politician
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora: I’m so sorry to hear. Toby visited my class to talk about Stonewall. He was in Massachusetts [correction—Delaware] at the time but knew all the people involved and came during the aftermath. Great guy.
Will Loschiavo: This has been a very heartbreaking week. I was notified that my former editor who has also been my dear friend and mentor for the past nine years, Toby, suddenly passed away. This has been extremely difficult to process. Toby gave me some of my first career opportunities which ultimately led to bigger opportunities. Toby was a reference of mine and never complained about being contacted nor supporting me. Toby was my go-to whenever my world came crashing down, and no matter what was taking place in his life, he always made an extra effort to ensure I was okay. I pray Toby can be as much of an Angel for me on the other side as he was for me on this side. The world lost one of its best this week.
Nancy Hillman: So sorry for the loss, RIP Toby, condolences for friends and family…. He has been a gift for the LGBTQ movement for many years. One of the most interesting people in the Trenton area.
Danielle Finch: Such sad news. I really enjoyed working with him when I wrote a few articles during my high school years. Hope he finds peace.
Mary Wilkinson Trigg: I got to know Toby when he reviewed my chorus, Princeton Pro Musica. He was gracious and always positive. I heard about his kids and grew to think of him as a friend. He will be missed by all.
Peter Sonny Hobday: We are so sorry to hear this. Tobias was always such a positive person with a unique style. A great spokesperson for the gay community.
Deborah Cole: Unique, eclectic, comically and eloquently outspoken. A huge loss to the LGBTQ community!
Toby Grace at the Javits Center in NYC for the GLBT-EXPO in 2012
Toby would request that all contributions on his behalf benefit a local LGBT Homeless shelter or LGBT services provider. Family Memorial Services will be announced at a later date in the Spring by Chiacchio-Southview Funeral Home in Trenton (chiacchiosouthview.com)
Honey Davenport has a new musical project and believes Drag can be a political statement
The Davenport family is a drag legacy. From the beloved and dearly departed Sahara to the performing powerhouse Kennedy, these ladies define professionalism and what it truly means to be a star, on and off the screen. The latest Davenport to hit the RuPaul’s Drag Race workroom is New York City’s Honey Davenport. She was eliminated on the most recent update, something tells me the best is yet to come for this Philadelphia-raised doll. I caught up with her about her very emotional elimination. She talked about her upcoming music release and how she is merging stunning drag with important political statements.
As you look back at your Drag Race experience, how do you look back on the experience overall?
Honey Davenport: It was an absolutely amazing experience, and I am so honored to have been chosen and the ride. That being said, I am a social justice warrior. I did not get to feature that at all on the show. I was still afraid that I would mention my platform and how I use it, that I might sound too political. I held myself back and I don’t know what I was waiting for. If there is anything that I had the opportunity to go back and do, it would be to share the message that I try to convey with my drag more. It’s not just creative and funny; it’s actually a means for me to create the world that I would like to see one day. Since coming back, I realize all of the opportunities that the show has given me. Watching it, I thought it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever seen. But I was truly proud of what I was able to accomplish at that point in my life.
Both the pedigree and the notoriety of this season’s cast was a game changer, with names like Nina West, which is a huge name in the drag world. Was that intimidating?
Honey Davenport photo by We Love Queens
HD: It definitely felt like an honor. The first thing I thought was that I was on the season with legends like Nina West and Brook Lynn Hytes. And I was excited for that. I also thought that the fact that I was there with these girls let me know that I was of that level and caliber as well. I was not threatened at all by that, and I thought “okay, I am supposed to be here.” I know that I have a very distinct point of view, and I definitely wanted to show that.
Asbury Park will always be a home for me
Who from your hometown of New York City would go in and kill the competition for Season 12?
HD: So here’s the thing, I have a residency in Key West. And I am a New York City girl, and Asbury Park, N.J. will always be a home for me. So I have a couple girls actually. I am from Philadelphia, so definitely Sapphira Cristal. I live in New York, so definitely Viva Vidalia, she would turn the world out! I am dying to see Jolina Jasmine on the show. I almost expected to see her when I walked into the workroom! Logan Hardcore from Fire Island would be amazing too. Everyone at some point in their career should have this opportunity, and I would be thrilled to see any of my sisters on the show.
Honey Davenport with Asbury Park beach in the back round
Your elimination was extremely overwhelming to you, and you were extremely emotional. Did you expect to have that kind of a reaction?
HD: Honestly, no I didn’t. I think everything just came to a head, and it all came out of me as I stepped off that runway. I realized that I had not been showing as much of myself as I had wanted to. While that was disappointing, I am very proud of some of the sick fashion I presented. At heart, I am a showgirl, and I know I had, and still have, so much to present. Honey, I have won eighteen crowns in my career, I definitely know how to present the looks (laughs).
What many people don’t realize is that the opportunity for Drag Race came to me when I was going through an extremely hard time. I was actually homeless at the time. My husband and I were going through a very challenging time personally. You can’t simply say to RuPaul that you would like to come back for the next season and “it’s just not a good time” (laughs). I thrive in adversity though; I made it happen despite the challenges going on in my life.
Your single “The Hive” is unique and it’s definitely patented “Honey”! Can we expect a full album?
HD: Oh absolutely. Music has always been a passion of mine. And this platform is letting me do it on a much larger scale. I’ve been working with Chew Fu, who has been absolutely amazing and I am loving what we are creating.
My visual EP is called Raw and Unfiltered. I’m releasing in pieces over the rest of the season, showing the runway looks I would’ve worn with songs I’ve written that were inspired by them. I also have my new YouTube show called Da F—k? It’s a show where we talk about headlines and crazy topics. It comes out every other Friday as a YouTube series, and the full-length comes out as a podcast. We have a single with Kareem McJagger, Nedra Belle and Jayse Vegas that I can’t wait for everyone to hear!
What inspires you personally, and as a performer?
HD: The crowds inspire me. When I look around and see all of the people that are being so supportive of me, I know that I want to give them the best show or the best music every time I present something to them. I am inspired by the truly amazing opportunities that have come to me. And I am so excited at what the post Drag Race has to offer me.
New Hope Celebrates PrideFest theme is “Come as you are”
It’s an exciting year for the worlds LGBT community. And New Hope Celebrates starts early. It is one of the first Prides of the season. They kickoff the Annual PrideFest on Saturday, May 11, 2019. This year’s theme is “Come as you are” and will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall events in New York City in Greenwich Village and WorldPride in NYC, which takes place during the entire month of June.
The Pride Parade and Fair is May 18, but PrideFest runs from May 11-20, 2019
PrideFest will begin at noon on Saturday, May 11, with the unfurling of NHC’s 25 foot, eight color Equality Flag. This takes place atop the Delaware House building, which currently houses the Starbucks on Bridge St, in New Hope, PA. It signals the opening of the annual PrideFest Celebration.
This year, do not miss the best cocktail contest sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Templeton Rye. Local bars and restaurants will feature specialty drinks and locals and visitors can sample these creative libations and vote for their favorite. A complete list of participating establishments is online. You may cast your vote via any mobile device at newhopecelebrates.com/cocktail. Contest dates are May 4-19, 2019.
The highlight of the Festival is the annual Parade and Pride Fair on Saturday, May 18. The parade begins in Lambertville, NJ at 11:30am. It will then cross over the bridge into New Hope, PA. There will be floats and marching bands including the Big Apple Corps and the DC Drummers. This is the only nationally recognized Pride Parade that crosses state lines to include both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The highlight of the Parade is the eight color 100 foot long Rainbow Equality Parade Flag, sponsored by Landmark Hospitality — Logan Inn.
Pride Fair highlights
After the parade, join the Pride Fair which will be held on New Street in a portion of American Legion Parking lot. There will be vendors offering pride items, services and food. This area is a Smoke Free Zone with support from sponsor Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. There is live outdoor entertainment on the Pride Stage. A portion of the proceeds benefit the New Hope Eagle Fire Dept. Organizers thank the American Legion and the Borough of New Hope for their support. The Pride Fair gates open at noon with a suggested donation of $5.
Live entertainment will feature the Stephanie Chin Band, Josh Zuckerman, Christine Havrilla, School of Rock, Ruby Ru, NYC3 Band and Brother Eye. There will be a host of local Queens including Ginger Alley (Miss NHC 2018), Cyannie Lopez (Miss NHC 2017), Miss Victoria Lace, Miss Pumpkin, Carl Max, Miss Martini Madness, Mimi Monroe, Drag King Bryc and many more.
The hub of the festival will be at The Raven, in New Hope, PA, with dance parties including special DJs and piano sing-a-longs. Don’t miss the Raven Pool Party on Sunday, May 19. Havana will host the annual Ladies 2000 Pride Party on Sunday, May 19. A full schedule of events will be available the week before the event. For more information on becoming a parade participant, vendor, or sponsor, visit New Hope Celebrates online at newhopecelebrates.com.