Queer Voices

November 15th 2023 Queer Voices

November 15, 2023 Queer Voices
November 15th 2023 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
November 15th 2023 Queer Voices
Nov 15, 2023
Queer Voices

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We're taking you to the frontlines of battle in Texas, where the LGBTQ+ rights are under a severe attack with the introduction of over 140 anti-LGBTQ bills by the Texas legislature. Brian Clusterbore from ACLU paints a grim picture of the situation, but reminds us that unity is our strongest weapon. From the drag ban to the Death Star preemption bill, we're tearing apart these restrictive laws and shining a light on their implications.

As we commemorate the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, we remember the lives lost and the strides made in the fight against the disease. Our guest, Kelly Johnson from the Rothko Chapel brings us The Home-Going Concert A Sonic Memorial, a tribute to those who've passed on, and a rallying cry for the rights of drag performers. We're exploring the profound impact of drag on the queer community and why our support is crucial now more than ever. 

Lastly, we're turning our lens to the international LGBTQ+ scene. From civil unions in Latvia to LGBTQ pride in Buenos Aires and a looming fear of rollback of rights in Argentina - we're walking you through the major developments. Also, join us in the theatre, as Adam J. Thompson takes us behind the scenes of the 'Turn of the Screw'. Thompson shares with us the challenges and triumphs of putting up such a production. So, sit back, and let us navigate you through the intricate tapestry of queer stories and issues that affect us all. Queer Voices is where you'll find the stories that matter, the advocacy that counts, and the celebration of the diverse voices of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

We're taking you to the frontlines of battle in Texas, where the LGBTQ+ rights are under a severe attack with the introduction of over 140 anti-LGBTQ bills by the Texas legislature. Brian Clusterbore from ACLU paints a grim picture of the situation, but reminds us that unity is our strongest weapon. From the drag ban to the Death Star preemption bill, we're tearing apart these restrictive laws and shining a light on their implications.

As we commemorate the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, we remember the lives lost and the strides made in the fight against the disease. Our guest, Kelly Johnson from the Rothko Chapel brings us The Home-Going Concert A Sonic Memorial, a tribute to those who've passed on, and a rallying cry for the rights of drag performers. We're exploring the profound impact of drag on the queer community and why our support is crucial now more than ever. 

Lastly, we're turning our lens to the international LGBTQ+ scene. From civil unions in Latvia to LGBTQ pride in Buenos Aires and a looming fear of rollback of rights in Argentina - we're walking you through the major developments. Also, join us in the theatre, as Adam J. Thompson takes us behind the scenes of the 'Turn of the Screw'. Thompson shares with us the challenges and triumphs of putting up such a production. So, sit back, and let us navigate you through the intricate tapestry of queer stories and issues that affect us all. Queer Voices is where you'll find the stories that matter, the advocacy that counts, and the celebration of the diverse voices of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brian Levinca has an interview with Brian Clusterbore of the ACLU of Texas about a raft of litigation brought on by actions in the Texas legislature.

Speaker 2:

Earlier this year, the Texas legislature introduced over 140 anti-LGBTQ bills. The vast majority of them were stopped by many of our allies who were fighting. In Austin, thousands of people went to the Capitol telling lawmakers to focus on real problems facing Texans.

Speaker 1:

Andrew Edmondson talks with Kelly Johnson of the Rothko Chapel about World AIDS Day and an upcoming memorial event.

Speaker 3:

This sonic memorial it's a concert, but we're calling it a sonic memorial per the artist focuses on the impact of the AIDS crisis in black communities in the United States between 1980 and 2005.

Speaker 1:

Brett Cullum talks with Adam J Thompson, director of Catastrophic Theater's production of Turn of the Screw, and we have news. Wrap from this Way Out. Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 4:

This is Brian Levinca, and today, on Queer Voices, we're going to speak with ACLU about all of the litigations that are going on because of the shenanigans that are going on in Austin. Welcome to Queer Voices, brian Clusterbore.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 4:

Okay, I saw you at the Woodlands Pride and we were talking about all the litigations that are going on and I wanted to kind of fill in our listeners with what's going on. So what is going on?

Speaker 2:

Yes, the Woodlands Pride actually has been a bright spot in what's otherwise been an incredibly awful year for the LGBTQ plus community in Texas, and especially the transgender community and trans and non-binary youth. Earlier this year, the Texas legislature introduced over 140 anti-LGBTQ bills. The vast majority of them were stopped by many of our allies who were fighting in Austin. Thousands of people went to the Capitol telling lawmakers to focus on real problems facing Texans and not hatred and division. But unfortunately, seven of those bills passed into law, one of which is a drag ban, trying to basically ban drag shows and other what they call sexually oriented performances all across the state. The Woodlands Pride was the lead plaintiff in that lawsuit that the ACLU of Texas brought, so we were there celebrating with them. They were able to fully have their drag performances to raise money for their community. It was a really beautiful moment, but it's been a really tough year and unfortunately, most of those other laws have all gone into effect.

Speaker 2:

So tell us about the other laws, the worst one is Senate Bill 14 that bans evidence based medical care for transgender youth across the state. Many trans youth and their families have had to move out of Texas. Now many of them have to go to other states to access the medical care that they need. This kind of medical care has been in existence for decades. It's not new. What is new is a wave of political attacks seeking to ban this health care, which really picked up after the Supreme Court decision last year in Dobs, now that a lot of opponents of abortion have really moved to viciously target trans youth, going against medical best practices and standards of care and stripping away the rights of parents to provide the best possible health care for their kids. We still have an active lawsuit against that case.

Speaker 2:

The ACLU sued with Lambda Legal, the transgender law center, and two law firms. That case is now pending before the Texas Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Texas Supreme Court has allowed the law to go into effect while the case continues on appeal. We are still fighting but that same law. Now there's 22 states across the country in the last year and two years have passed those laws stripping away this vital health care for trans youth. Just this week, aclu National asked the US Supreme Court for the first time to step into this issue to protect trans youth in Kentucky and Tennessee. Now many of our listeners will know that the Supreme Court right now is very hostile to some of our rights of the LGBTQ plus community. Last year they overturned a 50-year long right to abortion in our country. It's a very scary place to be, but right now ACLU, lambda Legal and other groups are using every single tool we have to try to preserve what is considered life-saving medical care by every single major medical association in the country.

Speaker 4:

What are some other laws that have been nasty going into effect?

Speaker 2:

There's one called HB 900, that's the book ban. This requires every seller of books to public schools in Texas to read every single book they sell and anything that has sexual content very broadly defined. So Romeo and Juliet or any kind of book that even mentioned sex or sexuality, could be prohibited and restricted in public schools. There's also Senate Bill 17, which is a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities. Senate Bill 15, which prohibits transgender student athletes from playing in accordance with their gender identity at public colleges and universities. And then there was a preemption bill as well that strips away some of the that doesn't directly affect the LGBTQ plus community, but it's called the Death Star preemption bill. It strips away the powers of local governments to regulate themselves, which we believe will harm the LGBTQ plus community in the long term.

Speaker 2:

Because we know that our cities here in Texas are safe havens for the queer community. Houston especially has a rich queer history. The DEI ban is especially disheartening. I was just reading the biography of Phyllis Frye and learning about how University of Houston was a real hotbed for LGBTQ plus ACM in the early 1970s. So for over 50 years our public universities here in Houston have really been safe havens for the queer community and places that people have thrived, come together and made changes. We are literally going backwards in time this year, but the queer community refuses to go back and trans Texans, especially know who they are, are fighting back, and we're hopeful that this year the pendulum has swung so far to the right and so far against the LGBTQ plus community. But we really have to come together and do everything we can to protect trans youth and protect these attacks on our community, and by that you mean vote, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

It starts with voting, but it's really everything. I think there's a lot of political power in Houston and in Texas beyond. Voting is so important, but also even businesses. So many businesses were silent or neutral this legislative session. The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world. We have some of the largest and best hospitals anywhere. We have to use all of our power and privilege to tell our state's leaders not to bully some of the most marginalized members of our community and to stand up for science and medicine. Our lawmakers are making these laws not based on any facts or evidence, but simply trying to pander to their base and being cruel.

Speaker 4:

So Brian, how did you get involved with the ACLU?

Speaker 2:

I've now worked at the ACLU of Texas for five years. I started as a legal fellow and now I'm full-time as a staff attorney. And where did you go to school? So I grew up in Austin, I went to law school at Harvard, and now I've been living in Houston for seven years.

Speaker 2:

The ACLU of Texas works on LGBTQ rights, voting rights, immigrants rights, abortion rights, as well as criminal justice reform and free speech, and so right now, all of our issue areas, unfortunately, are being targeted. Our state leaders seem to be really focused on passing bills for political reasons, not actually to help anyone. Just currently we're still in a special legislative session, and they've really been targeting the immigrant community right now and trying to push people out of Texas, create a climate of fear and division, and so it's sad that they're even threatening another special session, trying to mess with public education. We've seen the takeover of Houston ISD right now just having devastating effects, and young people especially have so much to worry about and so much on their plate, and now they're having to worry about adults banning books in their schools, taking over their school districts and stripping away their life-saving medical care.

Speaker 4:

The resource center, the LGBTQ resource center at University of Houston was shut down because of this law. Can you talk about that?

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, it's just so devastating. I mean that resource center has hosted the gender infinity conference. They have done so much for the queer and trans community in Houston and it's unfortunate too, because there's the letter of the law. So Senate bill 17 doesn't actually ban all DEI on college campuses, but it does restrict the staff members ability to host programs and events and they can't make anything Mandatory now. They can still host DEI trainings and other things that are optional, and students and student organizations Still have a right to host events on campus. Bring in speakers talking about critical race theory, racism, queer history and culture. But what we're seeing is that this has a chilling effect. So there's the letter of the law and what the law actually says, and then it's. There's also how it's enforced.

Speaker 2:

Unfortunately, we're seeing it many public universities across Texas that they're actually enforcing it more vigorously and more broadly than what the law requires, and so they're. They're kind of cowering in fear to the bullies in state leadership and they're not actually exercising their full authority even under this law. And right now we really need to be doing the opposite. You know, the state leaders are setting a tone and culture of bullying and trying to ban any discussion of race, of gender, a gender identity, sexual orientation, and, instead of just going along with it, we really need everyone whether it's universities, professors, businesses, teachers, parents, students to kind of be fighting back and to Support each other, and this time because we know that the mental health toll from these laws is catastrophic. We know that the suicide rate for trans youth in particular, and for other members of our community, is very high, and so we can't just give in to this culture of fear. We need to find our own culture of belonging and do everything we can to resist these authoritarian laws.

Speaker 4:

We're speaking with Brian cluster bore, aclu, attorney of ACLU of Texas, and Brian, besides voting and getting involved with political organizations, what else can people do to support your efforts?

Speaker 2:

So of course people can also donate. You know the end of the year is coming up. We work very closely with our partners at the transgender education network of Texas, tent, the largest statewide Trans organization in Houston, as well as a quality Texas HRC, many other groups. There's a very rich, vibrant civil society here in Texas and I think I am very hopeful in the medium to long term that we will create. You know Our state, as we know it, is very welcoming, inclusive. We have vibrant communities all across the state. Aclu of Texas has been two dozens of prides all over Texas. We were just at the Woodlands pride, at Katie pride, and so you know these are places that you know people are coming out and then refusing to go back into the closet. I think a lot of change is happening and we're hopeful that some of these laws will be struck down in courts. But we really also need to keep, you know, making sure that our culture and our politics embraces everyone and doesn't discriminate.

Speaker 4:

So are we gonna just seek endless special sessions? Go on and on, and on from Austin.

Speaker 2:

I am not sure. Yeah, I can't predict, but we're prepared for whatever comes our way.

Speaker 4:

Where can people find out more information about the ACLU of Texas?

Speaker 2:

Our website is ACLU txorg. We also work with the all-in for equality coalition other LGBTQ nonprofits. We coordinate a website called tx X trans kids org. And that's where you can find the most up-to-date resources and information, especially for trans youth and those who support them in Texas.

Speaker 4:

And before we go, is there anything else you want our listeners to know?

Speaker 2:

Right now. You know we're hoping so. As I mentioned, the drag ban is still blocked by court orders. You know we're that's still. That case is still going on on appeal right now. So we're still actively working to keep that law blocked. I think it's important to that. We have joy and what's been a really rough year, and drag is an important part of that. I think the attorney general of Texas has actually argued that drag performances are not protected at all by the First Amendment, which is incredibly scary the idea that you can have the government censoring and canceling Performances just because they disagree with them or they don't like them. That runs counter to the very foundational principles of our democracy and the First Amendment.

Speaker 2:

Drag has an especially rich history in Texas. Bernice McFarland from the McHoggany project here in Houston Actually gave some beautiful quotes about the history of drag and how important it is, especially for the black trans community, and so we know that that drag ban, which has criminal penalties of up to a year in jail for any performer. We hope it never goes into effect. But it's just unimaginably cruel that they even passed it into law and when governor Abbott signed it he tweeted out he had banned all drag performances in public across the state. We're hopeful that that law remains blocked. Drag is such an important source of empowerment and joy for the queer community. There's a rich history, even during the AIDS epidemic, of drag performers raising money for people who are afflicted and dying of AIDS, and so we're doing everything we can to keep fighting for drag artists and the LGBTQ plus community, as well as trans youth in Texas.

Speaker 4:

You know, at the woodlands pride they had the drag performances with the kids and they were having a grand old time. I mean, just that was a testament to how fun that Jack or drag can be, and it's not this evil Sexualized performance that they're trying to portray it as exactly they're trying to drive, drag back into the shadows, but it's everywhere and that's what you know.

Speaker 2:

They're trying to push it out of libraries, out of public spaces, even off of TV, but it's here to stay and it is protected by the First Amendment.

Speaker 4:

We've been speaking with Brian cluster bore from the ACLU of Texas, and Brian, please keep up the good work that you're doing and fighting for our rights. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

This is queer voices, part of our queer voices community, listens on KPFT, which is a nonprofit community radio station, and, as such, kpft does not endorse or hold any standing on matters of politics. If you would like equal airtime to represent an alternative point of view, please contact us through KPFTorg or our own website at Queer Voicesorg. This is Queer Voices.

Speaker 6:

Friday, december 1st is World AIDS Day, a day of hope and remembrance. 2023 marks the 35th annual Commemoration of World AIDS Day. The event was launched in 1988 to provide a platform to raise awareness about HIV, aids and to honor the lives affected by the epidemic. The theme of this year's observance is Remember and Commit.

Speaker 6:

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, nearly 675,000 Americans with AIDS have died in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 13,000 people with AIDS continue to die each year, according to the CDC. The Greater Houston region has been hit particularly hard by AIDS, with over 22,000 individuals in the Greater Houston area dying over the last four decades. In Houston, communities of color are being impacted at an alarming rate. According to the Houston Health Department data, in Houston, black and African Americans make up 50% of all AIDS cases. To commemorate the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the Rothko Chapel in Montrose has commissioned a new work to be performed on Thursday, november 30th, at 6.30pm. To discuss the new work, we are pleased to welcome Kelly Johnson to Queer Voices. Kelly is Director of Public Programs for the Rothko Chapel. Welcome, kelly. Hi Andrew, thanks so much for having me today. So tell us about the new work that the Rothko Chapel has commissioned to commemorate the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

Speaker 3:

We're very excited to be hosting the Houston debut of the home-going concert A Sonic Memorial, written by Ashton Crawley, who is a writer, artist teacher at the University of Virginia. This Sonic Memorial it's a concert, but we're calling it a Sonic Memorial, per the artist focuses on the impact of the AIDS crisis in black communities in the United States between 1980 and 2005, specifically honoring fallen black queer musicians, choir directors and singers who were active in churches across the US and writing iconic and well-beloved gospel music in their churches. So the event will include songs written by Ashton that are to and about musicians, singers and choir directors and black queer musicians who were victims of the AIDS crisis.

Speaker 6:

It's interesting. I had a friend who was a very high-powered member of the African-American community in Houston and she would talk about how in the 1890s and 1990s, when she would go to church, that the minister would speak against the evils of homosexuality and how bad homosexuality was, and then the choir director, who everyone knew was gay, would start leading the choir and would add incredible beauty and resonance to the service through the choir director's work. And she always spoke about how hypocritical it seemed that on one hand, clergy were dogging gay people when gay people were such an active, integral part of her church and made the worship service so much better because they brought beautiful music to the table. So I think it's a really interesting idea with lots of complexities to explore. How did the rock discover or become connected with Ashton Crawley and how long did it take him to create the work?

Speaker 3:

Our executive director, david Leslie, met Ashton Crawley through a fellowship that they were both a part of through the Shaker Museum in upstate New York, and they were invited to help the Shaker Museum think about how to share their cultural history through their space, and Ashton is also a well-known writer on spirituality and justice issues as well as music history, so I think they bonded there. That was several years ago, and then Ashton had reached out to us actually last year saying that he was working on this piece and was hoping to find the right space to have a live performance of it. He actually this is very interesting and I encourage people to look this up online. But he also Ashton was a fellow of a recent project on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Speaker 3:

It was a pilot exhibition put together by Beyond Granite called Pulling Together, and it featured special artworks, performances and programs on the National Mall to talk about what stories remain untold from a national perspective, and so he, along with a few other artists, put together these public sculptures, sites to commemorate or talk about issues that have been swept under the rug in our national history, and so he had been working on this project to debut for the experience on the National Mall. He put together his own monument Audio Visual Memorial about the impact of the AIDS crisis that centered on fallen Black queer church musicians. So that's, he put together some recordings for that experience, but this will be the second time that it will be performed live in the country, and so we're really excited to host that.

Speaker 6:

Tell us about some of the musical groups who will be taking part in the live performance at Rothko Chapel on Thursday, November 30th.

Speaker 3:

We're very excited to. We have been organizing lots of local Houston musicians to support the performance. So we will have 12 vocalists from Phillip Hall Singers, who is a great vocal group here in town and we've worked with them. We've had them at the chapel several times in the past. We will also be working with local percussionist Vernon Daniels, as well as strings players from the Willian Grant Still String Orchestra, who is a part of a larger group called the Community Music Collective Houston, and they just won an award from the Houston BIPOC Artist Fund as being a Houston cultural gem and we've worked with that group several times as well. So we're very excited to bring together all these local Houston musicians as well, as we will have well-known Hammond organist Abdul Hamid Royal Robinson, who is highly respected in his field.

Speaker 3:

And I will say too that Ashon Crawley, part of this experience, also came to be because he was interested in writing a history, like a music history, of the Hammond organ, which, for those who maybe don't know it, is an organ that was invented in the 30s for primarily music in the Christian tradition, to replace very expensive large organs that you may see in historic churches, maybe in Europe, making a little cheaper to be made and purchased for different congregations, so it's a very popular instrument in the Christian tradition, but also you will hear it in other jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, reggae, progressive rock music.

Speaker 3:

So it's very interesting how Sean was putting in. Sorry he couldn't be here today to tell you this himself, but in our conversations with him he's talking about how actually this project came to be, from him trying to put together a music history of this instrument and then uncovering deeper stories about black gospel musicians who, as Andrew, gave a beautiful story of, or a perfect story of, how you can't separate the history of this instrument from the hypocrisy of the church, as well as the beautiful expression that queer musicians queer black musicians have given us through these many music genres. So, yes, we're very excited to have all these folks come together specifically for this piece.

Speaker 6:

We are speaking with Kelly Johnson, who is director of public programs for the Rothko Chapel. The Rothko Chapel has commissioned a new work by gay composer Ashon Crawley entitled Homegoing Concert a sonic memorial. That will be performed on Thursday night, november 30th, at 6.30pm at the Rothko Chapel in Montrose, kelly. The Rothko Chapel has sponsored numerous observances of World AIDS Day over the years. Why is it important for the Rothko Chapel to commemorate this day, and can you talk about some of the past events that the Chapel has sponsored?

Speaker 3:

The Rothko Chapel has a long history of commemorating World AIDS Day and also in our history as a spiritual sacred space. We hosted many memorial services that for folks who died of impacts from the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s, whereas other congregations would not host these memorial services, refused to do so and to acknowledge the disease and the impact on our communities and the Chapel has. Just for a little bit of background on the Chapel we opened in 1971, dedicated as an interfaith art space for people of all religions or none, to come visit and have a space to contemplate, pray, meditate, surrounded by the abstract paintings created by artist Mark Rothko. We also host the sculpture, the Broken Obelisk, created by Barnett Newman on our plaza and dedicated to the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr, his living legacy. So we see, just for a little bit of background on kind of the nature of the space we have the Chapel a place to come contemplate, go inwards, have a moment of introspection and then, as you come out onto the plaza, you see the Broken Obelisk dedicated to Dr King and we see it as a call to action to continue working in community to make the world a better place for all of us. So there's this kind of cycle, infinite cycle of contemplation and action, and kind of getting into that regular flow here on site is what we hope to support With that.

Speaker 3:

We feel it's very important to continue to recognize World AIDS Day. We have since 2016,. We pick that observation back up every year. We have held lots of different programs, including meditations with music and poetry and prayer. We have hosted the Houston Oral History Project around HIV and AIDS to do some personal testimonies and storytelling, and this is one of my favorite events each year.

Speaker 3:

I feel like there's still so much stigma around this that is both historical and contemporary.

Speaker 3:

I feel like it's so important to come out and be in solidarity with one another and, in particular, I'm excited about this event, not only because the music is absolutely beautiful and I think that it's going to be really impactful and meaningful just to witness from a musical standpoint, but also I know how much religious trauma there is in the LGBTQ community, myself included. I feel like the aim is to be a healing event, to witness and celebrate these lives that brought us this amazing music, and between each song there's going to be a reading of names folks who have died from complications and so I think it's very important to continue to witness and speak their names and bring them into being. The reason why Ashon is calling it a homegoing is to really send these folks off in a way that they weren't said goodbye to when they passed and weren't acknowledged while they were here. So we're really taking a sacred time to honor these folks and come together in solidarity to move forward in a different way as well.

Speaker 6:

Harking back to an earlier comment that you made, I moved to Houston in the 1990s and that was at the height of the AIDS crisis and there were many gay men dying and some churches had tremendous negative judgment and hostility towards gay people and especially gay men with AIDS. And I went to many memorial services at the Rothko Chapel and I know that for me and hundreds of other people in Houston's queer community it was a respite space. It was a space where we could go and feel safe and affirmed and grieve our feelings and not feel judged, and it was one of the few places in Houston that would regularly allow memorial services for people with AIDS and that was an incredible gift that the Rothko Chapel and Dominique de Manille gave to our community. So I just want to personally say thank you as a man who's attended many memorial services for people living with AIDS at the Chapel.

Speaker 6:

Thank you for lifting that history up and if you have just joined us, we've been speaking with Kelly Johnson, who is Director of Public Programs for the Rothko Chapel. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the Rothko Chapel will be presenting the Houston premiere of a new work called the Homegoing Concert a Sonic Memorial. It will be performed on Thursday, november 30th at 6.30 pm at the Rothko Chapel at 3900 U-Pond Street in Montrose. The new work is by Ashon Crawley and it is being debuted as part of the Chapel's commemoration of World AIDS Day, and it will focus on the experiences of black queer men who were musicians and who served in church choirs. For more information and to reserve tickets for the Homegoing Concert, visit the Rothko Chapel's website, rothkochapelorg.

Speaker 8:

The night is long and the path is dark.

Speaker 6:

Look to the sky for one place, for one place.

Speaker 1:

This is Queer Voices.

Speaker 8:

I am Brett Cullum. Today, my guest is Adam J Thompson from the Catastrophic Theatre Company. The company recently won Nelsmart Gayest and Greatest Award for being Houston's best experimental theatre company, and Adam is here as the director of their current production of Turn of the Screw. He's from New York City and a guest artist for the company. He does directing, video design and fashion, so he blends a lot of art forms into one event. The show is going to be at the Mattes Theatre. It's going to combine environmental staging, toy theatre, puppetry, live cinema and a very harrowing soundscape to go into, meditating on the themes of artifice, reality and, of course, all of the things that the Henry James Novella Turn of the Screw is about. Adam, I wanted to ask you just right off the bat Turn of the Screw? It is from the Turn of the Century. It's a very well-known Henry James ghost story, a novella. How do you make it fresh? How do you make it something to translate to 2023?

Speaker 7:

Yeah, well, first, thanks for having me. As you mentioned, I'm visiting from New York and having a great time in Houston, and so it's really lovely to have this opportunity to chat with you about the Houston art scene, which has been really kind and welcoming to me. Yeah, so Turn of the Screw. It's an idea that I've been interested in presenting theatrically for quite some time, and I think it is actually very relevant right now because we're having these huge cultural conversations about truth and sort of alternate versions of truth and how people create their own truth and the limits of their own truth, and then how that creates conflict between different groups of people, because we all sort of get our information from different places and create our own constructs of truth and hold very dearly to what we think the truth is. I think truth used to be considered a much more universal idea, and now perhaps it's considered a more individual idea which thinking about a society becomes perhaps a more challenging thing to grapple with.

Speaker 7:

The story, as many people know, is about a central character or governess who goes to a house to care for two children and she starts to have an experience which may be a sort of grand capital T truth, or it may be a very individual experience that she's having which nobody else is having, and she's trying to convince them all that what she's experiencing is the actual capital T truth First and point of view. So she could be considered an unreliable narrator. You only see the story through her perspective. But then the story is also so well known that it's been adapted, I mean, I think, upwards of 30 times in like cinema theater, you know, mini series. Netflix did the haunting of Bly Manor, which uses the turn of the screw as its sort of core narrative tenet. And so I think the other thing that's really interesting about it is A like working within a lineage of, you know, a collection of people across time who have tackled the story.

Speaker 7:

But also what happens when you translate something visually is you have the opportunity to show not only the first person experience but like how other people are viewing that first person experience. So you know, in our show you see how the governance experiences the story. You also see how the other characters experience her experiencing the story. So, unlike a book where you can only sort of have one point of view in a living space, you can create simultaneity and I think you know again, just to sort of circle back to my original point. We're having these really large cultural conversations about simultaneity, simultaneities of truth. Whose truth is the truth? Where do we get our truth? What does that say about how reliable it is, etc. So that's kind of why I was interested in doing it now. It felt like an interesting time to tackle the question of truth and how we relate to truth and how we see things, and I think that's a big for us anyway, for our production, that's a core tenet of what we're putting on stage.

Speaker 8:

Catastrophic theater. The hallmarks of them are they blend a lot of design into their works. It's always impressive to see their sets and their effects and different things like that. Tell me about the team that you're working with to bring this one to life.

Speaker 7:

Yeah, so I'm the only out of towner. All the other folks are local and I think you know very well known for their really exceptional work, and they've all been a real joy to work with and have really very excitedly embraced the challenges of the piece. And so, as you mentioned it is, it is a sort of hybrid style. It is environmental. Things happen all around the room. We will not ask the audience to participate, so you know no fears about that.

Speaker 7:

I know people have qualms about that sometimes, but it is environmental and it combines, you know, what I would call traditional theater, which is sort of scene work, with theater, that is, creating live cinema with sort of more cinematic elements, with puppetry components. It's a very prop heavy show. A lot of it is about the narrative power of objects and how stories can arise from objects, and so I'm co-directing the piece with Afsan Ayani, who is a local artist whose work is wonderful and she's also designing the set and the costumes and the puppets and wonderful like lighting designer, props designer, sound designer, all hail from Houston. And I'm working with a really wonderful local video designer as well, peter Tan, who's has been wonderful and a really wonderful partner in realizing the visual components of the piece and it's really an A-plus team and I feel super honored to be able to work with them to create this very unique evocative space.

Speaker 8:

What about the cast? Do you have somebody that's playing the governess in the role?

Speaker 7:

We do, yeah, so the governess is being played by Annie Wilde, who is a Houston based actor, and she's really fabulous and has really embraced the unique nature of this character who is sort of struggling to find her identity.

Speaker 7:

And the story was written or published in 1898, and this was a moment in time when the spiritualist movement was beginning to flourish and we really pull a lot from that history.

Speaker 7:

And what's unique about that moment in time? It's one of the first moments that women were given positions of authority, because it was thought that women were better conduits to the spiritual world than men were, and so they sort of began to take on positions of power but at the same time were very limited in their sort of social mobility. And so the governess is really this woman who represents women collectively, being on the cusp of social mobility but still struggling with feeling held back by cultural norms. And then some a decade or so later, women's suffrage became a really hot political point, and this is really kind of the beginning of that narrative. So that character in particular is really balancing a lot in terms of the psychology of the character, but then because of the form of the piece and all the actors are doing this, they're balancing like puppetry skills, with stage acting skills, with camera acting skills, and so we're really asking a lot of them and they've really have risen to the challenge in media.

Speaker 8:

It sounds like it's going to be a very tech heavy show, definitely, and that's a real challenge as an actor, because you would really have to be able to go back and forth between the puppets and the videos and different things like that. How is the rehearsal process? What's that been like for them?

Speaker 7:

Word for it. You know my history of making work is having as much tech in the room from the very beginning is possible, especially when we're using live camera technology. It's really something that you have to kind of play with from the very early stages rather than just layer in during the tech process. And I try to run a super collaborative rehearsal room where everyone is invited to offer ideas and build on each other's ideas. And so, you know, as a director or co-director, I really think of myself as the eyes of the audience, just ensuring that things are clear and that the story is being told or something isn't running too long. But in terms of the generation of ideas, it's really a collective effort, and that includes the actors, and these four have really risen to that challenge and embraced it. And you know at this point, if anyone's guess like where an idea in the show started, it's all been sort of a collaborative shaping of things.

Speaker 8:

So you basically have a four-person cast, is that right?

Speaker 7:

So we have a four-person sort of acting cast, and then we have a couple of other folks on stage who are helping us with some of the cinema components, and then Hossam, our wonderful composer, is also on stage as a live musician. So really there are six to seven people on stage at any given moment. Four of them are sort of like core character actors.

Speaker 8:

What do you think is the biggest challenge in staging this version of Turn of the Screw?

Speaker 7:

Well, there's a lot happening and, as I mentioned, it's environmental. So, unlike a sort of traditional proscenium show where you're just thinking about everyone facing out, people are moving around all the time, and the seating we've built is very unique. There are seats on risers, seats on the floor, people are moving around the audience, and so figuring out the logistics of that in terms of the storytelling, but also just the safety of it, is a particular challenge, and the technology you know, especially the live video technology, is always something that's sort of like the crazy thing in the room that everyone is trying to wrangle into place at any given moment. For me, that's part of what's exciting about it too. I'm really interested in putting the process of creating performance on display rather than sort of hiding it away and so seeing the camera get into position and the actor get into position and all that is sort of built into the narrative, but it's like a very it requires a lot of patience. It's a very, very minute nuanced process to get from total chaos to something that feels fairly organized.

Speaker 8:

I am speaking with Adam J Thompson. He is a director working on catastrophic theaters big show that opens in mid-November turn of the screw. It will be playing at the Match Theater. One thing I wanted to ask you, adam obviously we address a lot of issues for the LGBTQIA Plus community and I wanted to ask you how does that identity, how does that queer identity, play into this story and this interpretation of turn of the screw?

Speaker 7:

Yeah, I mean, you know, I identify as a queer person myself and so just by nature of my interest and the way that I've approached the story, I hope there's something there that resonates. But you know, I think for me the big thing is really this idea of simultaneity and embracing simultaneity. I think as a queer person, I'm always looking for or feeling the power of embracing simultaneity of identity rather than a sort of binary identity. And I think the turn of the screw is a story that absolutely embraces simultaneity. It's about a governess who is both sort of free and also contained. It's about a story that may have happened this way and or may have happened this way or some combined version of those things. And the way we're telling the story really embraces this idea of simultaneity. I often describe it as sort of a cubist visual interpretation of the story, because you're seeing multiple versions of a narrative point simultaneously and so just the sort of way that we tell the story itself really resists this idea of binary or binary storytelling and is looking to sort of say, like many things can occur at one time and there's something really exciting and liberating about that, and it doesn't have to be a very clearly organized narrative or a very clearly organized stage picture. Perhaps sometimes the messiness is a part of what makes it exciting or engaging and also, as you mentioned, at the center of the story.

Speaker 7:

It is in some ways a sort of feminist tale, and I think feminism certainly was a precedent to queer theory and queer readings of literature and drama, and so that feels very important and resonant as well. And, as I said, I think the way we tackle the government's identity and really try to put her at the center of the story is important. When we first started making the piece, I said to everyone it's really important to me that we're not telling the story of this sort of frenetic, gothic woman who just can't get it together and is having a mental breakdown. It's not a useful narrative. We really need to explore how this person is sort of taking charge of her own story and demanding that her perspective is heard in this world where nobody is interested in hearing what she has to say. And I think for many queer people, myself included, that's an experience we know right when you have to say my perspective matters, my experience matters, I have something to say and you're going to listen, and that's kind of the power that we're looking to give to her.

Speaker 8:

I think at the core of any telling of the turn of the screw is this question of is it supernatural or is it something that is not? Is it something that's in the real world? So I wanted to ask you do you believe in the supernatural?

Speaker 7:

I don't not believe in the supernatural. My feeling is sort of that there is no way that I am intelligent enough to understand how everything in the world works. I consider myself a pretty curious person. I read a lot, etc. And I think it's just more interesting to be open to the possibilities. Certainly, in preparing for this show, I read a lot about the history of the supernatural and spiritualism and watched a lot of horror films and looked at the different ways people tackle that topic, and I just think it's. I would be foolish to say that I know for certain that something can or cannot exist.

Speaker 8:

Well, thank you for taking the time to talk about the turn of the screw and catastrophic theaters production of it. It will be running at the Match Theater in Midtown through December 9th and definitely a combination of theater, cinema, sound puppets. I am very excited about it and very grateful to have you come and talk to us about it.

Speaker 7:

Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks so much for talking to me about it.

Speaker 10:

I'm Tonya Caneparri.

Speaker 11:

And I'm Marcos Nahera.

Speaker 10:

With NewsRap, a summary of some of the news in or affecting LGBTQ communities around the world for the week ending November 11th 2023. Latvia's parliament has created civil unions for same gender couples. The November 9th vote grants them legal recognition, but with fewer rights than their heterosexual counterparts. Activists hoping for more were stymied by changes parliament made to Latvia's constitution in 2005 that defined civil marriage as exclusively heterosexual. The legislation entitles gay and lesbian couples who register their unions with the notary to hospital visitation rights and tax and social security benefits. However, they have no inheritance rights nor the right to adopt children.

Speaker 10:

The law comes into force sometime in mid-2024. Former Foreign Minister Edgars Rynkevich became Europe's first out gay head of state in July when he was sworn in as president. Recent public opinion polls reveal substantial antipathy for LGBTQ people in the socially conservative Baltic nation. Rynkevich nevertheless vowed to stand up for a legal and just Latvia, for the well-being of the people and for an inclusive and respectful society, hailing the civil union's legislation as an important step in creating a modern and humane Latvia. He said that it sends a signal that all families are important.

Speaker 11:

More than a million people celebrated LGBTQ pride in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires on November 4th. Well-known celebrities rode the always colorful floats, blasting dance music or performed during the festivities that began on October 28th. Our recent Russian Emigre and her Ukrainian wife told the Associated Press what it was like to experience their first pride.

Speaker 9:

I'm originally from Russia. My wife is Ukrainian. I'm refugee in Argentina here for one year already for being LGBT person and against war activist, and this is amazing feeling I experienced today. This is my first pride in general. I never saw so many rainbow flags. Wonderful people all around joined without fear.

Speaker 11:

Argentina is one of the more queer progressive countries in Latin America. It became the first on the continent to open civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples in 2010, and the first to let same-gender couples adopt. The theme of the March was not one more adjustment, not one less right. Demands included a federal anti-discrimination law and a comprehensive trans law. Now Queer activists are united in their concern over the upcoming presidential runoff on November 19th. Far right, vocally anti-queer, libertarian economist Javier Millay is running against current economy minister Sergio Massa, who is seen as a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights. The fear is that a Millay victory will usher in efforts to repeal existing rights laws and create new barriers to equality.

Speaker 10:

The director of Budapest's Hungarian National Museum was fired this week for failing to pre-censor the prestigious world press photo exhibit. Five photos of revered queer Filipino elders were included in the exhibit, some of whom were in drag. Laszlo Simon was blamed by the cultural and innovation minister of neo-fascist white Christian nationalist prime minister Victor Urbán's government for not banning young people from visiting the showing. Simon lost to a letter writing campaign led by the far-right group Our Homeland. They charged Simon with violating the 2021 legislation that bans the display and promotion of homosexuality or the discussion of gender issues in materials accessible to children. According to Ajans-France Pless, the museum director defended the decision to include the photos because they include no nudity, are not sexually explicit and have no questionable material. He wrote on his Facebook page as a father of four and a grandparent, I firmly reject the idea that our children should be protected from me or from the institution I run.

Speaker 11:

A US federal judge has upheld a 2021 law in Florida that bars transgender girls and women from competing in female sports. This according to a report by the new service of Florida. Us district judge Roy Altman granted a request by state officials to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the ban on November 6. Altman's 39-page decision rested on the notion that promoting women's equality in athletics is an important government interest. He compared the trans ban to laws prohibiting the blind from flying airplanes or the HIV infected from donating blood. The challenge was filed on behalf of a trans high school volleyball player identified as DN. Altman rejected the plaintiff's claims that the trans ban violates her due process rights. However, the door was apparently left open to another challenge of the law, one based only on alleged violations of the equal protection provisions of the US Constitution and on Title IX federal legislation that bans bias based on sex in education. There's been no word yet from them about an appeal.

Speaker 10:

It was another rainbow wave of local electoral victories in the November 7th off-year US elections. It accompanied a blue wave of progressive and Democratic party wins across the country. The LGBTQ plus victory fund backs openly queer political candidates. According to the group, at least 148 candidates they supported won their races. Here are just a few of them. Thabia Nelson became the first out gay lawmaker in the state of Mississippi. The Black real estate professional will represent Southwest Jackson's District 66 in the state House of Representatives. He campaigned on better funding for education, supporting small businesses and expanding government-funded health care.

Speaker 11:

Danica Roem graduated to the upper chamber of Virginia State Legislature with her election to the state Senate on November 7th. She made history in 2016 as the first transgender candidate elected to the lower chamber House of Delegates. The not-so-shrinking violet dedicated her win to all misfits in her victory speech at the Virginia Portuguese Community Center in Manassas.

Speaker 10:

Newly elected Virginia State Senator Roem was part of a sweeping win for Democrats and a woman's right to choose in the state. Governor Glenn Junkin urged Virginia voters to elect fellow Republicans so he could pass a 15-week ban on abortion. They instead kept the lower house blue and flipped the state Senate to blue as well. In generally conservative Ohio, voters came out overwhelmingly to embed a woman's right to choose in the state Constitution. Pro-choice Democratic Governor Andy Beshear was re-elected as governor in otherwise red Kentucky, defeating a Republican challenger who advocated for a total abortion ban.

Speaker 11:

New Jersey voters elected their first out lesbian state lawmaker on November 7th. Luann Peter Paul won an assembly seat representing the 11th district in the central part of the state. She has a long history of public service and law enforcement and as a human rights advocate. The far right had some high-profile losers. On November 7th, moms for Liberty advocates for protecting children from learning about LGBTQ people disguised as parental rights. Almost all the candidates they backed in local school board elections across the country lost, including several incumbents. Meg Bryce is the daughter of the late right-wing Supreme Court Justice, antonine Scalia. She lost her bid for a seat on a local school board in Virginia to Alison Spillman. Spillman won by a crushing vote of 62 to 38 percent. She has five children in local public schools, including one identified on her website as a proud member of the LGBTQ plus community. Bryce's four children all go to private schools.

Speaker 10:

Finally, Orlando, Florida's local lesbian lawmaker, Patty Sheehan, won more than 64 percent of the vote to win a record seventh term on November 7th. She first won election to the City Council in 2000. Sheehan defeated an openly gay man who had campaigned for Donald Trump in 2016. The proud victor thumbed her nose at the state's embattled drag show ban by inviting celebrated drag star Darcelle Stevens to provide the evening's entertainment.

Speaker 11:

That's News Wrap, global queer news with attitude for the week ending November 11th 2023. Follow the news in your area and around the world. An informed community is a strong community.

Speaker 10:

News Wrap is written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, produced by Brian DeChaser and brought to you by you, thank you.

Speaker 11:

Help keep us in ears around the world at thiswayoutorg, where you can also read the text of this newscast and much more. For this Way Out, I'm Marco Snajera.

Speaker 10:

Stay healthy and I'm Tanya Canepari, stay safe.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinca, andrew Edmanson and Deborah Moncrief Bell, our frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 5:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and run time. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining products.

Speaker 1:

For Queer Voices. I'm Glenn Holt.

LGBTQ+ Rights Under Attack in Texas
World AIDS Day Commemoration
Rothko Concert and Turn of Screw
"Catastrophic Theater
LGBTQ Civil Unions in Latvia and Global News
Queer Voices Podcast and Production Information