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David Mixner on Activism, History, and His One-Man Sold-Out NYC Show 'Oh Hell No': INTERVIEW

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BY ANDY TOWLE

One week from today on October 27, longtime LGBT and civil rights activist David Mixner will take the stage at New World Stages for the world premiere of Oh Hell No!, a theatrical, autobiographical (and occasionally musical) one-man-show in which he will plumb the depths of his history to deliver a storytelling session that promises a few shocks, his signature wisdom, and a hefty dose of humor.

The more than $175,000 in proceeds from Mixner's show, which sold out in less than a day, will benefit The Point Foundation, an organization he has long supported. The Point Foundation empowers promising LGBTQ students with scholarships and enables them to achieve their full academic and leadership potential.

Mixner's activist role in numerous moments in our nation's social struggles — from anti-Vietnam efforts to battling California's Proposition 6 (which would have made it illegal for gays to become schoolteachers), to battling the AIDS epidemic, to the very public split with his friend Bill Clinton over the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, (the list goes on) — has given him one of the most fascinating and unique perspectives on the LGBT and civil rights movement you're likely to find.

I had a chance to sit down with Mixner, who is also a contributor to Towleroad, to talk about his generous gift and what he has in store for audiences.

OhhellnoOn September 27, you wrote on Facebook, "One month away and I am scared to death already! What have I done????" What did possess you to do such a thing and what about it scares you the most?

In February, I almost died in intensive care and I realized that so much of the history that I have witnessed over the last five decades hasn't been shared. Each day as another pioneer of this movement passes without an oral history we are losing a part of ourselves. What scares me the most is that someone will believe that my story is the definitive history of the LGBT movement. It is only about my journey and my recollections. I don't want to diminish anyone else's story or their differing memories.

How do you prepare for such an undertaking?

Practice, practice, and more practice. I have an incredible team working with me. Director Stephen Brackett (Buyer & Cellar) and Musical Director Mat Eisenstein are simply astoundingly talented. Producer Tim Ranney came up with the idea and the team at Point Foundation has been amazingly talented. I'm so proud that we have raised enough funds through this show already to send seven LGBT students to college for a full year!

Why did you choose The Point Foundation as the beneficiary of the proceeds from your show?

I love the concept of being responsible for the next generation of LGBT Americans. The Point Foundation is supporting some of the best and brightest of American LGBT youth.

What part of performing the show do you find the most challenging?

Without question, talking about my personal journey with HIV/AIDS and the loss of friends. It devastates me every time when I have to share publicly about it. Of course, there is the old fashion fear of falling flat on your ass in front of a powerful audience filled with friends.

Did you grow up doing theatre? Do you have any history as a 'showman'?

Actually, no. I did grow up on the old Southern/rural tradition of storytelling. My Grandpa Grove (aka Buzzard Bait) taught me the art and I was riveted by his stories. Storytelling was a powerful art form before the advent of modern media. Only once have I done a similar production, called "From The Front Porch", and "Oh Hell No!" is part two. Of course, I have a little bit of the 'preacher man' in me and I have spoken publicly for all my life.

Your previous show "From The Front Porch" - do you consider that a sort of preparation for this production or are they two separate things entirely?

After the first one, which was well received, I didn't think I would ever do it again. That one was off-off-Broadway at Dixon Place. After being critically ill and in February, I felt an urgency to get more of our history out to the masses. This one will be at New World Stages and is more elaborate in its staging. The two fit together almost perfectly as Part I and Part II.

What can people who were lucky enough to get tickets expect from this one?

Besides an entertaining and moving evening of storytelling, they have a right to believe that I will be honest, forthcoming and not sugarcoat difficult periods in our history. Actually, we could do ten of these shows and only scratch the surface of the stories that need to be passed on to future generations.

DmixnerWhat parts of your show do you think will surprise folks the most?

Oh, there is no question there will be surprises. I plan on a very frank discussion of the dialogue I had with President Clinton and members of his team around the issue of LGBT Americans serving in the military. I have never spoken of these meetings before this production.

I will also speak for the first time about some highly illegal activities that I engaged in during the HIV/AIDS crisis. However, the art of storytelling is not about 'shock value'. It is about passing on knowledge in a funny and moving way.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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What Goes On Inside A Depressed Person? - VIDEO

 

Asap

ASAP Science has a new explainer on depression.

Noting that the true causes of depression have yet to be pinned down precisely, the video explains the biological basis for depression and how the growth and connections of brain cells play a large roll.

It also considers the hereditary nature of depression and bipolar disorder - studies have shown that if one identical twin has bipolar disorder the other twin has a 60 to 80 percent chance of developing it too.

The video concludes with an introduction to depression in other species.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

You can also read David Mixner's recent piece on his struggles with depression here.

Continue reading "What Goes On Inside A Depressed Person? - VIDEO" »


Depression Is A Bitch; Trust Me I Know

BY DAVID MIXNER

America's attention has once again turned to the horrors of depression, anxiety, and dark demons after the death of Robin Williams. Williams, like millions of others, struggled with it on a daily basis.

MixnerThe stigma against those with mental illness, depression or even anxiety runs deep.

Trust me I know.

Over the years I just have been reluctant to share my own journey with mental stress. Williams' death compels me to share with you some of my personal struggles.

All my life, many members of my family have struggled with depression. I have to believe there is a genetic component to it. I have not been immune to that struggle.

Living in the closet, I often contemplated suicide. There just didn't seem to be any future for me. When I did eventually come out of the closet at 30, I had a full-fledged nervous breakdown that took the form of a psychosomatic illness. I was totally incapacitated for months and often would sit for days looking at four walls or weeping.

Thank God for the loving family and friends who guided me through horrible darkness.

I sought out therapy from an early age and it has been a savior off and on through my journey. Early on my therapist would recommend medical treatment but I believed if I was on medications it would affect my ability to think and that it would make me truly mentally ill. Hell, even going to a therapist in my youth was considered radical.

As middle age hit, I was plagued with paralyzing anxiety attacks. At night I would fall fast asleep in total peace, then in the middle of the night wake up with so much anxiety I would walk or drive for hours until totally exhausted and with no choice but to collapse and finally end the pain. I thought about climbing to the roof and jumping off to end the anxiety.

The entire process was simply a nightmare.

The anxiety attacks finally moved into the daytime. With that I relented and started taking the prescription drug Zoloft.

The drug has changed my life. Not only has it not affected my mental process but the anxiety attacks have stopped, the depression has mostly disappeared and I feel like I have been given back my life. Now I understand that modern medicine can make the lives better of those of us who have suffered to various degrees with mental stress, and it is time to removed the stigma and allow science to perform its miracles!

Hopefully by opening up in this column, others will be inspired to seek appropriate care and also rid themselves of damaging and deadly stereotypes about mental illness. Our minds are just another part of our body that needs treatment. We fix broken bones and we should celebrate our advances to fix broken minds.


Oh Hell No!: David Mixner to Perform Benefit Stage Show in NYC

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LGBT and civil rights activist, author, storyteller, and Towleroad contributor David Mixner will debut a new one-night only one-man show on October 27 at 7 pm at New World Stages in New York City to benefit The Point Foundation, an organization which assists LGBTQ students in achieving their academic and leadership potential.

Mixner's new show, Oh Hell No!, will take as its starting point "personal and public details of his headline-grabbing and history-shaping life" and be accompanied musically by Chris Bolan, Megan Osterhaus, and Tim Jerome.

Event chairs for the evening include Alan Cumming, Robert Desiderio, Herb Hamsher, Judith Light, Ken Mehlman, Rob Smith, Jonathan Stoller, Jorge Valencia, and Edie Windsor. For information on tickets, including Premium Seating with special access to the post-performance VIP reception at Glass House Tavern, please contact Drew Rhodes at (212) 512-5785 or drew@pointfoundation.org.

Photo by Nigel Barker.


Iraq: It Was Only a Matter Of Time

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BY DAVID MIXNER

Americans are reacting in shock this week to the rapid advance of the march toward Baghdad of the extremely radical Islamic ISIS militia. The group makes the old Taliban of Afghanistan look moderate. As the fringe group takes city after city, they are killing, raping and burning the homes of average Iraqi citizens.

Really there should be no shock about the emergence of ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.

The current situation has been an inevitability since Bush/Cheney took us to war in Iraq. The American invasion and occupation ensure that the more militants elements would pour into the country to fight once again the infidels from the West. America's insistence that a 'democratic form' of government was essential in the nation guaranteed that the Shiites would totally exclude the Sunnis from government, setting the stage for the current situation.

When will the United States (and for that matter most of the Western world) realize that the situation in the 'Islamic Arc' from Syria to Pakistan cannot be controlled by Western ideas, troops, or money? Every time in history we have attempted to impose our values, geographic boundaries and forms of government in this region it has only made the situation worse.

If anyone believes that we will leave a stable and democratic government behind in Afghanistan, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. As we used to say back home, 'that simply ain't gonna happen'.

After our trillion dollar spend, ten years of warfare, more than 8,000 Americans killed and tens of thousands of American soldiers left with severe physical and mental injuries, we are faced with this crisis.

Can someone please explain to the American people exactly what we accomplished?

There will be those who blame our President who is keeping his word (yes, keeping his word!) to the American people by bringing our troops home from these loser wars. If the sun comes up in the east they blame him. There are also interventionists who actually believe if we continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan some splendid new day of democracy will eventually emerge from those nations.

What have they been smoking and what history books have they been reading?

Post_war_iraqThe existing boundaries of the current Islamic-dominated states in the Middle East were set by oil companies after World War I. They were divided up based on resources and now historical tribal or faith based areas. Fake monarchies were put in place and we proceeded to take their natural resources to fuel our economies. When the monarchies collapsed we supported military dictatorships including that of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Syria's Basher al-Assad. In fact, we were the main backers of the Taliban in Afghanistan when they were opposing the Russian occupation.

Now the cries will arise to "Save Iraq' and the voices of war will once again emerge from the hawks. Demands will be made to bomb ISIS strong holds as if we can put off the inevitable. Some will demand that we send troops once again into the war torn nation.

Americans have been taken to war in the past based on lies and distortions. We cannot save democracy in Iraq. This is for the Iraqi people to solve for better or worse. The time of dictating their future is over.

We better have those helicopters ready to evacuate Americans from Baghdad because I believe they might be needed sooner rather than later.


Rally for Homeless LGBT Youth Tonight in NYC: VIDEO

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There is a rally this evening for LGBT Homeless Youth in Washington Square Park in NYC. Details HERE:

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the Ali Forney Center have joined together to launch the National Campaign for Youth Shelter, a collaboration that will build a grassroots campaign to demand a national response to youth homelessness.

On Monday, June 2nd the National Campaign for Youth Shelter will hold a rally in New York City to launch the campaign as a priority within the LGBT movement. LGBT youth are disproportionately over-represented in the homeless youth population, with as many as 40% of the nation's homeless youth being LGBT, while only 5% of the overall youth population is LGBT.

Currently, there are only approximately 4,000 youth shelter beds in the United States, yet as many as 500,000 unaccompanied youths experience homelessness each year.

Watch longtime activist and Towleroad contributor David Mixner talk about the need to help our homeless LGBT youth, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rally for Homeless LGBT Youth Tonight in NYC: VIDEO" »


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