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Must See Movie: An Interview With the Director of 'Test'

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An amazing dance sequence from "Test" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


ChrisMasonJohnsonTEST may sound like a generic title but the fine new gay indie by that name is anything but. Chris Mason Johnson’s Test follows Frankie (Scott Marlowe) a young gay dancer in San Francisco in 1985. He's the troupe's new understudy. He’s learning a dance he might never get to perform. The threat of AIDS looms large — a female dancer worries about the sweat from her gay partner and reminders are everywhere (papers, graffiti, whispered dialogue). It’s not just the dance; Frankie’s beginning a life he might never get to live. 

He and his dancer friends are varying degrees of worried about AIDS and the topic of a new test for it keeps peppering the conversations. Will Frankie take it?

As it turns out you can make a 1985-set AIDS movie that doesn’t follow the typical beats. The dance environment gives Test a surprising visual appeal but, as the director (pictured left) reminds when we settle into our interview, it’s also not fully an AIDS movie in the way we think of them.

“Every other AIDS movie has been about death and dying, understandably. I think it’s safe to say that [Test] is about the fear of getting sick, it’s not about being sick. It’s just as much about dance as anything else.”

Queer cinema has seen better days so it’s a thrill to see an indie this fresh again that speaks so personally to the LGBT audience. Test is in the top 25 iTunes indie charts and the early success is well deserved.

Sex scenes, masculinity debates, and dancing AFTER THE JUMP

Test-sex

 

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Harvey Fierstein On Straight Men In Stockings And His New Broadway Play 'Casa Valentina': INTERVIEW

Harvey Fierstein photo by Bruce Glikas

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Harvey Fierstein knows that a play about straight transvestites is bound to raise eyebrows, and he’s hoping it does more than that. Casa Valentina, which opened on Broadway last night at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Friedman Theatre, has already riled up some severe backlash. “I wrote a play that you’re either going to walk away from with all of your prejudices pushed aside or brought forward,” says Fierstein.

CV1After one preview, the Tony-winner explains, a woman waited at the stage door to tell every actor the play was “absolute garbage,” because no woman would ever marry a man who wears dresses.

But the play is in fact based on true stories, from men who frequented the Chevalier d’Eon Resort in the Catskills during the 50s and 60s. Think of it as summer camp for guys who prefer makeup kits to toolboxes and makeovers to car repairs. Most of the guests were family men, who escaped there to “express the girl within,” donning women’s clothes, sharing meals and performing sing-alongs.

Casa Valentina begins as what might have been a typical summer at the resort, but for the arrival of Charlotte (played by Reed Birney), a character based on Virginia Prince. An activist for transgendered men and the publisher of Transvestia magazine, Prince was also virulently anti-homosexual.

CS3In the play, Charlotte attempts to recruit the guests of Casa Valentina to her nationally recognized sorority of transvestite men—on the condition they agree to ban gays from their ranks. If a straight man in a dress is the first hard pill to swallow, a perfectly coiffed and intensely homophobic one is even more outrageous.

I spoke to Harvey about gay people’s responses to the play, if homophobia can ever be justified, and whether you should feel bad about saying ‘tranny.’

Naveen Kumar: What was your initial approach to writing this play?

Harvey Fierstein: I knew about the resort from my childhood, because my father grew up in the Catskills. Years later I saw the book of photographs, Casa Susanna [published in 2005 by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, who discovered a wealth of snaps from the resort at a New York flea market]. [A group of producers] came to me and begged me to write a play. I thought, you know it’s cute—a bunch of straight guys go up and put on dresses, but really? A play?

CS1But there’s something about the photographs. There’s a certain calmness, a happiness and a freedom [to them]. It’s not like looking at pictures of drag queens. There’s a nervous energy to drag queens—they’re projecting forward, they’re pushing out at you, they’re trying to show you something. They’re not being. These people in these photographs, there’s a sort of relaxed happiness, which I didn’t understand.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Towleroad Interview: Comedian James Adomian Talks Hacktivists and Gay Villains

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What do Kaa from The Jungle Book, Batman's the Riddler and the Sheriff of Nottingham have in common? According to comedy virtuoso James Adomian, they're all examples of the "gay villain" archetype, a ridiculous amalgamation of effeminate stereotypes for heroes to dominate.

Adomian's hypothesis is hilariously delivered on his stellar 2012 debut album, Low Hangin Fruit, which captures his blend of stand-up and impersonations. His material is rife with pop culture and political references, and his impersonations -- which include Gary Busey, Fred Phelps and Jesse Ventura -- are not only remarkably accurate, but they're well-developed characters shaped by Adomian's unique point of view. Though probably best known for his impersonations, he often talks about his own experience as a "homo-American," (such as his crush on Peter Dinklage, the time he was gay bashed or his time spent in small town gay bars).

Folks may recognize Adomian from the seventh season of Last Comic Standing or from his stint on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson delivering one of the greatest impersonations of President George W. Bush ever on television (if not the greatest). Comedy enthusiasts might have caught his appearances on Cartoon Network's Childrens Hospital and Comedy Bang Bang on IFC. He's also a fixture on several popular comedy podcasts, like Sklarbro Country, Comedy Bang Bang and The Todd Glass Show.

We caught up with Adomian at SXSW in Austin and chatted about being an out comedian, gay villains and the new TV series he's developing, The Embassy, inspired by the recent WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden stories. 

See what he had to say, and watch some videos of his work, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Actor Theo James Hopes We Have a Gay Action Hero Soon

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Theo James, co-star of the new film Divergent, spoke in an interview with The Advocate about the rising role of female action stars, such as Tris of Divergent and Katniss from The Hunger Games, as well as the bisexual allegory of Divergent. When asked whether or not he thinks we'll see an LGBT action star in the near future, he took a moment to think the question over before responding: 

It’s very hard to tell because today there are great shows like Looking, poignant pieces of work that revolve around a central cast of characters that happen to be gay. But I remember when Queer as Folk came out and thinking, Things are changing. Maybe there will be more [shows like this]. And then suddenly there was a drought. Hopefully the day [we have a gay action hero] isn’t far away.


Towleroad Interview: Lessons On Life, Love and Reality TV From RuPaul

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BY BOBBY HANKINSON

Fans of RuPaul's Drag Race have a lot to celebrate today. Not only does the beloved reality competition return with its sixth season tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on Logo, but the show's host also drops his new albumBorn Naked (a reference to RuPaul's quote, "You're born naked, and the rest is drag"). To call the show a phenomenon would be an understatement. It's already been renewed for a seventh season, and its Facebook page recently reached more than one million likes.

BornnakedIn addition to becoming the cornerstone of the Logo network (including spin-offs Drag U and Untucked), it's launched its competing queens (and the art of drag) to new levels of prominence. RuPaul thinks the show's success can be at least partially attributed to the changing times.

"I think it's part of the reason the show Downton Abbey is so successful," he said. "In certain ways, we're mirroring the transition in that show from the 19th century to 20th century, but here we are still finding our way from the 20th century to the 21st century."

But it also could be partially attributed to him. As host, RuPaul can drop hilarious bon mots, encyclopedic pop culture references and drag-mama koans with equal aplomb. In or out of drag, he's fiercer than Tyra, more charming than Tim Gunn and could give Oprah a run for her money as a guide to living better. For some, the show is more than the usual throwaway reality garbage. It's a ru-ligious experience.

We had the chance to hear more of the gospel according to Ru last week when we chatted about the upcoming season. Find out how he thinks the show has changed (and how he's changed) since Drag Race debuted, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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GOProud Founder Jimmy LaSalvia On Signorile's Show: The GOP Has No Backbone — AUDIO

Jimmy LaSalvia

Now that he's abandoned the Republican party, GOProud founder Jimmy LaSalvia is airing all of his grievances with the party that banned his group from CPAC in an interview with Michelangelo Signorile. He doesn't say anything that people on the left haven't been saying for YEARS - the GOP has been hijacked by a loud, powerful minority; they're unwilling to lose a small number of fringe voters to gain "multitudes"; the party has no backbone - but it's cathartic to hear someone who was once one of the party's major cheerleaders finally get a clue. 

LaSalvia actually had some rather scathing remarks about the GOP, such as comparing them to drug addicts who know they have a problem but can't kick it, or saying that they have a cultural disease that can't be fixed. He even recalled a rather telling moment during a conversation with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus when Priebus said, in regards to whatever they were talking about, "I can't do that, I'll get a call from Tony Perkins."

You can listen to LaSalvia lambaste his former party AFTER THE JUMP...

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