Hot damn we live in a talented area! Forgive me, but I am living on an entertainment high with what Central Florida and Tampa Bay have to offer. I feel like the GIF of the little girl at a baseball game that eats cotton candy and gets a sugar rush.
Take a look below. This is me right now:
First, I want to congratulate Kenny Howard, Rebecca Fisher and Logan Lopez for their Orlando production of the Tony nominated “The Sound Inside.” Mary-Louise Parker took home the Tony for her portrayal of the lead, a difficult and verbose role. Rebecca Fisher was stellar in this role and deserves all the recognition and accolades she gets. Newcomer, at least to me, Logan Lopez shared the stage with impeccable realness. He is so natural on stage that I never once thought he was an actor. He just simply was the character. The production is running at the Fringe Art Space and I highly recommend you quickly get your tickets to see it.
Two days after having had the pleasure of seeing “The Sound Inside,” I was able to catch the Pride Night performance of American Stage in the Park, showcasing Terrance McNally’s “Ragtime.” This musical tackles the intersectionality between wealthy white Americans, the African American community and immigrant community in the early 1900s. For me, “Ragtime” is iconic, special and difficult to master. Add to that the atmosphere of being outside in downtown St. Pete and well, there is great potential for a lot of distraction.
Well done, American Stage. Dante Murray and Leah Stewart deliver standout performances as Coalhouse Walker and Sarah. Additionally delightful is Sarah Middough as Mother. This musical is a huge undertaking with music, costumes and staging. American Stage hit a home run in every category. Very impressive.
In between these two theatrical works of art, I had the privilege of seeing the second screening of “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando” at the Florida Film Festival. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it is a masterpiece because I am biased. I will tell you it took home the Audience Award for Best Florida Feature, and I couldn’t be prouder:
I created the idea of this is documentary highlighting Central Florida’s LGBTQ history back in 2017. We were still reeling from the Pulse tragedy, yet I was inspired by this community’s ability to mobilize and help each other. Then in February of 2017, “When We Rise” aired on NBC. It chronicled the journey of the queer community in larger cities like New York, L.A. and San Francisco. This made me think about the brave pioneers who fought for our rights in this community. Who stepped up to help LGBTQ+ youth, who helped others through the AIDS crisis and brought pride to our streets?
Working at Watermark for the past 21 years, I knew who these people were, but I feared too many others did not. I wanted to tell their stories in a way that brought them into people’s living rooms, on their TV screens. I wanted it to be accessible and permanent. I had a few discussions about the idea and everyone I talked to liked it, but no one was stepping forward with ways to make it happen.
I had almost given up hope on the idea, then I met Sandi Hulon. Sandi had been working on a film project that Watermark wrote a story about. I decided to take her to lunch and pitch my idea. She heard me, she cried and she said, “We have to make this happen.” Sandi gave me the courage to take the next steps.
We hit a few speed bumps along the way with funding, world domination of COVID and general workload with my day job. That’s when we decided to team up with Adrenaline Films and the film took off. Ultimately, I worked very closely with Adrenaline director Jess Keller and producer Tiona Langley. These two lent their talent, passion and kindness to “Queertown” and I cannot overstate how grateful I am to them and how in awe I am of them.
I consider this documentary to be my baby, the culmination of my experience with and love for this community. It’s the greatest thing I have ever done and I am so proud of it. However, it is not my story. It is the story of this community.
I want to thank Darcel Stevens, Michael Wanzie, Sam Ewin, Hattie Wolfe, Nikole Parker, Patty Sheehan, Shea Cutliff, Joel Strack, Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, Mayor Buddy Dyer, Phyliss Murphy and everyone else who lent their time and personal stories to this production. I especially want to thank Tom Dyer and Jeff Horn who have mentored me my entire gay life. This was for you, for all of you. Thank you for the gifts you give this community every day.
We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.