Arts & Culture

In Michael Engler’s feature film debut, two completely different women leave Kansas for New York City, creating a bond that fosters personal transformations. 

Out director Engler has helmed episodes of some of the best-loved TV series in recent years including “Downton Abbey,” “Empire,” “30 Rock,” “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under.” His first venture into film is “The Chaperone,” a 1920s coming-of-middle-age story with a queer twist. 

Longtime M*A*S*H fans will recognize the headline, but for those too young or too old and forgetful, it was the title of the final two-hour episode that wrapped up the series in 1983. This farewell won’t be nearly as dramatic, funny or heart-wrenching, but it is my personal farewell after 11 “seasons” at PGN.

I pondered what the final Scene in Philly should look like. For instance, which bars to shoot in, who should be included, should it be the usual suspects from executive-director positions or just random people like in past Scenes? How could I be fair to an entire community and yet celebrate this special last Scene?

Before this job, I wasn’t truly involved in the LGBTQ community. I’d volunteered at a couple of nonprofits, attended a few block parties, went to a few films at festivals, some readings at Giovanni’s Room and an occasional bar party.

What an education I have gotten since then.

The Pulitzer Prize awards were announced on April 15 by the Columbia School of Journalism. Winning for biography was The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart. Stewart is chair of the Black Studies Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara and author of several major works.

The Pulitzer committee cited Stewart for creating "a panoramic view of the personal trials and artistic triumphs of the father of the Harlem Renaissance and the movement he inspired."

Stewart’s biography previously won the National Book Award for NonFiction. His massive work — 1,000 pages — published by Oxford University Press, details the life of black, gay intellectual, Alain Leroy Locke.

Members of the Pennsylvania Ballet and additional local dance companies raised $157,000 (and counting) for the nonprofit organization that delivers meals to those with life-threatening illnesses.

The PA Ballet’s iconic annual event ­­— in its 27th year — took the stage of the Forrest Theatre on April 13.

The performers again put on an eclectic and anticipated show, all for the benefit of MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance), whose nearly 7,000 volunteers provide often-lifesaving nourishment to more than 1,200 clients faced with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other debilitating illnesses.

Philadelphia Black Pride is having a birthday!

The organization, created to celebrate the rich history and resilience of black and brown LGBQT folks is celebrating its 20th Anniversary with a long lineup of special programs and parties to commemorate the event and the 2019 Penn Relays.

Many of the events are programed categorically. Under the heading of “Cooperative Economics,” PBP will launch a special pop-up boutique featuring men’s spring wear, and accessories from Armour. The season’s hottest fashions will be shown with live models all afternoon.

Based on his sharp memoir-manifesto “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” out comedian Ryan O’Connell has fashioned a new Netflix series based on his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy.

In “Special,” O’Connell stars as Ryan Keyes, a shy and withdrawn man who has a codependent relationship with his mother. Deft and poignant, the series depicts cerebral palsy truthfully and without exploitation.

O’Connell, along with That’s Wonderful Productions, has created a show worth crowing about. With eight 15-minute episodes, “Special” is relatable to nearly any viewer as, above all, it tackles the characters’ challenges as they seek emotional and physical independence.

To believe again & again: Pop, styles and cinematic icon Cher brings her “Here We Go Again” tour to Philly for an evening of hits from throughout her legendary career.

Livin' the dream: International comedian, actress and author Jen Kirkman comes to Philly armed with new jokes that people have seen on her Netflix special, “Just Keep Livin.”

Thanks to composer and voice coach Emily Bate, the Philadelphia choral-music scene just became far more diverse and accepting.

Trust Your Moves, an LGBTQ ensemble out of West Philadelphia, invites all genders and musical abilities. Rather than using traditional vocal terms like soprano, alto, tenor and bass, Bate uses gender-neutral language, referring to parts as high or low. Singers also can switch parts or sing lines in different octaves according to their comfort level.

Gender-nonbinary, transgender and transitioning individuals need not apply to TYM — because auditions aren’t required to join.

 When classmates ostracize 17-year-old Roy Black for kissing the high-school quarterback, he changes his identity to Rose, doling out life lessons.

“The characters are high-school kids. They are all lost and confused,” explained Gianna Lozzi Wolf, artistic director and an actor in “Mirror Mirror,” a new stage production in South Philadelphia that juxtaposes fantasy and fairytale with reality.

“They know there is more to who they are and these surface values that are instilled in them by their families,” she added. “It’s interesting to watch the ways they all struggle.”

“Wild Nights with Emily,” opening April 19 at the Landmark Ritz at the Bourse, is a comic look at the relationship between reclusive poet Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) and her lover and sister-in-law, Susan (Susan Ziegler), in 1860 Amherst.

The film opens with the two women kissing courteously before embracing far more passionately. Lesbian writer/director Madeleine Olnek — adapting her play — has an agenda to debunk the myth that Dickinson was (as an end title card indicates) “a half-cracked, unloved recluse who was afraid to publish her work.”

In working from this revisionist approach to Dickinson, Olnek’s PG-13 film is deliberately more mild than wild. But it does show Emily’s love affairs as well as her frustrations about not being able to achieve great(er) success as a poet in her lifetime.

 Koresh Dance Company is looking to the world of fine arts for inspiration.

Thus, the world premiere of its production, “La Danse,” is an interpretation of Matisse’s masterpiece of the same name. It will be performed to an original musical composition by John Levis with poetry by Karl Mullen.

Roni Koresh, the company’s artistic director, said the iconic image of five nude dancers was always around — but when he began focusing on it, he found it inspiring.

Another restaurant has entered the highly competitive culinary fray in the South Street-adjacent part of Queen Village. Luckily for Village Bar + Kitchen, 705 S. Fifth St., flavor is in its favor. In addition, the bright corner space is inviting and relaxing while the menu focuses on comfort dishes with a New American twist.

MOVING MOVEMENTS: Acclaimed dance troupe PHILADANCO returns to the stage with “Philly Style,” an evening of performance pieces by the company’s best choreographers, April 12-14 at Kimmel’s Perelman Theater, 300 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999.

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