Puppet theater honors community leaders in V-Day gala
by Jen Colletta
Feb 11, 2010 | 2380 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LESLIE ROGERS AS ALICE IN WONDERLAND AT LAST YEAR’S Q-LICIOUS Photo: Pablo Virgo
LESLIE ROGERS AS ALICE IN WONDERLAND AT LAST YEAR’S Q-LICIOUS Photo: Pablo Virgo
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A local performance company is staging a Valentine’s Day Eve event to show love to individuals and groups who have furthered social change in the Philadelphia area.

Spiral Q Puppet Theater — the “Q” standing for queer — will host its annual Q-licious gala from 8-11 p.m. Feb. 13 at The German Society of Pennsylvania, 611 Spring Garden St., bringing together LGBTs and allies for a night of dinner, dancing and, of course, puppetry.

The theater, founded in the early ’90s by out artist Matty Hart, launched the gala five years ago and the Q Awards last year.

Since its inception, Spiral Q has worked with countless community organizations to foster dialogue on social issues through the use of puppet artistry, said Tracy Browles, executive director of Spiral Q.

“We work with a lot of different communities to support the telling of their stories through projects like festivals, parades and performances,” Browles said. “And we really try to work collaboratively with people in those communities themselves, like youth, families, political leaders and business leaders, to bring people together and use our creative process so that they can share their stories with one another and be involved in focusing their priorities, which we channel into large public-arts projects.”

Last summer, Spiral Q worked with Men of All Colors Together to create the group’s prop used in the Pride parade — which garnered MACT a top prize. The organization has been involved in OutFest, Dyke March, The Attic Youth Center and numerous other LGBT initiatives, and Browles said the theater’s LGBT work is key to its message.

“We don’t work just with LGBTQ people, but one of our central tenets is inclusion and the importance of embracing everyone,” Browles said. “Through the years, a lot of other organizations that aren’t specifically in the LGBTQ community have really taken note of what we’ve been doing and said, ‘Wow, this is really important anti-oppression work’ and, while the people we work with have broadened, our central mission continues to focus on mobilizing and empowering marginalized communities.”

Browles noted that the local chapter of HIV/AIDS advocacy group ACT UP — which is set to receive the theater’s Fighting Discrimination Award at the gala — has exemplified Spiral Q’s mission in its 25-plus years of activism.

“The Q Awards recognize folks for protecting or advancing free speech in community organizing and standing up to discrimination, and that’s something that ACT UP has done now for decades,” she said. “They’re possibly the most influential group in our history in terms of impacting the way we approach community organizing. And change takes time, and ACT UP has always shown perseverance. A lot of people feel like we got through the ’80s and ’90s, so the AIDS crisis is gone, and that’s not true at all, and that’s an idea that ACT UP continues to fight for. Organizing like that is really hard work and to sustain that kind of effort over such a long period is really incredible.”

Browles said the award will not only pay tribute to the “creativity, sweat and tears” contributed throughout ACT UP’s colored past but will also seek to rally future ACT UP leaders.

“I hope this recognition makes more people aware of the important work they’re doing and, even though it’s just small thing, if it can fuel their energy, then all the better. And if it can help engage even more people in their work, then all the better.”

In addition to recognizing the work of ACT UP, Spiral Q will present its Free Speech Award to defense attorney Larry Krasner, the Artist Activist Award to photographer JJ Tiziou and the Sustainability Award to Neighborhood Bike Works.

For their efforts to create the successful Norris Square Parade and Celebration, Spiral Q will also present its Collaboration Award to West Kensington Ministry, Norris Square Civic Association, Men in Motion in the Community, Richard and Friends in the Community, al-Aqsa Islamic Society and the offices of state Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2nd Dist.) and city Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (D-7th Dist.).

The Giovanna Robinson Latin Band will provide live entertainment at Q-licious, and the gala will feature the inaugural Philly LOVE Auction, with gift certificates and other prizes donated from nearly 75 local restaurants and stores.

Browles noted that the gala was created for people of all backgrounds and, despite the date, is not limited to couples, but rather will provide an ideal setting for those who want to challenge the convention of the Valentine’s Day holiday.

“We want to celebrate love but also remove so many of the pressures that surround this holiday, whether you’re partnered or single, so that we can challenge the commercialization and can even completely redefine what it means. We wanted to create an experience that really invites everyone to come together across the entire range of identifications — age, class, race, sexual orientation, gender identification or non-gender identification. While the gala is meant to be a fun night, it’s also really important to have a space where people feel safe and included because our most transformative work happens when we can all come together across those identities with a shared compassion to listen to one another.”

Advance tickets are $55 for one or $100 for two tickets until noon Feb. 12. Tickets will be sold for $65 per person at the door.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.spiralq.org

or call (215) 222-6979.

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com.

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