For 21 years now, the annual LGBTQ summit initially known as PrideFest Philadelphia, now known as Equality Forum, has brought together activists from around the world for panel discussions, parties and art exhibitions. This year, the gay movers and shakers attending the forum do so in the wake of historic Supreme Court oral arguments concerning gay marriage, which will certainly add some heat and light to several of the events. Expect thought-provoking insights — and a high-energy grand finale of a party, as the traditional forum-ending SundayOUT! at the Piazza coincides with Cinco de Mayo.
The forum runs May 2-5. For tickets and the complete schedule, call 215-732-3378 or visit equalityforum.com.
Photographs by Vuth Lyno
Vuth Lyno, the 31-year-old Cambodian photographer, winner of an upcoming Fulbright Scholarship and one of the founders of art collective Stiev Selapak (Art Rebels), has titled his exhibition “Thaomada” — Khmer for “the usual.” These photographs, a combination of two series, “Thaomada” and “Thaomada II,” constitute a major artistic achievement and are Vuth’s American debut. The openly gay Vuth found inspiration for 2011’s “Thaomada” when he noticed a new acknowledgement of the LGBTQ community in Cambodia, particularly of gay and bisexual men. “This [LGBTQ existence] is nothing new to Cambodia, but perhaps the visibility, the openness, is starting to be more positive,” he says he recalls thinking at the time. The result was a portraiture series of several closeted gay and bisexual men, all with their faces painted, a decision the subjects made to obscure their identities and which they executed with their own hands. This is no glib metaphor for the mask — the necessities of protection and of a division between public performance and private persona are very real. The follow-up is a series of diptychs that place the families of LGBTQ persons in portraits next to posed shots of important moments in family history. All of the subjects of “Thaomada II” are out, a fact that Vuth resists seeing as a stand-in for any rapid development in Cambodian social mores. But the aspiration is clear: that a once-hidden community, and its hidden love, can emerge into the everyday.
Through May 5, reception Thu., May 2, 5-7 p.m., free, William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., 215-732-2220, waygay.org.
National Religious Colloquy
On the subject of gay marriage — or the more general, euphemized term “marriage equality” — one of the most misunderstood levels of debate is the religious one. The conversation taking place there is more nuanced than it’s probably given credit for — and more progressive, too. “The cartoon that most people in their minds have of Christians is that they are conservative evangelicals, but there is a wide range of Christian belief about theological and social issues,” says the Rev. Canon Gary Hall. One of four participants in the colloquy and former rector of the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Hall is the newest dean of the Washington National Cathedral, an office that places him in one of the most prominent positions not only of the Episcopal Church in America, but of the Anglican Communion worldwide. He will be joined on the panel by the Rev. John Selders, ordained in the United Church of Christ, and Rabbi Nancy Weiner of Hebrew Union College. Moderating will be Rabbi Denise Eger, who presided over the first same-sex marriage in Los Angeles after it was legalized in California in 2008 and who is gay herself. She thinks part of the problem is that society at large has blurred the line between church and state on the issue of marriage. She defends the right of her counterparts in the Catholic Church, for example, to sanctify only those unions they deem fit even if same-sex marriage becomes widely legalized, while insisting that theology should have no power over the civil institution of marriage. “I am heartened by the increasing numbers of Americans that understand that marriage equality is about civil rights,” she says. “I think that is the important message. We have a Constitution. We don’t have a Bible.”
Thu., May 2, 7 p.m., free, Connelly Auditorium, University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St.
Shakespeare’s R & J
Joe Calarco’s Shakespeare’s R&J, produced by Peter Reynolds’ Mauckingbird Theatre Company to great acclaim in 2008, presents the forever-foisted-on-high-school-students tragedy as imagined by four boarding-school students. Through exuberant playacting — “The way teens today might impersonate Batman characters” is how I put it five years ago in City Paper — they discover both a thrilling story, and aspects of themselves they were unable (or unwilling) to see. As the four young men explore all the play’s roles, they examine their own attitudes about sexuality, gender and love. It’s such a youthful piece, Reynolds explains, “that we cast two Temple seniors and two UArts seniors.” (Meanwhile, 2008 actors Evan Jonigkeit and Conrad Ricamora are in Off-Broadway shows, evidence of Reynolds’ talent-spotting ability.) James Kern plays Romeo, with David Hutchison as Juliet. Josh Kachnycz is Mercutio and the Friar, and Erin Fleming plays Tybalt and the Nurse. “I’m particularly pleased when I can introduce Mauckingbird’s work and aesthetic to young people,” Reynolds notes. “Shakespeare’s R&J is a special piece, and it’s fascinating to watch the impact it has on talented young actors.” Moreover, says Reynolds, who has also staged gender-juggling Mauckingbird productions of Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “I don’t think Shakespeare would have minded at all that we look at his texts through a queer lens.” I’ll give myself the last words, from my 2008 review: Shakespeare’s R&J “gloriously achieves what all great theater should: It makes the new familiar, and the familiar new.”
Fri., May 3, 8 p.m., and Sat., May 4, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., $15, Caplan Theater, University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St.
Winning Equality by Battling Locally
There’s been a great deal of attention paid lately to Supreme Court-level gay-rights goings-on, but the group Equality Pennsylvania, the presenter of this panel, keeps its activism closer to home. “We lack the most fundamental things here in Pennsylvania,” notes Ted Martin, the organization’s executive director. He’s referring to sexual-orientation protections for employment and housing, among other things. “Seventy percent of the state is not covered,” he says. Working at the municipal level allows people to get directly involved, and it builds momentum, says Martin: “One more [local] ordinance means one more piece of evidence for passing statewide legislation.”
Sat., May 4, 2:30 p.m., free, Terra Hall, University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St.
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