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Reign of terror

Richard III, Folger Theatre, Drew Cortese, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Drew Cortese as King Richard in Folger Theatre’s production of ‘Richard III.’ It runs through March 9. (Photo by Jeff Malat; courtesy Folger)

‘Richard III’

Through March 9

Folger Theatre

201 East Capitol Street, S.E.

$40-$72 (some discounts available)


Early in Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” the title character makes it crystal clear that he’s a hater, not a lover. He ascribes his villainy to his physical deformity (a hunchback and withered arm), explaining that because he’s built for neither love nor sport, he’s unable to enjoy the days of elder brother’s peaceful reign.

So instead, he devotes himself to furthering his titanic ambitions, devising twisted plots and lethal machinations, and stopping at nothing to make the throne his own.

As Richard in Folger Theatre’s take on the epic blood fest, Drew Cortese makes a most appealing sociopath. He is at turns many things: disarmingly charming, seductive, coldblooded, malevolently ruthless, and — for a split second or two — vulnerable. And while he possesses all of Richard’s sinister means of persuasion, Cortese limits his Richard’s deformity to a heavy limp. And you’ll find the actor is hardly “rudely stamp’d” — the crown sits nicely on his handsome shaved head and he doesn’t look bad in his leather pants, but I digress.

When we meet Richard, he’s already killed King Henry VI and his heir. In further clearing his path to the throne, he kills a kindly older brother Clarence, his two child nephews, his wife, trusted friends and sundry others. It’s an unparalleled royal killing spree. Of course, Richard doesn’t do the actual murdering. He has two muscled flunkies for that, but he’s never far from the crime. In the case of his accused traitor Hastings, Richard asks that his severed head be promptly delivered for his viewing. Here, it arrives in a large jar.

Even Buckingham, Richard’s cousin and closest conspirator, isn’t immune to his liege’s heedless wrath. The moment he shows a hint of hesitation in carrying out Richard’s most heinous of plots, his days are numbered. With Richard, no one is safe.

Hardly surprising, Richard doesn’t want for enemies. Henry IV’s vengeance-seeking widow Queen Margaret calls for his demise describing him as a “hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death…” And even Richard’s own mother, the Duchess of York, curses his existence as he heads off to the battlefield for the final time.

For this fast-paced, boldly accessible production, director Robert Richmond has altered the Folger into theater-in-round, brilliantly making the audience part of the action and seemingly privy to Richard’s next diabolical move. Tony Cisek’s set is a slightly raised, sleek black rectangular stage. Its many trap doors serve as exits through which Richard’s selected victims disappear — his beleaguered wife (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan) goes willingly; some are coaxed, and others go out fighting.

Despite having ample doses of humor, the production is dark. At times Jim Hunter’s lighting is eerily moody. Eric Shimelonis supplies the increasingly ominous beats and, after each murder, the sound of slamming doors. Mariah Hale’s costumes are goth.

Cortese, who was terrific as a recovering addict in “The Motherf***ker with the Hat” at Studio Theatre last season, has a reassuring grasp on the language and brings great nuance to the part. He is surrounded by a capable cast including Howard W. Overshown as Buckingham, and Nanna Ingvarsson who smolders with quiet fury as Richard’s righteously aggrieved mother, the Duchess of York.

The historical Richard III died in battle. His skeletal remains were discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England, in August 2012.


Spring Arts preview 2014


Remembering a queer visionary

Jarman, gay news, Washington Blade

A scene from ‘Jarman.’ (Photo by Benjamin Carver)

‘Jarman (all this maddening beauty)’

Through April 27

Atlas Performing Arts Center

1333 H Street N.E.



Iconoclastic ‘80s filmmaker Derek Jarman was a standout among his peers. Gay and fearless, Jarman eschewed traditional movie making methods for more experimental, semi-narrative forms. His films like “Sebastiane” and the “Caravaggio” are deeply personal, wildly inventive and strongly homoerotic. He’s best remembered as one of the founding fathers of new queer cinema.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Jarman’s death from AIDS complications. In commemoration there are myriad salutes and retrospectives, mostly in London. Washington-based theater company force/collision is celebrating the artist with its latest offering “Jarman (all this maddening beauty).”

Acted and staged by the company’s founding director John Moletress and written by Obie Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich with filmed footage by talented local filmmaker Ben Carver, “Jarman” combines theater and film to create a glorious mishmash of sound, images and live performance.

“In making the project,” says Moletress who identifies as queer, “We sought inspiration from Jarman’s work. We weren’t attempting to recreate or make a comment. We approached it from a contemporary point of view keeping in mind how we’re making art today. You’ll see images of the left’s then-nemesis Margaret Thatcher, but you’ll also see images of Putin as well.”

At 80 minutes, “Jarman” is a solo show staged on a spare set, reminiscent of the filmmaker’s bare-bones studio. Moletress plays both the title character and a young artist from today. And while he’s the only actor onstage, 50 other actors contribute performances through voiceover and film projection.

“Jarman’s work is beautiful and rageful,” Moletress says. “As a filmmaker, he cared about community, queer identity and ensemble work. So does force/collision. Company members are involved in all facets of the production, but our intent has always been to tour ‘Jarman’ (it’s slated to play in England in the fall) and from a financial perspective it’s more feasible with a cast of one.”

The show’s footage was shot by Carver on locations throughout D.C., including the Arboretum and the shuttered, historic Washington Coliseum (located near Union Station) where the company staged a decadent end-of-the-world party.

“It was sort of an apoplectic tea dance,” Moletress says. “We had fog machines, a DJ, cheap Champagne and lots of actors drawn from D.C.’s mainly underground performance art scene. Ben (Carver) was instrumental in accessing unique locations and some interesting and well-built actors.”

In keeping with Jarman’s aesthetic, the production is homoerotic and there’s nudity.

“I’m naked onstage — that’s something I haven’t done since I was a twink. But I’m not nervous. I’m more concerned about dressing as Margaret Thatcher and dancing around violently with a butcher knife while giving the audience lap dances … and remembering my lines.”

As a 16-year-old video store clerk, Moletress, 35, saw his first Jarman film “Aria” (’87) featuring the filmmaker’s career-long muse Tilda Swinton. He was smitten. Moletress became further intrigued as an undergrad at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania when one of his English classes screened Jarman’s “Tempest” (’79).

Then last year, while doing “Gun Control Action Theatre” with playwright Caridad Svich, the pair agreed to collaborative on a project involving Jarman. “It was then that I really began watching all of his films and reading everything I could find about him. In my research, I learned that Jarman was a charming and determined man. Still, the deeper I delved, there was always more to know about him.”

Jarman arrived at filmmaking via art school. His early works include the sexy “Sebastiane” (‘76), about the martyred gay saint, and “Jubilee” (’78) featuring punk star Adam Ant. His best known film is “Caravaggio” (’86), in which the filmmaker celebrates the painter’s obsession with his thuggish studio model.

After being diagnosed with HIV while filming “The Last of England” (’86), Jarman continued to work, staging the Pet Shop Boys’ 1989 tour and making more films, working with big names like Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier. He spoke publicly about his illness and became increasingly active in the gay rights movement. Jarman died in London in 1994 at 52.

Moletress counts Jarman as a deserving member of the gay Pantheon: “There’s no shame in his work. Jarman didn’t pander. He made what he wanted to make. If it offended some people, he didn’t give a shit. Jarman never said no to his sexuality or to what he wanted to see on film.”


Theater festival devoted to LGBT themes

Theater, curtains, gay news, Washington Blade, Crack

(Photo by Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. Queer Theatre Festival is at Flashpoint Theatre (916 G St., N.W.) Friday through Sunday. Each performance begins at 8 p.m.

Six 10-minute plays with LGBT themes will be performed at each performance. Plays include “Bar Belle,” the story of two women who meet and fall in love at a bar, and “Grips,” the story of old college roommates who reunite and sexually reconnect.

Tickets are $16. For more details, visit


Step back in time

Octagon House, gay news, Washington Blade, step back in time

The Octagon House was the former residence of President James Madison during the War of 1812. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. boasts a burgeoning music, arts and nightlife scene for all generations to step back in time. But the city is also known for its rich history, spanning nearly three centuries. This summer, visit some of the District’s most colorful and time-tested landmarks.

Start at the Congressional Cemetery (1801 E St., S.E.) along the Anacostia River, open every day from dawn to dusk for tourists. There’s also a popular dog-walking club but there’s a waiting list to join. Call ahead and schedule a visit to the 30-acre cemetery, established in 1807 and named a National Historic Landmark in 2011. When you get there, scout out the tombstones of J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI long rumored to be gay, and Leonard Matlovich, the first gay soldier to publicly out himself in protest of the military’s ban on gay members. For more information, visit

If you live in the area, chances are you’ve already visited Arlington Cemetery. But this time, make sure you take a tour of the Arlington House (321 Sherman Dr., Fort Myer, Va.), the former residence of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Schedule some time to tour the house, built by slaves between 1802 and 1818, as well as the flower garden and the slave quarters on the plantation grounds. For more information, visit

If one Civil War-themed outing isn’t enough, head to Ford’s Theatre (511 10th St., N.W.), the site of former President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination shortly after the conclusion of the war. Book tickets in advance for “One Destiny,” a 35-minute reconstruction of the sequences of events the night Lincoln was shot, showing at various times this summer. Walk across the street to the Petersen House, which showcases Lincoln’s deathbed. For details about show times and museum hours, visit

For a step even further back in time, visit the Octagon House (1799 New York Ave., N.W.) the temporary residence of President James Madison and his wife during the War of 1812 where they sought refuge after the White House was burned to the ground by British soldiers. The home, designed by the original architect of the U.S. Capitol, now serves as the home of the American Institute of Architects. To schedule a private or group tour, visit

Christ Church (620 G St., S.E.), built in the late 1700s, is where presidents including James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and renowned American composer John Philip Sousa spent their Sunday mornings. And you can too: the District’s first Episcopal church hosts Sunday services at 9 and 11 a.m. To learn more about one of the oldest places of worship in the city, visit

The recently renovated Howard Theatre (620 T St. N.W.) has been a Mecca for D.C. black theatergoers for decades. Recently, the performance hall has hosted renowned celebrities including Wanda Sykes and Chaka Khan. The venue has been a community mainstay through the ages, featuring jazz age performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington and Motown legends like Stevie Wonder and the Supremes. Originally built in 1910, the theatre has a jam-packed list of shows and events to choose from, including R&B singer Carl Thomas and weekly Sunday soul food brunch featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir. For information about events and ticket prices, visit

Stop by the Heuric House (1307 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.), a Victorian-style house and museum built in the late 1890s by German immigrant Christian Heuric, who ran his own brewing company. Tours of the building are offered Thursdays through Saturday. The house and museum also hosts History and Hops featuring beer from local brewery Devil’s Backbone, Thursday (July 17) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Guests must be at least 21 years old. Tickets are $30. Sign up at

While we’re on the subject of beer, don’t forget to grab a drink at local historic bars, including the Round Robin and Scotch Bar (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.), where civil rights activist Martin Luther King scripted his “I Have a Dream Speech,” and Off The Record (800 16th St., N.W.), the stomping grounds for famous politicians and journalists, located just one block away from the White House. For a slightly younger crowd, visit The Tombs (1226 36th St., N.W.), popular among Georgetown University students since its construction in the 1960s. The dark interior features pictures from the World War I era. The bar is located in the basement of Restaurant 1789, a classier spot with a more expensive menu.

People looking to escape the Beltway for an afternoon should visit former President George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Mount Vernon, Va., a 500-acre expanse along the Potomac River. To sign up for a small tour, which also stops in Old Town Alexandria, visit

Tourists who can’t settle on just one historic site should sign up for a walking ghost tour, a historic, theatrical and slightly scary guided trip through D.C. To sign up for a 90-minute Capitol Hill tour, visit For a tour along Georgetown’s historic cobblestone sidewalks, sign up for a walking tour, starting at the Old Stone House (3051 M St. N.W.) and concluding at the famed steps featured in “The Exorcist” at


The bonds of battle

‘The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience’

By Perry N. Halkitis

Oxford University Press


249 pages

AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience, Perry N. Halkitis, books, gay news, Washington Blade

AIDS Generation‘ by Perry N. Halkitis. (Book cover image courtesy of Oxford University Press)

Some of the best experiences you had last year were with your friends.

When you think back about the highlights, you remember dancing together, eating together, late-night bull sessions, parties, travels and idle man watching. Those shared experiences are the glue that forever hold your friendship together.

Or maybe, like the men in “The AIDS Generation” by Perry N. Halkitis, your bond is that you’re survivors.

The history of AIDS is vast and can’t be told without the stories of the people lost to the disease and the ones they left behind. Of the latter, Halkitis writes, “All the gay men of my generation, infected or not, are long-term survivors.”

Those are the men who came of age in the 1980s when “the promise for sexual freedom and sexual expression existed.” They are the men who, in the prime of their lives and when they should’ve been the picture of health, watched their friends and lovers die and who were told, upon their own AIDS diagnosis, that they, too, would probably be dead within two years.

But of course, that wasn’t necessarily true. This book, the culmination of a large-scale project on gay men who have lived with AIDS for decades, pulls together 15 survivors who were “still alive to tell their stories as middle-aged men.”

Some of them don’t remember when they learned of their diagnosis, while some remember the day clearly. Regardless, all exhibited “the pause,” as Halkitis calls the stress reaction to remembering that time.

Some of the 15 knew, deep-down, that they’d been infected; one said it would’ve been “a miracle … not to be positive.” For others, it came as a surprise. Some got sick, while others waited for illness that never really came. All are “resilient,” says Halkitis, and are now surprised and amazed to experience the kind of normal health issues that men in middle age endure.

“I’ve been at the worst of this virus,” one of the men told Halkitis, “and now I’m in the golden years of this virus. This virus has taken me halfway around the world and I’m still here.”

At first blush, “The AIDS Generation” may seem like it’s more academic than not. That assessment is true; there is plenty for academics in this book, but casual readers will find something here, too.

As one of the “AIDS Generation,” author Perry N. Halkitis knew which questions to ask of his subjects in order to get the memories and emotions he pulled from them. That questioning leads to a fresh sense of heartache in the telling of tales and a distant theme of horror that bubbles with anger and ends with a general awe for life and an appealing sense of triumph. Despite linguistic stumbles that might’ve been better off edited out, that makes them compellingly readable.

I believe there are two audiences for this book: long-term survivors who count themselves among the warriors, and younger men who need to learn. If you fall into either category, then reading “The AIDS Generation” will be a worthwhile experience.


Press Club hosts journalism panel on Sochi games


Kevin Naff, National Press Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff will be a panelist at the National Press Club forum on LGBT journalists and activists. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The National Press Club (529 14th St., N.W.) hosts LGBTs in the News’s panel “LGBT Activists and Journalists: The Little Team That Could” Tuesday morning from 9-11 a.m. in the Edward R. Murrow Room.

Discussion will focus on the politics of the Sochi Olympics in regards to Russia’s anti-gay laws, possibilities for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and what is needed to achieve marriage equality in all 50 states. Panelists include Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff, LGBT and civil rights advocate Mandy Carter, activist Will Walters and many more.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m. Coffee and pastries will be provided. Audience questions will be taken during the panel.


Rites of passage

rites, books, Teaching the Cat to Sit, Michelle Theall, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy Gallery Books)

‘Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir’

By Michelle Theall

Gallery Books


288 pages

Sometimes, you feel so adrift in your rites of passage.

Unmoored, unanchored, you feel as though you ride each wave alone, emotions and events washing over you until you can’t weather the storm any longer and you need an anchor. That’s when you reach for family or God.

But what if both were denied to you? In “Teaching the Cat to Sit,” Michelle Theall shares her story of standing up instead of standing still.

Al Theall and his wife were sure their second child, born in 1966, would be a boy but — surprise! — they got another daughter. Later, they were even more astounded that their second girl was so different from the first one: unlike her older, popular, outgoing sister, Michelle grew to be athletic, bullheaded and introverted; in fact, aside from the cat, her only friend was a neighbor girl whose parents had scandalously been divorced.

Divorce, of course, was against the teachings of the Catholic Church, the religion that Theall’s mother strictly followed. She was reluctant to even let her daughter play at the Crandall’s house, but reasoned that Theall needed one friend.

That bond ended abruptly when the girl’s father molested Theall.

In high school, Theall had an Evangelical Christian friend, but the girl’s mother thought Theall was a lesbian, and put an end to the relationship. That hurt, because Theall herself didn’t yet realize her sexuality.

After a sweet and almost-accidental love affair with another woman while at college, Theall examined her sexual preferences and felt deeply ashamed. Catholicism taught that being gay was a sin against God. Her parents would not accept her as a lesbian. She tried to be heterosexual, but that wasn’t who she was. So upon graduation from Texas Tech, she moved to Colorado where she chose long-term celibacy and started re-building a relationship with her parents.

Then, after a surprising (and awkward) introduction, Theall fell in love. When she and Jill started their family, she fell in love again with a baby who’d had a rough start in life. They’d hoped to raise their child in Theall’s Catholic faith.

But the church wasn’t having it.

Despite its inherent sadness, “Teaching” is hard to put down because author Michelle Theall is a first-rate storyteller and knows how to keep a reader wanting more. Half of it is about her battle with the Catholic Church for recognition of her partner and their son and, eventually, their search for an acceptable (and accepting) religion. The other half is the memoir of her tumultuous relationship with her parents and her journey to understanding, both of them and herself.

The book works because of its deliberateness and its ultimately empowering message of truth to self. For that, and for the great biography it is, “Teaching the Cat to Sit” is a must-read, especially for those who can relate.


Levi’s loves

Levi Kreis, gay news, Washington Blade

Levi Kreis says singing and recording are his first love. His passions collide with ‘Smokey Joe’s Café,’ the Broadway hit re-imagined at Arena Stage. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Levi Kreis

‘Smokey Joe’s Café’

Through June 8

Arena Stage

1101 6th St., S.W.



Levi Kreis will be the first to tell you that his heart does not belong to Broadway. But that doesn’t mean the out singer/actor has turned his back on musical theater. Currently he’s starring in Arena Stage’s production of the Broadway hit “Smokey Joe’s Café,” and loving every minute of it.

At a sit-down in one of Arena’s aquarium-like conference rooms, Kreis shares his thoughts on life, career and working in D.C. Settling into his chair, he takes in the view — sailboats glide past on the calm Washington Channel and pink blossoms move in the breeze. The sun is bright. He squints slightly and says, “Really beautiful. This is my first time seeing this. I’ve been in rehearsal all day.”

The longest-running musical revue in Broadway history, “Smokey Joe’s Café” is a hard-driving tribute to the legendary rock ‘n roll songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. With almost 40 songs, it features huge hits like “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion #9” and “On Broadway.”

Though he’d never seen the show, Kreis was eager to be a part of this production. “I’d heard great things about our director Randy Jackson (who staged the terrific ‘One Night with Janis Joplin’ that played at Arena before moving to New York). Also my representatives were enthusiastic about me starting relationship with Arena. But mostly it was because I feel a special connection to Leiber and Stoller’s music.”

“There’s a story behind this,” says Kreis putting on a strong Tennessee accent. “As a teenager in small town Oliver Springs, Tennessee, my mother, Connie Lee, was president of the Brenda Lee fan club. They met, and by the time I was born they were really good friends. At 8 or 9, I’d seen 36 of her performances. She sang Leiber and Stoller songs like ‘Kansas City’ and ‘Saved.’ I cut my teeth on this stuff. So it’s a real thrill for me to be doing it now.”

Working with Johnson has proved to be even better than he’d hoped, says Kreis, 32. “This version of the show is definitely not the same show that people saw in New York. Randy has re-imagined a sexier, edgier, more soulful version, assigning songs to different characters. He’s really created his own vision.” Kreis adds that Johnson carefully selected a nine-person cast whose three leads (Kreis, E. Faye Butler and Nova Y. Paton) know how to make a song their own.

“Randy and our musical director Victor Simonson have been very generous in allowing us to find our own interpretations of these well-known songs. It’s very challenging and exciting to make songs like ‘Stand By Me’ your own, but that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

He’s equally stoked about sharing a stage with the versatile Butler and big-voiced Payton, two Helen Hayes Award-winning D.C. favorites: “I have to make myself stay in the moment on stage. When I’m facing off singing with either of these women I want to forget I’m an actor and simply enjoy them. They’re so good. I have to resist to getting totally enamored.”

His favorite moment of the show is a singing “Kansas City” with Butler and Payton. Kreis says they’ve created a great sound with a Manhattan Transfer vibe. Another favorite is his solo “I Keep Forgettin’,” a tune about lost love. “Finding where that is from an emotional standpoint has been really intense,” he says. “And I like intense.”

Whether gospel, rhythm and blues, rock or show tunes, music has always come naturally for Kreis. He tells a story about coming home from kindergarten graduation back in Oliver Springs, and picking out “Pomp and Circumstance” on the family’s old upright piano. Family lore says he got it from his great grandmother who played banjo by ear. At 12, he was performing in a different church every weekend, and by 15, he was touring the south with his own gospel album.

After college in Tennessee, Kreis left for Los Angeles to pursue a music career.  Recording companies didn’t quite know what to do with the good-looking, charming southerner whose strong voice was soulful yet versatile. But the musical theater world happily snapped him up. At a casting call for the West Coast tour of the musical “Rent,” he landed the plumb part of ex-junkie Roger. He got into film too. He played Matthew McConaughey’s troubled brother in the 2001 indie thriller “Frailty” and had a big part in 2002′s “Don’t Let Go” with Katharine Ross.

But Kreis is best known for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” For his efforts, he won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

“I initially got involved because I needed grocery money,” he says. “It started out as workshops that seemed to go on forever. Then there were runs in Seattle and Chicago. Over time I really got into the role. When we learned the show going to Broadway, I was shocked. But winning the Tony was a real eye opener. It taught me that musical theater was something that even if it wasn’t my ultimate goal, it was something I needed to take seriously.”

For many actors winning the Tony is a life’s dream. “What can I say? You feel what you feel. I wish I was a fierce dancer on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ but that’s someone else’s reality.”

For Keis, the experience was intensely personal — the Tony win was the culmination of the toughest year of his life. In May of 2009 he gave up drugs, alcohol and a pack-and-a-half-a-day cigarette habit. He’s been clean and sober ever since. “It’s beyond anything the proudest achievement of my life,” he says, emotion swelling in his voice. “I had really reached a do-or-die moment. I could no longer live that way. The tension and conflict was too scary for me.”

That same year, Kreis met his partner, whom he declines to name. The couple is based in Chicago.

“At the core of every addiction is self-loathing. And drugs weren’t my only vice. It all came from a place of having learned to hate myself,” he says. Kreis was raised a fundamentalist Baptist. In his youth, he endured six years of conversion therapy with the hope of becoming straight. “That process was psychologically and emotionally damaging and planted deep-seeded feelings of self loathing. It breaks my heart that it still goes on.”

At 24, Kreis officially came out through his album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. “I made the decision at a time when I was very broke. I was waiting for my guest appearance on NBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ to air. In a week I’d moved from Manhattan’s Upper Eastside to Hoboken, New Jersey. So, I took my last $200 and went to a recording studio and recorded the album of straight through. It’s been my most successful album to date.”

There’s been no downside to his coming out, Kreis says. “Before coming out, I was hiding my life. I couldn’t be my authentic self. Eight record labels didn’t know what to do with me. Most wanted me to be a teen heartthrob. Now I can present myself as I am, my truth. The LGBT community has accepted me wholeheartedly.”

Future plans include concert dates and more recordings. There’ll be more theater, but he’d also like to bring his talents together by acting and singing in films. For his upcoming yet-unnamed album, Kreis will return to piano vocals. It’s what his fans want. “I’m grateful there’s a corner of the world that hears what I do. My music career hasn’t screamed as loud as a Tony Award on Broadway, but my fans are there and they’re my family.”


‘Dog Day’ docs

AFI Docs, gay news, Washington Blade

A still from ‘The Dog,’ a documentary that explores the life of John Wojtowicz, portrayed by Al Painco in the 1975 film ‘Dog Day Afternoon.’ (Photo courtesy AFI Docs)

The inspiring true story behind “Dog Day Afternoon,” a look at Greg Louganis’ life now, a con man who marries his partner in Washington — all are explored in documentaries slated for AFI Docs in the coming days.

This annual documentary film festival starts Wednesday and runs through June 22 at various venues in the D.C. area with screenings of several LGBT-themed films. Individual ticket prices range from $11-14. Tickets for the opening night screening and reception are $75.

The documentary film festival will screen 50 feature films and 21 short films. Four films are world premieres, two U.S. premieres and several East Coast premieres. The five-day festival is a popular event in the D.C. area with approximately 19,000 attendees last year. Full details on tickets, screen times and more are at

One of these 50 feature films screening is “The Dog,” directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren. The piece delves into the true events of the classic 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon,” which tells the story of John Wojtowicz, a man who robs a bank to pay for his partner’s sexual reassignment surgery.

The documentary interviews the real-life John Wojtowicz, played by Al Pacino in the 1975 film, and uses archival footage to capture New York City’s LGBT liberation movement of the 1970s. It screens Thursday at 3:45 p.m. and June 22 at 9 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.).

“We call this film a fucked up Forrest Gump story,” Berg says. “Wojtowicz is even more outrageous than the character Al Pacino played.”

Berg and Keraundren believe the documentary both examines Wojtowicz as a person and looks at America’s culture in the 1960s and 1970s in a different way.

“We truly unearthed footage that no one had seen,” Keraundren says. “We wanted to put this story in context. What we found was extraordinary.”

Berg and Keraundren say they didn’t begin making the documentary with a particular topic in mind. However, after meeting Wojtowicz in person they realized they had found something special.

“He was larger than life the second we met him,” Keraundren says. “The human aspect drew us in. It spoke to us and we thought it would speak to other people.”

Andrea Passafiume, festival programmer, thinks documentaries speak to people because of the human aspect.

“Truth is stranger than fiction,” Passafiume says. “It’s simple, compelling storytelling. Documentaries aren’t filled with special effects and CGI storytelling. It’s a simple human moment.”

“Back on Board,” another film on the schedule, tells the story of Olympic athlete Greg Louganis, the first male athlete to win diving events in consecutive Olympic games. Along with his Olympic career, Louganis is also gay and the film chronicles his private life, including his marriage to his partner. The film screens June 20 at 4:45 p.m. in the Portrait Gallery (8th and F streets, N.W.) and June 21 at 1:45 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre.

“An Honest Liar” documents illusionist James “The Amazin” Randi and how he mastered the art of illusion to entertain audiences and now uses his knowledge to expose con artists and psychics. The film also follows Randi as he marries his longtime partner in Washington. It screens June 20 at 4:30 p.m. in Goethe-Institut (812 7th St., N.W.) and June 21 at 9:30 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre.

Having a group of LGBT-themed documentaries to screen is something Passafiume says she likes to include.

“It makes me happy to have some LGBT films. I look at the program and say, ’Is this balanced?’ But there are a couple films where it’s not the primary theme.”

“112 Weddings” is one such film. It follows a filmmaker as he checks in with various married couples whose weddings he filmed over the years. One couple is lesbian.

Passafiume says films aren’t chosen specifically because they need to have a certain number of types or subjects in one category. She says thought-provoking and entertaining are the key elements she looks for.

“We select anything that has a way of telling a story in a different way that we haven’t heard before,” Passafiume says. “Marriage equality is a very topical thing. Greg (Louganis) has done incredible things as an athlete. But what happens after that?”

Berg says documentaries offer something that narrative film doesn’t — storytelling that’s real and hasn’t been dramatized.

“There are some things you just can’t make up.”