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Find your lost Broadway

Nova Y. Payton, Dreamgirls, Lost Songs of Broadway, Signature Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Nova Y. Payton, seen here in a ‘Dreamgirls’ promo shot, is part of ‘Lost Songs of Broadway,’ which debuts Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Signature Theatre)

Signature Theatre presents the “Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s” as part of its cabaret series starting Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. and running through June 1.

A combination of Signature’s production of “Company,” the show features numbers from Broadway musicals that didn’t fare so well. The show features performers Nova Y. Payton, Chelsea Packard and Austin Colby.

Tickets are $42.95. Visit for more information.


Cabaret comeback

Nova Y. Payton, Dreamgirls, Lost Songs of Broadway, Signature Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Thursday’s show at 8 p.m. features Nova Y. Payton, a Signature actress who starred in ‘Dreamgirls’ among other credits. (Photo courtesy Signature Theatre)

Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Va.) kicks off its first “Autumn Cabaret Festival” on Wednesday at 8 p.m. with performances by Broadway actress Chelsea Packard (“Wicked,” “Hands on a Hard Body”).

Signature was inspired by the popularity of its cabaret series to start the festival, which will continue through Sept. 21. Thursday’s show at 8 p.m. features Nova Y. Payton, a Signature actress who starred in “Dreamgirls” and performed in the theater’s “Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret Series.”

Some of the festival’s other performers include funk, soul and rock band The Hustle, Broadway actress Heidi Blickenstaff and local blues artist, Levi Stephens.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online. All-access passes are $100 and can only be purchased at the box office. For more information, visit


Queery: Ron Simmons

Ron Simmons, Us Helping Us, gay news, Washington Blade

Ron Simmons (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Us Helping Us has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble origins. Founded in 1985 but incorporated in 1988, the black AIDS organization has its 25th anniversary event Monday night.

“What started as a support group in living rooms is now a certified treatment center with more than a dozen HIV and AIDS services from prevention support, service programs, HIV testing, screening, treatment adherence, behavioral intervention and more,” says Ron Simmons, president of the organization.

“A Passion for Living,” the agency’s anniversary event, is from 6-9 p.m. Monday at Arena Stage (1101 Sixth Street, S.W.). The agency will present awards to Dr. Theo Hodge, Darlene Nipper, Dana Fonville and others. Broadway actress/singer Jennifer Holliday (of “Dreamgirls” fame) will perform a 30-minute set. Proceeds from sales of the $150 tickets ( benefit Us Helping Us. Tickets are still available.

Simmons says it was apparent early on that something for black gay men was needed.

“Given the racism in this country, many of the people doing HIV work were just not culturally competent in dealing with black gay men,” he says. “We had people go to support groups early on and it would be mainly white guys talking about having to sell their second house to make ends meet whereas many of our guys couldn’t even make rent. There was just a disconnect between our issues and their issues,” Simmons says.

The agency, located at 3636 Georgia Ave., N.W., has 17 on staff and an annual operating budget of about $1.8 million. It tests about 2,000 people per year for HIV and about 3,000 come through its doors for various services.

Simmons, a 63-year-old Brooklyn native, came to Washington in 1980. After teaching mass communications at Howard University for about 12 years while earning a doctorate, he joined Us in 1992, the first year in a volunteer capacity. He’s single and lives in Petworth.


How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I have been out since 1968. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to tell my parents. They caught my lover and me in a compromising position when they returned from a movie early. We were fully clothed but had obvious guilty facial expressions. The next morning I woke up feeling like a heavy weight was off my shoulder. The secret was out. I’ve been smiling ever since.


Who’s your LGBT hero?

Black lesbian activist Mandy Carter.


What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Past would be the Clubhouse, the Delta Elite, the Edge and the Brass Rail when it was on 13th Street, N.W. Presently I go out three times a year, usually to the Bachelor’s Mill to see friends and hear house music.


Describe your dream wedding.

Something small and outdoors, but I would let my spouse decide. If he wanted a big church wedding, so be it.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Economic inequality. Having hungry people in the richest nation upsets me.


What historical outcome would you change?

The assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King.


What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Seeing LaBelle at the New York City opera house and watching Patti descend from the ceiling.


On what do you insist?



What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

My essay, “Some Thoughts on the Challenges Facing Black Gay Intellectuals.”


If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“The Road Less Traveled”


If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Nothing. I like being me.


What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

A spiritual realm and a supreme being encompassing all beings.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Move beyond the “gay-only” agenda, and collaborate with others fighting economic, racial, gender and political oppression.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

An end to poverty.


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That gay people only think about gay issues.


What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Tongues Untied” and “Pariah”


What’s the most overrated social custom?

Judging people based on their physical attractiveness.


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

A MacArthur Genius Award


What do you wish you’d known at 18.

That being gay is a blessing, not a curse.


Why Washington?

I am from New York. It was too fast and I didn’t want to live like that. But compared to New York, most cities are too slow. D.C. was just right. It’s cosmopolitan. I love it here.


Shi-Queeta gives ‘Dreamgirls’ new ‘Twist’

Shi-Queeta Lee, drag, Dreamgirls Twisted, Howard Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Shi-Queeta Lee in a promo shot for ‘Dreamgirls Twisted.’ (Photo courtesy Howard Theatre)

“A Drag X-Mas Salute to the Divas: Dreamgirls Twisted,” a drag performance of the Tony-winning musical, comes to The Howard Theatre (620 T St., N.W.) on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The show, starring drag performer Shi-Queeta Lee, recreates the Broadway show with a cast of male and female impersonators in a lip-synched performance.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of show. For more information, visit


‘Dreamgirls’ ends its run this weekend

Dreamgirls, gay news, Washington Blade

Nova Y. Payton as Effie White in Signature’s ‘Dreamgirls.’ (Photo by Christopher Mueller; courtesy Signature)

The Supremes-inspired Broadway classic “Dreamgirls” ends its run at Signature Theatre this weekend. The final shows are tonight at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.

Tickets are very tight for these final performances but check and the box office for availability. Actress/singer Nova Y. Payton has earned raves as Effie.

The run was extended. It was originally set to close Jan. 6. Local gay theater warhorse Matthew Gardiner directed and choreographed this production.


Helen Hayes noms announced

Helen Hayes Awards, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

The 2011 Helen Hayes Awards (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Winning awards isn’t important, some say. It’s the work that counts. That may be so, but nonetheless most everyone loves a good horse race and local theater professionals and their fans are no exception.

On Monday night at the National Theatre, theatreWashington announced nominations for the 29th annual Helen Hayes Awards. D.C.’s equivalent to Broadway’s Tony awards, the prestigious prizes are given to reward excellence in professional theater in the greater Washington area. And similar to years past, quite a few gay theater folks are among those nominated.

Gathered in the theater’s cozy Helen Hayes gallery, guests listened attentively as theatreWashington CEO and president Linda Levy read off a long list of nominees (more than 150 in 26 categories) selected by 41 judges from 201 eligible productions that ran throughout 2012. Garnering the most nominations for outstanding resident musical was Toby’s Dinner Theatre’s production of “The Color Purple” followed closely by Signature’s Theatre “Dreamgirls.” For outstanding resident play Woolly Mammoth’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” (an exploration of wrestling and politics) and Folger Theatre’s wild west-set “The Taming of the Shrew” received the most nods.

Rather surprisingly, the movement-based Synetic Theatre that typically picks up heaps of nominations (and wins), received zero this time around.

Shakespeare Theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Kahn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Included among the many nominees were gay directors Michael Kahn (Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “The Government Inspector”), John Vreeke (Woolly Mammoth’s “Chad Deity”), Serge Seiden (MetroStage’s “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”), and Matthew Gardiner (Signature’s “Dreamgirls”). Talented gay musical director Jon Kalbfleisch was also nominated for his vital contributions to Signature’s “Dreamgirls.”

Nicholas Rodriguez, theater, actor, gay news, Washington Blade

Nicholas Rodriguez (Washington Blade photo by Pete Exis)

Gay actor Bobby Smith was nominated for both a lead (the title role in the musical revue “Jacques Brel,” and supporting performance (the sadistic dentist in Olney Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors”). Nicholas Rodriguez, also gay, was nominated for his supporting work Freddy Eynsford-Hill in Arena Stage’s “My Fair Lady.” Holly Twyford and Sarah Marshall are both gay and both nominated for supporting performances in Folger’s “Shrew.” Twyford was also nominated for her lead turn as the doomed Harper in Studio Theater’s “Dirt.”

The winner of the non-competitive John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company is Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Review, a fun company that melds the classics, vaudeville and rock. The late Aniello was an avid Washington theatergoer as well as the longtime partner of theatreWashington’s chairman of the board Victor Shargai.

All winners will be announced at theatreWashington’s annual Helen Hayes Awards ceremony on April 8 at the Warner Theatre followed by a blowout after party just across the street at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

For a complete list of nominations go to