Tag Archives: Dustin Lance Black

When We Rise: The San Francisco Premiere

As a volunteer with GLAAD, I received an invitation to attend the February 20th premiere of When We Rise, Dustin Lance Black’s new ABC miniseries chronicling the LGBTQ rights movement, focusing on the lives of several San Francisco activists. I invited a friend as my plus one and submitted my RSVP, although I wasn’t sure about an 8 hour marathon or the “first come first served” seating. Then my friend got sick, and the day arrived with heavy rain and 60 mph winds expected by the evening. Still, I braved the elements alone and headed to the Castro Theatre.

When I arrived in the Castro at 1pm, the doors to the cinema had just opened. At first I got into the wrong line, where the production folks were checking in. One of the young actors turned around and was very helpful pointing out the right line. I wasn’t sure any of the cast would be there, so this was a happy omen. My line went down the block and just around the corner of 18th Street. After I got there, many more folks arrived behind me. A friendly young woman with an ABC7 cap came by to explain what to expect. She assured us we’d all get in at that point in the line. We’d be checked in and given wristbands, which would allow us to come and go during the breaks. Everyone attending would also get a ticket for a free drink and a bag of popcorn.

I chatted with the guys around me, and there was some confusion about how much of the miniseries would be shown. Dustin Lance Black tweeted that we’d watch the whole 8 hours, but the numbering of the episodes is confusing. IMDb says there are 8 episodes, Wikipedia says 7 parts, but it’s being shown on 4 nights. Anyway, the ABC7 woman assured us we’d be seeing the entire miniseries, in four segments, with two 15 minute breaks and one 2 hour dinner break. The program would start at 2pm and end around 11:30pm.

There were still plenty of seats on the ground floor when I got in, but I headed to the balcony for a front row seat above. You don’t get a crick in your neck looking up at the screen there. Since we’d be spending a lot of time together, I introduced myself to several of the folks in my section. The young guy behind me worked as an extra in several scenes, so it was fun to hear to his stories.

Dustin Lance Black went up onstage with a microphone to introduce the first segment, saying that many of the activists depicted in the series were in the audience. He also pointed out that without the commercials, each segment was shorter than two hours. Zeke Stokes of GLAAD also spoke, and later in the day Roma Guy, Cecilia Chung, and Cleve Jones got up onstage to address the audience. We also had a song performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

During the screening, the audience cheered a lot—when familiar names were said, when well-known landmarks were shown, and when serious truths were spoken. The SF Chronicle says we booed the villains, but I only heard hissing.

Because When We Rise doesn’t air on ABC until next week (February 27th, then March 1st-3rd), I can’t share much about it yet. I never give plot spoilers anyway. I will say that the lesser-known young actors are terrific. These include Jonathan Majors, Adam DiMarco, Rafael De La Fuente, Fiona Dourif, Nick Eversman, Kevin McHale (familiar from Glee) and so many more. Austin P. McKenzie as the younger Cleve Jones had my heart from his first moments onscreen. I also really connected emotionally with Emily Skeggs as the younger Roma Guy. This kind of connection is crucial if the viewer is going to stick with these characters through a miniseries. I can’t count the number of shows I’ve seen where I appreciated the quality but didn’t care enough about any one character to keep watching.

During our first break, I met Emily Skeggs. It’s great to watch someone onscreen for the first time (whether it’s their first time or just yours), and then be able to tell them right away how much their performance has touched you. This is one of the reasons Twitter is so addictive, but doing it in person is so much more satisfying. I’m certain that many more viewers like me will be looking up these young actors and following them on social media. I was already doing that at the dinner break.

A tip for those folks looking at the cast lists online—at this point, the IMDb page is incomplete. Kevin McHale and Rafael de la Fuente, for example, are not yet listed. Wikipedia includes them and several other actors not listed on IMDb, but it’s not complete either.

At the end of the screening, all the folks involved with the production went up onstage. I left the balcony and came down to the front in time to video a bit of the song Oh Happy Day, and then it was done. I said hello to Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley, then met Austin P. McKenzie and Kevin McHale (such a charmer, that one!).

I came out of the theatre to find that the rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing hard. I rode the bus home with a couple of fellow viewers, and we talked about our impressions of the miniseries. I got home tired but still wired from the experience.

I’m looking forward to watching When We Rise again next week. It will be interesting to compare the difference seeing it on a small screen, without an audience, and with the ad breaks.

This miniseries will hopefully inspire viewers to read more about the activists and the history of this struggle for equality, understanding, and respect. There’s so much more to learn. The book When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones is a good place to start.

Thank you to Dustin Lance Black and everyone involved for making this miniseries. Thank you to GLAAD and ABC for the privilege of attending this amazing event.


https://ripplenews.com/watch/san-francisco/when-we-rise-shows-emotional-powerful-san-francisco-lgbt-movement-1s7r0o5h (This is a video of the premiere from local ABC7 news.)


Tom Daley’s video of the premiere:



Filed under Actors, Real Life, Television, The Internet, Volunteer Work

GLAAD Media Awards 2011

I spent Saturday night as a talent escort at the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards.  These awards recognize outstanding representations of the LGBT community in the media, and they are held each year in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  This was my third year participating, and last year I blogged about my volunteer experience.  A talent escort is assigned one of the presenters, award recipients, or performers, and their job is to make sure they arrive on the “red carpet” to meet the press, find their table at the banquet, get to the green room backstage, and make it onstage at the right time.  This allows the participants to relax and enjoy the event.

As before, I got to witness some of the intense work and coordination involved in putting together a successful Awards ceremony. The GLAAD staff is always impressive, and they work long hours behind the scenes to ensure a smooth-running presentation.  This night has become one of the highlights of my year, and I always look forward to seeing Jackie and Tom and the other staff members.   It’s wonderful seeing the other talent escorts again, and we spend our breaks  in the volunteer room catching up and taking silly photos.  I’m on facebook with many of them, and there are new escorts to get acquainted with each year.  Of course, there are other volunteers besides the talent escorts: many people work in teams checking in attendees, taking tickets, running the fundraising auctions, etc.  Most of the volunteers live in the Bay Area, but some of them travel around the US to help out with all three events, and I’m in awe of their commitment to GLAAD.

John Gidding, designer and host of HGTV's Curb Appeal: The Block.  Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage.com.  All rights reserved.

John Gidding, designer and host of HGTV's Curb Appeal: The Block. Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage.com. All rights reserved.

It was a particularly good presentation this year.  I got to watch most of the show, since the presenter I escorted went onstage near the beginning.  The host was Naya Rivera (Santana on Glee) and some of the participants were Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Top Chef winner Yigit Pura, HGTV designer John Gidding, True Blood‘s Nelsan Ellis, rugby player Ben Cohen, actress Kim Cattrall, The Kids Are All Right director Lisa Cholodenko, DWTS‘s Louis Van Amstel and Mario Lopez, actor and musician Christian Chavez, Sara Ramirez from Grey’s Anatomy, and Gbenga Akinnagbe from The Wire. 

Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity performer

Two performers from Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity provided some jaw-dropping entertainment.   A platform with a short pole was placed in the center aisle, and this amazing dancer performed gymnastic moves while balancing on the pole.  He was beautiful.  My photo doesn’t do him justice.

Naya Rivera and the Glee quiz

Naya Rivera conducts a Glee quiz with audience members

Naya Rivera selected two members of the audience for a Glee quiz.   She also auctioned off kisses to benefit GLAAD, and they went for $3500.  One of the winners did a little dance of delight onstage before receiving his kiss.

Naya Rivera auctions off kiss for GLAAD.  Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage.com

Naya Rivera and one of the kiss auction winners. Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage.com. All rights reserved.

Some of the other highlights for me:  Lisa Cholodenko’s little boy, brought onstage with her when she accepted the award for Outstanding Film—Wide Release.  He was about four years old and completely adorable.  Kim Cattrall’s acceptance speech for the Golden Gate Award, which was funny and passionate.  Social worker and activist Janice Langbehn receiving a standing ovation for her fight to get LGBT families equal hospital visitation rights throughout the United States.

After the Awards, there was an after-party where we had a chance to relax and interact with the attendees.  I’m not much of a party type, so I didn’t stay for long.  I came away from the hotel with a bag of free goodies, some fun photos, a bunch of new programs to watch (inspired by all the folks I met), and lots of good memories.

To see more photos from the event, check out GLAAD’s website.  Watch this video of Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech on YouTube.  His award was presented by Louis Van Amstel and John Gidding, who can be seen at the beginning and end of the video.


Filed under Actors, Television, Volunteer Work

Pandora’s Box Continued

I have lots of new links to share in the continuing media frenzy unleashed by gay Newsweek journalist Ramin Setoodeh when he criticized gay actors for not being convincing in straight roles.  All sorts of fascinating people have expressed their opinion of Setoodeh and their interpretation of what he is attempting to say.   The fact that nobody can agree on what he is saying in his original article (something I struggled with myself in my previous post) is a clear illustration of the article’s muddled message.

One thing I didn’t mention in my previous post is that I do not support personal attacks on Setoodeh just because I don’t agree with him.   I’m really sorry that he’s been threatened and personally insulted. 

The people who make Glee, specifically creator Ryan Murphy, called for a boycott of Newsweek until they issue an apology for Setoodeh’s piece.  At the same time, Murphy invited Setoodeh to sit down with the Glee writers to share their respective viewpoints.   He hasn’t succeeded in getting an apology yet, but Setoodeh has accepted his invitation to visit the set of Glee.  Here’s Murphy’s second letter.

Meanwhile, over at The Hollywood Reporter, the president of GLAAD, Jarrett Barrios,  and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have written an open letter in support of gay actors.  Their point: “The whole posse of off-kilter anecdotes in “Straight Jacket” seem only to confirm one thing: America is starting to embrace open gay and lesbian actors in heterosexual roles on stage and screen and Setoodeh himself is not yet ready to.”   Hollywood Reporter editor Andrew Wallenstein defends Setoodeh in his commentary.  

Over at The Huffington Post.  Aaron Sorkin posted this opinion, and when several people wrote comments complaining about his use of the term ‘sexual preference’ instead of ‘sexual orientation,’ Sorkin took the time to write an apology to each reader in reply. 

So, over at Vanity Fair, this entertaining piece had still more to add to the debate.  Brett Berk looks back over Setoodeh’s previous articles to illustrate that the Newsweek journalist has been pretty consistent in his opinions.  Berk writes, “Here’s my theory: it seems to me that his real issue is not actually with these or other homos playing straight, but with some deep-seated conflict he has with gay guys that he perceives as being too fey or effeminate.”

I simply don’t have time to read the all of the things being written on this issue.  When would I sleep?  I’m looking forward to reading all about Setoodeh’s visit to Glee, though.  That should be fun.

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Filed under Actors, Movies, Television, Theatre