There’s a little something I didn’t include in my summary of the OutReach Magic Festival, which occurred two weekends ago, but wanted to talk up in a separate post. Don’t be alarmed, for it was a relatively minor thing. Matter of fact, it’s something that felt peculiar to me initially, yet I find myself thinking about it quite a lot.
Last weekend was the third weekend of August, one in which Madison’s LGBT+ community celebrates and puts on a show. Normally, that would have included a parade up State Street and a rally around the Capitol Square. This year, however, thanks to city ordinances, police department demands, and organizational logistics, event organizers went back to the future, as it were…
I have just enough time this Sunday morning to let you in on a couple of personal matters. First off, I’ve put in a feeler on a potential new employment opportunity. It’s through a different staffing agency than the one where I found my current assignment. It’s also a temp-to-hire role. But it also appears to be an indefinite, long-term role. And it’s also in an industry where I spent a significant portion of my early professional life, meaning I need to move some of the industry’s terminology from the back to the front of my memory if I get this role.
But at the very least, if nothing pans out there or anyplace else, I do have my current assignment to fall back on. As much as I’m not happy there and have struggled sometimes, the managers I work under seem to be pleased with my work. Well, at least pleased enough to indicate they’d like to keep me on past September 1 and work some special projects. While that’s nice, and I’m grateful, I’m not sure if it will be a full-time role. And let’s just say that it’s not easy having just part-time employment while living in a city as expensive as Madison.
This afternoon, at least, I get to put all those work worries aside and get dressed up. And for good reason, as today is Madison’s LGBT+ celebration, OutReach Magic Festival. As I noted back in the spring, city regulations, logistics, and lingering resentment from last year prompted event organizers to eschew from having a parade downtown up State Street, and instead have a picnic/festival event at Warner Park on the northeast side of town. The setup is meant to help bring the various groups within the pride acronym together, something our community needs right now and will hopefully benefit from. The bad news, however, is that somebody has been praying for rain. As I write this, there’s a loud storm moving through town, and a chance of rain exists late during the event. Ugh!
Hopefully, everyone will stay dry at Magic Festival. Myself especially, as I will be lugging around a fancy camera while dodging raindrops. See, yours truly will be volunteering as Allison at the event. Little Ol’ Do-Gooder Me wanted to help out in any way. Despite my signing up relatively late (I did so after a volunteer orientation), spots were still available, and I added my femme name to the list as an event photographer. I’m planning to arrive early enough to not only drink in the event and get a lay of the land, but also to get the ground rules on photographing the event, one of which I’ve learned about already — get consent before taking someone’s picture. It will be a great thrill to not only lend a hand to what will hopefully be a great event, but to also help document it for posterity.
The way the calendar works, one’s birthday doesn’t always fall on the same day of the week every year. So it is with my birthday, which the past few years fell on a work day. Luckily, this year my 50th birthday fell on a Saturday. And when my family texted me yesterday to bid me their good wishes, they wondered what I would be doing during the day. A natural question, what with my 50th falling on a weekend. I told them I wouldn’t be doing anything big, just relaxing at home.
Oh, boy, was I lying like a dog.
That’s yours truly posing for the camera early Saturday evening at one of the more popular restaurants in the Madison area, The Great Dane. The dress is literally brand new, as well as a birthday present to myself. Earlier in the day, I made a quick bee line for errands and stopped off at Forever 21 in West Towne Mall to treat myself to not only a new stylish addition to my wardrobe, but also something that will fit me comfortably and not show a lot of leg (I didn’t have enough time for me to shave them, and I’ll explain why in a moment).
As you may have surmised from the above banner, today (August 3) is indeed my birthday. It’s my 50th birthday, as a matter of fact. Yeah, that’s a big number for anyone in their life. But it’s also a point in my life where I’m very modest about dealing with it. Matter of fact, I’ve been at my current work assignment for a full year now (my 52nd week ended yesterday), and I’ve never revealed to anyone there that today is my birthday. (Truth be told, though, nobody in that office has appeared to clue anyone in on the day of their births. I guess birthdays aren’t a big deal there.)
But still, the big 5-0 is something to celebrate, as I did in my own way last night.
Yes, that’s yours truly taking a selfie at Mother Fools on Friday night, where I performed poetry en femme once again. Yes, I alluded to my birthday while on the stage, receiving a polite round of applause from the small audience and a couple of well wishes afterwards.
One of the poems I performed last night is shown below. To keep my poetry skills sharp, I wanted to write some whimsical prose for my birthday. But while I thought of a couple funny lines for the middle stanza, my mind kept coming up with blanks for the rest. So I reversed course and took the introspective route.
I must caution that the below words are not the most perfect, especially since they were typed up in a bit of a rush (I really wanted to present it that night). But these words are a reflection of the eager birthday celebrator I once was, the more modest birthday girl I am today… and the birthday wishes I still harbor now that I’m entering my second half-century, including one that I kind of wish wasn’t impossible (move over, Erica Strange).
When I was in a younger soul’s shoes
My birthday wishes were simple:
A big party
With bigger presents
Or at least a bigger cake
And a round of “Happy Birthday to You”
Oh, was I a different person then
Now that I’m in an older soul’s shoes
My birthday wishes are more simple:
A happy, healthy life
With a steady job
A loving family
And good friends
Who might sing a round of “Happy Birthday to You”
(That is, if they remember my birthday)
Yeah, I’m a more mature person now
But as I enter a 50-year-old soul’s shoes
I do have one birthday wish that’s fantastical:
A time machine
Where I could vividly relieve
My greatest days
The saddest moments
And biggest regrets
And perhaps turn them into something positive
And by the time I next would hear “Happy Birthday to You”
Oh, what a different person I could be now
But, yeah, I know… that’s impossible
At least until someone knows how to alter space and time
So, as I slip on a 50-year-old soul’s shoes
I’ll keep my birthday wishes realistic
The friends and family
The job (or maybe a million dollars instead)
But also a sharp memory
That remembers the years behind me
And a healthy life
That lets me enjoy the years ahead
Earlier this month, yours truly reviewed Queer Shorts: Spirit of Stonewall, which had its very last performance at the Bartell Theatre this afternoon. In that review, I mentioned the backdrop Stage Q employed for this Queer Shorts edition. It a basic setup of a black curtain bathed by projected lights from overhead. The lights can change colors with the flip of a board switch, including the 6 colors of the LGBT rainbow.
More than the color of the curtain or the lights, there is something else about the backdrop that I found absolutely striking: To match the “Spirit of Stonewall” theme of this last Queer Shorts, Stage Q included photos, mostly 8x10s, of various images from local and national LGBT history. The photos were strung together in vertical arrays along the curtain, each pic about a foot apart. You can see what I mean in the below image of the Queer Shorts cast Stage Q posted on Facebook prior to their second to last performance.
By now, I hope you have read my previous two posts (found here and here) dedicated to the anniversary of a momentous event. The Stonewall riots, which started 50 years ago this morning (June 28, 1969), were a significant milestone on the way toward respect and equality for those in the broad LGBT+ community. For sure, today is a day to recognize where our community has come from, celebrate the rights we have earned, and remember the long and hard fight that connects then to now… and continues into the future.
I need to bring up that aspect because as you are fully aware of, our LGBT+ community are still facing threats, even with our well-earned victories. For every person who waives a rainbow flag, there is another wanting to tear it from their hands. For every pride parade ready to step off, there is a group wanting to block us or wish us out of existence. For every same-sex couple making their relationship legal, there is a legislator (and an entire political party) seeking to deny them that right. And for every trans person wanting to display their true colors, and desiring to show the world that they are real human beings, there are those who only see them as deviant and disgusting.
Okay, now that you’ve seen how cute I looked last Friday night (June 14), let’s give some praise to the reason I went out in the first place…
Last Friday was a well-needed day off from my work assignment. Having that day off would be serendipitous for me, as I put in a little bit of walking in the morning, a little bit of shopping at midday… and a little bit of theater in the evening.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, or at least an aficionado of Madison’s theater community, you’re probably familiar with Stage Q, a theater group dedicated to advancing the creative voices and stories of LGBTQ+ people here in Madison. For the past 14 years, Stage Q’s cornerstone event has been Queer Shorts, a collection of queer-oriented (naturally) one-act plays, each united by a certain theme every year (e.g. love, remembrance).
This year, the golden anniversary of the Stonewall riots are the inspiration for Queer Shorts: Spirit of Stonewall, which had its premiere staging last Friday and will run on weekends through the end of this month. That closing weekend is serendipitous, in that it coincides with the actual anniversary of that fateful early morning of June 28, 1969.
Friday night (June 14) was the premiere showing of Stage Q’s Queer Shorts: Spirit of Stonewall. For the regular readers of this blog, or at least those familiar to Madison’s theater community, Stage Q is a live theater group committed to lifting the voices, talents, and stories of those in the LGBT+ community and our allies. Queer Shorts is an annual showcase of LGBT-themed one-act plays and has been the cornerstone event of each of Stage Q’s seasons since the first edition in 2006.
Each year, Queer Shorts has had a theme. This year’s edition, which runs through June 29, takes inspiration from the triumphs and difficulties the LGBT+ community has faced since the Stonewall riots of June 1969. The plays, which I’ll analyze further in my next post, have tones that range from funny to poignant, joyful to serious (and very dramatic in one instance). But they all reflect how far our community has come, where we are today, and how we still must overcome fear and prejudice while being unafraid to live as our true selves.
Yep, that’s me taking that selfie. This past Friday night, I dolled myself up, put on this brand new pride-themed shirt I found at Ragstock, and went to Mother Fools for their monthly poetry performance. I hadn’t been there since doing some semi-freeform spoken-word stuff last December, and hadn’t been a part of their first-Friday-of-the-month poetry events in well over a year. I hadn’t been there for various reasons, including my job search last summer, just feeling dog-tired from the work assignment I have right now (more on that in a moment), and lack of creative poetry juices.
This time around, though, I didn’t want to make excuses to myself or wait any longer. So, after I finished my work day late Friday, I made a bee line straight home to get changed into Allison. It would have been a little sooner than late Friday had I not had to stick around for a couple of things I had been meaning to do all day at work (again, more on work later).
Still, it was amazing how I turned out after applying my makeup. I’d say it took under an hour for me to slather on the foundation, blush, eye shadow, and lipstick, not to mention straighten out my wig. (Note to self: The hair goes over the glasses’ arms.) Oh, it also took an extra hour to do some extra shaving of my face and find the maxi-skirt and shirt I wanted to wear (my closet is always unorganized *sigh*).
But how did I do at the mic, you ask? Well, while I was a bit rusty, especially with my less-than-perfect poetry intros, I did all right. And even with the light crowd indoors at Mother Fools on what was an incredibly beautiful Friday evening (perhaps most of the regular crowd was taking advantage of that weather), it was a nice, accepting, and appreciative atmosphere.