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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Case for Prosecution

As the January 6 Select Committee continues to unveil through witnesses and documents more evidence that former President Donald Trump may have committed punishable crimes, the question becomes not will he be prosecuted but should he.

To be sure, there is a cornucopia of possible crimes committed by Trump from inciting a riot, to seditious conspiracy to witness tampering and a whole bunch in between. The panel has been so effective in bringing these indiscretions and possible crimes to the surface that three in five Americans believe Trump should be prosecuted. And that is before Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony given to the Select Committee and to the viewing public on June 28.

Since I am not a lawyer, I will gladly yield the floor to the legal experts who can debate whether Trump has committed crimes that could lead to an indictment. They can argue whether or not the evidence is sufficient to prove a federal case beyond a reasonable doubt. But if the evidence exists and is compelling enough to take it to a grand jury, then yes, the Department of Justice should proceed and prosecute even though a conviction would be improbable.

In advocating against a potential prosecution of Trump, several conservative columnists have summoned up President Gerald Ford’s pardoning of disgraced Richard Nixon prior to a likely indictment as a means to heal the county. He took this action in an effort to put the Watergate episode behind us, and as a result, he damaged himself politically.

Though Nixon’s lying to cover up a botched burglary of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate was and remains a national stain, it does not even come close to the severity of conspiring to execute a coup in an attempt to overturn a lawful election. Moreover, the country was not nearly as divided it is today making it easier to heal.

Following Trump’s “fight like hell” command at his infamous rally at the Ellipse, he knowingly dispatched armed insurrectionists to the People’s House. Seven people lost their lives directly or indirectly with hundreds of police officers injured, many seriously on that fateful day. Millions of dollars of property damage resulted, and the Capitol was so violated and defaced, the riot seen all over the globe became a national embarrassment.

The healing concept offered by opponents of prosecuting Trump is intriguing, but it is one-sided. Prominent Republicans vowed to go on a revenge tour should they reclaim both chambers of Congress regardless of whether or not Trump is indicted.

They have already tipped their hand when senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham—all of whom were personally humiliated by Trump during the 2016 primaries and have become pathetic Trump sycophants—support impeachment proceedings concerning President Biden.  House Republicans promise endless investigations, and, of course, private citizen Hunter Biden, the boogeyman of the MAGA crowd, will be front and center.  Never mind their likely push to roll back hard-fought rights at the federal and state levels that may include dismantling popular entitlement programs will be on the agenda. That’s not healing.

Declining to prosecute Trump for provable crimes will not heal the country, especially if the blood-thirsty vengeful Republicans are in charge. In fact, not punishing someone who was and continues to be a stake through the heart of our democracy and the rule of law will be a tragic mistake and something our nation will not recover from for many years. Without setting an example, this blot on our history could repeat itself.

If the anti-prosecution folks are so bent on healing the country, they should have persuaded Trump to concede the election in the first place and allow a peaceful transition of power—the hallmark of our democracy.  And they should have voted to certify the election results.

What good is healing if we do not have accountability, a democracy or rule of law? 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Absorbing 'SpongeBob' Delights at Toby’s

When I reviewed The Little Mermaid at Columbia’s Toby’s Dinner Theatre some four years ago, I promised I would avoid the temptation of flooding the review with fish puns. Alas, I couldn’t help myself and caved.

With The SpongeBob Musical now playing at Toby’s, I promise once again not to bring to the surface any fish jokes or puns although the show is set at the bottom of the sea. The names of the characters do the job for me: Sheldon Plankton, Squidward Q. Tentacles, Perch Perkins, Mr. Krabs, Larry the Lobster, SpongeBob—you get the picture.

The SpongeBob Musical is an adaptation of Nickelodeon’s long-running animated children’s sitcom of the same name created by Stephen Hillenberg. It features a book by Kyle Jarrow, with an eclectic array of original songs by Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady A, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., and songs by David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley. Each song in the musical is composed by a different artist.

Additional lyrics are by Jonathan Coulton, with additional music by Tom Kitt. The musical production was conceived by Tina Landau and received 12 Tony Award nominations in 2018 including Best Musical.

Conductor Ross Scott Rawlings and the six-piece orchestra ably support the talented performers’ vocals and dancing. Nathan Scavilla leads the orchestra at other performances.

The SpongeBob Musical at Toby’s is an eye-pleasing, fantasy romp that both children and adults will enjoy. Helen Hayes Award winning Mark Minnick gives a master class in directing as the energetic cast is placed in perpetual motion throughout with impeccable timing, pace and staging. Mr. Minnick and choreographer David Singleton utilize every inch of the in-the-round stage and then some as the performers also find their way on the steps around the stage and the balcony.

The SpongeBob Musical is set in a town beneath the sea called Bikini Bottom—the name of Toby’s specialty beverage for the duration of the run. Lighting Director David A. Hopkins maintains an aqua blue quality throughout most of the production depicting the underwater environment.

"The SpongeBob Musical at Toby’s is an eye-pleasing, fantasy romp that both children and adults will enjoy."

Scenic/Properties Designer Shane Lowry allowed his imagination and creativity to take over with an expansive assortment of thematic decorations and props. He used recyclable items that typically wind up in the bottom of the ocean as trash to make an important point about the environment. (See Mr. Lowry’s statement at the conclusion of this review.)

Despite the underwater setting, rest assured the creative team and management has made every effort to keep the patrons and Toby’s delicious buffet dry throughout. There is no need to bring a snorkel.

The musical calls upon the audience to imagine this undersea town and the goofy characters that inhabit it. Dispense with logic for a couple of hours as it would otherwise be difficult to conceive how a squirrel named Sandy Cheeks with scientific expertise and possessing the magical voice of Janine Sunday who plays her could survive underwater. Or how the residents of Bikini Bottom could welcome a sunrise while being so deep beneath the sea. But this is make believe, and in Bikini Bottom, anything goes.

The story centers on an impending volcanic eruption from nearby Mt. Humongous that threatens to decimate the town and its colorful inhabitants within 48 hours. A perennially cheerful and optimistic sea sponge named SpongeBob (played magnificently by Kyle Dalsimer) sets out to save the town and prove he is not “just a simple sponge” as he was accused of being by miserly Eugene Krabs (Jeffrey Shankle), manager of the Krusty Krab restaurant.

With his BFF Patrick Star (DeCarlo Raspberry) and his friend, the aforementioned Sandy Cheeks (Janine Sunday) in tow, SpongeBob attempts to climb Mt. Humongous to intervene and prevent the seemingly inevitable eruption. They endeavor to overcome their own lack of self-esteem and confidence as well as a pair of antagonists, Sheldon Plankton (Joey Ellinghaus) and Karen the Computer (Amanda Kaplan) who want to thwart the effort. In the rather predictable conclusion, all works out despite the obstacles.

Making his Toby’s debut, charismatic Kyle Dalsimer brings tons of youthful exuberance and athletic agility to the title role. A triple threat for sure, Mr. Dalsimer has a wonderful tenor voice and demonstrates his ability to hold long notes. He is called upon to perform in many of the show’s songs with other members of the cast and stands out in the solos “Bikini Bottom Day” and “Simple Sponge.” He also is excellent in the snappy group number “Best Day Ever.”

In an exhaustingly physical role, Mr. Dalsimer moves about the stage with grace and power like he has wings on his feet while his acting skills shine in portraying the sunny, happy-go-lucky character.  

As SpongeBob’s best friend Patrick Star, Helen Hayes Award winner DeCarlo Raspberry brings his own set of talents to the fore. He is also a top-notch vocalist as evident in the duet “BFF” and the outstanding group number “Super Sea-Star Savior” with a group of sardines, no less, which has a revival feel.

Patrick, a starfish, is kind of dim-witted. Yet, some of the Bikini Bottom residents including those sardines clad in shiny costumes think he’s a genius and made him a guru of some sort, which threatened the BFF status with SpongeBob. Spoiler alert: they do reconcile and join forces to conquer Mt. Humongous. Mr. Raspberry portrays that comedic character adroitly.

As the denigrated scientist-squirrel Sandy Cheeks, Janine Sunday is wonderful. Her lovely singing voice is always a joy, and she excels in “Hero Is My Middle Name” with Mr. Dalsimer and Mr. Raspberry and the duet “Chop To The Top” with Mr. Dalsimer.

Making a welcome return to Toby’s is Helen Hayes nominee Darren McDonnell as the 4-legged octopus (yes, there are 4 legs) Squidward Q. Tentacles—my favorite name in the show. Constantly reminded of being a loser, Squidward is determined to overcome the label.

Mr. McDonnell performs very well with the song “I’m Not A Loser” in a superb tap-dancing number with the ensemble. Tap dancing is quite a skill to possess; dancing with 4 legs is definitely a challenge and Mr. McDonnell pulls it off. In addition, his facial expressions and demeanor throughout are priceless.

The versatile Jeffrey Shankle plays greedy Eugene Krabs, the manager of the Krusty Krab, with flair. Mr. Shankle performs well with Jordyn Taylor who plays the role of Mr. Krabs’ daughter Pearl in the duet “Daddy Knows Best.” It is striking that he will not let go of Rocky’s boxing gloves from Toby’s previous production. 


Other notable members of the extraordinary cast include excellent Joey Ellinghaus and Amanda Kaplan as the villains Sheldon Plankton and Karen the Computer, respectively;  Jordan Stockdale as the comedic Patchy the Pirate; Justin Calhoun as Perch Perkins who acts as a sort of narrator; Santina Maiolatesi as the Mayor of Bikini Bottom who loves to create a multitude of task forces to analyze problems; Crystal Freeman as Puff; Shane Lowry as Larry the Lobster in addition to his set design duties, David James as the hilarious Old Man Jenkins who demands that these creatures get off his lawn; Mr. Lowry joins Brandon Bedore and Quadry Brown as the roller skating act “The Electric Skates";  Michael Pantazis as French Narrator; and Alexis Krey, Ariel Messeca, and Patricia ‘Pep” Targete as part of the energetic ensemble.

Choreographer David Singleton adeptly put the cast through the paces with some very spirited and vigorous production numbers including “When The Going Gets Tough,” “I’m Not A Loser,” “SpongeBob Theme Song.”

Sound Designers John Pantazis and Nathan Scavilla do a fine job with the audio and inserting well-placed sound effects throughout.

And this show boasts simply spectacular costumes designed by Flo Arnold with contributions from Janine Sunday as well as Wig/Hair Designs by Jayson Kueberth. There are tons of brilliantly colorful and imaginative costumes that add much to the spectacle.

The SpongeBob Musical is a solid show throughout highlighted by an outstanding lead performer Kyle Dalsimer and an energetic talented cast and crew. Under Mark Minnick’s direction, the production moves smoothly and meticulously and brings all the elements together in a cohesive manner.

Adults will enjoy the quality of the entertainment, the music and the messaging contained therein; children will absolutely love it—hook, line and sinker. (Ugh! I knew I couldn’t hold out.)

Running time. Two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

The SpongeBob Musical runs through July 31 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office 410-730-8311 or visiting here as well as Ticketmaster.

Photos: Jeri Tidwell Photography

 

Statement From Scenic/Property Designer Shane Lowery

There are close to 8 million metric tons of plastic trash that pollute our oceans each year, and it destroys thousands of aquatic ecosystems every day. If we continue to dump our trash into the sea, in the next 30 years there will be more trash than fish in the ocean.

This performances’ environment is made up of donations of: over110 milk jugs, 300 water bottles, 100 metal cans, 200 plastic containers, over 150 pool noodles and many other unwanted recyclable objects. Recycling isn’t always separating the metal from the plastic. In this case it is looking at things from another perspective and giving them a new life and purpose.

It has been an absolute joy to allow my inner child out and to create this unique playground that forces the inner imagination out of us. Special thanks to the cast, crew and staff at Toby’s for all their recycling donations!

To learn more about what you can do to save our oceans, visit here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Howard County Exec Announces Plans for LGBTQIA+ Commission

Under the “People’s Tree” near the Columbia lakefront, Howard County (MD) Executive Calvin Ball announced at a press conference on June 22 the filing of legislation that would permanently establish the current LGBT Workgroup as a formal LGBTQIA+ Commission.

The new Commission would follow the work of the LGBTQ Workgroup launched in 2019 by County Executive Ball.

“This commission will help move Howard County forward and will Identify best practices to affirm members of the gay and transgender community; recommend initiatives to support LGBTQIA+ families and children; and advise us on policy and programs that impact our gay and transgender community, and on how to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk members of the LGBTQIA+ population,” said County Executive Ball in his opening remarks in front of a crowd that included members of the LGBTQ Workgroup, county employees, members of the county’s Human Rights Commissioners and LGBTQ activists and allies as well as elected officials, representatives and candidates.

He added, “The Commission will support, plan, and help execute events, like PRIDE, to celebrate and affirm our community.”

The plan requires the approval of the county council and will be filed in July.

The commission will have the following responsibilities:

 ·         Support efforts to organize, educate, and mobilize the LGBTQIA+ community through coalition building and coordination with allied individuals, groups and organizations;

 ·         Identify best practices to affirm members of the gay and transgender community;

 ·         Recommend initiatives to support LGBTQIA+ families and children; and

 ·         Advise the County on policy and programs that impact our gay and transgender community, and on how to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk members of the LGBTQIA+ population.

 ·         Support, plan, and execute events, like PRIDE, to celebrate and affirm the community.

Besides County Executive Ball, speakers at the event included Yolanda Sonier, Administrator of the Office of Human Rights and Equity; Byron Macfarlane, Register of Wills; Bob Ford, Howard County Human Rights Commission; Jumel Howard, President of PFLAG- Howard County and community member Vicki Weiss Vivrette.

Later that evening,  the George Howard Building was bathed in rainbow-colored lights 

 ____

The texts of Calvin Ball’s remarks as well as those from some of the other speakers are shown below.

Good morning and happy PRIDE!

 It’s wonderful to be here today, surrounded by friends and familiar faces. We’ve been through a lot the past few years. The pandemic exacerbated a lot of the challenges already present in our community...and we were in an environment where our national leaders were fueling campaigns to make our LGBTQ residents feel like second-class citizens.

 Despite these tremendous obstacles—that, at times, seemed insurmountable, we’ve made progress over the past few years to establish thoughtful, inclusive, and affirming policies that allow all our residents to proudly be themselves and demonstrate that Howard County is a community where everyone is welcome.

 We’ve added a LGBTQ liaison for our public school system and increased mental health funding to support our students.

 We hosted our first ever PRIDE parade in 2019.

 And today, we continue to develop affirming resources for all our departments and service providers – so that all our residents feel seen.

 Despite the progress we’ve made here in Howard County, we’re seeing increasing attacks on gay and transgender equality across our country – and it’s naïve to think that those conversations will not impact our community.

 While Maryland offers many protections, it's legal in 29 states to fire employees just because they’re gay, and in 35 states because they’re transgender.

 It’s also legal in these states to deny housing to gay and transgender people.

That makes our work here even more important, to serve as a beacon and a model for other

communities on how to protect the equality of all our residents, and how to be inclusive and welcoming to all.

 Which brings me to why we’re here today...

 We’re filing legislation to PERMANENTLY establish our Howard County LGBTQ Workgroup as a formal LGBTQIA+ Commission, with the recognition that we needed to include the “I” for intersex, “A” for asexual and allies and the “+” to be a truly inclusive Commission for all.

 This commission will help move Howard County forward and will:

 *          Identify best practices to affirm members of the gay and transgender community;

*          Recommend initiatives to support LGBTQIA+ families and children; and

*          Advise us on policy and programs that impact our gay and transgender community, and on how to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk members of the LGBTQIA+ population.

 Additionally, the Commission will support, plan, and help execute events, like PRIDE, to celebrate and affirm our community.

 I’d like to thank our Workgroup members, many who are here today, for your advocacy and work to improve the lives of our neighbors, family, and friends.

 Together, we take a major step, and I am hopeful the County Council will pass this legislation to make a positive, impactful difference in the lives of our LGBTQIA+ residents, in our community and our world. Thank you.

–Dr. Calvin Ball, County Executive

  ____

Today is a great day for Howard County’s LGBTQIA+ community and, indeed, for everyone who calls this county home. We’re here to celebrate the introduction of legislation that will give our community a permanent seat at the table and connect us in a lasting way with those who control the levers of government in our county whose decisions have a direct impact on our lives.

 Howard County and Maryland have always led the way on LGBTQ+ rights. From Howard County’s anti-discrimination law passed many decades ago, to hate crime and anti-discrimination laws at the state level, to Maryland becoming one of the first states to pass marriage equality – not by judicial fiat – but by popular vote. Our community and our allies have achieved so much, but we know our hard-fought rights are under siege as we speak.


Every day, our community evolves and grows. We discover new ways to understand ourselves and embrace living lives of honesty, authenticity, and happiness. This is all our community has ever wanted – a chance to seek a life of fulfillment and love without anyone putting barriers in our way. But as the rainbow coalition of queer people grows, as we gain allies among our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, there are forces at work, using more extreme tactics and rhetoric to hold us back.

But this is not Texas. This is not Carroll County. This is Howard County. Today, we are saying loud and clear that queer voices will be heard, we will have our say in our government, and we will have a seat at the table. We are sending a message, especially, to our young people, who need now more than ever to hear from those of us in positions of leadership, that we see them and will do everything we can to give them a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment to grow and achieve their potential.

I’ve always been proud to be a lifelong Howard Countian. But I’m especially proud today. Thank you to our County Executive for making this timely commitment – both as we celebrate Pride Month, and as we see rising hateful rhetoric in our country and in our county – and I am calling on all five members of our County Council to pass this legislation unanimously, in a bipartisan way, to make it absolutely clear that here, in this special place, every life has value and meaning, and yes, love trumps hate.

I’m honored to be here today and to serve as this county’s first openly LGBT+ elected official. I may be the first, but I certainly will not be the last.

–Byron Macfarlane, Register of Wills and first openly LGBTQ+ person to be elected in Howard County

 ____

 Good morning. My name is Bob Ford and my pronouns are he/him/his.

I am a commissioner on the Howard County Human Rights Commission, a member of COVE—the Coalition Opposing Violence and Extremism—and a member of the County Executive’s LGBTQ Workgroup.

We have recently witnessed a disturbing and alarming uptick in anti-LGBTQ legislation and incidents around the country. From a failed attempt to disrupt a Pride celebration in Idaho, to storming into a drag queen storytelling session in California, to over 200 bills in state legislatures aimed at stripping the rights of LGBTQ people especially trans kids—these are wake-up calls.

Moreover, at one political party’s convention in Texas this past weekend, language was added to their platform that “homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice” and that party opposes “all efforts to validate transgender identity.”

In neighboring Carroll County, Pride flags in schools have been made illegal. Pride flags are being burned in other parts of the state.

To be clear, Howard County is not immune to anti-LGBTQ hate. As a commissioner on the Human Rights Commission and Chair of the Hate Bias Committee, I’ve been made aware of an increasing number of hate bias incidents. Unfortunately, privacy restrictions prevent me from discussing them.

A welcoming sign that featured a rainbow was chopped down and stolen from a Clarksville church.


We have seen a small but vocal group of parents whose goal is to ban books in libraries and schools that contain LGBTQ+ characters and themes, and push against any LGBTQ content in the schools’ curricula.

The LGBTQ+ community has made progress over the years but because of these distressing actions we
seem to be slipping back to the 1970s and 80s.  And lately the far right is using the word “groomers” to stoke more fear of LGBTQ+ people. This rhetoric leads directly to the increase of hatred and bullying in our schools and elsewhere, suicide as well as violence. We must be ready to thwart these efforts and call out hate when we see it.

An LGBTQIA+ Commission in Howard County would serve as a watchdog for these homophobic and transphobic actions. We would inform the county government of the needs of the LGBTQ community and make recommendations to the County Executive and Council for action if feasible.

Having an LGBTQ+ focus as part of the county’s government would raise awareness and would hopefully lead to measures to stem the tide of hate and inequality. Thank you.

–Bob Ford, Member of the Howard County Human Rights Commission 

 ____

 Good morning everyone I want to begin by thanking Dr. Ball and everyone else who has contributed to forming this important commission on behalf of the LGBTQ community. The work of this commission will help ensure a welcoming community for all of us in Howard County.

My name is Becki, and I am married to my wife Kirsten. We live in Elkridge and together with our co-parents raise two young boys and a rising college freshman. I am honored to serve on this commission, alongside several other community members and friends who have bravely advocated for the LGBTQ community, long before I ever came out, and often in the face of significant hate and discrimination.

When I think of what this commission and this work means to me, I think about the diversity of our community, each of us having our own unique experiences, identities, and perspectives.

What I hope to bring to the work of this commission is my perspective as a woman, who is married to another woman, and is parenting children in a blended family. What I hope to elevate is a better understanding that our identities as parents are not just about our sexual orientation, but sexual orientation is a key piece of our identity that should be recognized.

It is about teaching our children that love is love, that everyone deserves to give and receive love, and that they deserve to hear and read stories about families that look just like theirs. That our family should never feel ashamed for being proud of who we are.

Having grown up in a community that was not accepting or affirming, I know how important these messages are to our youth and neighbors. I hope this commission can bring folks together from all walks of life and encourage meaningful dialogue and progress. Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard to make this possible. I look forward to serving with you.

–Becki Weiss Vivrette, Community Member

____

In the LGBTQ community, there is a sense of labeling us as other, but that’s not always true. We’re your students and your teachers. We’re business owners, family members, and friends. We’re in the community that you live in as well.  

At the end of the day, we deserve to have not just a seat at the table, but our own table to sit at. 

A community like Howard County being able to provide the resources and support for people in the LGBTQ community to build that table and have this Commission and share what our actual concerns are with the community – rather than have the community decide what to deal with regarding us – it’s a very different feeling and a very positive feeling.”

– Jumel Howard, President of PFLAG Howard County.

 

____

As we close, Howard County prides itself on embracing people from all walks of life and treating them with dignity, respect, fairness and humanity.  However, there is still progress to be made.  


This was highlighted through the work of the LGBTQ+ Workgroup on ways that Howard County can improve.  

Personally, Working alongside the group taught me so much about the diverse needs of this non-monolithic community and I can say I’ve become a better ally and advocate.

The Office of Human Rights and Equity offers year-round workshops about Humanity and Activism, and we often hear from the community “I want to take action. But I don’t know where to begin.” And What can I do to be a better ally?  Well, here are a few steps you can take:

 *          Listen and be open-minded.

 *          Be inclusive. Don't make assumptions

*          Honor people’s chosen pronouns.

*          Believe and embody a spirit that all people should be treated equally, with dignity and respect.

*          Lastly, support this important legislation to ensure the voices of all our residents are being heard, feel welcomed, protected and have equitable opportunities

 Again, County Executive Ball thank you being a tireless civil and human rights champion and for taking the 1st step to establish the LGBTQIA+ Commission.

Yolanda Sonnier, Office of Human Rights and Equity Administrator


Photo courtesy of Howard County Government



Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Good Morning Baltimore! Beloved Hairspray Returns Home

From the opening number “Good Morning Baltimore” to the rousing finale “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” you know the audience at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre was thoroughly soaking up its hometown musical Hairspray. Indeed, the ovations given to those bookend songs and all the ones in between were so loud you can feel the vibrations in this stately theater. And you just know that with this audience Hairspray could do no wrong on its home turf. It did not disappoint.

In fact, under the meticulous direction of Matt Lenz, the sparkling production soars in all elements— a terrific storyline, the music, orchestration, technical innovations, slick staging, eye-pleasing visuals, dazzling, costumes, sensational choreography and an abundantly talented and energetic cast—making this production one of the very best you will ever see. It is no wonder Hairspray copped eight Tony Awards in 2003 including Best Musical.

Because there were so many Baltimore references and local flavor in the music and dialogue, one must marvel how this production is so appreciated in other cities on its national tour. From Patterson Park High School, to North Avenue, to Essex Community College, to Pigtown and the Women’s House of Detention, this show has Baltimore painted all over it with a few well-placed “hons” inserted as part of the dialogue. And even the Formstone facing, a Baltimore staple of rowhomes in Baltimore’s urban and working class neighborhoods, is evident in much of the scenery. The musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name by Baltimore icon John Waters.

Most of us can relate to being an underdog during points in our lives. Overcoming challenges can be fulfilling and exhilarating especially if the results are unexpected.  So, when we see others do it, we cheer and cheer hard because we can relate; we’ve been there.  Who doesn’t love underdogs who triumph against the odds?

Hairspray  is a vibrant feel-good musical that allows the audience to fight the fight alongside the underdogs.  While there is a solid amount of comedy throughout, Hairspray tackles serious social issues to boot. The book was penned by Mark O’Donnell and Mark Meehan who garnered Tony’s for their efforts.

Musical Director Patrick Hoagland and his orchestra as well as the performers bring to life the Tony Award winning score by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman that includes 60’s-style dance music and rhythm and blues – a mixture of upbeat high-tempo numbers with soft emotional ballads.

"...a vibrant feel-good musical that allows the audience to fight the fight alongside the underdogs."

Michele Lynch, who is the show’s accomplished choreographer, is blessed to work with an incredible cast who clearly enjoy themselves as much as the audience does.  “Good Morning Baltimore,” “The Nicest Kids in Town, “Welcome to the ‘60’s,” “The Big Dollhouse” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” are examples of numbers containing wonderful choreography.

Baltimore in 1962 is the backdrop for the story that centers on the main underdog, plucky and pleasantly plump Tracy Turnblad played marvelously by Niki Metcalf. 

Against the odds, our heroine Tracy seeks to be a dancer on the local Corny Collins TV show and winds up being a star, successfully covets the heartthrob Link Larkin in an unlikely match, and uses her newly-found celebrity to rally against racial segregation.

Though Hairspray brings to life the good times of that period, nostalgic it’s not.  Baltimore was a segregated city then, and racism that is associated with that blight, becomes the main force in the show.  In the end, there are heroes galore as The Corny Collins Show is ultimately integrated led by the persistent Tracy who had been jailed for being a “rabble rouser.”  

In a tour de force, Ms. Metcalf wins your heart with her playful and forceful portrayal of Tracy. Her compelling character overcomes self-esteem issues brought about by fat-shaming.  Not only do her acting skills and stage presence come to the fore but Ms. Metcalf’s vocals are stellar as well. Excelling in many numbers throughout including the iconic “Good Morning Baltimore,” her solo “I Can Hear the Bells” rings out.

For the performance reviewed, Greg Kalafatas is excellent as homebody Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s plus-sized mother.  He plays the drag role with panache and delivers many comedic lines with impeccable timing and amusing facial expressions.     

Christopher Swan does a fine job as Tracy’s encouraging father and Edna’s adoring husband Wilmer Turnblad.  In a sweet number, the Turnblad couple reminisce in “(You’re) Timeless to Me” and  is one of the show’s many highlights. The ballad is an adorable love song oozing with emotion and camp that will make you smile. Mr. Kalafatas and Mr. Swan nail it.

Emery Henderson who plays the rather dim Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s closest friend, is excellent as she also serves up some comedic lines.  Penny, who is controlled by her overprotective and racist mother Prudy (Emmanuelle Zeesman) falls in love with African-American Seaweed J. Stubbs played very well by Jamonté D. Bruten, who are key to the integration effort.  Mr. Bruten shows off smooth dance moves and sings well in “Run and Tell That.”

Handsome Will Savarese plays the heartthrob Link Larkin (when is an actor playing Link not handsome?) is one of the protagonists.  He fills the bill to the hilt with his swagger and occasional preening.  Possessing a solid voice as well,  Mr. Savarese shines in his duet with Ms. Metcalf  in “It Takes Two” as the duo improbably falls in love.  

Other strong performances are turned in by Billy Dawson as the vibrant Corny Collins, Addison Garner as the villainess and Corny Collins Show producer Velma Von Tussle, and Kaelee Albritton as Amber Von Tussle, the self-absorbed reigning Teen Queen vying for the title “Miss Hairspray 1962” and Tracy’s chief rival.

Another highlight is Gabriyel Thomas playing Motormouth Maybelle for this performance, the mother of Seaweed and Little Inez (Kaléa Leverette).  Her powerful rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” whereby she recalls the fight for equality is almost guaranteed to make your eyes well up in tears.    

The Dynamites is a background singing group that adds a Motown feel to the show.  Talented vocalists Nichelle Lewis, Jazz Madison and Parris Mone’t Lewis comprise the group.  I can envision Ed Sullivan introducing them on his show: “Right here on our stage…here are the explosive Dynamites!”

The production is a visual delight with brilliantly colorful lighting (Paul Miller) and exquisite scenery (David Rockwell) featuring numerous backgrounds and drop-down curtains as well as the aforementioned Formstone depictions.

William Ivey Long designed the glorious 60’s-era costumes that are right on target especially that red satiny gown Edna (Greg Kalafatas) wears at show’s end.   Oh, and those bountiful, big-hair wigs (designed by Paul Huntley and Richard Mawbey)! Love ‘em.

This polished, high-energy production of Hairspray succeeds on all fronts and entertains while delivering a powerful message. At show’s end, the cast received a well-deserved thunderous and I do mean thunderous ovation. It is a must-see, good-time show, and Lord knows a good time is just what we can use today.

Running time. Approximately two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Hairspray runs through June 19 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit here or the Baltimore Hippodrome.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Standing With Gabe

 

Giants' manager Gabe Kapler takes a stand against gun violence.

As our country and much of the civilized world are still reeling from the anguish stemming from arguably one of the saddest episodes in U.S. history, Gabe Kapler, a former major league ballplayer and currently the manager of the San Francisco Giants, had enough.  

While the team was in Cincinnati , Kapler announced he would refuse to take the field for the customary playing of the national anthem.

“I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents,” he wrote on his blog the day before.

“We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the ‘shining city on the hill.’ But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings. We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes.

“Every time I place my hand over my heart and remove my hat, I’m participating in a self-congratulatory glorification of the ONLY country where these mass shootings take place.”

He reiterated his stance to reporters in the dugout.

Then San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a major firestorm when he kneeled during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in 2016 to protest police brutality. Kaepernick, who is Black, witnessed fans boycotting NFL games, listen to former President Trump demagoguing the issue to death, endured racist slurs, and he has still yet to take a snap in the NFL since.

On the other hand, Kapler, whose parents were civil rights activists, isn’t kneeling; he is simply staying away during the anthem until he sees a change in direction of the country on gun violence.

Predictably, there was blowback. “San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler is the latest ingrate to disrespect our flag and proud nation,” wrote Sid Rosenberg, co-host of the Bernie and Sid morning radio program on WABC in New York City, on Twitter. “This [sic] coming days away from most Americans celebrating our best’s heroism on Memorial Day. He should pick up Kaepernick in his fancy car & leave the country today. Get out Gabe!”

Gabe Kapler wasn’t the only sports figure from the Bay Area to speak out against the inaction of our leaders. Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors blasted the Congress and Senate for failing to do anything to stem gun violence and being beholden to the gun lobby. He made his passionate remarks during a pre-playoff game press conference and chose to speak out on the mass shooting than discuss the game ahead.

“In the last 10 days, we've had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school,” Kerr told reporters.

“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there ... I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough.”

For Gabe Kapler, Kerr and Kaepernick, despite their high-profile platform, they understand that little will “move the needle,” as Kapler pointed out. But it keeps the conversation moving forward with the hope our legislators in Washington finally heed the call.  If the slaughter –and it was slaughter—of 19 innocent 9 year-olds and 2 teachers in Uvalde won’t move the needle, it is hard to imagine what would.

By his words and actions and knowing that he will be castigated by the far right, Gabe Kapler demonstrated courage that is so needed.  Yet, several of his fellow managers have offered support.

As we continue to grieve this senseless and despicable tragedy, Gabe showed the world what true patriotism is.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pride Cap Fuss Shows Why Pride is Needed

It’s just a ball cap. But oh, how some people get triggered!

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that for the first time, the players will all be wearing a Pride cap featuring rainbow colors on the interlocking LA logo during the team’s LGBTQ+ Night on June 3 at Dodger Stadium when they face off against the New York Mets. Moreover, the following week at Oracle Park in San Francisco, both the Dodgers and the Giants will for the first time wear their respective Pride caps during the game.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers are proud to stand with and recognize the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles and globally,” said Stan Kasten, President & CEO, Los Angeles Dodgers in a statement. “The Dodgers have a history of breaking barriers and we’re proud to be a part of another chapter in MLB history as the Dodgers and Giants each wear their team’s pride caps on June 11. While our organizations have a long-storied rivalry on the field, we stand together when it comes to equality for all.”

Adds Gabe Kapler, the manager of the Giants, “It is an honor to be a part of this moment. I hope everyone watching the game on June 11 sees the clear statement being made — we stand for equality and respect of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Wearing the Pride logo is both a reminder of the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces and the importance of supporting and creating a more inclusive environment.”

Most major league baseball clubs have held similar Pride celebrations at their ballparks but never had players taking the field wearing such attire. According to Outsports.com, a site that focuses on LGBTQ+ athletes in sports, only the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros did not host a Pride event during the pre-Covid 2019 season.

Not everyone shared in the celebration of the new ball cap to be worn by the Dodger players.  When the Dodgers unveiled the cap on Instagram, there was quite a number of negative comments sprinkled among the many who voiced support. Some were benign as in juliannavaaa’s post, “Why can’t we just play baseball?” Others were more sinister (reported to Instagram as hate speech) like “We should have taken them [gays] out years ago.”

Then you have the typically juvenile homophobic snark by commenter richnowlandrn “Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Switch Hitter.’” Or the genius of aliyahsdead, “need the dodgers and the giants to make out to truly express their support for pride”.

But responding to one of the haters, sdotarick wrote, “You can tell who woulda booed Jackie back in the day too.” On that same theme, baserobber posted, “All the people hating now would have been the same people hating on Jackie Robinson. Be open to new ideas and other people being different.”

It is encouraging that nearly 88,000 liked the announcement on Instagram and the unveiling of the Dodger’s new Pride cap with many speaking up to defend it and calling out the homophobes.

Homophobic comments frequently appear on fan pages and message boards all over. One jerk on the Baltimore Orioles Facebook group lamented the Orioles Pride Night last year and inquired why there wasn’t a Christian pride event. I guess he was bothered by so many Christians being physically attacked or fired from their jobs or bullied at school or kicked out of their homes by family members for being Christian. Or maybe he believes the manufactured war on Christmas is real.

Whatever the reason, there are too many folks who resent that the LGBTQ+ community being celebrated. Surveys have been positive in recent years regarding LGBTQ+ acceptance. In the macho world of sports, however, we haven’t made enough progress though leagues and teams have become very supportive. Still, there is no open LGBTQ+ athlete currently playing in any of the four major male sports leagues.

There are going to be ignorant buffoons and haters no matter what, especially those who are shielded by the relative anonymity of the internet. The stereotyping and homophobia are palpable on these platforms.

And this is exactly why the LGBTQ+ community needs Pride.  A tip of the cap to the Dodgers, Giants and all the MLB teams who celebrate diversity and equality and do so in a public way.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Blue Skies?

Why Republicans shouldn’t be spiking the ball just yet.

Republicans could hardly contain their glee. The president’s approval rating is low. A bloody war is waging. Inflation and gas prices are threatening our economic stability.  There’s trouble at the border.  Covid is hanging around. The stock market has been in a free-fall. Biden’s economic agenda has been stalled. Gerrymandering has locked in Republican districts. These developments and more are pointing to a November blow-out. Even popular presidents see their party lose seats in Congress during the mid-terms.

All Republicans needed to do is hold on to the ball and run out the clock. A red tide would sweep the country. But sometimes there could be a bad snap, a fumble or an ill-advised penalty and suddenly victory, which was ostensibly certain moments earlier, could be in jeopardy.

The bombshell leak last week of the Supreme Court draft opinion that foretold the demise of the popular Roe v. Wade ruling was tantamount to a political earthquake. The most nervous person in the U.S. is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has expected to return to his majority leadership position, has been in the “let’s run out the clock camp.” Now he has seen the ball sail over the quarterback’s head.

So worried that the news of the likely overturning of the 49-year-old ruling could galvanize downtrodden Democrats—downtrodden because of the political headwinds mentioned above—that the Republican response was Trump-like focused on the identity of the leaker rather than the substance of the opinion.

GOP folks have attempted to downplay the impact by turning the subject back to inflation. In other words, change the subject and fast. But people don't like their rights taken away and will motivate them to act.

Importantly, the early indication of how SCOTUS would rule on Roe gave the Dems an extra month or so to mobilize the opposition and change their attitudes and strategies towards the mid-terms. Democrats received a new lease on life.

It’s hard to say at this point how this will play out. Democrats can wound themselves if protests at

Supreme Court justices’ residences get out of hand. Recall how Republicans turned largely peaceful protests over the murder of George Floyd into the radical left burning down cities narrative. They used this whataboutism technique in trying to explain away the riots and insurrection on January 6, 2021 and they will use it again to blunt the outrage over Roe.

Democrats stand to regain the allegiance of suburban women and independents based on overturning Roe. They could let that slip away if they don’t play their cards right.

The hope for Democrats as they scramble to do what’s necessary to protect a woman’s right to determine the well-being of their own bodies is that the fire and energy we see now will not dissipate come November. Clearly, they can use this highly emotional issue and bludgeon Republican candidates from the Senate to the state legislatures.

Potentially aiding the cause will be the onset of the bipartisan January 6 House Select Committee’s public hearings, which will occur next month. It is fairly obvious the committee will lay out methodically how President Trump not only inspired the riots of that day and did nothing to squelch them, but more significantly how he and his allies plotted to execute a coup. The public should also be reminded of which congressmen and senators voted to not certify the presidential election.

This one-two punch should give the Dems a major boost. They need to harness this energy to raise money and launch major voter registration drives and develop get out the vote strategies in all 50 states.

We won’t know the outcome until November as to which party recovered that bad snap. But right now it’s a free ball.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

‘Ain’t Too Proud’ at the Hippodrome Brings Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

I totally enjoyed Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, currently playing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre as part of a whirlwind national tour. To me, it ranks right up there with my favorite jukebox musical Jersey Boys. Perhaps it’s because of my growing up in the 60’s in recalling the superb music and entertainment generated by The Temptations and the Four Seasons.

It is no small coincidence that both musicals were directed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Des McAnuff in which he won the honors for Jersey Boys as Best Musical and Choreographer Sergio Trujillo for taking home the Tony for the Broadway production of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. This is a winning combo for sure.

There have been quite a number of high-quality jukebox musicals making it to Broadway, but Ain’t Too Proud with music and lyrics by The Legendary Motown Catalog and a book by Dominique Morisseau is a standout on so many levels.  

First and foremost, you have the vast cache of mostly familiar hits to work with. In this production 31 Motown favorites are performed—most but not all are Temptations songs. Some of the songs featured in the show include “Cloud Nine,” “I Can Get Next to You,” the iconic “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” “I Wish it Would Rain,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “Get Ready,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” among a host of others.

Then there are songs from the fabulous Supremes who ruled Motown until the Temptations climbed to the top and are part of this show. “Baby Love,” “Can’t See About Me” and “You Can’t Hurry Love”—all in a marvelous medley are performed. And one of my personal favorites, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” where both the Supremes and the Temptations team up, is simply wonderful.

Acknowledged as the best-selling R&B group of all time, the Temptations can boast four Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles and fourteen R&B number-one singles among forty-two Top 10 hits. They earned three Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award while six of the members had been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But for these irresistible treasures to be effectively brought to life you have to have a powerful cast and ensemble as well as a strong orchestra to deliver them. In Ain’t Too Proud, there is that.  The talent level among the cast, especially the lead performers, is off the charts. The blending of disparate vocal registers is amazingly pure; the harmonies are perfect. It is tantamount to listening to the actual record.

And the dancing that goes along with the songs is beyond amazing. Yes, Trujillo’s meticulous choreography is worthy of the Tony. But the cast performing those numbers—each with a separate set of moves—is eye-popping. Even more polished than the actual Temptations, the cast executes these slick steps all in synch with an abundance of smoothness, rhythm, spins and when called upon, splits.

"The talent level among the cast, especially the lead performers, is off the charts."

However, Ain’t Too Proud is not just a concert although it feels like one. As many jukebox musicals do, the songs are woven together with a story, a bio of the subjects. In some cases that plot is secondary to the music and audiences eagerly anticipate the next song to be performed. 

The story of the Temptations is as integral to the production as the music, and Morisseau’s storytelling is superb. The scenes where the Temptations’ journey is depicted are short enough to keep the music flowing, and in doing so, maintains a high level of energy during the course of the production.

The principal narrator is Otis Williams, a co-founder of what eventually became the Temptations. Played magnificently by Marcus Paul James, not only his singing prowess is on display throughout, but his acting skills shine as he expertly takes the audience on a journey with all its highs and lows. The cornucopia of emotions—melancholy, anger, regret, worry, joy, celebration—are all on display effectively captured in Morisseau’s book and portrayed so expertly by Mr. James and the other cast members.   

Through dialogue and song, this journey chronicles the formation of the group in 1960 Detroit whereby the members navigate crime, drugs, poverty and fall in and out of love. At first there is a great amount of cohesion and camaraderie as their fame begins to increase. Then there is the ensuing friction caused by bouts of alcoholism, drugs, and unreliability.  Many of these episodes take place with the civil rights struggles and the turmoil that ensued as the backdrop with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King becoming the punctuation mark.

While their musical and financial successes mount during the 60’s and 70’s, jealousy and suspicion of each other and the contract the group signed with Motown and in particular its mogul Berry Gordy begin to seep in. Members leave, others like Al Bryant and David Ruffin who in his case allowed success to get to his head are kicked out.

Others replace them; the Temptations amount to a revolving door and ultimately becomes a franchise of sorts, a brand, and not a singular group like the Rolling Stones who essentially stayed intact for over a half century. Later, as the original members pass away, Otis Williams had to endure the ultimate loss. It’s a moving story that is realistically portrayed by a skilled group of performers.

Besides Mr. James, James T. Lane as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes, Jr. as Melvin “Blue” Franklin with his intoxicating bass voice, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin, and Harris Matthew as Dennis Edwards excel in their roles as members of the Temptations. Their vocals, dancing and acting are stellar.

Other members of the cast deserve praise as well. Brett Michael Lockley as Al Bryant, Shayla Brielle G. as Mama Rose and Florence Ballard, Traci Elaine Lee as Johnnie Mae and Mary Wilson, Michael Andreaus as Berry Gordy, Najah Hetsberger as Otis’ wife Josephine, Lawrence Dandridge as Smokey Robinson, Deri’ Andra Tucker as Diana Ross, and Joshua Morgan as the group’s manager Shelly Berger.

The remainder of the talented cast and ensemble as well as the orchestra that is co-conducted by Darryl G. Ivey and Jonathan “Smitti” Smith add to the quality of the production.

Robert Brill’s basic scenic design allowed for Peter Nigrini’s projections to depict the cities and venues where the Temptations were touring to provide context to the performances. A conveyor belt worked feverishly to bring all kinds of set pieces and props on stage. Howell Binkley’s lighting design is exceptional and created simulated theatre marquees that brightened the stage and created added visual energy to the production.

Costume Designer Paul Tazewell attired the cast in slick period costumes, particularly the dazzling, colorful suits worn by the Temptations and the gorgeous gowns donned by the Supremes. It is no surprise that the costumes are so magnificent given that Tazewell had won a Tony for costume design for Hamilton.

In all, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is a thoroughly entertaining experience whether or not you recall the Temptations first-hand. The production features an uber-talented cast that acts proficiently while performing wonderfully memorable songs along the way. If you want to see the show in Baltimore, hurry to get tickets because the show will shuffle off to Buffalo next.

Running time. Two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission.

Advisory: The show contains profanity and adult situations and is not recommended for young children.

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations runs through May 8 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit Ticketmaster or the Baltimore Hippodrome.

Photos by Emilio Madrid



Sunday, May 01, 2022

A Sign of the Times

Neighbors, clergy, allies stepped up to support LLUMC in replacing stolen welcoming sign.

Photo courtesy of LLUMC
Just two months after a welcoming sign at Linden-Linthicum United Methodist Church on Route 108 in Clarksville, Md. was chopped down and stolen from the property, a new replacement sign was installed. The new sign is almost identical to the stolen one, and its supports have been made sturdier.  

On a background of rainbow colors, the sign reads “Ever One Is Welcome Here” with a heart at the bottom. The LLUMC emphasizes that the message of welcoming applies to a broad population that includes among other groups, the disabled, immigrants as well as the LGBTQ+ community.

The vandalism and theft, which was first chronicled in this space and reported on the Clarksville Happenings group page on Facebook, led many people in the community to offer support both financially and spiritually to help the church replace the sign.

Undeterred by a steady rain on May 1, Pastor Gayle Annis-Forder moved what would have been an outside ceremony marking the replacement of the new sign to the church’s multi-purpose room to celebrate the event. Members of the church’s council, congregation and community attended. She reiterated the message that everyone is welcome including those who stole the sign. “Love is better,” she said.

Pastor Gayle expressed her gratitude for the outpouring of support during this period. She thanked various representatives from local religious organizations and individuals within the community as well as County Executive Calvin Ball.  Pastor Gayle read statements from Rabbi Susan Grossman of the Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Md. and Rev. Paige Getty of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in support of the LLUMC.

Said Richard A. Smith, Church Council Chair of LLMUC: 

"An act of vandalism, at a minimum, or more likely a targeted message of hate, the cutting down of this sign prompted an outpouring of support and love within this community. I for one, cannot thank enough those who have expressed support and graciously provided the funding for its replacement.

"There are not enough hours in the day to provide the context behind this sign. Although various groups who are being singled out and persecuted in numerous ways in today’s society is heartbreakingly too many, the LGBTQ holds community a unique place currently in the United Methodist Church (UMC)."

Though the sign had been vandalized last year, Pastor Gayle was surprised that the sign had been destroyed and removed in late February of this year. “Driving to the church the following morning, I had to do a double-take in noticing the sign was no longer there,” she said.

The church received donations from the community to help pay for the costs associated with replacing the sign. Pastor Gayle especially was appreciative of the owners of the Red Bird Bar and Grille in Glenelg, who held a fundraiser just days after the incident that raised $1,000 for the church.

Pastor Gayle explained that the church is still accepting donations to help with security and other expenses incurred by the incident. 

Pastor Gayle addressing the audience