Featured Post

Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Friday, April 27, 2018

Byron Macfarlane Endorses Bob Ford for Howard County Democratic Central Committee

Bob Ford and Byron Macfarlane

Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane  endorsed Bob Ford on April 27 for Howard County Democratic Central Committee.  This is the third major endorsement Bob Ford has received this month—the other endorsements came from former Howard County Executive and State Senator Jim Robey and Senator Guy Guzzone #hocopolitics

“Bob Ford has been a friend and supporter for over 10 years. I’ve seen first-hand his strong work ethic, progressive principles, and dedication to the mission of electing more Democrats to office. I’ve also seen his leadership as an advocate for LGBTQ equality,” Macfarlane said in a statement released on April 27 to coincide with the national Day of Silence. On this day, students take a vow of silence to highlight that LGBTQ children are bullied and silenced by bullies at school as well as online.

Macfarlane wants “to stress how important it is to have LGBTQ representation on the Central Committee because bullying is still a problem and we need to stand up for kids.” (Bob Ford wrote his own essay as to why there needs to be LGBT representation on the Central Committee.)

Macfarlane adds, “As we confront a wave of hate and bigotry coming from Donald Trump and the Republican Party and as the Democratic Party charts its future in these trying times, having diverse voices at the table is more important than ever before. Bob is the only openly LGBTQ candidate running for this office and I hope my fellow Democrats will join me in electing him to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.”

Bob Ford is grateful for Byron Macfarlane’s support and endorsement.

“Byron has been a good friend through the years,” said Ford in response. “His journey in the political arena drives home the point that anyone who works hard can succeed regardless of their race, gender, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.  I am thankful for his endorsement and that he recognizes, as I do, that there are still LGBTQ issues that need to be resolved.”

Macfarlane was elected as Register of Wills in 2010, narrowly defeating the six-term Republican incumbent Kay Hartleb. He won re-election in 2014 running unopposed.

Holding the distinction of being Howard County’s first LGBTQ elected official and the first LGBTQ Register of Wills in Maryland, in 2012 Macfarlane used his experience as Register of Wills to advocate for marriage equality and educate legislators on the end-of-life protections denied same-sex couples. He’s prevented the Registers of Wills from implementing discriminatory policies and helped educate same-sex couples about how to take advantage of the inheritance tax exemption for domestic partners. Macfarlane hired the first LGBT employee in the 172-year history of his office.

His tenure at that position has been marked by a technological overhaul of his office and legislative initiatives aimed at making the probate process more streamlined and less expensive for Maryland families.  Macfarlane is currently seeking a third term.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Is America Ready for an LGBT Idol?

Contestants Ada Vox and Jurnee (Image courtesy of TVLine)
To be sure, there have been a number of LGBT and non-binary contestants on American Idol over the course of 16 seasons.  Some came out during the preliminary rounds and didn’t advance, so not much was made of it.  Some were clearly LGBT but didn’t come out until after the competition.

Notable 2nd place finishers Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert who had launched successful recording careers after the show, in my view, were the most talented among their respective competitors.  But Aiken lost to Ruben Studdard and the flamboyant and charismatic Lambert was defeated in the fan voting by low-key Christian Arkansan country singer Kris Allen in Season 8, which had been described by the Huffington Post as a “seismic upset.”  

Lambert hadn’t officially come out during the competition until a tabloid displayed photos of Lambert kissing his boyfriend.  Apparently, that plus his eyeliner, black fingernails and high-pitch notes were too much for America to take. I wrote about the Lambert defeat here.

This year is different with two open LGBT contestants in the Top 10.  Has America moved forward culturally over these years to allow such a phenomenon?  The jury is still out but lesbian singer Jurnee and drag queen Ada Vox (Adam Sanders) did not make the Top 10 voting on April 23 despite an abundance of talent for each.

But one of the judges, Katy Perry, a stout LGBT ally broke the show’s rules. “I do think we know talent when we see it,” Perry said after Ada Vox’ magnificent performance which drew the loudest ovation by the studio audience. “So I say we would like to make an executive decision right now” and gestured for Ada Vox to move to the Top 10 group on stage. Later Perry told People, “Enough was enough and you put your foot down when it’s real,” Perry later told reporters, per People. “We stand for truth and for justice.”

Silk smooth singer Jurnee, whose wife is in the military, was also added by the judges to the Top 10 area.  The point is that America did not vote to allow these two talents to advance, and I suspect, as I have before with talented contestants not receiving the requisite votes to move on, homophobia played a role.

Lasaro Arbos, a contestant from Season 12, was notable for his profound stuttering problem, which is not evident when he sings.  He recalled how in school he was shunned by his classmates—a form of bullying—and inspired a nation of kids  who are similarly bullied.

Arbos saw the rejection  of Ada Vox by America’s voters as an indication that “haters” still dominate the voting on American Idol and tweeted the following in support .



Is America ready for an LGBT Idol?  We’ll have to see as the few remaining weeks progress.

UPDATE: On April 29, America voted...and it was a split decision.  Ada Vox' "Circle of Life" failed to capture the voters' hearts while Jurnee's "How Far I'll Go" got her into the Top 7.  Good-bye Ada for now..you are inspirational.

UPDATE: On May 6, America voted...and Jurnee's journey on American Idol ended as she failed to crack the Top 5 despite two superb performances.

So for this year, America was not ready for an LGBT American Idol, but Jurnee will included in the national tour with the other Top 7 performers.















Monday, April 23, 2018

Olney Theatre Presents an Actual Witch Hunt in 'The Crucible'

Photo: Stan Barouh

For over a year, we’ve been subject to the incessant accusations of “witch hunt” from our president referring to the ongoing Russia probe.  Whether or not there is validity to those claims is under debate.   #hocoarts

There were, however, unquestioned witch hunts in our history, such as the McCarthy accusations of Communism against those within the State Department and beyond, and until the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the expulsion of gays and lesbians from the military. 

In Arthur Miller’s classic, The Crucible, currently being presented at the Olney Theatre Center, an actual witch hunt is portrayed.  Loosely based on historical facts, Miller had crafted a four-act play (separated by one intermission) depicting the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He had written this play as a parallel to the aforementioned McCarthy era of the early 1950’s, and it captured a Tony Award for Best Play in 1953.

Though the setting for The Crucible occurred centuries ago, today’s culture can be examined through the lens of the play. Baseless suspicion and the spreading of rumors on social media, for example, can have devastating consequences. 

Miller captures the horrors of that period in a Puritanical society where the Christian Bible and state laws were one of the same.  Paranoia and hysteria were prevalent.  Grudges were commonplace and seemingly irreconcilable. Morality ruled the day and everyone’s religious activities were under intense scrutiny. There was no tolerance for anyone deviating from moral laws.  And many in Salem were fearful of guilt by association, which could damage their reputation—a major theme throughout. 

Then there is the absolute necessity for self-preservation where people would say anything and fabricate stories to protect their own interests.  In other words, throwing people under the bus to save their own hide was a way of life, which directly led to the tragic imprisonment and executions that was the outcome of the witch trials. 

Under Eleanor Holdridge’s meticulous, first-rate direction, the ensemble cast of 19 talented actors leaves nothing on the stage, and they perform like it was the last thing they were ever going to do.  The actors demonstrate enormous levels of energy and passion and are clearly invested emotionally in their roles.  And they do it with tremendous skill.

The plot is a labyrinth of moving parts with twists galore, and it’s pure frightening at times.  Accordingly, I will not divulge much to detract from the dramatic effect for those who are fortunate enough to see this presentation.

It all starts when the Reverend Samuel Parris, played forcefully by Michael Russotto, is tending to his 10 year-old daughter, Betty (Caroline Rilette/Mia Rilette), lying lifeless in her bed.  Earlier he had discovered Betty and a bunch of girls performing some suspicious ritual in a nearby forest though the ringleader, Abigail Williams (played by Dani Stoller), maintain they were merely dancing.  They fall ill with no ostensible explanation.  The hysteria among the townspeople develops whereby many are convinced witchcraft has enveloped the town and the arrests, trials and punishment of those suspected ensue.

Chris Genebach is exceptional in the role of the main protagonist, John Proctor.  It was John’s affair with Abigail prior to when the play begins that led to Abigail’s jealousy of his wife, Elizabeth Proctor (Rachel Zampelli). Elizabeth fired Abigail as the family servant once she discovered the affair.  Mr. Genebach’s final dramatic scene is superb.

Abigail, the play’s villain, uses this jealousy as a trigger that sets in motion the hysterical witch hunt with her lies and ability to manipulate people. Ms. Stoller is truly effective in this role.    

As virtuous Elizabeth Proctor, Ms. Zampelli conveys an earnest down-to-earth quality.   Her poignant interactions with Mr. Genebach in Acts II and III represent one of the play’s highlights.

Scott Parkinson is convincing in playing the role of young Reverend John Hale from Beverly, Massachusetts.  An intelligent man, Hale was considered an expert on witchcraft. His determinations resulted in the prosecutions of many suspected witches.  Later, he regretted his actions and tried to save the lives of the suspects by persuading them to confess.

Brigid Cleary does an excellent job portraying Rebecca Nurse, an elderly respected woman who was sentenced to death after being accused of witchcraft by the wealthy Thomas Putnam (Bolton Marsh) and his wife, Ann Putnim (Jessica Lefkow) and refused to confess.

While he has many other credits, Olney Theatre-goers are familiar with Paul Morella from his wonderful annual one-man performances in A Christmas Carol.  In The Crucible, Mr. Morella exhibits his strong acting gifts as Deputy Governor Danforth—another of the play’s villains.  He doesn’t appear until Act III but his impact on the overall production cannot be overstated.

Danforth is the presiding judge at the witch trials and is commanding and inflexible in his beliefs.  Mr. Morella’s tour de force performance is something to behold.

Photo: Stan Barouh
Lilian Oben as Tituba, an enslaved black woman from Barbados belonging to the Parris family, is convincing displaying anguish towards her accusers.  She was the first person accused of witchcraft when she admitted to creating love potions for Abigail and her friends.

Other notable performances include Miranda Rizzolo as Mary Warren, a Proctor family servant and one of Abigail’s friends, and Craig Macdonald as Giles Corey, an elderly farmer who along with his wife was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death.  However, the entire cast worked together flawlessly thanks to the guiding hand of Director Holdridge.

Andrew R. Cohen designed a primarily rustic set that captures the 17th century locale. Vertical wooden boards form the walls with rows of shelves for the first two acts. Two trap doors on the stage floor allowed the actors to ascend to and descend from the bedroom scene in Act I.  A more quasi-modernistic set representing the vestry room of the Salem Meeting House is used in Act III and the Salem jail in Act IV. The set also features striking clusters of wooden boards in random criss-cross formations that framed the stage from the sides and above. It conjured up stakes where witches were burned. 

Nancy Shertler’s creative lighting design amplified the anxiety and fear that permeated throughout.  Patrick Calhoun’s sound design delivered well-timed background music adding to the mood.  And Sarah Cubbage did an excellent job in fitting the cast in period costumes.

The Crucible is by no means a feel-good play.  It’s serious to the core with a few clever chuckles sprinkled among the dialogue. Though not entirely historically accurate as far as individual characters’ ages and other details are concerned, it still presents a grim portrait of this shameful period in history and alarmingly shows that human foibles of that era exist even today.

This American classic that denotes the actual witch hunt is recommended for the historical benefit of the story and especially to witness an extraordinary cast giving it their all.  

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

Advisory: The Crucible contains adult themes and is not recommended for children under age 13.
The Crucible runs through May 20 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. Tickets may be purchased by calling 301-924-3400 or by visiting online



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Guy Guzzone Endorses Bob Ford for Howard County Democratic Central Committee

Sen. Guy Guzzone

Maryland State Senator Guy Guzzone endorsed Bob Ford on April 20 for Howard County Democratic Central Committee.  This is the second major endorsement Bob Ford has received this month—the other endorsement  came from former Howard County Executive and State Senator Jim Robey.  #h
ocopolitics
“Bob Ford has been a friend and supporter for many years,” Guzzone said.  “He has worked hard and contributed to my campaigns as well as many other Democrats in Howard County. In doing so, the county has shifted from ‘red’ to ‘blue’ over these years.” 

He adds, “Bob shares and represents the values we as progressive Democrats hold dear.  His work on marriage equality is notable as he helped elected officials better understand the issues involved and helped gain support in the legislature and in the county.  Bob has been a terrific asset to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and I wholeheartedly endorse his election in June.”

Bob Ford
Bob Ford is extremely appreciative of Guy Guzzone’s endorsement.

“I am very grateful for Guy’s support of my candidacy,” Bob Ford said in response.  “Not only do I consider Guy to be a friend, he’s been a progressive leader both in Howard County and in Maryland as a whole. Guy exemplifies what public service should be—doing the most good for the people he serves with their interests first and foremost.  I can’t thank him enough.”

Guy Guzzone has been the State Senator representing District 13 since January 2015. He is a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Health & Human Services Subcommittee, Pensions Subcommittee, and Senate Chairman of the Joint Audit Committee. 

Prior to that, he was a member of the House of Delegates since January 10, 2007, where he served as Deputy Majority Whip, Chair of the Howard County Delegation, Chair of the Joint Audit Committee, and on the House Appropriations Committee.  From 1998 to 2006, he served as a Howard County Councilman. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jim Robey Endorses Bob Ford for Howard County Democratic Central Committee

Sen. James N. Robey

On April 11, former Howard County Executive and State Senator James N. Robey endorsed Bob Ford’s bid to remain on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. #hocopolitics

“I have known Bob Ford for many years and have seen how hard he has worked to elect Democrats in Howard County,” Robey said.  “During the battle for marriage equality, Bob was persuasive in arguing that the time has come for loving same-sex couples to receive the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as other married couples have always enjoyed.  I was happy to support the effort and was one of the principal advocates in the state.”
 
He adds, “Bob’s hard work and dedication to Democratic, progressive principles make him an outstanding and valuable member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee, and that is why I am endorsing him in the upcoming election.”

Bob Ford is grateful for Robey’s support. 

Bob Ford
“I am extremely honored to receive this wonderful endorsement from Jim Robey, who has done so much to strengthen the Democratic Party in Howard County through his many years of party building and public service,” Bob Ford said in response. 

“His commitment to fairness and equality was evident as we navigated through the struggle to achieve marriage equality in Maryland.  I can’t thank Jim enough for his friendship and support.”

James Robey’s public service in the county began in 1966 when he joined the Howard County Police Department.  In 1991 he was appointed by then County Executive Charles Ecker to be Chief of Police.  He retired from the police force in 1998 to run for Howard County Executive in 1998.  He was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2002.


In 2006 Robey ran for State Senator representing District 13 and defeated Republican Sandra Schrader with 56 percent of the vote. In 2010, he was re-elected.  Robey was chosen to replace Robert Garagiola in September 2013 as Senate Majority Leader.  He retired from the Maryland State Senate in January 2015.

According to Vote Smart, an independent non-profit research organization, Robey received a performance evaluation rating of 92 percent in 2011 from Progressive Maryland, a nonprofit, liberal advocacy group that rates legislators based on their positions on social, liberal, and family-related issues.