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[bare: a pop opera] A Review

bare: a pop opera Production by M.A.D. Theatre of Tampa

Last night, Larry and I went to see the production of 'bare: a pop opera' by M.A.D. Theatre at the Straz Center of the Performing Arts here in Tampa.  Being associated with MAD Theatre and knowing several of the cast members, I knew a little going in what to expect.  However, I walked out exhausted by the powerhouse performance of this excellent cast.  If you have time and there are tickets left, I HIGHLY encourage my friends in the Tampa area to go see the show before it closes on April 29th.  

The show is a rock musical by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo which debuted in Los Angeles back in 2000 followed by an off-broadway run in 2004.  The story focuses on a group of students at catholic boarding high school during their senior year, with a primary focus on two gay students Peter and Jason.   

This production is passionately directed by Jennifer Marshall who I last saw in MAD Theatre's 2011 summer production of Hairspray where she played Little Inez and was a co-choreographer of the show.  Just before the show started, Jen stood in front of the sold-out audience and thanked everyone for their patronage and you could see the pride she had with what we were all about to experience.

The cast as a whole were incredible!  I had the fortune to work with Omar Montes, Karli Gunderson, Marcus Blake, and Kris Sethi in Urinetown last year and each one of these actors just surprised me with their dedication to their characters psyche.  I had the chance to see LaToya McCormick in MAD's production of 'A New Brain' last year and tonight she was hilarious in her comedy relief, to an otherwise deep subject, role of Sister Chantelle.  

But I was not prepared for the performance of Natale Pirrotta as Peter.  He owned me and the audience the moment he stepped foot on stage.  And if not, then by the time his body and voice trembles during 'Role of a Lifetime', you will be hooked and pulled in fully.  I cannot say anymore of the journey of these characters, but please go see it.... and consider bringing tissues.



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Lucille Esmerelda McGillicuddy

Lucy was born around February of 1998.  But it wasn't until July 31st of that year that Gary and I met her for the first time on our anniversary and she stole our heart.   She was much thinner and 'redder' back then but her personality has never changed.  



She loves people and preferred them over other dogs.  Except for her little (big) sister Abbey, who joined our family a year later in 1999.  Abbey started out as this little runt of a puppy that was abandoned by her family.  Lucy and Abbey became inseparable and often slept curled up against each other.  


They never went anywhere where they other didn't go along and so it wasn't until Abbey passed away in 2009 that Lucy without a constant canine companion.  Gary wrote about Abbey beautifully on his Live Journal the day after she passed away (grgardner.livejournal.com/2009/10/10/).

After I decided to move to Tampa, Gary and I needed to figure out the ongoing custody of Lucy.  For the 2.5 years following our separation, Lucy would go back and forth every few weeks, but now I would be living across the country.  So Lucy followed me to Florida a month later and I picked her up on her arrival on May 21st at the Orlando airport.  


Gary wrote about being Dogless in Seattle , and it has been interesting having Lucy here for the past 3 months.  She is older now and has lost most if not all of her hearing, but she is still very FULL of life.  Since she has been here, she spent a weekend at the Disney Doggie Kennel while I was at Disney for a long weekend and then she spent a weekend in a Kennel near the house, when I was up in Gainesville and could not bring her with me.  But she has never been gone when I am here at the house.  

Well, she isn't here now.  I am leaving on Thursday for a long weekend in Anaheim at the D23 Expo and then will spend 5 nights in Scottsdale for work.  Instead of putting her in a kennel, she left today with Larry for Gainesville where she will spend the next 13 days.  It was easier for her to leave today, then to think of how to get her there during the week.  And it is a lot cheaper having Lucy stay with Larry.  She loves being with Larry and will have fun with Larry's other 5 dogs and being able to run around and explore his large property up there.

But for now, the house is very quiet and lonely without her here.  I didn't think I would miss her that much... but I do.

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Harry Potter

2001 is a year that most people remember for September 11th, as do I.  But I also remember it for the year that I discovered Harry Potter.  

I was at an annual dinner for legislators that is hosted by BECU every year before session starts in January.  I was with Gary and we were sitting at a table with, then, State Representative Ed Murray (now Senator) and his partner Michael Shiosaki.  Ed was sharing with the table about this great book "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".   I thought it was a kids book but he said I should give it a chance and read it.  He asked  "Tony, just read the first chapter and if you are not taken in by it, then I won't ask you to read it again".  

And so I did.  And I could not put it down.  I think I finished it over the weekend. I followed it up by picking up the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a couple of days later and read it just as quick.  After that, I was hooked and could not wait for the next book.  

Interesting enough, Prisoner of Azkaban was released on September 11th, 2001.  I'm guessing it had a slow start of sales considering the date.  But I bought it eventually and tore through it...  And then in November of that year, the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out.  I re-read Sorcerer's Stone again before the movie was released.  

That started a habit of reading the book again before the movie version was released.  And therefore, I made a point of re-reading Deathly Hallows again before Part 1 came out and I just finished re-reading it again as I will be seeing part 2 of the Deathly Hallows tomorrow night with my friend Marcus.



The end of the Harry Potter series affected me like when I approached the end of reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time back in Junior High School.  I traveled 'There and Back Again" with all of the characters and as they were no saying goodbye to each other, I felt like I was saying goodbye to them as well...  I cried then, and I cried again when I re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings before the release of the movie version of "LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring' on December 19. 2001.  

Another 2001 reference.

I teared up saying goodbye to Harry, Hermoine and Ron as I closed the book last night and I wonder how I will be when I watch the movie tomorrow evening?  

Clouds

 
Immemorable thoughts of the earth.
As sullen dragons slip down along the backs of sleeping volcanoes.
As night horsemen fly over the pointed peaks of forest castles.
As regal carpets sprawl at the feet of starry temples, and carry on their sails the chants of celestial cities.



Not my words, but Vladimir Zaitsev...

18 years later and I am back

This was me on September 11th, 1993 in Chicago with the man who would become my partner.  I moved to Fort Lauderdale a few weeks later and spent the next 3 years with Carl there in then in Salt Lake City.


 I lived in Salt Lake City for only 8 months before the relationship ended.  I met Gary and then spent the next 12 and a half years with him in Seattle, Washington.  I was there for another 2 and a half years before another life change happened... 




An so, 18 years after moving away, I have returned to my hometown of Tampa, Florida.  I actually moved back on April 21st, 2011 after accepting a new job with GTE Federal Credit Union.  In the 7 weeks that I have been back, I have reconnected with friends that I haven't seen in 18 years, made new friends and strengthened the friendships that I have made over the last couple of years.

I am not sure if I can keep up my journal entries like I used to a few years ago, but I miss writing, so we'll see how I do...

A much older, grayer and heavier version of me...

 
I am mormon through association.

What does that mean, you may ask?  I spent 11 and a half years with Gary, who grew up in the LDS church and his family are active today.  I read the Book of Mormon as I wanted to understand more about the church and their beliefs (and to get the inside jokes that were told at family gatherings and while watching movies like "Singles Ward").

However, I found religion much earlier in my life.  No, it wasn't one of those moments where I lifted up a rock and found Jesus hiding under it and I turned to everyone and said "I found Jesus!".  It was a slow progression of one step forward and two giant steps back.

I grew up without much of any organized religion in my life.  However, being a curious person, I took it on myself to find out what all the hubbub was about.  So I joined a community church on my own when I was maybe 10 or 11.  I would look forward to Friday nights, when a yellow bus would come through the neighborhood and pick up about 5 or 6 of the kids and take us across town to the "Tampa Youth Ranch".  Here we played foosball, shot pool and ate McDonald hamburgers before having a bible study, where we learned about God and sang songs throughout.  I still remember some of those songs...  [Tony sings} "Come and go with me, up, up, up, to my Father's house (to my daddys house)... to my father's house (bop a doo bop), to my father's house..." and "That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it. Eternal Life, is giving free, we want to pass it on..."   It was a great time, but I also remember the day I walked away from church.

I decided to go with some other friends to their chuch.  They were catholic and I didn't think it would be that different.  After the service, I was introduced to a priest.  He asked me if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and I said 'yes'.  He then asked me:  

"Have you been baptized?"  I had never been asked this...

And so I said "Um, no?"  

"Well son" he said, "You are not truly saved until you have been baptized."

I replied, "Well, at Calvary Community Church, we are told that if we believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, then we are saved and will go to heaven"

"I'm sorry son, but you need to be baptized in order to be truly saved."

That was the last day I stepped into that church and I never returned to Calvary Community Church either.  I started questioning religion in general.  How could one God have different rules in different churches?  Why do I need to physically GO TO CHURCH when He is all around me?  And so I never returned.  

Over the years, I have felt a 'spirit' or a 'presence' a few times.  Those have always been while singing with Seattle Men's Chorus.  Once, we were singing "Out of Water, Into Air" during our Soul Full concert and I felt it.  Another was during out 'Naked Man' concert and another was while singing "Michael's Letter To Mama" from our Tales of the City show 'Music for Mouse'.  The latter was not a religious song, but a coming out letter put to music.  There was something there when we sang it though.

But that has been really it.  Reading the Book of Mormon did not bring me closer to God.  Instead, it brought me closer to the family I inherited through Gary.  

Gary's parents love us without pause.  They still do, even though we are no longer together.  They came to every Holiday Concert for Seattle Men's Chorus by flying up from Salt Lake.  They were very proud of us and our relationship that we had.  

It wasn't easy though. We still disagreed on things. Lots of things.

They knew that I always wanted to adopt kids and were there as Gary and I struggled through this issue as Gary and I could never agree on adopting.  I wanted kids of our own and he didn't.  Gary's parents felt we would be good parents, however they do not support gay people to adopt as they would rather see them in a family with a mother and father.  They congratulated us when we were, along with our friends Kirt and Roger, the first same-sex couples married in Whistler, Canada.  But they do not, to this day, support marriage between same-sex couples. We would have healthy discussions about it.  Sometimes Gary and his mother would heat up and feelings would be singed but it never affected our love for each other.  

So when a man like Boyd K Packer of the LDS church says things like "Some suppose, that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendancies toward the unpure and unnatural.  Not so.  Why would our heavenly father do that to anyone?" or "Those are those today that not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality.  As if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God laws and nature.  A law against nature would be impossible to enforce" and "To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day".  He continues with "Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish"

What I love about the last quote is that he states that 'We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard.  We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God'.  And yet, plural marriage was the standard and a defining characteristic of early Mormonism.  The practice of polygamy was instituted by founder Joseph Smith himself back in the 1830's.  Even AFTER the Doctrine and Covenants declared that monogamy was the only form of marriage that was acceptable in both the 1834 and 1844 editions, it was continued to be practiced, particularly by members of the Quorum of the Twelve (of which Boyd K Packer is NOW the president today).   Eventually... they changed.  But their founder said this was a principle of Mormonism?  Shouldn't they hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel' as Boyd K Packer said above?  

All of these statements that I quoted happen between the beginning of the video up through 3:24.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E13aGxinr-M

However, the church edits the transcripts.  Seems like a trend that the LDS likes to change things as it fits their needs...  See for yourself.  The link below takes you to the LDS churches website.  Read the transcript and follow along to Boyd K Packer...

http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1298-23,00.html

I had not intended to write anything, but I was inspired today.  I am sure this will not make some of my family happy, but hell - the acts of the church doesn't make me very happy either.

Pandabuff

The Year (in review) of the Pandabuff

Near the beginning of 2009, I reformatted and renamed my Livejournal “The Year of the Pandabuff”, to reflect a new me as I was learning to live again as a single man after being partnered on and off for twenty years.  However by June, I had fallen off of posting regularly and went months between.  Now as 2009 ends, I find myself reflecting back to the year that was and I am smiling.   One year ago today, I was journal writing about the annoying habit Abbey has of eating toilet paper off the roll, the recording of the live performance of the BEARatones and reflecting back on the year that was 2008.  As I think back over this year, I realized I really have moved forward in becoming comfortable in my own skin.  Do I look back to the disastrous year that was 2008?  Yeah, but I have so many good things going on today and a wonderful circle of friends, and those things have made up for it.  
 
January 2009 –  A month ago I was worried that my Christmas was going to be spent alone as I could not make it home to Tampa to see my family and with the breakup, it didn't seem right to spend the Holidays with Gary and his family in Utah (which was a staple for 12 years).  Luckily, I had my good friend Scott with me on Christmas day.  Whether it was watching romantic movies or just sitting alone in my new house, I found myself very depressed and often crying.  So, thankfully Scott spent two days with me over Christmas. Scott has always been a shoulder to cry on or an arm around me to comfort me when I was down.  He was there for me during those hard months and still is today.  January ended with the annual chorus retreat for Seattle Men’s Chorus and as usual I organized a Bear House for the weekend.  What I didn’t know then, was that this would be the last Retreat at Ft Worden as the chorus announced in the fall that we would be moving to a hotel and everyone would have traditional hotel rooms versus old Victorian houses.  But, I look back and think we really went out in style.  The 12 of us that stayed in the house put together a great Red party and all dressed in our Red Long Johns for the event.  I am gonna miss that place.

 
February 2009 – I returned for the 3rd year to San Francisco for IBR and it made for a very special weekend as I met someone truly special there on Valentine’s Day.  It happened just like in the movies as our eyes met across a crowded room and we then proceeded to get together and just talk for a very long time.  We went to dinner after that and had a good time for the two days we had left.  Lyle returned to Los Angeles and I returned to Seattle, but we stayed in touch and saw each other twice more before the distance really got to us and we stopped dating.  But I do not regret a minute of it.  Lyle was a very special man, and he still is today.  I am glad that through it all, we have remained friends.  


 
March 2009 – The snow returned with a furry and I wasn’t happy.  The good thing is that I was in crazy tap rehearsal for a Seattle Men’s Chorus the following month.
 
 
 
April 2009 -  Film legend (and Carrie Fisher’s mother) Debbie Reynolds was the special guest star for ‘Singing in the Rain’, the Seattle Men’s Chorus Spring Concert.  It was a great show and she shared a lot of stories with us and the audience.  I can now say that I tapped on stage with Debbie Reynolds!  



Outside of turning 39 on April 12th, the was one other thing about April that I cannot forget and I shared it here on LJ when it happened (click here).
 
May 2009 – The weather cleared up and it is now boating season.  As it warmed up, a standard happening each weekend was to spend one weekend day out on the boat of friend’s Joe and Chris.  It was the start of an incredible summer.  
 
June 2009 – The BEARatones went into the studio to start laying tracks down for “Tap That Secret Code” and we got most of it done.  June was also my first of almost monthly trips this Summer and Fall.   The first week of June I headed to Tampa to visit family and friends.  I arrived early to surprise Adam, who was getting ready to move to San Francisco.  Roberto, David and Vern were hosting a going away party at their ranch, so I met up with my friend Tony when I arrived and headed up to Bushnell to surprise Adam and some other friends who had no idea I was coming.  



After that, I spent time with my family before leaving for Orlando for 4 nights at Gay Days at Disneyworld.  I spent time at Animal Kingdom with a lot of Seattle, DC and Boston friends, Hollywood Studios and Epcot was with friends from Ft Lauderdale, Tidal Wave and Magic Kingdom was with friends from Tampa.  All in all, a great vacation!
 


July 2009 - The first weekend of July, someone who would become one of my closest friends today came up for his visit from Portland.  Matthew joined Joe, Chris, Frank, Tom, Ty, Dave and me on the boat and they all became fast friends.  He returned the next weekend to surprise me and to celebrate Joe’s 40-something birthday on the boat.



Later that month, I flew to Minneapolis and stayed with my friends Jason and Brian and had a great long weekend with them before attending the penultimate edition of bTALK and then heading home to Seattle.
 
August 2009 – I started playing Softball with members of the Muffin Tops (Bear team) in the Fall League.  I hadn’t played softball in at least 15 years, but I realized it was much like riding a bike.  Muscle memory returned and I realized that I could still hit, catch and field like I did when I was in my twenties.  
 


September 2009 – I headed to San Diego for Labor Day weekend to visit several friends and stayed with Mike and Ian.  Ian used to live here in Seattle, but moved after meeting Mike and I don’t blame them as they fit together like Salt and Pepper shakers.  I also had a great time meeting a lot of my online friends face to face for the first time (Joe, Alan, Mike, Craig, Joel etc).

October 2009 – Yet another trip and this was to Anaheim with Steve Wolf for a long weekend for Gay Days at Disney.  My first night was at Knotts Berry Farm with Jeff and Darin and then I did Disneyland with Steve, Tim, Rick along with Lyle who joined us for the day.  The next day I met up with Jeff and Darin and we hung out at California Adventure before I left them to have dinner with Steve, Tim and Rick.  It was a quick weekend but just as much fun as Gay Days at Disneyworld.



October was also the month that Abbey, the Border Collie/Springer Spaniel mix that Gary and I adopted 9 years ago, passed away.  It was unexpected and it took a while for Gary and I to accept that she was gone.  Abbey was a wonderful dog and she and Lucy were constant companions in our life.  After Gary and I separated, we maintained joint custody of the both dogs.  Since they did not like being separated, Gary and I took turns of having the 'girls' going two or three weeks at a time at our houses.  It is just Lucy now, and she seems to be adapting at being an 'only child' - but I still miss Abbey.

(Abbey & Lucy)

November 2009 – Shannon Grady told me about an opportunity to join him and a bunch of my friends from Minneapolis on a Caribbean cruise.  Many of the guys from Minneapolis that I was with last year for our Caribbean Cruise were going on this cruise, so it was great to hang with them again.  If you are on Facebook and friends with me there, you will see a bunch of pics there but a few are posted below.  There was a group of 51 guys on a Carnival Cruise.  My original cabinmate had to cancel, so I asked Matthew to come along and I am glad he did.  We vacation well together.  He makes me laugh and is just a great person to be around.  I went on the cruise knowing about 8 or 9 people and came away a week later with 42 new friends.  We were a tight group by the end of the cruise and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend a week. 
 




December 2009 – The year ended with 8 concerts with Seattle Men's Chorus, where I had the opportunity to do some more dancing as Santa during a Christmas version of Michael Jackson's Thriller.  My last concert was on Sunday December 20th and I boarded a flight on the 21st and headed to Tampa for the holidays.  I stayed with my friend Rob, who I last saw in June.  We had a wonderful time together with his kids and our friends and I am thankful for his friendship.
 

Outside of my friends, I was there to be with my family.  It was the first time that I have spent a Christmas in Tampa since 1993 and the first with my family since 1990.  Life and living away from Tampa factored into that and after returning from Tampa, I hope to spend at least some time there during the holidays from now on.  Who knows, I may make a migration back to Tampa one day in the future.



That was The Year (in review) of the Pandabuff.

Abbey

Abbey, the 9 year old Border Collie mix that Gary and I shared our life with (along with Lucy, our 10 year old Cocker spaniel mix) passed away suddenly on Friday night.  Gary, a master or words, wrote these two entries this weekend.  It has been a very difficult weekend for both of us.  We loved her very much and will miss her terribly.  She brought joy to our lives when things were sometimes at the worst.

I haven't been able to write a tribute to Abbey and definitely not better than what Gary wrote here.

http://grgardner.livejournal.com/35816.html


http://grgardner.livejournal.com/36032.html

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July 31, 1996

I left Salt Lake City, Utah on the evening of Tuesday, July 30th, 1996 in a one-way car rental packed with everything that I owned stuffed inside.  I drove as far as Boise, Idaho and spent the night at the home of my friend Rich.   The next morning Rich left for work, I showered and then grabbed my things and locked the door behind me.

I drove the rest of the way, listening to a cassette that Gary had made for me to keep me company.  Around 5pm on July 31st, 1996 I crossed into Western Washington and arrived shortly there after at 3740 99th Street SW, Seattle, WA 98126.

Thirteen years later, I am still in Seattle.  Though life is much more different today, it is okay now as I know where I stand.

Here's where I stand,
Here's who I am
Love me, but don't tell me who I have to be
Here's who I am,
I'm what you see.

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