alexa BlackBook: Fluid Notions: Face to Face with John Cameron Mitchell and Shamir

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Singer and songwriter Shamir — who just dropped Revelations, his third album — discusses the connection between gender expression and creativity with actor, writer and director John Cameron Mitchell.

 

 

John Cameron Mitchell: Do you get a lot of people saying you are their role model, in terms of your masculinity, your femininity, your mix? Do people say, “Thank you for letting me be me because you’re you?”

Shamir: I didn’t realize how important my representation was. I definitely tried to downplay it. One definitive moment for me was in Nottingham, when a queer British kid – he was Middle Eastern or Indian I think – told me how good it was to see a queer person of color in pop music. We’re still people, you know? It feels a little too martyr-y to be like, “I’m like Moses, and I’ll lead you through the water.” I’m still trying to figure out life. I was 19 when I came out. I remember one moment when I was on BBC World News, and this staunch British guy in a suit sitting across from me was like, “Transgender — what does that mean?” I was like, “Honestly, I don’t know because I didn’t make up that term.”

JCM: I remember when people started saying “post-gay” and I was like, “What does that mean?”

S: There are other words! There’s nonbinary, there’s genderqueer.

JCM: We don’t fear anymore – maybe that’s what they’re saying. Gender is a fluid thing but it’s also a very determining thing for many cultures, where you get killed if you don’t fit in. Being kind of a femme-y gay boy, and creating Hedwig, which is not really a trans character, it’s more accidental and he’s forced into a situation by politics. He’s in the middle because of people’s cruelty. It’s an interesting metaphor that a lot of people can relate to. It’s the idea of the Other.

S: When you’re in the public eye, people might think that it’s an aesthetic choice, and that’s one thing that really grinds my gears, especially if I get a David Bowie comparison. I’m like, “Hmm, I don’t like that. It’s not about a character – I’m not a character.”

JCM: He did a fake queer character. Cool, you know, he did it really well, but that’s about performance.

S: It’s performance art! Fine. But it’s not what I’m here for.

JCM: It’s about you recording straight out of your house, and people responding.

S: I feel the most content I’ve ever felt in my life.

 

Photos by Jason MacDonald & FilmMagic

alexa BlackBook: Alison Mosshart, Don Lemon, Matthew Modine, Nia Vardalos, Leslie Odom Jr. & More Tell Us Their Christmas Wish Lists

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WISH LIST: ALISON MOSSHART

The musician, artist and sometime-model serves as lead vocalist for indie-rock band the Kills, as well as for Jack White’s supergroup, the Dead Weather.

 

Maria Tash 18-k rose-gold diamond earring, $975 at Net-A-Porter.com

 

“Maria Tash earrings are 
all beautiful, tiny 
and shiny.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: DON LEMON
New York-based journalist Lemon — who’s won both an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award for his reporting — currently anchors the primetime cable news show CNN Tonight.

 

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig, $30 at Amazon.com

 

“As a kid, I saw Ali as this iconic figure — this black man who would have people hanging on his every word. 
But I didn’t get just how huge a figure he was until 
I was an adult. Everyone thinks taking a knee is a 
big deal, but think about being Muslim and saying 
you’re not going to fight in a war — jeopardizing 
your career. That took real courage.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: MATTHEW MODINE
“Scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more tons of plastic in the ocean than fish,” says Modine, who appears on Stranger Things, streaming now on Netflix. “We have to be responsible consumers. Gifts like this will make your friends eco-warriors and demonstrate how you are hip, cool and a part of the solution.”

 

Bee’s Wrap (three pack), $20 at PatagoniaProvisions.com

 

“These food wraps are the perfect solution for eliminating plastic wrap. The anti-bacterial properties of the beeswax and jojoba oil help to keep food fresh and allow you to use the wrap again and again.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: NIA VARDALOS
Vardalos is now working on a play called Tiny Beautiful Things in New York. “As holiday shopping season approaches, I’ve eyeballed many corneapopping tiny beautiful things,” she says. “While many of us can’t exactly splurge on fanciful items, we can always drop loud and obvious hints!”

 

“Royal Strass” Swarovski-crystal adorned pumps, $3,995 at ChristianLouboutin.com

 

“If you’re like me and never want disco to die, then we can wear these redbottomed glittery shoes to every office meeting, to every rave and then to church the next day.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: LESLIE ODOM JR.

Odom Jr., who won the Best Actor Tony for his scene-stealing performance as Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton, now appears on the big screen in Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Get Out movie poster, $20 at 
Amazon.com

 

“I want a limited-edition Get Out poster framed — and signed by Jordan Peele, please — for my office. I haven’t gone to the theater to see a movie three times in 
… ever. I was entertained and inspired more than I can say. “

 

 

 

WISH LIST: AERIN LAUDER
Lauder is the image director for her family’s Estée Lauder brand, while also running her own popular beauty and home lifestyle company, AERIN.

 

Aspen Style, 
$85 at Assouline.com

 

“This book is high on my wish list. Not only because Aspen is such a special place to me, but also because the cover is so beautiful and will look amazing on any coffee table.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: ELIZA COUPE
Actress Eliza Coupe, best known for her roles on Happy Endings, Scrubs and The Mindy Project, just returned to screens on the new Hulu series Future Man, directed by Seth Rogen.

 

Luxe gym bag, 
$165 at SweatyBetty.com

 

“I work out like a maniac and go through gym clothes and gym bags like crazy — Sweaty Betty makes the best workout gear!”

 

Illustrations by John Kenzie

New “Harry Potter” is Series’ Last Says Rowling

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This Saturday, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the two-part play written by J.K. Rowling that picks up Harry’s story as an adult, premiered to rave review on London’s West End, as well as being released in script form in bookstores around the world. The author told Reuters that this would be the true final chapter of the epic wizarding series.

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

The play is being warmly received by audiences and critics alike – Rowling received a standing ovation when the show was over.

A fan told Reuters: “It was magical. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time. There was a lot to live up to and they did it.”

Rowling wrote the script for “Cursed Child” in collaboration with playwright Jack Thorne. The play is directed by John Tiffany.

Split into two parts that can be seen consecutively in a five-hour saga or separately, “Cursed Child” follows Harry as a tired Ministry of Magic worker in his thirties, raising three children. It’s script is available in bookstores everywhere.

Last Week Misty Copeland Became the First African American Principal Dancer at ABT and Now She’s Taking Over Broadway

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Fresh off making history last week when she became the first ever African American ballerina to be named principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is now slated for her Broadway debut. She’ll be starring in Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 musical On theTown as Ivy Smith, taking over for New York Ballet principle dancer Megan Fairchild. Originating from the Jerome Robbins ballet before having its premiere at the American Ballet Theatre in 1944, On the Town follows a group of sailors over the course of a single day in New York City. Performing in a limited run, Copeland will play a woman who falls in love with one of the sailors—a role that originally played by Japanese-American ballerina Sono Osato, which Time reports was “part of a deliberate creative choice to make the ballet racially diverse.” 

Speaking to the announcement, , Copeland said:

“I was contacted by them and they actually wanted me to go in pretty quickly, and it was all just ‘Oh my gosh, this is not something I ever thought I would do…If I’m going to be part of a Broadway show, I think this is the one.” … “It’s so strong and rich with the dancing, and it’s such an incredible role,” Copeland said. “Jerome Robbins was such an incredible part of ABT’s history, so it makes total sense.”

Directed by Christopher Wheeldon and starring New York Ballet principle dancer Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope of the Royal Ballet in London, Copeland will take to the stage alongside them from August 25 to September 6. The role will require Copeland to dance, and act, the latter of which will be a first for her—but that shouldn’t be a problem for the groundbreaking performer. Copeland recalls Taye Diggs (who will soon take on the role of Hedwig in in Hedwig and the Angry Inch) telling her, “I think you’ve got this,” after seeing her performer as Juliet in Ballet Theater’s Romeo and Juliet earlier this year.

“It’s such a beautiful time right now, I think, for dance, and especially for ballet and bringing it to a much broader audience,” Copeland told the NY Times. “I always say that it has changed my life, and it’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of — and I think people are realizing that, a new generation is realizing that. It’s so exciting.”

Tony Awards 2015: Is it Time For The Curtain To Close on The Award Show?

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Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori at the 2015 Tony Awards via CBS

The red-headed stepchild of awards shows, The Tony Awards, aired last night on CBS celebrating the accomplishments in Broadway Theater. Well, most of them, anyway.

To start off with the good, “Fun Home” snagged the award for Best Musical, a touching show that deals with sexuality, abuse, suicide and dysfunctional family life. Helen Mirren won for once again playing the Queen of England (but on stage this time). John Cameron Mitchell was awarded a special Tony for…being John Cameron Mitchell, I guess. Kristin Chenoweth was at her pixiest hosting, and co-host Alan Cumming strutted the stage in plum shorts.

But one of the reasons the Tony’s might need to be reevaluated (or put out of its misery) is the sheer pomp and circumstance that’s eclipsing honoring the true talent, hard work and perseverance the awards ostensibly celebrate.

The most egregious snub thanks to the CBS broadcast, in my opinion, was the exclusion of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the first female team to win the Tony for Best Original Score for “Fun Home”. Obviously, as the last four minutes of the broadcast showed, the American public needed to see a number from “Jersey Boys”, a decade-old jukebox musical, for the 11,00000th time. Yes. That’s surely more important than watching an historic achievement and an incredibly moving speech about working in the arts. The odd thing is, Original Score isn’t really a “minor” award (not that Costume Design or Set Design is, either, but…) so the choice not to air it to make room for another musical number baffles me. Yes, it’s a commercial affair and any attempt to boost ratings is expected, but at the expense of history?

The Tony’s have never been a ratings juggernaut (it had a paltry 7.24 Million in 2013, which was actually its highest in four years); compare that to the 36.6 Million the Oscars received this year (which is also pretty low). As disheartening it is that the general public seems to care less about the theater, it’s not surprising. Broadway is a very narrow slice of the theater world, and considering it’s geographically remote to most Americans and getting more and more expensive, there’s less reason to invest in it, emotionally or otherwise. And because of that, CBS cuts what the ceremony should actually be about to make a dog and pony show in a last-ditch effort. We’re not treated to live performances of the Best Play nominees, or coverage of all the awards. Instead, we watch musical numbers of shows that weren’t even nominated, or long rants by Larry David.

At this point, the Tony’s should probably move to a cable network who’ll produce it better. It’s breaking tradition for what has been a major award show to die a slow death, but if you’re not going to show awards going to the people who craft and create theater, well, what’s the point of an awards show?

Check out the full list of Tony Award winners here. 

 

Where to Eat Before Shakespeare in the Park

where to eat before shakespeare in the park
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Image courtesy of The Public Theater (credit: Tammy Shell)

The Public Theater kicked off its annual and insanely popular Free Shakespeare in the Park on Wednesday with a six-week long production of The Tempest, to be followed by The Cymbeline later this summer. On the definitive list of things to do in New York City in the summer, Shakespeare in the Park ranks pretty high. Shows have featured some of the most talented thespians in the biz (Meryl Streep has very much been there, done that), and since tickets to the open-air performances at the Delacorte Theater are free, they’re pretty hard to get. Once you do manage to snag a pair of day-of tickets via standing in the Central Park line or winning the daily lottery online or in-person at Astor Place, you’ll need a place to eat, drink, and be merry before the 8 P.M. showing. Here are some Upper West Side spots close to Shakespeare in the Park that’ll answer the question that crosses every showgoers mind, “where do we eat?”

The Mermaid Inn – The Upper West Side outpost of this rustic chic fishhouse by default offers some great pre-show summer bites: oysters and wine. Their daily happy hour from 5 to 7 P.M. features $1 oysters and clams, as well as more substantial snacks, like fish tacos and fried calamari. Happy hour drinks are no more than $8.

Calle Ocho – This Nuevo Latino spot inside the Excelsior Hotel brings hoards of young, wild, and brunching New Yorkers to its weekend boozy brunch, but its proximity to the Delacorte Theater and happening dinner menu (lots of ceviche) make it a great option for dinner or a light bite.

Isabella’s – Down the block from Calle Ocho is Isabella’s, one of those uptown restaurants with a sidewalk dining scene that has most definitely been featured in a movie (if you’re wondering, it’s romcom Something Borrowed). The Med menu is heavy on salads, pastas, and fish, and don’t worry if you can’t get a seat outside, the Euro-style interior is just as aesthetically pleasing.

The Tangled Vine – On the corner of Amsterdam and 81st, this Mediterranean wine bar hosts a daily happy hour from 5 to 7 P.M. with $7 glasses of wine. The dinner menu is heavy on small plates like caprese salad and pizzettas that’ll split nicely between you and your plus one.

Shake Shack – If you’re really looking for a quick bite, stop at Shake Shack on the corner of Columbus and 77th. Be prepared to stand in line and save your frozen custard (we suggest the Shack Attack) for the walk to the Delacorte Theater.

Erotic Santas, Gay Reindeer, & The 12 Days of Christmas According to John Waters

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Photo by Greg Gorman

“Is Santa erotic to people? Do some people like to have sex with people dressed as Santa?,” asks Pope of Trash and Patron Saint of Christmas mischief, John Waters, when we chatted on the phone a few weeks ago. As the reigning King of film’s seething, smutty underbelly for over fifty years now, the brilliant legend of the screen, stage, and page is once again taking his act on the road for his annual holiday special, A John Waters Christmas.

The thinly-mustachioed filmmaker, author, artist, and underground icon will head to City Winery this Sunday for his one man show—a night filled with deliciously sinister X-rated Xmas humor. So in honor of the event, Waters and I caught up to uncover just what it is he loves so much about the holiday, the gay undertones of the season, and how to properly come into the New Year.

WHAT HE LOVES ABOUT CHRISTMAS:

It’s everything—the pressure, the emotional intimacy, the unnatural desire to please. It’s always filled with pain and pleasure.

HIS FEAR OF LIVE NATIVITY SCENES:

I like to find them and go to them like people go to haunted houses on Halloween. They’re such perverts, I always think every person there is out of their mind.

SANTA CLAUS AND SEXUALITY:

Santa just looks like a bear to me, a polar bear—that’s what he is! The elves are twinks, and Prancer…is that a gay reindeer? Is Santa erotic to people? Do some people like to have sex with people dressed as Santa? I guess they do. 

THE INFAMOUS ANNUAL JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS CARD:

My assistants start nagging me about it in July—”Have you thought of it yet?!” It’s a huge ordeal, they’re all hand-sized, and we usually send out 1,8000 of them. They go all over the world, and some people get invitations to the party too, so it just becomes like Santa’s workshop around here.

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES:

Christmas Evil is great. I also like porn parodies of Christmas too, like Santa’s Cummin’! by Jeff Stryker.

decArtwork by Declan McCarthy

CHRISTMAS MUSIC PREFERENCES:

Oh, I listen to everything from jazz and hip hop to rap and the blues. Then also the Chipmunks; I love playing the Chipmunks at Christmas, it makes people run out of the house if you play it too much. 

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS HE HATES:

The worst is obviously when it’s obviously been gifted from somebody or they got it at work—that would be the rudest present. But I would just throw that out. I do have a swag bag I take on Thanksgiving to my family for all my nieces and nephews with all the things I don’t keep that people send me. So they get to go through it, which is funny because sometimes there’s T-shirts with insane things on them, but I guess by now I’m the crazy uncle so they’re used to it.

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS:

I either have it at my house and cook the dinner or go to my sisters. I also have a Christmas party the Saturday before Christmas. That’s a party I’ve had for 45 years, and it’s everybody from relatives and politicians to criminals. It’s a very mixed crowd.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS HE LOVES:

No one ever knows what to get me, but it’s always books. I have a list of books that I’m always asking for. Usually a book by favorite author that I never knew existed, that would be the very best present ever. I also collect collectible books, and I collect porn parodies, soft-core stuff. I just love to find books that are, to me, art objects even just by the cover. You don’t have to read them, they’re just funny to look at sitting there. I got a book yesterday and I just love the title: Queer Bergman–but he wasn’t gay! And then there’s another I got called Queers, Rednecks, and Country Music—I just think that title’s pretty good.

A PRESENT FOR SOMEONE HE HATES:

The worst gift you could give a young person is a hard-line phone for their bedroom. That would be the meanest thing you could do…or a CD player!

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MEMORIES:

The Christmas tree falling over on my Grandmother, hearing her scream, the sound of her hitting the presents, Clarence the handy man running, Bernice the cook running, and my Grandmother under the tree. It was a happy memory and my Grandmother later thought it was very funny. I’ve used it in my movies and in my Christmas show and now people tell me stories of when their tree fell over—it happens a lot!

THE BEST PART OF PERFORMING A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS:

It’s like being a politician. You get to meet the people that help you make a living, so it’s great. And it’s how I make my living! 

Chatting With Kate Miller-Heidke About Wildly Controversial Klinghoffer Opera

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Though chart topping success and numerous awards have marked her almost decade long career at home, Aussie pop chanteuse Kate Miller-Heidke is only now beginning to make a significant splash Stateside.

And while the enigmatic rocker has played plenty of big rooms here, she’s just taken to her biggest stage yet. You see, Ms Miller-Heidke is also an opera singer; and Monday evening marked her debut at the ne plus ultra of operatic establishments, The Metropolitan Opera, this week.

But this is an opera gig that is awash in controversy, as witnessed by vocal protestations about the subject matter from none other than our former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Said opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams’ story about Palestinian terrorists’ 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the gruesome execution of one of its Jewish passengers, is being declared ‘disgusting’ and accused of giving voice to terrorism. There have been massive protests outside Lincoln Center.

At the same time, Miller-Heidke is also in town for a couple of plain old club shows that promise to be protest free, most likely, and where she will be showcasing material from her brilliant new album O Vertigo!. We chatted with the diminutive songstress just before the art and politics hit the fan.

Kate Miller-Heidke Photo #1 Photo Credit Jo Duck

(photo by Jo Duck)

Congrats on the amazing new album. O Vertigo! is quite upbeat and happy; was that the frame of mind you were in when making it?

I wouldn’t describe myself as happy [when making the record]. I was wired and burnt out and had a lot of frayed nerves, I guess I was looking for the songs to bring me some happiness. I needed it; I craved it actually.

Did it work?

It did actually, it was a pretty empowering thing to discover. This record is in a lot of ways about self empowerment, liberation from a label and the self determination to make something by myself without Keir [Nuttall] as a big collaborator, as he had been in the past.

You left Sony before making this album and helped finance it through a Pledge campaign; I heard that fulfilling all the orders can be daunting.

Luckily I have fantastic management and they literally stuffed hundreds of envelopes. We paid half the school kids on the block 20 bucks an hour to put my vinyl in envelopes; it was a huge operation. On my end I’ve had to make 100 happy birthday phone calls, but that’s mostly a joyous task. No one wants to see music as a business, but what it is for the audience is partly the old fashioned idea of patronage, but on a small scale; and its also guilt for having BitTorrented the previous record. So it’s to absolve their consciences. Both of which are good things.

Lets talk about doing the opera.

I play a trashy cruise ship dancer who tells herself jokes to distract herself from the horror of being hijacked. I do one solo song but am on stage for most of the time getting terrorized. Its quite electric, the story has been attracting quite a controversy, protests. Its amazing to be in an opera that has modern relevance. When does that happen? Never, ha! And I’m amazed at what a huge production it is.

Is this mega for an opera?

I think this is normal for The Met. There are about five or six operas running, its amazing backstage; there’s a bit of Magic Flute and there’s a bit of La Boheme. It’s awesome. But this production will have a further life. It’s the same production we did in London, this time around just bigger and better.

A little different from playing club shows.

To be suddenly at this level is just kind of ridiculous. Next week I’ve been asked to go the 5th Avenue mansion of these very rich people and sing for an audience that includes [minimalist composer of Klinghoffer] John Adams and Philip Glass—and its like, ‘what the fuck am I gonna sing’? It’s a little like being dropped via parachute into Borneo, but I’m just enjoying it.

Kate Miller-Heidke will be at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall November 3rd, before heading out on a European tour.

“Share Your Air” (featuring Passenger)

A First Look at Michael C. Hall as Hedwig!

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A few weeks back, we learned the fabulous news that Michael C. Hall would be taking over for Andrew Rannells as the starring role of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. Our excitement and dreams of him in costume were mainly culled from our love for his performance in Cabaret, but now we’ve been graced with the first taste of him as Hedwig, in all his teal-glittered glory. He’ll take the stage October 15th, but in the meantime, check out the photos below and head HERE to watch some of our favorite MC Hall musical performances.

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