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Proud and Talented

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 14, 2006 1:41PM

City officials have been known to capture the excitement of a cultural festival by declaring “Today we are all Irish!” to a crowd in Beverly or “Today we are all Polish!” to Jefferson Parkers. It’s amusing to think we’ll hear a Commissioner proclaim “Today we are all gay!” when the Gay Games open Saturday night, but Mayor Daley expressed his more than symbolic support earlier this week, thanking the out and proud (and commerce seeking) corporations sponsoring the seventh version of the international sports festival and encouraging the rest of us to attend events and cheer on the athletes.

In the spirit of fostering appreciation for our diverse society and throwing a magnificent party, Gay Games organizers have gone the extra mile to integrate art and culture into the festivities, recruiting participants to perform in bands, a color guard, cheer teams, and choral groups. And with visitors, athletes, and entourages from over 70 countries touring the region through late July, dozens of Chicago’s cultural purveyors are rolling out programs aimed at the GLBT community.

pinscover.gifTwo of these programs speak directly to gay athletes. Victor Skrebenski’s intimate portraits of 14 Gay Games competitors opened last night at Water Tower Gallery. Continuing at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre is PINS, Jim Provenzano's play about a high school wrestler confronting locker room homophobia. Provenzano, a wrestler and Gay Games medalist, interviewed hundreds of out and closeted athletes struggling for acceptance circa 1992.

gaydavinci.jpgBailiwick offers a full slate of programming for GLBT audiences during the Pride 2006 season. The all-male D.C. Cowboys return to Chicago, dancing to show tunes and classics next Friday night. The Tricky Part, a complex coming-of-age memoir, previews this weekend and opens Monday. Barenaked Lads in the Great Outdoors, which delivers what it promises, continues its open run. Next door at the Theatre Building, GayCo’s The DaVinci GayCode slays the sacred cows of gay pop culture. Stage Left and Hubris Productions brings back Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey, a very funny, and very early 90s, look at relationships in the shadow of AIDS. At Victory Gardens, About Face Youth Theater looks to the future in The Home Project, a sobering look at homelessness which the company calls its most powerful production to date.

Those of you who'd rather enjoy some fun and interesting diversions than contemplate the social fabric may be drawn to Millennium Park for this weekend’s Lollapallooza of Sondheim, to the Cultural Center for their 5-day music series and ongoing free art exhibits, to Live Bait Theater for solo homo performances, or to some of the 35 art galleries participating in Vision 11, a cluster of exhibit openings and free discussions in and around the River North and West Loop gallery districts. Tonight, guests from around the world can judge our artists, institutions, and free wine and cheese for themselves.

Venues mentioned above:
Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, 1229 W. Belmont
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington
Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark
Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. & Washington St. (look for the big silver bean)
Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont
Victory Gardens, 2257 N Lincoln
Water Tower Gallery, 806 N. Michigan

Vision 11 gallery openings take place tonight from 5 – 9pm in multiple venues. More information at the CADA website.

Images via Amazon and GayCo