Category Archives: Reviews

Gaming in Color: The Queer Side of Gaming

Being a part of a community.  Having a safe place to express oneself.  Playing with diversity. Finding an identity.

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Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move ~

Devolver Digital Films and MidBoss have just digitally VOD released a feature documentary, Gaming In Color, which explores the queer side of gaming.

Directed by Philip Jones, the award-winning film takes a look at the queer gaming community, ‘gaymer’ culture, and the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ themes in video games. The film, which won Best Documentary at the Gen Con 2014 Film Festival, explores how the community culture is shifting and the industry is diversifying, helping with queer visibility and acceptance of an LGBTQ presence.

According to the new documentary Gaming in Color, for longer than anyone has realized, much less non-gamers, gaming has been a place where young people learn practical skills like multi-tasking, music, even finance, and above all, how to socialize in the real world.  

Focusing on “representation”, this 61 minutes film talks about the profound influence of games on attitudes and the identity of gays, a more 360 view apart from and inclusive of sexuality.  Totally filmed in interviews, the dialog tends to be repetitive, but we are dealing with highly intelligent people, logically reasoning about the hot indie games scene, the creators of the games themselves and on controversial subject matter.  Gaming in Color addresses the every day stigmas of simply being a gamer, being labelled a “geek” a “freak”  and how the entry of queer games has created on one hand a whole anti-gay movement within games and on the other, opened the door for GaymerX, the Comic-con for this group.

Because gaming however, is still mostly a heterosexual universe, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer/questioning gamer, it is also another place where they experience bullying.  As the two worlds continue to mesh within this bubble genre, the solace these groups are seeking within games is becoming explosive and the gaming industry is stuck in the middle of the struggle for voices, fans and sales.

Ultimately, though gaming is interactive, accessible, engaging and inclusive in a way that other parts of culture are not, for young gay men and women, it is a place where they can “come out”, see themselves inside a story, create a story and be included, because games, as an invaluable tool for self-expression, contain possibilities and opportunities for looking at the world in different ways. 

At only 51 years old games have the potential to shift thought culture entirely.

Recommended

Gaming In Color

A Feature Documentary that Explores

The Queer Side of Gaming

Directed by Philip Jones

Ryan Paul is the cinematographer, film editor, and a producer for Gaming In Color. The film’s producing company is MidBoss, which organizes the GX game convention (formerly GaymerX) and will also be releasing the upcoming queer-focused adventure game Read Only Memories. MidBoss CEO Matt Conn is featured in the cast and is also the executive producer of the film.

Gaming In Color’s digital VOD release can be found on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, PlayStation, Xbox, and Vudu, with other major platforms. For additional information, please visit www.gamingincolor.com.

Gaming In Color features a queer-identified cast from across the gamer community including Colleen Macklin (Associate Professor at Parsons & game designer), George Skleres (Riot Games engineer), Matt Conn (MidBoss CEO & GaymerX/GX founder), Naomi Clark (game creator), Joey Stern (founding member of Geeks Out), Jessica Vazquez (journalist), Shane Cherry (NYC Gaymers event promoter), and Matthew Michael Brown (activist & reality TV star). Anne Clements, of Idiot Savant Pictures, served as a producer.

Remix artist and video game soundtrack composer 2 Mello (aka Matthew Hopkins) created the film’s music, which incorporates a variety of game sounds. Footage from the inaugural GaymerX event, which is primarily focused on the gay gaming community and LGBTQ issues, is also featured in the film. The film was partially funded by a Kickstarter Campaign, which raised $51,158 from 1,026 backers. 

The film has screened in nearly two dozen locations at festivals and events in the U.S. and abroad.

The film and cover art were also seen onscreen in an episode of HBO’s Looking. Upcoming screenings include the History of Gender in Games conference in Montreal, Canada on Friday, June 26, 2015.

Philip Jones, Director & Producer –

Philip Jones is a game developer, event coordinator, community manager, and now film director living in Fort Worth, TX. As an active queer gamer and activist, Jones has a deeply personal stake in this project. Jones believes diversity and positive representation of marginalized people in video games, both in industry development and community culture, are things that can be achieved through passion and hard work. Jones hopes that Gaming In Color will be used as an educational tool that succeeds in promoting these goals. This is Jones’ first film. Apart from Gaming In Color, Jones works as an employee of MidBoss as both the lead scripter and assistant writer for upcoming cyberpunk adventure game Read Only Memories as well as the exhibitor director for the queer-focused game convention GX (formerly GaymerX). Jones also enjoys watching professional wrestling and being a real life bear cub.

Ryan Paul, Cinematographer, Film Editor & Producer –

Ryan Paul is an independent producer, editor, and documentarian, always looking for a new story to tell. A self-proclaimed gay geek, ex-Mormon, and Canadian-American, he adores geek culture, science fiction, film, games, and exploring new corners of the internet. Previous professional affiliations include AlleyWire, Here TV, and the University of Utah. Previous projects include developing a series of videos on New York Fashion Week for OUT.com, shooting, editing, and developing graphics for For and Against, and shooting, editing and post production for the Homotional Rescue PSA series. He lives with his husband in New York City, where they drink too much coffee and contemplate moving to Seattle.

Matt Conn, Cast & Executive Producer –

Matt Conn is best known for being the founder and CEO of MidBoss, the company that also puts on the GX game convention (formerly GaymerX) that seeks to create a safe space for LGBTQ identified gamers. He is also the producer for MidBoss’ upcoming cyberpunk story adventure Read Only Memories, which seeks to include queer characters in a positive way through the narrative of an interactive experience. Read Only Memories is set to release on August 18, 2015. Conn is a major leader of the fight for queer inclusion in video games and directs all MidBoss projects from San Francisco, where he lives.

2 Mello (aka Matthew Hopkins), Composer –

Matthew “2 Mello” Hopkins is a remix artist and soundtrack composer who chews up samples and neat sounds to create his music. He is most well known for Chrono Jigga, a mashup album with Jay-Z’s lyrics mixed with handcrafted beats sampling the Chrono Trigger soundtrack. After producing three albums as a solo artist, he was signed to the online, non-profit label Scrub Club Records. Recently, he began a career as an indie game composer and is now working on the soundtracks for Dawn Of Time, and MidBoss Games’ title Read Only Memories. He has been featured in articles on Spin.com, Kotaku, The Verge, Polygon, and Destructoid. 2 Mello was thrilled to create the music forGaming In Color so that he could “put a melody to the lives and passions of so many gaymers.”

MidBoss –

MidBoss is a gaming, tech, and geek culture company based in San Francisco that focuses on alternative and LGBTQ lifestyles that encompass gaming culture. Under the MidBoss banner, projects like the GX convention (formerly GaymerX), Read Only Memories, GXdev, and Gaming In Color endeavor to create a better gaming community for queer geeks. The company’s goal is to create a safe space for everyone who loves games, where they can enjoy and express themselves through games however they choose. Everyone games.

Devolver Digital –

Based in Austin, Texas, Devolver Digital distributes independent video games and guides indie filmmakers through digital distribution and film promotion. Devolver Digital’s outspoken passion for independent games, developers, and fans has earned the company no minor measure of game industry notoriety. With its expansion into film, which was announced at South by Southwest 2013, the company applies that same fiercely creative devotion and digital content expertise to support and celebrate indie filmmakers and projects. Co-Founder and Partner Mike Wilson says his own experience as a filmmaker seeking distribution led him and his partners to expand Devolver Digital into film. That experience has guided the company’s focus on “hand-crafted” strategic partnership and personal attention in distributing the titles on the label to a full range of digital and cable VOD platforms.

Links –

• Official Site – http://www.gamingincolor.com

• Film’s Devolver Page – http://www.devolverdigital.com/films/view/gaming-in-color

• Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGmnWC1yCvQ

• Press Kit – https://www.presskit.to/gamingincolor

• Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GamingInColor

• Twitter – https://twitter.com/GamingInColor

• Soundtrack – https://soundcloud.com/wearemidboss/sets/gaming-in-color-ost

Ellison Ballet Celebrates 10 Years at Symphony Space NYC

Carlos-Stafford-Main-1254709434Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

Ellison Ballet

Year after year since its inception, the Ellison Ballet of New York has been on a upward trajectory.

May 15th and 16th performances clearly show a dynamic company that gets more and more professional on each outing, charming audiences with full-throttle energy, athleticism, and commitment.

As usual, the program highlights some of the fine moments from the classical repertory, and spiced this year with a few winning additions like Bournonville colorful and playful, Jockey Dance, staged crisply by Karina Elver, and the wild and breathtaking Khachaturian Waltz, that utilized the entire cast in a swirling gauzy delight.

But the bulk of the program was culled from a Giselle variation, Don Q, La Esmeralda, Flames of Paris, Paquita, and the like, and were uniformly performed with great energy, technical skill, and heart. From the outset, the dancers were well rehearsed and full of bright and clear talent.

A few dances stood out for their depth, quality, and astonishing delivery. Grand Pas Classique Pas De Deux, with the remarkable talented Juliette Bosco (even more noteworthy, is only 12), electrified, along with her able partner Theophilus Pilette. Bosco also displayed her considerable talents earlier in the progam in charming Harlequinade. The most striking feature about this young performer is her obvious stunning maturity and abundant confidence she brings to her roles. She possesses a dignity in her gaze, and a surity in her movements that is easily seen, and to be applauded. Pilette was a wonderful partner, who performed with a manly presence, and stuck the right balance in this very dramatic and exciting piece.

Carmen, staged by Ellison, to Bizet’s famous score was nothing if not a heart-thumping sexy, well-performed delight. Emily Neale was great fun as the strong-willed Carmen who takes what she wants and scorns the weak dogs who fall into her spell–a woman a man can’t resist, but nonetheless want to possess at their own peril. August Athuru Generalli danced Don Jose with an fine arc of development from stately military control, to broken man with superb clarity. Neale was truly outstanding in her gorgeous presence and seductiveness, and the two crackled the stage with their dangerous dance of death. The costumes, swirling caps, Escamillo (Kevin Zong), soldiers, and the huge cast of gypsies electrified the stage with fiery energy.

Ellison Ballet is the best they’ve ever been. The training and performance level is more and more professional, and it was a joy to see this great development through the years. We wish them all congratulations for a fine ten years, and best wishes to all these fine students, their developing careers, and to all the quality teaching offered at the school.

Inland Pacific Ballet presents Beauty and the Beast

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Beauty and the Beast Inland Pacific Ballet

Inland Pacific Ballet brings to life an authentic production of Beauty and the Beast.  Structured closer to the classic 1756 French fairytale La Belle et la Bête by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, rather than mimicking its modern Disney musical counterpart, it is a delightfully, uncomplicated, much more adult and truer narrative.  

In its original 18th century form, Beauty and the Beast was actually a primer for young ladies facing the perils of marriage.  Your husband might seem to be a beast to you but it was your job to find something to like about him. “We’ve come a long way since then…” commented founder/directed Victoria Koenig in a pre-show jest, which garnered an instantaneous house-wide giggle.  But really in its essence the story of Beauty and the Beast, as an instructional or otherwise, universally speaks to our better selves and our willingness to look past surface and find the inner beauty of another person; in Beauty’s case, love and a fairytale marriage.

Opening a bit like a town hall meeting, the show was introduced by Arcadia’s mayor, followed by an unexpected mini-history lesson of the tale and of the ballet. In and of itself the ballet Beauty and the Beast is a rather modern creation, with a strung together musical score by composers, Shostakovich, Komzak, Dvorak, Chapi, Mendelssohn, Khachaturian, Grieg, Massenet, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Paine, and Glazunov, which although did not evince a particularly strong denouement did seamlessly and quite beautifully lead the ballet.  The first several minutes were devoted to an expressive and perfect balletic mime demonstration by dance veteran Jonathan Sharp who exampled the “language” of story ballet.

A mostly young company of dancers including some very adorable spindly fairies and roses there were initially some rough patches.  Many of the girls couldn’t keep their footing on the slippery floor.  By the second act however, the choreography and the comfort level for the performers ramped up for a gorgeous finish when by Beauty’s love the Beast turns into a Prince played by Cameron Schwanz, a sophisticated “cut above” talent for local stage, and ‘princely’ by all means. I personally shouted a Bravo, from the 5th row for his incredible technique, presentational skill and for giving Beauty (Meilu Zhai) the best part of himself as a partner, allowing her to thoroughly shine during the wedding scene finale.

There are no dancing tea cups but there are wolves, fairies and knomes aplenty. Suited for adults and children of all ages.  There are two more performances taking place in Riverside, CA today:

Fox Performing Arts Center, 3801 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501
Box Office: (951) 779-9800

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm

Information & Tickets:  ipballet.org; tickets from $34 with senior/child/group discounts available

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63 Trillion at The Odyssey Theatre

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
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Money. Sex. Bad behavior….just another day at the stock exchange. 

There are approximately 63 trillion dollars on the line in fees, investments and customer assets and no one but the intern seems to care all that much in The New American Theatre’s world premiere comedy 63 Trillion written by John Bunzel (Born to Be Wild, The Wonder Years) and Steve Zuckerman (Anger Management, Golden Girls) currently playing at the Odyssey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.

When global financial markets go radioactive, predators stand poised for a fight to the finish. Partnerships prove to be perilous and laws are meaningless in the jungle of scheming money managers.

And let me pause right here, right now with a precursor to this review.  I worked on Wall Street for many years.  So it’s been kind of a fun experience to have a first hand knowledge about what really happens on the Stock Exchange and how THIS show decided to tell its story.

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It was certainly entertaining enough for audiences who laughed for the entire 90 minutes plus intermission and usually that’s good enough for me. But the dark comedic portrayal of these semi-delusional, money hungry, Gordon Gekko-wannabe “Masters of the Universe” is on one hand so close to the “senior level management truth” that it almost makes this play plausible; but then so over-the-top comedic that in the end it is simple outrageously farcical.  Does this stuff happen?  Occasionally, which is why Jeffrey Jones’ vicious play for a mega client-advisory takeover and the wealthiest one we come to find out is actually orchestrating the cataclysmic Chinese hedge fund crash which has them all scheming around, is so delicious that we obscenely root for Jones (Dick) in all his diabolical if not perverse, grandeur.

And when on-the-surface thoughtful up & comer Jonah (played by Noah James) is told “You’re just passing through on the way to somewhere (else) so I don’t want to teach you about wealth management!”, it’s even more nectarous when Johah impressively gorilla-warfare style turns the game on everyone else, to Dick’s ultimate delight and advantage.

There is some serious hilarity going on by way of what often comes across as a bunch of high school boys trying to figure out how to cheat on an Algebra test and lots of exhaustive sidelines that come into play.  When lawyer Megan Gallagher (Nancy) arrives on the scene to mete out out the punishments (some of these guys are going “down!” for more than bad behavior), ordering the boys to their respective corners, it gets little a la Sr. Mary Margaret parochial and consequently a bit slapstick funny and the show takes a whole other life on a different track.  

On the down side, there are too many scene changes and the second act feels like an different show. But Robert Cicchini brings his “Jersey Boy” (spot on!) A game as does Megan Gallagher, Ken Lerner Jack Stehlin and Jordan Lund. Jeffrey Jones remains as one hell of a class act all by himself, no hyperbole necessary.

63trillionfrontpage_zpsw7es8eyl 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm, Sunday June 7th (one matinee), closing on June 7, 2015. A guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025 Tickets are $30-$34.99. Tickets at NewAmericanTheatre.com/tickets.html or call 310-477-2055. $3 parking available at the theater, or free street parking.

Twitter: #NewAmericanThtr

The Anarchist at Theatre Asylum

To be delirious. [dih-leer-ee-uh s]sound
To be numb by the ecstasy of perfection. [per-fek-shuh n] 

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The opening of The Anarchist at Theatre Asylum on Santa Monica Blvd., Theatre Row Hollywood, this past weekend, is the dictionary definition of impeccable excellence. An instantaneous lights up and go! Mamet all the way with rapid crossfire, deftly performed, showing off what might possibly be the ultimate execution of Meisner stage craft.

Submission, rebirth and faith are the issues that come into play or so we are led to believe from lead character Cathy in a white hot intensity of erudite repartee, wit, lies and manipulation. But who is manipulating who?

Decades ago lead character Cathy (Felicity Huffman) and a group of young anarchists murdered two police officers. Now just moments before her final parole appeal with the victims’ families waiting in the office next-door, Cathy must convince a prison administrator, Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon), of her reformation or risk serving a life sentence.

Directed by Marja-Lewis Ryan (One in the Chamber), The Anarchist not only fulfills even the remotest of fantasies about what first-rate theatre can be, it smashes the notion that 99 Seat Theater is subpar while supporting every aspect of it being large yet intimate.

Felicity Huffman and Rebecca Pidgeon commit to a stunning performance that will verily take your breath away.

“My God, I’ve been to the theatre!”

Very highly recommended!

The AnarchistThe Anarchist by David Mamet
(Drama)

Starring Felicity Huffman and Rebecca Pidgeon

Written by David Mamet

Directed by Marja-Lewis Ryan

Runs
Fri, Apr 24 – Sat, May 23
Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, @ 8pm 

BUY TICKETS$34/Ticket

Reservations
(323) 960-7784

Special Events
LA Drama Critics Circle Award Winning Actress HEIDI SULZMAN will UNDERSTUDY for FELICITY HUFFMAN on FRIDAY 5/8.

Special Show Info
Running time: 70 minutes.
No Late Seating. Valet Parking will be made available at cost.

Theatre Asylum
6320 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90038
Street Parking
Area Map

Special Theatre Info
Allow time for Street Parking! Wheelchair Access is available at this theatre.

The theatre has concessions.

Bang Bang at Highways Performance Space

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Mike Ciriaco and Michael Matts in

Mike Ciriaco and Michael Matts in “Bang Bang” . Photo credit: Gina Long.

Butt fucking, blow jobs, penis tugging and pistols…exibitionism ranks high in what is otherwise a very old school character monolog driven presentation of sex, lies, confessions, more sex and videotapes in Bang Bang currently playing at Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, CA.

If you’re here for a fun night out, be prepared…casual or easy is NOT what’s on display. Bang Bang audience members will find plenty of the content invariably homoerotic, emotionally everywhere, immature, funny, often disjointed, and despite the nudity and stories developed from headline news within this piece, and in the oddest of ways, wildly ordinary .  

Backing up…Bang Bang written by American playwright Michael Kearns as presented has a balance of power at work here. One one hand it has the edifice of being highly gratuitous, on the other there is an efficacious subtly . The subjects themselves have important dialog to express.  There is a NEED to be heard. The ideas within this piece are very charged…some of the script in fact, downright, deliciously hard-core, dealing with school shootings, murder and molestation. There is a realness and compassion written into this work which finds direction through storytelling. But the character work at times comes across as vanilla and the end result was not as impactful as I would have expected.  And I did expect a literal Bang BANG! 

The poetic line housed inside the piece threading together a multitude of stories of guns, shooting, sex and sexual violence, Irish con man Padric, romping around stage sadistically “playing” everyone and filmmaker Peter are the most compelling elements in this tale with the extraordinary exception of actor David Pevsner’s spot on believability – bar none – as psychiatrist Dr. Jack L/Mr. Hide & Seek.

Mr. Pevsner’s throw down of his characters, the concerned, highly curious doctor who transitions into a methe- addicted serial killer, is impeccable, volumptous and gritty and where the story finds its true denouement long before the ending. In a phrase, “He nails it!” – the characters, the life of the thread, all the emotions and the true violence presented.

This is the last weekend to experience Bang Bang. Two performances left.

Highly recommended.

Synopsis:

Peter, one of the play’s main characters, is a documentary filmmaker and his film-in-progress (titled Bang Bang) reveals the heartbroken lives of the viscerally wounded. The documentary that is being filmed becomes the play: a collage of confessionals and testimonies, intimacies of sexual rage, and arias of palpable loss.

A man loses his black son in a white cop shooting; a woman loses her husband and daughter in a random school shooting; an elderly man plans to off his wife, who is in the throes of Alzheimer’s; a prostitute murders her boyfriend-pimp; a gay therapist morphs into a meth-addicted serial killer; a cop relives his experience of removing children from a schoolroom that was “a sea of blood.”

But Peter’s film shoot is interrupted by Padric, a charismatic Irish con-man who steals not only hearts, but stories…

Bang Bang

Mark Bringelson, Director
Michael Kearns, Moon Mile Run Partner & Playwright

With: Mike Ciriaco, Michael Matts, JoNell Kennedy, Lizzie Peet, David PevsnerRyland and Shelton

Highways Performance Space
18th Street Arts Center
1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA

Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30pm

TICKETS: $20 in advance ($15 for students, Highways members, and seniors)

Online: https://ww04.elbowspace.com/secure/20060523121621515002

Phone: 310-315-1459

INFORMATION:

www.highwaysperformance.org

La Caberet a la Mode de Paris Kicks Up It’s Heels in Style at Sofitel

 by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
CabaretVersatile_BlueFeathers_Web

Continuing my new “Adventures in LIVE Streaming” (just in case you didn’t catch it on Twitter/Periscope) was a visit earlier this month to the Sofitel Los Angeles for a presentation of Les Demoiselles of Cabaret Versatile “Le Caberet a la Mode de Paris”.

CabaretVersatile_CancanWorkshops_Web

What really should be taking place on a larger stage a la Moulin Rouge, is a very up close and cinematic-like view for the audience of French Cancan, cheeky Burlesque, effervescent humor and le chant très sensuelle.

The premiere of “Femmes” at Riviera 31, is a dreamy, glamorous and immersive sampling of all things feminine and female. I’d also add definitively–all things French.  We especially loved being treated chez chic champagne and macaroons while sensually embraced by the ambiance and sensational elegance.

With the Hollywood Fringe Festival fast approaching it is interesting to note that these ladies actually received an award for Best Cabaret and Variety Show, and were nominated for Best International Show at Fringe back in 2012.  Their return is nothing short of breathtaking.

ParisChansons_WebOpening act, singers Julia and Jacob of Paris Chansons, immediately set a warm, nostalgic tone with favorite tunes and sing-a-longs in French and English most recognizable to the highly percentiled Français crowd in attendance. For the rest of us, it was a ticklish treat.

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Headlining the show was actress Mhairi Morrison appearing as her ever in-a-fuss character Talullah Grace who hilariously and quite decadantly clowned up what would have otherwise been moments of unfortunate trevas in between each number.

The intermission is overly long.  But you can square away the tedium quite nicely at the fully stocked, ready and delicious bar at Riviera 31. 

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