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“Significant Other” explores perennial problem through millenial lens

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Will Van Vogt is making his Geffen Playhouse debut with “Significant Other.” Photo Courtest Geffen Playhouse.

There comes a time for most people, usually in our twenties, when the circle of friends we in which we move begins to peel away; one by one, they reach a point when the bustle of a busy social life is suddenly less appealing than the traditional comfort of domesticity, and they pair off with some special someone with whom they think they are ready to settle down.

When this happens, inevitably, the group dwindles until there is only one person left.

Being that person, to put it succinctly, pretty much sucks.

It’s this phenomenon that is explored in “Significant Other,” a comedy by playwright Joshua Harmon which officially opens its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse on April 11.

The show, which has already enjoyed successful Off-Broadway and Broadway runs, follows a young man named Jordan, a single professional who also happens to be gay.  When his close group of female friends each begins to slowly drift away and get married, he finds himself feeling left alone while he searches for his own “Mr. Right.”

Will Van Vogt, who plays Jordan, says it’s a play that hits him pretty close to home.

“I’ve been living with the same woman, my best friend, for eight years, and just before I came to L.A. she moved in with her life partner – so we sort of broke up this domestic partnership that we had developed.  I’m so excited and proud for her, but it’s sort of like, ‘well, now what’s going to happen to me?’”

He says that same kind of uncertainty is at the core of his character, and of the play itself.

“Jordan is trying to figure out what adult life looks like for him.  He begins to look around and realize that he doesn’t have everything in place the way that he’d like to, and it sends him into a bit of a spiral – worrying about things he wants, things he’s afraid he’ll never get.  It’s a very human story about things I think we’re all afraid of at the end of the day.”

He’s also thrilled to be part of a show that, as he puts it, is so “queer-centric.”

“One of the things I love most about this play, as a gay man, is that we have this person, front and center, who’s going through major life events that are applicable for everybody who shows up to that room.  It’s wonderful to have a queer character deliver those messages – so often we’re reduced to playing side characters, or characters facing great tragedy, but Jordan is this layered character who goes through these relatable human emotions across all levels.  Whether you’re a gay man in your twenties or an elderly woman in your nineties, or anybody in between, you’re going to recognize the struggles that he’s going through.”

Even so, at a time in entertainment culture when the watchword is “inclusiveness,” he says that the character’s sexuality is relevant because it is, essentially, not relevant at all.

“This play isn’t about Jordan being gay, it’s about him being a human being.  The problems he’s trying to tackle are heightened because they’re reflected against heteronormative traditions, but underneath they are really just human experiences.”

Melanie Field, who plays Laura, says the play is not just about Jordan’s issues.  The other characters are all trying to find their way, too.

“Laura is closest to Jordan, they have a special bond.  They are pretty aligned when it comes to their views about life, and about marriage.  They don’t really subscribe to the whole idea of marriage and romance – but when their other friends start meeting people and settling down, she catches the bug too.  And then it becomes about how this challenges their friendship.  They have to figure out how they are going to remain best friends, and what that really means, as their relationship status changes.”

Just like Van Vogt, she says she sees a lot of herself reflected in her role.

“I’m starting to ask myself the same kinds of questions about my own life as these characters.   It hurts to grow up – it’s difficult, it’s confusing, it’s infuriating at times.  We’re looking for all the answers, we’re wanting to know what’s going to happen and how we’re going to get through it.”

She thinks this is what will give the show heightened resonance for millennial audiences – especially the young, urban professional types represented by its main characters.

“A lot of millennials, because of access to education or focus on career, are late-bloomers compared to older generations.  The play addresses the idea of looking at how things were for them and comparing your own life to that, even while you’re trying to deal with how the world has changed and the culture has shifted.  What does your ideal relationship look like while you’re trying to maintain your independence?  Do you even want children?  And if you do, how do you meet the person you want to have them with?  So much of dating now takes place on a phone screen or a laptop.  It’s more complicated now, and I think our show reflects that beautifully.”

“There are several scenes in where Jordan talks to his grandmother about where she was at as his age. We have that presence in our show, of this older generation that did things so much differently in terms of dating, and marriage, and children and all of it.  It’s a really nice foil for what Jordan is going through.”

Playwright Harmon has been lauded for his skill at creating “richly funny comedies with appealing, exasperating and infinitely recognizable characters.” Even so, with all this deep talk about relationship challenges, intergenerational comparisons, and cultural shifts, it might be easy to forget that “Significant Other” is a comedy.

Not to worry, says Van Vogt.

“There are so many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s a totally funny play.”

 

“Significant Other”

Written by Joshua Harmon

Directed by Stephen Brackett

Starring Melanie Field, Vella Lovell, Preston Martin, Keilly McQuail, John Garet Stoker, Concetta Tomei, and Will Von Vogt.

Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theatre – 10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Previews begin March 3, performances March 11 – May 6

Tickets available at www.geffenplayhouse.com

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Travel

July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

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Sports

Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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