March 8, 2019 at 2:25 pm PDT | by John Paul King
Spring events blooming in Los Angeles

Stephen Varble at the 12th annual Avant-Garde Festival 1975. Photo by Greg Day.

As we emerge from the not-so-chilly chill of another Los Angeles winter, it’s time to look ahead to the cultural highlights of the coming spring in our fabulous city. Fortunately, the Blade is here to give you a rundown of the must-see events of the season.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art of the 1970s, Photographs by Greg Day, March 1-May 17 (ONE Gallery, West Hollywood)

In costumes made from street trash, food waste and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (American,1946–1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art,” making the recombination of signs for gender a central theme. At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (American, 1944-) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future. This exhibition, with its focus on their collaboration, explores the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerilla performance art has lived on primarily through Day’s vibrant photographs, that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash and public confrontations. For more information, visit one.usc.edu.

Rotterdam,” March 28-April 7 (Kirk Douglas Theatre)

Last year’s Skylight Theatre Company production of this smart and sensitive comedy by Jon Brittain was a runaway hit that enjoyed an extended run at the company’s small space in Los Feliz. Now, it’s being remounted as part of Center Theatre Group’s third annual “Block Party LA” at the Kirk Douglas, celebrating local Los Angeles theater at its best.  On New Year’s Eve, 2018, in the city of the title, Alice has finally found the courage to come out to her parents as a lesbian. But before she has the chance, her girlfriend, Fiona, reveals that she has always identified as a man and now wants to live as one, sending their relationship into a tailspin. A bittersweet comedy with deeply human characters, both flawed and hilarious, “Rotterdam” poses powerful questions about love and identity.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, April 3-7 (The Music Center)

The legendary dance company celebrates 60 years of performance art with both classic Ailey works and contemporary pieces including Ailey’s masterpiece “Revelations.” There will be a Dance Talk, a pre-performance discussion with members of the company, one hour before each performance. The discussion will conclude with a mini dance lesson from “Revelations” taught by a member of the company. Tickets range from  $34-$125. For more details, visit musiccenter.org.

Turn Back Time: The Best of the Last 40 Years of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, April 6-7 (Alex Theatre, Glendale)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles may have faced some challenges of late, but that hasn’t stopped them from going ahead with their mission to change hearts and minds with music – just as they have done for the last 40 years by connecting hundreds of thousands through song. This spring, they will be celebrating the past 40 years with some of their favorite musical memories at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Join GMCLA as they reminisce and rally, looking back on significant moments and memorable achievements, and looking forward to what the next 40 years have in store. Some crowd favorites they’ll be bringing back include “True Colors,” “Creep” and “The Trolley Song.” Whether you’ve been in the audience for years or recently discovered the chorus, you’ll want to join this historic pillar of Los Angeles’ LGBTQ community as they turn back time to highlight the hits from their first 40 years.

‘French Kiss-Ass’ by Rick Castro. Photo courtesy of Tom of Finland Foundation.

Rick Castro, Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 – 2019, April 6-27 (Tom of Finland Foundation’s TOM House)

A powerful and imaginative figure that emerged in the Los Angeles underground during the late ‘80s, Rick Castro has been dubbed “the fetish king” by all that know him. His clients over the years have included Bette Midler, David Bowie, Herb Ritts, Joel-Peter Witkin and magazines like Interview, GQ, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. The artist’s sex positive imagery is darkly erotic, elegant, and at times, sinister. His photographs are characterized by potent and visceral tableaux, tinged with sadomasochism, leather and sexual pleasure. He continues his pictorial career and fascination with lust, desire and kink producing elegant portraiture of celebrated artists and the demi-monde. For more information visit tomoffinlandfoundation.org/foundation/events.

TCM Classic Film Festival, April 11-April 14 (Multiple Venues)

Call us old-fashioned, but there’s always been a strong connection between the queer community and the big screen classics of an era long gone by.  This must-visit for classic film buffs showcases four days of beloved movies—from the iconic to forgotten gems—courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, who are celebrating their 10th annual festival and their 25th anniversary delivering these time-honored favorites into your living room. During this year’s festival, themed “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies,” a robust lineup of films – from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” to “Steel Magnolias” – will be seen the way they were meant to be, on the big screen, in some of Hollywood’s most famous movie houses, including the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters. It’s a four-day happening sure to be full of many-splendored moments, where you can revel in romance and obsessions, delight in faithful friendships and surrender to the enduring allure of the silver screen with fellow classic movie lovers – and be on the lookout for celebrity guests, as well. For more information visit filmfestival.tcm.com.

Falsettos,” April 16-May 19 (Ahmanson Theatre)

There’s a reason Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson series always has a presence on these lists – they offer a chance for Angelenos to taste the best of Broadway right here in our own home town, and there’s always sure to be something particularly relevant to the LGBTQ community.  This season, it’s this groundbreaking musical by William Finn and James Lapine, which returned to Broadway in 2017 in an all-new production (directed by Lapine) from Lincoln Center Theater, and was nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

Revolving around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist and the lesbians next door. It’s a hilarious and achingly poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family, and a beautiful reminder that love can tell a million stories. Based on three 1980s one-acts, this touring production of the revival will feature the talented Eden Espinosa and Max von Essen, so it’s sure to be a stellar theatrical experience.

Grand Park’s Our LA Voices – L.A. Arts Festival, April 27-28 (Grand Park, DTLA)

Grand Park’s week-long spring arts experience, Grand Park’s Our LA Voices – LA Arts Festival, is a regional arts gathering that focuses exclusively on the diverse and powerful artistic talent in Los Angeles County. Envisioned as an annual “best of LA arts festival,” this free, two-day performing and visual arts showcase will bring dance, music and theater performances, as well as visual artwork by LA artists to Grand Park. The festival’s 2019 theme, Origin Stories, explores and showcases distinctly Los Angeles narratives and questions about where we are, how we got here and where we are going.  For the week before the festival, Grand Park will offer free workshops on creative practice, as well as the pragmatic side of making art in LA Topics range from street dance activism and acting, to intellectual property and copyright protection, marketing, entrepreneurship skills and fundraising. These workshops are open to all and require pre-registration. For more information on the festival and workshops, visit grandparkla.org/event/our-l-a-voices-l-a-arts-festival.

Jacob Jonas The Company, May 10-11 (Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)

After a sold-out run in The Wallis’ 16/17 Season, Jacob Jonas The Company returns as the 18/19 Season Company-in-Residence. The Company – led by its dynamic namesake – is gaining international acclaim for its honest storytelling, visceral performances and cutting-edge content creation – including the #CamerasandDancers visual arts movement. Whether you were lucky enough to catch The Company at The Wallis, their To the Sea festivals at the Santa Monica Pier or are new to their mix of contemporary ballet and acrobatic movement, or their intimate engagement at the Wallis earlier in the 18/19 Season, you won’t want to miss the excitement this spring as they present the world premiere of a new work. For more information visit thewallis.org.

Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968–2018, through May 12 (Hammer Museum)
Perhaps more than any other artist of his generation, LA’s Ruppersberg has mined the nuances of culture through its visual details, unsung conventions, and modes of the everyday, often encouraging the involvement of the viewer as social participant, an aspect of his work that has had particular resonance with a younger generation of artists.  He devours books, typically teasing apart their aesthetic nature: The entirety of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is scribbled onto over a dozen huge canvases while Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” has been phonetically written across a wall-filling series of fluorescent Colby Poster prints.

Found-object sculptures, photo collages and mass-media–inspired posters sound like typically humorless pieces of conceptual art – but there’s a wry wit to these works, and a sincere reverence of the cultural sources he mines, be it a Ruppersberg-less series of portraits with index cards that ask “Where’s Al?” to oversized comic book cutouts of Scrooge McDuck.  For more information visit hammer.ucla.edu.

Weho Reads, various dates through May 29 (West Hollywood City Council Chambers)
Book lovers get equal time this spring also, with the WeHo Reads series, a city-sponsored series of literary events that puts the focus on queer works by queer authors.

Stage-and-screen star Andrew Rannells may not be reprising his Broadway role in “Falsettos,” but he will be turning up in WeHo to discuss his memoir, “Too Much is Not Enough,” and “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson will spend an evening discussing Jacob Tobia’s book “Sissy, A Coming-of-Gender Story” with the author. Renowned poets Richard Blando, Kim Dower, and West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Charles Flowers will be additional participants in the series, with wraps up as readings of the finalists for the annual Lambda Literary Award are presented as part of the City’s “One City, One Pride” LGBTQ Arts Festival.  For more information, visit weho.org/community/arts-and-culture/weho-reads.

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