May 3, 2019 at 6:50 am PDT | by John Paul King
Pride-themed arts festival runs May 22-June 30

An image from the ‘Where Love is Illegal’ exhibit. (Photo by Robin Hammond, courtesy Witness Change Project 2)

Pride is still a month away, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead, especially when the City of West Hollywood has “40 days of LGBTQ arts” to offer, long before the first day of June.

Each year the City of West Hollywood celebrates pride with its One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, which runs from between Harvey Milk Day (May 22) through the end of Pride month (June 30).  The theme for 2019 is “Love is Love,” celebrating the universal bond that unites us, especially during this 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall riots.

This year features an impressive and diverse line-up of events and attractions, planned throughout the month to satisfy the rainbow of LGBTQ taste in Los Angeles.  

The festivities kick off on the 22nd with a reception and a staged reading of “Dear Harvey” at WeHo’s City Council Chambers. The play is produced and directed by Michael Shepperd of Celebration Theatre, L.A.’s oldest LGBTQ theater, founded in 1982. Extensively researched, this documentary-style ensemble production recounts the life and lasting impact of activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best.  

Participating will be a cast of professional actors, elected/appointed officials, and community members, including West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico, Bruce Vilanch, “Drag Race” star and trans activist Gia Gunn and West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Charles Flowers.

On the weekend of May 25-26, there is the New Stages LGBTQ Seniors Theatre Project presentation of “I Do,” An evening of stories and music with LGBTQ seniors celebrating gay marriage and relationships. This musical is developed through a workshop process and incorporates the real-life stories of the participants under the guidance of teaching artists Mark Salyer, Kay Cole, Bruce Bierman, Debbie Lawrence and Christopher Taylor. It’s presented at the Renberg Theatre at L.A. LGBT Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza.

On Tuesday, May 28, inaugural West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Steven Reigns and the Lambda Literary Book Club at the West Hollywood Library will hold a discussion of “Into?” by North Morgan.

On Wednesday, May 29, Lambda Literary is back for more with WeHo Reads: Lambda Literary Award Finalists Reading. Attendees will hear Lambda Literary and the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division for readings from the Southern California finalists in the 31st Annual Lammy Awards. Readers include Kazim Ali, Genevieve Hudson, Steve MacIsaac, Tommy Pico and Mark Russell. The readings will take place at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers.

There are also some pop-up events that will be taking place throughout the festival, beginning in May. Two will make their first appearance at the May 22, opening night kickoff.

Everyone Deserves (A) Love (Poem). On this 50th anniversary of Stonewall, West Hollywood will transform into a literary salon of love, with a diverse group of queer poets on typewriters helping residents convert their love stories into poetry. Anyone may commission and take home a love poem from this interactive art project organized by Brian Sonia-Wallace aka RENT Poet.

Let Love Flourish: Queer Poetry Pop-up is a spoken-word celebration of historic LGTBQ poets. Performance artist Jason Jenn brings their passionate words to spirited life for the public to enjoy in the streets of West Hollywood in special appearances throughout the festival. The presentations employ elaborately styled costumes and various theatrical techniques, while illuminating audiences about the authors’ lives and their historical conditions. Queer love has emerged in writing in various ways, from veiled allusions during oppressive eras to all-out profusions of sensuous splendor in contemporary times. It’s created and performed by Jason Jenn with art direction by Vojislav Radovanovic.

These two opening night events will begin at 6:30 p.m., with the performance of “Dear Harvey” to follow at 7:30.

The third pop-up is Where Love is Illegal, an art exhibit on view at the West Hollywood Library starting May 24. Same-sex sex is still illegal in 70 countries and those discovered face discrimination, persecution and violence around the world. Award-winning photographer Robin Hammond’s “Where Love is Illegal” project has documented the stories and images of many individuals from these countries. Hammond has dedicated his career to documenting human rights and development issues through long-term photographic projects. He has won numerous awards for his work, including four Amnesty International Awards.

These events are just the start of an arts festival that promises to be a great cultural supplement for Pride. The city has a lengthy list of events that will continue throughout June, including such highlights as the Metropolitan Master Chorale presenting Craig Hella Johnson’s historic oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard,” Vox Femina and Trans Chorus L.A. in a concert performance titled “Hearts of Courage,” readings from L.A. theater icon Michael Kearns’ troupe QueerWise, and film screenings of “LA: A Queer History,” a documentary about L.A.’s contributions to the LGBTQ rights movement, and “¡GAYTINO! Made in America,” a story about being gay and Chicano.

VOX Femina will perform a concert entitled ‘Hearts of Courage’ on June 2. (Photo by Frances Chee Photography)

One City One Pride is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division. Full event listings are available at weho.org/pride or @WeHoArts.

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