By Frankie Kujawa
It’s all about gender expression and being fabulous! That’s the tag line for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C.’s upcoming performance of Genderosity. The performance, which will be a glam rock spectacle celebrating self-expression, was previously scheduled for March 2020, but will now be available from the comfort of your living room. Streaming online from March 13th – March 28th, the performance heralds the upcoming 40th Anniversary of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC (GMCW). “The goal was to have a really nice, high energy, colorful, joyful escape from everything else going on,” explained Dr. Thea Kano, Artistic Director of GMCW. Dr. Kano recently chatted about the upcoming performance and why it’s so important for this organization to a be a beacon of light and hope during these current times.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from the upcoming performance Genderosity?
Thea Kano: Glam-rock comes to mind! And, in my mind, I’m picturing color. I say that because a lot of the music is dance music. This [performance] is all videos which is new for us in this ‘new world.’ Our dance company has been very busy in that they have started shooting socially-distanced dances back in September for this show. This has continued all the way up to about [a few weekends ago] in various locations. The locations have included a big open field in Pennsylvania, as well as on a stage that we built. This is so we could film these dances safely as far as COVID is concerned. Within those numbers, of course, our singers are all featured doing these virtual choir performances, as well. In this case, each singer records their own harmony at home using their phones. Each singer records themselves, they send it in, and everything gets edited together. So, there is then this big collage of individual faces of our singers, as well as our dancers.
Frankie Kujawa: Can you tell us a bit about the pieces that you have put together for this show?
Thea Kano: The majority of the pieces of this particular show are quite recognizable. You know, like “Born This Way,” “Vogue,” and David Bowie’s “Changes.” The thread is that Genderosity is about celebrating expression and gender expression. So the costumes reflect that. We have some singers speaking in between performances; giving some quick little anecdotes of what gender expression means to them. So, it gives a nice snapshot of individual genders. It’s going to be a lot of fun! And I hope we can get some people at home off the couch and dancing along!
Frankie Kujawa: How is this performance, in the time of Covid-19, so different from previous performances of the GMCW?
Thea Kano: This piece was about to go up live last March 2020. We already had all the curtains hung and the lights were focused. We were just a couple of hours from the chorus coming in for the dress rehearsal and we sent out an email -cancelled! We pulled the plug on Thursday, and it was supposed to open that Saturday. So, we had to not only create [this piece] virtually but recreate what we had already set to do on the stage. You know, looking at the glass as half full, one thing about the video setting is that it gives us the opportunity to do effects that we could not do, otherwise. So, in our planning process we said, ‘Ok let’s make lemonade out of lemons. How can we take advantage of this virtual video medium that we would not be able to do otherwise on stage?’ The other thing, too, is the planning of it. The learning curve has been quite steep and quite quick in that we had to learn how to do all this. As far as learning how to use Zoom, rehearsing using Zoom and teaching our singers how to record themselves.
Frankie Kujawa: Talk a little about complimentary tickets in your show explanation (Schools, LGBTQ+ student groups, youth-based nonprofits, first responders, front line workers and those with financial hardships). Why is it so important for GMCW to give back during this time?
Thea Kano: We want to show our support. GMCW is a social justice organization where we raise our voice for marginalized communities. But, right now, we are all in this together. All the work that [front line workers, etc.] are doing for us as a society, it’s the least we can do as way to say, ‘Thank you!’ We use our music and art for a lot of things. We raise our voice for equality, but we also use it to make a difference in people’s lives. We want to give people an hour of escape and joy.
For more information, please visit: www.gmcw.org/genderosity/