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Anying Guo

Comedian Judy Gold Comes to City Winery

This article was first published by TAGG and can be read on their site here.

Comedian Judy Gold has been in the comedy scene for years, watched the industry expand and become a better representation for what the world looks like today. With 36 years as a stand-up comedian under her belt, Gold is a veteran, yet still finds new ways to remain creative and connect deeply with audiences.

“I started [stand-up] in college,” says Gold. “Someone dared me to do it and I got this high I had never gotten from anything else I had ever done.”

Her deep-seated passion for comedy translated into a career where she’s gained a lot of knowledge into the comedy industry. “The time I spend on stage is my favorite,” Gold explains. “I’ve seen a lot of great things happen and a lot of horrible things. Especially as a female comic to go from seeing people not hiring any women and now seeing women run networks and write shows. But there’s still a long way to go.”

Gold is an active member of the Jewish and LGBTQ communities, the intersections of her identities coloring her work, especially in later years.

“You can’t be a comic unless you’re honest about who you are,” says Gold. “Comedy is only funny when it’s the truth.” Gold emphasized how she’s never been shy about talking about being Jewish and her sexual orientation, especially after she became a parent.

After Gold’s first child was born, she naturally wanted to talk about being a parent and having a family onstage, which marked her coming out on stage. “[But] I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a lesbian comic,” she says. “I just wanted to be a comic who was a lesbian. Everyone talks about their families on stage, so of course I’m going to talk about mine. What kind of message are you giving your kid if you don’t talk about your family?”

Gold incorporates stories about her partner and family into her work, feeling a responsibility to be out and proud about being gay and a comic.

“I definitely feel an obligation,” she says. “I’m gay, I’m in a gay relationship, I have children, and I’m doing what I love. I want every LGBTQ kid to know that you can do that too. You can have a family, a job that you love, and enjoy your life. There’s no reason not to have those dreams.”

In the 80s, when Gold was just starting out, there were very little comedians, much less lesbian comedians that were out. Homophobia was at “an all-time high” and Gold rarely saw LGBTQ representation within the industry.

“I know comics who won’t come out of fear,” she says. “It’s hurtful because there are so many kids out there who need to see themselves represented.”

Beyond being a comic, Gold has been spearheading her own podcast for a few years entitled “Kill Me Now,” which she calls “a labor of love.”

“I just love interviewing people and finding out what makes them tick,” says Gold. “It’s not a typical comedy podcast. I talk a lot about growing up. Those things those experiences that teach you and make you a different person and make you who you are – that’s the kinds of things I find fascinating. Everyone has a story.”

On her enduring role as a comic, Gold simply said: “It’s what I do. It’s who I am.”

Judy Gold will be at the City Winery on December 24, 2018. For more information or to purchase tickets click here.

BETTY Comes Home to D.C. Better Than Ever

This article was first published in TAGG and can be read on their site here.

It has been two years since the iconic three-woman band BETTY has graced their hometown of Washington D.C. with a concert. Comprised of Alyson Palmer and sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, the band has reached people beyond the scope of music and in the realms of social activism, humanitarian work, and more.

BETTY’s presence has been felt since the 1980s, when the band originated at the 9:30 Club. With a focus on not just making genre-bending music, BETTY has always been rooted in their efforts in social change.

“Musically, we’ve always had different influences and styles,” says band member Elizabeth Ziff. “What kept us together [all these years] was our politics.”

The band’s dedication to making their shows inclusive and tinged with their personal beliefs from the very beginning of their career drew skepticism. Ziff said that they were told this would “destroy their careers,” but has instead become a major touchstone for the band’s perception. And though the band has never been signed to a major label or had a manager, they’ve cultivated a wide-reaching, diverse, and devoted fan base.

“We have an incredibly loyal following,” says Ziff, emphasizing how some fans have shown up again and again over the decades. “We tour not in the way people make millions of dollars, but in a way where we can make friends everywhere. We are able to stay longer in places when we tour. We see things and are a part of a great cultural and political exchange.”

The band’s passion for equality and empowerment on a political and social level is unsurprising given their origins in Reagan-era D.C. Ziff recalls times where concerts had to be carried out with discretion, specifically playing at Pride in the 1980s on P Street beach.

“We have to be vigilant,” Ziff explains. “Our country has never been equal. But I feel encouraged right now. Activism has always been an art – you just have to look in to the corners for it.”

They’ve carried that passion and dedication into the 21st century, connecting with new and old audiences across the country in the midst of a tumultuous political climate.

“We really believe in connecting with the audience,” says Ziff. “We are especially conscious of being a feminist group and seeing our similarities rather than differences.” The band’s own intergroup diversity (Ziff identifies as a lesbian and Palmer is African-American) has spurred on their activist efforts. Their concerts act as safe spaces for the LGBTQ community and other marginalized identities, but still place a large emphasis on just having fun being around people like you.

“There’s a time you want to be on your own and that’s valid,” says Ziff. “But there’s a time in art and music that you want to be around other people and you’re dancing and laughing and singing the same song.” It’s this sentiment that has followed BETTY’s career for years and continues to be something the band is defined by.

BETTY’s Holiday Show takes place Sunday, December 2 at City Winery in Washington, D.C. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Pamela Maria Chavez’s “Caracol Cruzando” Shines

This article was first published by TAGG and can be read on their site here.

When Pamela Maria Chavez set out to make her short film “Caracol Cruzando,” she wanted to tell a story that brimmed with universality but was still tied to her own personal experience as an immigrant. What she ended up with was a beautiful and heart wrenching film about a young Costa Rican girl leaving behind her homeland for the United States.

The film, funded by Latino Public Broadcasting, centers around a young girl, Anais, who is preparing to leave her home of Costa Rica. Her family decides to cross the border separately, splitting up one child with one parent. Anais’ beloved pet turtle, a symbol of her ties to her homeland, is taken at customs, allowing the audience to understand the full breadth and tragedy that comes with the immigration process.

Chavez ses animation as a sort of perfect medium to tell the story. “Kids love animation, but so do adults,” she says. “What a perfect sort of medium to be able to ask, ‘How can I tell this complicated, dense story in a way that’s accessible?’”

Her desire to reach young people and families alike drove her to tap into the heart of immigration, even allowing herself to heal during the process. Chavez cited the balance of creating a piece of art that not only creates dialogue around present day issues like immigration, but makes it universal for all those watching, sharing in that feeling.

“Activism is in the story I’m telling,” Chavez says. “I don’t know if I will ever steer away from content that doesn’t speak to my heart.”

As a filmmaker, illustrator, and animator, Chavez sees the importance in honest and genuine storytelling, specifically emphasizing how these narratives should be told by those experiencing it.

“We don’t want that narrative told by somebody else,” she says. “We want to be steering these conversations. We want to be at the helm.” As a queer woman of color in the film industry, Chavez can’t overstate enough the importance of funding other artists and filmmakers from marginalized communities.

“Who I am as an artist and activist is somebody genuinely concerned about the things that happen in our world,” she says. “I can’t be passive.”

To vote for “Caracol Cruzando” for PBS’s Online Film Festival, click here.

An Interview with Musician and Storyteller Holly Near

This article was first published on TAGG and can be read on their site here.

Musician Holly Near has dedicated her life and career to ensuring that her music allows activism, storytelling, and more to intersect. She has participated in the annual music festival SisterSpace in the past and continues to be a vital force in that event and the LGBTQ community. Below, she tells us a bit about her own career and the importance of festivals like SisterSpace.

How did you get involved with SisterSpace, and why is an event like this important to you?

I began participating in women’s music festivals in the early ’70s. I believe they have been a hugely important way for women and perhaps more specifically lesbians to gather. We all need songs no matter who we are, no matter where we come from. Lesbian and woman-identified songs were originally sung in the privacy of the home but fortunately, the music broke down the front door.

You’ve been involved in the music industry for some time now. How have you seen the industry shift and change, specifically in its inclusion of LGBTQ performers?

I’m not much of an expert on the music industry. I left it pretty quickly. I didn’t know how to be me in it. I was singing political lyrics, anti-war songs, songs about social change right from the start, and that just didn’t fit into the industry hit song mold. So I started my own record company. This was in 1972. That said, I think the work that lesbian feminists did to make a space for outspoken music laid the ground work so that women artists could then chose to go in to the music industry or work with the alternative feminist networks.

How has your experience as an out artist shifted your own life?

Before I came out I was already singing songs that had words like “genocide,” so my chances of a mainstream career were already unlikely. I knew that it would be difficult when I came out. Back then, the so-called white, male-dominated left and progressive movements were not user-friendly to feminists or lesbians and, for the most part, not receptive to people of color either. So by coming out, I would lose a good part of my audience in the peace movement. But they eventually went through their own changes. Now, at least in appearance, most social change groups are welcoming of diversity of all types. It is the next step that is hard. How do we change the racism and sexism that still hangs on in organizations, institutions, and individuals? I think that songwriters can continue to be of use in this regard. It is important for people who think of themselves as progressive to look long and hard on what work still needs to be done. In this case, for example, lesbians have an opportunity to really undo the racism and class discrimination that lurks in our communities, our structures, our culture. Music festivals can be part of this work.

What does SisterSpace mean to you, especially in the context of today’s social and political climate?

SisterSpace has made a commitment to challenging racism and other forms of discrimination. It is in their mission statement; it is reflected on their board and in their leadership. It gives us all a place to practice and we can take that knowledge out into the larger community.

Is there anything else you would want to add, either about yourself or to burgeoning LGBTQ musicians?

Young artists will make up a path that I cannot even imagine. That is how it goes and I look forward to seeing where it goes. However, no matter when we come in to this work, it is a challenge to really commit to being socially relevant and conscientious artists. It takes practice and can be painful and it can be glorious. As hard as it has been over the last 50 years, I do not regret for one moment working outside of the mainstream.

SisterSpace Continues to Pave Way for Fun and Inclusion

This article was first published on TAGG and can be read on their site here.

SisterSpace, the annual camping festival for women’s music, culture, and—most importantly— community, is gearing up for another year of femme-oriented fun with a social impact that is unparalleled.

With comedy, spoken word, jazz, pop, folk, rock, world music and more, the festival is spread out over five stages indoors and outdoors and lasts three days. This year’s theme, “Her(Story),” builds upon last year’s theme,“ReSisterSpace,” where workshops were focused on empowerment, activism, and self-care.

“We have several workshops about empowerment, but also about coming together,” says Jo-Ann McIntyre, an organizer of SisterSpace. “It’s about coming together, learning how to talk and listen to each other and hearing and celebrating each other’s stories.”

The festival, which has been held since 1977, has long ensured that the event is packed with opportunities and activities to connect queer individuals with each other and allow for intergenerational queer bonding and solidarity.

This year, the festival will celebrate the creation of the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund. Virginia Giordano was a prominent and celebrated producer of women’s music in the 1970s who helped to promote LGBTQ musicians, including SisterSpace performers Holly Near and Cris Williamson, until her death in 2014. The fund is aimed at helping up-and-coming musicians and other individuals gain more recognition and visibility.

Near, who is on the advisory board for the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund, has participated in women’s music festivals since the early ’70s and emphasizes the importance of these spaces in celebrating and advocating for one another.

“How do we change the racism and sexism that still hangs on in organizations, institutions, and individuals?” Near asks. “I think songwriters can continue to be of use in this regard. It is important for people who think of themselves as progressive to look long and hard on what work still needs to be done.” Music festivals like SisterSpace can be an avenue of change that can help in this dismantling.

“We all need songs no matter who we are, no matter where we come from,” Near says. With a line-up of musicians that span multiple generations and backgrounds (including Be Steadwell, Crys Matthews, Indigie Femme, and KIN4LIFE) and plenty more workshops and events, SisterSpace is gearing up for a successful year.

SisterSpace takes place September 7–9 in Darlington, Maryland. To register for the festival or to learn more about the SisterSpace community, visit

Happy Wife Happy Life: Bridget McManus Talks Being Happily Ever Married

This article was first published on TAGG and can be read on their site here.

Bridget McManus can be considered a lot of things (and rightfully so): a host, director, screenwriter, comedian, creator. But there’s one position that she’s managed to transform into a web series that is equal parts funny, endearing, and honest – wife.

McManus’ web series “Happy Wife Happy Life” features two married lesbian couples, including McManus and her wife of a decade, Karman Kregloe, discussing, debating, and dissecting the ins and outs of relationships.

“I always hear marriage is difficult, even challenging,” says McManus in a phone interview. “We love the idea of couples talking about how great it is to get married. Marriage is fucking awesome.” McManus and long-time friend Cat Davis conceived the idea, later asking their respective wives to be a part of the self-produced show.

McManus hadn’t even thought about marriage before meeting her now wife, but “love at first sight” became a reality when she met Kregloe. They married in 2008 and were among the 18,000 same-sex couples who were able to get married before Prop 8 was passed. They were grandfathered in, but that allowed McManus to see the immense privilege in being a married lesbian couple.

“Marriage is two people coming together to make each other’s lives better,” says McManus. “It’s letting the person you’re with flourish and allowing yourself to evolve, too.” It’s this sentiment that drives the show’s core; being a partner in all senses of the word and allowing for mutual respect and growth. The four women offer an insight into how to make the most out of married life and allows for a very literal glance into what married lesbian couples look like for younger queer people.

The show has unconsciously begun to recode the heteronormative marriage therapy trope into something more queer-centered and humorous, qualities that has led to the production of two seasons (and counting) of the web series. McManus is delighted with the response to the web series, but stresses that there is still a distinct lack of LGBTQ content in the mainstream media, but urges young queer people to seek out and even create their own representation.

“Everyone can put their stuff out there on the internet,” says McManus on finding more LGBTQ media. “[The internet] levels the playing field; of course, it’s not 100 percent leveled, but that doesn’t mean the minority can’t flourish and thrive too. I just want to see more queer content. I want to see more points of views and perspectives.”

McManus has seen the “nonstop growing and thriving” in the queer community but acknowledges it may not be accessible to everyone. Web series like “Happy Wife Happy Life” have gained mainstream traction for the LGBTQ community and become an important and central platform for new queer creation.

“Happy Wife Happy Life” season 3 premieres on June 3 on tello Films and was recently submitted for an Emmy Award in the “Outstanding Short Form Variety Series” category. McManus is working on multiple other projects as well, with no signs of slowing down in sight.

Washington Jewish Film Festival Brings New Intersections To The Screen

by Anying Guo

This article was first published in Tagg Magazine.

As the Washington Jewish Film Festival enters its 28th year, director Ilya Tovbis reminds us of the full diaspora of the Jewish experience that is equal parts universal and intersecting. Coming into his sixth year as the director of the annual film festival, Tovbis has seen growth not only in quantity, but in the kinds of films that are showcased at the festival. Though the jump in numbers (from 5,000 attendees to about 15,000) is impressive, the care and thought of selecting the films that are shown has become a major part of why the festival has found success with a diverse audience.

“We’re a festival of the Jewish community, but not [exclusively] for the Jewish community,” said Tovbis. “The root of our mission is not to discover the dominant narratives around the Jewish experience; we are really interested in the full diaspora of the Jewish experience.”

Tovbis has seen a steady increase in the amount of representation for marginalized communities in film festivals, and views the Washington Jewish Film Festival as one outlet that not only welcomes but embraces these intersections. As someone who has worked at major museums and festivals in cities such as San Francisco and New York City, Tovbis finds D.C. a city to be one filled with rich cultural knowledge and expertise after talking with patrons deeply about niche and specific aspects of films.

His focus is on finding films that represent not only the Jewish experience, but intersecting identities as well. Specifically, the “Rated LGBTQ” section of the film section is a reminder that the Jewish experience and the queer experience is and has always been intertwined. A spotlight film of this year’s festival is The Cakemaker, a film that bears a universal sense of grief and loss while also navigating queer identity and loneliness against the backdrop of cultural clashes.

“What’s exciting is that we as humans have these sort of layered identities,” said Tovbis. “I think when we delve deeper into the film that are a part of the LGBTQ sidebar that becomes really clear – it’s all about how those identities reflect and press on one another.”

With roughly a thousand films submitted for eighty slots, Tovbis admits the difficulty in curation, because not every patron or even selector will understand why a film was chosen. Tovbis stresses that they try to select films that represents facets of the festival, even if that means passing on films he or others personally loved.

“We are seeing more films grappling with the fluidity of our modern world,” said Tovbis, who brought up the film The Strangest Stranger as one of the most thought-provoking pieces about the nuance and complexity of identities. “It mirrors society, as fluidity and identity is finding its way into media and public discourse. Art really does reflect life, and if it doesn’t, it’s essentially life-less.”

The Washington Jewish Film Festival will run from May 2-13. For tickets and information, visit wjfff.orgor call at 202-777-3210.