Browsing Category

Performing Arts

A League of Her Own Hosts Virtual New Year’s Eve Bash

By Clare Mulroy

This article was first published December 28, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.

For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, Jo McDaniel will be bartending without a mask on.

McDaniel, the manager of Washington, D.C. queer bar A League of Her Own (ALOHO) will host a virtual New Year’s Eve bash. ALOHO’s virtual party will feature live music from DJ MIM and special guests throughout the night.

“Our bartenders are going to be dancing and making cocktails. We’re going to have a good time,”  McDaniel says. “Everybody can feel connected and we can be safe in our homes.”

Like many bars and restaurants, ALOHO has been working to maintain some sense of normalcy amid pandemic restrictions. The bar opened a “streatery” from June to October but was unable to accommodate space heaters for outdoor dining as the weather got colder. Now, McDaniel is trying to take advantage of virtual community events.

“When we brought things inside and it got really slow and less busy, that was when I was able to focus more on how we can still serve our community, still stay afloat, and really keep people connected, which is absolutely the mission of ALOHO,” she explains.

This paved the way for ALOHO to experiment with more online events. McDaniel says she was inspired by the Lesbian Bar Project comedy show hosted by podcast Dyking Out, which she appeared on as a guest in November.

When D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a shutdown of bars and restaurants at 10 p.m., McDaniel knew it wasn’t realistic to try to host an in-person NYE event.

With the help of Boiscouts DC, a marketing group aiming to create community awareness of local events for queer women, McDaniel began putting together the “Bring On 2021” event. The party will stream live on YouTube and feature commercials from local organizations and businesses. McDaniel says the planning process is exciting because she gets to collaborate with bartenders she hasn’t seen in a while. She’s also excited to see the community’s reaction.

“I’m just excited to give everybody a highlight of the D.C. community as well as our staff,” she says, “And just have a good time that feels reminiscent of the ALOHO we all miss so much.”

The ALOHO virtual NYE bash takes place on December 31 from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m on January 1. Tickets are for sale on Eventbrite. General admission is $20. The $50 ticket level gets you a cocktail kit swag bag from Republic Restoratives and ALOHO. The “Plus Swag for the Party Pod” tickets are $100 and include enough supplies for 10 cocktails.

I Hate New Year’s Elevates the classic Holiday Rom-Com

By Kelly McDonnell

This article was first published December 16, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.

The holiday season is going to be different this year. It might not feel as festive with loved ones at a distance or favorite businesses closed down. But a joyful, musical remedy during this time is the new holiday film, I Hate New Year’s, directed by Christin Baker of Tello Films.

When up-and-coming pop singer, Layne Price (Dia Frampton), hits a writer’s blocker for songwriting, a psychic named Zelena (Candis Cayne) advises her to travel back home to Nashville. Layne stays with her oldest and best friend Cassie, played by the charming Ashley Argota, most known for her roles on Disney Channel. Zelena advises Layne to go back to “a place where you need to learn to love again.” And these days, we could all use a reminder on how to love.

The conflict isn’t just Layne’s simple writer’s block. Cassie wants to tell Layne that she’s in love with her, even though they’re best friends. Layne is completely one-track-minded about fixing her writer’s block and doesn’t see the love she needs standing right beside her.

The film’s antics unfold throughout Nashville, with bubbly, if not typical rom-com scenes including a karaoke scene, a shopping montage and an impromptu musical number. The music in the film, which was written by Billy Steinberg and Josh Alexander, is heartfelt and perfectly bedroom pop. Steinberg’s repertoire features #1 hits for Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, explaining the film’s upbeat and pining soundtrack.

Argota is a force throughout this film. Not only does her voice enchant as she sings a melodic piano tune called “Hours of the Night,” she’s also the film’s emotional crutch. From the beginning of the film, we know her one desire: to express her love for her friend, no matter the cost. It’s a daring feat, and we want her to succeed. Argota’s eyes show the most emotion, and they’re glittering and enthralling to watch.

We watch Cassie struggle, loyally and dotingly following Layne through Nashville as she chases after an ex-girfriend. We see how painful it is for Cassie, but her persistence to be the best friend that Layne needs is heart-warming. It’s the perfect remedy for any cold feelings during this winter season.

The film’s other success is its familiarity. Unlike many other mainstream LGBTQ romances, there’s no coming-out drama. The characters’ sexuality just exists. It needs no explanation to any other character or to the audience, it has its history and its own realism. The normalized emotional connections between all the characters—many of whom are LGBTQ themselves—is refreshing to see on screen.

Like any cheesy holiday rom-com, there’s the opposition between the cheery friend, Cassie, and the Scrooge, Layne. These two characters clearly have a history, and though it’s not fully established or emoted just how well the two know each other, Frampton’s and Argota’s connection on screen feels authentic.

It’s joyful to watch these two friends do what we hopefully will be able to do again soon: go out without masks on, grab drinks in a crowded bar, sing karaoke into a shared microphone, and wander the streets with our hands intertwined.

The real Ma Rainey: will Netflix do her justice?

By Jordan Ealey

This article was first published December 18, 2020 in DC Theatre Scene here.

Introducing the real Ma Rainey. Ahead of the premiere on December 18, 2020 of August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, it is important for audiences to realize that Ma Rainey is not a fictional character born of Wilson’s imagination, but rather a massively popular singer who crossed musical boundaries.

Wilson himself was influenced by what he referred to as “the four B’s”: novelist Jorge Luis Borges, playwright and poet Amiri Baraka, visual artist Romare Bearden, and the blues. Using the blues as inspiration offers an incredible opportunity to engage one of its most important contributors: Gertude “Ma” Rainey. In her book, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Black feminist scholar and activist Angela Y. Davis writes that Rainey was “the person responsible for shaping women’s blues for many generations of blues women.”

Born Gertrude Pridgett, there is a dispute among historians over exactly when and where she was born (she herself claimed April 27, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia while other historians have claimed September 1882 in Russell County, Alabama). Nonetheless, it seems to be confirmed that she was born some time in the late nineteenth century in the Deep South. Rainey began her performance career in minstrel shows and vaudeville, like many of her fellow Black performers were forced to, due to the limited opportunities. Rainey recorded her first song “Back Luck Blues” in 1923. Though there are no definitive answers as to how Rainey was exposed to the blues (she both claimed that she was introduced to the style by someone else and that she herself created the term), she clearly amassed a huge following and advanced the genre forward.

Through Rainey was not the first Black woman to be recorded (that designation belongs to Mamie Smith and her song, “Crazy Blues” in 1920), her success as a performer earned her the title of ‘Mother of the Blues.’ After being “discovered” by music executive J. Mayo Williams in Chicago, Rainey signed with Paramount Records and went on to record over 100 songs. This proliferation of recordings catapulted her into unparalleled financial and critical success. Ma Rainey also toured with the Theater Owners Booking Association (knicknamed by those who toured, TOBA – “tough on black asses”). As demand to see this ‘Mother of the Blues’ grew, she performed before integrated audiences.

The blues provided Black women with the space, not available in other music, to express themselves freely. One of the most important (and sometimes overlooked) facts about Rainey as well as many blues women singers of the early twentieth century is their unapologetic expressions of queerness and sexuality in general. A lot of the performers, Rainey included, did not try to hide their sexual expressions. In fact, Ma Rainey’s “Prove It On Me” has lyrics that underscore queer sexuality: “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends/They must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.”

Though Ma Rainey passed in 1939, her legacy remains. Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1983 as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Her song, “See See Rider Blues” (1924) is in the National Recording Registry as well as the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Her life has also been dramatized in various cultural products; she has been portrayed by Academy Award-winning actresses such as Mo’Nique in HBO’s Bessie and now Viola Davis in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom premieres on Netflix on December 18, produced by Denzel Washington. Tony-Award winner George C. Wolfe directs an all-star cast, starring Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Chadwick Boseman as a member of Rainey’s band.

WETA highlights local singers in Special holiday premiere

By Kelly McDonnell

This article was first published December 14, 2020 in The DC Line here.

The pandemic halted live performances in March, but there’s still music and holiday cheer on tap this week.

This Tuesday at 9 p.m., WETA Arts will premiere Washington Voices: Songs of the Season, a medley of pre-recorded holiday choral performances by 12 area choirs.

The special is mainly showcasing archival footage from the choirs’ previous holiday performances since 2006. One new performance by the Children’s Chorus of Washington will also be presented, despite the difficulties of gathering and singing due to the pandemic. The group’s members individually recorded themselves singing, and the recordings were then edited together for a full ensemble performance. And while the group ceased in-person vocal rehearsals and performances in March, the members recently filmed a socially distanced American Sign Language performance in front of the Washington National Cathedral, to accompany the recorded music. 

WETA Arts producer Judy Meschel and Children’s Chorus of Washington artistic director Margaret Nomura Clark collaborated to broadcast the sounds of the season even in a year where that’s technically difficult.

“Holidays are not complete without the choral concerts throughout our region,” Nomura Clark told The DC Line.

Washingtonians looking to attend a seasonal show normally have as many as seven or eight options every night throughout December, said Gretchen Kuhrmann, artistic director for Choralis, a Falls Church choir with two performances being showcased during the television event. Washington Voices will let viewers watch their favorite choirs and discover new choirs all on one night, Kuhrmann said.

The Washington area is truly the nation’s capital for choirs: for every town in the DMV, there’s one to six choirs, according to a 2003 study by Chorus America. This special includes more than 1,000 local chorus singers, the organizers said.

Kuhrmann, Nomura Clark and Thea Kano, artistic director for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, all said the holiday special shows that despite the pandemic’s devastation, the arts are still thriving in the region.

From the comfort of their couches, area residents can watch their neighbors performing beloved holiday music, including Christian hymns, Jewish songs, classical arrangements and pop radio classics. Kano said GMCW chose to perform the comedic “Hanukkah Rhapsody” to represent the Jewish community and to provide variety in the type of holiday music being featured.

Meschel and Nomura Clark both said they wanted the program to reflect the diverse DMV community. An independent committee from WETA Arts reviewed more than 30 submissions from local choirs and chose groups that were representative and visually interesting for the program.

The program includes children’s choirs, senior choirs, symphonic groups like Choralis, and massive ones like GMCW, which has 200 members. 

In addition to GMCW, 11 choirs will be featured in the one-hour program: 

  • Alfred Street Baptist Church Music Ministry Choir
  • The Thirteen
  • Washington Performing Arts’ Men and Women of the Gospel Choir and Children of the Gospel Choir
  • Alexandria Harmonizers
  • Zemer Chai
  • Cathedral Choral Society
  • Children’s Chorus of Washington’s Bel Canto Chorus and Concert Chorus
  • Choral Arts Society of Washington
  • Choralis
  • Encore Chorale
  • Fairfax Choral Society Vocal Arts Ensemble

The different groups represent talent from throughout the DMV and “as diverse as they are… it brings us all together,” Nomura Clark said. “We are presenting ourselves to us,” Meschel added.

A special like this seemed impossible months ago. When the pandemic began, singing became one of the most dangerous activities possible, Kano said. Taking deep breaths in and releasing aerosols while vocalizing made singers both spreaders and vulnerable catchers of the novel coronavirus. Choral singing, in the traditional sense, was quickly abandoned for safety.

But Choralis’ Kuhrmann wanted to keep the choir community connected. She contacted a few local choir directors for weekly virtual meetings to discuss tips for online rehearsals and programming. The group expanded to include directors, conductors and composers across the region.

The group was a “brain dump” for sharing ideas on how to adjust to choir directing over Zoom, Kuhrmann said. “We all needed each other.”

Some groups with the same rehearsal times teamed up to host guest speakers who lectured on vocalization, music theory and composing. Nomura Clark said that one benefit of this virtual space was her ability to invite a composer from London to talk with her group.

Artistic directors began sharing arrangements that were created to accommodate the audio shortcomings of Zoom, which has presented challenges for group singing, Kuhrmann said. Zoom only highlights the single loudest sound, so when Choralis rehearses over the online platform, members have to remain muted and learn on their own, Kuhrmann said.

The Gay Men’s Chorus has had similar challenges. Kano said she doesn’t know what the entire choir sounds like until members’ individual recordings are edited together. Kano said that her group provides safety for LGBTQ+ people who are marginalized, so while virtual rehearsals may not be musically fulfilling, it still unites members with their “chosen family.”

Meschel and Nomura Clark said they hope the WETA special will encourage viewers to support local choruses and attend in-person concerts when choirs perform live again.

Kuhrmann said the artistic directors have already discussed plans for when live performances resume. Ideas include a summer festival to showcase choruses or a massive, multi-group performance at an arena where everyone can finally meet face-to-face after months of virtual bonding.

“We all have a lot of energy and passion, and none of us want to sit on our hands and go back to business as usual once this is all over,” Kuhrmann said.

Review: A Protest In 8: Strategize, Organize, Mobilize from Theater Alliance

By Jordan Ealey

This article was first published December 16, 2020 in DC Theatre Scene here.

A daughter confronts her police officer father. An absurdist game show tries to determine who is the most Black. A candidate for district attorney confronts her traumatic past. A sex worker encounters a magical restaurant. These are just a few of the snapshots from Theater Alliance’s virtual play festival, Strategize, Organize, Mobilize: A Protest In 8. The festival, presented in a film format and helmed by artistic director Raymond O. Caldwell, features eight new plays from Roney Jones, Alric Davis, Savina Barini, Emmanuel Key, Kayla Parker, Tehya Merritt, Naima Randolph, and Carmin Wong and an ensemble cast of talented actors.

The plays were all written to address systemic issues at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class (to name a few) such as prison abolition, decriminalizing sex work, ending cash bail, reparations, dropping charges against protestors, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Following each play, there is a short clip of an interview between the playwright and Caldwell on the topic that the particular play discussed along with resources to join the fight. The result is a powerful educational tool that is meant to challenge perceptions around controversial and complex issues, expanding viewpoints in the process.

Perhaps the play’s most effective artistic strategy comes in the playwrights’ choices to represent society’s most neglected, criminalized, and demonized figures. For example, Roney Jones’s The Obedient Mirage, the first play, represents a conversation among the Vaughn family, where River (Olivia Dorsey) questions her father—the police officer—Elliot’s (Deimoni Brewington), role in the death of a young, autistic Black man. The play underscores the importance of defunding the police as a way to protect society’s most vulnerable, and also highlights the intersection of blackness and disability.

An especially compelling performance by Brewington as Albert in Savina Barini’s What Happens There, which follows Maria (Imani Branch), young Black woman running for District Attorney and a prison abolitionist, revisiting her traumatic past. The story beautifully unfolds and reveals Albert’s violent crime, but handles it with care. Both Branch and Brewington approach the extremely complex narrative with understated yet powerful performances that infuse Barini’s script with passion and nuance and, ultimately, makes a case for reducing prison populations.

Caldwell’s skillful direction enhances this dynamic and robust production. His eye and talent particularly for whimsy, fantasy, and parody shine especially in the satirical plays, Alric Davis’s Reap the Reparations and Tehya Merritt’s It’s A New Age, Mammy! The direction underscores the absurdist narrative in Reparations, particularly in its retro 1980s aesthetic, reflected in Matthew M. Nielson’s sound design and Jeannette Christensen’s costumes. Reminiscent of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum with its humorous dialogue yet incisive critique, Caldwell is able to bring out the humor in these two different scripts, creating a wonderful balance with the heavy material.

Comedy can often be an incredible tool for broaching difficult topics, which is deftly illustrated here. The moments of comedy offered throughout the festival offered a welcome reprieve while also not letting up on the goal of educating and empowering audiences on this set of important issues. An example of this can be seen in Emmanuel Key’s Tiffany’s, where a group of Black femmes in an underground world help Neith (Branch), a sex worker, see her own value and self-worth. The fantasy of this piece accompanied by the camaraderie among the other characters (with gorgeous chemistry among Moses Princien, Janelle Odom, and Dorsey) balanced the piece’s tackling of a challenging topic with the power of black femme communities. Though the festival’s broad scope can feel overwhelming, Caldwell’s attention to detail and specificity grounds it.

Ultimately, A Protest In 8 demonstrates the power of theatre to stage important dialogues on challenging topics. In the short clip following their play, Jones remarks that “[i]magination and protest go hand-in-hand” and underscores that “imagination, joy, play ARE a part of protest.” These statements from Jones highlight how critical theatre is to imagining a world of liberation, especially for Black communities.

It is fitting that the festival’s concluding play is Carmin Wong’s Criminalize Me, which beautifully blends poetry and dance with dialogue in a critique of the school-to-prison pipeline. Wisdom (Branch), a teenager struggling with a traumatic moment, uses poetry as an escape. Wong’s poetic meditation (alongside Caldwell’s beautiful direction) provides a map for how to make use of art for both protest and healing. Developed in concert with national social justice organizations such as Black Lives Matter Houston, Project SAFE, and Southerners on the New Ground (SONG), the festival ensures that audiences are not simply enjoying the plays in a vacuum but also are connected to on-the-ground work that is occurring across the country. A Protest in 8, then, arms audiences with the tools not only to strategize, organize, and mobilize, but to dare to envision a better world.

Black Theatre: Jennifer L Nelson reflects on African Continuum Theatre Company

By Jordan Ealey

This article was first published December 9, 2020 in DC Theatre Scene here.

In his 1996 speech, “The Ground On Which I Stand,” acclaimed playwright August Wilson charged the American theatre industry to take seriously the funding and producing of Black theatre. This includes not casting Black actors in roles originally written for white actors (condemning “colorblind” casting), but rather to program plays by Black playwrights, hire Black directors and designers, and even include Black employees at the administrative and leadership levels. Larger, better funded regional theatre has had a long history of exclusion, as pointed out by Wilson and other theatre artists of color.

While the last few years have seen the appointments of more diverse artistic directors and administrators at the helm of several LORT theatres (such as Hana S. Sharif at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Nataki Garrett at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others), Washington D.C.’s rich history of Black theatre can often be overlooked and underexplored.

Alongside its intriguing history of African American culture, Black theatre in D.C. has always been vibrant. The African Continuum Theatre Company, once one of D.C.’s premiere companies dedicated to Black theatre, has contributed to this exciting, but underexplored legacy.

Founded in 1989 by John L. Moore III, who served as its Executive Director, the African Continuum Theatre Company sought out to provide a space for people of the African diaspora to produce, perform in, and create theatre. African Continuum joined the ranks of D.C. Black Repertory Company, founded by actor-director-producer Robert Hooks, a fellow theatre company dedicated to a similar goal.

African Continuum became a full producing theatre company in 1995, which led to numerous productions of African American plays. Some of its highlights ranged from an early production of George C. Wolfe’s Spunk (which he adapted from the short fiction of Zora Neale Hurston) in 1993 to staging the D.C. premiere of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel in 2008. The latter production was helmed by Jennifer Nelson. I had a chance to talk with about her experience with the African Continuum Theatre Company.

Nelson grew up in a family of artists. Her father was an employee in the U.S. Army, but he was also, in Nelson’s words, “an incredible poet.” He installed in her and her sister – also a poet, and living in New Jersey – an appreciation of, and hunger for, the power of words. She became an actor and director in her native California, until an offer from Living Stage—a multiracial, community engaged theatre for social change founded by Robert A. Alexander in 1966—for an acting role brought her to Washington. A transplant from California, Nelson came to the company to take over as its first artistic director after it fully transitioned into a full producing theatre. Nelson recalls having grown tired of working at Living Stage (saying that “it’s a long story.”).

She longed for other theatrical opportunities. While working with Living Stage, she found herself attending productions at D.C. Black Rep, getting to know others in DC’s black theatre community, and eventually was introduced to Moore. Notably, one of the people Nelson was introduced to was Kenneth Daugherty, an actor and director who worked for D.C. Black Rep and one of the founding members of the African Continuum. She mentions that she “kind of stumbled into [the African Continuum],” but that serendipitous encounter led to an exciting new career direction.

Having developed an interest in producing non-traditional theatre from working with  Living Stage, Nelson wanted to produce theatre that “impacted on people’s lives—not only on the actors, but the people that came to see us.” That kind of ethic pushed her to pursue opportunities beyond Living Stage, leading to her position at African Continuum, where she remained for more than a decade. After Moore’s departure from the company, Nelson says they were looking for someone to lead the company and she was that person. “It was me! I could work at a place where there was no money,” she recalls, with her incredibly infectious laugh.

Nelson notes that one of the biggest challenges of African Continuum was space and that there was often a difficulty in securing enough of it to serve their production and rehearsal needs. She remembers the building where the African Continuum Theatre Company was housed, which was located in Northeast DC near Catholic University. The former space for African Continuum was too small for what they needed, but was ultimately what they could afford. One of the greatest challenges of running a black theatre company comes down to being underfunded—a problem that was not only endemic to ACTCo, but continues to be a problem around the country, Nelson said.

Nelson emphasized the importance of connection to both her time moving to D.C. to while she was leading African Continuum. She talked about the younger and emerging artists she worked with continuing to introduce her to new theatre artists and new works. But one of her biggest lessons she learned as an artistic director was the importance of networking and leveraging connections to acquire and share resources. She cited an example was asking Zelda Fichandler, one of the co-founders and first artistic director of Arena Stage Theatre Company, if she could use one of Arena’s spaces for rehearsal. “I didn’t know I could just ask the Queen of Arena [Fichandler] that question!” Nelson exclaimed, bursting into laughter. She was adamant about how those kinds of connections were important to fulfilling the needs of African Continuum and in her career after she left the company. Learning to ask for help was a part of running a Black theatre company and “going out on a limb” helped her during her time doing so.

I asked Nelson about the ways that her life and travels affected her artistry. She spoke about her wanderlust and the many places she has been able to travel. She described having a bowl of soup and adding new ingredients to increase its flavor and appeal, searching for “the things that are interesting to you, are delicious, and make you want to have more or go to the other place where this is made.” From growing up all over due to her father’s military career to a study abroad experience during her college years in France to travels in Africa with her sister, Nelson is still not satisfied, mentioning that sometimes she feels she hasn’t been enough places. Nevertheless, she is still grateful for where she has been. “I feel blessed that I was able to make all of these moves […] and to have the spunk to go places I have never been before,” says Nelson. The D.C. theatre community is blessed as well that one of those places was here.

In a time where the precarity of theatre-making has been emphasized due to the pandemic, it is doubly important to sustain the lifeblood of smaller and underfunded theatres, especially Black theatres. Though the African Continuum Theatre Company is no longer producing theatre, its influence and history is continued to be felt throughout the DMV-area. As DC Theatre Scene is in its final month of publishing, it is important to look back in order to look forward.  Celebrating the history of Black theatre companies is essential to preserving the future of Black theatre.

But I’m A Cheerleader Re-release Sparks New Critique of Ongoing anti-LGBTQ policies

By Kelly McDonnell

This article was first published December 1, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.

But I’m A Cheerleader is a perfect satirical film. Its explicit and ironic criticism of conservative and religious ideas of sexual orientation and gender identity in the 1990s shines a light on contradictions of the time.

Between liberal government policies that banned sexual orientation discrimination and the continued social brutality against LGBTQ people, like Matthew Shephard who was murdered in 1998 for being gay, Jamie Babbit’s 1999 feature film was an over-the-top critique of inequality. The film’s re-release on December 8 with new scenes and interviews with creators and cast will hopefully add to the film’s successful campy narrative that reminds audiences of resilience.

Netflix’s Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne plays Megan, who is 17 years old when her parents send her to a conversion therapy home called “True Directions.” But Megan can’t be a lesbian! Doesn’t everyone fantasize about their teammates in short skirts? Well, Babbit wants you to, as the camera close-ups focus on a girl’s short skirt or on her breasts. These glimpses into Megan’s imagination shows what she wants and what she denies herself.

There are five steps to convert back to straightness at True Directions. Step one is admitting your homosexuality. To get to step five, Megan and the other women campers learn how to wash dishes and change diapers while the men campers play football and fix cars. This is a re-learning process of the natural order dictated by True Directions, despite how mundane and inconsequential all of these tasks are. By step five, the campers should be cured to heterosexuality.

When she first admits she’s a lesbian, Megan’s face twists into an indiscernible mixture of fear and relief. Her eyes crinkle and fill with tears, but her lips fill into an almost smile, stiff but on the verge of shining. The other campers hug her. Admittance is the first step, but does it guide Megan down the straight, and narrow path?

The film has coded campy coloring, with girls dressed in Barbie pink outfits and the boys in button-up blue suits. The house is always being cleaned and the furniture is wrapped in clear guards, a nod to the discriminatory idea that gayness is contagious and to the lingering 90s AIDS fear.

Babbit is re-releasing But I’m A Cheerleader as a director’s cut in 4K HD on December 8 with never-before released scenes and a reunion interview with the film’s cast, which also includes RuPaul and Michelle Williams.

The film’s resurgence is especially pertinent as politicians have revamped their support for anti-LGBTQ policies. Amy Coney Barrett’s recent confirmation to the United States Supreme Court was a loss for the LGBTQ community, particularly because of Barrett’s history as a trustee at private Christian schools with anti-gay policies.

The Trump administration has also taken legal action that would restrict LGBTQ access to support shelters and schools based on gender identity assigned at birth. Attacks against LGBTQ individuals are still making national news, especially this year with several Black and Brown trans women and men being murdered at record numbers.

The conservative and religious-based ideologies that targeted homosexuality in the ’90s and prompted Babbit to create this campy satire haven’t gone anywhere.

The re-release of But I’m A Cheerleader is exciting for a queer cult-classic getting some fresh air, yet it’s evergreen applicability is disheartening. But as Megan confronts crushing conversion attempts from clueless hypocrites, we can, too.