Entertainment

Gay Dad, Inspired by His Kids, Founds "Deeply Diverse" Theatre Company

Tripp Pattigrew, a gay dad who started the non-profit theatre company Imaginary Theatricals, promises to produce only "color-blind, gender-blind, and sexual-orientation-blind" theater.

Guest post by Tripp Pettigrew (read his family story here). Tripp is the proud parent of adopted children, and, inspired by his children, he founded a not-for-profit theatre company in Los Angeles. His company is getting ready to produce its inaugural production of Kander & Ebb's "Cabaret." In his own words, read about his inspiration below.

My youngest son, Alex, has had an incredible journey. He walked into my home shirtless, dirty, scared of our dogs and barely verbal. From that moment, his tantrums were so powerful and explosive that I was called to his school multiple times a week. He stabbed one teacher with a pair of scissors and scratched another on the face so deep she had to go to the emergency room. In order to try to have any kind of time to dedicate to my job, my mother-in-law spent three months of her time going to school with Alex, something which I'll always be grateful for. I won't get into the tantrums outside of school but suffice it to say that there were way too many times that, in traffic, Alex would throw open the door of the car and run. Just picture this Caucasian early thirties man chasing after a Latino child on the streets of Los Angeles. Thankfully no one reported me for kidnapping!


It has been a long journey but after 7 years, the tantrums are completely gone. Yes, there are still times when Alex expresses anger inappropriately but I will take this version! We finally found a great school for him: a small class room with dedicated teachers that are trained in behavioral issues. At home he spends most of his time drawing comic books or building with Lego. He has won citizenship awards at school and his teachers adore him. He has the highest grades in his classes and he hates weekends because those are days he can't be a school. We still struggle, of course--why won't teenagers take a shower or brush their teeth! But, he greets me with a huge hug every time I come home. He has changed my life in a million ways.

A few years ago, Alex could hardly wait to see the new Frozen show at Disneyland. Since the movie came out, he was in love with Olaf and spent most mornings before school singing Olaf's song. The summer the Frozen show opened, there was a lot of hubbub online about the color-blind casting. True to the hubbub, at the show Alex and I saw, Kristoff was played by an African-American actor.

Considering that Alex is usually a stickler for things appearing correctly (he once refused to ride the Haunted Mansion ride because Oogie Boogie--typically just a large, naked green monster--was depicted at the end wearing a Santa hat and beard), I was curious if he would notice or care about the multicultural casting. To my surprise, Alex didn't blink an eye. The lady behind me whispered to her husband, "Why is Kristoff Black?" But my son loved the show. He didn't have anything critical to say except he thought the Olaf puppet was too small. Later that day, though, he asked me, "Do you think I can be Olaf some day?"

This moment made me realize the power of representation. This is what I wish to do with my theater company, Imaginary Theatricals. I wish to produce only color-blind, gender-blind, and sexual-orientation-blind theater. I firmly believe that what's more important in theater is the story being told not whether or not Curly from Oklahoma is played by a white man. Rodgers and Hammerstein made us confront racism and domestic violence.

I think the same can be done to further the race and/or sexual orientation and/or gender conversation in this country through casting (and even better if you can find new works to produce that support this idea). I think you can make small adjustments (for example, as in Frozen, choosing an African-American actor to play a traditionally white character) that have huge impacts. For the most part, if the production itself is good enough, I don't think many people will notice. However, if people do notice, I think it starts the right conversation. The lady sitting behind me at Frozen didn't get up and leave. She asked her husband, "Why is Kristoff Black?" If I had been her husband, my response would have been, "because he's a made up character from a place that doesn't actually exist."

We are producing our inaugural production of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret from June 7th through 9th. We hope to have a trans actor as our Emcee and a deeply diverse cast. We want to pay these actors a living wage.

Be sure to check out Imaginary Theatricals' tax deductible donation page which is looking to raise money to be able to pay their artists as much as possible.

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Entertainment

Behind 'A Family of Their Own': The Personal Beginnings of My First Fiction Novel

Author Malcolm O. Varner explains the motivations behind his first novel, "A Family of Their Own."

Growing up without a mother and having a father who was mostly absent throughout my adolescence gave way to parenthood and family being touchy subjects for much of my adulthood. I can recall my twelve-year-old self asking what my mother was like, how she looked, what she did for a living, and why she had abandoned her own two kids. There's one day I keenly remember when my younger sister and I discussed our plans to write Oprah in hopes of reuniting with this woman we only knew from our dreams, but I ultimately never wrote the letter out of fear. And for the father who had raised me throughout most of my school age years, a man that I referred to as "Duck," I only called him dad once before he died in 2011. Although he did his best as a single father, our relationship was significantly strained by his drug addiction and incarcerations during my middle and high school years, not to mention my own effeminate traits. If it wasn't for my grandmother stepping into the picture after one of his jail stints, my attitude towards family would've been indifferent at best. She provided me with a stable foundation in life that included home cooked meals, a peaceful and meticulously decorated home, and enough love to let me know that there was someone in this world who cared for me. She was someone in whose eyes I was special.

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"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

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Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com

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Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


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Fatherhood, the gay way

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