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Justin Michael Van Pelt has been back in Kansas City from New York for a few months now, reprising his role of Harleux in The New Adventures of the Old Girly Show and presenting his one-man cabaret show in the persona of Valentine.
The Girly Show had its origins in bar Natasha, the Kansas City cabaret and restaurant that was owned by Missy Koonce and J.D. Mann. The club featured some of Kansas City’s leading talent and was known to be a great hangout for those in the theatre community after their shows.
Van Pelt created the role of Harleux with fellow singers Daisy Buckët and Paige Turner, and the group has brought it back to Kansas City for this limited run at Missie B’s, along with emcee Dirty Dorothy and Andre Du Broc on the piano. Although the singers are men dressed as women, this is not a drag show, and it features some incredible vocalists in the roles of women performing great songs and engaging in a fun repartee with the audience.
Many Kansas Citians also know Van Pelt, a native of Lee’s Summit, Mo., from his iconic role of Hedwig in the John Cameron Mitchell rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He has performed that show several times in Kansas City under the direction of Steven Eubank for Egads Productions.
In New York, Van Pelt had the lucky opportunity to meet the man behind the play and movie.
“We were in line at a club, and I was standing in line for coat check with some friends for work who are not theatre people, and I turned around and John Cameron Mitchell was, like, three people behind me. So I had seen him, and I was with my friend Emily, and I said, ‘That’s John Cameron Mitchell, and he wrote Hedwig, and if I don’t introduce myself to him, I will regret it for the rest of my life.’ So I introduced myself and said, ‘I just want to thank you for creating that role. It’s been very important to me professionally and personally.’ And he was so gracious and sweet.”
That evening, Van Pelt said, “it was karaoke night at the bar, and some dumb chick gets up and sang ‘Origin of Love,’ [from Hedwig> really badly because she knew that he was there. And it was so tacky and I would have never done it. So I sang ‘Somebody to Love,’ which is kind of like my go-to song in karaoke. He [Mitchell"> was there watching, and so I get off the stage and go up to the bar to get a drink and he touches my elbow and said, ‘That was great. You were fantastic.’
“That was it,” Van Pelt said, with a sigh. “So I guess I can die now.”
Van Pelt said he sees his role of Valentine as something similar to the role that Joel Grey played as master of ceremonies in Cabaret or a modern-day Kit Kat Club. Valentine performs with ensembles of other cast members such as Candi Barr and Honey Tahini in Kansas City and Cha Cha Modica, Honey Hightower, Pixie Rouge and Lady Bukkake in New York.
“This character that I’ve created, Valentine, is sort of a response to this strange, fucked-up culture of a desperate need to be masculine,” Van Pelt said. “I hate it. I hate the whole, like, masculine, muscular thing. You can grow as much chest hair as you want, you can wear your flat-brimmed hat, you can have your beard, but that doesn’t make you masculine. It’s not as bad here as it is in New York. It’s like clones. It’s like the Stepford Gays walking down Ninth Avenue.”
“So I created this Valentine character to be kind of this gender fuck. Sort of like, you wear a lot of makeup and the character is visually somewhat feminine, but very much in control, very dominant. It’s unfortunate that I am in New York now, as opposed to the early ’90s when it was people like Sherry Vine and John Cameron working in places like the Squeeze Box, because these people share my ideas, what I think performance should be.”
“There’s nobody in New York now that I know of that is doing boy drag, which is, I guess, what I’m calling what I do.”
Van Pelt will be heading back to New York City when the apartment bedroom he has subleased is available. But it’s not too late to see him perform in several appearances in December in Kansas City.
“I need to get back to work. I’ve been gone from New York for eight months,” Van Pelt said. He performed last spring and summer at Fire Island when not doing cabaret in New York.
“I will be co-hosting a weekly show that starts Jan. 10, which is part of the reason I need to go back,” he said. “So I do have that, and I can just step back into the bar where I was working.”
“The entire reason I left is because I had this really clear opportunity and it just felt like the universe was saying it’s time to go.”
Van Pelt said he thought he would do what he had been doing in Kansas City to pay the rent, such as working in restaurants and acting and singing when he could.
“I hate to burst anybody’s bubble — and New York is a fantastic place — but it’s just a city like anywhere else, and you work hard here and you work hard there. It’s really not all that much different. Although you don’t have to have a car. I hate having a car,” he said with a laugh.
“I trust everybody here. That’s what I love about Kansas City audiences. People watch here. They are there watching the show. Nobody’s on their phones, on their Grindr, no one is texting, talking and drinking. New York is hard.”
Van Pelt said that projects for the future may include trying standup comedy and possibly working on a sequel with John Cupit to the legendary Late Night Theatre production of Super Models From Space.
Van Pelt credited much of his success to people like Ron Megee, Missy Koonce, Steven Eubank, Heidi Van and others. “I wouldn’t be who I am without these people,” he said.
Justin Michael Van Pelt’s December shows in Kansas City
The New Adventures of the
Old Girlie Show
Last performance is at 8 p.m.
Dec. 7 at Missie B’s,
805 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo.
8 p.m. Dec. 14, 21 and 28.
Missie B’s, 805 W. 39th St.,
Kansas City, Mo.
Valentine and Daisy Buckë
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.