Rainbow Seniors meet twice a month in Pittsfield and North Adams

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If you enjoy getting together with other LGBTQ seniors, there are plenty of opportunities to do so here in Berkshire County. We meet twice a month as follows:

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Pittsfield: Me gather on the first Saturday of the month from 2-4pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum around the big table in the conference room on the second floor.

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Williamstown: It’s a potluck lunch that brings us together in one of the many meetings rooms at at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown on the Third Tuesday of each month. Come a bit early to help arrange the buffet, and to chat with members of this friendly group. And be sure to bring a dish to share.

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We also get together for walks, theatre trips, a bit of activism and other events throughout the year.

To keep up to date we have an e-mail list that keeps us in contact with each other. To have your name added, or for more information, send a note to ed@rainbowseniors.org. You can also call Ed at 413-441-6006.

We are always looking for interesting guest speakers for our gatherings, and welcome your ideas.

And of course we are on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/berkshirerainbowseniors.

Rainbow Seniors attend “Tribes” at Barrington Stage Company, meet deaf, gay actor Joshua Castille

Joshua Castille
Joshua Castille

The play Tribes at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield tells the story of a young man growing up deaf in a hearing family. The parallels to growing up gay, lesbian or trans in a straight household are astonishing. When tickets became available to Rainbow Seniors, almost two dozen of us made our way to not only see the play, but then stayed for the talkback immediately following in which the actors shared their experiences in coming to grips with the ground breaking show that has spoken, signed and captioned elements.

The lead actor, Joshua Castille, who is both deaf and gay capped that evening’s performance and talkback by sitting down with Berkshire on Stage to talk about both deaf and gay issues. You can read his candid and sometimes eye-opening comments in this interview.

Be technicolor in a monochromatic moment” – Joshua Castille

Josh Castille is an actor, known for his film and tv work in Passengers (2015), Sign (2016) and Switched at Birth (2011). He recently completed a run on Broadway in Deaf West’s signed/sung version of Spring Awakening in which he played Ernst, the gay character.

Ed Sedarbaum’s powerful words in response to the Orlando massacre


 

Yesterday, Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County joined with goodhearted people of a wide variety of communities in Berkshire County to rally behind and mourn for the victims of the Orlando massacre. There we so many calls for action, not just “thoughts and prayers.” Here are the remarks I delivered on behalf of Rainbow Seniors. I realize I owe an apology to Esat Bici for saying he came from a good family. – Ed Sedarbaum


(Remarks delivered at the Pittsfield Vigil and Rally, June 15, 2016)


I am not ashamed to confess to you that even my anger takes second place to the fear in the pit of my stomach since the massacre in Orlando. I want to tell you why this gay senior citizen feels that way. 

In 1990, a gay man was murdered in our neighborhood of Jackson Heights, New York. He was not murdered by a Muslim, not by a backwoods yahoo or a criminal gang. He was murdered by three white teenagers, the products of good Christian church-going families. They left a party swearing to “find a faggot or a homeless person to stretch out.” They found Julio Rivera. They bludgeoned him with the claw end of a hammer and finished him off with a knife. 

The police, not wanting the press looking over their shoulder, refused to call it a hate crime. Julio was Latino, so of course they thought they could get away with calling it a drug deal gone bad. It fell to the LGBT community to raise the alarm and force the authorities to take action. 

Knowing that the local police did not see my community as worthy of protection, you can imagine how frightened I was given that the murderers’ friends, self-styled skinheads, were on our streets, trying to intimidate us activists with sneers and glares. For several years.

Last Saturday night’s massacre in Orlando — and that’s the word for it; tragedy is too literary for me – the massacre brought back my fears from those horrible days. 

And that, of course, is the very purpose of a hate crime: to intimidate into submission and invisibility the entire community targeted for extermination. 

Call it terrorism if you prefer, but I do not blame the Muslims. I do not blame the Muslim religion or their community just because the killer was a Muslim. I blame the people who have taught America whom it’s okay to hate. 
• The conservative state legislatures that delight in rescinding the civil rights ordinances passed in their more progressive cities
• The conservative governors – and one presidential candidate – who use fear and hatred to motivate their voters
• The conservative-dominated US Congress that allowed the ban on assault weapons to expire and never be renewed (defying, by the way, their hero Ronald Reagan, who supported the ban)
• Religious leaders of all faiths who tell their congregations – including the little children sitting in the pews – that homosexuality is a sin. Lord only knows what they say about transgender people.
• And the supposedly enlightened media, who adopt the language of our enemies when they call civil rights legislation “bathroom bills.”

In case you think that all this hatred takes place somewhere far away, you should know that as I sat in Patrick’s Pub last night, writing this speech, I overheard a man at the next table say, about Orlando, “Those gays deserved it.” I told him to always lower his voice when he says kike, faggot, spic, or the N-word. One of us might be at the next table.

Yes, it may turn out that the killer harbored homosexual urges. Urges that he was taught by ISIS and American thought leaders to hate, and hence to hate himself. (That’s how I felt for the first 30 years of my life.) And when disordered thinking marries fascist ideology, violence is bound to erupt, sometimes in murder, sometimes in suicide.

I know I will sleep better tonight after being surrounded by political, civic, and religious leaders who see me and my fellow Rainbow Seniors as community members worth protecting. And most of all, I will sleep better tonight having seen all you warm and wonderful neighbors who gathered to express sympathy and support.

But I will still wake up tomorrow afraid.

What I won’t do, and what I hope the members of Rainbow Seniors won’t do, is allow this act of hatred to prevent us from gathering at our meetings, our picnics, and our public events. We have worked too hard to overcome the dreadful messages we were raised to believe about ourselves. And we need to be around to show the children who are growing up worried about their sexuality that they can grow up to be old, fat, and happy, like me, no matter who they are. 

And so we will hold in our hearts the love and support you are demonstrating tonight. We will not go back. Thank you.

 
To listen to all of the speakers at the rally, go to the Jason Valasquez report on Greylock Glass.

Rainbow Seniors have a date with the fabulous Taylor Mac – artist, drag queen, entertainer, historian

Yes, finally a gay spectacle in the Berkshires!
Yes, finally a gay spectacle in the Berkshires!

Rainbow Seniors has picked a real winner for its first group outing,…the artist Taylor Mac who is creating a 24 decade review of American popular music from a drag queen’s vantage point. We are going to catch the first three decades (1776 – 1806) at the ’62 Center in Williamstown on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 8pm. You can lock in your special discount tickets by bringing $3 per person (yes, an extraordinary discounted price) to our first meeting in Pittsfield on February 6, 2-4 pm at the Berkshire Athenaneum. Or call Ed to arrange your payment at 413-441-6006. Or email him at ed@rainbowseniors.org But don’t delay – reservations with our group close February 6.

Not sure it’s to your taste? Honey, this is no time to dilly-dally. Book your place now for a great evening with new friends!

Our first report from San Francisco reports that the show – which is in workshop there – opens with Taylor Mac wearing an elaborate hooped dress fashioned from brightly-colored foil ribbons and a voluminous wig that makes him look like Marie Antoinette had an accident in a Mexican bodega, as the artist begins an epic journey through 240 years of U.S. musical history that’s as timeless as it is prescient.

Taylor Mac in A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1776-1806. Photos by Jim Norrena
Taylor Mac in A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1776-1806. Photos by Jim Norrena

She makes crusty old tunes like “Yankee Doodle” and “Amazing Grace” sound like like they were written just in time for this year’s Grammys. The performances carry it too: Although the show is still being polished in San Francisco with Mac and his band still ironing out a few wonky transitions, by the time the team hits Williamstown there is little question that they will breathe new life into both well-known and obscure 18th century ditties. And it’s Mac’s mercurial tenor that anchors the experience: the drag queen’s voice is as colorful as his flamboyant sense of style. There’s crushed velvet and feathers in Mac’s mellifluous ballad singing and 8-inch spiked heels in his drinking song belt.

As colleague Chloe Veltman writes: “In addition to the gaudy get-up mentioned above, there’s an “architectural” dress involving a pair of enormous doric columns, each with a plastic doll’s head dangling from the bottom, and another costume topped with an amazing wig made of wine bottle corks and sheaths of barley.) The thematic through-line connecting the musical numbers also helps to take A 24-Decade History of Popular Music beyond regular drag cabaret.

“Mac underpins each decade of the musical journey with commentaries on broad social issues, which he spices with liberal amounts of scathing humor and personal anecdote. The first decade roughly and comically charts the founding principles of post-Revolutionary U.S.. In the second decade, Mac takes a piquant look at women’s lib. Part Three is all about booze, where the ripe innuendos of raucous drinking songs like “Nine Inch Will Please a Lady” clash against the stiff, bonneted warblings of a scandalized Temperance Choir.” (Read more here.)

And if you like this performance as much as we think you will, you may want to make plans to attend the Civil War years of Taylor Mac’s show – coming up at MASS MoCA with a (gasp! How does she do it!) six hour show on April 9, 4– 10pm.

And you thought Rainbow Seniors just sat around crocheting doilies? Honey, get a grip and put a little fun in your life!