Theater Preview: ROGER Q. MASON (Celebration Theatre’s Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award Ceremony)

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by John Todd on June 6, 2020

in Extras,Theater-Los Angeles,Virtual


Los Angeles’s Celebration Theatre announces its star-studded cast for this year’s virtual Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award Ceremony celebrating black queer writer/performer Roger Q. Mason. The award ceremony will be broadcast online Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 6 pm PST via YouTube, accessible by clicking Pride on the night of the premiere.

The 75-minute program will feature performances by Travis Coles, Garrett Clayton, Drew Droege, Gillian Williams, Duane Boutte, Philippe Bowgen, Devere Rogers, Adam Hyndman, Nicky Enders, and Nathan Frizzell, reading samples of Roger’s works Onion Creek, The White Dress, Lavender Men, and a new work The Pride of Lions.  The evening will be directed by Ann James with guest directors Lovell Holder and June Carryl.

Previous Chuck Rowland recipient Michael Kearns will present Roger with this year’s award.  A virtual After Party Soirée hosted by Celebration Theatre Artistic Director Michael A. Shepperd will follow the ceremony at 7:15 PT on Celebration Theatre’s Instagram Live.  Virtual cocktails with a side of tea, plus an exclusive post-ceremony interview with Roger will be served. Donations received by the theatre for the award program will be forwarded to the 100 Black Men and the Minnesota Freedom Fund, reflecting award namesake Chuck Rowland’s involvement in activism beginning as a student at the University of Minnesota.

Roger Q. Mason is a black, Filipinx, gender queer writer/performer of color known for using the lens of history to chip away at the biases that divide rather than unite us.  His recent work, Lavender Men, which ponders the queerness of Abraham Lincoln, played to a sold-out Broadway house at Circle in the Square Theatre as part of their Circle Reading Series.  The presentation featured Charlie Thurston as Abe Lincoln, Garrett Clayton as Lincoln’s queer legal assistant Elmer Ellsworth, and Mason as Taffeta.  A world premiere of Lavender Men was scheduled at Skylight Theatre Company this spring, but was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

During quarantine, Roger has taken advantage of virtual storytelling opportunities, including features in Theatre without Theatre (featured in Playbill’s Weekly Video Roundup), Two Headed Rep’s Contagious Closet Plays, Shrunken Shakespeare’s Solos in Solidarity, and the 24 Hour Plays, where his monologue “Nadine” was premiered by legendary Wayne Brady subsequently performed by other actor/influencers, collectively earning over 20K views on social media. Recently, Roger partnered with Lucille Lortel-nominated actress L. Morgan Lee from the Pulitzer-winning A Strange Loop to develop From Kaya,” a monologue based upon conversations with Kaya Goings, a formerly incarcerated trans woman of color.

The Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award is presented annually by the historic Celebration Theatre and honors a groundbreaking LGBTQ playwright whose work has entertained, inspired, and empowered the community. This award celebrates an artist whose body of work has become a vital part of the evolving conversation around the social impact of arts activism. Past recipients have included Robert Patrick, Michael Kearns, Tom Jacobson, Patricia Loughrey, and Billy Porter. The award was named for gay rights pioneer, arts educator, and creator of Celebration Theatre, Charles “Chuck” Rowland, who also co-founded the seminal Mattachine Society in 1950, along with Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Dale Jennings and partner Bob Hull.

This year’s award ceremony is being presented as part of the theatre’s virtual festival Celebrating Pride, supported in part by a grant from the City of West Hollywood.

More info about the program and festival can be found at Celebration.

Celebration Theatre is our nation’s oldest, continuously producing LGBTQ theatre. Founded in December 1982 in a Silverlake storefront, the nonprofit was expressly organized as a community theatre “of, by, and for gay and lesbian people and their friends.”

Since then, the Los Angeles-based company has consistently mounted theatrical productions representative of, and in support of, the queer community: always with a sharp focus on inclusion, visibility, and pride. GLAAD, NAACP, LA Ovation Award and many other benchmarks for excellence have recognized the theatre and its artists–performers, writers, directors, designers, musicians, and producers. Scores of LGBTQ luminaries have graced Celebration’s stages over the years as it continues to provide an inspiring and empowering forum for professional and emerging LGBTQ and allied artists, giving voice to the evolving experience of queer culture.

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