On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

12 Apr

March 22, 2017 | REAL BOY| Waynesboro, VA

The Wayne Theater sits in the center of downtown Waynesboro, VA, a once-industrial town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A large DuPont plant and the Benger Laboratory (where spandex was invented) once employed many of the town’s residents. But de-industrialization has hit the region hard and by 2010, 18% of the population lived below the poverty line. Waynesboro has been growing in recent years, thanks to visits by Appalachian Trail hikers and the regional tourists drawn to the area for its craft beer and artisanal food. The Wayne Theater’s renovation in 2016 is also part of this resurgence. They program a wide range of events, from live music and theater to film and fine art.

We arrive in Waynesboro and are greeted by Tracy Straight, the Wayne Theater’s Executive Director, who invites us down the road to dinner with two of her co-workers from the theater. She tells us about the town’s history and how important she feels it is to bring artistic diversity to Waynesboro and to program events that engage and challenge their audiences.

“The Wayne Theater is Waynesboro’s largest classroom,” Tracy likes to say.

After Joe’s performance, we are joined for the Q&A by several members of the region’s only LGBT community group, based at the local college. The young trans man on the panel shares his personal experience of transition and family support — and reminds the audience that there are trans people in every community, whether or not they’re out or “visible.” “We’re here. We’re part of your community,” he said. “And we may be listening to the things you say about us.”

Came in reticent – ended up warm and expressed gratitude for bringing a film about gender identity and family support to Waynesboro. As we filed out of the theater, an older man approached me and said, “I’m the father of a gay son. I’m supportive, but I have to admit, I don’t know much about transgender issues. Thank you for bringing this film to Waynesboro. It’s so important that we see these stories.”

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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