Tag Archives: adult

On Tour: Lancaster, PA

2 May

March 30, 2017 | REAL BOY| Lancaster, PA

We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful end to our tour than the events at Millersvillle University and the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA.

The day starts early and our host Barry Kornhauser comes to pick us up in downtown Lancaster and takes us out to the university, which is four miles out of town. The campus is beautiful. There are ducks, swans, and turtles in a large pond at the center and the entire campus is beautifully landscaped. As we walk through campus to the classroom where we’ll be presenting, Barry tells us about the history of the college, including the bit of trivia that an early president of Millersville University from the late 19th Century is best known for writing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Our first stop is a lunchtime gathering of students from the social work department. We show the trailer and then gather in a circle to talk about gender identity and the other issues in the film. Joe shares his own personal experiences of coming out as trans and how his family responded at the time.

Dr. Tiffany Wright, chair of the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity, has joined us and she also shares with students the work being done on campus to create greater inclusion. The school already has a preferred name policy and the commission is working on putting other policies in place to support their trans students and teachers.

I am struck by how important these small, informal conversations are. Students asked for advice for their own lives and took the opportunity to learn more about how to ask respectful questions about gender. They also learned more about how they can become involved as active allies at their university and with their future clients.

We then head across campus to a joint class of undergrads, including those from a Philosophy class entitled “Gender, Utopia and Society.” The room is full and the students ask fantastic questions about both Joe’s experience as a trans man and a musician and my experience as a filmmaker and storyteller seeking to honor and represent people with love and integrity. We talk about gender and media and music and addiction and families.

One student in the back row thanks Joe and I for bringing these stories into popular conversation and shares that she is also trans. Her voice is shaking and she confesses that it’s scary and vulnerable to tell people, especially in such a public way, but that it feels good to be open about it. Everyone in the room claps for her.

We head back into town and start the tech check for the evening’s event. The lobby is already starting to fill with people. When the doors open, the audience starts pouring in. The beautiful Ware Center fills with people. By the time the program starts there are more than 200 people in the theater.

The event begins with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Meg Day, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College; Dr. Tiffany Wright from the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity; Alexis Lake, a local therapist specializing in LGBT practice, and Tara Stark, a member of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. They each share their thoughts on the film and the ways it resonates for them personally. They invite the audience to track what is—and isn’t—present in Ben’s story and to look for the nuances. As a director, it is an honor to know that these people have taken the time to watch the film, think deeply about it, and prepare these comments to share with the audience.

The film begins and I can feel the engagement of the audience. They laugh and respond audibly to moments in the film. In the final scene, I can hear the sniffles in the room. I am deeply honored and so happy to be here.

Following the screening, Joe plays a set of music. He’s on fire and people are LOVING it. This night really feels like a special event, the culmination of an amazing month on the road. I’ll soon be on a plane home, but for now, I am so grateful to be in this theater in Lancaster, PA. We have truly done what we set out to do — engage, connect, discuss, and share a story we care so much about.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

2 May

March 29, 2017 | REAL BOY| Wilmington, DE

The sun is low and warm as we arrive in Wilmington’s arts district, with its old brick buildings, some newly renovated and others in disrepair. We’re staying at a BnB just blocks from the venue, so we are able to walk through the neighborhood to get a sense of the place. Joe walks in front of me, carrying his guitar case, and I’m filled with a moment of deep gratitude that we are able to be part of this tour across the mid-Atlantic — to see so many places, meet so many people, and share our film with them.

Before the screening begins, and as we wait for the sun to drop behind the nearby buildings, Joe performs a few songs. He performs his usual set and then, because the sun has not quite set and the room is still speckled with sunlight, he shares some of his new music, including “Following the Sound”, a song that will be part of the upcoming musical he is writing the music for. The musical is about Albert Cashier, an historical figure who was assigned female at birth and then enrolled in the Civil War as a soldier and lived as male the rest of his life.

After the REAL BOY screening, the event organizers invite the audience to have some pizza and gather at the tables set up in another part of the room. We are joined by the other panelists: Karla Fleshman of the LGBTQ Youth Mentoring Initiative at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware and Cristina Valcarcel Mikijanic, Health and Physical Education teacher at Cab Calloway School of the Arts. The space feels very intimate and informal, which allows us all to have more of a conversation than simply to answer questions from the audience. People share their own experiences as parents, as members of the LGBTQ community, and as allies. Many people have come to this event to find out how they can better serve the trans youth in their lives. They are teachers, health care professionals, friends. I am heartened by their stories and their genuine desire to make a difference. We talk about our own lives, about our own communities, about Albert Cashier, and about the ways we are working to show up to make their communities more gender-inclusive.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Brookvale, NY

2 May

March 28, 2017 | REAL BOY| Brookvale, NY

The screening at the Tilles Center on the Long Island University Campus is our northernmost stop on the tour. It has been raining hard all day when we arrive and we’re led into their huge 2,000-seat auditorium, where they host a wide range of events, from large concerts to live theater and touring musicals. The walls of the venue are lined with headshots of famous people who have performed at the Tilles Center — from YoYo Ma to Kristin Chenowith to Kevin Bacon’s musical duo, the Bacon Brothers.

As showtime approaches, the space is mostly empty and we start to worry the rain is keeping people at home, but at the last minute, students from the university begin filing into the theater and by 7:05, a decent-size crowd has settled into their seats.

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The film looks and sounds fantastic and it’s great to see it on the HUGE screen. The students ask great questions during the Q&A following the film and after the official program is over, they flock to the front of the theater to talk and take selfies with Joe and have him sign their CDs.

It’s wonderful to screen the film on college campuses, where so much conversation is underway about gender identity and so many intersecting issues. We’re grateful for how much we learn from young people and look forward to more.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Germantown, MD

13 Apr

March 26, 2017 | REAL BOY| Germantown, MD

When I arrived in Germantown, MD, I was welcomed by Krista Bradley, Executive Director, and Jason DeMarchi, Director of Education, at the Black Rock Center for the Arts, a beautiful Arts Center outside Washington DC. The space has three theaters and a wide range of programming that serves the diverse population of Germantown.

The local PFLAG group had adjourned their meeting early to come to the screening and by the time the film started, a sizeable crowd had arrived.

This audience seemed especially moved by the film, as many of them were parents of LGBT youth or were themselves trans or non-binary.

After the screening, I was joined for a Q&A by Sean Lare, a DC-based therapist and gender specialist in private practice, who brought a clinical point of view to our conversation. There were several trans and non-binary teenagers in the audience who asked for advice. One young trans man asked if his body dysphoria would ever go away. My heart went out to them in a big way and I was happy to hear they lived in a community with supportive schools and accepting parents.

I had several great conversations with people after the film, and was grateful to meet a longtime fan of my band, Coyote Grace, who, in his mid-50s, has just begun his transition and was deeply moved by the film and the music.

I left feeling tired, but so grateful to be there.

Post provided by REAL BOY protagonist, Joe Stevens, who joined On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas on tour

On Tour: Lewisburg, WV

12 Apr

March 24, 2017 | REAL BOY| Lewisburg, WV

Lewisburg is a small town nestled in the steeper hills and hollers typical of WV on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The folks I met told me the hippies came and brought the art scene to Lewisburg in the 60s and 70s. Carnegie Hall is a stately white-columned building that has expanded its programming in the last 25 years thanks in part to several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Before the screening, we had a reception where I chatted with local community members, people who were artists and interested in the arts. Lots of people moved to Lewisburg after retirement, drawn by the “artsy” feel.

I met a woman whose daughter just graduated from film school and moved to Los Angeles. In talking, we realized that her daughter and I had gone to the same arts boarding school in Idyllwild, California. I also met Janet & Steve, a couple in their late 70s/early 80s who invited me out to dinner after the screening.

The audience was wonderfully responsive. I could hear them laugh warmly throughout the film and several people said afterward that the ending made them cry.

After the screening, Janet, Steve, and I walked down the street to the only restaurant still open, a well-loved fusion restaurant where the owner knew everyone by name. We talked about Steve’s time in the Air Force and Janet’s longtime job as an accountant at a local construction company. Their daughter, who is deaf, works at a school in NY and we talked about how, as hearing parents of a deaf child, they related to much of what Suzy (Bennett’s mom) went through in the film. They were grateful to have a story about trans experience come to Lewisburg and as we parted, I thanked them for making the screening so special.

Post provided by REAL BOY protagonist, Joe Stevens, who joined On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas on tour

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

On Tour: Blue Bell, PA

12 Apr

March 21, 2017 | REAL BOY| Blue Bell, PA

As Joe and I arrive at Montgomery County Community College on a chilly afternoon, we’re greeted by the fantastic staff who make all the arts programming at MCCC possible. Brent and his team are extremely welcoming. Already we know the event is going to be great.

Before the evening’s screening, I visit a film directing class. We talk about favorite films, the differences between documentary and fiction, and the work of finding your voice as a director. The students ask great questions and have much of their own experiences to share.

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Then, as the evening’s screening approaches, people begin to file into the theatre and take their seats, which have been set up on that stage, making the venue intimate and cozy. Some of the audience members are therapists who have just come from a workshop with Dr. Michele Angello, a gender specialist and the co-author of “Raising the Transgender Child”. Others in the room are longtime supporters of other MCCC programs.

After the screening, Joe plays a few songs and MCCC instructor Tim Gallagher asks the audience if they have any questions for us. Multiple hands shoot up at once. The questions are thoughtful and delve into issues of gender identity, addiction and recovery, and how therapists can best support their trans clients. It is an especially lively and also deeply personal Q&A. I am grateful that there so many people thinking about how the can be more affirming in their work with trans people and with the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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