Tag Archives: bloomsburg

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.

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

On Tour: Bloomsburg, PA

4 Apr

March 8, 2017 | REAL BOY| Bloomsburg, PA

The drive from Reading to Bloomsburg winds through late-winter countryside, interspersed with coal mines, beautiful dilapidated buildings, and one-street micro-towns built to house the coal miners who worked in the area. There are more than a few Trump lawn signs and one HUGE Trump flag dominating the front yard of a house on a rural road. I count two confederate flags—one in the window of a home and one pinned to the front of a bar, alongside beer signs and handwritten for sale notices.

We’re white and gender-conforming, so no one seems to look twice when we stop for gas or food, but we talk a lot about what it would be like to be a young queer, trans, or gender nonconforming kid in one of these towns.

When we arrive on the Bloomsburg University campus, the theater manager welcomes us to the Gross Auditorium, a beautifully renovated Victorian-style theater with a gorgeous stained glass window in the ceiling. After a tech check, Joe and I walk across the street for cheesesteaks. The headline of a front page article in The Voice, the Bloomsburg student paper, reads: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms are Here to Stay. Following the Trump administration’s recent reversal of an Obama [advisory] extending Title IX protections to transgender students, Bloomsburg University made a commitment to keep their bathrooms gender neutral. This gesture, which I have come to take for granted in many of the places I frequent in Oakland or Los Angeles, feels like a huge step forward here in Bloomsburg.

It’s meaningful, too, for the Bloomsburg University students who join us on the panel after the screening. For the young trans man who has only recently come out to the larger school community, or for the pan-romantic, asexual, agender person who knows that their feminine presentation means most people will assume things about their gender that aren’t true, this story, this event, and the wider efforts of the university community really mean something.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Reading, PA

6 Mar

February 28, 2017 | HILLEMAN: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children | Reading, PA

Heroes!  The Miller Center on RACC’s campus is full of them.  It’s my last stop of an On Screen/In Person tour that’s been wonderful, filled with so many great people and enthusiastic engagements.

When I arrive, I’m greeted by Brett, the Center’s production engineer who’s ready and waiting to test picture and sound.  He pops my Blu-ray disc into the player and hits play, but the player decides to stop working, with just an hour and a half left before show time.  Brett excuses himself, disappearing through a stage door, and I’m pretty sure he’s loosening his tie as he goes.  Within half an hour he’s back, a new Blu-ray player in hand and this time it works flawlessly.


The film starts right on time and plays without incident, and afterward I’m joined on stage by Dr. Mark S. Reuben of Reading Pediatrics, and Tracy Scheirer, chairperson of the Berks County Immunization Coalition.  Dr. Rueben has been immunizing kids in this community for the past 40 years, helping them and their families understand why it’s so important to be brave and get your shots.  Tracy and the coalition do the tireless work of educating the public about vaccine safety and providing free clinics so everyone has access to the best that preventative medicine has to offer.

The audience is made up of school nurses, college students, physicians, even a former immigration officer, all deeply committed to their professions, to the safety of their kids, to the service of their friends, to the love of their families.  In HILLEMAN they see a man that’s bigger than the sum of his many accomplishments, and yet, I think they see something of themselves as well, an ordinary American working in the shadows to leave the world a better place than he found it. From Brett and the Miller Center staff, to my fellow panelists, to everyone in the hall, it’s easy to see what makes a hero.  As Hilleman says, it’s “that ethic of doing something useful, and being useful to the world.”

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Donald Mitchell

On Tour: Lewisburg, WV

28 Feb

February 23, 2017 | HILLEMAN: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children | Lewisburg, WV

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  Well, it seems you must first have your film selected for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation On Screen/In Person series, then travel to Lewisburg, West Virginia to screen it there.  This beautiful Georgian Revival style structure was built in 1902 with a substantial donation from Andrew Carnegie, hence the name “Carnegie Hall.”  In fact, there are just a few such buildings in the United States (and abroad) that can claim the name, which places West Virginia among a distinct few.


At the time of Carnegie’s gift, the only real vaccine available to West Virginians would have been against smallpox, a terrifying disease that had claimed many millions of lives around the globe for millennia.  It was a vaccine that worked well, but how it worked was not well understood.  In fact, how disease worked in general was poorly understood.  Most people, indeed most physicians, believed that common infections were caused by bad air, or decaying matter, or an imbalance of the “humors” in our bodies (whatever those are).  But scientists in Europe had been pushing a new theory about the cause of disease, which they called “germ theory.”  It was a radical concept, claiming that diseases were caused by tiny organisms in the form of bacteria, or the more recently discovered “non-filterable agents” known today as viruses.  It took some time for science in the United States to catch up and accept this new “theory,” but of course we eventually did. Today the idea that germs cause disease is no theory, but rather common sense understood by all.

And today West Virginia holds another unique distinction among American states: it is one of only three in the country that does not permit religious or personal exemptions from school immunization requirements.  Mississippi is another and California, with its recent Disneyland measles outbreaks, became the most recent state to determine only medical exemptions should be a reason not to vaccinate.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Donald Mitchell

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