Friday, July 25, 2014

Musical Play Needs Sponsors (LGBTQ, Race, Religion, More)

My wife and I are from Central California. The region is hard to explain to outsiders, because people assume "California" means L.A. and San Francisco, yet geographically those are little dots within a sea of socially conservative counties. To this day, it feels more like the Deep South (circa 1976) than anywhere else I have been -- and I've been to the South.

I wrote the play The Gospel Singer many years ago, but it wasn't finished and developed until 2013. In a few short weeks, the play will premier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania... in another region where race, religion, and daily life can seem stuck a couple of decades in the past.

We need to keep raising money to get this play and its message heard.

News Articles and Context

First, it helps to know the Tulare County, Calif., where the play is set, was home to the self-proclaimed "new KKK" of the 1980s and 90s. There were also active "Moral Majority" groups, drawing from the large Evangelical, conservative Catholic, and LDS (Mormon) communities. Thankfully, most of the religious leaders were disgusted and offended by the KKK, but that doesn't mean they didn't harbor prejudices rooted in the past.

From the L.A. Times:
In 1986, business owner Loren Lowdermilk announced that he would be named grand titan for the Ku Klux Klan in California and Visalia would become the KKK's headquarters. That set off demonstrations of protest by large crowds of townspeople outside Lowdermilk's auto-parts business. He keeps a low profile these days. 
The Gospel Singer is set in the late 1980s, but homophobia continues to be a problem in the Central Valley of California. 

From "The People Project" website:

These are some links to [2001] coverage of anti-gay and anti-lesbian harassment. We've detailed how the harassment was overlooked, what it does to students, a specific example of "FAG" written on a student's pickup, new laws, developments in a lawsuit against the school district, and how the district targeted the press after the stories ran.

The Ongoing Struggle
Former students who are gay or lesbian say they were harassed, ridiculed, threatened and attacked at area high schools while school personnel failed to intervene and disregarded their complaints.

Epithets scar student's truck
The words "fag" and "Pedro is gay" were found sprayed on a pickup on Nov. 14 in the eastern parking lot of Golden West High School in Visalia, and the school principal says he's "not familiar" with the incident.

New laws protect homosexuals on school campuses
Gov. Gray Davis signed two bills into law last year that would help curb on campus harassment based on sexual orientation, but Visalia Unified School District officials say they haven't yet become familiar with them.

Homosexual students live in constant fear
Suddenly, it seemed all of Golden West High School knew that [Student] was a lesbian.

Anti-gay bias suit has new plaintiff
Another plaintiff has joined a federal lawsuit that alleges Golden West High School personnel overlooked anti-gay harassment directed at a student, a move lawyers who filed the action say will solidify their case against the Visalia Unified School District.

School board promises legal look at media access to schools
Visalia Unified School District trustees announced Tuesday night they would look into restricting media access to schools.

ACLU wants change in gay, lesbian policies
FRESNO -- The American Civil Liberties Union pledged Wednesday to force the Visalia Unified School District to protect its gay and lesbian students from harassment.

Trustees call VUSD policy adequate
Measures already in place should address issues raised by gay and lesbian students in a Jan. 20 Times-Delta story, Visalia Unified School District board members say.

Until All Are Safe
Local school districts, especially Visalia Unified School District, must take the lead in correcting the problem of hate-motivated conduct against gays and lesbians on high school campuses.

This Play Still Matters... Sadly

I wish this play didn't seem to have universal themes, but that appears to be the case. People still find reasons to hate others in religion, race, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, and other differences that should make the world more interesting, not dangerous.

Click to Donate and Sponsor

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carnegie Mellon Statistician Roeder Finds Genetic Risk for Autism

Press Release: Using New Statistical Tools, Carnegie Mellon's Kathryn Roeder Finds Genetic Risk for Autism Stems Mostly From Common Genes -Carnegie Mellon News - Carnegie Mellon University
I've written before about spontaneous, de novo, genetic variation and autism. The theory, which I consider favored by current research, is that genetics represent the primary factor contributing to autistic traits. Now, with statistical modeling, researchers find a likely correlation between genetics and autism.

If mild autistic traits are within inherited genetics, this suggests autistics are somewhere along the "spectrum" based on which additional variations occur.
"Within a given family, the mutations could be a critical determinant that leads to the manifestation of ASD in a particular family member," said Joseph Buxbaum, the study's first author and professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). "The family may have common variation that puts it at risk, but if there is also a 'de novo' mutation on top of that, it could push an individual over the edge. So for many families, the interplay between common and spontaneous genetic factors could be the underlying genetic architecture of the disorder."
After you have the predisposition for an ASD, the expression of autism varies based on the de novo variation. Copy number regulation (CNR) is a common source of genetic change. Duplication of genes is an amazing event, and it is astounding more errors don't occur with serious side effects. Term pregnancies are something of a statistical miracle.
Now that the genetic architecture is better understood, the researchers are identifying specific genetic risk factors detected in the sample, such as deletions and duplications of genetic material and spontaneous mutations. The researchers said even though such rare spontaneous mutations accounted for only a small fraction of autism risk, the potentially large effects of these glitches make them important clues to understanding the molecular underpinnings of the disorder.
Random variation rarely is caused by environmental (external) factors. But, most people outside science mistakenly assume genetic means inherited. In fact, the genetics that shape us most are often little more than random variation without a specific cause.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Play: A New Death World Premier

This is why I haven't been blogging a lot this summer. I've been working on several new plays… 


A World Premiere

By C.S. Wyatt

Directed By Kaitlin Kerr
Assistant Directed By Sarah McPartland

July 18 - July 26
The Grey Box Theatre
3595 Butler St, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15201



Andy Coleman 
Chelsea Faber
Hazel Carr Leroy
Eric Leslie 
Tonya Lynn 
Sarah McPartland
Jared King Rombold 
John Henry Steelman

Friday, July 11, 2014

Support a Theatrical Production with Purpose…

The LAB Project, a new Pittsburgh, PA, theatrical company, is producing my musical play The Gospel Singer this August. The producer hopes to raise an additional $4000 for community outreach and education efforts. The play is about a gay gospel singer and his partner, during the 1980s. It's based loosely on real people. The play was awarded a development slot by Bricolage Production Company last year, as part their annual "In The Raw" festival.

Some people ask if a play about a gay couple arguing about faith and community is still relevant in 2014. Yes, it is. Laws are changing, and society is changing, but understanding the struggles are incomplete — especially within religious communities — is a valuable lesson.

Please consider supporting The LAB Project.