Tag Archives: Rent

How to watch Oscar-nominated flicks from your couch

Movie fans, rejoice! You can — for a price — watch about two-thirds of the Oscar-nominated flicks from your couch.

Here’s your viewing guide:

BEST PICTURE (AND DIRECTING)

None of the nine best picture nominees is available through a subscription service.

You can rent “Arrival” and “Hell or High Water” through Amazon, Google Play or Apple’s iTunes.

You’ll have to buy downloads of “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” to watch over the weekend, though iTunes says rentals of all three are coming over the weekend.

“Fences” will be available for purchase only next Friday.

Rentals typically cost about $3 or $4, or a dollar more if you want it in high definition.

Buying downloads usually cost about $15 for standard definition or $20 for HD.

Shop around, as prices aren’t always the same at the various services. Based on the cheapest options, including waiting for rentals, you’ll have to spend more than $35 on the best picture movies.

You’ll need to visit a theater for “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land” and “Lion.”

All three are available as pre-orders, meaning you buy now and the download will automatically be available whenever it comes out online. But the movies aren’t likely to be online before the Feb. 26 ceremony.

The good news is you’ll get the nominees for best directing out of the way, as all five movies are also up for best picture.

ACTING NOMINEES

In addition to the best picture flicks, you’ll need to watch six more movies to catch everyone nominated for the four acting categories.

“Captain Fantastic,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “Loving” are available for rent. “Nocturnal Animals” is available for purchase right away, with a rent option scheduled for Tuesday. “Jackie” comes out Tuesday.

The cumulative total: about $70.

To see “Elle,” you’ll need to visit your local cineplex or indie theater.

SCREENPLAY CATEGORIES

All but two of the nominees in the two writing categories overlap with best picture. “The Lobster” is available through Amazon Prime, while “20th Century Women” isn’t online at all.

FULL-LENGTH CARTOONS

Netflix has “Zootopia.” “Kubo and the Two Strings” is available to rent. “Moana” will be available for purchase Tuesday. Head to theaters for “My Life as a Zucchini” and “The Red Turtle.”

FULL-LENGTH DOCUMENTARIES

Netflix produced “13th” and streams it exclusively. Amazon Prime has “Life, Animated.” Hulu has “O.J.: Made in America” (as does WatchESPN, though you’ll need to sign in with a cable or satellite TV account).

“Fire At Sea” can be rented, while “I Am Not Your Negro” isn’t expected online until June.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Rent “A Man Called Ove” and “Tanna.” “Toni Erdmann” isn’t available until April 11. Pre-orders are being taken for “The Salesman,” but there’s no release date. Buy a ticket for “Land of Mine.”

THE 15 SHORTS

The documentary shorts “Extremis” and “The White Helmets” are available exclusively at Netflix. You can purchase the animated “Piper” through Amazon, Google Play and iTunes. ITunes also has the live action “La Femme et le TGV” and is expected to get the animated “Blind Vaysha” and “Borrowed Time” on Tuesday. Shorts cost about $2 each to buy.

The cable channel Shorts HD plans to release the shorts online on Tuesday, likely in separate packages for each of the three categories. According to iTunes, the package for animated shorts will cost about $13 and will include four of the five nominees. You’ll have to buy Pixar’s “Piper” separately. It’s not known yet whether the packages for live action and documentary shorts will include all the nominees. Some have been left out in past years because of rights issues.

To make sure you see them all, you’ll need to visit a theater, where Shorts HD runs screenings of all of them. In smaller cities, screenings are sometimes held at libraries or museums instead.

AND THE REST …

That leaves 15 movies for lower-profile categories such as music and makeup.

Netflix has “The Jungle Book,” while Hulu and Amazon Prime offer “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” HBO has “Hail, Caesar!” and “Jim: The James Foley Story.”

Five other movies can be rented, while two are for purchase only.

That means theaters for four — if you can still find a screening. These include big releases such as “Rogue One” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” so perhaps you’ve seen them already.

WATCHING THE SHOW

In major cities, the ceremony itself will be streamed online at abc.com and the ABC app if you can’t get to a TV. However, you’ll need to sign in with a cable or satellite account.

You also might be able to watch through an online TV subscription with Sling TV, PlayStation Vue or DirecTV Now. Availability depends on where you live; only a handful of ABC stations are offered this way.

For the E! channel’s red carpet coverage, you’ll need a subscription with an online TV service or a traditional cable or satellite provider. The cheapest plan with both ABC and E! is at DirecTV Now for $35 a month.

Oscar.com will have backstage and red-carpet coverage, starting at 7 p.m. ET. The stream continues once the ceremony begins at 8:30 p.m., but what’s on stage will be only on ABC. It’s free, with no cable or satellite account required.

Taye Diggs brings star power to Oct. 1 AIDS Walk

Continue reading Taye Diggs brings star power to Oct. 1 AIDS Walk

Affordable housing for LGBT seniors opens in Philadelphia

The opening of an affordable housing complex for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors in downtown Philadelphia vindicates years of work by supporters who felt gay elders have been marginalized by youth culture.

Only two other U.S. cities have similar developments.

Experts say gay seniors are less likely than their straight peers to have the financial and family resources to age in homes of their own. Many fear discrimination at traditional elder housing facilities, leading them back into the closet after years of being open.

Philadelphia joins Los Angeles and Minneapolis in offering designated gay-friendly, affordable senior housing, collectively offering about 200 units. Two more complexes are under construction in Chicago and San Francisco.

Yet advocates say that’s nowhere near enough: Research indicates the number of gay seniors in the U.S. is expected to double to 3 million by 2030.

The housing problem may ease for future generations as legalized gay marriage allows same-sex spouses to inherit a partner’s property and benefits, said Catherine Thurston, senior program director at New York-based Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE.

Although anti-discrimination laws prohibit gay-only housing, buildings can be made LGBT-friendly through marketing and location. The $19.5 million Philadelphia project sits in the affectionately nicknamed Gayborhood. When the leasing office opened last fall, hopeful tenants sat in a block-long line to drop off applications.

Those seniors belong to the generation that trailblazed gay rights, said Mark Segal, chairman of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which led the development. Yet their activism and openness often cost them both family ties and the opportunity for traditional jobs with retirement benefits, he said.

“Why should people, who were the pioneers of the community, not live with dignity? It’s outrageous,” Segal said. “We have to take care of our own — nobody else is.”

At the Philadelphia building, monthly rents range from $192 to $786 based on income, which can’t exceed $33,000 per year. Nearly all the residents identify as LGBT.

Milwaukee LGBT Center pays off debt

The once-beleaguered Milwaukee LGBT Community Center has eliminated its largest debt, which originally amounted to $500,000 for back rent and remodeling costs owed to the organization’s landlord.

After new leadership took control of the center early in 2012, negotiations began with Siegel-Gallagher, the building’s management company, to reduce the amount of space occupied by the center in the former Blatz Brewing Company building. That successful move eliminated the cost of future rent on unneeded space.

Interim executive director Karen Gotzler led a team that included center treasurer Peter Larson and attorneys Kass Hume and Jan Pierce to negotiate a deal reducing the center’s debt to the landlord to $93,000, with the stipulation that the amount would be paid in full within three years.

The center’s leaders were able to eliminate that debt by borrowing $50,000 from several supporters and offering to pay it immediately to the landlord in exchange for canceling out the center’s debt altogether. The landlord agreed.

Center board co-president Paul Williams said the $50,000 borrowed from supporters will be paid back in three years at an interest rate of 1 percent.

“(They’re) helping the center at a critical time so we can move forward toward our goals more quickly and save significant money in the process,” Williams said.

“These supporters saw the logic and the benefits to the center and the community – in terms of reducing overall debt, and in terms of further increasing the confidence of the broad community in the center,” said center board co-president Anne Perry Curley.

Williams praised Siegel-Gallagher for its role in facilitating the negotiations that brought the center so far from the fiscal cliff it faced just 18 months ago. “This is an amazing nonprofit turnaround story,” he said.

Center officials said they believe the debt elimination will enhance confidence in the center’s future and fuel enthusiasm for the “Believe in the Center” fundraising campaign that’s currently under way. The campaign aims to raise money that will expand support for programs such as SAGE Milwaukee and provide for basic resources, such as heat and light, which are not covered by direct program grants.

Next up on the center’s agenda is hiring a new executive director through a nationwide job search. CenterLink and the Johnson Family Foundation provided a $30,000 grant to conduct the search and support the hiring process.

“We have a job description out and we’re accepting applications now,” Williams said. 

“We’re getting a very strong response. It’s very exciting.”

In other developments, the center reported that its 2012 audit was completed on time, with a clean “non-modified” rating.  Copies of the audit are available at the center.

On the web: For more, or to donate to the center, go to www.mkelgbt.org.

How Idina Menzel’s star keeps rising

Being dropped by her record label was one of the best things that ever happened to Broadway star Idina Menzel. The experience was painful at the time, but it empowered the performer to redirect her energy to the stage, where she’s achieved an enviable career as both a singer and an actor.

“I had just finished ‘Rent’ and thought I was going to be a big rock star,” says the singer/songwriter, who earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance as the revolutionary Maureen Johnson in the groundbreaking show. “After just one album, Hollywood Records dropped me.”

The move forced Menzel, who turned 41 on May 30, to reexamine her career. After a few fallow years, she found her way back to Broadway and to her 2003 Tony Award-winning role as the green-skinned Elphaba in “Wicked.”

“I learned that I loved the theater and I always feel good about coming back,” she says. “I feel I belong there.”

“Defying Gravity,” Menzel’s breakout number from the Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman show, will no doubt be part of the song list June 20, when the celebrated performer brings her “Barefoot at the Symphony” show to Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Menzel has performed the mix of pop songs and show tunes numerous times, often with composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch at the helm. In March, she released both a CD and DVD of the performance that was recorded at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

“The Milwaukee show will be the result of a year-and-a- half of concertizing,” Menzel says. “There will be a lot of new material, but I’m still barefoot. I really can’t stand singing in high heels.” Menzel may well have been barefoot when she first started singing as a little girl on her native Long Island, N.Y. At 15 she got her first “professional” job as a wedding singer and worked her way through New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts by singing at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

“After graduation, a friend helped me audition for ‘Rent’ and I got the job almost as a fluke,” Menzel says.

Composer Jonathan Larson’s rock adaptation of Puccini’s “La Boheme” opened off Broadway on Jan. 26, 1996. Larson died the day before of an aortic dissection caused by undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Posthumously, he won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for the hit musical.

Larson’s death profoundly affected the cast of “Rent,” Menzel says, helping to create a strong work ethic among the performers.

“Jonathan’s passing kept us all very grounded,” says Menzel, who ended up marrying “Rent” costar Taye Diggs. “The work ethic was incredible because we had to be true to his vision.”

Her work ethic drove Menzel to a high level of versatility as a performer, making it difficult for producers to categorize and market her. Her return to the stage opposite Kristen Chenowith in “Wicked” helped cement her identity, both as a performer and as a woman.

“Elphaba has given me a higher profile and I love playing her,” Menzel says. “As women, we’re often afraid of our own power and fear alienating people. The character mirrors that aspect, harnesses it and turns it into something beautiful.”

Elphaba is one of Menzel’s favorite characters, but so is Vera, the alcoholic, codependent character she played in

“Ask the Dust,” which she describes as “the best movie you’ve never seen.”

“Vera is the opposite of Elphaba – she’s a mess,” says Menzel, who acted opposite Colin Farrell in the Robert Towne film. “I like her because I am known for playing empowered women, so it was nice to explore that balance. I found my confidence as an actor in that role.”

Menzel’s best-known role may be that of Shelby Corcoran, the driven coach of Vocal Adrenaline on the hit FOX television show “Glee.” Her experience on the program has been unlike most Hollywood productions, she said.

“It was a wonderful experience and great to be surrounded by so many talented people in one place – just like in New York,” she said. “The show is groundbreaking and courageous in the issues it tackles and is giving a new generation of young people a chance to be themselves.”

Such empowerment is part and parcel of Menzel’s career, one that’s been inspired, like those of so many of her contemporaries, by the music of Barbra Streisand. “I was inspired by Barbra’s incredible range, her breath control, and especially her emotional grasp of her material,” Menzel says.            “ ‘A Star is Born’ was the first record album I ever owned.”

She’s lived up to the title.

On stage

Idina Menzel’s “Barefoot at the Symphony” tour stops in Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on June 20. Details: www.marcuscenter.org.

‘Next to Normal’ tackles difficult subject matter

Mark Clements, artistic director for the Milwaukee Rep, went through a period of depression from 2005-2007. The bouts were sometimes debilitating, but initially he was too ashamed to seek help. Once he found help, he was amazed by how supportive friends, family and therapists could be. Sharing his pain helped to dissipate it and put him on the road to recovery, he found.

Clements’ personal experience in part drives the Rep’s production of “Next to Normal,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that opened Dec. 6 at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. The pop-rock production, which also won three Tony Awards, deals with the story of a suburban housewife with bipolar disorder and her family’s attempt to cope with it.

“My problems were not as serious as being bipolar, thank God, and I knew the reason for them,” Clements says. “Part of the play’s purpose is to address the issues associated with mental illness. ‘Next to Normal’ allows us to start a conversation.”

Described by Clements as “a theatergoers’ piece of theater,” “Next to Normal” won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first musical to do so since “Rent” took the honor in 1996. Composer Tom Kitt’s surging musical score, which earned one of the show’s three Tonys, joins with Brian Yorkey’s book and lyrics to paint a picture of suburban suffering for lead character Diana Goodman, her husband Dan, daughter Natalie, and the ghost of her dead son Henry, who appears as part of Diana’s delusional state.

Mastering the role of Diana, who goes through pharmacotherapy, electric shock treatments, self-cutting and other mental illness challenges, proved a daunting, but not impossible task, says Sarah Litzsinger, the Broadway performer chosen for the role. Extensive conversations with Clements and cast interviews with therapists helped the Indiana native establish a baseline character on which to realistically build Diana’s manic and depressed stages.

“I think Diana reacts differently to the other characters due to her illness, and it seems to me that her mania and depression rule over her,” says Litzsinger, best known as being the longest-running actress to play Belle in the Broadway production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” after inheriting the role from Andrea McArdle. “The way I see it, the disorder is doing the driving and she is simply the passenger.”

“Sarah is able to display the broad range of emotions needed and can be powerful as well as vulnerable,” Clements says. “In addition, she has a killer voice. We really lucked out with her.”

Clements also lucked out in heading one of the first regional theater groups to mount a production of “Next to Normal,” which started in 1998 as “Feeling Electric,” a 10-minute theatrical workshop sketch about a woman undergoing electroshock therapy and its effect on her family. Playwright Yorkey brought the idea to Kitt, who scored the piece, which was performed at a number of workshops over the next several years. 

The first full-length version appeared off Broadway in 2008. The concept and approach were revamped by director Michael Greif before the play open at the Booth Theater on Broadway in 2009. Greif also directed the Pulitzer Prize-winning production of “Rent.”

Despite the uplifting musical score, which Clements believes helps make tackling the subject matter easier for audience members, the Milwaukee Rep understands the seriousness of its subject matter and the effect it might have on theatergoers. Rogers Memorial Hospital, a psychiatric facility with outlets in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Oconomowoc and Brown Deer, is the show’s signature sponsor. Doctors will be on hand for the talkback sessions that follow many performances. Other medical facilities are among the community participant groups for the show.

The content also is having an effect on performers, including Litzsinger. She anticipates that playing Diana might be a life-changing experience.

“How could it not?” the actress asks. “When rehearsing, it’s hard not to fall to pieces sometimes.”

Despite the challenges, Clements believes Milwaukee is ready for a show like “Next to Normal.”

“Milwaukee audiences are inquisitive and like to be challenged,” the director says. “This play is witty, entertaining, ends on an uplifting note and has a killer score. It’s a show that affects people very deeply.”

Making ‘Rent’

“I am so excited about this,” says Donna Drake as she slowly pushes open the doors to the Cabot Theater at the Broadway Theater Center in the Third Ward. “We are doing things in this theater that we’ve never done before.”

Once inside, a quick view confirms the New York actor/director’s claims

Drake, the director of the Skylight Opera’s season finale “Rent,” has created a brave new and different world within these walls. She’s brought to life the East Village of New York City circa 1989.

The stage has been converted into a multi-level steel tenement structure with stairs coming up both sides and a connecting bridge. There are crew members everywhere working on the set, testing lights and checking sound.

This “rock opera” has the street cred and the commercial track record to continue the crossover appeal that has drawn audiences of all ages since its debut in 1996. Based on Giacomo Puccini’s 1986 opera “La Boheme,” “Rent’s” rise to fame and fortune offstage is as much a part of the show’s iconic status as its classically based storyline.

The show’s creator, composer and lyricist Jonathan Larson, took his characters from the community of poor, starving artists who populate “La Boheme,” some of them suffering from tuberculosis. One hundred years later, this group of poor starving artists now deals with the onslaught of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While Puccini’s artists were poets, painters, singers and musicians, Larson’s characters, all with HIV/AIDS, include an exotic dancer, a gay philosophy professor and a gay drag queen, among others.

Literally hours before “Rent” opened off Broadway in January 1996, Larson died suddenly of an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm. He never lived to the see the enormous success of his work, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award after moving to Broadway for a long run.

“I’m so impressed with the bravery of the Skylight. I have not censored anything (in this production) and the Skylight has supported that,” says Drake, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West side with her female partner of three years. “I’m absolutely fearless. If I make people uncomfortable watching this show, then good. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. “

Drake previously directed “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “Blues in the Night” for Skylight. But she’s been waiting for years to direct “Rent.”

Drake is passionate discussing this show and its messages. She becomes more animated (read: louder) amid the din of the construction in the theater and the “Rent” band rehearsing with music director Jamie Johns above in the Skylight bar. As she emphatically states, “Rent” is still as vital and critical today as it was when it first opened in the mid-1990s.

“People are still living with AIDS and people only politely tolerate gays,” she points out. “It breaks my heart. We need to keep putting it out there.”

The Skylight has partnered with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) for “Rent” and will donate proceeds from the May 23 performance to the organization.

Drake knows all too well about the ravages of HIV/AIDS. She’s lost many friends over the years, including the mentor who changed her life, director and choreographer Michael Bennett. Drake was just 19 years old, fresh off the bus from her native Columbia, S.C., when she ended up in a workshop Bennett was conducting about the lives of Broadway dancers. This workshop would become the show that changed theater – and Drake’s life: “A Chorus Line.”

“I learned a lot from Michael,” she recalls. “I learned the basics about the theater, especially truth and integrity, and that has stayed with me.”

Another part of what she’s learned from the legendary director is to share the spotlight, in this case with the Skylight team she’s been working with for the past year: Jason Fassl (lighting designer), Holly Payne (costume designer) and Lisa Schlenker (set designer).

“The four of us are doing our own take” on “Rent,” she says. For example, characters will look different from their original Broadway counterparts, from casting to costumes.

But one aspect of “Rent” that remains the same is the humanity and the emotions of the show, Drake says. “Women, black people, gay people are still minorities. But we’re all the same. We all share the same heart.”

‘Rent’ takes short-term lodging

Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart are reprising the roles they originated on Broadway in “Rent: The Broadway Tour” at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

The show will have a week-long engagement, from Nov. 24-29.

Set in NYC’s East Village, “Rent” is a modern take on the classic Puccini opera, “La Boheme.” It tells the story of a group of young artists learning to survive, falling in love, finding their voices and living for today.

The Milwaukee engagement is presented by Broadway Across America — Milwaukee and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts as part of Time Warner Cable Broadway at the Marcus Center.