Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Strife in the Fast Lane

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Strife in the Fast Lane

Article excerpt

Santa Monica's Highways Performance Space has a reputation for green-lighting controversial gay and lesbian theater

In 1995, Santa Monica, Calif.'s, Highways Performance Space founded six years earlier by Tim Miller and writer Linda Frye Burnham, made headlines from Alaska to Arkansas. Vocal Christian conservative Donald Wildmon was so disgusted by fliers promoting the arts center's queer-happy Ecce Lesbo/Ecco Homo festival-fliers that happened to depict a naked African-American man holding a Bible and wearing a cross--he practically papered Capitol Hill with them. Result: The National Endowment for the Arts revoked all of Highways' funding.

"We were used as a scapegoat because in the United States the arts is not a viable commodity," huffs artistic codirector Danielle Brazell, 33. "But in a way it's great publicity. That our little Highways brochure got passed around the Senate floor--it's like, `Well, thank you!'"

Highways now must rely on ticket sales and revenue from the occasional fund-raiser, like a Tupperware party held in January. Such an event might sound oddly conservative for an avant-garde performance space--except the shindig was hosted by lesbian folksinger Phranc. "Phranc loves Tupperware and having a good time," Brazell says. "It's all about creative marketing."

Indeed, Highways seems to thrive on its fighting underdog mentality. In presenting about 250 events and 24 art shows in its two galleries a year, its spotlight shines on marginalized groups: people of color, women, the physically challenged, abuse victims, and people with HIV. …

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