By Hannah Schwab
GRAND RAPIDS-Wealthy Street Theater Director Erin Wilson is extremely proud to offer to QUEERIES Night, a once-a-month film night that features LGBT and ally-friendly films.
The theater has hosted many nonprofit events, some catered to the LGBT community, but Wilson wanted a permanent event that focused on LGBT-related issues.
“(W)e knew many metro areas have regular LGBT programming and Grand Rapids did not,” Wilson said. “Informal conversations with nonprofit partners led us to realize that very few non-bar/non-club related LGBT events took place in the city. These conversations were the spark that led us to explore ways we could fill a need in our community: social, safe, compelling, entertaining and thoughtful gatherings that occurred on a regular basis.”
Wilson teamed up with Grand Valley State University’s LGBT Resource Center Director Colette Beighley to plan the series and submit a grant proposal to fund it. Beighley approached the Arcus Foundation about underwriting QUEERIES Night.
The Arcus Foundation specializes in promoting projects and events that further social justice and conservation issues. The LGBT community is one sect Arcus specifically promotes. While their focus is international, Arcus has a branch in Kalamazoo and has worked with GVSU in the past.
With funding from Arcus and other local sponsors, Wealthy Street Theater launched its first installment of QUEERIES Night March 2010.
“The turnout for the kickoff event, Hedwig & The Angry Inch, was huge – an outstanding validation of what we had hoped for in putting the series together,” Wilson said.
Besides the subject matter, QUEERIES sets itself apart from other film series by getting community feedback.
“The series purposely involves the community in selecting what movies are screened,” Wilson said. “We often choose our titles by polling the community online.”
Often, the night offers more than just a movie. Wilson usually offers a question and answer session or a guest speaker to accompany the films.
Wilson said some speakers have traveled from Chicago and New York to talk about the films, but he usually tries to feature someone who has a thematic connection to the LGBT community.
“While this series belongs to the greater community, it is undeniably an LGBT series and we’re exceedingly proud to facilitate this ongoing opportunity for wider conversations about issues that affect our … community members on a daily basis.”
Wilson said he was surprised by the positive feedback he has received.
“Grand Rapids is – to the surprise of many – comprised of very progressive community and city leaders,” Wilson said. “The city proper is populated by a majority of liberal residents who are very supportive of the diverse content featured at Wealthy Street Theater. Even if someone disagreed with a presentation or its themes, there is a general acknowledgment that a greater good is served by the availability of diverse content.
“I can honestly say there has been no resistance to this series,” Wilson said.
“We all wanted this to be … not only welcoming to our LGBT community, but (also) inviting to the greater community. And this has been the case. While the majority of attendees are in fact gay, attendance consistently includes non-LGBT community members, as well.”
The next QUEERIES Night, a showing of “Xanadu,” is 8 p.m. Jan. 28. A full schedule of events is available at http://www.grcmc.org/theatre/ and http://www.facebook.com/wealthytheatre.