Queer Playwright/Performer Roger Q. Mason Receives 2020 Chuck Rowland Award

By: Jan. 29, 2020

Queer Playwright/Performer Roger Q. Mason Receives 2020 Chuck Rowland Award

Two years ago, Roger Q. Mason paid tribute to Billy Porter, the 2018 recipient of the Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award, by performing in a reading of Porter's semi-autobiographical play, As I Yet Live. Now, 2020 is Mason's year - and he is kicking it off, following in Porter's fabulous footsteps, as this year's Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award recipient. The award ceremony will take place on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 at 7:30 pm at the West Hollywood Council Chambers (625 N San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069). Details of the program will be announced in the coming months.

A prolific playwright, Roger Q. Masonhoned his writing skills while earning degrees from Princeton University, Middlebury College, and Northwestern University. As a Black, Filipinx, plus-sized, gender non-conforming, queer artist of color, Mason's work challenges and inspires audiences to re-consider what they've been taught and re-think how they feel about those who are different and "other." His work often uses the lens of history to chip away at the cultural biases which divide rather than unite us. His play The White Dress, now in development as a feature film, has been called "a genderqueer coming-of-age drama for the they/them generation." During its successful Off-Broadway debut in the summer of 2019, it was described by critics as "powerful...offering us a dark but hopeful vision." The script was a finalist for the Lark Playwrights Weekand the Screencraft Play Award, judged by David Lindsay-Abaire.

It's no coincidence that in the year 2020, Roger Q. Mason is finding more opportunities to bring his unique and provocative theatrical vision to life and share it with wider audiences. His recent work, Lavender Men, which ponders the queerness of Abraham Lincoln, played to a sold-out Broadway house during Circle Reading Series at Circle in the Square Theatre. The presentation featured Charlie Thurston as Abe Lincoln, Garrett Clayton (Hairspray Live!, King Cobra) as Lincoln's queer legal assistant Elmer Ellsworth, and Mason as Taffeta, the play's gender non-conforming narrator. Following the success of the NYC reading, Lavender Men will have its world premiere in Los Angeles at Skylight Theatre this April, directed by Lovell Holder(Loserville, Some Freaks).

Building on the momentum of his theatre work, Mason is now taking on the film world. His short film Softer, adapted from his play of the same name, envisions the queer relationship between Charlie, a young Georgia Slave Master, and his black body servant Ishmael at the end of the Civil War. Directed by Lovell Holder, the film was a semi-finalist for the AT&T Awards and premiered at Outshine Film Festival. It makes its West Coast debut at the Pan African Film Festival this February.

The Chuck Rowland Pioneer Award is presented annually by the historic Celebration Theatre, and honors a groundbreaking LGBTQ playwright whose work has entertained, inspired, and empowered the community. This award celebrates an artist whose body of work has become a vital part of the evolving conversation around the social impact of arts activism. Past recipients have included Robert Patrick, Michael Kearns, Tom Jacobsen, and Patricia Loughrey. The award was named for gay rights pioneer, arts educator, and creator of Celebration Theatre, Charles "Chuck" Rowland, who also co-founded the seminal Mattachine Society in 1950, along with Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Dale Jennings and partner Bob Hull.

Celebration Theatre is our nation's oldest, continuously producing LGBTQ theatre. It was founded in 1982 when Rowland leased a storefront in Silverlake. The nonprofit was expressly organized as a community theatre "of, by, and for gay and lesbian people and their friends."

Since then, the Los Angeles-based company has consistently mounted theatrical productions representative of, and in support of, the queer community: always with a sharp focus on inclusion, visibility, and pride. GLAAD, NAACP, LA Ovation Award and many other benchmarks for excellence have recognized the theatre and its artists -performers, writers, directors, designers, musicians, and producers. Scores of LGBTQ luminaries have graced Celebration's stages over the years as it continues to provide an inspiring and empowering forum for professional and emerging LGBTQ and allied artists, giving voice to the evolving experience of queer culture.

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