January 20 – 28, 2023

January 25, 2023

A Lavender Touch

Choreography: Olivier Wevers
Text: Captain Joan Cassidy, Essex Hamphill, Frank Kameny, Harvey Milk, Jamie Shoemaker
Music: Jacque Morali, Henri Purcell, Safvk

Costumes: Mark Zappone


Choreography, Music & Costumes: Mike Esperanza

Yemaya’s Embrace

Choreography: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Eduardo Vilaro

Original composition: Jimmy Garver
Tyler Wood
Andres Munar

Costumes: Mark Zappone

Whim W’Him thanks Eduardo Vilaro for the generous gift of his original text for Yemaya’s Embrace.

The premiere of Yemaya’s Embrace is made possible by the generous support of Azlan Ezaddin.


A Lavender Touch – Olivier Wevers

The initial spark for Olivier Wevers’s A Lavender Touch was the Lavender Scare. A social counterpart to the political Red Scare of the 1950’s McCarthy era, it resulted in many thousands of Gay men and Lesbians being summarily fired from government jobs. That historic episode was the impetus for a battle which gained many triumphs for LGBTQ+ rights over the years. Unfortunately in recent times, intolerance and old prejudices keep resurfacing, challenging seemingly solid achievements and reminding us that vigilance must be maintained, and that nothing is ever settled.

Beyond the anguish and the ignominy and pain that have been visited upon the LGBTQ+ community, A Lavender Touch also delves into its love and joys, passion and tenderness, beauty and fun. In a multi-level soundscape created by Olivier, the spoken voices of Captain Joan Cassidy, Frank Kameny, Harvey Milk, Jamie Shoemaker, and more, are overlaid by the haunting ‘Dido’s Lament’ from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, in a series of visual/musical metaphors. Unsettling music and a poem by Essex Hemphill accompany one section. Raucous high spirits are conjured to the tune of ‘YMCA’ in another. A tender evocation of Michelangelo’s ‘Pietà’ evokes the transformation that as humans we go through, specifically here in “coming out” as gay.

~ Notes by Victoria Farr Brown

Our society guarantees first class citizenship to all of its citizens, the right of the pursuit of happiness to all of its citizens, and the right to be different and to be unpopular without disadvantage to all of its citizens.

“Our society does not always respect those rights in practice.

As exercised by homosexual couples, the right to marry detracts not one iota from the rights of heterosexual couples to marry. Homosexual marriages interfere with no one individually, and such marriages impair or interfere with no societal interest. In fact, they further some societal interests. They provide a myriad of special privileges given to legally married people. Most important for many persons, legal marriage is psychologically supportive; the relationship is stabilized by it. For society to accuse us, as it does, of unstable short term relationships and then to deny us a powerful means of stabilization is to make their accusation self-fulfilling in a peculiarly vicious way.

To extend the definition of the family to include gay couples in no way in endangers or diminishes the institution of the family. Quite to the contrary, it strengthens it. Our society belongs to all of its members and segments. It is our society as homosexuals quite as much as yours as heterosexuals. Heterosexual wishing it have the right to the benefits of marriage, and homosexuals wishing it have the right to the benefits of marriage.

That equality is what America is all about. It is as simple as that.

∼ Frank Kameny

In a national telephone poll earlier this year, NBC News found a narrow majority felt that homosexuality was immoral, 52%. Fifty-seven percent believed that homosexuality was a mental illness even though the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Public Health Association say it is not a mental illness. But a 55% majority of our respondents felt that fair housing and fair employment laws should be extended to homosexual.

∼ NBC excerpt

We have absolutely no indication that homosexuality is genetically determined. We have no indication of this at all. As a matter of fact, we can certainly in the same vein state that we have no indication that heterosexuality is genetically determined. We are born man and woman, and sexual beings. We learn heterosexuality, we learn homosexuality, we learn bisexuality, and having learned it not infrequently we alter in the course of our lifetime.

According to their 15-year study of more than 300 homosexual men and women, homosexuality is learned behavior. And it can be unlearned, in a matter of weeks with high levels of motivation. So we have that to start with. And then we’re not talking just two weeks. All of these people not only were treated in the acute phase, and for two weeks, but we’re talking about seven days a week in a very intensive therapy program.

Actually, the amount of time that is spent in that two weeks would well represent six months to a year. Sometimes [in the?] routines, psychotherapy would be from 20 to 40 hours.

What actually changes? Insights, and an understanding of attitude, an understanding of their desire to do or be or represent one thing versus another.

∼ Dr. William Masters & Virginia Johnson

Now we think

as we f**k

this nut

might kill us.

There might be

a pin-sized hole

in the condom.

A lethal leak.

We stop kissing

tall dark strangers,

sucking mustaches,

putting lips



We return to pictures.


Toys. Recent lovers.

Private lives.

Now we think

as we f**k

this nut might kill.

this kiss could turn

to stone.

∼ Essex Hemphill

I was flown to Washington for the first time for interviews, and they polygraph me. They asked me if I’d ever had sex with anyone of the same gender. Well, at that time I hadn’t. And so I replied, No. But it caused the needle to go up and down quite a bit. And I danced around it. And I got hired, and the subject didn’t come up again until six years later, when they essentially arrested me.

∼ Jamie Shoemaker

And like death with his scythe, sweeping through the place, and knocking everybody out. Every one of the women, they pull them out of bed in the middle of the night, and set them up with lights, brilliant lights in their faces, and started questioning them about their sex life. And whether they were gay, and it was by association.

They said to them, we have your friend in the next room, she’s already told us that you’re gay. So you might as well give us the names of others. You’ll give us the names of others, and we’ll go easier on you.

You know, these were kids,they were going to discharge them.

And we heard that they also sent letters home, telling their parents why they were being discharged, so that they would not be able to go home and just fold themselves back into family life. And in their little towns where that word that word spread like wildfire. And I am close to tears.

Because that’s what I thought then,what’s going to happen?

And if they did that to me, how would I ever face my family?

∼ Captain Joan Cassidy

To the gay community, all over this state. My message to you is, so far a lot of people joined us and rejected proposition six, and now we owe them something. We owe them to continue the education campaign that took place. We must destroy the myths once and for all, shatter them. We must continue to speak out. And most importantly, most importantly, every gay person must come out. Difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell your neighbors. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stories you shop in.

And once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.

∼ Harvey Milk

primetime – Mike Esperanza

Mike Esperanza’s “PRIMETIME” is inspired by the classic TV shows he grew up watching as a kid after school. Built upon a scene, the work deconstructs the landscape of illusion and exposes its reality. Brisk and complex, it cumulates to its simplest form. This work is dedicated to Mike’s late parents Dante and Felicidad.

There are two main inspirations for the piece. The HBO show called “Scenes from a marriage” starts each episode with backstage scenes before the actual episode starts and it seamlessly transitions to the show. The second inspiration is from the movie “Being the Ricardos” where the writers and actors deconstruct a particular scene development.

Ultimately it brings truth to the ideal and strips away the spectacle.

Yemaya’s Embrace – Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

I am that child.
I am that memory.
I am the shadow who eats at your garbage.
I am the dishwasher who cleaned your excess.
I am that child. I am that memory.
I am the spirit of an attempt to walk freely. I am the ghost of all those you need.
I am the ghost of all those you need and all those you shun.

I remember the sun’s rays. Ribbons of fire on water. The sea swallows all light, just as it was swallowing us.
The inner tube rocked me in and out of consciousness. Or was it a lullaby?
The night we left I remember the cold embrace of Yemaja. Mother of the sea.
I was sent to the dreamland to make something of ourselves, and be alguien, somebody.

We stepped on land, wet foot, dry foot.
There were others… younger, older, and some… lost to the sea.
We were alone. No one spoke, no one greeted.
I had no paper to stamp. The interpreter looked up at me and shook her head.  You will go back.
I could not go back. Time stood still.

I hid and waited.
At night, I ran and ran. At night I ran.
A blur, Lights, sounds. Sleeping under cars, in trees, bridges.  I had one thought, one chance. I need to reach it.

One night I met another young man, a painter. He would help.
We hid together, finding solace in our dreams of the future. What would we do, who would we become?
We flew on wings of hope, climbing, hiding, soaring from roof to roof, until we reached the railroad.
That night. I watched as my companion fought to breathe, a river of sweat from his forehead. What’s wrong, hermano?
In the morning he was dead.  I’m sorry friend. Sorry.
I was alone again.

Running until I could find the open door on the cargo train. I jumped.
The old train was dark and full of boxes and others. Many of them hiding, lost.
So many of people, so many dreams. Young, old, black, brown. All moving towards somewhere. But where?
Sueños, dreams. Nightmares.

I have watched thousands take this path, from my perch on the bridge. Never to arrive but always to try.
Never to arrive but always to try.
You see I am that memory.
I am the spirit of an attempt to walk freely. I am the child under the cardboard box who asks you to join him or give him your life in exchange for food. I am the shadow who eats at your garbage, I am the dishwasher who cleaned your excess. I am the ghost of all those you need and all those you shun.

∼ Eduardo Vilaro


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