Showing posts with label Chris Parente. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Parente. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chris Parente Is A Queerbot

By Drew Wilson

Chris Parente is about that life
Emmy-award winning Chris Parente has been a fixture of Denver's entertainment and gay scenes for years. Now he's combining the two with his latest project, the Queerbots. The Queerbots are an LGBT improv comedy troupe who have been doing monthly shows at Hamburger Mary's for the past year and their next one is coming up on Saturday, March 14.

Drew: You’ve been out and openly gay for a long time but now it sounds like you’re doubling down on gay with the Queerbots.
Chris: Doubling down on gay? Sounds like a new casino game in Vegas. I want to double down on the gay!

I’d be at that table.
Let it ride! You haven’t been to a Queerbot show yet, have you?
No, but it sounds like my kind of show. How did Queerbots come about?
Well, Queerbots started about a year ago. I studied improv many years ago with Second City in Chicago under a guy named Martin Demott who has since passed away. He was a brilliant teacher who was also gay ...

Does that mean sometimes he was under you?
How do you think I got in the school? It was eye opening. Improv is probably my greatest passion. I love it. I love the freedom. I love the mindset of creating something out of nothing. But I’ve found that gays and lesbians aren’t very well represented in the improv world. Especially the women. It’s kind of a guy’s thing. I wanted to start a troupe that could explore the gay experience – what it means to be in the LGBTQ community - and do it through improv and have all the players be either gay, lesbian or transgendered. So I got together with probably the best improviser in Colorado, Sarah Kirwin, and we got together and started figuring out how we could make it happen. And that was the birth of the troupe.
Sarah Kirwin is better at improv comedy than you
We started doing shows last September and have been doing them monthly ever since. We have four lesbians and two gay guys in the troupe right now and our keyboardist is a gay Asian. That’s right, a gay Asian. Even the gaysians are represented!

Ooh, the elusive Colorado gaysian!
That’s right. That’s like Bigfoot or a UFO; a gaysian keyboard player. We struck gold! And I really wanted the troupe to have more women than men because I think women are doubly underrepresented in improv. Even in the gay community the lesbian perspective isn’t always out there as much as it needs to be. So it’s really cool to have that mix in the troupe.

One of the things I like about the troupe is we’re not trying to hit people over the head with the gay experience. It’s more like life filtered through someone who happens to be gay. The last four shows we’ve done the audiences have been largely straight audiences, which I love because it’s a real chance to really have some understanding through laughter. It’s hard to hate somebody when you’re laughing. We have a lot of fun doing sends ups of all the clich├ęs and dismantling the stereotypes by exploring them.

The human experience ain’t that different whether you’re gay or straight or lesbian. At the end of the day we’re all faced with the same struggles and ups and downs and that can be explored through comedy, I think, more easily than any other venue.

The Dalai Lama
How would you say improv influences your human experience?
Oh, it’s about to get deep in here. I’m gonna go Dalai Lama on you. The whole essence of improv is actually the complete opposite of what we’re taught in American and western civilization. At the heart of improv it’s all about cooperation, not competition, and that’s why I think it’s important for kids to explore improv. You’re not there to compete. You’re there to work with them and it only works when you cooperate. It only works when you support the others. And that’s our number one motivation; to support the others and make them look as good as possible. And that’s when the magic happens.

One of the precepts of improv is “yes and” which means whatever someone offers you you agree with it and build on it. We’re kind of wired to argue and disagree but in improv it’s all about “yes and-ing.” Whatever anybody says to you - if someone says you’re the biggest leprechaun I’ve ever seen - all of a sudden you are a big leprechaun and away you go. It’s the whole nature of improv. And when it’s hitting on all cylinders, it may sound stupid but, at times it’s almost spiritual because something is created in that moment and it’s a really beautiful thing.

Chris Parente is on his way to take your man
And improv must help with your day job. Keeping the mind agile and the words tripping off the tongue.
It would help anybody with their day jobs. On top of all those other elements of thinking differently and cooperatively and building and supporting on top of all that it also really forces you to … you can’t anticipate. You have to totally and completely live in the moment and be in the now. That’s the only way it works. Improv is literally an art form that is created moment to moment. It forces you to let go and just be in the moment.

And there really is no wrong choice because no matter what you say, you’re going to be supported by the other players up there. So you don’t have to worry about saying something wrong or stupid of making a fool of yourself. There are no mistakes in improv. You find a way to embrace it, to justify it, and just go with it. It’s a really cool thing.

What's a typical Queerbots show like?
The show is based entirely on audience suggestions so it’s a different show every time. It’s created on the spot. You never know where it’s going to go which adds to the electricity of the night. It’s an entirely spontaneous night of theater.

In each of the last several shows we’ve done a completely improvised gay marriage. We call up two people from the audience who don’t know each other and who, in fact, aren’t gay. We get the stories of their lives and recreate each of their childhoods onstage. How they meet and fall in love and we marry them right there on stage in front of everybody and God.

Legally? Is that the joke?
Yes, considering that they aren’t gay. Sorry, it’s legally binding. You’re gay now!
Yay, lesbians!
Argh, my greatest fear come true!
We’re converting you all! We also do a completely improvised musical. This is where the gaysian comes in, we get suggestions from the audience and make up a musical on the spot.

We also do all sorts of fun games with the audience to mix things up. Basically, we have an outline for the show and then whatever happens happens. So the March show is a tribute to St. Peppermint Patty, Patron Saint of Lesbians. So you will be seeing Marcy and Peppermint Patty and the Little Red-Haired Girl we’ll be exploring leprechauns and pots of gold and all that. 

We also incorporate audio and video. In my job with the station I’m able to go out and interview a lot of actors and so I usually ask them one or two questions about the gay experience. We play their responses on the monitors and use that to inspire scene work. For March we talk to a couple of Irish actors, Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell.

Nice. Tell them Drew says “hi!”
Yeah. Especially Colin Farrell, baby! That’s my kind of Irishman.
Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell can both get it
How can we be good improv audience members?
Great question! The audience does need to be warmed up a bit because improv gets people out of their comfort zones. Unless they’re really drunk, which you may or may not be on St. Patrick’s Day. A lot of us are taught to be quiet and polite. We don’t want to be put on the spot. But in improv it’s all about feeling free to shout out whatever’s on your mind. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. And as the night goes on people become more and more comfortable. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t even have to be funny. It’s our job to find the humor in it. So the key is to relax, let go, and not be inhibited. To feel free and join in and shout out whatever’s on your mind. 
What’s next for the Queerbots?
We’ve been doing monthly shows at Hamburger Mary’s and so far they’ve all sold out so we’re gonna continue that through May, I believe, and then take a summer hiatus to work on some other projects and our hope is to pick it up again in September. 

???
In a nutshell the shows are just a lot of fun. It’s a very fun, lighthearted look at being gay and lesbian in today’s world and we welcome straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, trisexual, androgynous, everybody is welcome. Bears, cubs, otters, you name it!

Things they haven’t even come up with yet!
Totally! We’ll take koalas. We’ll take platypuses.
I feel like a koala would be really cute.
You know what? I agree. What would that look like?
Maybe cuter than a cub? Shorter?
We may need to talk more about this later.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Colorado Crooner Eugene Ebner Makes the Yuletide Gay

By Drew Wilson

Colorado crooner Eugene Ebner gorgeously gay, remarkably retro-styled new holiday video for 'Let It Snow' is a Christmas card to the gay community. 

But this energetic entertainer is also known as the host of internet radio show DiversityNow, and for his former, larger than life, drag queen superhero persona.


Drew: So tell me about the new video. Its got the look and feel of a classic Christmas movie, but with gay guys.

Eugene: Thank you. Well, you know, the song is a remake of the classic Let It Snow and it’s not only a tribute to the holidays, but a message of holiday cheer, love and equality. I wanted a platform to show everyone that the gay community has the right to love, not only during the holidays, but throughout the entire year and that we’re not any different from anybody else.

Spoken like a man in love. Is that your significant other in the video?
I am actually a single man. The gentleman in the video with me is a good friend of mine and a member of the Denver Gay Mens Chorus. Actually, I hate to say it, but we're like sisters. But we definitely have a connection and I’ve had a lot of people ask how long we’ve been together. Even people who know us thought we were really an item after watching the video. 

I see. So is music your full-time gig these days?
It’s a mixture of things. I perform and do other things but I'm really focused on my music at the moment. In addition to 'Let It Snow', I've got a couple of other songs out as well. I’ve got 'Let The Girl Out' which was remixed by Denny Tate and 'Always Meant to Be' and I've also got a ballad called 'You Are My Angel' which is actually in honor of my mother who transitioned from cancer about 16 years ago. I find that a lot of the music I write is inspired by love. 

When I first saw the 'Let It Snow' video, your name and face seemed very familiar to me. It took me a minute but then I realized that we know each other from years and years ago when I was the editor of Out Front Colorado and we had you on the cover ...
(Laughs) Yes, as Wonder Woman.

Do you still perform as Wonder Woman?
No, not in a long time, although I did recently put the video back up on YouTube. It’s 10 years old – actually 10 years ago in November. We filmed it at Foxhole. 

She'll probably kill me for saying this but Aurora Sexton is in it and it's just amazing to me to see how she has transformed over the years. She is so fabulous and beautiful. It's just so many memories. 

But I love Wonder Woman and she's one of my heroes. I love her message but I haven't done her in a while. I did do her in front of the Capitol building at Gay Pride in Washington, D.C. in front of like 10,000 people though, it was great


I know you like to keep busy and you're always doing something new, so what's next for Mr. Eugene Ebner?
Oh, I have a lot planned for 2013. It’s so exciting. I have a lot of momentum around this video and I'm going to make the most of it. It really presents who I am as an entertainer - the energy, the dancing and the style, and showing myself in that kind of classy, classic way. There are going to be two more videos coming out in the new year and two new CDs. Because the response to 'Let It Snow' has been so great, one of them will be a holiday CD.  

Overall, my intention is just to make a difference and embrace difference and diversity. I’ve done a lot of internet radio, along with the gentleman who co-produced and directed the video, Pat Bowler, and we have our own website, DiversityNow. We did the show for an entire year and had Chris Parente, Olivia Newton John, openly gay artist Matt Zarley and all of these different individuals on. Now we're looking to expand that and maybe do some internet TV. There's just really a lot going on and it all goes to the message of just embracing who you are.

Tell me more about that message.
It's something I feel very strongly about as part of the LGBT community. I believe very strongly in our civil rights and having the right to marry just like everyone else. I’m very strongly into advocating that and spreading that message

I don’t necessarily come from a place of, like, I’m not a picketer and I don’t march or hold up signs. But I see myself as accomplishing the same thing with what I do. Like, the video for 'Let It Snow'. 

People might think "Oh, that’s cute" but what my intention was with the video was to show how gay people love and interact with each other the same way everybody else does. Some straight people don't understand it and I wanted to show it to them in kind of a subtle way, in the format of a movie or TV show they might have seen growing up.  

I’m very invested in doing whatever I can to make sure we have equality and our rights. And I'm very proud of Denver and Colorado and I love our gay community here because we have worked so hard and come so far and there’s no other place I’d rather live.

That's awesome. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Just that I appreciate you and everything you do as MileHighGayGuy. We’re all in this together, you know. We just have to keep believing in ourselves and keep being the incredible people that we are. Embrace each other and spread that message of love and equality.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Things To do In Denver When You're Gay: OUT @ Curious with Chris Parente

Channel 2's feature reporter Chris Parente (pictured left) returns as host for the 3rd annual “OUT @ Curious” - a celebration of GLBT community in Denver presented in partnership with One Colorado on Wednesday, February 2 at 6pm.

“OUT @ Curious” features a pre-show open bar and hor d’ouevres reception backstage at Curious Theatre Company, followed by Annie Baker’s acclaimed new comedy, 'Circle Mirror Transformation'.

Called "absorbing, unblinking and sharply funny" by The New York Times, the play follows a group of five misfit strangers learning about life, romance and hula hoops in an adult Creative Drama class in Shirley, Vermont. Named one of the top ten plays of 2009 by The New York Times, Time Out New York, and The New Yorker, the show was enormously popular with audiences, as well as critics.

The ensemble cast- comprised entirely of new-comers to the Curious stage- includes Denver all-stars Mark Rubald, Barbra Andrews, Bob Buckley, Erica Sarzin-Borrillo and newcomer Meredith Young.

Following the show, a VIP party will be held backstage with Parente and the cast.

Tickets: $40/$50 includes the pre-show reception and performance. $100 includes premium seating, pre-show reception and the VIP post-show party. The event is a fundraiser for Curious Theatre Company, with a portion of proceeds benefiting One Colorado. Buy at www.curioustheatre.org or 303-623-0524.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Home By Dark Panel Series: OUT in the Spotlight featuring Kirk Montgomery, Chris Parente, Sen. Pat Steadman, and Mary Celeste

Four local celebrities - Kirk Montgomery, Judge Mary Celeste, Chris Parente, and Senator Pat Steadman - discuss being openly gay in the public eye in the next installment of the Home By Dark Panel Series taking place this Friday, January 22 at 7 p.m.

9NEWS Entertainment Reporter Kirk Montgomery's interest in entertainment started at an early age when he acted, sang and danced in high school. Kirk also worked on a number of television shows in the late 1980's and has the dubious distinction of being Pauly Shore's body double in the really bad horror movie "Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge." Kirk won the Emmy in 2003 and again in 2005.

Channel 2 Morning Feature Reporter Chris Parente recently sat in for Regis Philbin on an episode of "Live! with Regis and Kelly." Chris has 13 years on-air experience, and his work as a journalist has earned him regional Emmies for news reporting. Chris graduated with honors from Indiana University, with degrees in both Journalism and Theatre.

Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman (D) represents the 31st senate district, which covers downtown and north-central Denver and portions and Adams County. He was a co-founder of a non-profit organization that lead the successful lawsuit all the way to the United States Supreme Court, ending in the landmark case of Romer v. Evans which declared Amendment 2 unconstitutional and established the first significant court precedent protecting the equal rights of GLBT Americans. PAt was appointed by Mayor Hickenlooper to the Denver Women's Commission, the Denver GLBT Commission, and currently chairs the Advisory Board for Denver's Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations.

The Honorable Mary A. Celeste is currently serving as the Presiding Judge of the Denver County Court. She also serves as an adjunct professor at the DU College of Law. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Celeste was in private practice in Denver from 1985 to 2000. She received her J.D. in 1983 from California Western School of Law, where she was the editor in chief of the California Western International Law Journal. She has been involved in numerous civic activities, including Denver Alternatives to Sentencing Sub-Committee, Career Service Authority, Denver Foundation Focus Committee, and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Small Business Advisory Council, among others.

Reserve tickets online at www.curioustheatre.org.