The New Orleans Coalition has announced the premiere of “Strange Bedfellows Make Politics: New Orleans LGBTQ Political History” on Thursday, June 27. The production is a multimedia, one-man show written and performed by Roberts Batson. Curtain is at 6:30 pm at Café Istanbul Theater, 2372 St. Claude Avenue,
There is no admission charge, but seating is limited, so reservations are required at firstname.lastname@example.org. Doors and bar will be open at 6 pm.
Coalition Board member Gayle Gagliano, Event Coordinator for this project, notes the date was chosen to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the “Boston Tea Party” of the LGBTQ rights movement. “On the night of June 27-28, 1969,” she explains, “New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Police actions of this sort were frequent in cities throughout the country at the time. Blackmailing homosexuals – and bar owners – was widely viewed as a monetary perk that came with the badge.”
But that night was different. Instead of quietly loading into the paddy wagons, the Stonewall customers fought back. They were joined by others on the street. The melee continued for several nights afterwards.
Batson explains the show’s title is a sly play on the proverbial “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” Shakespeare originated the phrase “strange bedfellows,” in “The Tempest,” and variations of the term developed over the centuries.
Batson brings to this theatrical project a wide experience as a LGBTQ political activist and historian. In the 1970s he provided the leadership to build the foundations of gay politics in Louisiana, initiating the creation of the Louisiana Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC) in 1980. As the AIDS pandemic exploded, he was a founder of the NO/AIDS Task Force in 1983. He was elected as an openly gay member to the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee and to three State Democratic Conventions.
Honors and awards he received include receiving the Outstanding Service in Politics Award from the Louisiana Council for Equal Rights in1991, the LAGPAC Commendation in 1995, the Spirit Award in 2006 and the Trailblazers Award in 2016 from the New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE.) In 1997 he was chosen Grand Marshal for the Pride parade and was voted Man of the Year by the Gay Appreciation Awards.
In 1994 he began the project to collect and preserve local LGBTQ history, writing over 300 articles on the subject. This expertise also provided the basis for his acclaimed Gay Heritage Tour, a French Quarter walking tour he has conducted since 1994.
Batson earned Bachelor of Fine Arts and master’s degrees in theater from the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His theatrical credits number over a hundred productions as actor, director, writer, producer, and designer. His play, “Amazing Place, this New Orleans,” a lighthearted view of New Orleans history, holds the record as the city’s longest-running one-man show.
The New Orleans Coalition, founded in 1967, was the first multiracial political organization in the city. It is dedicated to achieving social justice through political action and policy reforms at all levels of government.
Coalition president Anita Zervigon-Hakes says commemorating the Stonewall Rebellion is “an example of the organization’s mission to develop, advance and sustain freedom, equality and justice.”