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Priscilla screening helps fund Savannah's first-ever LGBT center

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

When: Friday, July 31

Where: The Lucas Theatre for the Arts

Cost: $15

THERE'S a whole lot of fun happening behind the curtain at The Lucas.

Over the last two years, the historic treasure has been awash in the glow of timeless cinema, cult classics, and movie marathons fit for the whole family—and the weekends just keep getting better.

“Our big mission is to diversify our audience base,” Managing Director Erin Muller explains. “We’re really trying to make the theatre more accessible; we want everyone in here to have a good time.”

In addition to offering entertainment for a variety of budgets, ranging from weekend movies to the Philharmonic, the Lucas is also devoted to supporting local nonprofits and community effort.

This weekend, it’s a trifecta of fun and goodwill: a screening of cult sensation The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a drag show hosted by Tricksie Turner, and a presentation by Savannah’s own Blair Williams (Miss Gay America 2015!), all benefiting First City Network’s effort to build an LGBT center in Savannah.

Blair Williams, Miss Gay America 2015
Blair Williams, Miss Gay America 2015

First City Network (FCN), Georgia’s oldest LGBT organization, has been discussing the creation of a center for around 15 years.

“There are a lot of communities that have a community center, or a community focal point, for the LGBT community,” Billy Wooten, Chair of FCN’s Board of Directors, points out.

“We look around: a lot of these communities don’t have the resources that Savannah has, and don’t have the population in their community that Savannah has, but they had the wherewithal that they could establish a center and keep it fronted and keep it going. So, we felt like our time had come.”

While brainstorming effective fundraising techniques, Wooten recalled the film screenings and plays he had attended in the past that doubled as fundraisers for LGBT organizations and causes.

“I went to The Lucas and talked with their staff, and they had already put Priscilla on the calendar!” he remembers. “We thought, ‘this is kind of fate, isn’t it?’ You walk in, want to do something, they’ve already penciled it in! It was a natural partnership, and natural to bring in Club One as a partner, as well.”

“There must have been something in the air, because we talked about the movie, and within two weeks, they approached us!” Muller exclaims.

In 1994’s Priscilla, audiences are swept across the Australian desert with Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose (Mitzi Del Bra), Adam Whitely (Felicia Jollygoodfellow), and Ralph Wait (Bernadette Bassenger). In a lavender tour bus christened Priscilla, they’re heading toward a resort in Alice Springs, where the trio’s set to perform a drag show.

Between car problems, encounters with locals, and confrontations with the past, it’s a memorable romp with standout performances by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp.

Before the screening, the Lucas will welcome Club One’s star queens to the stage.

After the film, Williams will conduct a special presentation. While downtown’s drag show HQ threw a party for Williams after her Miss Gay America crowning, Muller is pleased to highlight the grand achievement once more.

Similar to the Miss America pageant, with 50 contestants, interviews, and onstage questions, Williams has worked hard for the crown, competing in 1991, 1992 (second runner-up), 1994 (third runner-up), 2012 (fifth overall), 2013 and 2014 (first runner-up in both) before her 2015 win.

“This is another way for the community to come together and celebrate a member being voted such a prestigious title,” Muller says excitedly.

All proceeds go toward FCN’s community center.

“You gotta have a group of people with energy to really run this type of drive,” Wooten explains. “And it all came down to money. When the economy is tough, it’s tough to raise funds. I think the timing now is very good.”

One local couple has made a $25,000 pledge, contingent on FCN matching it, and the development of a business plan and vision.

“We’ve already had a few people who have quietly said, ‘we will help you match that pledge,’” Wooten says. “The money we raise from our event will go toward that.”

Wooten says additional literature will be available at the Priscilla screening so attendees can learn more about how to get involved.

“We need a focal point for the LGBT community that would offer programming, opportunities, options for safe harbor for anywhere from the youth to senior citizens,”

he says.

Bullied teens, abuse victims, and folks seeking safe shelter for the night will all be welcomed. From emergencies to the seemingly little day-to-day stuff—like finding an LGBT-friendly accountant or dentist—the center will serve all facets of the community.

“There’s a number of outstanding organizations for people suffering abuse,” Wooten notes. “But to be an LGBT-themed center, we will certainly be at the forefront of those issues. When people need or want a gay-friendly doctor, they can call us. If they want a gay-friendly banker, they can call us. If they’re interested, there are classes about tax returns and retirement for same-sex couples—that’s the type of information we would have, and data trends on healthcare, options for those who are living with HIV and AIDS. There’s a lot of publicity and discussion these days about the transgender community...finding a safe, confidential space for a group to meet where they can talk and share and support each other—sometimes, that can be difficult.”

“Having a center they can call their own, where they know they can meet and be safe, and be in a confidential setting—that’s tremendously valuable.”