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News Briefs: LGBT theater extends run of 'Avenue Q'

by Cynthia Laird

For the fifth straight year San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center has extended its holiday production of the raunchy, award-winning musical "Avenue Q." The show will now close Sunday, January 21.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a November 30 story, the Broadway hit about a group of puppets trying to make it as adults has been an unprecedented success for the nonprofit LGBT theater company since it first produced it in 2013. Demand for tickets has yet to ebb, even with additional shows added to the schedule this year and last.

The popularity of "Avenue Q" not only means sold-out performances for the theater, but also bolsters the company's bottom line and helps to fund its presenting new works by LGBT playwrights each season. It is likely that the musical will return in December 2018, though the theater company has yet to announce if it will.

There are still tickets available for the special New Year's Eve performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 31. The price ranges from $50-$60 and includes complimentary champagne and party gifts. Regular performances cost $35-$55 depending on the night of the week and location of the seats.

New Conservatory Theatre Center is located in the basement of 25 Van Ness Avenue at Market Street near San Francisco's Civic Center.

To purchase tickets online, visit https://www.nctcsf.org/.

SF Pride accepting grand marshal nominations
The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee has announced it is accepting nominations for 2018 community grand marshals.

SF Pride has a long history of recognizing generations of LGBTQI leaders and heroes who have led the way in the struggle for equal rights. With this year's theme, "Generations of Strength," the Pride Committee intends to continue that tradition.

Community grand marshals are local individuals or nonprofit organizations that have contributed in large part to the Bay Area LGBTQI community; or as openly LGBTQI-identifying to the broader society. Suggested nominees must live or be based in the nine-county Bay Area region (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties).

SF Pride will be accepting nominations online until 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 10. To submit a nomination, visit https://sfpride.wufoo.com/forms/p1dekqz31pcmrxz/.

Homeless memorial Thursday in SF
The San Francisco Interfaith Council and San Francisco Night Ministry will hold their annual homeless persons memorial Thursday (December 21) at 5:30 p.m. on the Polk Street side of Civic Center Plaza.

The event is open to the public. People are invited to bring candles.

LGBTQ centers announce holiday events
LGBTQ community centers in Oakland and San Jose will hold holiday events.

Before Christmas, the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, at 938 The Alameda in San Jose, will have an ugly sweater party Friday, December 22, at 11 a.m. There will be a prize for the tackiest sweater, so people can adorn theirs with glitter, buttons, and bows.

On Christmas Day (December 25), there will be a potluck brunch at the center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share. For more information, visit https://www.defrankcenter.org/.

In Oakland, the LGBTQ Community Center will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. December 25. Executive Director Joe Hawkins said people can stop by for food, games, and movies. There is no cost to attend.

The center is located at 3207 Lakeshore Avenue (enter on Rand Avenue). For more information, visit https://www.oaklandlgbtqcenter.org/.

The aforementioned Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center will hold a New Year's Eve party Sunday, December 31, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The center will show televised coverage of the ball drop from Times Square in New York City (9 p.m. Pacific time), and people can enjoy New York pizza, non-alcoholic beverages, and dancing before going to other parties or heading home.

The event is free. For more information, visit https://www.defrankcenter.org/.

Stem cell agency awards research grants
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state's stem cell agency, last week invested almost $24.8 million in 13 projects targeting a wide range of diseases and disorders.

One of those is a team at UCLA, which was awarded $1.7 million to develop a way to genetically modify blood stem cells to help make the immune system resistant to the AIDS virus as a potential treatment and possible cure for HIV/AIDS.

The grants are part of CIRM's Discovery Quest Award Program. Quest promotes the discovery of promising new stem cell-based technologies that could be translated to enable broad use, and ultimately improve patient care.

"One of the most important things CIRM is able to do is invest in early stage projects, long before other industry or private investors show any interest in them," Dr. Maria Millan, president and CEO of CIRM, said in a news release.

Other projects included a $2.2 million grant to Stanford researchers to help people battling liver failure.

Matthew S. Bajko contributed reporting.

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