by David Cohen
photos by Scott Henrichsen


Buff, musclely, good looking and young are what define this new pop-classical gay band known as Well-Strung. There looks are not the only asset this chamber group has, which include the four hunks Edmund Bagnell (first violin), Christopher Marchant (second violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola). They’ve got talent which transforms into fun, theatrical and hilarious gay act. 

If they hadn’t come up with this new  concept, who knows where would they be? Bagnell and Shevlin were classically trained.  Mr. Marchant, who reveals himself to have been a skinny geek who transformed himself into a guitar-playing hunk. With their combined talents this gay singing group is unique in their approach. 

As a classical ensemble, this quartet is about more than musical perfection.  This is a slick choreographed musical comedy act that ties together well-known classical music with the music pop icons like Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Keisha.  They tell their stories in between, while playing and flirting with each other and with the audience, discreetly. The final result is not a classical concert, but a high-class cabaret performance full of fun moments. Well-Strung is charming, even when their jokes feel canned. 
In one particularly adorable moment, Wadleigh reveals he spent much of his childhood idolizing Martha Stewart, while Marchant details his transformation from scrawny adolescent to buffy hunk man. The Well-Strung quartet delivers a show that is best-suited for fans of musical comedy, rather than the stodgy halls of the Lincoln Center or the Met.

Mr.  Levinson and Mr. Shevlin, have done a good job at  weaving  classical music into pop hits which gives the show its essence. The show’s director, Donna Drake, an original cast member of Broadway’s “A Chorus Line” in 1975, knows just how far she can push before the novelty wares off.

And why they are doing this? “This is the first time I’ve been able to play music as entertainment,” said Wadleigh, who had been pursuing a career in musical academia prior to joining the group. “Some people have a very serious attitude [when it comes to classical music] about protecting this ancient art, whereas we can just have fun doing it,” and fun they have on and off stage.

“I think that what really excites people about us are our interactions with each other, something they’re not used to seeing, and what physicality that goes on in between the four players” adds Shevlin.

As music styles change our culture continuously,the most important thing is to have something different and unique as the famous stripper Gypsy once said “You gotta have a gimmick,” and a gimmick is something this singing gay quartet for sure has in spades.

Well-Strung will be performing at Center on Halsted in Chicago on Friday-Saturday, October 18 & 19, 2013. For information visit www.well-strung.com.
 
 
by David Cohen

"To be, or not to be" this is has been the ever present question since Shakespeare first penned it in Hamlet. From the beginning man has questioned the meaning of life, and its value when it contains so many hardships? The answer is yes, but you must know what you want, what is right for you, and then go for it without any fear of the uncertain future.

From an early age Kate Freitag remembers riding bicycles with the kids in her neighborhood of Port Richmond, on Staten Island, NY, where she was born and raised.  

To Kate bicycles were always more than just a toy, they were incredible machines.  Her fasciation with the technical aspect of how they are put together was the key to her interest of learning more about bicycles. “Any mechanical problem is one that always can be fixed,” as long as you believe in your ability to fix them.  

Kate always build and fixed her own bikes, skills she learned from her skilled mechanics uncles who were motorcycle aficionados and enthusiasts. “As kids me and my brother David, we were never allowed to buy new bikes. We had to put bikes together with what we had in the backyard.” My uncles always had their tools with them “I never had a time in my life where I was not surrounded by tools, and I have never stopped acquiring them.” 

This passion for bikes turned into Kate’s career. Even thought she tried to do other things such as being a florist at the age of 15,  working at a garage at the West Village, or worked for Pedicabs, there was something about these bikes that always kept on bringing her back to the thing she loves most - being a bicycle and auto mechanic.
 
Today, at the age of 33, Kate is proud to be The Fleet Operation Manager for Bike and Roll the biggest bicycle rental and tour company in New York City, Hoboken, and Chicago, with many outlets across the cities including Central Park, Governor’s Island,  Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Battery Park in New York, Hoboken New Jersey, and Millenium Park, Navy Pier and  Riverwalk in Chicago. 

To everyone it would seem that Kate is the perfect woman, she has it all, a good job and a perfect life. But the truth is, Kate’s journey to person she is today was much more challenging than the average woman’s -- this is because Kate’s birth sex was male. Kate has known her entire life that her sex and her gender were discordant. In the coming months she will undergo a transformation, which will be a major physical milestone in her evolution to become the woman she knew she was born to be! 

From the beginning, Kate always loved her job at Bike and Roll, the company which has been very supportive of her transition while taking hormones and counseling, unlike the previous places she worked at where she has experienced discrimination, bias and even abuse. At Bike and Roll she always was able to be  herself. “Normally you don’t come out with this openly, while you are going through the process,” said Kate. But “I didn’t want to follow that path.” 

Not treated any differently from any other employees Kate is proud to be part of the decision makers leading team, Kate implemented many changes to improve the company overall operation by adding inventory, computerize the system to be more efficient and effective. During the four years of her employment,  she  built good relationships with her coworkers “I’m just like any coach who takes care of his team.”  As one of the mechanic who worked for her Jonathan Rocha told us “I never even thought about her transition. I know Kate as Kate, and I have a lot of respect for her.” And just like Jonathan to most of Kate’s co-workers it doesn’t make any difference what her gender really is. 

And for those reasons Kate is planning to stay at her job after the surgery which will complete her rebirth as a woman. As she proudly said “I work confidently, not with the sense that my own transition is unimportant to my work, but rather that transition is a part of my work that can have a positive effect on company culture if others are allowed to know about it. I could probably work elsewhere and quietly go through the transition, or even disappear, but I know of no other place where I could be comfortable being openly transgender and taking the time to allow my physical self to catch up with the reality of my own identity.”

While Kate isn’t an active member of the LGBT greater community, she always shows willingness when the opportunity arises to share her story with others who have been in her situation, and who have been discriminated against.  She also engages with the online community from time to time to share her wisdom.  While Kate has overcome all the emotional burdens of being transgender, the financial implications still remain especially related to her transition, but she is confident that it all will worked out at the end.

To reach Kate Freitag visit Bike and Roll New York City website, www.bikenewyorkcity.com.