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A slice of the good life

Olympia’s Pizza Klatch Gayla

Comedian El Sanchez will perform at the Pizza Klatch Gayla Saturday in Olympia. Photo credit: El Sanchez

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Saturday's annual Pizza Klatch Gayla is one of Olympia's most eagerly awaited events, with outstanding entertainment, inspirational speeches, and a silent auction -- all to benefit a support and education program for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and their allies. The lunchtime support group serving free pizza started in two area high schools in 2007 and is now active in 14 high schools and one middle school in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Thurston County.

"LGBTQ+ youth are at an extremely high risk for suicide, self-harm, teen pregnancy, STDs, and substance abuse due to family non-acceptance, societal shaming and overall oppression," says Pizza Klatch Executive Director Rosalinda Noreiga.

Once a week, in participating schools, Pizza Klatch provides free pizza lunch and a confidential, supportive environment with trained adult facilitators for LGBTQ students and their allies. Student surveys in participating schools reveal that since attending Pizza Klatch 84 percent feel more supported and listened to, 69 percent feel more able to speak up when they hear slurs like, "that's so gay," 76 percent stand up more often when someone is being bullied, and 73 percent think about suicide less.

This year's 5th annual Gayla fundraiser at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, "A Slice of the Good Life," will be hosted by Aleksa Manila, a drug counselor and drag performer. Born in the Philippines and now living in Seattle, Manila is a Pride Award recipient awarded by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for social justice advocacy.

Headline entertainers will be folk singer Cris Williamson, local all-woman singing group The Righteous Mothers, and trans and queer writer and comedian El Sanchez, who is also a Pizza Klatch facilitator.

The women of the Righteous Mothers live in Seattle and Olympia and have been entertaining locals with rocking, gospel-inspired folk songs such as "Old Fat Naked Women for Peace" and "Homophobia Tango" over more than a quarter century.

Comedian and facilitator El Sanchez works out of the main office downtown and co-facilitates three different klatches in local high schools. "I'm also available to talk with students after group at school if necessary and provide students with resources such as crisis lines and pamphlets on queer acceptance, gender identity, healthy relationships, self-harm, etc."  

El Sanchez has worked as a standup comedian for nine years and applied for a staff position at Pizza Klatch after being booked to perform at the annual Gayla this year. "I was mostly based out of Seattle for the majority of my comedy career, although I did travel and performed on tour throughout the country including festivals, opening gigs, headlining gigs and Pride events in the South and on the East Coast. Opened for W. Kamau Bell, Wyatt Cenac and Michael Che and toured with Hari Kondabolu."

Advance tickets are available online at Bidding for the online auction is at

"A SLICE OF THE GOOD LIFE," 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $70-$130, 360.753.8586,

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