Emmys queer it up

Posted on 19 Sep 2016 at 11:40am

louie-andersonIt was a gay ol’ time at the Emmy Awards last night, especially in the comedy and limited series categories. Indeed, the show got off to a very gay bang. Among the first winners were best supporting actor in a comedy series for Louie Anderson, pictured, playing Zach Galifiankis’ mama in Baskets; that was quickly followed by best supporting actress in a comedy for lesbian Kate McKinnon, mostly for her take on Hillary Clinton as part of the Saturday Night Live cast. Although the variety series has fared well at the Emmys with its guest hosts, McKinnon becomes the first regular cast member since Gilda Radner in 1978 to win an Emmy for the show. And Jeffrey Tambor repeated as best actor in a comedy playing a trans woman in the Amazon series Transparent. He made a plaintive call for producers and casting agents to give trans talent a chance. Also honored were recently out Transparent creator Jill Soloway for repeating as best director of a comedy. Best actress went, for the fifth consecutive time, to Julia Louie-Dreyfuss for Veep, which also won best comedy series.

Under limited series or movie, the big winner was the Ryan Murphy produced The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which took home trophies for outstanding limited series, writing, directing, supporting actor (Sterling K. Brown), leading actor (Courtney B. Vance) and leading actress Sarah Paulson, who thanked her girlfriend, Holland Taylor. Supporting actress went to Regina King for American Crime, which this season dealt with a gay teens.

Best actress in a drama went to Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, in which she plays clones, including a queer one. Otherwise, the drama category was dominated by Game of Thrones, which won best drama series, directing and writing. Best actor was Rami Malek for Mr. Robot and supporting actress went to Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey. The biggest surprise of the evening was Ben Mendelsohn winning best supporting actor for the Netflix series Bloodline.


PHOTOS by Arnold Wayne Jones: Maui now-y

Posted on 16 Sep 2016 at 11:28am


Ya gotta love J Sutta … don’t cha?

Posted on 15 Sep 2016 at 10:55am

The former Pussycat Doll gets her Pride on at the Dallas Red Party


Truth: One of J Sutta’s big career breaks involved her donning a tuxedo leotard and putting out fires with her top hat.

It was 2002, and Sutta — best known as a member of the now defunct R&B/dance group the Pussycat Dolls — had landed a gig as dancer in a Smokey the Bear PSA. She and her co-stars danced through the forest, extinguishing fires in the name of safety.

“Fortunately, that part got cut,” Sutta says. “But that’s how I met Robin Antin, who started the Pussycat Dolls. She said, ‘Cut your bangs — I want you to join my group.’”

The Dolls started as a burlesque troupe with a popular established residency at L.A.’s Viper Room, but soon grew into one of the most successful pop groups of the 2000s, having sold about 54 million records worldwide, buoyed by their infectious Billboard No. 2 hit “Don’t Cha.” But the glamorous life didn’t come naturally to young Jessica.

“I’m a girl from a small-town part of Miami,” Sutta says. “And it literally changed my life overnight. I left the country for the first time, there were fans standing outside our hotels, taking pictures. I danced in front of the pyramids at Giza.”

red_party_8Growing up, Sutta’s focus was primarily on dance, but in high school she tore her ACL … in both knees …. at the same time. What started as a major setback turned into a life-changer.

“My whole life, I thought I was going to New York City to be a ballerina,” she says about the injury. “But everything happens for a reason. It was actually the beginning of my journey into different forms of art.”

One of those forms was singing. “I wanted to be Debbie Gibson and Janet Jackson,” Sutta now says with a laugh. And she actually ended up meeting one of those idols, when Gibson was playing at the Viper Room during the Pussycat Dolls’ residency.

“I was like, ‘Debbie! I love your music,’ and she was like, ‘It’s Deborah.’”

Both Gibson and Jackson have something in common with Sutta, besides music itself: All three enjoy a big LGBTQ following, something Sutta holds dear to her heart.

“Growing up, all my friends were gay,” she says. “I always felt like an outcast and they felt like an outcast, so we had that in common. It used to break my heart — a lot of my friends’ parents tried to beat the gay out of them, literally. They would come to school black and blue.”

That history is one reason why Sutta continues to have a deep connection with the community — and why she jumped at the chance to perform at the fundraising Red Party on Sept. 16. It’s hardly her first gay gig; in fact, eerily enough, Sutta was slated to perform at a fundraiser for The LGBT Center in Orlando this summer — as luck would have it, the same week following the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“It was awful,” she says about the moment she heard the news. “I couldn’t stop crying. I felt numb for so many weeks after. It was just too real.” (The fundraiser was rescheduled for Feb, 4, and Sutta says she can’t wait to return.)

“I feel like the community has been through so much,” she says. “We need to heal the community. We have to remember, it may sound corny, but love is truly the only thing that matters in this world.”

And that’s where Pride comes in. With their focus on dancing and celebration, the annual festivities are the perfect forum for healing. Sutta plans on doing her part.

“I’m bringing all my dancers to Dallas Pride,” she says, her voice lifting. “It will be the best show ever! My stage show is where my heart and soul is. It’s all about making the audience feel good.”

She’s even not above a little flirting … a signature of being a Pussycat Doll, no doubt.

“Maybe I’ll pull you onstage,” she continues. “And I might even kiss you — you never know!”

— Jonanna Widner

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2016.


In defense of sap

Posted on 15 Sep 2016 at 10:54am

Often maligned as cheesy, ‘Camelot’ remains a solid, satisfying musical


Kristen Bell Williams and J Brent Alford excel as history’s first power couple in Lyric’s ‘Camelot’ (Photo by Michael C. Foster)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Executive Editor

Camelot has long been the reputable musical that it’s completely permissible to shit on. It enjoyed a healthy initial two-year run, opening just weeks after JFK was elected and closing less than a year before his assassination, and its presence in the Zeitgeist almost defined his presidency: The White House was Camelot, John the idealistic King Arthur, Jackie his lovely Guenevere. The metaphor was awkward — both stories end in tragedy, though their legacies live on.

Still, many dismiss the Lerner and Loewe musical for being naïve to the point of saccharine: It’s talky and sincere and slightly meta, with knowing jokes and a contemporary vibe (well, contemporary for 1960). The score is soaringly lush and romantic. And it didn’t help that the film version is pretty terrible.

But I love it.

Full disclosure: It was the first musical I ever acted in during my adolescent stage career, so much of the show is embedded in my DNA. But even decades later, it still manages to choke me up. Call it sappy. It’s damn good theater, especially as presented by Lyric Stage.

stageThis was the team, after all, who perfected the literary musical, first with My Fair Lady (adapted from Shaw’s Pygmalion) then the film musical Gigi (after Colette) before settling on T.H. White’s sweeping retelling of the Arthurian legend, a more high-falutin literary take than, say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of Norse mythology. They helped redefine the musical format with more structure and high-handedness. Why not tackle the formation of democratic ideals in a colorful pageant, with the specter of adultery adding a hint of Peyton Place?

Like My Fair Lady, Camelot rests a lot of the business of the story on the shoulders of a sharp-tongued hero (King Arthur, here played effortlessly well by J. Brent Alford) who lilts more than sings his songs, while the coloratura vocals rest of the female lead (played by Kristen Bell Williams). In both shows, the leads seem to exists in a sexless romance that gets mucked up when the leading lady gets the hots for another guy (Christopher J. Deaton, a seductive Lancelot). The forbidden love between Ginny and Lance is egged on by the devious bastard son of Arthur, the aptly sinister Mordred (Brandon McInnis).

Although it was a hit during the Kennedy Administration, it’s easy to see how politically relevant it remains today: A power couple brought down by a sex scandal, whose best intentions end up being ephemeral. Utopia is not sustainable, whether you blame Mordred or Roger Ailes.

One of the digs taken at Camelot is that its more about the scenery than the songs, but that’s not true in this production. Indeed, aside from one massive twisted tree, the scenic elements are at a minimum, which allows you to concentrate on how Lerner insinuates clever and occasionally racy lyrics into the numbers; “Take Me to the Fair” may be the show’s most under-appreciated song, and this production includes the often-deleted “Fie on Goodness!” (with its hints at rape), though the character of Morgan LeFey (and her number) is entirely excised. Jay Dias, Lyric Stage’s phenomenal musical director, apparently couldn’t get permissions for that section of the score, which is a shame.

But focus not on what they don’t have, but what they do: Williams’ clarion-clear voice, Alford’s Rex Harrison-ish sass, McInnis’ oily, The-Joker-As-Anarchist take on Mordred, and an under-valued score. Roll your eyes if you must thinking Camelot is old hat; the rest of us will be enjoying a hoot of show.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2016.


UPDATE: Trans actor and activist Alexis Arquette has died

Posted on 11 Sep 2016 at 3:00pm

UPDATE: People Magazine has reported that a source close to the family says Arquette died of AIDS-related complications.


Aalexislexis Arquette, one of the famed Arquette acting family whose siblings include Academy Award-winner Patricia and Scream star David, has died at age 47, her brother Richmond confirmed this morning. Alexis was surrounded by family after “battling an illness,” although no specific cause of death was given. The death, Richmond reported, was “fast and painless.”

Alexis, born Robert, came to prominence first as an actor, most notably in the Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer. She was one of the most prominent and earliest entertainment celebrities to identify as trans. Alexis officially came out as transgender and documented her transition in the 2007 documentary Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. In addition, Alexis was a singer and activist on GLBT issues.


Cocktail Friday: Happy Bourbon Month!

Posted on 09 Sep 2016 at 1:09pm

hudsoncocktailBelieve it or not, it was all the way back in 1964 — the era of Don Draper, naturally — the an act of Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit;” in 2007, the U.S. Senate named September “National Bourbon Heritage Month.” Well, we here at Cocktail Friday are never ones to let a celebration go un-toasted, so here it is: Your bourbon recipe for the month, the Tuthilltown Toddy.

2 oz. Hudson Baby Bourbon

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice

4 oz. very hot water


Cinnamon sticks and clove-studded lemon slice (for garnish)

Making it: Add lemon juice, a heaping teaspoon of honey and bourbon into a tall glass (or ceramic mug); fill with hot water and stick. Add garnish.


Drag legend The Lady Chablis has died

Posted on 08 Sep 2016 at 1:39pm

Arnold Wayne Jones with The Lady Chablis

If you read the non-fiction best seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — gay author John Berendt’s telling of the murder of a gay hustler in sleepy Savannah, Ga. —  you certainly walked away being gobsmacked by the presence of The Lady Chablis, a central figure and a popular drag queen who knew all the principals. When director Clint Eastwood turned the book into a movie, he mucked up the story with stupid subplots and sluggish pacing, but he had the good sense to cast Chablis as herself in the film — when she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination, many heads were scratched.

I’ve both met and seen Chablis perform, so I was saddened to read today in Variety that she had died, at age 59. Honestly, I would have guessed older, because her sassiness was well-honed. Savannah will not seem the same without her.

Au revoir, Chablis!


Oak Lawn Library seeking submissions for 10th annual Art Show

Posted on 08 Sep 2016 at 8:43am

Dallas skyline poster in editable vector file.For the past decade, Oak Lawn Library Friends has conducted a Dallas-based art show and exhibition, seeking works by its supporters for a juried display of pieces that reflect a theme. This year’s theme — simply called “Dallas” — welcomes submissions in six categories: Painting, drawing, print, mixed media, water color and photography. If you have any works that fit in with those, and want to let the gayborhood see your talent — have your pieces (ready for hanging, no more than 36×36 inches, and new to the event — maximum of three pieces per artist) prepared at set. Submission day is Saturday, Oct. 1, from 2–4 p.m. at the Oak Lawn Library, and the exhibit will be up from Oct. 3–29. A panel of experts will present awards for best in show, as well as first place, second place and honorable mention in each category. Good luck!


Cookout fundraiser Burgers & Burgundy moves to Trinity Groves

Posted on 07 Sep 2016 at 8:23am

knifeBurgers & Burgundy started when chef John Tesar was on the DIFFA Style Council and wanted to host a fundraiser. I was at the first one… and the six since then. It has moved from an Uptown condo rooftop to a fancy North Dallas estate’s garden, where it has been for several years. It seems it has finally outgrown that space, though, and for its 8th year will move to the Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, the walkway connecting Calatrava’s “Large Marge” with the Trinity Groves development in West Dallas.

It’s a fancy-casual event with live music and celebrichefs, where folks dress dapper and simple, where simple burgers are transformed into works of culinary art … all to raise money for DIFFA. This year, it comes on the heals of Black Tie Dinner (which, technically, moved a lot earlier this year), taking place on Friday, Oct. 7, from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 and space is limited.

In addition, here are some photos from the recent check presentations to the beneficiaries of this year’s DIFFA, presented at LA Traffic at The Joule Hotel.


Theater critics forum bestows annual honors

Posted on 06 Sep 2016 at 10:00am

Garret Storms, right, was recognized for the excellent production of ‘The Big Meal’ at WaterTower, as was director Emily Scott Banks.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum weighed in last weekend about the 2015-16 theater season. Some shows currently in production — including Constellations at DTC and The Toxic Avenger at Uptown Players — were recognized. Eligibility ran from Sept. 1, 2015–Aug. 31, 2016.


Akín Babatundé, Bootycandy, Stage West and The Mountaintop, Dallas Theater Center

Emily Scott Banks, The Big Meal, WaterTower Theatre

David Lozano, Blood Wedding, Cara Mía Theatre Company

Katherine Owens, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Undermain Theatre

Artie Olaisen, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Dallas Children’s Theater

Len Pfluger, Grand Hotel, Lyric Stage

CabaretProvidence Performing Arts Center

The tour of ‘Cabaret’ was one of the best this season.

Susan Sargeant, Play, WingSpan Theatre Company

Ryan Matthieu Smith, Trainspotting, L.I.P. Service

Garret Storms, The Nether, Stage West

Regina Washington, Harriet Jacobs, African American Repertory Theater


Clarkston by Samuel D. Hunter, Dallas Theater Center

Deferred Action by David Lozano and Lee Trull, Cara Mía Theatre Company and Dallas Theater Center

Faust by Michael Federico, Lydia Mackay and Jeffrey Schmidt, The Drama Club

Stacy Has a Thing for Black Guys by Ruben Carrazana, The Tribe

Temple Spirit by Susan Felder, Echo Theatre


Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, AT&T Performing Arts Center Off-Broadway on Flora Series

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series

Eric Bogosian’s Bitter Honey: The Best of 100 (Monologues), AT&T Performing Arts Center Off-Broadway on Flora Series

Cabaret, AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series

Ghost Quartet, AT&T Performing Arts Center Off-Broadway on Flora Series

The Sound of Music, Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth


Lyric’s ‘Grand Hotel’ with Mary-Margaret Pyeatt and Christopher J. Deaton.


Christopher J. Deaton, Grand Hotel, Lyric Stage

Bruce DuBose, The Night Alive, Undermain Theatre

Hassan El-Amin, A Christmas Carol, Dallas Theater Center and The Mountaintop, Dallas Theater Center

Ivan Jasso, Deferred Action, Cara Mía Theatre Company and Dallas Theater Center

Jason Leyva, The Whale, L.I.P. Service

Barry Nash, I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Kitchen Dog Theater

Alex Organ, Constellations, Dallas Theater Center

Brandon Potter, Richard III, Shakespeare Dallas and Shakespeare in the Bar

Garret Storms, The Big Meal, WaterTower Theatre

Terry Vandivort, The Fantasticks, Theatre Three


Karen Parrish in ‘Blackberry Winter’


Emily Scott Banks, Jacob Marley’s A Christmas Carol, Stage West

Jessica Cavanagh, Outside Mullingar, WaterTower Theatre

Amber Devlin, Picnic, Theatre Three

Frida Espinosa-Muller, Blood Wedding, Cara Mía Theatre Company and Deferred Action, Cara Mía Theatre Company and Dallas Theater Center

Tiana Johnson, The Mountaintop, Dallas Theater Center

Jenny Ledel, I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Kitchen Dog Theater

Denise Lee, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Jubilee Theatre


Janelle Lutz played Judy Garland in ‘The End of the Rainbow’

Janelle Lutz, The End of the Rainbow, Uptown Players and Miracle on 34th Street, Dallas Children’s Theater

Karen Parrish, Blackberry Winter, Kitchen Dog Theater

Allison Pistorius, Constellations, Dallas Theater Center

Joanna Schellenberg, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Undermain Theatre

Diane Worman, The Thrush and the Woodpecker, Kitchen Dog Theater


The Big Meal, WaterTower Theatre

Bootycandy, Stage West

Faust, The Drama Club

Grand Hotel, Lyric Stage

Long Day’s Journey into Night, Undermain Theatre

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Dallas Children’s Theater

The Nether, Stage West

toxie1Play, WingSpan Theatre Company

The Toxic Avenger, Uptown Players

Under the Skin, Circle Theatre


Jeffrey Colangelo, fight choreography, Christina Valentine, fight assistant, and Bobby Garcia, martial arts consultant, Animal vs. Machine, PrismCo

Design team, Faust, The Drama Club

Design team, Jonah, Undermain Theatre

Jay Dias, musical direction and orchestration restoration, Anything Goes, Lyric Stage

John M. Flores, sound design, The Thrush and the Woodpecker, Kitchen Dog Theater

Richard Gwozdz, orchestra conducting, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Artes de la Rosa

Kyle Igneczi, puppet design and direction, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Amphibian Stage Productions

Benjamin Lutz and Dillon White, video design, Trainspotting, L.I.P. Service

Lynn Mauldin and Rebekka Koepke, properties design, The Adventures of Flo and Greg, Echo Theatre

Scott Osborne, set design, The Fantasticks, Theatre Three

Karen Perry, costume design, Dreamgirls, Dallas Theater Center

Gil Pritchett, musical direction, Harriet Jacobs, African American Repertory Theater

Ryan Rumery, original music and sound design, Constellations, Dallas Theater Center

Garret Storms and Nate Davis, set design, The Nether, Stage West


Rose Pearson, co-founder of Circle Theatre, for a lifetime of visionary leadership of professional theater in Fort Worth and support of female theater artists.

Kurt Kleinmann, for his creation of Pegasus Theatre’s Living Black & White productions and 30 years as bumbling noir detective Harry Hunsacker.

Dallas Children’s Theater for providing sensory friendly performances for kids with special needs.


The forum is an organization of professional, paid critics that recognizes outstanding theatrical contributions in North Texas. Members must see 50 or more productions per season and are not actively practicing theater artists.

Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News

Martha Heimberg, TheaterJones.com and Dallas Weekly

Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice

Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com and Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Punch Shaw, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Lindsey Wilson, CultureMap