Darren Woods out as general director of Fort Worth Opera

Posted on 14 Feb 2017 at 12:33am

Darren-K.-Woods-(Hortensius)Darren Woods, the out leader of the Fort Worth Opera for the last 16 years, has been axed, according to multiple reports as well as a release from the FWO.

About 10 years ago, Woods began a series of innovations at the oldest opera company in Texas, including converting to a festival format (several weeks of continuous operas in repertory rather than a season spread out over several months), as well as the commission of new works, the mounting of local premieres, and edgy series aimed at generating new interest in opera by younger audiences.

The release from the board of directors praised woods for his “energy and artistic vision,” while saying a “fresh perspective” was needed to invigorate an ageing business model. A national search for a new general director will begin immediately.

This comes just months before the new festival is set to commence, including a specific outreach to the Latino community.

He has championed unusual artistic choices, often with gay content … sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. The opera version of Angels in America didn’t resonate, although Before Night Falls, about gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, scored with audiences and critics. He also greenlighted an opera based on queer poet Allen Ginsberg’s words, Phillip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox.

Woods was a trained opera singer in his own right; four years ago, he even took a signing role in a production of Daughter of the Regiment.

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DMA expands this season’s Arts & Letters live with Chelsea Clinton

Posted on 13 Feb 2017 at 12:55pm

For more than two decades, the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live program has brought in many authors, activists and artists to talk about their work in a seminar-like session. This season’s lineup was just expanded, however, to add two more writers: Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, will discuss her latest A Piece of the World on April 3. But even more exciting is the “get” of Chelsea Clinton, who will appear on April 23 to discuss her book It’s Your World

Tickets are currently on sale for DMA members ($40) and will open to the general public on Wednesday. VIP tickets are available for the evening event with Chelsea Clinton and include reserved front-section seating, a paperback copy of It’s Your World and a “fast track” pass for the booksigning following the event; VIP tickets are $55 with discounts for students and DMA members. Order online at DMA.org/tickets or call 214-922-1818.

 

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Grammy winners include many gay faves

Posted on 12 Feb 2017 at 10:48pm

The Grammy Awards broadcast doesn’t feature all that many handing-out of trophies (which is frustrating for those of us who care about, oh you know, the winners). I mean, they have time for two performances each by Bruno Mars and Adele (three for Adele, if you count her post-F-bomb do-over) and lame bits by overrated host James Corden, but can’t even do a scroll of winners? It’s why I hate the show in general… though having Laverne Cox as a presenter and Kayne leaving empty-handed almost made it worth it.

But in between musical performances — including a baby-bumped Beyonce that will surely be the most talked-about appearance of the night — they did reveal a number of recipients, many adored by (or part of) the LGBT community. (Since there are nearly 100 categories, I’ll limit myself to the biggest ones and those of the most interest.)

Early on, the late David Bowie proved a favorite with four wins for his final album, Blackstar, which dropped last year just days before his death. The androgynous legend won for best rock performance and rock song for the eponymous single, best alternative music album and best engineering. (The album also took best recording package.)

Adele took the three top prizes of the night, including album of the year (and pop vocal album for 25, as well as song of the year (awarded to the composers) and record of the year (to the performer and producer) for “Hello,” plus best pop solo performance. Best pop duo/group performance went to Twenty-One Pilots for “Stressed Out.”

Best music video was no surprise: Beyonce’s “Formation.” (Lemonade also took urban contemporary album, though in her acceptance speech, Adele all but gave it to her for album of the year.) But her sister Solange proved a winner, too, when “Cranes in the Sky” took best R&B performance.

Best new artist went to Chance the Rapper, who spent an inordinate amount of time thanking god for his win. He also won best rap performance for “No Problem” and rap album for his debut disc. Drake won best rap/sung collaboration for “Hotline Bling,” which also took best rap song.

Best country performance (duo or group) went to the pairing of Arlington natives Pentatonix (with gay members) with queer icon Dolly Parton for “Jolene.”

The best spoken word album went to Carol Burnett for In Such Good Company. Best comedy album went to Patton Oswalt for Talking for Clapping. (He bested, among others, Tig Notaro and Margaret Cho.) Best world music album went to cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble for Sing Me Home. Cast recording of a musical went to The Color Purple.

Best soundtrack for visual media (movie or TV) went to John Williams’ score to The Force Awakens. Best song written for visual media went to Justin Timberlake and company for “Cant Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. It’s also nominated for an Oscar, but it bears noting, La La Land was not eligible this year.

Best traditional pop vocal album went to Texan Willie Nelson for Summertime: Willie Nelson Sing Gershwin. Best rock album went to Tell Me I’m Pretty from Cage The Elephant. Best dance recording went to The Chainsmokers for “Don’t Let Me Down.” Best dance/electronic album went to Flume’s Skin.

Best engineered album classical went to the recording of gay composer John Corigliano’s opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, which also took best opera recording.

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DSO announces stellar lineup for Jaap van Zweden’s final season

Posted on 11 Feb 2017 at 2:12pm

In May of next year, Jaap van Zweden will conduct his final concert as music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, capping off 11 seasons with the classic music company.

Van Zweden’s planned departure was announced more than a year ago, and it will be another year-plus before his last wave of the baton as artistic leader of the DSO, but there are plenty of other performances until then, as just revealed in the DSO’s release of its 2017–18 season.

The season starts on Sept. 14 and 17 as he leads Mahler’s 5th Symphony. (He’ll also lead the DSO gala concert on Sept. 16.) He will then conduct Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 (Sept. 28–Oct. 1). He will end 2017 conducting celloist Alisa Weilerstein in Prokofiev and Schumann (Nov. 24–26). He returns in 2018 conducting the Lebeque sisters in piano pieces by Phillip Glass and Bruckner (Fe. 2–3), and immediately returns to conduct Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 (Feb. 8–10) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Feb. 23–25).

Van Zweden will conclude with a flurry of three ambitious concerts in close succession: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 (April 26–28), a complete concert version (including vocals) of Wagner’s opera Die Walkure (May 18–20) and finally the legendary Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven (May 24–26).

That won’t be the entire lineup from the DSO, however. In addition, there will be violinist Hilary Hahn (Sept. 21–24), with James Diaz on organ, performing Sebelius, Dvorak and more; pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Oct. 19–22) performing Debussy and Ravel; a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (Nov. 2–5); Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony No. 3 (Nov. 16–19); Rachmanioff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (Jan. 11–13, 2018); Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with soloist Nicola Benedetti (Jan. 18–21); Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony No. 6 (Feb. 15–18); Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (March 8–11); the complete lineup of Bach’s six Brandenberg concerti (March 22–25); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 (April 12–15).

There will also be a Pops Series (beginning with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue), and include movie music, a Christmas concert and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.

Season packages go on sale today, starting at $119. Visit MyDSO.com.

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Racism vs. prejudice

Posted on 10 Feb 2017 at 7:45am

Prejudice exists in our LGBT community, about race and more

CA-art

Buster-SpillerRecently, while making deliveries for a popular millennial start-up to supplement my income (legal pimping ain’t easy but it’s honest), I came across one of many Dallas Voice news stands in the Oak Lawn area. Star Trek star and LGBTQ icon George Takei’s handsome mug was prominently displayed on the cover so, as a self-professed “Takei groupie,” I picked up a copy.

As I waited for my customer’s order to be filled, I immediately flipped to the Community Voices section, as it is my habit to read that first, followed by the main feature story, local/national/world/wire news, and then flip to the back to see all of the happy “rainbow” faces of club-goers from the previous weekend on The Strip (We’re such a GOOD-looking community!).

So I turned to Page 13, and I saw the face of my friend, Dallas Voice managing editor Tammye Nash, and I smiled. Then I read the column title — “I am a racist” — and I immediately frowned.

There was something about seeing Tammye’s image and name under the word racist that didn’t seem quite right. Actually, it was very OFFENSIVE to me, and I became very agitated.

Why? Because I’ve known Tammye since 2003 when I made a bid for elected office and I can say EMPHATICALLY this woman doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. The same holds for her Voice colleague, David Taffet. Even though David is the cutest Jewish dude you will ever meet, he reminds me of my spouse, Gregory. in that he will read your ass with the finesse of a black homosexual, only nicer!

So no, even though I felt like I knew where Tammye was going with this, Spiller wasn’t buying what she was selling. Not. At. All.

In regards to social and political issues, we are often in strong agreement on the root causes of the problem, the need for accountability by all participating parties, and potential conciliatory solutions that are in the best interest of everyone. This includes issues facing the collective black community and the black same-gender-loving/gay community.

With that said, Tammye is a strong supporter of black issues as well as those of other marginalized communities. She doesn’t sugarcoat shit if she feels strongly about something (even though like David, she articulates her point of view much more nicely than I do). And Tammye is a staunch advocate/ally of our collective trans community, which makes her A-OK in my book!

So I wasn’t feeling Sista Tammye’s chosen platform to discuss her self-perceived racist leanings, white privilege and other issues we discuss from time to time. But I decided to wait until I was finished with my deliveries for the day so I could sit down in the comfort of my home with a stiff shot of Canadian whiskey to absorb this self-deprecating shit my friend had written.

Later than evening as I read Tammye’s column, I not only laughed at her words but I also breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Per my take, Tammye was describing what I would like to call “situational prejudice,” prejudice based on a very specific event, but NOT racism.

Prejudice is a negative perception, a thought, or unsavory view towards an individual based on their social group (gender, race, cultural, sexual orientation, educational level, socio-economic class, religious status, disability, etc.).

Institutional racism occurs when a group of like-minded individuals are able to collectively engage in some type of discriminatory behavior based on their negative perceptions, thoughts, and views towards another group in a manner to control and exploit.

A great example of this occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 when a significant percentage of white people felt strongly enough that they were being left out of the American dream because of “others” from different cultures that they used their collective vote to send a very strong, nationalist message. The daily dismantling of specific gains by the new presidential administration in the name of “whiteness” confirms my explanation of the difference between prejudice and racism.

In the LGBTQ community, we all have various prejudices and ours are very pronounced: racial, gender-based, sexual identity and orientation, sexual role (i.e., butch, femme, lipstick, diesel dyke, top, bottom and versatile — which still means bottom). Bear for some means kinky, sweaty sex. Bi means you’re a confused, greedy motherfucker who simply won’t pick sides. I could go on and on.

The racial prejudice in our local Dallas LGBT community was once previously displayed quite prominently. For those readers born well after the 1970s and early ’80s (which preceded my pre-coming out period), there was a time on The Strip where black gays and lesbians could not get into a nightclub without presenting two or three forms of picture identification. And even then, weren’t assured access to just have some damn fun and party.

As a result, the black same-gender-loving/gay community developed its own outlets for socialization and entertainment, similar to what the black community in American society overall has done in response to such overt racism.

Whites may complain, especially in the LGBTQ community, that we’re all the same because we’re fighting the same fight. But that not-so-distant past still has roots so deeply embedded in this dysfunction that it is hard to overcome.

One example is our annual gay Pride celebrations. You will see black participants at the larger event as spectators, but not many are actively involved in the planning and execution of those events. That energy is reserved for annual Black Gay Pride events where we know we’re not going to be neglected.

Yours truly recently received city funding to produce a Pre-Pride month play festival focusing on minority stories. Why? I didn’t want us to get left out of the festivities as is traditionally done, albeit subconsciously.

For the record, every human being harbors some prejudice, and it is normal behavior, even if it isn’t right. And prejudice isn’t limited to encounters with others outside of your specific circle; it can be internal as well.

As a black person who grew up in a racial community with specific biases against white people based on white privilege and institutional racism in this country, we also have prejudices internally against others within our community with the largest culprits being skin color and tone, hair texture, and facial features. Even in 2016, we are prejudiced against each other because of this.

BUT we lack the power to systematically have power over those WITHIN our community because their skin is too light, their hair is too nappy, they’re too educated, they’re not educated enough, their lips are too big, they’re not ‘conscious enough, they’re TOO woke ….

No, all we can do is bully the shit out of them and make their lives a living hell on social media. But at the end of the day, they can still get a job, purchase a home and avoid our ass if they want.

THAT, my LGBTQ community, is the difference between prejudice and racism.

So Tammye, GOOD TRY, but I can’t and won’t accept this.

Still, I really admire your conviction in trying to force everyone to talk about these issues. John Lennon once sang in the hit song “Imagine,” “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.”

I wish every white person had your courage and would just speak up. But it usually starts with “one,” so thank you my friend.     

Buster Spiller is a happily married, longtime activist, and award-winning playwright from Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2017.

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AIDS Arms announces its new name

Posted on 09 Feb 2017 at 7:30pm

 

AIDS Arms is changing its name. See Friday’s Dallas Voice for all the details, and watch the video to learn the new name.

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9th Court refuses to re-instate Trump’s Muslim ban

Posted on 09 Feb 2017 at 6:08pm
Trump

President Donald Trump

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling today refusing to reinstate President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banning anyone from seven majority-Muslim countries — including refugees fleeing the violence in Syria — from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days to give the U.S. time to “reform” immigration law and put in place “extreme vetting measures” to make sure no Islamist terrorists got into the country.

The ruling was unanimous.

(No one from the banned countries has committed any terroristic attack on U.S. soil since 9-11. All the attacks carried out by non-white terrorists in this country have been committed by immigrants from countries not on the ban list and in which Trump has significant business interests.)

Trump, as usual, responded via Twitter: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Trump’s administration will obviously appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the appeal’s court’s decision “not to reinstate the Muslim ban is correct. The government’s erratic and chaotic attempts to enforce this unconstitutional ban have taken a tremendous toll on innocent individuals, our country’s values, and our standing in the world. We will keep fighting this un-American executive order until it is permanently dismantled.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer — who’s great-grandmother and seven of her nine children were killed in the Holocaust and who Trump made fun of because Schumer cried while talking about his family — said,

“President Trump ought to see the handwriting on the wall that his executive order is unconstitutional. He should abandon this proposal, roll up his sleeves and come up with a real, bipartisan plan to keep us safe.”

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Dallas Voice has lost one of its own: Joey, our company’s gentle mascot

Posted on 09 Feb 2017 at 2:44pm

If you’re out on the community and happen to be around a Dallas Voice rack on a Friday, chances are you’ve bumped into our distribution manager, Linda, and her constant companion, Joey. A miniature Chihuahua, Joey has become our de facto mascot over the last five years or so. He’s always in the latest clothes and loves to be held. He’s simply the best goodwill ambassador Dallas Voice has ever had.

But tiny as he is, Joey was unable to fight back when a stray dog attacked him today. He died as a result.

We’re all pretty upset here at the office, not the least being Linda, his mommy. My own Chihuahua, Popeye, often visits Linda and Joey and they get along like gangbusters.

If  you knew Joey, hold him in your heart tonight. Maybe make a donation to a shelter — or better still, adopt from one. And if you see Linda, give her an extra long hug. In fact, give anybody you see one. We could all use it about now.

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SWAT raid leads to arrests at Oak Lawn apartment

Posted on 09 Feb 2017 at 2:43pm

Cory Smith with NBC5 (KXAS-TV) tweeted these photos of a SWAT operation in Oak Lawn Thursday afternoon, Feb. 9.

Four people are reportedly in custody following a SWAT operation at an apartment located near Dickerson Avenue, between Wycliff and Douglas, according to reports posted on Twitter by Cory Smith with NBC5, KXAS-TV.

Dallas police spokeswoman Diana Flores told Dallas Morning News a SWAT was serving a warrant in the area but offered no other details.

At about 1 p.m., Smith reported hearing “a series of loud booms in the Oak Lawn area,” and tweeted that there was “a growing police presence. Multiple officers.”

In successive tweets, Smith noted that four people had been taken into custody. At about 2 p.m., he tweeted, “State police now inside apartment that was target of SWAT operation in Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs area.”

Smith posted several photos, including one of the apartment building and several of men being led away in handcuffs by SWAT officers.

One of the men arrested as been identified by several sources as a former Club Stallions dancer who appeared in at least one Naked Sword Originals porn film.

We’ll update as we get more information.

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Come to Pride Night with ‘Hedwig’ at the Winspear tonight

Posted on 09 Feb 2017 at 12:18pm

My full review of Hedwig & the Angry Inch will not appear until later today or early tomorrow, but this is all you need to know: The show is amazing, and tonight promises to be even more amazing, as the Dallas Voice and Cathedral of Hope have paired with the AT&T Performing Arts Center to sponsor Pride Night, an LGBT-specific party-and-performance. Arrive by 6:30 p.m. to enjoy signature cocktails, a live DJ, cast appearances, a raffle and dancing until midnight (of, and you can check out the performance from 7:30–9:15 as well with tickets, here). Learn more about the party here, and check out the paper (in print or online) for the official review. Cheers!

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