Getting Loopy

Posted on 06 Mar 2008 at 3:57pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower’s annual Out of the Loop festival touts its gayest slate ever


GAY FOR PLAY: Among the queer content in this year’s festival: "Dixie’s Tupperware Party," top; Bill Bowers’ "It Goes Without Saying," bottom; and "Mr. Charles," one of seven short plays in "Surface TENsion," above, middle.

It’s a constant of film and theater festivals: The edgier the material, the more buzz it attracts If you can see the same movie at your multiplex or the play at your niece’s junior high, what’s the point in trying something new?

For six years, Addison’s WaterTower Theatre has mounted its share of oddball and offbeat shows, often with gay content. For example, last year’s "Great American Trailer Park Musical" had one of the characters unwittingly married to a gay man. But the seventh annual event, which gets rolling this weekend, is gayer than George Michael and Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Tony Awards at Neverland Ranch.

"We certainly weren’t trying to be uber-gay," says James Lemons, the gay artistic associate at WaterTower. "We always notice the theme after everything’s picked, sometimes after it’s already underway. But this is certainly the gayest festival we’ve ever done."

The main reason: A lot of the applications received this year contained GLBT themes, and all of them "were really great," Lemons says. And the city of Addison doesn’t seem to mind. "The town is always pushing us to do edgy stuff as a showcase for exploring the edge of theater as long as we’re not being distasteful."

So how far does that edge extend? Here’s a primer some of the gay shows to be on the lookout for. (Dates and on stages provided. For specific show times and prices, visit Watertowertheatre.org.)

"Dixie’s Tupperware Party"
One of the two headline events is this Off-Broadway hit, which Lemons calls "the dirtiest Tupperware party you’ve every imagined. She’s hysterical. I just hope people realize it’s a man."

The star is cross-dressing actor-playwright Kris Andersson, who plays Dixie Longate, Tupperware lady extraordinaire. Only this is the gimmick: Andersson, as Dixie, really is one of the nation’s top sales reps for the burpable plastic tubs.

"I’ve seen footage of her at the Tupperware national convention where they whisked her on stage and put a tiara on her," Lemons says.

The play is part social satire, part actual Tupperware party, so bring a checkbook and an open mind. You won’t believe some of the suggestions Dixie has for her product outside the kitchen and in the bedroom.

March 7, 8 and 9 in the Main Stage.


"I Wish You Would Just Get the Hell Out of My Life, you Sorry Motherf*ucker: Reflections on Love and Romance"
Lemons says the title alone sold him on the show, which is divided into two acts: the first called "Yes, Fuckface, I’m Still Single" and the second "Thanks for the Memories and By Memories I Mean Herpes."

"I told my mother the name of act 2 and she was sort of horrified," admits Jackson Ross Best Jr., the actor-singer who wrote and conceived of this cabaret. Best combines songs from a variety of genres (jazz to hip-hop to showtunes) into a confessional comedy about being dysfunctionally single in the big city. Mark Mullino accompanies him on piano and Best himself plays percussion, like the tambourine and a stool. A stool? Yep.

March 10, 14 and 15 in the Studio.


"It Goes Without Saying"
"I was this quiet gay kid from Montana, which means I’ve been a mime my whole life, even before I knew what a mime was," says Bill Bowers of a rural upbringing distinguished by silence. But despite stints on Broadway in the overblown puppet show "The Lion King" and studying for three years with Marcel Marceau, he understands that people’s eyes glass over when they hear the word "mime."

"As soon as you use the ‘M’ word, nobody wants to come including me. If someone said, ‘Hey, there’s a mime show,’ I would never want to go," Bowers confesses. "When I tell people what I do, they always say, ‘You’re a mime?! Why?’"

But his autobiographical one-man show "It Goes Without Saying" is filled with dialogue (he can speak when pressed to), primarily true stories about growing up in Montana that he has regaled friends with for years. Most of the stories are of a comic nature, but some are bittersweetly ironic. And yes, there is some mime.

"As obscure as the subject of mime is, it has had this incredible audience response wherever I go, even where you wouldn’t expect it. Laramie, Wyo., is probably one of the best reactions I’ve ever had," says Bowers. "It has a real appeal; I have to figure out what that is."

March 7, 8 and 9 in the Studio.


"Surface TENsion: Ten Minute Plays"
Robert Neblett, the director of this program of seven short plays, says only one is outright gay (another, about werewolves, has a coded message about homophobia) but it’s about as gay as you can get.

"It’s called ‘Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach’ by Paul Rudnick," Neblett says; he portrays Mr. Charles. "It’s about a guy who’s too gay for New York City and gets sent to South Florida where he hosts a cable access show. He spends the majority of the time answering questions about homosexuality."

Although longer than the promised 10 minutes it clocks in at a butt-numbing 16 minutes, Neblett says "Mr. Charles" is crammed with satire about all aspects of gay culture.

"One of the hardest things for me about playing the part is, he’s a very old-fashioned flamboyant gay man who is very much opposed to gay marriage or fitting into mainstream society," Neblett says. "After I do his voice, it takes me an hour to stop talking like that."

March 9, 13 and 16 in the Studio.


"The Dick Monologues"
There’s already been "The Vagina Monologues," so could its unofficial sequel, "The Dick Monologues," be far behind? Led by Spike Gillespie (a woman), a well-known literary light in the Austin writing community, it’s a collection of snippets, songs and sketches mostly written and performed by women.

"We have gotten a few letters saying ‘The Dick Monologues’ is pornographic," Lemons says of the early reaction to the show, but to him, that just means the theater is doing something right. Just don’t expect to see the name of the show projected on the signature watertower above the Addison Convention Centre there are limits.

March 8 and 9 in the Main Stage.

"Heaven Forbid(s)!"
Local gay actor and playwright Marco Rodriguez has made a living in guerrilla theater for most of his professional life, but with his latest work which won a DFW Theater Critics Forum Award last fall for best new play he makes a killing. Rodriguez and co-star Rhianna Mack perform half a dozen dead characters who address the audience from purgatory.

These comic but subversively political sketches touch on issues of sexual identity and multiculturalism with hysterically outrageous dialogue, performed with a dizzying degree of energy and only the barest of sets. This is the third production of the play in the Dallas area in the past year, but Rodriguez promises it will be the last for a while, so this is your final chance to catch it.

March 7, 9, 12 and 14 in the Stone Cottage.

A FRUITY LOOP
Out of the Loop Festival, presented by WaterTower Theatre.
Addson Theatre and Convention Centre , 15650 Addison Road.
Daily through March 16.
Individual shows, $10 $15;
All-festival pass available for $50.
For complete schedule of shows and ticket information, visit Watertowertheatre.org



This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 7, 2008

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