BREAKING: WaterTower announces 2017-18 season

Today, WaterTower Theatre announced its first season under the direction of new artistic director Joanie Schultz, pictured. The five-show main season will include the following:

Pride and Prejudice (Oct. 13–Nov. 5). An adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, which Schultz will direct.

Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue (Jan. 26–Feb. 18, 2018). A regional premiere from Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes, which looks at the effect of war on a Puerto Rican family.

Bread (April 13–May 6), a world premiere from native Dallasite Regina Taylor. It’s set in Oak Cliff.

The Last Five Years (June 8–July 1). A two-hander musical where a could work out where their relationship went wrong… in reverse. Directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi.

Hand to God (Aug. 3–26). A Tony favorite from a few years ago, this play tells the story of a young man who allows his Christian puppet to roil his suburban Texas community. Schultz will direct.

In addition, two non-season presentations will be offered. The Great Distance Home, a world premiere conceived and directed by Ervi, will be the theater’s holiday show, Dec. 1–17. Then the Out of the Loop Festival appears to give way to Detour: A Festival of New Work, which takes place March 1–4, 2018.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘A Very Sordid Wedding’ adds more Dallas screenings (VIDEO)

As I wrote about last week, A Very Sordid Wedding had its Dallas debut Friday at the Texas Theatre, and added more screenings over the weekend, in addition to two more tomorrow. They have all be sell-outs, so the Texas Theatre has already added five more dates, through May 4. The dates/times are: Wednesday, April 26 at 9:15 p.m.; Sunday, April 30 at 6 p.m.; Tuesday May 2 at 6 p.m.; Wednesday, May 3 at 7 and 9:20 p.m.; and Thursday, May 4 at 6 p.m.

If you need even more reasons to see it, check out this clip from the film — a Dallas Voice exclusive.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kendrick Lamar tickets for Dallas show on sale Friday

Kendrick Lamar will “bear witness” when he brings the DAMN. Tour to American Airlines Center on July 14. Special guests for the concert will be Travis Scott and D.R.A.M. And if you wanna get tickets, get woke! The go on sale to the general public on Friday, April 28 at Ticketmaster.com. (American Express cardholders can access tickets starting tomorrow.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: DSM appoints new president

A Novice with a lot of experience will now head the Dallas Summer Musicals. But that’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Kenneth T. Novice, who previously ran the Geffen Playhouse and the Pasadena Playhouse, has been tapped by the DSM board to become the new president of the storied arts organization.

For approximately a year, David Hyslop has serves as interim managing director, following the sudden ouster of Michael Jenkins, who had run the theatrical presenter for more than 20 years. Novice’s first official day will be May 1; Hyslop will continue as needed in an advisory capacity.

DSM’s current season continues on May 23 with Circus 1903, then concludes with The Bodyguard in July. Its 2017-18 season kicks off in December with White Christmas; its 2018–19 season will include the acclaimed Hamilton.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Discord,’ ‘Straight White Men’

Ian Ferguson, Jeremy Schwartz, and John-Michael Marrs in DISCORD at WaterTower Theatre. Photo by Karen Almond.

There’s a lot of interesting things going on theatrically lately, even if it’s mostly coming from middle-aged, white, heterosexual Christian males — a terribly under-represented societal segment, I know, but stick with me.

There are three such men at the center of WaterTower Theatre‘s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, an unwieldy title for a heady comic discourse about ego and religion. In a strange mirrored room outside the space-time continuum, three historic figures with a penchant for writing — Jefferson (Ian Ferguson), Dickens (John-Michael Marrs) and Tolstoy (Jeremy Schwartz) — are thrown together by an unknown being… but for what purpose? They eventually realize their common bond is that they each have a different concept of Christian scripture, from fundamentalism (Dickens) to humanism (TJ) to some kind of synthesis (Leo). But which is “right”?

Employing historical figures as avatars to stand in for ideas isn’t new, and neither is segregating them in a crucible for conflict (No Exit), but writer Scott Carter doesn’t do so with pomposity, but with great human and insight. He’s a writer for Real Time with Bill Maher, so there’s already a baseline of religious skepticism you can expect, but Carter doesn’t tip his hand too much. Though Dickens (a flamboyantly self-interested caricature, wonderfully captured by Marrs) seems to be the object of most criticism, the point of the play is that, when it comes to spirituality, or even principles, we are all hypocrites. Because we just don’t know.

It may be early to say this, but I sincerely feel that Emily Scott Banks, who directed Discord, may herself be the spiritual successor to Rene Moreno. Like him, she has a fluid yet mysterious grasp both theatrical presentation and humanity. There’s rarely a false note in any of the shows I’ve seen her direct. She and Moreno share an eye for good casting, but are also able to bring out the best in their actors. In addition to Marrs, Ferguson and Schwartz are perfectly suited, and never become rigid archetypes, but remain genuine people. Over 80 fast-paced minutes, we get a lesson not only of giants of the 19th century, but insights into ourselves.

Ward, Wall, Potter and Campbell — men’s men. Photo by Karen Almond.

The lessons, and the people involved, are far less upfront in Straight White Men from Second Thought Theatre. It’s Christmastime, and a family of men — a dad (Bradley Campbell) and his three sons (Thomas Ward, Drew Wall, Brandon Potter) — have gathered to celebrate the holidays and needle each other mercilessly. The holidays often bring out negative feelings among family, although this doesn’t come across as one of those turning point melodramatic dramedies. Dad is jovial but tends to keep his head in the sand about his oldest son (Ward), an Ivy Leaguer who has moved back home to a menial job while one brother (Potter) is a successful if cutthroat banker and the other (Wall) a college prof and acclaimed novelist. Why hasn’t the older brother, who had more promise than the other, met with success? Is he not enough of a shark? Or is he not drowning himself in psychiatry to unravel his tortured soul? And why should any of them try to be their brother’s keeper?

The title, and the cast (well, most of it), would seem to suggest that these characters should be the unrepentant masters of their universe — they even play a Monopoly-esque board game their late mom invented called Privilege, to remind themselves of their advantages … but was the game meant to chasten them, or reassure them? They each seem to experience it differently. But in fact, there are other people onstage during these scenes of domesticity: Two Persons-in-Charge (Christine Sanders and Zo Pryor), who, between scenes, pose the men and occasionally eve direct their actions, like disinterested puppetmasters, forcing the men to play out their scenes are the P-in-Cs — or even, society — mandates. Maybe the privileges of masculine dominance … weigh on them? Perhaps all their homoerotic fraternal horseplay is a coping mechanism for human meaningful interaction.

The ultimate message of SWM — like Discord, directed by a woman, Christina Vela — isn’t how obnoxious these stand-ins for the mainstream are, but how that obnoxiousness may disguise many doubts and weaknesses. Maybe we’re supposed to have sympathy for the devil — not because he needs it, but because we need to give it to him.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week in queerstory

Ru and Gaga are both in the news this week.

Time magazine’s May 1 edition comes out tomorrow (I know — what’s that about?), and in it they name the 100 most influential people in the world. Among them: RuPaul. That’s not a bad thing for the Emmy Award-winning drag queen, supermodel, recording artist, TV host and shady lady. Other queer icons on the list include actress Sarah Paulson, Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Congrats, all!

Shannon Purser, who played the awkward teen Barb on last summer’s hit show Stranger Things, has come out as bisexual. She expressed anxiety about it, saying she had just come out to close friends and family, so someone needs to send that girl a toaster!

Will & Grace star and gay ally Debra Messing will be the featured honoree at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York. The ceremony will take place May 6 at the Hilton Midtown. Don Lemon, Ross Mathews and Whoopi Goldberg are among the others in attendance at the 28th annual event.

Lady Gaga announced the world tour in support of her awesome album Joanne right after the Super Bowl, and it all but sold out immediately. Now, the tour has released more tickets for the North American arena events, including her performance in Dallas in December. Act fast!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oak Lawn Band on the search for new artistic director

The Oak Lawn Community Band is in search of a new leader.

Founded in 1980, the nonprofit organization has maintained a slate of approximately five concerts every year, playing symphonic, marching, chamber and “pep” events at festivals and concerts. It’s all-volunteer and members are from all walks of life, but the mission is to serve those who support the LGBTQA communities of North Texas.

 Interested candidates can go to the band’s website, or send inquiries to tony.daniel@oaklawnband.org. Applications will be accepted until May 19, with auditions for the top candidates held in June.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Scenes from the Pooch Parade and Easter in Lee Park

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

An unexpected moment on ‘Survivor’ sets the transphere ablaze

Truth be told, I haven’t watched Survivor in years, though I did see the season with Jeff Varner. Varner is back for this season of repeat contestants, apparently, and last night — spoiler alert! — he was voted off by acclamation (no secret vote) when he asked a fellow contestant, Zeke Smith, “Why haven’t you told people you’re transgender?” It was something nobody seemed to know … certainly not the 8 million people who do still watch Survivor.

Varner, who is gay, initially defended himself by saying being in the closet that way was proof of deception and he was just trying to save himself — hey, all’s fair right? But the castaways turned on him like a collective snake, chastising Varner for the low blow of outing someone who was not himself ready to come out. During the closing confessional, he tearfully apologized, and Zeke has even written about the experience (remember, the show was filmed months ago in private). Sadly, it wasn’t much more of a teaching moment, as the moral outrage was quickly replaced by game play. Maybe the thoughtful reflection will come next week.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pulitzers recognize journo who spilled the beans on Trump

In the least-surprising news of the week, David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, for his exhaustive reporting on Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation’s shady dealings.

The Pulitzers are considered the preeminent award in journalism, as well as awarding awards for music, theater and literature.

Explanatory Reporting went to the consortium of journalists who broke the “Panama Papers” case. Breaking News Reporting, which went to the staff of Oakland’s East Bay Times, saw the staff of the Dallas Morning News as finalists for their police ambush shooting coverage, along with the Orlando Sentinel for coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Surprisingly, three categories — Criticism, Editorial Cartooning and Public Service Reporting — went without a winner; the finalists were considering not deserving of being singled out.

On the other hand, in the category of Drama, playwright Lynn Nottage won a second Pulitzer in nine years for Sweat, but no other finalists were named.

You can see the full list here.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones