BREAKING: ATTPAC announces 8 new arts companies for Elevator Project

Josh

Joshua Peugh, founder of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, which will be part of the 2017–18 Elevator Project

The Elevator Project began in 2014 to highlight a few arts organizations without regular performance space, offered the 99-seat studio space inside the Arts District’s Wyly Theatre. (You need to take a elevator to get there, hence the name.) Oral Fixation, the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group and others presented their spoken word or dance or other art works.

The project, though, has grown; recently, DGDG performed as part of the Elevator Project at Hamon Hall on the ground floor of the Winspear Opera House, so the only elevator you needed to take from from the parking garage.

The  growth has led the AT&T Performing Arts Center to announce today that eight new companies will be added to the 2017-18 season (its third), among them: American Baroque Opera; Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, pictured; Jake Nice; Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble; Adam Adolfo; Soul Rep Theatre; Therefore Art & Performance Group; and Cry Havoc Theater Co.

Only three of the performances will take place on the Wyly’s Sixth Floor space; four will take place at Hamon Hall and one in the Sammons Park reflecting pool between the two buildings.

“It’s important that there’s a place in the Arts District where artists can take risks, premier work and find new audiences,” said David Denson, the ATTPAC’s director of programming who created the Elevator Project three years ago. The groups were selected by a panel of arts professionals that includes Terry Martin, Lily Weiss, Vicki Meek and Mike Richman.

Tickets are now on sale here. General admission single tickets are $25, with discounts available for multiple shows.

The lineup includes:

Masquerade: Opera Cabaret (American Baroque Opera). Sept. 14–16.

Big Bad Wolf and Les Fairies (Dark Circles Contemporary Dance). Oct. 19–21.

We’re Going to Die (Jake Nice). Feb. 8–10.

Guinea Fare: Her Story, Her Ipseity (Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble). March 22-24.

Elemental: Nature’s Rhapsody (Adam Adolfo). April 20–22.

The Freemans (Soul Rep Theatre). May 2–13.

The Alexa Dialogues (Therefore Art & Performance Group). May 24–26.

Babel (Cry Havoc Theater Co.). July 5–15.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

At the Women Texas Film Festival Thursday: The gritty ‘Ekaj’

_EKAJ-SIDEWALK-SCENE-withJAKE-MESTRE_BADD-IDEAThe Women Texas Film Festival opened last night with the lesbian drama And Then There Was Eve, and the festival continues tonight with the gay-themed Ekaj. If that sounds like some Eastern European comfort food, it is anything but. Ekaj is as American as filmmaking gets: Indie, rough (like the trade it profiles) and gritty.

It has been described as “Kids Meets Midnight Cowboy,” but it recalls more currently 2015’s Tangerine, about African-American trans hookers, hustling on the streets of L.A. A handheld camera shows grainy, cinema-verite images of pool halls and dim alleys, dirty bathrooms and pimply-faced rent boys. Ekaj (Jake Mestre) is a boy who likes to dress like a girl, and who hooks up with an abusive Puerto Rican street kid who pimps out Ekaj and steals from him but won’t go away. Ekaj then meets Mecca (Badd Idea), a caring guy with face tattoos and his own issues.

Directed by first-time filmmaker Cati Gonzalez, it has the feeling of improvisation by real people, not actors, showing us truth. Ekaj is a throwback to what indie filmmaking was always meant to be about: Personal stories, uncompromised by studio interference that glimpse an underground world the mainstream.

Screens tonight at Studio Movie Grill on Technology Boulevard at 7 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Why gay people are a higher form of evolution

Science has yet to definitively declare a “gay gene” — probably because all those evil-gelicals would abort their gaybies left and right and all hell would break loose (hallelujah?) – but just because the argument for biological evidence that determines sexual orientation hasn’t been substantiated doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Barring the discovery of an actual genetic modification that predisposes people to being gay, studies have shown that homosexuality is a heritable trait. Nonetheless, the research as it stands now is still just a bunch of lab-coat mumbo jumbo caught up in a tornado of politics.

Personally, I believe I’m a higher form of evolution. Not just me, though, but all gay people. I look at our community as a whole and, well, we do just about everything better than those who are not inherently equipped to think above the status quo.

I’m not a kook, either. Rather, I’m skeptical of most oddball concepts — like psychics, paranormal activity, crop circles, and whoever convinced Bill Cosby it’s a good idea to launch a speaking tour about sexual assault. But I do earnestly believe that you and I are genetically superior to our heterosexual counterparts. Here’s why.

We encourage, adapt to, and continue the pursuit of progression. Since the earliest recorded history –—about 97th-century BCE when Mesolithic rock in Sicily is said to depict male homosexual intercourse – gays have infiltrated and influenced all aspects of life, from art to government. We’re drawn to positions of power because we affect change more swiftly and more democratically than those seeking to rule, often iron-fistedly, simply to make up for their lack of anatomical endowment (which isn’t just conjecture, by the way; a study by the Kinsey Institute reported that gay guys typically have bigger dicks than straight guys) and we don’t have to look any further than our own current administration to see this time-honored tradition in practice. It stands to reason then that we have less to prove than straight men seeking power, who much of the time want to stifle progression, while we advocate on behalf of forging ahead, quite happy with what’s been bestowed between our legs. In the meantime, we may have already answered the age-old question: Does size matter? All the world’s conflicts started by cranky old straight men decidedly point to yes.

We have an “eye” for just about everything. You can’t teach imagination or creativity; you’re either born with it or you aren’t. Certainly there’s a case to be made for the cultivation of our own capacities — which requires encouragement from those who raise us during our most vital developmental stages — but once we’re in tune with our own intelligence, we’re unstoppable. We corner the market on creative expression, from home design and culinary arts to science and movie making, and our insight is unrivaled because we won’t allow it to be muted, even when some around us demanded it growing up. The downside to this, of course, includes our rampant daddy issues (for some of us, least) — but let’s be honest, we make the most of that, too.

Before I wrote this column, I asked my friends why they thought gay people were a higher form of evolution. Mostly because I needed validation that my own ego wasn’t out of control. It is, mind you — everybody who knows me will tell you that – but in this case, I at least have comrades on my side. My buddy Jason provided his thoughts on this particular matter – why we seem to get “it” and ourselves more than straight people understand themselves and their place in this world.

“For thousands of years, we have been systematically oppressed and persecuted by every major religion and every government,” he said. “Attempts have been made to eradicate our kind for millennia, quite unsuccessfully. I believe we are feared most because we are, and always have been, the most powerful beings on this planet. We give you your culture, your beauty, your fashion, your art. We know no bounds, and exist in every corner of the earth, from your governments to your churches to your families, and all of your institutions. We cover every race, every gender and every class.”

In laymen’s terms, we’re here and we’re queer… and we will inherit this earth.

Bullying and oppression has informed our sense of humor and self-worth. I use humor as a defense mechanism. Many of us do. But that’s because we were forced to find the happiness in an otherwise depressing situation. We’re made fun of, taunted, bullied, and put down everywhere we go — even today. But it’s because of that that we’re able to evaluate and identify our self-worth when nobody else will, and the sense of humor that evolves from that oppression is what makes us likeable, self-aware beings who can and will read another to filth just for kicks.

People are naturally drawn to us – for one reason or another. Straight women follow us around like tongues-out Frenchies, and straight men envy all the things we possess that they desperately want, like the devotion of those straight women. Whether they’ll admit it or not, heterosexuals envy us — and we should all sleep better accepting that as pseudo-scientific fact.

We are emotionally more advanced because of circumstance. My beautiful lesbian friend Leslie laid this one out bare: “The strength one must possess to ‘come out’ as different from the norm is pretty much as powerful as one can be,” she said. “As humans we want to belong and be accepted by our tribe. It takes incredible strength and resilience to risk being literally abandoned by your tribe and surviving. It defies evolution as we know it, thus making us a whole new breed of fucking fabulous.”

We are, in fact, essential to humanity. Dr. James O’Keefe delivered a TED Talk at TEDxTallaght in Dublin last year, and he related a story that was covered by NewNowNext about how his own son came out 13 years ago. Initially, Dr. O’Keefe feared for his son’s safety and happiness, but then his own analytic abilities led him to surmise that his boy was going to be just fine — because gay people are goddamned remarkable.

“Viewed in the light of evolution, homosexuality seems to be a real self-defeating non-productive strategy,” O’Keefe told the audience at his TED talk. “Gays have 80 percent fewer kids than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct in a few generations, yet down through recorded history in every culture and many animal species as well, homosexuality has been a small but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago culled this from the gene pool.”

Dr. O’Keefe went on to discuss how everyone probably has gay genes in their DNA, but they only would have been activated as a means of survival, like stressful external circumstances while in the womb. You can watch his talk about how homos are motherfucking gods among men on YouTube; the talk is titled “Homosexuality: it’s about survival — not sex,” because that’s the truthiest truth there is.

Mikey Rox

 

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

SCREEN REVIEW: ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’

Callum Tucker and Kate Beckinsale

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is the nerd-handsome, post-college scion of a wealthy Upper West Side couple who wears his scruffy mop of hair, bee-stung lips and mopey, bespectacled eyes like a uniform of overprivileged angst. He’s in love with a girl — he’s even slept with her, once (he remembers the exact date, too) — but she’s little more than an unattainable statue of hetero-hormonal lust; she likes him “as a friend,” and doesn’t see why he wants to muddle things up. Oh, and she has a boyfriend, how can he expect her to be available?

Young love. So stupid. So real.

Thomas eventually seeks counsel from a mysterious downstairs neighbor played by Jeff Bridges, whose elliptical advice recalls The Dude without the halo of pot smoke and with a nicer wardrobe. When Thomas catches his father (Pierce Brosnan) cheating on his mom (Cynthia Nixon) with Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), he refocusses his obsession on her — putatively to protect his prickly, bipolar mother, but ultimately because she’s a woman who gives him the attention he craves. And Johanna’s fucking daddy, so he gets the bonus of Oedipal revenge.

The Only Living Boy in New York is directed Marc Webb, who helmed both of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies (Amazing 1 and 2). But before he sold out to Hollywood’s voracious comic-book-adaptation leviathan, Webb directed the delightful (500) Days of Summer, another wistful romance about a sad-sack doomed because he “feels too much.” It’s a much tighter fit for his skill-set — an NYC populated by laconic hipsters instead of mutant lizards and superconducting humanoids. (Although, to be fair, UWS denizens are their own form of mutant.)

Cynthia Nixon and Pierce Brosnan

Screenwriter Allen Loeb (Collateral Beauty, The Space Between Us) has mastered the kind of arch but lovely dialogue that Whit Stillman has a patent-pending on — smart and erudite, but not overtly comedic. (The Coens and Woody Allen do the same thing, but there’s usually a punchline lurking in the back somewhere.) Its detached modernism evokes the city-lit of the 1980s and ’90s; the presence of Wallace Shawn even completes the circle of its My Dinner with Andre intellectualism. None of these are criticism. Indeed, it’s refreshing to experience such smart, omniscient narration from a newfound source.

The poignant voice-overs that slyly comment on a montage of assorted characters bearing out the ideas (another Woody speciality) are wonderful, as are the performances that undergird them. Turner recalls Eddie Redmayne with sex appeal, and Bridges inquisitive squints betray an earned wisdom. (“Congratulations Thomas — your world is becoming contextual,” he imparts.) Even in the smallish role of the fragile mom, Nixon bristles with lived-in pain.

Loeb does too-happily imbue Thomas with a faux moral rectitude, and the plot complications are less complications the tropes of the genre (including a closeted gay billionaire who uses Johanna as a beard and a tearful lovers’ confrontation in a rainy alley at night). But who really cares? Romantic comedies — or dramadies, which Only Living Boy is — rely on expectations and how we deal with them. The wandering hopelessness of hearts coming together and eventually breaking is universal.

The template for this kind of savvy storytelling dates back to at least The Graduate; there’s even a Paul Simon song on the soundtrack. This doesn’t detract from the film’s originality, but ties it to a greater community of sophisticated, urbane relationship movies. The Only Living Boy in New York deserves its spot inside that pantheon.

Four stars. Opens Friday at the Angelika Mockingbird Station and Cinemark Plano.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEW: ‘Hit the Wall’

Walter Lee and Garret Storms. Photo by Jason Anderson.

June 27, 1969, was a swelteringly hot day in New York City, but in many ways, it was just like any other day. Word had just hit that Judy Garland had died in London, and there was a pall cast over the “Friends of Dorothy” making their ways through life in Greenwich Village — a tough life already, at that. It was less than 50 years before same-sex marriage was recognized as a federal constitution right, and yet New York City law forbade men from wearing more than three articles of “women’s clothing” (and vice versa) or risk arrest. People were upfront with their homophobia, and in the clear majority. Gay culture was trying to assert itself in the only ways it knew how — bitchy shade-throwing catcalls from flouncy, defiant Latinos; dignified trans women cowed into subservience so as not to draw the attention of the cops, but still going out in public in pumps and a smart A-line; tense dykes hoping their “tom-boy” demeanor might make them palatable to dashiki-wearing activists. There was a code, and there were codes (penal, social). And it just so happened this night was not the night to be enforcing any of them.

The smack heard round the world. Photo by Jason Anderson.

Of course, we mostly all know what happened after midnight that night, as a raid on the Stonewall Inn triggered four nights of rioting … and sparked the modern gay rights movement. The history of the movement, and even the factual details of that night, are not really the subject of Hit the Wall, receiving its regional debut now at WaterTower Theatre. Playwright Ike Holter leaves the facts to the historians (he even makes a refrain of the claim “I was there,” which, if all such assertions were accurate, would make the Stonewall Inn roughly the side of Yankee Stadium). Holter is aiming for something more important than reality — he’s aiming for truth.

Because the truth is, all of us were there, in spirit if not body. We owe a lot to those outsiders (whoever they really were) who took a stand. The scenes that play out in Hit the Wall register because they are so familiar, or at least feel so possible, as much in 2017 as in 1969. So far away, and yet so close.

The play itself has some structural issues; I’m not a huge fan of the “multiple narrator” technique of having virtually every cast member break the fourth wall and address the audience in the serious tone of an sex-ed film strip, or the use of repetition to lend an air of poetic motif. But most of those concerns drift away once the production — a dazzling, uninterrupted 85 minutes — gets rolling.

The cast is small but efficiently used; you get a sense for the tumult and anger from just a handful of actors (only one, Gregory Lush, plays a cop — a vastly disproportionate ratio, to be sure). But Joanie Schultz — WaterTower’s new artistic director, making her North Texas debut — has assembled a crackerjack ensemble of some of the best theater artists around: Walter Lee as the cross-dressing Carson; Garret Storms as the good-natured vagabond; Kelsey Leigh Ervi as the lesbian as buttoned-up emotional as her flannel shirt; and Lush, whose utility at moving from playing gay to gay-bashing makes him one of our most protean actors.

Hit the Wall is a big-shouldered play to make your local premiere with, and Schultz proves herself accomplished at both challenging audiences and delivering the goods.

Through Aug. 20.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Onstage in Bedford gets a reprieve

ONSTAGE_Disaster-by-JAMIE-JAMISONWhen you hear about arts organizations get into battles with city budget hawks, you usually think Dallas and the Arts District. But for a few weeks, the roiling issues have been up in Bedford, where for 30-plus years the community theater group Onstage in Bedford has scrappily produced theater; it’s most recent production, the campy Disaster!, pictured, closed last month. Since 1985, its home has been in a venue called the Bedford Boys Ranch.

But last month, the Bedford city council was planning to raze the ranch, leaving Onstage without a home very quickly … and no prospects for a new one. In true activist fashion, the nonprofit organized its supporters to come out in favor of saving the lively arts in Bedford.

Last night came word that Onstage in Bedford is safe … for now.

The city council approved a $70 million bond package to be put up for a vote in November,” Mike Hathaway, president of Onstage, wrote. Many on the council supported the plan to earmark $10 million to expand the Old Bedford School into a performing arts center, which could then house Onstage. “Details will be hammered out on Aug. 15,” Hathaway wrote, “[but] for now, it looks like Onstage will be moving in a couples of years to a brand new home with no interruption in service.”

It’s always nice when the arts have champions among the bean counters.

Read more about the arts in North Texas this Friday with our annual Applause Issue.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Second Thought announces 4 area premieres

Blake Hackler by Kim Leeson

This Friday our annual Applause Issue comes out, which as usual will include a list of arts companies’ seasons. But today — too late for our deadline — Second Thought Theatre announced its upcoming 14th season, which will include four area premieres (up from the typical three shows). The season includes:

Hillary and Clinton by Lucas Hnath (The Christians), set during the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary. Jan. 10–Feb. 3.

Empathitrax by Ana Nogueira and directed by Carson McCain (The Great God Pan), a futuristic look at big pharma and what happens when a couple use a revolutionary new pill to get in touch with each others’ feelings. March 28–April 21.

Enemies/People, a world premiere by out playwright/director/actor Blake Hackler, whose last show was the amazing The Necessities. It’s a modern adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, with fracking replacing water contamination. June 13–July 7.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Alice Birch’s subversive new play about how language influences the female experience. Aug. 22–Sept. 15.

All performances take place at Bryant Hall, as usual. You can get season tickets here. And pick up Dallas Voice on Friday for out total Applause coverage.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Scene from Vancouver Pride 2017

This week, we published a travel story about Vancouver, and its gay-welcoming vibe. The story was timed to coincide with Vancouver Pride, which took place this past weekend. My friend Angus Praught, who was so helpful as a guide during my visit there, provided some photos of their Pride parade (in addition to my own travel photos).  Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Scenes from Vancouver: Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones

Read the story here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Fiddler’s Cave,’ ‘The Caveman Play’ at FIT

FIT-19-Dustin-CurryAmong the shows at the Festival of Independent Theatres is The Boxer, starring Jeff Swearingen and presented as a kind of silent film, including actual video. Well, two other shows at FIT cross-pollinate those elements: Fiddler’s Cave is Dustin Curry’s wordless pantomime about a man who awakes in a strange place with no memory of how he got there until he sees a silent film of his life; The Caveman Play, written by Swearingen (who also plays a part) deals with another strange place to wake up in: Trump’s America.

Curry’s one-man performance (he also wrote it, with B.J. Cleveland directing) is a lovely bit of tomfoolery, with his unnamed character finding himself in a traditional sad-sack situation a la Chaplin’s Little Tramp. He jolt awake and tries (successfully) to play a stringless violin, to keep water from dripping on his head (less successfully) and simply to climb out of this dank space (with the help of some unwitting audience members). For the first 15 minutes or so, it mirrors a circus act cum magic show, with Curry clowning and goofing with amusing visual jokes. But just as that has run its course, the story changes, and we see a film of Curry wooing (and losing) a girl. And suddenly, the cave becomes less a physical prison than an emotional one: How do you let go of someone you still love? It’s charming and tender, made more so by Curry’s welcoming face and deft sleight-of-hand. Fiddler’s Cave performs Thursday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Complex relationships are also the subject of The Caveman Play, but of a different sort. It’s a Tuesday, and Ugh (Chris Rodenbaugh) is arguing with his wife. Will he apologize? Does he even know what he’s apologizing for? Well, nevermind, then, if you don’t know I’m not gonna tell you. The twist, of course, it that the Tuesday happened 265,000 years ago, before mankind mastered fire or agriculture, but wives were already nagging Neanderthals to take out the garbage. The more things change …

It’s not difficult to see where Swearingen is going with all this. It’s not just interpersonal relationships that have plagued us for millennia, but also the tendency of leaders to mislead, of folks to forget or ignore when they are being lied to, of progress to be undercut by syllogistic reasoning and craven demagoguery. That applies whether you’re planning to raid another tribe or cast a vote for president. The allegorical implications are unmistakeable (and, in case you did mistake them, pretty much spelled out at the end), but it’s the comedy that grows increasingly more poignant that gets you. The Caveman Play performs Saturday art 8 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones