Resource Center names 5 Factor recipients

steve kembleResource Center’s annual 5 Factor — which honors five individuals or organizations for their commitment to the community in five areas — has announced the recipients for 2016. They are:

Culinary: Culinaire food and beverage concepts

Media: Steve Kemble, pictured

Community: Chris Bengston, Caven Enterprises

Government: Councilman Adam Medrano

Philanthropy: Rodd Gray, aka Patti LePlae Safe

The awards will be held on Sept. 23 at 7 for Parties in the Design District. Tickets are $65. Congrats!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

HG Sply Co. to open in Fort Worth next week

QuesoHG Sply Co., the foodie-centric restaurant and bar that helped continue the resurgence of development along Lower Greenville Avenue, will expand to a second location, this time in Fort Worth, beginning Monday.

The Cowtown version will continue to use all-natural ingredients when it opens in the WestBend mixed-use development at 1621 River Run. The menu — which will include salads, burgers, brats and queso, pictured, among other items — has been created by chef Danyele McPherson, while Eric O’Connor, formerly of Winslow’s Wine Cafe, will serve as the location’s chef de cuisine.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Arboretum continues Chefs in Nature series

JANICE.door.joy.2015Last month, the Dallas Arboretum launched a new culinary event: Chefs in Nature, where local chefs share recipes, prepare some bites and pair their dishes with a few cocktails. There are three more events scheduled each month. Tomorrow, Aug. 17, will feature community favorite Janice Provost of Parigi, pictured, conjuring up a light menu with two summer cocktails and tips on making her French-Italian fusion food. On Sept. 21, Nikky Phinyawatana of Asian Mint will create the meal. It will all culminate on Oct. 16 with a Harvest Feast featuring six chefs, each preparing a course.

The August and September events run from 6–7:30 p.m. The price is $70 ($63 for members). Learn more here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kitchen LTO is back… and you can be a part of it

CasieCaldwellheadshotIt was just last month that we announced that Kitchen LTO, Casie Caldwell’s permanent pop-up restaurant in Trinity Groves, was closing its doors (as we said) “for now.” Caldwell promised that it would return. And that’s now set to happen.

“Kitchen LTO is ‘popping up’ again!” she told me. “The support I received to keep the restaurant going was overwhelming, and now I have the opportunity to relocate.” Where to?

East Dallas, get ready: Deep Ellum!

The idea is to build the brand via a grassroots campaign, starting with a Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to raise $50,000 — not the cost to pay for the entire restaurant by any stretch, but to begin build-out, equipment, etc., at the space where Twenty Seven Restaurant is (2901 Elm St.).

If you wanna get involved, you have 26 days to contribute to the campaign by going here.

Caldwell continues to operate the popular Pink Magnolia in Oak Cliff with chef Blythe Beck.

And check out Dallas Voice on Friday for more of our food week Food Issue.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

If you read Dallas Voice’s food section, you’d have known the best taqueria in town months ago

IMG_1201Friday is Dallas Voice’s annual Food Issue, but to get it started, we’ll be doing some blog posts to, let’s say, whet your appetite.

First up: Here is why you should read our food section regularly. Last March, I stopped by a neighborhood taqueria its first night of operation. I was, in fact, the first official customer for this unsuspecting West Dallas storefront, sandwiched between auto shops on Singleton Boulevard. The decor? None. The waitstaff? No existent. The menu? Really limited — like, six items. Total. Three tacos, three quesadillas. You had to work to break ten bucks.

I ordered two tacos and a quesadillas …. and I was wowed by what I tasted. I stopped by three more times in the next 10 days; within a month, I had published the first-ever review of Trompo. I raved. I Instagrammed and Facebooked and Tweeted its delights. It was never very crowded when I went it, but damn was it great.

IMG_0961If you had paid attention to me then — and some did — you would have been on the ground floor of something that has become something of a phenomenon. Last month, Bon Appetit magazine declared humble little Trompo one of the top 50 new restaurants. In America.

The acclaim has led to huge lines, sellouts, even new hours (from “until 10 p.m.” to “until we run out”). I’m delighted for owner/chef Luis Olvera. He’s hiring more staff. It’s great for Dallas, great for tacos. And you could have been going there for months… without the lines. So listen up! We have more food news ahead…. before Bon Appetit gets it. Pick up the Voice Friday for more … and check back on the website all the time for foodie news.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Happy Rum Month!

View More: http://phillipvn.pass.us/happiesthour-flordecanaHappy National Rum Month! You say you didn’t know there was a National Rum Month? Hey, there’s a National Everything Month — get with the times.

As part of the celebration, here are a few rum drinks that can sweeten up your August, both made with Flor to Cana (Flower of Sugar Cane) Chilean rum.

Flor de Cana Manhattan

2 oz. Flor de Can 7 rum

1 oz. sweet vermouth

Maraschino liqueur

Orange bitters

Making it: Add rum, vermouth, a splash of the cherry liqueur and 1 dash of bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Flor Rum Sour 1Flor Rum Sour

1 oz. Flor de Cana 7 rum

1 oz. fresh lemon juice

Extra-fine sugar

1/2 egg white

Angostura bitters

Making it: Add the rum, lemon juice, a dash of sugar and egg white into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, Strain into an old-fashioned glass and top with a dash of bitters.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sign of the times

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Don Jones has been translating the arts for the hearing-impaired for more than a quarter century, but he’s not the only one … at least not anymore. Last month, Theatre 3 announced its partnership with the Deaf Action Center to begin interpreted performances of its shows this coming season, in both the mainstage and smaller Theatre Too space.

The first show to received simultaneous performance in American Sign Language is The Novelist, pictured, which is currently running, but if you missed it, just plan to attend the second Thursday of every show this season (except for Day Light, which will be interpreted on the third Thursday).

“Everyone at Theatre 3 is pleased about our new collaboration with Deaf Action Center,” says Merrie Brewer, T3’s managing director. “We truly want everyone to feel at home here.”

Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A year in the life

We narrow down a year’s worth of performing and visual arts into one fantastic must-see events calendar

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The stage version of the acclaimed best seller ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ wowed Broadway audiences in 2014, and will make its local debut in Dallas this January.

by Arnold Wayne Jones

There’s so much offered by the North Texas arts community, it’s easy to get lost in it all. So once again, we’ve curated a list of the best of the best. Culled from all the currently-announced events around the Metroplex from now until next summer, we’ve narrowed down the standouts to four or five must-see shows each for Autumn, Winter/Spring and Summer. And always check out Dallas Voice for updates, late-comers and the hottest goings-on year round.

AUTUMN
Camelot at the Irving Arts Center, Sept. 9–18. On the cusp of an historic presidential election, Lyric Stage revives this charming chestnut of the JFK era, often dismissed as sentimental but with a lush score and great opportunity for design indulgence. And if there’s one company that knows how to go overboard on old-school B’way, it’s Lyric. Presented by Lyric Stage.

Moby-Dick at the Winspear Opera House, Nov. 4–20. Gay composer Jake Heggie wowed audiences a few years ago with this world premiere opera, which prepares for a triumphal return. Presented by Dallas Opera.

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, Nov. 4–20. It’s been about a decade since a local troupe has produced Tony Kushner’s muscular dissection of AIDS during the Reagan Era — a sobering, gorgeous, literary and frequently humorous look at society at a crossroads. Presented by Uptown Players.

Bruce Wood: Six at City Performance Hall, Nov. 11–12. Any time you can see this company perform, it’s cause to celebrate. Presented by Bruce Wood Dance Project.

WINTER/SPRING
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Winspear Opera House, Jan. 11–22. Novelist Mark Haddon’s 2003 book, about an autistic boy who investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog, was adapted to the stage with award-winning results. Presented by ATTPAC.

An American in Paris at Fair Park Music Hall, Jan. 31–Feb. 12 and Bass Performance Hall, Feb. 14–19.  Gay dancer/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon won a Tony for his lush stage version of the Gershwins’ movie musical. Presented by Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth.

The Illusionists at the Fair Park Music Hall, Feb. 28–March 5. This return engagement is an eye-popping feast for lovers of magic, legerdemain, showmanship and comedy. Presented by Dallas Summer Musicals.

Passing Strange at Theatre 3, March 2–26. Underground musician and playwright Stew went Uptown in 2008 with this autobiographical musical, one of the smartest and rockingest shows of the decade. Presented by Theatre 3.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the City Performance Hall, March 31–April 1. One of the most acclaimed contemporary dance troupes returns. Presented by TITAS.

SUMMER
New Works Festival at the Trinity River Arts Center,  June 9–July 1. The festival this year was as good as its ever been, so our hopes are high for next year’s centerpiece production, Br’er Cotton. Presented by Kitchen Dog Theater.

Hood at the Wyly Theatre, June 29–Aug. 6. Playwright Doug Beane and hubbie composer Lewis Flinn team again for a comic riff on a classic tale — Robin Hood — in this world premiere musical.  Presented by Dallas Theater Center.

La Cage aux Folles at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, July 14–30. Uptown Players has finally gotten around to producing the musical practically designed for their audience — this empowering comic drag gem. Presented by UP.

The Life and (Cruel) Times of Conchita Zaragoza: A Mambo Musical at the Stone Cottage Theatre, July 14–Aug. 6. Mark-Brian Sonna produces sassy comedies with a Latin flair, so we’re looking forward to this flamboyantly titled show. Presented by MBS Productions.

Sunday in the Park with George at the Addison Theatre Centre, July 28–Aug. 20. This rarely-performed piece from Stephen Sondheim has one of his brightest scores, and will finally get a big local production. Presented by WaterTower Theatre.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown boys

Uptown Players co-founders Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch reflect on 15 years of changing the landscape of theater in North Texas

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Craig Lynch and Jeff Rane pose among the posters for shows they have produced over 15 years (they estimate nearly 100 since 2001). Next up will be ‘The Toxic Avenger,’ followed by the fifth annual Pride Performing Arts Festival in September.

By Arnold Wayne Jones

In the summer of 2001, two friends, both local actors — Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch — decided they were tired of looking for good theater; they wanted to create their own. They planned and raised money to produce a play with a gay sensibility called When Pigs Fly. Then 9/11 happened, but that didn’t discourage them. Why would it? This was a one-off, a toe-in-the-water production.

“We wanted to do one show — maybe one every year or two,” Rane recalls.

They gave their production company a name: Uptown Players. They were just playin’, after all. It’s not like this would become a career or anything.

Fifteen years later, it has become far more than they could have imagined.

“The second week into When Pigs Fly is when our patrons were saying, ‘You have to do more,’” Rane says. “So we put together a season, a budget and found funding very quickly. And it has just sort of continued to grow.”

“I think we fell in a really good time when there wasn’t a GLBT-dedicated theater here in Dallas, and the GLBT community was thriving. The Turtle Creek Chorale was becoming big, the Cathedral of Hope had record membership, the community was just gelling back then,” adds Lynch.

“There was just a large need that had not been met, but I don’t think either of us knew how large the need was,” Rane says. “Everything’s happened so quickly. The growth and the interest and the response was amazing.”

They hesitate to speculate about how and why they tapped into a Zeitgeist. Maybe it was a desire of people to get away from going to the bars. Maybe it was because the gay rights movement had hit a sweet spot of empowerment. Maybe it was because they were putting on a comedy around Christmastime, after the whole nation had been weighed down by the sadness of the previous three months.

“We as a community were starting to be accepted more,” says Lynch. “Gay characters were onstage and on TV. It was important in our first year to have fun, but also to cover some history about the GLBT community.”

And while they won’t say it aloud, maybe they were just that damn good at what they were doing.

“I think people very quickly realized that we were doing things that hadn’t been seen. And that was intentional,” Rane concedes. “We weren’t interested in doing Naked Boys Singing and Making Porn — we wanted to do real theater that appealed to a gay audience, and they appreciated that. And that’s what drew so many of them in initially.”

The theater landscape in North Texas has never been the same.

Uptown Players, quite literally, reconfigured what audiences in one of America’s largest cities would become accustomed to. Established troupes like the Dallas Theater Center and Theatre 3 took notice, including more racy, adult content (full-frontal nudity! Men kissing!) and expanding the scope of their seasons.

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“I felt like when WaterTower did The Laramie Project was the first show we thought would be really good for us that went to someone else. That’s when we saw other theaters were applying for titles [they probably wouldn’t have before],” Rane says.

That hasn’t deterred Lynch and Rane from compiling seasons — usually comprised of two musicals, a comedy, a drama, their fundraising Broadway Our Way revue, as well as the Pride Performing Arts Festival and occasional concert-version shows and drag comedies at the Rose Room — that speak directly to the gay community… and a wider audience as well.

“Initially we ended up with a majority of the audience as gay men in that first season. This was another thing to do other than go to bars at night,” says Lynch. “It’s a social outing. “Phillip [Hearne, Lynch’s husband] has a cult following behind the bar — I could plop a cute boy up there, and his regulars will still come to get a drink from him.”

“It has become a four-times-a -year social thing — seven or eight couples will plan their [trips to the theater together],” Rane says. And not just gay men, either.

“People think, ‘I can go to the theater and take my girlfriend from work.’ They bring their friends and their moms and their aunts,” Lynch says. UP’s manager of patron services, in fact, is Nancy Rubin — a married straight lady.

Gay plays aren’t that difficult to come by — heck, they would spend a lifetime just doing plays by Paul Rudnick, Terrence McNally, Del Shores and Charles Busch, all of whom have been represented multiple times. Musicals are sometimes more difficult to curate. Lyric Stage does wonders recreating the classics of past decades; newer, gayer musicals (Fun Home, Kinky Boots, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Book of Mormon) are harder (and more expensive) to get the rights to… and more challenging to do justice.

“I would say Next to Normal [the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a family coping with mental illness] was the first one we said, ‘We have to do this one right,’” says Rane. “We were the first regional theater to get to do it and the first time, and it was pretty massive: A three story set, etc.” (No surprise: the production was a stunning success.)

He and Lynch agree, however, that one show stands out as the hugest of the huge: The Producers, which came with more costumes than they’d ever seen.

That could be eclipsed in their upcoming 16th season, however, by two shows. First, their production of Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner’s seminal work about gay issues in the 1980s. It’s a perfect fit for their mission, and the first time the show will be presented at the Kalita Humphreys Theater since DTC’s controversial staging in 1996. (Reaction from their subscribers was so incensed, a planned production of Part Two: Perestroika, never took place; UP says they fully intend to mount Part Two in their 2018 season.)

Then next summer, La Cage aux Folles should rival The Producers for grandiosity… and once again, dovetail perfectly with the company’s mission to bring art by, of and about the queer experience to their audience.

The question may soon become: How can Uptown up itself?

They haven’t done many repeats — Kiss of the Spider Woman and Pageant are the only shows they have mounted full productions of in separate seasons. But that could happen more in the future. And they are always looking to create an overall experience for their patrons from show to show.

“There are things that, over time, audiences have come to expect. I don’t know that we are necessarily targeting [the works of specific playwrights, for instance], but we are always looking for the freshest things — even if they are older plays,” Rane says.

“We concentrate on developing a season that isn’t all one thing — it has to follow [an arc],” Lynch says. Sometimes they are able to “snatch up” a show that has just become available.

And after 15 years, they are no longer low-troupe-on-the-totem-pole for winning production rights to some primo shows. Their reputation, it seems, has grown with them beyond Texas. They may be called Uptown Players, but the sky’s the limit.

The Toxic Avenger, Kalita Humphreys  Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Aug. 26–Sept. 11. UptownPlayers.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The queen strikes back

Alyssa Edwards tackles ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ again, this time as an  All Star.  And she’s more prepared than eve

ALL-STARS-GROUP

By J. DENTON BRICKER AND ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

When Alyssa Edwards walked onto the set of RuPaul’s Drag Race for Season 5, she was shocked to see her longtime rival Coco Montrese among the queens she’d be competing with. The drama made for delicious television, but probably threw Edwards off her game — she finished in the Top 6, but failed to be declared America’s Next Drag Superstar.

So when she was asked to join the cast for the second incarnation of Drag Race All Stars — which begins airing on Aug. 25 on Logo — she decided to play a smarter mental game. She didn’t ask past All Stars for advice. She didn’t worry about who would or would not be her competition. She went all Zen on those bitches’ asses.

“I told myself don’t overly coach — go in there and be you,” Edwards says. “Don’t get inside your head. You need to do this like you do every single day of your life — whether you’re in the studio teaching, or onstage performing, you’re tackling the challenges you’re faced with. You should avoid letting it becoming a mental battle.”

That was certainly good preparation, because once filming began, it was a free-for-all. First up was the discovery that the rules had changed.

“[This season is] borderline Big Brother, because Ru doesn’t make the decisions this time,” she says. “We found that out on Day One. We had no clue! And you’ll see how cracked out we are. All of your dreams have been crushed because guess what? [We were told,] ‘You are going to be sending yourselves home.’ And I’m just like oh-my-gosh.”

This surprise definitely changed dynamics among the contestants, because even though the competition has always been cutthroat, this development took it to another level of intensity.

“I was looking around the room like, ‘Well OK, I’m glad I’m kind of friends with everyone almost.’ Luckily, I do have a good rapport with the girls. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to send you home, honey, because you’re a threat or you’re the possibility that could get in the way of cashing that check.”

One of the girls in the room, it so happened, was Coco Montrese … again. And three other queens from Season 5, making it a reunion of sorts (though not necessarily the good kind).

“I was a little shocked [that] five of the 10 girls came from [my] season. I thought there would have been two, maybe three of us. But we all knew each other — you know somebody and you know when they’re having a bad day or moment, and therefore not overanalyze things that they say,” says Edwards.

That pressure was modulated by other rule changes … including the ultimate reward.

“The stakes are a little different this time around. I’m talking about the coin, the dollar,” Edwards says. “I think everyone that watches the first episode is going to be in for a treat because they totally ru-vamped the idea [of the show]. ‘Coming for you’ is a nice way of putting it.”

But Edwards was prepared this time. Before, she was a pageant queen with a long list of titles. Now, she has not only one season of RPDR under her belt, but the web-based series Alyssa’s Secret and a work ethic rivaled by no one. She went in a stronger queen than ever before, but also a wiser one: She has a solid grasp of her strengths and weaknesses — as well as those of her competitors …. and where they would best be served.

“We are all good in one thing [or another],” she says. “I would never want to step foot on a runway or a photoshoot [to challenge] Violet Chachki, but we can lip sync [against each other] all day. I don’t ever want to get into a Snatch Game battle with Chad Michaels. And why on God’s green earth would I ever ponder a comedy challenge against Bianca Del Rio?”

But Edwards — aka Mesquite native Justin Johnson — also knows something about showmanship. She worked with former Dallasite Rey Ortiz — a fashion designer and himself a former Project Runway contestant — to come up with her smashing debut look, a dazzling ruby gown with a majestic collar.

“I told Rey, I’m OK with doing something fashionista. I don’t consider myself a fashion girl and I don’t think I have the body to model. But I wanted something avant garde, something sexy with my platform heels. I wanted something that just speaks royalty — like she’s the queen. It has a touch of regalness to it but a touch of okurrrr. He was like, that’s a lot of inspiration.”

That costume may have contributed to her secret weapon: Attitude.

“This time I presented myself to be open, confident … and not to tell myself ‘no.’ Just like I teach my kids every day: ‘Can’t never could.’ You better get up there to sing and sew,” she says. “Alaska said it very well: When you’re in Drag Race it’s kind of like a constant fight-or-flight mentality.”

Her newfound calm even informs how she wants fans to watch All Stars this time out.

“I hope the fans watch it this time from a different angle. Drag Race is such a sport — we all get caught up in it, so involved. Just watch it this time: laugh, giggle, have fun with it. Ride it like a rollercoaster; let the ups and downs be equally exciting. Support all the girls, all the queens. It is so difficult when there is a platform and you’re under a microscope. Remove that microscope and live for what it is. Cheers to that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Craig Tuggle