Bishop Arts Theatre taking submissions for 3rd PlayPride festival

Comedy and tragedy masksThe Bishop Arts Theatre Center will hold its third annual PlayPride Festival in September, and as before, are seeking submissions for original, local works to showcase. Six playwrights will be invited to compete for cash prizes (voted on by audience members). The scripts should be produceable during a 15–20 minute runtime, be unoptioned, published or produced, containing LGBT themes and with no scene changes, blackouts or more than four cast members. The author must also be a resident of Texas.

You have until July 1 to submit the script electronically in PDF format at info@bishopartstheatre.org. Selected playwrights will be informed in about a month, and the festival will take place Sept. 15–25. Get working!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jazz Jennings possesses a rare quality in a reality TV star: Dignity

Jazz and FriendsIf there’s not cooking or Tim Gunn involved, I’m not much of one for reality TV, especially (though not exclusively) as practiced by TLC (which, I thought, used to stand for The Learning Channel but apparently now means Trashy Lifestyle Channel). The programming  look very much like a race to be The Least Common Denominator (another TLC…D!) of cheap entertainment: Honey Boo-Boo. Duck Dynasty. Little Couples. I Am Cait. They seem like non-geographic versions of The Real Housewives — niche shows that hope, desperately, to grab eyeballs in a kind of freakshow of the airwaves: “Look, at these actual families of misfits behaving stupidly for your amusement!” They all seem to be touted with carnival-barker vulgarity.

And so I didn’t watch the first season of I Am Jazz. It appeared to be like all the others. But I took a look at the second season premiere, which starts Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TLC. One reason is that Jazz Jennings, the focus of the show, seems so prepossessed: Now 15, she’s written a book about being a transgender teen (one taught in schools, which is a plotline on the opening episode), been heralded for her openness by Time and Out magazines and was a pioneer in getting the right to use the girls’ bathroom. She’s a millennial role model, and conveys something all too rare in reality TV: Personal dignity.

Jazz and her supportive family have had some time getting used to it. She came out as trans at age 6, and everyone seems comfortable with the feminine pronoun… except some haters, who truly don’t understand (or want to understand) trans issues. She’s not brave in the overused sense that pop culture has diminished — she’s rather just a normal teen living through unusual circumstances with as much grace as any teen could be expected to show. You like Jazz — and her mom and dad and siblings, who are all equally “normal” — and so the pitfalls she endures resonate more. They don’t seem faked, because we all know how difficult being an “other” teen is, at any time. (It seems especially relevant during the current political climate. I wonder if the North Carolina legislature will allow it to air there?)

So I may make an exception to my reality TV rules. I might watch I Am Jazz, as much to support the next generation of leaders as to see what happens next in her life. And keep hope alive that quality may actually make a difference.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Chefs for Farmers Mix-Off and tasting event in the Design District

The 2016 Chefs for Farmers pre-main-event event — which features talented sous chefs and mixologists showing off for a panel of judges and attendees — finished up Sunday evening, and no one left hungry or thirsty. Eight judges from the major food-reviewing outlets in Dallas — including yours truly, as well as critics from D Magazine, Dallas Eater, Dallas Observer, Dallas Morning News, Escape Hatch Dallas and Zagat — did our own tastings, and awards were given for popular pick and judges’ choice.

As with last year, the sold-out crowd selected The Blind Butcher’s Brian Bell as fan favorite with his sausage and mashed potato dish, a tribute to summery picnicking. Sarah Green from the Joule won judges’ choice for her empanada-style Frito pie.

The Maker’s Mark cocktail from Henry’s Majestic won best bourbon creation, while Parliment’s Patron cocktail won the best tequila drink and the people’s choice award.

Here are some photos from the event.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: The gayest of weddings — Tallon-Tenenbaum

Surrounded by about 100 of their family and friends, including me, Zach Tallon and Harold Tanenbaum — a popular couple in the North Texas gay community — legalized their relationship of 10 years with an official ceremony in their North Dallas back yard. Despite being a Jewish service, Sister Helen Holy showed up to entertain with her benedictions. Mazel tov!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Sweet Seduction

Sweet Seduction“Hi, mind if I sit, here?”

“No,” please do.”

“Thank you; I’ve had a week. But let’s not focus on the negative; it’s happy hour! Can I buy you a drink? Perhaps we can chat over a cocktail.”

So, what do you order? Try this, an elegant cocktail with bubbles that is a great icebreaker and says, “I know what I want; I think you will like this; let’s be friends … or more.”

3/4 oz. St-Germain

1/4 oz. Aperol

1 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

1/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Sparkling rose.

Making it: Shake first four ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with bubbly and garnish with a raspberry or orange twist.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

All about mi padre

Father-son dynamics take on a Cuban flavor in the drag drama ‘Viva’

Lipstick

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Life is hard in Cuba under the best of circumstances, but harder still for the gay community, where macho Latino culture predominates and Catholic guilt infuses every aspect of daily life. Jesus (Hector Medina) makes a living anyway, mostly as a hairdresser for old ladies and drag queens who perform at the local club. They tease and taunt poor Jesus, a naturally shy and good-natured kid who secretly longs to be in the spotlight as a performer. When one problem queen drops out, Jesus — now Viva — gets his shot at what passes for stardom in the Havana gayborhood.

It’s slow going at first (he doesn’t know how to tuck, and his lip synchs are robotic), but he’s a fast study. Then, just as he seems to be making progress, back into his life comes Jesus’ long-absent dad Angel (Jorge Perugorria), a violent drunk whom he’s never met.

Screen shot 2016-06-02 at 9.47.04 AMThe trope of the struggling young man cowed but strengthened by the reunion with a father figure is a common one in gay-themed films, but also one familiar to many gay men in all cultures who have strained relationships with their fathers. Sexual orientation just provides another hurdle for the hero to overcome. Angel has a few lessons to teach Jesus about self-sufficiency; Jesus acts as an ambassador between dad’s heteronormative lifestyle and the broader world. If Cuba is finally going to enter the 21st century, it will have to start at home.

But clichés can be effective, especially when handled with sensitivity or creativity, as Viva does. Angel could have been a two-dimensional brute, spewing hateful epithets and disparaging his son’s talents. But the film is smarter than that, fleshing out the relationships with unexpected side-alleys, including bitchy comedy and fierce moments where blood trumps hard feelings, all without turning to mawkish melodrama. It doesn’t project its tragedy, opting for subtlety and ambiguity.

It’s further unusual in that this Spanish-language film is written (Mark O’Halloran), directed (Paddy Breathnach) and produced by Irishmen. They bring a Full Monty-esque scrappiness to the production, with intriguing camerawork and lots of unspoken dynamics — between father and son, man and woman, abuser and victim.

Populated with authentic, gritty settings and colorful characters — among them Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia), head of the drag club, as well as the diverse, shady queens he oversees — Viva feels both political and human. With Gay Pride Month underway just as American-Cuban relations thaw, it’s a welcome reminder that parades only accomplish so much; hearts are won over one relationship at a time.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tasting notes

Evaluating delivery culture: Gourmet food (Blue Apron) & cocktails (Sourced) delivered to your home; Taste of Dallas, Chefs for Farmers Mix-Off return

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Enjoy a craft cocktail at Chefs for Farmers’ Mix-Off Sunday … or learn to make your own with the new delivery app Sourced.

Technology is awesome, but even those of us who live in Uber rides and book every happy hour with friends on OpenTable have to admit: The service-delivery culture has become mind-boggling. For one, there’s now Blue Apron, a service that sends all the best ingredients needed for you to cook gourmet meals at home, including step-by-step recipes. It’s practically a cult now (and you can read about my experience with that cult at DallasVoice.com’s InstanTea blog right now).

But that’s just food … what about booze? Well, that’s where Sourced comes in. The app launched in Austin late last year, and has spread now to Dallas and Houston. It’s sort of the Blue Apron of craft cocktails: You download the app, select the cocktails you wanna learn about and prepare, and within three hours a mixologist arrives with all the ingredients (and know-how) to teach you how to make your own professionally-executed cocktails. Mix ’em, enjoy ’em and when you’re done, leave the package on your stoop for the company to pick up. Now you don’t need to take an Uber home from happy hour — you can do it at your place.

For the Dallas launch, Sourced has announced five new cocktail recipes, featuring Texas-based spirits like Tito’s Vodka and Deep Eddy Peach Vodka, as well as Hendrick’s Gin, Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Milagro Tequila. Cheers!

If you still like to schmooze when you booze, you don’t have to do it alone — there’s always the Chefs for Farmers Mix-Off, which returns to the Design District June 5. I was one of the judges last year, and it’s a blast as local mixologists battle it out to show who has the most creative take on cocktails. There’s liquor as well as some bites, and it unofficially kicks off the main event of Chefs for Farmers later in the year. It runs 5–8 p.m. at DEC, 1414 Dragon St. Tickets are $75 and available at Prekindle.com/events/ChefsForFarmers.

This weekend also marks the 30th anniversary of Taste of Dallas, and if anyone has ever attended it in the sweltering heat, the cooler, rainy temps we’ve had this week will be a welcome respite. But rain or shine, there’s plenty to whet your whistle over, from food to art to music to beverages.

New this year is the Foodie Experience, an indoor event that includes food and alcohol samplings, chef demos, entertainment and a slice of cake prepared by Carlo’s Bake Shop from the hit show Cake Boss. (The Foodie Experience is presented by TangoTab, an app that benefits food banks.)

Taste of Dallas runs Friday–Sunday at Fair Park, and will featuring servings (most $2–$5) from Texas de Brazil, Gas Monkey, Paciugo and even Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, as well as a line-up of a dozen food trucks. Tickets are $20. Get more details at TasteOfDallas.org.

Restaurant.com, a website that offers deals and coupons for diners at area restaurants, is getting involved in Gay Pride Month. It started earlier this week with a free certificate to the Stonewall Inn in New York, as well as neighboring restaurants, but all month long the site encourages use of the hashtag #YouBeYou to spread awareness of equality.

Dish founder Tim McEneny had planned to open his new concept, Cedar Grove, in the ilume by Memorial Day, but everyone knows that best laid plans of restaurateur aft gang agley. But that’s OK. McEneny tells me mid-to-late June is the new target opening for the restaurant. And considering that Dish famously had unisex bathrooms long before North Carolina raced to lead the bigotry marathon, we’re guessing the new place will be just as trans-friendly as the old space.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Stage reviews: ‘The Thrush and the Woodpecker,’ ‘The Goat’

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‘The Thrush and the Woodpecker’

Two mainstage shows run in repertory at Kitchen Dog Theater’s current New Works Festival — both rolling world premieres, both dealing with middle-aged women and both so packed with similar metaphors that you can tell they are from the same playwright — Steve Yockey. Like Blackberry Winter (reveiwed last week), The Thrush and the Woodpecker centers on family dynamics of the most fantastical kind.

Brenda (Kristin McCollum) and Noah (Carson Wright) have a fairly typical mother-son relationship: She’s passive-aggressive toward his youthful idealism that has gotten him expelled from his expensive college. Into this tension walked Roisin (Diane Worman), who’s chatting and smiling but oddly menancing as well. She insists she knew Brenda years ago… when she was called “Connie.” She tells Noah a story about a woman who lived with a bird. And she may have an explanation for why Brenda’s remote house is under attack from a descent of woodpeckers….

Saying much more would be to reveal too much of this brisk, brief (75-minute), heartracing psychological thriller that takes eerie twists and delves deep into the psyches of motherhood and revenge and obsession. It’s masterfully performed by a tight cast, led by the talented naturalism of McCollum and Worman — two of North Texas most gifted (if under-used) actresses. Employing very different styles, they wit and parry, forcing you to switch allegiance and ponder the great mysteries of the soul. It’s a breathtaking journey into how far humans will go for justice … if justice is indeed possible.

Justice is also a theme in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, now in Irving courtesy of L.I.P. Service Productions. The play was a hit on Broadway, winning Albee his third Tony, but truth be told, it’s a mess of a play — badly constructed, not as tightly written as you expect from the master wordsmith of absurdist comedy-dramas, and desperate to be seen as more profound than I have ever been able to uncover. Martin (Van Quattro), a world-renowned architect at the height of his fame, confesses to his best friend (Jason Leyva) that he’s carrying on a romantic relationship with livestock. The news shocks his friend, and eventually his wife (Morgana Shaw) and son (Garrett Reeves), who react with (apparently) predictable, banal bourgeois moralizing.

There might be a great metaphor in here for relationships, or society, or even the fin-de-siecle of the American century, but it’s all so squishy and repetitive that it doesn’t build momentum. That’s a shame, because the actors are all very skillful; they have, unfortunately, been directed to play this out as tragedy. It needs the timing — the energy — of a Feydeau farce. Instead, it plods along, not funny enough or shocking enough. That is, neither fish nor fowl … just goat.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tara forming

How Dallas solo artist Brigham Mosley turned Scarlett O’Hara into his alter ego — and a metaphor for gay culture

Brigham-Mosley

Brigham Mosley

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for Brigham Mosley.

About three years ago, he was living in New York City, holding down “three or four jobs, like I always did,” while plying his art as a solo performer. But burgeoning success was also a wake-up call.

“Things were happening for me, but it was all super-downtown, queer theater,” he recalls. “It felt like such an ‘artist’s moment,’ on the one hand, but on the other hand I had no money.” Emotionally, professionally, spiritually rewarding work met the realization “that this was not a sustainable life. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara — Tara is burned, Atlanta is besieged … and what about me?”

Tomorrow may have seemed like another day, but at the time, he was worried. So that’s when Mosley wrote Scarlett O’Hara and the War on Tara, his long-form solo show in which he got to dress up in frock and fiddle-de-dee his way through his misgivings, all with the metaphor of Gone with the Wind at his back.

Screen shot 2016-06-02 at 9.46.48 AMNow, three years later, Mosley is back in Dallas — permanently. He’s happily engaged to his fiancé, a successful dancer. And he’s still pursuing his artistry. And he’s doing a quatrain down the boulevard of 12 Oaks, back to Tara again. Mosley is reviving his one-man show for the third annual Dallas Solo Fest. Only this time, the meaning has changed for him.

“When I wrote it, it was definitely more about the economics — how could I justify my life as an artist,” he says. “I was younger and thinner and probably brighter, but there was a desperation there. Being a young artist, you feel all these doors are shutting. Now, there is more of a fear of a career happening and exploring artistic opportunities. Oh, and I’m getting older. How can I make my life happen before I die?”

These are heady concerns for someone only 30, but it’s from such crucibles of doubt that artistic iron is forged. Mosley’s New York experience jaded him, but it also steeled his resolve.

“There was a gay man shot in the back of the head in the West Village, a couple of blocks from where I worked. There was this vigil one night when I was walking home. This man, who was a queer activist, was speaking, but his speech was less about [the victim of the crime] than about this radical-artist self-promotion of his own blog. And that’s what Scarlett does [in my play]. It’s a critique of this progressive queer community, which I identify with, but you ask yourself, ‘Am I ethical as an artist?’”

As with Mosley’s show at last year’s Solo Fest, The Mo[u]rning After — named one of Dallas Voice’s best performances of 2015, by the way — Scarlett O’Hara “has autobiographical elements — there is more me in it that I would like to own up to,” he says. “But Mo[u]rning After gave names, dates, places. Scarlett is just someone I have always felt close to. Use her to explore the darker, more critical parts of myself. Scarlett can’t help herself. Like me, I don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t making things. Scarlett doesn’t know how to not be in motion. It’s that propulsion of that character [I identify with].”

Mosley’s show is hardly the only one at the festival, however, as he enthusiastically acknowledges. “Dallas Solo Fest, and Brad McIntire especially, are so caring and supporting of the work of solo performers. I’ve done many festivals where they [don’t care as much]. I applaud his how eclectic it is. [McIntire] is having sort of national conversation among solo performers. I think Dallas needs more of this. It’s special — a real gem.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2016.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Am I Blue? My foray into the Blue Apron culinary cult

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The package of goodies arrives … including the dreaded button mushrooms.

If you listen to Podcasts as much as I do, you’re apt to dream of some of the frequent sponsors, so pervasive are their spots. Square Space. Casper Mattresses. Blue Apron.

The latter is a home food delivery service, but in many ways, unlike what you’re accustomed to. It’s not like pizza delivery (prepared food) or grocery delivery (raw ingredients you choose), but a box the size of a Birkin bag, with each ingredient individually packed, ready to be made into a specific meal. And they even have that done for you, with complete recipes at the ready.

And having listened about it so much, I decided to drink the Kool-Aid … even though Kool-Aid is something they would never send you. Nope. Blue Apron prides itself on healthy, fresh ingredients. And you will take those ingredients.

It seems as if most of the recipes begin by wilting kale or swiss chard ... a good way to get you greens.

It seems as if most of the recipes begin by wilting kale or swiss chard … a good way to get you greens.

That was the first wrinkle I had when signing up. You indicate whether you are a vegetarian or not; if not, you say whether you will eat about five major meat proteins (chicken, lamb, shrimp, seafood, beef)… and that’s it. Beyond that, you are sort of at the mercy of Blue Apron’s nutrition nannies.

I noticed this when I got my first set of recipes sent to me — enough for three complete meals, two servings each. One recipe prominently featured sauteed mushrooms, and while not allergic, they are not something I like to cook. Or touch. Or see. So, I tried to change my order so as not to get the mushroom dish. And while modifications are allowed in limited ways, it seemed that Blue Apron decided it was my mother: You will eat mushrooms or you won’t eat.

So I stuck with the order. And just skipped the mushrooms.

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One recipe called for coconut milk, which came powdered, but it paired well with the fresh seasoned-to-taste shrimp.

I could do that because I know a little bit about cooking, and knew how to modify the recipe enough to make it work for me. I think this is something Blue Apron customers do not often do. Because you quickly notice that this service could be called Home Cooking for Dummies.

You know when you had to take Defensive Driving, and they start out telling you things you already know (“Don’t drink and drive!” “Safety is the safest way to be safe!”)? Well, that’s sort of what it’s like following a recipe. They assume you know almost nothing and have almost nothing other than pots, knives, water, salt and pepper and olive oil. One of my recipes included a single pat of butter. One included 2 oz. of white flour. Another, a vial of white vinegar. To me, these are all kitchen staples that I didn’t need sent to me. But Blue Apron makes it even easier on your than your home ec class did.

My final plated version of the red curry coconut shrimp with rice noodles. even the lime garnish was included

My final plated version of the red curry coconut shrimp with rice noodles. even the lime garnish was included

The box includes literally everything: Produce is bagged, and clearly labeled. Meats come in sealed packages. A “knickknack” baggie offers many extras. All wrapped in a Mylar sleeve and surrounded by ice packs, delivered to your doorstep once a week. And on top of it all, big cards then walk you through the process.

The recipe cards are like pages from a cookbook — lovely photos of the completed meals on one side, step-by-step instructions (including “wash produce” and “divide onto two plates”) that take you from boiling water to dinner-for-two. Despite the mushrooms, the recipes have resulted in delicious meals. One — red curry and coconut shrimp with rice noodles — was something I’d never consider making at home. The others (meat balls over jasmine rice, fried chicken and mashed potatoes) broke down the process into such manageable bits that it made turning an average meal into something sorta gourmet.

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Another fully realized dish — this time, chicken.

At about $60 a week, that nets to $10/dish per person … not bad. But since you can keep the recipe cards, nothing can stop you from recreating it for yourself with a trip to the grocery. Of course, you’ll have to measure out your own pat of butter. That’s cool — I’m a pro at it now. And apparently a member of the cult of people who have already allowed themselves to be wrapped around the Blue Apron strings.

But I’m not complaining… much. Though I still don’t want the mushrooms dishes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones