Highlights from UP’s Pride Festival

From an audience standpoint, Uptown Players’ inaugural Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival has been a hit, with a wide range of shows at the Kalita, including rare mid-week performances.

The best of the lot: The New Century, easily Paul Rudnick’s funniest play. Basically a series of three monologues or short scenes capped by a reunion of all the characters, it’s a near-formless series of vignettes performed by a crackerjack cast: Marisa Diotalevi plays the world’s most accepting (and put-upon) PFLAG mom; Paul J. Williams is Mr. Charles, a cable-access host known as the gayest man alive; and Lulu Ward is a Midwestern housewife and crafter whose recollections of her gay son are hilarious, poignant and beautiful. They are all fantastic, but Ward — modulating between absurdist shtick and repressed sorrow that squeaks out of the corners of her eyes — gives the best performance I’ve seen on a stage in Dallas this year. She’ll leave a lump in your throat. Final performance: Saturday at 4 p.m.

The 1980 lesbian melodrama Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is something of a time-capsule, with references to David Susskind and Donahue and when feminism was still controversial in society, and not just on FoxNews. Coming as it does about the mid-point between The Boys in the Band and Love! Valour! Compassion!, it bridges those elements and changes the characters to women: A straight newcomer falls into a nest of sniping friends over a summer by the beach. While it’s a bit hokey — cancer, romance, turning a straight girl gay — makes it feel occasionally formulaic, it’s a fascinating piece well-acted by a cast led by Diane Box, Beth Albright and Mary-Margaret Pyett. (Although called a “staged reading,” it is basically a full-on production with sets, lights, costumes and staging.) Final performance: Today at 8 p.m.

The mainstage show Beautiful Thing, based on the British film, it’s a tender story of working class boys coming of age. It’s a finely detailed piece full of heavy accents, specific imagery and a realistic, tentative relationship between young men coming into their sexuality. The tight cast especially the boys, Parker Fitzgerald and Sam Swenson, load it with charm. Final performance: Saturday at 2 p.m.

Not every show is worth recommending. Indeed, the centerpiece production, Crazy, Just Like Me, is a tortured bit of pop musical pabulum. Drew Gasparini wrote the score and co-wrote the book, and neither have a speck of creativity. Simon has been best friend and roommate of Mike for 23 years, but no one seems to have noticed that Simon is gay except Mike’s new girlfriend Jessica. Simon, in a series of banal and redundant therapy sessions, finally comes to terms with his homosexuality but still manages to screw everything up. The indistinguishable tuneless songs are Jonathan Larson wannabes — call it Low-Rent — and the actors seem awkward delivering the cumbersome lines. You’d be crazy to like this one. Final performance: Today at 7:30 p.m.

UptownPlayers.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Enter, stage left

After a decade, Uptown Players, Dallas’ gaylicious theater troupe, finally gets its Pride on with Performing Arts Fest

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GAY PLAY BUFFET | Uptown Players’ inaugural Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival features musicals, plays, staged readings, comedy and cabarets, including, ‘Beautiful Thing,’ left, ‘Last Sunday in June,’ below and ‘Crazy Like Me,’ above.

Seeing how Uptown Players always gives Dallas theatergoers a big gay outlet, it would only seem natural that as the city celebrates Pride in September, the troupe would be in the thick of things, presenting some of their gaycentric shows while the rainbow flags are unfurling.

But that has rarely been the case, and the big hold-up was always limited space. Now that Uptown calls the Kalita Humphreys Theater home, the company finally can go all out, as it will with its inaugural Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” says producer Craig Lynch. “I’m excited to do two weeks of shows that really celebrate the community and to have the opportunity to see it all come together.

With 11 different performances spread across two weekends, Uptown will be able to showcase shows in both the main stage and the upstairs black box theater, Frank’s Place. Juggling drama, comedy and even cabaret, Lynch feels that Uptown, even after a decade, will put the company on the map with a larger audience.

“I’m excited to get some people in here that may not have been here,” he says. “I think people will be able to say, ‘There’s a great theater company here and we need to come back.’ And it’s another way to bring the community together and sort of remember our roots.”

Lynch also thinks it’s a nice alternative to the usual night out.

“Hey, you’ve seen one shirtless twink, you seen ‘em all,” he says.

So true.
— Rich Lopez

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MAIN STAGE

Crazy Just Like Me directed by Coy Covington. Simon, Mike and Lauren find that the love of their lives may not be who they thought it would be in this musical. Stars Alex Ross, Kayla Carlyle, Angel Velasco, Corey Cleary-Stoner and Ryan Roach. Sept. 9, 11, 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.

lead-2Beautiful Thing directed by B.J. Cleveland. The story of two teenage boys who discover their love for each other and the optimism that goes with it. Based on the popular indie film, the production benefits Youth First Texas. Sept. 10 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept 17 at 2 p.m.

Pride Cabaret Concert: From Chopin to Show-tunes featuring Kevin Gunter and Adam C. Wright. This musical cabaret takes a whirlwind look at theater music. Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen close the festival with their brand of music and comedy. Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

FRANK’S PLACE

The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode directed by Andi Allen. The 2009 cast, including Paul J. Williams as Mrs. Garrett, reunites for this spoof of the 1980s sitcom. Sept. 9 and 14 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 10 at 9:30 p.m.

The New Century directed by Andi Allen. Allen teams up again with Williams alongside Marisa Diotalevi for this new Paul Rudnick short play of tales of gay men and the women who love them. Sept. 10 at 3 p.m., Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 4 p.m.

A Taste of Beauty staged reading is a workshop of a brand new musical by Jeff Kinman, John de los Santos and Adam C. Wright. Audience feedback is encouraged. (Staged reading.) Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.  and Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.

Asher, TX ’82 written and directed by Bruce Coleman. This world premiere by Coleman finds four youths in Texas confronted with violence and how it affects their lives forever. Max Swarner (Equus) and Drew Kelly (Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits) are among the cast. Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

Click/A Midsummer Night’s Conversation directed by Kevin Moore. These two shorts by Austin playwright Allan Baker are presented in conjunction with Asher. In Click, two guys try to hook up online but for different reasons. In Midsummer, a same-sex couple finds its time to get real honest with each other. Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove directed by Cheryl Denson. A key work to lesbian literature, this play by Jane Chambers tells the story of an unhappy married woman discovering a newlead-3 world with a fresh set of friends who all happen to be lesbian. (Staged reading.) Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

Last Sunday in June directed by Rick Espaillat. This Jonathan Tolins play follows the perfect gay couple on a not-so-perfect gay Pride day. The cast includes Chris Edwards, Jonathan Greer, Lon Barrera, Rick Starkweather, Robert L. Camina, Jerry Crow and Lee Jamison. Sept. 13 and 15 at 8 p.m.

—  Kevin Thomas

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players’ Pride Fest line-up

Two world premiere musicals (one written locally), a stage version of a beloved gay film, a Bruce Coleman original and the return of a fan favorite are among the shows debuting in September during Uptown Players’ inaugural Pride Performing Arts Festival.

In its 10 seasons, Uptown Players has moved from producing four shows a year in the 120-seat KD Theatre to being the resident company in the famed 440-seat Kalita Humphreys Theater (producing local premieres of hits like Next to Normal), in addition to mounting bonus shows in places like The Rose Room. Last year, the gay-run company announced that it would premiere its first festival of plays during Dallas Pride in September.

Check out the line-up for the festival below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Beyond Butch


Keynote speaker Jessica Pettitt

By Renee Baker, GenderPower.com

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in life, it is that I don’t have to take many steps forward before I stick another foot in my mouth.

This time, it happened just after I attended the Butch Voices Conference June 5 at Resource Center Dallas.

I was posting a note to my Facebook friends about the conference, and since I don’t identify as a butch, I made a “pre-emptive” statement saying, “And NO, I am not a butch!”

A friend called me to the carpet, “You said that as though it’s a bad thing to be butch.” I had to launch “Butch Appreciation Week” as my FB status to save myself!

Truly, I just didn’t want to be identified as butch, because I identify more as feminine. And truly, I do appreciate butches and we should start an appreciation week.

But being a transgender woman, I never felt an identity such as butch or femme applied to me. It is even a stretch for me to say I am a lesbian, though I’m in a relationship with another gal.

All these labels are still perplexing and complex. It takes about two seconds for the arguing to begin on what they all mean, what the implications are and who takes rightful ownership.

But a beautiful thing happened — there was none of this ego/identity arguing at the BV Conference. As Alpha Thomas said, it was all about honoring and respecting one another. Everyone had a chance to speak.

A major mission point of the BV Conference was and is to explore identities and embrace an entire spectrum of those who identify as Masculine of Center (a term coined by B. Cole of the Brown BOI Project).

It was not about “you have to be and do this,” in order “to qualify that you are this.”

Or as the conference organizers put it, “The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.”

Thomas, an elder in the community, was happy to hear keynote speaker Jessica Pettitt urging everyone to relax about what a butch identity is. She had been waiting to hear this message for years.

She said, “God, am I hearing this? … I can’t believe this.”

Thomas said, “All these lines and labels separate us, they cause us to not work together, and it is time for the division to stop.”

She says we are an oppressed LGBT people and are oppressing each other with all these labels.

BV was a multi-cultural, age-diverse, mom and daughter, butch and butch-ally attended conference. And Thomas said, “The diversity made me feel so good.”

About 50 people were in attendance — including two men.

Wan-Lin Tsou felt the relaxed “define yourself” atmosphere to be very welcoming as well. She said the conference and keynote speaker really helped her to be proud of being a soft-butch that is attracted to other butches.

She said she had an “aha moment” when she realized she did “not need to feel weird or less-than just because I don’t necessarily match others’ … definition of being a part of the butch/femme dichotomy.”

Tsou also added, “It was also really enlightening to really look at labels as so limiting to not only myself but how I relate to others. Who is to say I can’t fall for a femme, too? And just because she ‘looks’ femme doesn’t mean that the way she carries herself isn’t butcher than me!”

For more about the Butch Voice National and Regional Conferences, go online to ButchVoices.com.

—  Dallasvoice