First Baptist Dallas launches ‘Grinch Alert’

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas

You all remember Pastor Robert Jeffress over at First Baptist Church in Dallas, right? He’s the one who riled up the LGBT community a couple of years ago with his “Gay is Not OK” sermon.

Well, now Pastor Jeffress is at it again. He and his church have created a new website, GrinchAlert.com, to warn us all about those horrible business people who have the nerve to say something like “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or who, even worse, don’t recognize the Christian holiday at all.

So if someone or some business pisses you off while you are out commercializing Christmas this year, you can go to this website and post a comment designating them as “naughty.” And if they spell out “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” on their chain link fence using colored plastic cups and Christmas lights, you can go to the site and reward them with a “nice” post.

Jeffress told Dallas Morning News: “Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness. I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas.”

He also told the Morning News that First Baptist isn’t creating any standards on what determines “naughty” or “nice,” and that the church won’t be monitoring the site to protect businesses owned by non-Christians. I wonder if that means if I go to the site and add a post declaring Pastor Jeffress and his church are “naughty” because he is a completely hateful, bigoted jackass, that they will leave it up there? Or would they remove it and add me to the “naughty” list instead?

It’s tempting, but I will refrain. Instead, I will just offer this reminder to Pastor Jeffress and others like him: In the New Testament, in one of the Gospels, there is a story about how the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble, so they asked him, “What is the most important commandment?” (The trick, of course, is that no one commandment should be considered more important than any other.)

Jesus replied, “Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God above all else. Do that, and you will be following all the commandments.”

So here’s my message to Pastor Jeffress: Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself, and guess what — not all your neighbors are Christians. Don’t you think is is a little less than loving to expect them to kowtow to your religious beliefs by saying Merry Christmas, and by chiding them on your ridiculous website because they prefer to say “Happy Holidays” instead?

—  admin

Mything the mark

Puppets rule in ‘Mount Olympus,’ but the effect ends up wooden

Theatre TooJeffrey Schmidt | Theatre3Dallas.com

Puppets and theater don’t come to mind often, save for Avenue Q. That Broadway hit knew how to mix its Sesame Street-like puppets with a contemporary storyline.

Theatre Three’s world premiere of Bruce Coleman’s Tales of Mount Olympus tweaks the idea using puppetry to tell the classic stories of gods and monsters from Greek mythology. Coleman, who wrote, directed and designed Mount Olympus, exudes innovation. He mentioned that this show is a built of worldly components of theater. The Greek myths are narrated in American storytelling fashion with Hungarian black lights and Japanese Bunraku puppetry. If only as a whole, they all worked.

The show begins with more primitive puppets. Gaia, or Earth, was a large globe with her face painted on and rotated thanks to the actor in black. Her husband, Uranus, was an interestingly constructed creature made up of Christmas lights. Ultimately though, they came off as school craft projects. This remained the same for the following set of gods, Cronus and Rhea.

Two-dimensional pedestals with large heads depicted the married couple while actors from behind emoted with their hands. When Rhea gives birth, her babies are delivered by a magnificent puppet of of a bird in beautifully done Day-Glo feathers to Cronus who ate them for fear they would revolt and overthrow his power. There is some injected humor here as he burps after each devouring and the bird acts as a busybody telling everyone’s business, but there is nothing compelling here. Actors don’t voice the characters. Instead, they are pre-recorded and acted out. This is more of a disconnect than an effective too, but more on that later.

Before long, we are introduced to the glorious puppets of the gods. We see Aphrodite borne from her shell albeit not nude. Coleman initially planned for that bit of nudity, but construction became an issue. Hades, Poseidon, Hera and others are all brought out in striking puppet form. The faces are bold and can be seen clearly from each seat and two actors control most of the characters with one as the brain, and the other as the body.

Zeus however is part of the stage. His huge face is depicted on a wall with a moveable jaw like Big Tex. Understandably, it depicts his grandiose standing, but it’s also underwhelming. When he speaks, the bottom of his beard scrapes the floor and distracts from everything else.

Act 1 has been filled to the brim with more Greek stories before intermission. The tale of Aphrodite infidelity to Hephaestus by her affair with Ares and Persephone’s trip to the Underworld to become Hades’ wife all play out before the break and feel a little rushed.

The first half lacks any emotional punch and the visuals wear off quickly despite the detailed construction of the sets and puppets. Coleman did allow for humor so there are moments when a puppet is actually funny by way of a gesture or the shakes. When two gods give a high five in Act 2, it’s a priceless, hilarious moment.

Theater Three
Jeffrey Schmidt | Theatre3Dallas.com

Thankfully, this is where Olympus redeems itself somewhat. By telling the whole tale of Perseus and Andromeda (or for the cinematic-minded, Clash of the Titans), there is time to get invested into the characters as Perseus sets out to save Andromeda from the Kracken. The innovation explodes here. When Perseus meets Pegasus, the winged horse provides a gasp of wow and although Medusa isn’t as threatening as she needs to be, it is an inspired piece of work they created. I don’t want to give too much away — either in the Kracken’s appearance or Cerberus’ the three-headed dog — but there is some room for surprise in the show, even if they are small ones.

Act 2 may stick with you, but the show won’t. The play feels much more like a production intended for school-age children, which is hard to reconcile with Theatre Three’s usual professional standards. The recorded narration is also miscast, as the voices are never powerful enough. Zeus should ring through the stage, but instead sounds far from almighty-ness. Actors could have possibly voiced the characters with more depth and emotion but the choice to go with recorded narration takes away from the dramatics. I wanted so much more from this show, which I would have gotten if I was a whole lot younger.

Tales from Mount Olympus at Theatre Three (in the Theatre Too space), 2800 Routh St., Suite 168. Through Nov. 28. $20–$30.  214-871-3300. Theatre3Dallas. com.

—  Rich Lopez