Pride 2011 • YFT Color Guard will wave the flags proudly

Six-member team will perform routine to ‘Take It Off’ as they march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

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WAVING THE FLAG | Danny Rojas, one of the YFT color guard members with no experience, learns to wave the flag. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

Draconis von Trapp  |  Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

This year, instead of just marching in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and throwing beads and condoms, members of Youth First Texas have decided to throw flags.

In other words, the YFT Color Guard will be hitting the pavement of Cedar Springs Road, with six teens marching and twirling flags to the tune of “Take It Off” by Ke$ha.

For some of the six, the parade will be their debut performance as flag throwers: Half of the team has some significant amount of drill team experience, while the other three are brand new.

Team Captain Michael Eaves has been in color guard for two years at his high school in Sachse. He leads the team with his experience and one-on-one instruction.

“It seemed like something fun,” Eaves said. “Most people do floats, so we do something different.”

He said that there was one color guard team last year, so, “Why not have two?”

From Plano Senior High, 17-year-old Celina Blanco is one of the co-captains of her color guard squad, and she takes partial command of the YFT group. Blanco has been guarding for three years and has been captain for two of those years, giving her the experience she needs to successfully help guide the newbies through a basic color guard routine.

“It’s kind of my goal in life to aid the youth and have a better upbringing, you know, more open,” Blanco says. “Being able to participate in the gay Pride parade and being able to tell my straight friends that, you know, I’m gonna be in this and I support this completely.”

Blanco was raised without any pressure over her sexuality or gender binary status, and she wants to be able to share that experience with other youth at YFT. Blanco also participates in Youth Board, a youth-run leadership program where the young people work with the YFT Executive Board to develop fundraising ideas and outreach activities, including deciding who and what goes into the parade for YFT’s group.

Also from Plano Senior High and a part of Youth Board, 16-year-old Maz-E Magnus is holding her own flag in the routine for Pride. Unlike Blanco, though, Magnus doesn’t have any previous color guard experience.

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REHEARSAL | Michael Eaves, left, leads rehearsal for the premiere performance of YFT’s color guard in the Pride Parade. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

 

“I had gone to football games and I’ve seen them out on the football field … and I was like, ‘Eh, okay, I guess it’s cool,’” Magnus said nonchalantly. “But then Celina was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing color guard at YFT!’”

At first, Magnus just volunteered to be the music master, stopping and starting the music as needed by the team. But after watching the others spin around and toss the flags around, though, Magnus’ interest was piqued.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this! Hey, can I join?’ And they agreed. It’s still fun, but it’s a lot of hard work; it’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” she confided, rubbing her shoulders and explaining the physical intensity that is required for color guard.

Another experienced color guard co-captain, 17-year-old Joeii Johnson, leapt at the chance to participate in the routine with YFT. From Lake

Highlands High School, Johnson did both color guard and winter guard, which includes higher-intensity routines and rifles and sabers as opposed to flags.

“I feel empowered,” Johnson says about his love of color guard, “when I can throw something in the air, spin around and then catch it in the right spot. I like the fact that I’m the envelope pusher; I’m the one that does things no one expects me to do.”

Johnson joined color guard when all his older brothers did contact sports.

“When [my family] sees what I do, when I toss something and I catch it … they were amazed, and I felt good,” Johnson says.

“It’s about having fun and being proud that we even went out there to do this,” Johnson said.

He acknowledged that the routine the YFT Color Guard performs in the parade on Sunday might not be perfect that day. But, he declared, they’re still going to have a good time showing their colors.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Presenting the Blue Man Group … whaaa?

The main reason I — and I assume most other people — wanted to attend the Dallas “tour premiere” of Blue Man Group was the answer that burning question: “Just what the hell is Blue Man Group anyway?”

I still couldn’t tell you.

It wasn’t just that the most exciting that happened during the debut performance at the Winspear Opera House was an audience member who seemed to have a heart attack midshow; it’s that all the drumming, New Age music, lame comedy, overwrought technology, strobe lighting and wannabe magic, filtered through the conceit (apparently) that the Blue Men are extraterrestrials learning about earth culture innocently, is at once too much and not enough. E.T. — stay home.

The problem is, if your show is too outre to fit into a genre — and I’m not saying every show must — then what you do had better be done well. It was distracting how, during a long sequence involved over-sized iPhones, you could see the cast members in costume behind the scenes long before they were to make their entrances. A show like this is about surprises; if you don’t surprise me, if you’re sloppy in your execution, you fail.

The nature of the show is in some ways an elaborate social experiment — an attempt at groupthink with entertainment values thrown in. But beyond improvised artwork (which, admittedly, gives legitimacy to the importance of buying non-toxic paints) and gags with marshmallows and jokes about plumbing, I just don’t get it. Max Headroom was a fascinating fad 20 years ago; Blue Man Group should have faded with it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

XL laughs

Plus-sized comedian Ryan O’Connor doesn’t shy away from fat jokes

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com


EAT THAT | The chubby gay boy, center, gets his revenge by turning his life into a humorous cabaret in ‘Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings.’

RYAN O’CONNOR EATS
Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St.
June 23 at 8 p.m. $15.
ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com







Don’t call Ryan O’Connor a standup comic. Sure, he’s funny, he stands onstage in front of a microphone and people laugh, but his show is more than that.
The former actor and talk-show character player recently embarked on his first tour (complete with a rented Minivan) and took time out hours before the debut performance in San Francisco to talk about his career, his show and the foods that make him happy. His current boyfriend is Mormon, three of his exes have gone off to marry women and he’s not above smuggling dogs into hotel rooms. How could he not be a comic?

………………………..

Dallas Voice: So when did you first start doing comedy — or rather, getting paid for doing comedy? Ryan O’Connor: My first paid comedy gig was with Second City in New York. We formed an improv group out of that called the Birdwatchers. There were eight of us and we got a split of the door, so we got about 20 bucks.

How is being a comedian different from being an actor? It’s been an evolution. In a lot of ways I fought being a comedian because there’s a lot of fear involved in it. Even describing myself as a comedian right now feels ambitious. I consider myself more a storyteller, and I tend to tell funny stories. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that people would like me to call myself a comedian, so I’ll oblige.

People like labels. Exactly. But even when you’re doing cabaret, you’re still one man standing in front of a microphone. I’m a cabaret artist, which I sometimes describe as singing standup. You will never catch me at a standup open mike; you will never catch me going on after a standup performer. It’s just way too terrifying for me. Even though it’s not that much different than what I do, in my brain, it’s terrifying.

You sing a lot in your show. Is the singing your security blanket? Yeah, kind of. It’s not even that I have the world’s most terrific voice. It’s just that I’m comfortable.

Musical theater is what I grew up in. It’s what I’ve known my entire life. It gives me security knowing that if a story bombs, I have a song I can go into and songs are easier to sell than comedy. Even funny songs, it’s at least written into the music. This sounds like the most defensive interview of all time!

I’m sorry. No it’s me, not you!

Your publicity describes you as the “big gay singing Kathy Griffin.” Do you think she’s worried about you stealing her gays? Kathy’s a friend of mine. I got her blessing to refer to myself as the big gay singing Kathy Griffin. I don’t think Kathy sees anyone as a threat any more. In the last couple of years she’s finally getting the acclaim she’s deserved forever.

I’m sure she loves the label — it gets her name out there more. It’s only fair, too, because I’ve been in her act before. She used to refer to me in her act as her Pink Hollywood Gay or something.

That’s the double gay dream: Being friends with Kathy Griffin and being mentioned in her act. I was a huge fan before we became friends, so to have a story mentioned in her act was very surreal.

Do you have any juicy celebrity stories? Not in this show, but I do. I am not as willing as Kathy is to “go there.” Most Hollywood types are so difficult to deal with anyway, that once you do something publicly, it’s even worse. I see how tough it can be for her. It’s isolated her. There’s groups of people that shy away from her. I think they laugh at her in the privacy of their homes, but if she walks into a party, they all avoid her like the plague. That’s a very lonely kind of fame.

I tell stories in my show and I don’t say it and people don’t know that I’m talking about a very famous person. I could cash in and make this more exciting, but I choose not to.

What can people expect from your show? It’s a comedic, self-effacing journey through story and song about my life and experiences as a compulsive overeater. It goes into my food addiction and how that is a manifestation of my experiences as a child, as well as an adult. My experiences in show business, my experiences as a gay man, all sorts of things. The show is Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings, but it could just as easily be Joe Schmo Eats His Feelings or Tiger Woods Fucks His Feelings.

You don’t have to be gay to enjoy it then. My show’s definitely not a gay show. It’s a gay story so gay people relate to it immediately.

Are you empowered by the self-effacing part of it, beating others to the punch? That’s absolutely what it is. The whole show is what I learned as a 10-year-old fat kid. My mom always told me if I made the joke first, they can’t make it. That was my survival tool as a fat boy and a gay boy. That’s how you get through it.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice