STAGE BRIEFS

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The Night of the Iguana. As if we need further evidence that Rene Moreno is Dallas’ best director, we have this remarkable production as Exhibit A, pictured right. Tennessee Williams’ last great play is set in tropical Acapulco, so most productions emphasize its steam sexuality. But Moreno — at least in Act 1 — discovers Williams’ biting humor, staging the action with the pacing of a farce. He saves the sultry stuff for Act 2, allowing the melodrama to sneak up on it.

Set at a run-down motel in the off-season, it features a hurricane, a failed clergyman (Ashley Wood, appropriately manic) tied to a hammock, a slutty proprietress (Cindee Mayfield, who could unleash a whole new career as a bad girl) and an underaged nymphomaniac. Hey, it is Williams.

It clicks along so spritely, with the cast (including Elizabeth Van Winkle, and Terry Vandivort delivering his best performance in years) capturing the exaggerated Southern melody or Tennessee’s over-wrought dialogue, you get easily lost. Imbuing a classic with fresh energy is one fine feat.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Through Mar. 4.

Pluck the Day. It’s been almost 10 years since Second Thought Theatre produced Pluck the Day, a comedy about quirky Texans set entirely on a ramshackled porch littered with beer cans and forgotten dreams. The original was a longish two-acter about lost 20somethings.

The revisions by STT’s co-artistic director, Steven Walters, of his rambling play tighten a lot of the action, but the major accomplishment is one that the calendar gets the most credit for: The maturing of the characters. Now they are in their 30s, when the malaise of realizing your best years were more than a decade back really sets in.

The men at the center are an unusual trio, despite their similar upbringings. Duck (Clay Yokum) is a dumb, married redneck and proud of it; Fred (Mike Shrader) is his bachelor counterpart, about to pop the question; and Bill (Chris LaBove) the smart gay one who has hung around this one-stoplight town for far too long. But just how gay is Bill?

The plot revolved around a did-they-or-didn’t-they plot you might have caught on Three’s Company, but there’s a sweetness to it all and a full share of laughs, especially when Duck — who wouldn’t know a metrosexual if he gay-bashed him — wonders why Bill isn’t attracted to him. Been there.
Second Thought Theatre. Through Feb. 26.

stage-2-2Bring It On: The Musical. Talk about the power of the pyramid: Cheerleading onstage kicks ass. Oh, say what you will about it being a cheesy faux-sport practiced by mean girls (there’s a lot of that here, no question) — when you see a man in a tank-top and shorts do a running back-flip across the stage, it’s hard not to fall in love.

Or at least in serious, serious like, which is the reaction you’ll have to Bring It On, pictured left. While based on the teen rom-com, the touring production now at Fair Park creates its own story about Campbell (Taylor Louderman), a flighty senior cheer goddess and team captain gerrymandered into an inner city school district. In predictable fashion, she rallies the hip-hop girls (including one sassy black trans, given an overdose of spunk by Gregory Haney) into turning their dance crew into a cheer squad.

Like Legally Blonde, or even Hairspray, it’s a sunny, silly story about the redemption of a teen queen through the power of (fill in the blank: Law, cheerleading, dancing). But like Wicked, it’s also underhandedly smart, with a catchy, contemporary score and clever lyrics.

The tour hasn’t made it to Broadway; it probably doesn’t need to go there. New York audiences probably imagine themselves too sophisticated to appreciate a musical about cheering; here in the hinterlands, we’re not ashamed to stand up and rah-rah at impressive displays of athleticism that come with singing as well. Go, team!
Dallas Summer Musicals. Through Feb. 26.

The Secret Life of Girls. Thank God I don’t have kids — and am not one anymore. Dallas Children’s Theater tackles teen bullying in its studio production, but not in a way you might expect. There are no hate crimes here, nor even an obvious hero or villain, just continually readjusting cliques among teen girls. It’s the darker side of Bring It On, where sniping doesn’t warrant a “snap!” but leads to cutting and bulimia. Though gay issues are not directly addressed, it’s an instructive and shockingly timely show (followed by a therapist-led talk-back) that all families can walk away from with new insights into how hard it can be to grow up.
Dallas Children’s Theater. Through Feb. 26. Suitable for teens and adults.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Uncertainty remains over future funding for ASOs

Clerical error rectified by Dallas County, but some agencies worry that more cuts are coming

Steven Pace

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Although initial reports of cuts in federal funding for meals programs for people with HIV/AIDS turned out to be a clerical error,  at least one Dallas County AIDS service agency still worries that cuts are coming.

Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell said, “We’re still trying to assess the numbers and trying to see where we are.”

McDonnell said that the food pantry and meals program are not fully funded through government programs.

The agency also relies on a number of other grants from organizations like Mazon and on canned food drives run by community groups and businesses.

“We go into this budget year with a certain amount of uncertainty,” McDonnell said. “We are hopeful there are no cuts. It’s hard to determine if there will be.”

He added that the center will need all those who have supported its programs in the past to continue to do so into the future.

With federal and state governments slashing their budgets, McDonnell said that money could be cut at any time from the programs.

“Until we see the check in our hands,” they don’t count on the money, he said. “We’re doing the best we can, planning in an uncertain future.”

But the grant that comes through Dallas County has been restored for the immediate future for the Resource Center and AIDS Interfaith Network.

AIN relies on the grant money for a third of its meals program budget.

“The county did respond and did rectify the mistake,” AIN Executive Director Steven Pace said.

AIN has a weekday breakfast and lunch program and provides some weekend meals for persons with HIV. Resource Center Dallas runs a hot lunch program during the week.

Pace said that with grants of this type, there is always a degree of uncertainty. Even though the money has been restored for seven months, Congress can decide to cut funding to any program at any time.

He said it is just something nonprofit organizations that rely on government funding live with.

Because of a clerical mistake, funding for meals programs was moved to food pantry programs for the new fiscal year.

When AIN and RCD received emails confirming state grants that are funneled through Dallas County, the money for meals programs was omitted from the budget.

However, the money did not show up in the RCD grant budget even though that agency runs both meals and food pantry programs.

The state fiscal year begins Sept. 1 and final documentation needed to be back to the county by Aug. 12.

When Dallas County found the error, a new email was sent to the agencies. Pace worried at the time that he was missing the deadline to submit his budgets and documentation, but he has been assured the agency would not be penalized.

He said he promptly adjusted his figures and submitted the necessary paperwork to assure no interruption in funding.

RCD also readjusted its figures and resubmitted the paperwork.

Some years, grants are renewed from previous years. Other years, agencies must rebid to receive their funding. This year, money was renewed for seven months and agencies will have to rebid for the final five months.

Although the state funding year begins Sept. 1, the Ryan White fiscal year begins April 1.

“We appreciate that Dallas County corrected the error so quickly,” Pace said.

Even with lag time in receiving the additional funds, Pace said the meals program will continue uninterrupted, thanks to a recent $25,000 grant from the MAC Cosmetics AIDS fund.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens