Octogenarian Paul Taylor, still at it

Paul Taylor photo by Maxine HicksLegendary choreographer Paul Taylor is still going strong. The bisexual dance maven is 82, and has two eponymous companies, one of which comes into the Eisemann Center this weekend for the first time in more than two years.

When his company was last in town in 2010, I spoke with Taylor. You can read that interview here. And you should try to see the performance on Saturday, just to experience the legend while you still can.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan at the Eisemann Center Saturday night

Although I was unable to go, my colleague Chance bravely stepped in to cover the big country concert over the weekend. Actually, he was quite willing to catch Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan as they brought their Grits and Glamour Tour to north Texas on Saturday. Performing at the Eisemann in Richardson, Chance trekked up north to get in on some hoedown action.

Read his take after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

GIVEAWAY: Tickets to Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan at the Eisemann this Saturday

It’s a double header on Saturday when country music titans Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan come to town — in one show. That’s pretty major and the folks at the Eisemann were kind enough to offer us three pairs of tickets to giveaway to some of you die hard country fans. The Grits and Glamour Tour comes to North Texas and you just might get to go.

What do you have to do? Not too much. Just answer this trivia question which should be pretty easy. What’s the No. 1 hit Morgan sang that Tillis also recorded?

Got it? Good. Now just email me here with your answer and full name and “Gimme some grits” in the subject line. I’ll randomly pick three winners (with the right answer) tomorrow at 3 p.m. Winners will then receive deets on how to get their tickets.

Good luck!

—  Rich Lopez

Mo Rocca at the Eisemann Center

Wait, Wait! Don’t tell me!

You know that man on CBS Sunday Morning who’s really funny and kind of nerdy? That panelist with the nasally voice on NPR’s Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me quiz show. The guy you can’t quite describe other than from the kinda geeky-gay vibe he puts out, but in the nicest way. That’s Mo Rocca. Read full story here.


—  John Wright

Tuna fresh

New sets, new costumes but same classic cast as ‘Tuna Christmas’ rings in the new year in North Texas. So what is life like there in a post-DADT world?

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  jones@dallasvoice.com

105_Vera_lounge
FELIZ NAVIDAD, LUPE! | Vera Carp (Jaston Williams) will have a traditional, Christian Christmas if she has to kill for it. Welcome to Tuna, Texas.

A TUNA CHRISTMAS
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 28–Jan 2. $29–$59.
972-744-4650.
EisemannCenter.com

…………………..

It’s not that Jaston Williams dislikes Christmas — it’s that growing up, it wasn’t exactly The Brady Bunch Holiday Special.

“We always called Christmas ‘blood and holly’ around my house,” Williams cracks with his signature Texas twang. “My mother could really make it rough. When there was company or a party you’d go from this loose experience to Franco’s Spain in a second. I figured it out by the time I was a teenager that I wasn’t wild about this holiday at all. This whole nostalgic, let’s-go-home-for-Christmas thing? Nah. Give me a good hotel with an open restaurant and room service anytime.”

Still, the holiday has been pretty good to Williams. With his writing, acting and now producing partner Joe Sears, Williams is enjoying more than 20 years of steady winter employment with A Tuna Christmas, which returns to the Eisemann Center for a week-long run Tuesday. The first sequel to their hit play Greater Tuna (nearing its 30th anniversary), it’s the only one of the shows to have a run on Broadway (earning a Tony nomination) and has been a staple of the season.

If you haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), it tracks life in a tiny Texas town on Christmas Eve as the quirky residents (all played by Williams and Sears) reinforce and undermine stereotypes about small-town attitudes. And even at its age, it still seems fresh.

“We wrote is as Reagan had just come into power — that’s how old we are,” Williams recalls of the original play. “It was in response to the Moral Majority and their idiotic notions” — and Tea Partiers aren’t far removed from that. And contrary to popular opinion, they do not update the script.

“People constantly say, ‘You’ve added so much!’” Williams says. “I don’t even deny it anymore. Especially with Tuna Christmas we’re trying not to change things — though God help you if your cell phone goes off with Dede onstage. It’ll be like being locked in a phone booth with Patti LuPone.

“The temptation to comment on what’s going on today is so strong that if we started we’d never stop. So it’s set in time. No one in Tuna has a computer; they still have cords on the phones. And no one tweets — they’ll fine you. Vera has banned the word. It sounds dirty enough to ban.”

None of which is to say the show doesn’t get a makeover every so often. The duo still rehearses regularly, tweaking bits and polishing moments, and the current production features all-new sets and costumes.

“Joe and I are producing it ourselves now,” says Williams. “All these people who produce theater and want people to think it’s really, really hard so they won’t do it. But it was kinda like being in the Mafia. You think, ‘I’ve been watching this jerk kill people for 15 years — why can’t I do it?’ We’ve scaled it down and made it better. I’m very proud of it.”

Williams himself is closer to living the Tuna experience than ever — though its different in many ways to the one imagined 30 years ago. He and his partner, Kevin, moved with their adopted teenaged son to the little burg of Lockhart, Texas, and are proud to see the culture developing.

“One thing I can say about small-town people is, they believe their lyin’ eyes: They see two men raising a child and taking out the trash and they are changing their attitudes [about gay people]. It’s pretty amazing.”

(Williams is tickled as most gays are “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, though, and thinks it was dumb to enact in the first place: “I was in the gay bars in the ‘70s. You get the right lesbian pissed off with weapons and they’re gonna take some territory. The ones who should really be afraid of gays in the military are our enemies.”)

The guys are off from performing Dec. 24 and 25, but will be doing a New Year’s Eve performance in Richardson, which Williams calls “one of the stranger nights of the year to perform, You really want to do a good show but it’s such a bizarre holiday. People feel obligated to have some transformative experience and they know they aren’t going to.” Though if they go to Tuna, they just might.
Merry Christmas, Jaston.

“And a Merry Tyler Moore to you, too,” he answers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rex Reed introduces you to Ira Gershwin tonight at the Eisemann Center

Famous for his bitchy film criticism, Fort Worth-born Rex Reed  turns his eye (and his ear) to music with Ira Gershwin revue

Watching too many movies can be a bad thing. After years of deconstructing films and either ripping them apart or praising their genius, Rex Reed has finally had enough. For now at least.

“You have no idea of the crap I sit through. Movies today are ghastly,” Reed says. “I gotta get out of this rut. Everybody has to do something in life that’s a little bit of fun and I love this a million times more than reviewing.“

“This” refers to The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, a show Reed created to celebrate the work of the lesser-known songwriting brother. The production makes its first stop outside of New York in North Texas Nov. 12 at the Eisemann Center.

“This show is a celebration of his genius,” he says. “I feel this kind of music is our culture; it’s America’s greatest gift to this world and it’s in danger of disappearing.”

Along for the ride with Reed are performers Tom Wopat, Marilyn Maye and Susan Mays, who sing songs from Gershwin’s catalog. They help Reed do his part in preserving a part of American culture, in which he gave preferential treatment to his favorite lyricist. He created this show to bring Ira from under his brother’s shadow, despite Ira having the longer career. But with George’s huge signature pieces, Reed still has to remind people that they aren’t going to get what they think they came for. Either that, or they don’t know the difference between the two siblings.

“George has always had his share of fame and praise even though he rarely made a move without his brother,” he says. “It was time he got his fair share. This is not about George. We’re not gonna have Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess. This is all Ira on his own.”

DEETS: The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin. Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. 8 p.m. $39–$72. EisemannCenter.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Rex in effect

Famous for his bitchy film criticism, Fort Worth-born Rex Reed  turns his eye (and his ear) to music with Ira Gershwin revue

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Film critic Rex Reed
GAGA FOR GERSHWIN | Film critic Rex Reed prefers his love of Ira Gershwin’s music to reviewing the ghastly movies coming out today.

THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. $39–$72.
EisemannCenter.com.

…………………………………….

Watching too many movies can be a bad thing. After years of deconstructing films and either ripping them apart or praising their genius, Rex Reed has finally had enough. For now at least.

“You have no idea of the crap I sit through. Movies today are ghastly,” Reed says. “I gotta get out of this rut. Everybody has to do something in life that’s a little bit of fun and I love this a million times more than reviewing.“

“This” refers to The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, a show Reed created to celebrate the work of the lesser-known songwriting brother. The production makes its first stop outside of New York in North Texas Nov. 12 at the Eisemann Center.

“This show is a celebration of his genius,” he says. “I feel this kind of music is our culture; it’s America’s greatest gift to this world and it’s in danger of disappearing.”

Along for the ride with Reed are performers Tom Wopat, Marilyn Maye and Susan Mays, who sing songs from Gershwin’s catalog. They help Reed do his part in preserving a part of American culture, in which he gave preferential treatment to his favorite lyricist. He created this show to bring Ira from under his brother’s shadow, despite Ira having the longer career. But with George’s huge signature pieces, Reed still has to remind people that they aren’t going to get what they think they came for. Either that, or they don’t know the difference between the two siblings.

“George has always had his share of fame and praise even though he rarely made a move without his brother,” he says. “It was time he got his fair share. This is not about George. We’re not gonna have Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess. This is all Ira on his own.”

When Reed met younger sister Francis Gershwin, he discussed his plans for the show. As it turned out, she felt it was time.

“She gave me her full blessing,” he says. “When I met her she said, ‘This is what I’ve been praying for. I’m so glad you’re doing this.’ That was that; it was amen and here we go, after that. I’m really hoping people in Dallas will like it.”

This concerns Reed. He begins asking questions about the venue, knowing that it isn’t in Dallas proper — and he wonders if there is an appreciation for American standards. He senses a hunger for this music and figures it deserves to be exposed. He even challenges LGBT audiences, hoping they will break away from the usual listening pleasures.

“As a rule, gay people have always had better taste, they just need to be exposed to this,” he says. “It could expose LGBTs to something higher in quality than the stuff they are hearing in discos. That can just go so far. I don’t go to these places where I hear eardrum bursting second-rate music.”

The challenge though is to move people out of their musical comfort zone by heading to the past. Like Michael Feinstein, who comes to Dallas later this month, Reed finds it important to preserve this musical heritage of America. That’s his mission — besides reviewing films.

“I applaud Michael for what he’s doing. When people hear this, I hope a light bulb goes off,” he says. “If it’s not in top 40, they’re afraid to listen. I just need to get them to move beyond the fear of discovering the unknown.”

But he does give fair warning: Reed hosts the show but also sings one Gershwin tune.

“There is an awful lot of me in it! So if you don’t like me, don’t come.”
He’s kidding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Taylor made

A legendary choreographer, bisexual octogenarian Paul Taylor brings his muscular, gender-bending moves back to North Texas

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

PAUL TAYLOR DANCE CO.
Eisemann Center for
Performing Arts,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. $30–$60. 972-744-4657.
EisemannCenter.com

…………………………….

Paul Taylor has been exclusively a choreographer for longer than he was a dancer, but at 80, he still manages to make art with enviable regularity. At an age when most people are rocking in chairs on a front porch, Taylor choreographs several new pieces each year. His latest, Three Dubious Memories, will receive its world premiere at the Eisemann Saturday.

“I don’t travel as much with the company — only if there’s any need for me to be there that I oversee. But I’ll be there,” he says of his impending trip to North Texas.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has a lengthy history with the Eisemann, dating to its first season, so Taylor was happy to oblige when the center asked for something new.

“They have a wonderful theater — a great place to show [a piece] the first time,” he says.

For Three Dubious Memories, Taylor took inspiration from the music, though that’s not always how his creative process works.

“Peter Taussig wrote this contemporary, recent piece. Then I had an idea for it and worked out the budget. It’s not always like that — sometimes the idea comes first, sometimes it’s commissioned.”

Budgets and commissions? Like it or not, dance is a business as well as an art form, and Taylor is pragmatic about his longevity.

“I’ve always had good managers and wonderful, inspirational dancers, and a lot of luck. And I’ve always known how to cut costs!” he says.

That does not diminish his passion for his art form. Taylor began his career dancing for George Ballanchine, Merce Cunningham and the grande dame of modern dance, Martha Graham, all of whom inspired him and continue to do so.
“I tried to learn from them,” he says, though he hesitates to pigeonhole what modern dance even is.

“That’s your job, not mine!” he says. “It’s a very American art form, along with jazz, that this country kind of invented. It changes, it always changes. Each generation has it’s traditional way to see things; I think it’ll continue that way. But I keep trying to do thinks I haven’t tried before, though my main attitude hasn’t changed: To communicate with the audience.”

MEN IN MOTION  |  Paul Taylor, above, will debut a new work Saturday, but also perform his ‘Brief Encounters’ with same-sex dance partners Sean Mahoney and  Francisco Graciano, right. (Photo by Tom Caravaglia)
MEN IN MOTION | Paul Taylor, above, will debut a new work Saturday, but also perform his ‘Brief Encounters’ with same-sex dance partners Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano, top. (Photo by Tom Caravaglia)

At age 24, Taylor founded his own company. A lanky 6-foot-3, Taylor was tall for a dancer. Perhaps that presence informed his work as a choreographer, as well: More so than with many companies, Taylor has a reputation for casting bigger, beefier male dancers … although it’s something Taylor himself brushes off.

“I pick [my male dancers] not so much for their looks or their muscularity, but because of their talent,” he says. “True, I’ve never been wild about ‘mosquitoes’ because they look weak, even if they aren’t weak.”

Still, those decisions have imbued some of his works with a certain homoeroticism, especially when he pairs same-sex partners in his dances (including Brief Encounter, which will be performed at the Eisemann).

“I have not done a lot [of same-sex partnering] but yes, some. I like to explore all kinds of relationships — it’s the human condition I’m interested in. That’s just part of the picture,” he says.

Taylor himself came out as bisexual in his 1987 memoir, although he’s expressed ambivalence about sex. “As far as romance goes, I can forget it,” he wrote.

In his personal life, maybe. But onstage, the romance emanates from his work.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas