Applause: Stage pink

Queer highlights from the upcoming theater season

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Anticipation should be strong for the upcoming theater season in general. Ambitious shows like Giant, The Tempest, West Side Story and Hairspray all dot the stage horizon.
But we also like to see some of our own up there. As we look over the upcoming offerings from local theater companies, we always ask, “Where’s the gay?”  In addition to Uptown Players’ first  Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival, here are some of the others.

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Fall

Although the Dallas Opera canceled the opera she was set to star in, lesbian soprano Patricia Racette will still perform at a TDO gala. (Photo Devon Cass)

Singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik gave an indie music flair to the musical adaptation of the 1891 play Spring Awakening. Set in 19th century Germany, Awakening follows a group of youths as they discover more about themselves and their rapidly developing sexuality.

The original Frank Wedekind play was controversial in its day, depicting abortion, homosexuality, rape and suicide. Now the show just has an added rock ‘n’ roll score. Along with Sheik’s musical perspective, Steven Slater wrote the book and lyrics in this updated version which debuted in 2006 on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Musical. Terry Martin directs.

WaterTower Theater, 15650 Addison Road., Addison. Sept. 30–Oct. 23. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

It’s almost un-Texan if you’re gay and not familiar with Del Shores’ tales of Southern discomfort.  Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives are pretty much part of the queer vernacular in these parts, but Shores got his start way back in 1987.

How will those northern folks take to Shores work (And by north, we mean past Central Expressway past LBJ)? Jeni Helms directs Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will for McKinney Repertory Theatre this fall. As the family patriarch suffers a stroke, the Turnover family gathers as they wait for his death. This family may just put the fun in dysfunctional.

McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Sept. 30–Oct. 7. McKinneyRep.org.

WingSpan Theatre Co. will produce one of the greater comedies of theater-dom this fall: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Nancy Sherrard sparring over the gay wit’s price bon mots as Lady Bracknell.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Oct. 6–22. WingSpanTheatre.com.

Although A Catered Affair might sound a bit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it has the added flair of Harvey Fierstein’s wit. That’s because he wrote the book for the show alongside John Bucchino’s music and lyrics. The play is based on the Gore Vidal-penned 1956 film The Catered Affair starring Bette Davis.

When Jane and Ralph decide to get married, Jane’s mom Agnes wants to put on an elaborate spectacle of a wedding. The truth is, she can’t afford it and Jane isn’t all too thrilled about a huge affair. As in most cases, the wedding planning is more about the mom than the daughter and Agnes soon realizes the fact. Jane’s Uncle Winston — the proverbial gay uncle — is left off the guest list and is rightfully pissed. But as most gay characters, he rallies to be the voice of reason and support.

Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Ste.168. Oct. 13–Nov. 12. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Lesbian soprano Patricia Racette was going to be featured in the production of Katya Kabanová but unfortunately the show was canceled by the Dallas Opera. But fear not. Dallas will still get to bask in the greatness that is her voice as Racette will perform An Evening with Patricia Racette, a cabaret show with classics from the Great American Songbook for a patron recital.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Nov. 9. DallasOpera.org

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Spring

Nancy Sherrard will star as Lady Bracknell in WIngSpan Theater Co.’s fall production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ perhaps the greatest comedy ever written by theaterdom’s gayest wit.

Kevin Moriarty directs Next Fall for the Dallas Theater Center next spring. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play centers on Luke and Adam, a couple with some unusual issues. What’s new about that in gay couplehood? Not much, but when Adam’s an absolute atheist and Luke’s a devout Christian, the two have been doing their best to make it work.
The comedy played on Broadway in 2010, garnering Tony and Drama Desk nominations. And now Dallas gets to see how, as DTC puts it, “relationships can be a beautiful mess.”
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. April 13–May 6. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

Perhaps the most surprising queer offering this next season is Theatre Arlington’s production of The Laramie Project. The show usually creates quite a stir — at least it did in Tyler, thanks to Trinity Wheeler — so how will this suburban audience handle it? Doesn’t matter. Props to T.A. for taking Moises Kaufman’s play about the tragic bashing and death of Matthew Shepard to its community.

Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main St., Arlington. May 18–June 3. TheatreArlington.org.

Usually the question with MBS Productions is “what’s not gay?” Founder Mark-Brian Sonna has consistently delivered tales of gay woe and love that are sometimes silly and sometimes sweet, but always a laugh.

This season is no different. Playwright Alejandro de la Costa brings back drag queen Lovely Uranus in The Importance of Being Lovely. The last time we saw Uranus, Sonna wore the stilettos and pink wig in last season’s Outrageous, Sexy, (nekkid) Romp.  This time around, Uranus graduates to leading lady status as the show is all about her as audiences follow her through the changes she makes in her make-up, wigs and men.

Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. July 16–Aug. 11, 2012. MBSProductions.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Guest column by Jake Goodman: A Coalition Gathers in Brooklyn: Hate is the Abomination (Not Queers)

A Coalition Gathers in Brooklyn: Hate is the Abomination (Not Queers)

by Jake Goodman

This past Thursday, a broad coalition of Jewish and queer New Yorkers gathered on in sub-freezing temperatures for a protest march through the heart of the Jewish neighborhood in Flatbush.  The event, titled “In God’s Name,” was organized by grassroots activist group Queer Rising – of which I am a proud member.

“In God’s Name” turned out to be one of the most powerful, effective events I’ve experienced.  I’d like to take a moment to explain why.


Why We Fight:  October 2010

Who could forget October 2010?  Suicides by queer youth made headlines every day.  Young people faced harassment, terror and shame so extreme that they felt compelled to take their own lives.  At the same time, reports of hate crimes against LGBT people surfaced.  In New York City alone, gay men were attacked in Chelsea and at the historic Stonewall Inn, of all places.  Most horrifying to me, in the Bronx a group of kids ages 16-23 calling themselves the Latin King Goonies tricked, trapped, then tortured three men for being gay.  

On October 10th, at the very height of this violent epidemic, NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, in an anti-gay speech written by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the infamously homophobic fringe rabbi of Flatbush, Brooklyn, said,  ”I don’t want [children] brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equal valid and successful option.  It is not.”   I watched, mortified, as the media repeatedly replayed the video of ultra-Orthodox Jews applauding and approving this inciting speech.

In that moment, the link between anti-LGBT rhetoric and the recent rash of suicides by queer youth became tragically clear for me.  Radical-Right religious and political leaders, role models to many, spew hateful speech that strips queer people of their humanity and dignity.  Others hear this rhetoric (aided by an ill-informed media machine) and internalize it as tacit permission to enact violence onto individuals who are, not to mince words, called abominations.

The fact that such vitriol was coming from the mouth-or rather, the pen-of someone who purported to be a spokesperson for my religion was beyond the pale.  As was stated by the always-eloquent Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), “As Jews, we are horrified at the anti-LGBT bigotry coming in the name of Judaism at many of our youth, Jewish and non-Jewish.  We want religion to be a force of liberation, not a force of oppression.”

How We Fight: Building Coalition “In God’s Name”

When planning “In Gods Name,” we had a choice.  Initially, we wanted to do an action that directly attacked Rabbi Yehuda Levin on his home turf, shaming him for his vicious homophobic rhetoric, accusing him of having blood on his hands for the deaths and wrecked lives of people who listened to and internalized his words.  After speaking with many people within diverse Jewish communities (Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, Reform, unaffiliated, queer), we quickly realized this was not the right tack to take.

Yehuda Levin is a fringe rabbi.  Despite the picture the media paints, he has very few actual followers-maybe 14?-and we do not want to elevate him.   Oftentimes, protesters simply compare homophobic Jewish leaders to Hilter, inciting a community that is hyper-sensitive to attacks of anti-Semitism and dashing any support that might otherwise exist. Finally, and most importantly, what would an angry protest accomplish?  We would have made our point, sure, but what would change?  Nothing.

So we decided instead to build a coalition. We communicated with over 100 rabbis from every denomination.  We visited support groups for ex-Orthodox gay Jews.  We partnered with other organizations and communities that were doing related work.  We mobilized both Jewish and queer organizations to collaborate.

In the end, the success of “In God’s Name” can be measured by who showed up:  people of every sexual orientation, Jews of every denomination (including the unaffiliated), non-Jews, atheists, old people, young people, white people, Latino people, African Americans.  Rally speakers included a lesbian rabbi (Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum), an Orthodox rabbi (Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum), an Israeli nonprofit executive (Idit Klein) and a gay union leader (Stuart Appelbaum).  We were endorsed by synagogues large and small, queer and AIDS-related activist groups, hospitals, arts youth groups, community centers, etc.

Together, in solidarity, we demanded an immediate end to anti-LGBT rhetoric spoken “in God’s name.”  We vowed that we would no longer stand idly by when we personally heard such hateful speech.  We proved that there is strength through community.  This community will rise up again and again, growing larger and more diverse, into a mass movement affirming that HATE IS THE ABOMINATION: NOT QUEER PEOPLE.

In God’s Name – Hate Is the Abomination from David Wallace on Vimeo.

Endorsing Partners:  Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), Keshet, Storahtelling, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, Jewish Chicks Rock, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Nehirim, The Power, Project ACHIEVE & Columbia University Medical Center

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