Circle Theatre reveals 2013 season

Wow, just saying “2013 season” sounds weird still. I should probably start my Christmas shopping soon.

Anyway, Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre has announced its 2013 season (its 32nd), which begins in just a few weeks, and is top-heavy with comedies, albeit some very dark ones. Here it is:

God of Carnage. This show debuted in North Texas last spring at Dallas Theater Center, following release of the film Carnage this time last year. It’s about parents behaving badly. Directed by Robin Armstrong. Jan. 24–Feb. 23.

A Bright New Boise. Gay playwright Samuel D. Hunter penned this play about a father trying to reconnect with his son, with dark undertones revealing themselves. Directed by Steven Pounders. Mar. 21–Apr. 13.

Miracle on South Division Street. A woman maintains a religious shrine for 20 years, despite evidence that her father’s vision was not as authentic as she believes in this comedy. June 13–July 13.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Taking its title from a famed bit of Shakespearean stage direction, this revenge comedy involve a cat, an abusive husband and lots of laughs. Aug. 15–Sept. 14.

Too Many Cooks. The season closes as it begins — with a comedy directed by Robin Armstrong. In 1932, as folks plan to open a new restaurant, things go horribly wrong. Oct. 17–Nov. 16.

Tickets range from $10–$35. Season tickets start at $80. For more, visit CircleTheatre.org

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera announces abbreviated 2012-13 season, another world premiere from Heggie

Last year, in a major cost-cutting initiative, the Dallas Opera trimmed its season from the planned five full-production operas (plus a chamber piece) down to four, one of which was scaled back to a concert version. The upcoming season looks even more spartan, with only three full-scale shows in 2012-13. But beyond that, there’s hope for some big things.

The so-called “Pursuit of Passion” season kicks off Oct. 26 with Verdi’s Aida, which will be directed by gay British composer John Copley. (I’ve been interviewing Copley for 10 years, and he always says he’s about to retire. So far, it hasn’t stuck… all the better for us. Aida will be followed in the spring with Puccini’s classic Turandot on April 6 and the return on April 12 of The Aspern Papers, which got its world premiere  25 years ago (in 1988) at the Dallas Opera.

But TDO isn’t just reminding us of its past premieres; it promises another in 2015 … once again from gay composer Jake Heggie.

Heggie, pictured — who composed Moby-Dick for its world premiere at the Winspear Opera House in the TDO’s inaugural season there — is teaming again with gay playwright and librettist Terrence McNally for the first time since Dead Man Walking. Great Scott will kick off its 2015-16 season. The rest of that season has not been announced.

The current season continues Feb. 16 with a concert version of Tristan und Isolde, followed by The Lighthouse, La Traviata and Die Dauberflote (The Magic Flute).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

QUEER CLIP: ‘ANONYMOUS’

Travel-2At its heart, Anonymous is no more historically accurate than Shakespeare in Love, a film with which it shares several characters but little else — either plot or tone. In Love, the Bard was shown as a capable playwright finally inspired by a woman to greatness; Queen Bess showed up at the end to sanctify him. In Anonymous, he’s portrayed as an illiterate (even murderous) gold-digger, a front for the true author of great plays, Edward de Vere, Duke of Oxford (Rhys Ifans, pictured, who’s never been better), a paramour of QE1 (Vanessa Redgrave — dotty, sad, brilliantly unfettered and honest).

This is a far cry from the brainless actioners director Roland Emmerich usually churns out, but historical fudging aside, it’s endlessly entertaining and dramatic, with twists worthy of Shakespeare himself. We “learn” who killed gay playwright Kit Marlowe, and which royals were buggering (or wanted to) others. For Bard fans, it’s a hoot; for movie fans, a gorgeous, compelling romp, well acted and sure to be an Oscar favorite. That’s something else it has in common with Shakespeare in Love.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Four stars. Now playing at AMC NorthPark and Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.

—  Kevin Thomas

Uptown Players sets line-up for 2012 season

stage-3
AM BUSCH | Coy Covington (in ‘Die Mommie, Die!’) returns to his roots in drag acting by once again serving as Charles Busch’s surrogate in ‘The Divine Sister.’

Uptown Players begins its third season at the Kalita Humphreys Theater next year, with a lineup that numbers among its gayest ever.

“I don’t wanna say it’s more gay, but I definitely feel it has more gay aspects than some recent seasons,” said co-founder Craig Lynch.
As usual, the season includes a drama, a comedy and two musicals, plus several bonus shows.

The 11th season kicks off Feb. 3, 2012, with Take Me Out, gay playwright Richard Greenberg’s Tony Award-winner about the reaction when a professional baseball player comes out of the closet. WaterTower Theatre last produced the show locally in 2006.

That’s immediately followed by Broadway Our Way on March 16, the annual fundraiser that showcases musical numbers traditionally sung by men being sung by women and vice versa.

As with this season, Uptown will clear out of the Kalita for a few months while the Dallas Theater Center, which still holds the lease on the building, mounts two shows in the space: God of Carnage and Next Fall. In the meantime, the troupe will return to the stage of the Rose Room for The Silence of the Clams, another of its comic spoofs, again written by Jamie Morris (The Fact of Life: The Lost Episode). It opens April 27.

On July 13, Coy Covington returns to his wheelhouse performing in drag in the most recent Charles Busch comedy, The Divine Sister. This will be Covington’s fourth go as Busch’s surrogate for Uptown. “We saw it off-Broadway and met with Busch,” Lynch said. “His production of the play is touring but is not coming to Dallas, so we snatched up the rights.”

Uptown will then attempt what is arguably its biggest production to date when it tackles  Mel Brooks’ mega musical The Producers. It also happens to be one of the gayest mainstream smashes in the history of Broadway. National tours have come to North Texas, but this will be the first major local production. It opens Aug. 24.

The season will end on Oct. 5 with Hello Again, gay composer Michael John LaChuisa’s musical play about relationships through the decades. John de los Santos will direct.

It’s an ambitious season for the company that began soon after 9/11 in a 120-seat space off Stemmons but is now only the second troupe to be a resident company at the historic Kalita Humphreys. When they started, did they ever think they’d mount something as big as The Producers?

“Heck, no!” said Lynch. “We were debating whether to do The Producers for a year now but after doing research I see how it can work. We’ve learned some valuable lessons in the space. We know we need to scale back here and be more abstract there. We were used to a small space and small-scale thinking; now we times that by a hundred.”

— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 12.17.10

LoniLove_MG_6016
Loni Love

Friday 12.17

It’s gonna be a Love fest
When Loni Love speaks, you better listen; especially if she’s talking about celebrities on Chelsea Lately or The World’s Dumbest. Her stand-up isn’t too bad either.  When Variety and Comedy Central name her as one of the top 10 comics to watch, well, that goes a long way. But it’s her snarky wit and diva fab humor that will keep you laughing for days after.

DEETS: Improv, 309 Curtis Mathes Way, Arlington. 8 and 10:30 p.m. Through Sunday. $15. Symfonee.com.

Saturday 12.18

Not the time to be modest
Being humble is charming, but it won’t get you anywhere in the Dallas Voice’s search for DFW’s Ultimate Diva. Don’t think diva and drag queens. Musicians, activists, allies; If you’re the best at it then go for it. The incentive? How about winning $1,000 for your favorite nonprofit or charity. Gotcha.

DEETS: Deadline is Dec. 23. Visit DallasVoice.com/Diva for rules and application.

Sunday 12.19

These herald angels sing with glory
TeCo Productions stages Black Nativity, the retelling of the story of the birth of Christ by gay playwright Langston Hughes. With gospel, dance and poetry as elements of the show, Hughes’ version is both stirring and uplifting.

DEETS: Bishop Arts Theater Center, 215 S. Tyler St. 3 p.m. $15–$20. TecoTheater.org.

Monday 12.20

The Chorale keeps tradition going
Director Jonathan Palant says this year the Turtle Creek Chorale is going back to basics. O Holy Night will feel like going home for the holidays with all the songs and carols we know. But it wouldn’t be a TCC Christmas without some flair. With some new arrangements on hand, we figure they won’t disappoint.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $20–$65. TurtleCreek.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay playwright wins grant

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, the gay, San Francisco-based playwright who has two shows produced in Dallas earlier this year — Second Thought’s Hunters and Gatherers and Kitchen Dog’s Boom! — has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the National New Play Network (of which Kitchen Dog is a longtime member), which seeks to encourage playwrights and get their work out there. It’s overall a pretty hoity-toity thing to win.

I interviewed Nachtrieb, and he’s a hoot — a funny guy, and smart — and Kitchen Dog does some pretty out-there shit. So it might be cool if his next play written with the grant turns up in Dallas.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marco Rodriguez scores onstage and on YouTube

This time last year, gay playwright-actor-comic Marco Antonio Rodriguez announced he was shutting down his local Martice Enterprises theatrical production and headed for Nuevo York to seek his fortune.

Well, things have gone pretty well for him.

Today, Rodriguez announced his latest play, the Spanish-language Dominican comedy La Luz de un Cigarillo, will be headed to off-Broadway for a production in the summer of 2011. That’s pretty big news — a step away from Broadway. Kudos to Marco!

And if you’re jonesing for a little of Marco since he left, well, check out these video for his Pico de Gallo comedy show, directed by our own Israel Luna. Funny stuff.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Off & on

WaterTower’s ‘Full Monty’ loses its pants and inhibitions, but only in Act 2

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

The cast of the Full Monty
LET IT GO | Average Joes reveal their Johnsons (sort of) in ‘The Full Monty.’

THE FULL MONTY
Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road.
Through Aug. 15. 972-450-6232.
WaterTowerTheatre.org

Sexual stereotypes aren’t pretty — they can be downright insulting. Which they kind of are in The Full Monty. Yes, I’ll say it: It makes straight men look bad.

The script for the stage musical — which transplants the story from a British factory town to Buffalo, N.Y. — was written by gay playwright Terrence McNally, and frankly, most of the guys come off as cavemen. They make disparaging “fairy” comments about the ripped gay Chippendale (Christopher J. Deaton), traffic in racial clichés and put on mucho macho bravado about their own sexual prowess and manliness. (Doing housework is “woman’s work” in this construct.) What, is this set in 2010 or 1950?

Definitely the former, as the poor economy and unemployment fuels some ordinary Joes’ desperation to make quick money by stripping for the women of the town. Only they are all doughy. And middle-aged. And can’t dance.

The conceit of the show is basically ridiculous, although it has a whimsicality that carries it. At least, it carries the movie; Act 1 of the stage adaptation drags, without a really catchy song until “Big-Ass Rock” (which plays like a Carole King ballad from ’70s — only about suicide). There aren’t any big laughs until Pam Daugherty, as a boozy piano player, coughs her way into the action with droll vulgarity. The Act 1 closing number is an anti-climactic let-down.

But after intermission, things pick up significantly. The plot gets tighter, and resonates more. Composer-lyricist David Yazbek moves from jokey-if-clever lyrics (rhyming “cojones,” “bonus” and “testosterone is”) and anti-melodic through-lines to loves ballads like “Breeze Off the River” and “You Walk with Me” (the latter an emotional song delivered in a breathy, cracked voice by a grieving son and his boyfriend that genuinely milks a tear). And the ending number, “Let It Go” — when the men strip down to their birthday suits — has an infectious hummability.

In addition to Daugherty, Stephen Bates as the tubby, self-conscious Davey, Jason Kennedy as suicidal security guard Malcolm and Guinn Powell as the jiving older black guy do good work, but Michael Isaac, as Jerry, falters: The songs are slightly outside his vocal range. I’d have preferred to see John Venable, who has a minor role and plays in the 11-man band, try his hand at it. Well, maybe not his hand. You catch my drift.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

SUPERMAN Comes Out! (sort of)

Gay playwright and comic book author Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa puts a queer twist on comicdom’s straightest superhero with his adaptation of the ’60s musical ‘It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman’

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

TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa transforms from mild-mannered comic book author to rockin’ musical playwright atop the Wyly Theatre as his ‘Superman’ adaptation enters previews this week. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)


IT’S A BIRD… SUPERMAN
Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.
Through June 18­–July 25 in previews through June 24).
$15–$78. ATTPAC.org.





Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, like most gay men, knows something about having a secret identity. Although he grew up with worldly parents who had an appreciation for musical theater (he would listen to their cast recordings of Hair and Man of La Mancha), Aguirre-Sacasa tried to hide from them his own favorite showtunes from the first album he ever bought: The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack.

“It felt sometimes like when ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and ‘Toucha-a Touch-a, Touch Me’ were playing, that’s when my parents would come into the room,” he now confesses.

But while his alter ego (gay theater queen) was finally revealed, it all worked out for the best: Aguirre-Sacasa became a respected playwright and TV writer (Big Love), as well as comic book author of one of the Spider-Man imprints. And now he’s combining those passions, adapting the 1960s musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman for the Dallas Theater Center.

While he’s best known for his work on Marvel Comics, it’s difficult not to see the physical similarities between Aguirre-Sacasa and the fictional DC superhero’s own alter ego. He’s tall and seems born to wear the mantle “mild-mannered;” he even sports the same boxy black rim eyeglasses as Clark Kent. Could he be hiding something under that button-down?

Nah.

“I did not pick the glasses because they were Clark Kent’s, but I definitely was aware that they were Clark Kent glasses,” he says. “It’s more that I’m hard to satisfy.”

Despite closeted gay kids finding solace in parallels between superhero comics and their own dual identities, Aguirre-Sacasa resists pop psychologizing about his motivations and how — if at all — his personality winds its way into his comic book work … or his stage adaptation of a cartoon ubermensch.

“I get that, absolutely, but for me it’s hard to reconcile,” he says. “I feel Superman is the straightest of superheroes; and I first worked on the Fantastic Four, also the straightest in the Marvel universe” — despite the fact, he acknowledges, that one of the Four’s signature phrase is “Flame on!” “But I don’t say, ‘Oh, I’m attracted to the comic books because they allow me to play out subtextual symbolism.’ I do know I have gay fans — I’ve met both of them,” he jokes. “But it’s not something I am conscious of in my work.”

Nevertheless, he has brought an undeniable gay sensibility to this Superman adaptation, with lesbian characters and a *sigh* factor to the hunky Man of Steel, played by Matt Cavenaugh.

And he was definitely conscious of turning Superman into an old-fashioned musical comedy, the kind that will make people say, “They don’t do ’em like that anymore.”
“I do feel superpowers are larger than life — a quite natural fit to musical theater,” says Aguirre-Sacasa.

Still, fitting the very ‘60s-era musical into a post-modern world familiar with decades of superhero culture was daunting. Aguirre-Sacasa grew up listening to (and enjoying) the original Broadway cast recording, but the songs were all he heard; he hadn’t read the script until he saw a staged reading a few years ago.

“It was very jokey — just skits strung together. That was the driving impulse. Character was sacrificed at the expense of the material. Who Superman was — honest, patriotic — was a joke. It was very tonally different from the first two Superman movies; more like the third one,” he says.

Aguirre-Sacasa — and for that matter Kevin Moriarty, the artistic director of the DTC and a superhero-obsessed overgrown kid — wanted something that would fit within the contemporary construct. The original authors (including Waxahachie-bred co-author Robert Benton) gave their blessing for a re-imagining of the book.

Aguirre-Sacasa streamlined the multitude of romantic subplots in the original and let them fall in expected ways (Superman with Lois Lane, for instance) and gave more stage time to editor Perry White. Among the biggest challenges: A more legitimate opponent for Superman.

“One of the tricky things was to have a worthy villain,” he says. “Max Menken and Dr. Segdwick [the bad guys in the original script] didn’t really work together until the second half of Act 2. Our Max is more like the industrialist in Iron Man, like Al Capone.”

But, he admits, still no Lex Luthor. What gives?

A couple of things prevented that, mostly the idea that “Lex Luthor just wouldn’t sing. And making Max formidable was real attractive to me.”

Shoe-horning the existing songs into his new script was another feat.
“There was not a lot of Superman singing, and not a lot specific to Superman” in the original score, Aguirre-Sacasa notes.

The songs did get restructured, and there has been additional tweaking and reshuffling, including commissioning four original composers Charles Strouse and Lee Adams to write four new songs. But in his original draft, Aguirre-Sacasa “pretty much followed the score structure, though I didn’t think they had to be sung by the same characters.” That meant in one instance swapping the lyrics in a duet, so Clark gets to sing the woman’s part.

That made me wonder: Just how gay will this production be? I mean, other than being a musical with a hot guy in tights?

Well, that’s what’s called a cliffhanger. Tune in to find out.

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

—  Dallasvoice