Dallas Video Fest gets a little queer

The Dallas Video Festival kicked off Wednesday, but they saved the gay content for this weekend. Here are some highlights.
For a complete schedule and more information, visit VideoFest.org.

Our New Family. Dallas-based documentarians and life partners James Dowell (pictured far left) and John Kolomvakis (pictured near left) have made movies about other gay people (Sleep in a Nest of Flames about poet Charles Henri Ford, The Stages of Edward Albee about the playwright), but they turn the cameras on themselves for this memoir of their efforts to become fathers through surrogacy well past middle-age.

Through archive footage, which shows James and John as handsome young hippies at the dawn of Stonewall, the film tracks their family histories, as well as how the conventional mores of 1950s Texas shaped their understandings of family identity. Those scenes are juxtaposed against their efforts to conceive with a generous surrogate, who eventually gives birth to twin sons. Including interviews with local gay luminaries like Dennis Coleman, Our New Family is part home movie, part social document tracking “the love that dare not speak its name” up to same-sex marriage. With the repeal this week of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” it brings into relief just how far we have come.

Screens Sept. 24 at noon at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

Fourplay: San Francisco. A trans “therapist” visits a dying heterosexual man, to give him a bi-curious experience before he passes. This unusual and occasionally sexually explicit short turns what is basically an escort call into a poignant and oddly romantic encounter, aided by a lush and soaring musical underscore and honest performances.
Screens Sept. 24 at 3:45 p.m. at Hyena’s Comedy Club at Mockingbird Station with the “Strange Ones” shorts program.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Your son’ll come out, tomorrow

SLEAZY STREET | Redneck Tenor Matthew Lord takes more potshots at the Bush Administration than gay people in his parody of ‘Annie.’

What’s a straight guy doing mocking a classic with the word ‘Trannie’? Making people laugh, that’s what

MARK LOWRY |  Contributing Writer
marklowry@theaterjones.com

It’s a beloved tale of musical theater: girl escapes orphanage, goes on quest for her parents, sings about tomorrow and ends up with a life of luxury and love — not to mention a spiffy red ’fro — with her new Daddy.

Make that two daddies. Trannie, a full-out parody of the aw-shucks family musical Annie, makes its world premiere this weekend in a tiny shed in the shadow of Grapevine’s squeaky-clean Main Street district.

The show follows the adventures of a transvestite (not transsexual) who leaves behind her prostitute pals and searches for the men who gave her up when gay couples were denied adoption rights. She sings in a nightclub called the Manhole, eventually discovering her dads, thanks to a cherished pearl necklace they once gave her.

Songs in the show include “I’m Gonna Come Out Tomorrow,” “It’s a Knocked-Up Life,” “S.T.D.” and “Sleazy Street,” which any musical queen will recognize as trash parodies of Annie hits. But despite being created by a heterosexual man, this is not a case of straight folks making fun of the T in LGBT. Nor of the G, L or B.

“I’ve been on the phone with my gay friends about this for a year, asking them ‘Can I write this?’” says Matthew Lord, the straight guy who created it. “I didn’t write this lightly. But I decided that if everybody wrote to whom they are, then nothing would ever get written.”

Lord grew up in San Francisco in the ’70s and ’80s, using his vocal talents to make a career of musical theater and opera. He has performed at the Met, originated a role in Andre Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire and, as Nero, made out with three countertenors nightly in a production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. But he’s best known as a founding member of the locally based 3 Redneck Tenors. That group, which made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent in 2007, performs opera, Broadway and popular as trailer-dwelling mullet-heads, so satire is in Lord’s veins.

As for credibility with the gay community, he knows he has nothing to worry about.

“I was one of two straight men in the San Francisco Opera chorus in the ’80s, I would go to their birthday parties at The Stud,” he says. “I grew to have this incredible understanding of not understanding why the rest of the world [didn’t accept] homosexuality. Except for the sex part, I’m as gay as they come.”

Trannie was born from a casual conversation after Ohlook, Lord’s theater company, had performed Annie. The theater is a school that performs more traditional musicals, but also does a late-night series with shows like Evil Dead the Musical, Reefer Madness and The Rocky Horror Show (Ohlook’s two-time Rocky was Jeff Walters, now Clay Aiken’s boyfriend).

For anyone upset about the use of the un-P.C. title, it’s all in good fun.

“Trannie is the most sane character in the show,” Lord says, adding that it addresses issues like prostitution, homelessness and closed-minded politicians. “It makes fun of everything and it makes fun of nothing, you know what I mean? There’s nothing hurtful in it.”

Well, there are slams at the Bush administration, with a parody of the Annie song “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” substituting the lyrics for the policies of George W. Bush.

Will it be irreverent, filthy and touching? Yes, yes and that’s the plan. Will it be funny? Bet your bottom dollar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright