Coffee talk

Fort Worth actor David Coffee gets in touch with his feminine side as Edna Turnblad in the local debut of ‘Hairspray’

TJDavidCoffee_2862
HAIR APPARENT | Playing drag as Edna Turnblad is a first for David Coffee, but that didn’t keep him from wearing pumps during his entire interview. (Photo courtesy Robert Hart Studio)

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

From a young age, it was clear to everyone around David Coffee what he’d be when he grew up. In second grade in Fort Worth, he had to perform “some sort of talent” for his music class, so he lip-synched all the parts to the entire The Wizard of Oz soundtrack. Later, when visiting his grandparents at an old folks’ home in Oak Cliff, he’d act out the TV shows as the residents watched them on the tube.

He told everyone he wanted to be a doctor. But his second grade teacher and a double amputee at the home set him straight: Acting was clearly the path for him.

Remarkably, the 53-year-old Coffee says that he’s lucky that he’s been able to make a living as an actor, most of it in Fort Worth. Aside from brief teenage stints as a shoe salesman at an Arlington department store and a mail boy at his father’s business, Coffee has consistently worked onstage, beginning his professional career in The Wind in the Willows at what was then called Casa Mañana Children’s Playhouse, in 1968.

“Since that time, I’ve either been playing a show, learning a show or forgetting a show,” he says in his dressing room, where he’s playing Edna Turnblad in Casa’s locally-produced premiere of Hairspray, which opens Saturday.

Coffee spent years touring the country in non-Equity shows in small towns (he’s now an Equity member), 20 years of returning to the Granbury Opera House, and of course, plenty of time at Casa. He has starred with such leading ladies as Cyd Charisse, Betty Buckley and Sandy Duncan. So far in 2011, his work has included Touchstone in As You Like It at Fort Worth’s Trinity Shakespeare Festival (it was his third year of making himself a standout as a Shakespeare clown at TSF); and as Herr Schultz in Dallas Theater Center’s revival-for-the-ages of Cabaret. In December, he’ll play Ebenezer Scrooge for the 19th time at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass.

But the panties role of Edna — played by Harvey Fierstein in 2003 Broadway debut and by Divine in John Waters’ 1988 source film — is historic for him: It marks his 75th show at Casa.

It’s no wonder he’s been able to make it. Character actors typically get more consistent work, and Coffee has been playing roles much older than him since he was a teenager. With a round face and bald head ringed by brown hair, he resembles the image of the wind, that man in the clouds blowing in the sky. When he started as Scrooge at North Shore, he was in his 30s — a part he says has only changed slightly as he has gotten older.

“I clicked into him even as a child,” Coffee says. “I never felt an affinity to Tiny Tim as a child, it was an affinity to Scrooge.”

All of the experience goes into Edna, a comedy role perfect for an actor who has become synonymous with comic relief, who knows how to be hammy without overdoing the pork. It’s the first time the straight actor has played a woman, although he understudied the role at North Shore in 2010. The actor playing Edna gave the advice to make sure that the fat suit has a zipper in the vaginal area, so he can relieve himself without taking off the entire suit.

“I’ve seen people play it soft and feminine, and I don’t do that,” Coffee says about the challenge of playing Edna. He seems to be in touch with his inner woman, though: He sat through the entire interview wearing a pair of pumps that we’ve requested for the photo shoot after the interview. “I don’t pull any big bones about it. The femininity will come through the physicalization, but I don’t do with it the voice. You just play what’s there and you’re OK. You don’t ignore the fact that it’s a guy in drag, because there are a couple of places in the show where they play it up; but other than that, you don’t worry about it.”

That’s just one thing Coffee doesn’t have to worry about, along with having to rely on a day job like almost every local stage actor. Now that’s some sort of talent.

Mark Lowry is a Dallas-based writer and co-founder and editor of TheaterJones.com, where you can read the full Q&A with Coffee.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Morning News bills gay couple $1,034 for wedding announcement it refused to publish

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

After filing a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their marriage announcement under “Weddings,” a local gay couple reports that they received a $1,034 bill in the mail for the unpublished ad.

Mark Reed-Walkup, who filed the discrimination complaint against The DMN after marrying his partner Dante Walkup in Washington, D.C., says he wrote the following to James Moroney III, publisher and CEO of the newspaper:

“Does the DMN always send out invoices to ‘customers’ who placed an ad online but it was never published due to the paper’s discriminatory policies? We just received an invoice today for our December ad that you banned from your paper because our wedding wasn’t ‘really’ a wedding in your eyes. Unbelievable.”

Reed-Walkup says Moroney responded as follows:

“Not a good practice. I’ll take up with sales. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

Reed-Walkup also notes that more than 8,000 people have signed a petition launched by Change.org calling on The DMN to publish same-sex marriage announcements under Weddings. He’s hoping to get the petition up to 10,000 signatures.

As for the complaint filed against The DMN, the director of the Fair Housing Office told Instant Tea recently that the city was still in the process of reviewing it. The Fair Housing Office investigates discrimination complaints filed under a 2002 ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup maintains that Wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

—  John Wright

No, FRC: We said the wedding is semi-formal, not chain mail and rapier!

As a legally married gay man, I really do have to wonder sometimes what, exactly, groups like the Family Research Family Council hope to do to my family:

Screen Shot 2011-01-26 At 6.14.05 Pm

[SOURCE for FRC's ridiculous graphic]

Because come on: A sword-wielding knight? For the cause of rolling back a fellow American’s benign civil peace? It may not make me feel threatened, per se. But it certainly doesn’t make me question whether my husband and I were supposed to have exchanged shields rather than rings.




Good As You

—  admin

Gay Dallas couple legally weds in Texas, aims to bring ‘e-marriage’ to the same-sex masses

Mark Reed, left, and Dante Walkup

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Each year countless gay and lesbian couples travel from Texas to places where same-sex marriage is legal to tie the knot.

But Mark Reed hopes same-sex couples in Texas will soon be able to conveniently — and legally — marry without even leaving the state.

Reed, a board member for the national LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, recently married his longtime partner, Dante Walkup, at the W Dallas Victory hotel.

Their “Skype” wedding was officiated via teleconference from Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal, and they received their license in the mail a short time later.

It’s called “e-marriage,” and it’s a sort of high-tech version of the proxy wedding traditionally held when one of the parties can’t be physically present — because, for example, they’re in the military stationed overseas.

“The reason we wanted to do it this way is because we wanted to have a wedding here in Dallas with our family and friends,” Reed said. “It was very important that all of our family came. It was the first time they actually met, even though we’ve been together 10 years. If we had to go to D.C., there’s no way we could have had the people there who we wanted to be there.”

Reed and Walkup, co-owners of WDM Lighting on Oak Lawn Avenue, were married in a conference room at the W hotel on Oct. 10, in front of about 80 people with a 6-by-8-foot screen looming behind them.

The couple had rented a similar room at a W hotel in Washington, where marriage quality activist Sheila Alexander-Reid officiated the wedding.

“When we walked down the aisle, as soon as we reached the front, she comes on the screen like The Wizard of Oz,” Reed said. “It was beautiful. It wasn’t make-believe. It was like she was really there.”

Although Reed and Walkup were able to hold their ceremony in Dallas, they had to go to D.C. beforehand to register. And Reed said while D.C.’s marriage law has no provision against e-marriage, the validity of the procedure could theoretically be challenged in court.

That’s why the couple is now working with legal experts and legislators from states where same-sex marriage is legal to draft statutes that would solidify the practice. Reed and Walkup traveled this week to Michigan for a symposium on e-marriage.

While the couple has no intention of using their case to challenge Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage, Reed said they want to make it more convenient and less expensive for same-sex couples to legally wed.

Reed is also in the process of changing his surname in a Texas court, and he’s been fighting The Dallas Morning News — thus far unsuccessfully — to print their announcement in “Weddings” instead of in another section called “Commitments.”

“It’s like the more equal we can get through creative ways, we’re going to do it,” Reed said. “It’s just important to do anything we can to find creative ways around inequality.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Gov. Rick Perry is totally unable to defend Texas’ denial of civil rights to gays

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Rick Perry Extended Interview
www.thedailyshow.com

We finally got around to watching Texas Gov. Rick Perry on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. And it turns out the interview contains an interesting discussion related to same-sex marriage. As if he’s reading directly from this blog, Stewart brings up Perry’s statement in his new book that if you don’t like medicinal marijuana or gay marriage, you shouldn’t move to California.

“Even within Texas, it’s not a monolith,” Stewart tells Perry. “You got 55 percent of the vote, and that’s a big victory, but 45 percent of the people in Texas didn’t vote for you. Thirty percent of those might want medicinal weed or gay marriage. Are there certain basic rights that all Americans should have no matter where they live, even if the majority would suggest otherwise? Are you with me on that? And can’t freedom also be protected by government?”

“Absolutely, I get that,” Perry says, before doing some sort of ape-like gesture with his hands on Stewart’s desk and saying that he thinks the federal government should only perform certain basic functions like delivering the mail.

Gee, that’s very fuckin’ enlightening, governor.

—  John Wright

Lesbian Pastor Target of Hate Mail

Rev Sharon Ferguson Franka Strietzel x390 (london evening standard) | advocate.comThe Reverend Sharon Ferguson, a Metropolitan Community Church pastor in north
London who is fighting for marriage equality in the U.K., has received
“abusive e-mails from people claiming to be Christians who are unhappy
with what we are doing.”
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Oak Lawn shooting victim undergoes 2nd surgery

Doug Tull in serious condition but is expected to recover; police say video from nearby bank camera did not record shooting or license plate

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Doug Tull
Doug Tull

Doug Tull remained hospitalized this week after being shot during an aggravated robbery in Oak Lawn on Aug. 30.
At about 1 a.m. that Monday, two men jumped from a car directly in front of Tull as he walked along Brown Street, and robbed and shot him at point blank range.

A third man drove the car into the drive-through lane of the American National Bank on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Tull made it to Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue where co-owner Ron Nelson called for emergency help.

Tull was taken to Parkland Hospital where doctors repaired damage to his large and small intestines, liver and stomach. The bullet, however, remained in his body.

Doctors at first thought the bullet was lodged in Tull’s rectum and they had hoped that it would pass naturally. But on Tuesday, Sept. 7, Tull began running high fever, and doctors operated to remove the bullet.

Tull remains in serious condition.

Police hoped to identify the car used in the attack from surveillance tape taken by the bank. However, a police spokesperson said that while they believe they saw the car on the video, the license plate is unreadable and the camera did not record the shooting, which happened across the street.

Tull said the car is an older, gray, four-door Nissan Altima. He identified the men as African-American, weighing about 150 pounds each and all in their early 20s.

The parking garage manager at the Crescent returned a check with Tull’s address by mail that a cashier found in the lot. Tull confirmed that the check had been folded and in his wallet that was stolen.

When contacted by police, officials at the Crescent gave a copy of their surveillance tapes to police. But the cameras were not pointed in the direction of the car and a police spokesman said the tape was not immediately useful.

The police spokesman said they would retain the tape, which may prove useful for later corroboration.

Darwin Kopaska is a friend of Tull’s and has been with him daily since the shooting. He said that over the weekend, Tull began complaining of pain in his lower back that was more severe than that in his abdomen. The area where the bullet was lodged began to swell. He was taken into surgery at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Kopaska also said doctors were concerned about fluid building around his lungs and a urinary tract infection.

After the operation, doctors said the bullet looked like a 9 mm.

Kopaska said that Tull’s mother, brother and sister arrived late last week from out-of-town.

Kopaska said another friend he identified only as Loveta was helpful in contacting Tull’s employer and arranging for short-term disability for him. Tull has worked for Texas Instruments for about 25 years.

Tull was expected to remain in the hospital through this week but is expected to fully recover.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas