COVER STORY: On the fringe

WaterTower’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival gets very gay

Dark-Play

STALKER TWINKS | ‘Dark Play or Stories for Boys,’ pictured, looks at online relationships with an eerie, gay twist.

Fringe theater festivals always push boundaries — that’s kind of the point — which often entails racy, “alternative” material … and that frequently touches on queer content.
We’re used to finding some gay-interest shows at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, but this year is something else — of the 22 artists and companies performing at the fest, more than one-third are members of or tied to the LGBT community. That’s a lotta gay in a short time frame.

And there is of course more than just gay content — dance and music and just entertaining performances from the likes of spotlight selection Charles Ross, whose one-man show encapsulates the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in about an hour. (He previously did Star Wars in its entirety at OOTL.)

But here are the artists who will bring a little bit of gay to Addison next week and for 10 more days of theater after. There’s certainly something you’ll wanna see there.

Contributing writers: Arnold Wayne Jones, Steven Lindsey, Rich Lopez, Mark Lowry, Jef Tingley.

Highlights2-billbowers
One Man Lord of the Rings, March 1–4. $15.
• Amy Stevenson cabaret in the lobby, March 2 and 10. Free.
Sweet Eros, March 1, 3, 7 and 9.
Dark Play or Stories for Boys, March 2, 3, 4 and 10.
A Most Happy Stella, March 3, 7 and 11.
Strange Dreamz, March 3, 6 and 10.
Waking Up, March 3, 6, 8, 10 and 11.
The Screw You Revue, March 9 and 10.
Bill Bowers: Beyond Words, pictured left, March 9, 10 and 11 (movement workshop March 10).
WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Circle. March 1–11. All single tickets $10, except as indicated. Festival wide pass available. Visit WaterTowerTheatre.org for a complete schedule of events.

Sweet Eros

Interview with director Adam Adolfo
What’s gay about it: Everything. It was written by Terrence McNally “and provides people the opportunity to re-explore [his] work as contemporary dramatist,” Adolfo says. It’s produced by QLive!, the stage arm of Q Cinema. Sweet Eros is one of the featured presentations at OOTL.

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EROS-ION | Q Live!, the stage arm of Fort Worth’s Q Cinema film fest, makes its OOTL debut with ‘Sweet Eros,’ pictured at left; gay playwright David Parr, below, offers the Texas premiere of his comedy ‘The Most Happy Stella,’ a play on the title of the musical ‘The Most Happy Fella.’

How gay audiences can relate: “Sweet Eros is a slightly subversive play in the idea that it’s about a man who feels on the outside of society,” explains Adolfo. “He struggles with his demons to define a sense of place and hope for himself, [which] leads him to a self-awareness that is both revelatory and terrifying. We liken his struggle to what many gay men experience in their own coming-out process.

“Unlike most men, though, our hero takes a very dark, frequently erotic and unsettling journey to self-discovery, forcing us to question his choices and sense of self. I’ll say this for our hero: His sense of sexual virility and his heightened attention to fine detail makes him a very alluring aggressor and his predatory skill is both sensual and sadistic. He is a very complex young man. But then again, aren’t we all?”

Adolfo’s relationship to the Q folks goes back several years, after he cast founders Kyle Trentham and Todd Camp as a bumbling pair of soldiers in his production of Much Ado About Nothing. “Before that I had worked with Kyle as an actor, directing him as Bottom in my staging of Midsummer Nights Dream. That production hit upon gay marriage equality and coming-out issues in a very subtle way, and was my introduction to Kyle. The guys are just phenomenal to work with and when they started up QLive!, I was very glad to be a part of their inaugural reading of Spring Awakening, the play that inspired the hit Broadway show.”

Why Out of the Loop?: “This is my first time to be a part of the festival. I’ve come in years past and fallen in love with shows and companies whose work I had not been exposed to and being able to access it so freely,” says Adolfo. “It’s a cornucopia of talent, skill and artistry.”
Performances: March 1 and 7 at 7:30 p.m., March 3 at 5 p.m. and March 9 at 8 p.m.

Dark Play, or Stories for Boys

Interview with actors Adam Garst and Jacob Aaron Cullum

Cast and story: The five-person cast is headlined by Adam Garst and Jacob Aaron Cullum playing, respectively, a teenager who stalks other teens online, and his victim. The show features costumes by rising local star Justin Locklear.

Background: This is the first production by Outcry Theatre, another area theater founded by students of Waco’s Baylor University (others include Second Thought Theatre and Rite of Passage Theatre Company). In this case, Becca Johnson-Spinos, who directs Dark Play, received her master’s in directing at Baylor, worked in North Carolina and then moved to Dallas with her husband. Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions gave this play its area premiere in 2008, but it was written several years before that. It uses AOL instant messaging and chat rooms as its means of cyber-bullying, which already feels dated in a world run by Facebook and Twitter.

Gay cred: Clearly, the storyline, though Garst played the gay character Moritz in WaterTower Theatre’s Spring Awakening.

Garst’s view of his stalker character: “When I first read it, it seemed like Nick was extremely mean. But it’s been interesting making him a real person. Like everyone else, he’s desperate for something in the world. The thing he thinks he didn’t need was love.”

Cullum’s view: “It’s neat to play a character who is so naïve and gullible that he’s easily fooled by this character because he wants to fall in love. Behaviorally, he’s very similar to me.”

Performances: March 2 and 10 at 8 p.m., March 3 at 2 p.m., March 4 at 5 p.m.

A Most Happy Stella

Interview with playwright David Parr

What to expect: We could tell you about David Parr’s play A Most Happy Stella. But then he might shoot us.
“I want the audience to know as little as possible going in,” he says. “It’s become a gayer and gayer show as we worked on it and I didn’t realize how many elements were in it altogether. A gay audience will appreciate them and would help the show.”

Stella is made of six vignettes that riff on popular theater works mixed with camp and layered with a sophisticated jazz soundtrack. Parr’s not going for satire, he says — he really just has one intention: “To celebrate all these plays and theater in general,” he says.

Queerspiration: With His Girl Tuesday, Porn Yesterday, Long Gay’s Journey into Night, Alas Poor Yorick and the title piece, the inspirations for each scene is obvious — as is the queer appeal, whether comic or more serious.

“The gay theme [in Yorick] surrounds a bullied student who befriends a girl on the bus,” Parr explains. “The bullying issue wasn’t what I set out to do, but I felt that outsider element the character does and befriended this girl who’s been a good friend ever since.”

He amps up the queer content by turning the finale into a mini-musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire. With a complete emasculation of Stanley, the show turns the famous “Stella” yell into a chorus and flips the perspective around on the characters.

“That show is over the top anyway, but also a really disturbing play,” he says. “And Tennessee Williams’ writing style lends itself to music. The elements just needed a little tweaking to verge into camp territory. It’s kinda like standing on a ledge — we don’t wanna fall all the way off — that disrespects the original work.”

Living on the fringe: Parr thrives on creating works with a fringe element, as he did in his first success, Slap & Tickle, about a group of men coming out in a post-AIDS time and the tapestry of relationships they are involved in. Parr, though, is maintaining his focus on Stella, because he will just be seeing it all put together when he finally comes to Dallas from New York a week before the festival.

“I feel pretty good right now and the tone of it is playing how I want it to,” he says. “But then, we haven’t done our tech yet!”

Performances: March 3 at 2 p.m., March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 at 5 p.m.

Strange Dreamz

Interview with performer Kevin J. Thornton

Try to decide what to call Kevin J. Thornton, and you’ll probably come up as empty as Thornton himself. He writes, tells jokes, sings songs, performs scenes from his life … he might even bus your table if you asked nicely. So it is with his world premiere show, Strange Dreamz: It’s a little bit of everything.

Kevin-J.-Thornton-in-Strange-Dreamz

‘VULGARITY WITH A CHRISTIAN EDGE’ | For his world premiere show, Kevin J. Thornton recounts coming out to his fundamentalist family.

“I’m trying to blur the line between this show and my Podcast, which is also called Strange Dreamz. I say it’s about ‘love, sex and the meaning of life.’ But I also call it ‘dick jokes that are good for the soul’ and ‘an hour of vulgarity with a Christian edge.’ I’m truly a variety act — I guess the closest you could say is, I’m like a male Sandra Bernhardt.”

Thornton grew up in a deeply fundamentalist Christian household, so his journey to out atheist has been a long and difficult one, but all the more material to fuel his comic rants.

“If you read it on paper, my stuff may seem pretty filthy. But I have this boy-next-door charm that keeps people in their seats,” he admits.

That quality probably also landed him a job posing nude once for Unzipped, the gay porn magazine. So what was more difficult to expose: His body or his painful upbringing?

“Of course it’s taking off my clothes!” he says without missing a beat. “I’m very vain and have a small penis. Getting onstage and spilling my guts is a piece of cake to me now. The closer I get to embarrassing myself, the better the material is. It seems to resonate with people.”

Performances: March 3 at 5 p.m., March 6 at 7:30 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m.

Waking Up

Interview with playwright Kelsey Ervi

Only 22, Ervi’s play Waking Up will be the first of her works actually produced for the stage.

What’s gay about your play: “When I was writing this, I wanted to make sure to create a broad spectrum of characters. It’s important to me as a playwright and a lesbian to have gay characters, so we have a scene with two men in their struggling relationship and then two women who are physically and emotionally into each other, but it’s something they’re uncovering about themselves.

“I knew it would be a good fit into this festival. The show is neither a comedy nor drama, but, um … quirky is a good word. It has many different themes and storylines in small vignettes. The play revolves around 11 characters total and it’s all set in a bedroom. We set it in realism to look at things people wake up to, wake up for or don’t wake up at all. I think it can touch audiences in a different way.”

6-Greyman-Kelsey-Ervi

Kelsey Ervi

Past gay cred? “I was accepted for GLAAD’s annual OUTAuction last November. I had a photograph accepted and was named one of the top five emerging artists in my medium. I was so happy to be a part of that. And I had a directing internship with ShakespeareDallas last fall under Rene Moreno working on Hamlet. That really pushed me to move to Dallas and I’ll be working with [the company] again this summer for Twelfth Night. I knew I didn’t want to wait in Waco any longer.”

One last note: “I wrote Waking Up after an intimate experience with a girl in college. She was an inbetweener. But I want the audience to be reminded how emotions can be scary but great. Besides, it’s short (30 minutes) and sweet. It’s something different ages can enjoy, especially young people.”

Performances: March 3 at 8 p.m., March 6 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., March 10 and 11 at 2 p.m.

The Screw You Revue

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McGeoch and Chaffee perform the sassy standup of ‘The Screw Your Revue;’

Interview with Douglas McGeoch, aka Miss Didi Panache
Imagine a Sonny and Cher-style duo with the in-your-face satire of Lisa Lampanelli and you have The Screw You Revue. Real-life partners Dewey Chaffee and Douglas McGeoch star as Wayburn Sassy (Chaffee), a bigoted curmudgeon who calls it as he sees it, and Miss Didi Panche, his lovely songbird accomplice, in this gay cabaret of hiss-and-tell humor.

Standup origins: The show began out of Chaffee’s standup comedy routine with a biological girl originally playing the role of Didi. Chaffee later convinced McGeoch to step into the heels and “now, he can’t tear the sequins from my back or the lashes from my eyes,” says McGeoch. For its Texas premiere, they will be adding three things. “One, lots of local Dallas flair and commentary on the city. Two, multiple digs at Texas’ Most Honorable Governor, Rick Perry. And the third addition will be … um … let me check my notes … I forgot. Oops!”

Fair warning: For those easily offended, best to stay at home. This audience-interaction experience does not discriminate. During one of their most memorable shows, Wayburn encountered a quadriplegic in the front row. Ignoring typical social norms he approached the gentleman and said, “All right, someone needs attention. I’ll bite. What the hell happened to you?” The audience went silent. The gentleman responded by saying that at the age of 12 he dove into a pool and broke his neck. Without missing a beat Wayburn replied, “So you’re not only a cripple, you’re an idiot, too.”
According to McGeoch, the gentleman and his party roared with laughter.

Performances: March 9 and 10, 10 p.m.

Beyond Words

Interview with mime Bill Bowers

Cast: Just Bowers, a professional mime who uses stories from his life growing up as a gay kid in Montana, then deciding to become a mime. Beyond Words is a personal story culled from Bowers’ own life, with narration and movement telling the story. It played last fall off-Broadway.

Ooh, daddy: Whether he considers himself one or not, Bowers is a daddy — for real! He recently donated his sperm to a lesbian couple and became a biological father to their child. Both Bowers and his partner will have active roles in the son’s life.

On how becoming a father affected his art: “We’re not the official parents, they’re raising him. But we’re a big part of his life and I see him regularly. It’s something I never imagined I would do, but they asked, and I became a father. So that is a huge part of this piece.”

On becoming a mime: “I was surrounded by silence when growing up,” Bowers says. “There was the silence of Montana, but although I was in a big family, I didn’t talk much. And then the silence of being a gay kid, there was no conversation about that when I was little. When I got into high school and realized there was an art form about not talking, it just came to me. I started teaching myself what I thought mime was.”

For those who wanna be mimes: In addition to his show, Bowers will also lead a movement workshop on March 10 at 10 a.m.

Performances: March 9 at 8 p.m., March 10 at 5 p.m. and March 11 at 2 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Theater Critics Forum bestows honors

The DFW Theater Critics Forum met last week over friend chicken and sweet tea to bestow its annual awards for local theater excellence, as as usual, the gay community was well-represented.

Of the eight best director winners, five locals were gay: Regan Adair for Red Light Winter, Rene Moreno for three shows (The Trip to Bountiful, No Child… and Creditors), Michael Serrecchia for two shows (Uptown Players’ Next to Normal and ICT MainStage’s How to Succeed…), Joel Ferrell for two shows at DTC (Cabaret and Dividing the Estate), and Len Pfluger for My Fair Lady at Lyric Stage. Pfluger’s partner, Jay Dias, was also singled out for his season of music direction with Lyric.

Larry Randolph, as a tragic drag queen in One-Thirdy Productions’ FIT entry, The Madness of Lady Bright, was a popular choose for acting, as were two New York actors who sizzled at the Wyly (and whom we interviewed): Wade McCollum as the M.C. in Cabaret, pictured, and Sydney James Harcourt as the Tin Man in The Wiz. Whitney Hennen, the ditzy blonde in Uptown’s Victor/Victoria, was also singled out.

Justin Locklear received the second Emerging Artist Award for his acting and costume work this season with Balanced Almond, which actually won him two other individual awards.

In addition to yours truly, participating critics in Martha Heimberg (Turtle Creek News); Elaine Liner (Dallas Observer); Mark Lowry (TheaterJones and Fort Worth Star-Telegram); M. Lance Lusk (D Magazine); David Novinski (TheaterJones); Punch Shaw (Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Perry Stewart (TheaterJones); Lawson Taitte (Dallas Morning News); and Lindsey Wilson (D Magazine).

Full list below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Coffee talk

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

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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

WATCH: Dave Koz’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’

Before jazz artist Dave Koz stopped in town last month, contributing writer Mark Lowry talked to him about many things, one being his project for his newest music video.

A few weeks ago, he invited fans to participate in a video shoot in Ventura, Calif., for “This Guy’s In Love With You,” with the idea to celebrate love, and being bold enough to love whomever you wish, regardless of sex, race, religion or creed. He called it a “love mob,” and according to his website, it was a success.

The video was released this week and features exactly what he said — “a love mob” of sorts. Depicting a variety of relationships from gay to straight, young to old and all in between, Koz seems to have achieved his goal. He even has Herb Alpert playing a guest spot in the video and on the song.

OK, then after you watch that, watch this. It’s a total shift in gears but omagah, it’s crazy hilarious — and just the pick-me-up for a slow hump-day afternoon. Thanks to colleague Gary for the tip.

—  Rich Lopez

Just Koz

Out saxophonist (and proud oenophile) Dave Koz turns collaboration into musical art

JAZZ MAN | Sax and cabernet share a place in the heart of Dave Koz, but it’s only the former you’ll enjoy at the Dallas Symphony on Sunday.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

…………………..

DAVE KOZ
Meyerson Symphony Center,
2301 Flora St. June 19. 8 p.m. $35–$85. DallasSymphony.com

………………….

Saxophone player Dave Koz likes to have several things on his plate, so it makes sense that he’d want to pair them with wine — his own wine. He admits to not being a lover of vino, but an outright oenophile who drinks and appreciates it.

He describes his brand’s cabernet, from the Napa Valley vineyard Vinum Cellar (there’s also a Koz chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), as “very fruity, it’s fresh,” before settling on this: “You know, the best way to describe it is friendly. You share it with people you love and it puts you in a good mood.”

While that description might also go for any number of vintages and varietals, it certainly is a good summation of the man Dave Koz, who performs at the Meyerson on Father’s Day.

He has released 12 albums in a 23-year career, including 2010’s Hello Tomorrow, which, as he has done time and time again, is filled with collaborations from important names from the music world at large, including Herb Alpert, Keb’ Mo’ and Sheila E. And as with Hello Tomorrow, which fuses blues, funk and other styles into Koz’s smooth sax sounds, his music puts the listener in a good mood.

That also goes for when he’s tackling heavier themes, such as what inspired his latest album: The constant wave of change sweeping everyone’s lives … including his own.

“I was reeling with my own personal changes, including my mom passing away a few years ago, and the reality of that,” says Koz. “There were also a lot of changes in my business, in my daily life. The more I started talking to people about it, I realized there were so many people waking up going, ‘Wow, it’s a lot different than I thought it was going to look.’”

The music he wrote for songs like “When Will I Know For Sure” and “Anything’s Possible” tap into that, which is more open to interpretation when it’s mostly instrumental music (he also sings vocals on his take on the Burt Bacharach song “This Guy’s in Love With You”).

“Instrumental music is an interesting thing, because we’re living in a vocal world,” he says. “There’s a transparency that comes when someone plays the saxophone or piano or guitar that allows the listener to have a more personal experience with that song. The idea is for me to put as much emotional information into that saxophone so that someone on the receiving end can feel something.”

Having witnessed enough changes to inspire an album, one thing that surprisingly didn’t change for him was when, at 40, he officially came out in a 2004 interview in The Advocate.

“I never thought I would do it, but it just kind of bubbled inside of me and next thing I knew I was coming out,” he says. “It was the best decision I ever made. That being said, I would caution against telling anyone matter-of-factly that you have to come out. The reason it was a non-issue for me was because I was ready.”

Koz says that his decision was embraced in the jazz community, which has had a perception of being homophobic. A few weeks ago, he invited fans to participate in a video shoot in Ventura, Calif., for “This Guy’s In Love With You,” with the idea to celebrate love, and being bold enough to love whomever you wish, regardless of sex, race, religion or creed. He called it a “love mob,” and according to his website, it was a success.

Like his wines, proceeds from which benefit Starlight Children’s Foundation, consider it just another thing he does for a good Koz.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Stepping up

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BACK IN FRONT | Bruce Wood, above, has launched a new contemporary ballet company which debuts Friday. He will continue his signature pairings of male dancers, including former company member Doug Hopkins, below center.

4 years after closing his acclaimed dance troupe, Bruce Wood is back — this time in Dallas, and more defiant than ever

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

It was a sad day in 2007 when — after 10 seasons of delivering some of the most exciting contemporary ballets North Texas had seen from a local dance outfit — Fort Worth’s Bruce Wood Dance Company folded.

Officially, the reason for the closing was that Wood had spent the previous few years running the whole show himself; he simply didn’t have time to devote to both fundraising and dance-creating.

But it has also been suggested that the edginess of his work, notably the frequent pairings of male dancers, shocked and offended some audiences. While same-sex groupings are nothing new in contemporary dance, Wood’s frank use of it may have driven away some of Cowtown’s big-money donors.

All of which makes Wood’s reemergence (this time in Dallas) after four years away all the more exciting. The Bruce Wood Dance Project debuts Friday at Downtown’s Arts Magnet, with two world premieres and a revival of one of his best-known works, 2001’s Bolero.

One of the new dances — called Our Last Lost Chance and set to the music of contemporary Finnish composer Ólafur Arnalds — does feature a duet between two men.  But Wood sounds almost defiant about it this time around.

“There are things I was afraid to do in Fort Worth because of [reaction from] donors,” Wood now says. “Now I don’t care and I’m going to do them anyway.”dance-2

Nevertheless, Wood, who is gay, says he never pairs same-sex dancers to make any kind of statement.

“It’s simply a part of who I am and I give it no more thought than I would about having gray hair,” says the silver-maned Wood.

“Having said that, I have found that the general audience often feels it is some kind of sexual thing. It generally doesn’t occur to some that it could simply be a dance between two men that explores their relationship as friends, brothers, father and sons.”

The nature of dance, however, is admittedly imbued with a certain degree of sensuality that can provoke visceral reactions among its audiences.

“I don’t try to be subversive, but dance by its physical nature has dancers touching, holding and supporting and that can lead to all kinds of interpretations. As long as I approach the dances with honesty and integrity, I find that the audience does as well,” he says.

Wood’s new company features 16 dancers, with two of his former collaborators, Kimi Nikaidoh and Doug Hopkins, onboard. Hopkins, the longtime partner of Q Cinema founder Todd Camp, will showcase his comedic skills in the other new work on the program, Happy Feet, which features onstage music by Fort Worth Euro-gypsy band Ginny Mac.

Wood insists this is not a one-shot pilot program. Even before his official return to the stage debuts, Wood has already begun planning the next performances of his company (the dates will be announced later). And he has committed to one twist in particular: Using all male dancers.

“I have been wanting to do this for a long while, and I now have the resources to do so,” Wood says. “It will be a full evening of dances where the cast is all men. It will explore the concepts men have about themselves — what it is to be a man, and how others see them.”

But he’s not considering it a “gay night of dance.”

“Men deal with the physicality of dance very differently than women,” he says. “They’re heavier, they deal with gravity differently, they deal with each other differently, and they can be physically rougher. All of these things will make the dances in this new project completely different from anything I have ever done before.”

And when Bruce Wood says he’s headed somewhere new, no one who cares about dance can be anything other than thrilled.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

It’s not easy being ‘Green’

First-time filmmaker Steve Williford teams with the Verizon Guy (seriously!) for ‘The Green,’ a movie about homophobia and suspicion

Jason_Butler_Harner_and_Cheyenne_Jackson
IDYLLS OF THE QUEENS | A quiet couple (Dallas theater veteran Jason Butler Harner and ‘30 Rock’s’ Cheyenne Jackson) becomes immersed in controversy when one is accused of an affair with a teen in the USA Film Festival entry ‘The Green.’

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

Although Steve Williford never felt any homophobia directed at him when he lived in southwestern Indiana, his perception of what others thought of him as a gay man was something that stuck with him for many years. At dinner parties and social events, his sexuality was a subject that came up often, usually as a result of others’ curiosity.

“Months went by and I started to wonder if I was the poster boy for gay,” he says. “I always wondered what would happen if something in my life happened that brought my sexuality to the forefront, like if I was at a party and kissed my partner.”

That question would eventually lead him to his first feature film as a director, The Green, currently on the festival circuit and screening at USA Film Festival Saturday. The screenplay is written by Paul Marcarelli, best known as Verizon’s “can you hear me now?” guy, who recently came out publicly.

The story they ended up with concerns a high school teacher, played by Jason Butler Harner, who is accused of an inappropriate relationship with a male student. It causes tension with the teacher’s partner, played by out Broadway hunk Cheyenne Jackson (also known for his recurring roles on 30 Rock and Glee), and in the community.

Williford directed nearly 150 episodes of the recently axed soap opera All My Children from 2004 to 2011, but his background is in theater (he directed a production of Driving Miss Daisy in the early 1990s at Dallas’ Park Cities Playhouse, back when it was called the Plaza Theatre). So it’s not surprising that his cast is filled with actors who come from the theater world, too — not just Jackson, but Harner, who played Hamlet at the Dallas Theater Center in 2003. That may explain why Williford’s film has something in common with several plays, notably Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt.

Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 5.27.05 PM“We’re a proud cousin of all of those works,” Williford says. “We are trying to examine a situation that can illustrate to us how slippery truth and clarity really is and how quickly it can slip away from us.”

“Paul and I are both big lovers of ambiguity to a certain degree,” he adds. “I had always modeled this story in my heart and mind on what I love about the Chekhov short stories: We leave certain things open and free to be interpreted. For the bulk of the story, you’re really not sure if he has done what he’s being accused of, but there are some significant issues that do get resolved, quite clearly I think.”

And of course, he knows the audience won’t trust if they don’t believe in the relationship as portrayed by Harner and Jackson, and takes a dramatic turn from the comic roles he has done on TV.

“I completely believe in Jason and Cheyenne as a couple. That’s one of my complaints when I see LGBT couples represented in film: I feel like there’s a link missing a little bit. I don’t feel that way about them, in the work environment or what has come together for the film.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

2011 Readers Voice Awards: Nightlife

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DICK DANCER DESTINATION
The Tin Room

2514 Hudnall St.
Open Sunday­–Thursday till 2 a.m.,
Friday–Saturday till 3 a.m.
214-526-6365
TinRoom.net

We could sit here and pretend that the reason the Tin Room won as the top Dick Dancer Destination has something to do with the atmosphere, or the bar service, or the variety of cocktail options. Yeah, and we read Inches magazine for the articles. But less just ‘fess up: The reason we love the Tin Room is because it has hot, fit, tattooed young men who shake like the San Andreas on a trampoline. And they’re friendly. And we’re certain they are good people. And there’s a cage. And a shower. Yeah, we definitely could use a drink.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


LESBIAN HOT SPOT
Sue Ellen’s

3014 Throckmorton St.
Open daily till 2 a.m.
After-hours dancing till 4 a.m.
214-559-0707
Caven.com

We love that Sue Ellen’s moved into the big digs once home to TMC a few years ago: Dallas’ long-running gal-pal spot feels right at home in its current location. There are plenty of spots to hear live music (a longtime selling point for female and male patrons), lots of nooks to get all cozy on handsome sofas and chairs, spacious dance floors, even dandy spots for daytime laptop work while enjoying a beverage. It’s geared for the ladies, but appeals to men, too.

— Mark Lowry


BEST NIGHTLIFE EVENT TO ATTEND IN THE MIDDLE OF DAY
Chill Sunday

House of Blues’ Foundation Room
2200 N. Lamar St.
2–6 p.m.
Facebook.com/SXSProductions

Truth be told, the gays cannot do a Sunday afternoon without a mimosa and a brunch menu. Thankfully, SxS Productions and Janus, the guys behind the monthly Chill Sunday, take it to a different level without the guilt of an overindulgent meal. Don’t worry. Lunch happens at Chill, but alongside the Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas, the music by a rotating lineup of DJs is always a downtempo beat, which makes for a cool way to bring the weekend to a close.

— Rich Lopez

 

ULTIMATE DALLAS CLUB
The Round-Up Saloon

3912 Cedar Springs Road
Daily 8 p.m.—2 a.m.
214-522-9611
RoundUpSaloon.com


ULTIMATE FORT WORTH CLUB
Rainbow Lounge

651 South Jennings Ave., Fort Worth
Open daily until 2 a.m.
817-870-2466
Facebook.com/RainbowLounge

 

BEST HAPPY HOUR
JR.’s Bar & Grill

3923 Cedar Springs Road
Open daily till 2 a.m.
214-528-1004
Caven.com


BEST AFTER HOURS CLUB • TIE
TMC: The Mining Company

3903 Cedar Springs Road
Open Thursday–Sunday till 2 a.m.,
after hours dancing Friday–Sunday
214-521-4205
Caven.com

Station 4

3911 Cedar Springs Road
Open Wednesday-Sunday till 2 a.m.
After-hours dancing till 4 a.m.
214-526-7171
Caven.com


FRIENDLIEST CLUB STAFF
The Round-Up Saloon

3912 Cedar Springs Road
Daily 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
214-522-9611
RoundUpSaloon.com

 

SEXIEST BARTENDER
Carter Young

JR.’s Bar & Grill
3923 Cedar Springs Road
Open daily till 2 a.m.
214-528-1004
Caven.com

 

BEST CLUB DJ
Ronnie Bruno


TWINKY TOWN
Station 4

3911 Cedar Springs Road
Open Wednesday-Sunday till 2 a.m.
After-hours dancing till 4 a.m.
214-526-7171
Caven.com

 

DADDY DEPOT
The Dallas Eagle

5740 Maple Ave.
Open Sunday­–Thursday till 2 a.m.,
Friday–Saturday till 4 a.m.
214-357-4375
DallasEagle.com

 

BEST KARAOKE
The Round-Up Saloon

3912 Cedar Springs Road
Daily 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
214-522-9611
RoundUpSaloon.com

 

OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Jack’s Backyard

2303 Pittman Road
Open daily till 2 a.m.
214-741-3131
JacksBackyardDallas.com

 

IT’S STRAIGHT BUT WE GO
The Grapevine Bar

3902 Maple Ave.
Open daily till 2 a.m.
214-522-8466
TheGrapevineBar.com

<<<BACK TO CATEGORIES

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

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

Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright