Kelsey Ervi: The sorcerers’ apprentice

Kelsey Ervi picKelsey Ervi hasn’t been out of school for even two years, and already she’s stomping out a vintage with her young career in theater.

The Waco native moved to Dallas in 2011 after graduating from Baylor. Obviously, she just couldn’t get enough Waco. Yeah, right.

“I grew up there, which is scary for someone who is gay,” Ervi says. “I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here.’”

But despite the Texas town’s conservative rep, Ervi says she got a great education in the theater department there, which was very open-minded. It also taught her how to do almost anything in theater — in front of the footlights and behind.

“The theater department was so wonderful,” she coos. “I acted, directed, wrote.”

Ervi continues to work as a jack-of-all-trades: Her first play produced, Waking Up, debuted at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival last year. Set in a bedroom, with 11 characters, it explored pillow talk in the modern age. The success of that show landed Ervi a permanent job in Dallas, as assistant to Terry Martin, the producing artistic director at WTT.

Moving to Dallas has given Ervi renewed energy about the potential of doing good work in the theater. Martin, one of the most respected directors in town, asked Ervi to assistant direct WTT’s current show, The Grapes of Wrath.

“My education at Baylor was great, but the tactile experience [working here] is a whole world of knowledge,” she says. “Grapes of Wrath is such a massive show. Terry has worked with the [Joad family cast members] and I’m working with the ensemble.”

Grapes just adds to her resume. Not only has she worked with Martin, but her career already includes several stints with the dean of North Texas’ theater directors, Rene Moreno, as both assistant director or stage manager on August: Osage County, Twelfth Night and The Lucky Chance.

“It’s such a learning experience,” Ervi says. “Rene is a wonderful teacher; he’ll [do something] then whisper to me, ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”

Ervi is continuing to write (she’s working right now on a three-woman show about the trials and tribulations of love and sex; she hopes to finish it over the summer), and she’s open to auditioning to act in a show “if I feel like I’m right for it.” But mostly she’s just happy to be pursuing her passion professionally.

“I love Dallas — it’s such a booming theater community,” she says. “Classmates talk about moving to New York, and I say, ‘Come to Dallas! It’s great here.’”

The Grapes of Wrath runs through April 28.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

IMG_6871It would be difficult to conceive more events of interest to the gay community going on during a single week. Best of all, every taste is served.

Speaking of taste, Savor Dallas returns this weekend with the Friday wine stroll already sold out, but there are still tickets available for the International Grand Tasting at the Irving Convention Center Saturday night and the first-ever Savor at the Arboretum Sunday evening.

We know bears love to eat, but probably most of the gay bears in town this weekend will be on the prowl for fresh meat at the Texas Bear Round Up 18: Casino Bear Royale. The BearDance is on Friday with DJ John LePage, but there are plenty of other events spread out over three days.

You can still go to Bruce Wood Dance Project’s My Brother’s Keeper dance recital on Friday night and have time to make it to BearDance (it’s what I will be doing). A revised expansion of a piece Wood debuted last year, it runs Friday at 8 p.m. then again on Saturday.

On Sunday, the next exhibit of Cindy Sherman photographs opens at the Dallas Museum of Art. If you’ve never seen a Sherman photo — she’s the model in virtually all of them (pictured), as well as the photographer, conceiver, makeup artist, set decorator and location scout — you don’t want to miss this phenomenal show, which bends gender and identity in disturbing and hilarious ways.

Up in Addison, the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival continues at WaterTower Theatre. Among the offerings: Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays — a collection of nine 10-minute plays from eight different playwrights — is a hit-or-miss affair, but entirely worth Kristin Spires’ frantic performance as a beset GOP woman in Paul Rudnick’s The Gay Agenda and Todd Camp’s touching monologue about the loss of his partner of 36 years, London Mosquitoes by Moises Kaufman. You can catch that one on Sunday at 5 p.m. Before that, be sure to check out The Morning After Show (Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 5 p.m.), Ayala Hamilton’s riotous show.

And with the weather nice, it’s no better time to go out and enjoy Dallas Blooms at the Arboretum.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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It’s a fun week for theater, with WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in full swing, including such gayish shows as Standing on Ceremony: The Marriage Plays from Q Live!, David Parr’s Pluto Is Listening, The Morning After Show from writer/star Ayana Hampton and director Clayton Farris, as well as live performances from favorites Amy Stevenson, Walter Lee and Diana Sheehan. There’s something going on constantly, so explore!

If you prefer to head south rather than north, well there’s gay-enough stuff at the 11th Annual New Play Competition at the Bishop Arts Theatre, from TeCo Theatrical Productions. Among the six finalists are two with gay themes (including Theophany) and one a “hetero romp” from local playwright Isabella Russell-Ides that has some delicious eye candy. It runs through Sunday.

Also on Sunday night is the queen of dishy humor, Joan Rivers. She’ll be performing at the Winspear Opera House (read our interview with Joan here). The Winspear is actually a hot-bed this week, with sexy South American dancing from Grupo Corpo Friday and the Dallas Opera gala Saturday, featuring a performance by acclaimed mezzo Susan Graves.

For midweek diversions without any acting, check out the DFW Auto Show, opening Wednesday, or laugh you ass off with hilarious gay comic Thai Rivera at the Addison Improv (also Wednesday). Then on Thursday, you can choose between the opening night festivities at the Texas Bear Round Up or check out the sneak preview of Trinity Groves as part of this year’s Savor Dallas food festival.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower unveils fringe fest lineup

WaterTower Theatre’s annual Out of the Loop Fringe Festival starts in just seven weeks, and we now know the lineup of shows. Among the artists and groups represented are playwright Vicki Caroline Cheatwood (whose Ruth was one of my top productions of 2012), who will have a reading of her play Manicures and Monuments; Ayana Hampton presenting the irreverent cabaret The Morning After Show; and David Lee Nelson in his one-man show The Elephant in My Closet, about how he “came out” (as a Democrat) to his archly conservative Republican father.

Returning this year will be community fave Amy Stevenson performing her songs; Diana Sheehan reviving last year’s hit cabaret; gay playwright David Parr, pictured, returning with his new show, Pluto is Listening, and QLive — the performing arts branch of Fort Worth’s Q Cinema — presenting Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.

The festival runs March 7–17 at the Addison Theatre Centre. Individual tickets are $10 and an all-festival pass runs $65. Presented by WaterTower Theatre.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones