2011 Year in Review: Stage

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KIT KAT KLUBBERS | Wade McCollum, center, almost dominated DTC’s ‘Cabaret’ as the sleazy Master of Ceremonies, but everyone was at the top of their game in this production, directed by Joel Ferrell.

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

Dallas theaters done good in 2011, with many exciting, funny, touching and/or energetic productions to choose from. Here, from No. 10 to the top:

10. Ovo (Cirque du Soleil tour). We’ve come to expect excellence from Cirque du Soleil, but their latest show is probably the best touring production to come to North Texas. Nearly a year later, it lingers for its beauty, derring-do and even storytelling, as it portrays romance in the bug world.

9. In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play (Kitchen Dog Theater). Sarah Rule can be an acquired taste, but I acquired it with Kitchen Dog’s outrageous comedy of manners about how science adapted Victorian culture’s sexual repression to treat female “hysterics” with bizarre blindfolds over what they were doing. It took Freud and Jung to release us from these constraints.

8. The New Century and Beautiful Thing (Uptown Players’ Pride Festival). Uptown’s debut festival had some definite misses (the mainstage production of Crazy, Just Like Me was unwatchable), but I’ll walk away from the festival remembering the touching domestic drama Beautiful Thing and the camptastic Paul Rudnick comedy The New Century, which also managed to make audiences cry.

7. Arsenic and Old Lace (Dallas Theater Center). This crusty old comedy from the 1930s seemed like an unlikely source of some of the top laughs of 2011, but the Scott Schwartz-directed production, including a magnificent revolving set and a fresh, pixieish energy from Tovah Feldshuh and her co-star, Betty Buckley, was a real hoot — a chestnut roasting into a nutcake.

6. How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (ICT MainStage). Max Swarner found his niche in 2011 as the breezy light musical comedian — and How to Succeed was the perfect vehicle to showcase it. Looking big and expensive on a community theater budget, director Michael Serrecchia made this very-‘60s-era comedy feel as modern as The Colbert Report.

5. Dividing the Estate (DTC). The first entry in the city-wide Foote Festival was also the best, due in large part to director Joel Ferrell’s brisk pacing of a Gothic Southern (or in this case, Texas) saga about family sniping and intrigue. Any Southerner will recognize characters from his or her own background in the most sweeping portrait of blood dynamics since August: Osage County.

4. The Hand (Broken Gears Project Theater). Poor Broken Gears seemed to implode because of this show — a quickie little two-hander about men in a bathroom — one of whom is missing a hand… and wants one back. Snappy, gruesome and thoughtful, with a strong undercurrent of homoeroticism, it was guerrilla theater at its best.

3. Red Light Winter (Second Thought Theater). Adam Rapp’s drama about alpha-males and sexual politics marked the temporary return to Dallas of actor-director Regan Adair, and it was a fitting swan song for him as he tenderly parsed the most poignant of love stories with a dark, vicious side. The three actors were exceptional handling the explicit sexual content.

2. Next to Normal (Uptown Players). Uptown Players scored a coup in nabbing this Pulitzer-winning musical, basically an opera about mental illness. Beautifully sung (especially by the emotionally connected stars, Patty Breckenridge and Gary Floyd), it was the second major hit from director Michael Serrecchia.

1. Cabaret (DTC). It’s tempting to single out Wade McCollum, as the seductive Master of Ceremonies, with a large share of the success of this reinvention of the Kander and Ebb masterpiece, but it was not just him but Julie Johnson, David Coffee and especially director-choreographer Joel Ferrell — who turned the Wyly Theater into a seedy Weimar night club — plus everyone involved with making Cabaret the not-to-miss production of this, or any, season.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

More than 20 years after she packed the gay bar dance floors with her debut hits, the songstress is still going strong, and says her performance at Black Tie is a ‘win-win’ for her and her fans

Dayne.TaylorRich Lopez  |  Staff Writer

lopez@dallasvoice.com

Helping out LGBT people is nothing new for singer Taylor Dayne.

She can’t quite recall when she knew she was a hit with the gay community: Over the course of her 23-year career in pop music, she’s played venues of all sizes, but she did notice early on how a certain fan base seemed to keep showing up.

“It’s kinda hard to remember, but I would perform very specific shows and then some gay clubs and it dawned on me,” she said.

With an explosive debut, thanks to her platinum selling 1988 debut Tell It To My Heart and the more sophisticated follow-up Can’t Fight Fate a year later, Dayne became a quick force to be reckoned with on the charts.

But her pop hits were just as big on the dance floor, and Dayne was resonating across the queer landscape.

“I’ve had wonderful relationship with gay and lesbian fans for years. I’m so glad to be doing Black Tie because I have a great core of fan base here,” she said. “It’ll be a good show with lots of fun and for a good cause. It’s a win-win.”

Dayne’s performed at gay bars and Pride events in Boston, Chicago and the Delaware Pride Festival. But appreciation of her work in the community was clearly evident in 2010 when she was asked to record “Facing a Miracle” as the anthem for the Gay Games.

“That was quite an honor and then they asked me to perform at the games,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. The roar of the crowd was great.”

Even after two decades, Dayne remains just as committed to music as she was in 1988. She’s embraces her sort of “elder” status in pop music and instead of seeing the likes of Nikki Minaj and Katy Perry as rivals, she enjoys what they are bringing to the landscape of music now.

“I love listening to all the new stuff going on. There is some great talent out there. It’s nice to know I was some inspiration to them, the way ladies like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar were for me. The cycle goes on,” Dayne said.

But they still push her to keep in the game. She admitted, “I’m pretty competitive that way.”

This year, Dayne released the single, “Floor on Fire,” which made it to the Billboard Dance/Club Charts Top 10.

At 49, Dayne doesn’t show signs of slowing. Along with a rumored second greatest hits album, she recently wrapped up filming the indie movie Telling of the Shoes and she’s a single mother to 9-year-old twins. Juggling it all is a mix of emotions, but her confidence pushes her through.

“I can say I’m a great singer, so when it comes to decisions, I’m fine about recording and performing,” she said. “But I would say I work really hard at acting. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s also amazing. But I’m not a novice at any of this.”

With her children, she doesn’t make any pretenses about the difficulty of being both a musician and a mom — as long as she instills the proper principles in them.

“We don’t try to get wrapped up in small time crap,” she said. “At the end of day it’s about having a good heart and they have great heart.”

It’s likely she’ll show the same at Black Tie.

—  Rich Lopez

TRAVEL DIARY

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It’s not as if Palm Springs didn’t already have more than its share of gay guesthouses — though we can hardly blame them — then comes word the city has just added another. Pura Vida becomes the SoCal city’s 24th resort. An eight-suite boutique in the Warm Sands neighborhood, the facility (a rarity in Palm Springs, it is not clothing-optional) comes with amenities from breakfast to poolside cocktail hour. Go to VisitPalmSprings.com for more information.

On the other side of America, Key West’s famous (notorious?) Island House is celebrating its phenomenal longevity — 35 years — with the “35 and Fabulous” sweepstakes. Now through Sept. 5, you can register on Island House’s Facebook page to win a special anniversary rate of $13 (what they charged the first night of operation back in the bicentennial year of 1976) for one night next June 12.

Taos is rolling out the red carpet — should be a rainbow carpet — for its second annual Taos Pride Festival. The town on New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle, famous as a winter ski resort, welcomes its gay guests Aug. 19–21 for a weekend-long celebration. Among the attractions are queermedian Vickie Shaw, a free “Pride in the Park” family-friendly festival followed Saturday night with The Gayest Drag Show Ever. For more information, visit TaosPride.com.

For those who want to go further to enjoy a vacation, the Villas Veritas — gay director Franco Zeffirelli’s former estate on the Amalfi Coast, which once hosted celebs like Liz and Dick, Maria Callas and Laurence Olivier — has undergone an extensive renovation. For more, visit InVillas.com.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Festival no longer free: $5 admission announced for event in Lee Park following gay Pride parade

The 2010 Festival in Lee Park. This year, the park will be fenced and parade organizers will charge a $5 admission to help offset rising costs, Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed today. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)

I just got off the phone with Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman, who confirmed for me rumors that there will, indeed, be an admission fee to the Pride Festival in Lee Park this year after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September. Admission to the parade will still be free.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, and there will be a $5 charge to enter the park for the event that traditionally winds up Dallas’ LGBT Pride celebration. This and other changes were prompted, he said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the event was getting seriously out of hand. But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

—  admin

Travel Diary

The biggest news in travel is the latest from Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. The airlines announced plans this week to acquire AirTran Holdings, which includes low-cost flyer AirTran Airways. What this means for travelers is added destinations, many originating from DFW. Although the merger won’t have immediate effects, once in place, Southwest wil increase its presence in New York and Boston and add service to the Caribbean and Mexico.

As if Palm Springs already doesn’t have enough attraction, they go and add more fabulosity. The new gay resort Escape Palm Springs is open in the former Chestnutz spot. Renovations are complete and deals are now available for this clothing optional resort. Visit EscapePalmSprings.com for more information.

Also, the 24th Annual Palm Springs Pride Festival and Parade is scheduled for Nov. 6–7. The festival will fill up the Palm Springs Baseball Stadium featuring a concert by Martha Davis and the Motels. Then it’s followed up by the jumbo-sized parade on Sunday. Visit VisitPalmSprings.com for details.

If you haven’t noticed, Expedia has added a charming bit for their LGBT travelers. When you use the site to search for hotels, you can now filter in “LGBT-welcoming” as an option. They have tagged hotels in popular destinations throughout the U.S. and internationally such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris.

The travel site has also began an LGBT travel page listing events from around the globe. Visit
Expedia.com/daily/gaytravel for details.

New York-based G Worldwide has launched the first gay luxury hotel and hospitality brand across the nation.The hotels will cater specifically to LGBT community and supporters.
With plans to launch in five locations over the next two years, they will focus first in New York, Florida, California and Las Vegas before going international. Visit GResorts.com for information.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘This is what we get for voting for a clown’: Reykjavik mayor opens gay Pride in drag

Reykjavik Mayor Jon Gnarr, left, dressed in drag for the opening ceremonies of his city’s Pride festival.

I am sure that most people would agree that there’s a lot of funny business going on in politics. But when it comes to Reykjavik, Iceland, it’s not the kind of political funny business you might think.

In June, the citizens of Reykjavik elected top comedian Jon Gnarr as mayor. Gnarr ran for office on a platform that promised free towels at swimming pools and a new polar bear for the Reykjavik zoo. His Best Party won the council elections after promising transparency in government and used campaign videos of the candidates singing along to Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best.”

Gnarr had promised that, as mayor, he would appear at the city’s Pride festival. And this week, he made good on that promise: appearing in drag at the opening ceremonies. His blond drag persona told the crowd the mayor could not attend himself because “he’s busy, even though he promised to be here.”

Gnarr added: “What might he be up to? Maybe he is visiting Moomin Valley [the fictional setting of a series of Finnish children's stories that feature a family of white hippopotamus-like trolls]. This is what we get for voting for a clown in elections.”

Iceland, by the way, became the first country with an openly gay head of state last year when Joanna Sigurdardottir became prime minister.

Go to BBC to read more.

—  admin

Picking apart today’s press release on Dallas Pride from the Convention and Visitors Bureau

OK, so I shouldn’t criticize. The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau means well. They want to attract people to Dallas. They want to attract gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people to Dallas. I’m just not sure they’re really comfortable with that idea. From the press release DCVB sent out today:

DALLAS (July 15, 2010) – The Dallas lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is gearing up for the city’s 27th annual gay pride celebration. This year’s theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride”, will highlight the direction of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and subsequent Pride Festival at Lee Park on September 19, 2010.

Hmmm. Well, if the LGBT community is your audience, you don’t really have to explain to them what LGBT means.

“Dallas appreciates and celebrates its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, and September is the perfect time for visitors to enjoy one of the nation’s largest pride parades and the many other festivities throughout the weekend,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

If only that were more true, but good quote.

Dallas Pride weekend offers numerous events across the city. The highlight of the weekend is the annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Now in its 27th year, the parade is expecting to include nearly 2,000 marching participants and draw more than 40,000 spectators from across the nation and around the world. Immediately following the parade will be the Pride Festival at Lee Park. For more information and a schedule of events, please visit www.dallasprideparade.com.

Not held when anyone else holds Pride, so if you didn’t get your fill in your own hometown, come to ours. We celebrate in September to commemorate our own history, not to celebrate something that happened in New York City. Also, it’s a little cooler then.

Like many gay pride celebrations, Dallas Pride roots back to the late 70s when up to 300 men and women marched through downtown Dallas waving flags and shouting gay rights slogans. The Dallas Tavern Guild adopted the parade from volunteers in 1982 and named it the Texas Freedom Parade in 1983. The organization remains committed to making the celebration grow each year.

This year, grand marshals of the Parade will include Erin Moore, known for her work with the Dallas Young Democrats organization, and Paul Lewis, the long-time organizer of the Parade who also worked with Alan Ross for many years.

Oops. Dallas Young Democrats? Erin? Young?

Beautiful and sexy, maybe. But shouldn’t that read Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, one of the largest Democratic groups in North Texas? But she’s better known for her work forcing the city and many of its agencies to write equality into their non-discrimination policies. But I understand. “Erin Moore, known for forcing equality down the throats of often unwilling agencies,” just doesn’t have that press release ring to it.

Lewis is also loved in the community for heading the PWA Holiday Gift Project. And served on the board of OLCS and threw Daire Center dinners. Just wanted to mention. He’s done a lot. His commitment to the community is more than a once-a-year parade thing. But they’re right. He coordinated it for years.

Just as it has for the past 27 years, the Parade will begin at Wycliff Avenue at 2 p.m. and march down Cedar Springs Road to Robert E. Lee Park.  The celebration will continue with a festival that includes vendor booths, live music performances and more.

For more information on Dallas’ LGBT community and to book a trip to Dallas, complete with a customized itinerary, visit www.glbtdallas.com.

Nice. OK, so maybe if I were writing the press release, I would have included a quote from a gay person. I might have mentioned something about the entertainment or a lesbian venue or something the transgender community is planning.

And I wouldn’t have been afraid to mention that all these activities take place in Oak Lawn. I know part of Oak Lawn was renamed “Uptown” by developers and real estate people to dissociate all that new development from the queers. (Look at a city plat — there’s no such thing as “Uptown.” Up to the corner of Central and Fitzhugh is Oak Lawn.) But when your intended audience is LGBT, not mentioning Oak Lawn is kind of odd.

And unfortunately, glbtdallas.com doesn’t really give much information on the LGBT community of Dallas. No links to community businesses other than bars. Art galleries are listed, but no list of gay- and lesbian-owned galleries. No list of LGBT-owned restaurants and stores. No link to the city’s award-winning LGBT newspaper.

But no one asked me.

—  David Taffet