Stage West founder Jerry Russell, father of state Sen. Wendy Davis, dies

JerrRussellJerry Russell, an accomplished local actor and founder of Fort Worth’s Stage West theater, died peacefully in his sleep overnight. He was surrounded by family including his daughter, state Sen. Wendy Davis. He was 77.

Sen. Davis, D-Fort Worth, recently postponed an announcement about whether she plans to run for governor in 2014 due to her father’s illness.

Russell entered the hospital for a surgical procedure last week, but developed complications following a bout of pneumonia.

Russell founded Stage West, one of Fort Worth’s most acclaimed theater companies, in 1979 out of his European-style sandwich shop. It grew exponentially over the years, doubling its audience with each show in its first year alone, eventually becoming a go-to place for edgy modern productions. Along with regulars including Jim Covault and Dana Schultes, Russell also was one of the regular performers the Stage West, turning in many memorable performances while also directing many of the shows, but it wasn’t just there that he found success. Russell performed in many area theaters, often at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas (memorably in On Golden Pond and Visiting Mr. Green).

He passed away leaving a legacy of memorable performances and tremendous artistic integrity. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEWS: Magnum farce —”Bomb-itty of Errors,” “What the Butler Saw”

Dana Schultes and Garret Storms in "What the Butler Saw" at Stage West.

There are a lot of men in dresses lately, and I’m not even talking about the guys at the Rose Room or the cast of The Divine Sister at the Kalita. No, for some reason, it’s farce month at North Texas theaters, and a farce just isn’t complete without a little cross-dressing.

At Stage West in Fort Worth, at least some of the gender confusion is sexy, as a twinky bellhop (Garret Storms) strips down to his tightie-whities (well, really tightie-reddies) before slipping on a Carnaby Street mod-mini and pumps to swing his hips. The play is What the Butler Saw, the last of gay British playwright Joe Orton’s handful of full-length stage plays (it was first staged two years after Orton’s lover murdered him). There are no butlers in it, nor is there any butling. It isn’t even a mystery, as the name might suggest. All of which makes it exactly what it’s meant to be: a nonsensical knockabout set in a mental home, where the inmates might as well be running the asylum.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Stage West’s ‘The 39 Steps’ is both thriller and comedy

These ‘Steps’ are a killer
In Patrick Barlow’s stage version of The 39 Steps, not only did he adapt a Hitchcock movie (and John Buchan novel) into a hilarious whodunit, but he also reduced the cast to four playing a magnitude of parts. We’re already out of breath.

DEETS: Stage West, 821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth. Through Sept. 26. $24–$28. StageWest.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Best bets • 09.03.10

Saturday 09.04

Where’s the party? Um, we know
When there is a tour called MadonnaRama and the pop icon doesn’t even have to show up, well, that’s some kind of fame. DJ and remixer Ed Bailey brings the premiere theme tour to Dallas with Madge music going all night long. But will he take requests? Because we’d also love a slow dance to “Rain.”

DEETS: The Brick, 2525 Wycliff  Ave., Suite 124. 9 p.m. $20. BrickDallas.com.


Sunday 09.05

These ‘Steps’ are a killer
In Patrick Barlow’s stage version of The 39 Steps, not only did he adapt a Hitchcock movie (and John Buchan novel) into a hilarious whodunit, but he also reduced the cast to four playing a magnitude of parts. We’re already out of breath.

DEETS: Stage West, 821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth. Through Sept. 26. $24–$28. StageWest.org.


Thursday 09.09

Getting down to business
If mixers are awkward and networking is intimidating, just think of it as socializing with finesse. Proprietors and professionals mix at the North Texas GLBT Chamber Business Connections Mixer this week. That means, this is your chance.

DEETS: Warwick Melrose Hotel, 3105 Oak Lawn Ave. 5:30 p.m. $5. GLBTChamber.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens