WaterTower to host free screening of ‘Raid of the Rainbow Lounge’

Joanie Schultz, the still-new artistic director of Addison’s WaterTower Theatre, announced that the theater company will host a free screening of the documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge on July 10 at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre in the West Village.

 The 2012 documentary, by local filmmaker Robert L. Camina, chronicles the events in Fort Worth on June 28, 2009 — coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots that launched the modern gay rights movement — when Cowtown police raided the new gay bar, bludgeoning at least one patron and triggering a national dialogue about police and the targeting of gays. Many local activists are profiled in the film, which won numerous festival awards. The Rainbow Lounge was just again recently in the news when a fire burned down the club, a hub of gay life in Fort Worth.

The screening is planned to coincide with Hit the Wall, Ike Holter’s play about Stonewall, which Schultz added to the theater company’s schedule and which she will direct. Hit the Wall opens July 28.

The free Raid screening will take place at the Magnolia at 7 p.m., and will be followed by a Q&A with Schultz and Camina. Seating is limited, and on a first come, first served basis.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower will produce ‘Hit the Wall,’ a play about the Stonewall Riots

Last May, WaterTower Theatre announced its 2016-17 season lineup, which culminated with a production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George. But the company’s newly-appointed artistic director, Joanie Schultz, has made her first major course-correction, and it’s a doozie: On the heals of Moonlight‘s historic victory at the Oscars, she has revealed that she will be replacing Sunday with a production of the play Hit the Wall, which tells the story of the Stonewall Riots that sparked the modern gay rights movement.

Described as a “play with music,” the rock-propelled historical epic — written by Ike Holter with music by Dan Lipton — was first produced in Chicago (Holter’s home base) at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 2012; Schultz came to North Texas from Chicago earlier this year. She will also direct the production.

Set at the famed Christopher Street bar on June 27 and 28, 1969 — just after queer icon Judy Garland died — Hit the Wall follows a fierce collection of friends and strangers, allies and antagonists, as they party, mourn and eventually rebel in rioting that brought national attention to the oppression of LGBT people and began the “Pride” movement. Among those profiled: A black drag queen, a funny gay couple, a homophobic cop and a butch lesbian, as well as others.

“I’m proud to be directing this inspiring plat as my first production at WaterTower,” Schultz said. The piece “captures the spirit of a movement.”

It’s a clarion choice for Schultz, who is an unknown quantity for most theatergoers in North Texas. It certainly signals her commitment to diverse and edgy work by and about black, gay, radical subjects and artists. (Holter himself is gay and African-American.)

Ironically, in an interview last year with Playbill, Holter identified his favorite artist of all time as… Stephen Sondheim.

The production will run from July 28–Aug. 20. Tickets (which range from $20–$40, plus a pay-what-you-can performance) can be purchased here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Under the Covers of Gay History: A talk with journalists/authors/ activists Tracy Baim and Mark Segal

On Thursday, Nov. 5, Dallas Voice had the great privilege of partnering with Cathedral of Hope’s Sources bookstore and with The Dallas Way to host a book-signing and discussion with authors/journalists/activists Tracy Baim and Mark Segal.

Baim, co-founder, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s LGBT newspaper Windy City News, has recently published  Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer, a biography — complete with more than 200 photos — of LGBT pioneer activist Barbara Gittings. Mark Segal, founder, owner and publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, whose life as a gay rights activist started on June 29, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn. He has recently published his memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality.

Below is a video, courtesy of David Story and Two Hats Publishing, of the two pioneers of LGBT journalism discussing their books, their work and their lives. The discussion was moderated by Dallas Voice senior news writer David Taffet, with Managing Editor Tammye Nash.

—  Tammye Nash

Sylvia Rivera photo enters National Portrait Gallery

TransgalllerySylvia Rivera, the trans activist who shot to prominence as one of the leaders of the Stonewall Riots, has been a polarizing character in gay rights, but her influence is undeniable. So prominent is she, it might be surprising it took until last month for her to become the first trans person enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The gelatin silver print from 2000 (also featuring Christina Hayworth and Julia Murray) was taken by Luis Carle. Congrats to the trans community.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: Judy Garland gets schooled on how to sing ‘The Trolley Song’

CMSGays love our Judy Garland. I mean, how can you not? The talent, the pain, the tragedy, the voice (and, incidentally, the Stonewall Riots). She had a plaintive, sad, powerful voice that she wielded brilliantly on standards like “Over the Rainbow,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Get Happy” and, of course, “The Trolley Song.” But I just head a cover from jazz artist Cecile McLorin Salvant. I know it’s probably heresy to say, but the way she adapts and arranges this classic novelty song elevates it … even above the original, in my view. Take a listen (below). What do you think?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Who owns Gay Pride?

rainbow-flagThere’s a lawsuit in New York City right now that asks the question, “Can one group own Gay Pride?”

Heritage of Pride, Inc., is a nonprofit organization in New York responsible for organizing the city’s annual Gay Pride Parade. In recent years, Heritage has expanded its reach to stage multiple events (dances, etc.) during June.

But Heritage isn’t, of course, the only group that organizes Pride events; gay promoters Brandon Voss and Jake Resnicow have been putting on Pride Month events since 2009. In 2011, Heritage filed a trademark claim to the phrase “NYC Pride,” and is now trying to enjoin Voss and Resnicow from using that term.

Obviously, you cannot trademark the concept of “Pride.” But what about the name? Are they inseparable?

It’s an interesting conundrum. Both “Disney World Gay Days” and “Gay Days Orlando” are competing groups that sponsor events every June. But neither owns outright the words “Gay Day.” Can one company own “NYC Pride”? Don’t we all kind of own it, as the Stonewall Riots were in New York and spawn the modern gay rights movement? Could Voss et al. get around it by calling their events “Pride NYC” of “NY Pride”? Should any corporation be able to control the word Pride in any way — isn’t it an expression, not a piece of property?

Thoughts?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

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Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Meredith Baxter to narrate Camina doc about Rainbow Lounge raid

Robert L. Camina, the North Texas filmmaker who has been putting together a documentary about the June 2009 raid on Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge for two years, has scored a coup: He has tapped TV icon Meredith Baxter to narrate.

Raid of the Rainbow Lounge has been in the works since almost as soon as the raid — which took place, ironically, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that sparked the modern gay rights movement. The raid galvanized the gay community in Fort Worth and beyond. The completed film runs 102 minutes and will receive its premiere in Cowtown in March.

Baxter, who came out as lesbian in 2009, has been an Emmy-nominated TV star for 35 years, best known for playing the mom on Family Ties. She released a memoir this fall and was recently in Dallas for the Out & Equal conference.

You can view a teaser trailer of the film here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Fops & freaks

‘The Temperamentals’ makes Hay of gay Pride; ‘Earnest’ errs with irony

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

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MAKING HAY | Gay rights pioneer Harry Hay (Gregory Lush, left) embraces his inner diva to the dismay of his lover Rudy (Montgomery Sutton) in Uptown’s thoughtful ‘Temperamentals.’ (Photo by Mike Morgan)

“Temperamental” was a code name in the 1940s and ‘50s for a gay man, like “friend of Dorothy” or “confirmed bachelor.” It was a way for one gay man to know he was talking to another outside a bar, and without wearing a green carnation as in Oscar Wilde’s day. The way American soldiers until recently lived in fear of being outed under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the entirety of the gay community lived in the post-War period.

That is, until Harry Hay came along. Hay started The Mattachine Society, the first gay rights group, two decades before anyone had heard of the Stonewall Riots. He took the bold step of signing his name to his founding principles, coming out, albeit in a limited media environment, at a time when being labeled as gay was career suicide, no matter what your profession.

He may, however, be the gay hero you’d never heard of. The Mattachine Society eventually failed, a noble first volley in a war that has not yet been won. But it and Hay deserve a lot of credit they too often don’t get; like Niccolo Tesla, they were upstaged by the Edison-like sparkle of Pride marches, Harvey Milk and the rainbow flag.

…………………

With The Temperamentals, about Hay’s triumphant effort (now at the Kalita courtesy Uptown Players) Jon Marans has masterfully crafted a work with a highly cinematic flavor. Scenes jump about quickly, like fast-cut editing, taking us from the bedroom of Hay (Gregory Lush) and his lover, fashion designer Rudy Gernreich (Montgomery Sutton) to the soundstages of Hollywood where closeted director (and Judy Garland spouse) Vincente Minnelli (Paul J. Williams) lends his checkbook but not his name to the cause.

But Marans’ real victory is in capturing the textures of gay life 60 years ago with a subtle, almost literary flair. You feel the prickly hesitation when a gay man asks for Rudy’s last name, and the self-hating aversion to seeming “too femme.” There’s a conspiratorial aura that feels absolutely authentic: Hay and his compatriots were conspirators, lurking in the shadows because that’s where society insisted they reside. The bravery it took to turn on the light astonishes you even today.

Director Bruce C. Coleman and multimedia designer Chris Robinson convey the cinematic quality with minimal sets and extensive use of video components both to place us in a host of settings and suggest their nature (a seedy urinal speaks volumes), as well as provide historic context with vintage photographs, although that can get heavy handed, especially a montage at the end which, while gratifying, goes on too long. (Coleman seems devoted to the notion, why suggest something when you can spell it out in capital letters.) Still, the abstractness of the production gives it an airy, timeless sensibility.

The cast is solid — Williams, Kevin Moore and Daylen Walton all succeed in multiple roles — with Lush holding the center steady as he escorts us through the halls of gay history.

If it sounds as though The Temperamentals is more educational than entertaining, that’s unfortunate; it is both. If you want to feel a real sense of gay Pride, watch how a few men paved the way.

…………………

Nobody captured the grandeur and foolishness of society as pungently and affectionately as Oscar Wilde. He was a living paradox, someone who turned a satiric eye on the superficiality of the upper classes, yet passionately and unapologetically loved everything about them. “How useless are people who have no actual jobs!” he seemed to say. “Why can’t I be one?”

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WILDE TIME | WingSpan’s production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ aims for irony. (Photo by Lowell Sargeant)

The apotheosis of his social manifesto is The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy of manners so sharply wrought that more than a century later, it seems as fresh and witty as a Jon Stewart bit. The script overflows with wordplay and repartee as Ernest Worthing (Andrew Milbourn) confides in his chum Algernon (C. Ryan Glenn) that although he intends to marry Algy’s cousin Gwendolen (Lisa Schreiner), with the approval of her abrasive mother, Lady Bracknell (Nancy Sherrard), his name is not, in fact, Ernest but Jack. This seemingly minor fib sets off a cascade of adventure and verbal slapsticks involving mistaken identity, money, sex and … well, just about everything. It’s a great play.

But WingSpan Theatre Company’s production, now at the Bath House Cultural Center, is not a great version. The dialogue is intact, and two performances in particular (the lovely Schreiner and Jessica Renee Russell as the comely young Cecily) capture the capricious, exuberant drama of silly people involved in silly behavior with very serious consequences perfectly; by the time Act 3 arrives, they are at full comic gallop, and the men eventually almost catch up with them.

Alas, that’s almost too late. The first act is saddled with an ugly set that lacks the requisite glamour of the era, and heavy, ill-fitting costumes that look like someone pulled them off the windows at the Von Trapp household, added a clunky bodice and washed their hands of further responsibility.

Another drawback is Sherrard’s interpretation of Lady Bracknell. The character, one of the funniest in all literature, is an imperious matriarch whose institutional arrogance rivals the monarchy itself. She cannot conceive that she is ever wrong — even when one of her beliefs directly contradicts another belief — because to acknowledge a mistake would be to undermine the social hierarchy.

But Sherrard plays her not as an aloof, self-justifying matron but as a sarcastic social climber. Seeing the first smirking roll of her eyes hits you like a 2×4 to the noggin: Is Lady Bracknell being… ironic? It hardly seems possible — she is a woman entirely bereft of irony. It’s as if she’s been modernized and lost her way entirely.

Still, there’s the music that is Wilde’s gift for the bon mot. There would never have been a Frasier without an Earnest, so if you’ve never seen a production before … well, even mediocre Wilde is better than none at all.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Friends of Dorothy

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EASE ON DOWN | The Tin Man (Sydney James Harcourt, above left) steals the show in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC, while over at Fair Park, Megan Sikora, right, gives ‘Guys & Dolls’ its jolt.

If only DTC’s ‘Wiz’ had a heart. And I got yer horse right here, ‘Guys & Dolls’

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

If there’s one thing a gay guy can be counted on to know something about, it’s The Wizard of Oz. After all, the death of Judy Garland sparked the Stonewall Riots, and even before that, being a “friend of Dorothy” was code for practicing The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. You wanna change it? Be prepared for theater queens to take note.

And so it is with The Wiz, the 1975 funked-up, all-black musical that serves as the Dallas Theater Center’s season ender.

The appeal of Dorothy’s adventure has always been the exploration of self-understanding with heavy doses of psychology. (The folks she meets in her reveries about Oz mirror real-life people she knows in Kansas.) This rushed 90-minute kiddie show so trims the classic structure of the film (it’s closer in plot to the book, but that’s not a good thing), it feels more like a series of unrelated vignettes than a mythological journey of personal discovery. Dorothy gets to Oz, meets a good witch (not Glinda), hooks up with three buddies (sans Toto, who is only heard barking offstage in the opening), dispatches an evil witch in about six minutes then presumably makes it back home (we never see Kansas again).

DTC is marketing it as a “family musical,” and I suppose it is in the sense that we might start referring to Michele Bachmann’s husband as “family.” The show — even in this abridged version — is gayer than Liberace on Halloween. The Lion, always the nelliest of the bunch, basically admits he’s gay due to an absent father and strong-willed mother; so many men are obsessed with Dorothy’s shiny shoes (here silver as in the book, not ruby like the movie), I expected one of the Munchkins to be Stanford Blatch; and director Kevin Moriarty employs lithe, half-naked dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater to gyrate their moneymakers — is this Oz from the book or the gay club on Bourbon Street?

Still, this version of The Wiz is just children’s theater without much heart, brain or courage (it’s difficult to tell if that’s the fault of the book by William F. Brown or the direction, which feels stage-2rushed). The style is presentational and flat, with the actors projecting broadly to the balcony with exaggerated emotions.

Although the set famously includes moving “pods” of seats that move the audience around the space, the main actors rarely perform as in true theater-in-the-round, except when the dancers jump into them. I counted a dozen repositionings, but the sense of movement only genuinely grabs you once; during the cyclone, which should make you feel dizzy and excited, the pods move lumberingly around dancers portraying winds. It’s all oddly unsatisfying: It’s there, it ends.

What’s surprising is that there’s not more magic considering how balls-to-the-wall strong most of the singers are. The Tin Man has never been my favorite character — face it: He’s never been anyone’s favorite … until now. Sydney James Harcourt delivers the only truly wrenching musical performance on his solo “To Be Able to Feel,” just moments after the juiced-up eroticism of “Slide Some Oil to Me.” It’s a sexy, charismatic turn in sharp relief to David Ryan Smith’s hilariously flamboyant Lion and James Tyrone Lane’s limber goofing as Scarecrow.

Liz Mikel hams it up, both as good witch Addaperle and her wicked sister Evillene, which gives her the chance to seethe and gnash her teeth at the youngsters in between belt-‘em-out anthems. But Trisha Jeffrey as Dorothy makes little impression. In this construct, without Toto to talk to, the character is a cipher with little to do but watch the rest of Oz upstage her, wondering “Why, oh why can’t I?”

 

Over at Fair Park, the national tour of Guys & Dolls does a good job of reminding us how gosh-durn terrific a songwriter Frank Loesser was. The score plays like a master class in Broadway hits, with standards (the most famous, “Luck Be a Lady,” isn’t even the best) that convey character through complex harmonies with toe-tapping brio. It’s ironic that “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” makes the audience want to jump to its feet.

If only the production were quite at the level it needs to be to showcase those numbers at their best. Four of the five leads — Ben Crawford (Sky Masterson), Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), Megan Sikora (Adelaide) and Glenn Rainey (Nicely Nicely) — have great voices, with Sikora stealing the show as the squeaky-voiced stripper. (Erin Davie never rises above the confines of the show’s least interesting role, missionary Sarah Brown.) The book, based on Damon Runyon’s caricatures of New York low-lifes, still has some zingers (and Crawford is especially good at making the dialogue feel contemporary), but it hasn’t aged well.

It doesn’t help that director Gordon Greenberg cleaves closely to outmoded conventions, like a long
introductory ballet (danced only serviceably by a disappointing chorus) and extended, stylized sequences throughout that do little to advance the plot. And with the show clocking in just shy of three hours, there is plenty of room to trim.

Sikora, though, makes it worth a look-see alone, and the songs have more energy and have endured better than those of The Wiz. Given a choice, it’s a crapshoot between the Loesser of two Evillenes.

………………………..

travel Travel Diary

Anyone who has ever been trapped in an airport during flight delays knows the madness can become infectious, but being balanced and serene is worth the effort. Here are some tips to get your Zen on.

Exercise. You might be on vacation, but your body is not. Exercise in your room, in your hotel’s gym, outside (run on the beach!) or find a nearby gym. Investing an hour in working out can reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy.

Choose the right attitude. If you approach traveling with the attitude of, “Ugh! I hate to fly/drive/sit,” you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible experience. Instead, make the decision to enjoy the journey. Find a good book or download some interesting movies on your iPad. A long flight can be hell… or six hours of scheduled “me” time. The choice is yours.

Eat right. There’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. A calorie is a calorie and unhealthy options are as unhealthy at the beach as they are at home. Make food choices that nourish your body and you’ll feel strong and you’ll enjoy your vacation even more.

Do less, accomplish more. Many treat vacations as narrow windows into which they cram in as much “fun” as possible. While tempting, it can result in seeing a lot but experiencing nothing. Instead, do a few things you’ll actually enjoy rather than constantly looking at your watch.

Stay hydrated. Planes have notoriously dry air; make it a point to get some water whenever the stewards or stewardesses offer it. After going through security, buy a large bottle of water. It makes your body infinitely more comfortable, especially on longer flights.

Meditate. Even if you don’t normally meditate, taking 10 minutes a day to sit quietly is refreshing. Ideally, meditation is best in a quiet room, but even on a packed plane you can make it work. If there is chaos around you, make it part of your practice! Tune it out and find your center. Among other things, it will help reduce tension, relieve stress and improve your mood.

Wash your hands. Restaurants and public transportation facilities are rife with germs. Vacations are more enjoyable when you’re healthy, so minimize your risk of getting sick by washing your hands often.

— Davey Wavey

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas