Starvoice • 09.23.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Olivia Newton-John turns 63 on Monday. The singer/actress reached queer iconicism as the muse Kira in the roller skating fantasy film Xanadu. She only helped that with her role as Bitsy Mae Harling in the Sordid Lives film and the television series. We think her guest appearances on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and Glee her well on queerdom’s radar.

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THIS WEEK

Fresh into Libra, the sun and Mercury stimulate friendly conversation but they’re opposite Uranus and squaring Pluto; any dialogue can turn fiercely argumentative or deliciously wicked. Either way, secrets will be revealed!

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LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Getting older beats the hell out of the alternative. The trick is to celebrate maturity, not to try hiding your age. Staying active and fit is one thing; holding on to your adolescence is another.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Your energy is high, perhaps hard to control. Worrying about that can turn it into nervous aggravation. Stay focused. Staying where you’re visible will help you stay on purpose.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If arguments with friends leave you irritated, it’s because they’re right. Be big enough to admit it. You’re in too much demand now to be in a cranky sulk. What you learn can prove helpful at work.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Rewards for your accomplishments are more spiritual than remunerative. If that disappoints you, take it in stride. Remember, you’re always being seen and attitude is key to further success.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Charm is more persuasive than facts. That doesn’t mean you have to compromise your integrity, but you want to adjust your attitude. Especially with the one you love, remember to be kind.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Outstanding debts should wait. Focus on your sex life. What do you really want? Partnered: A long heart-to-heart talk is in order. Single: An adventure can open up amazing new possibilities.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Accepting invitations to fun causes as much trouble as refusing them. Adventure and drama are inevitable, so embrace them consciously with eyes open or they will sneak up on you.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Don’t let work stress you out. Exercise shakes off the tension. Redistributing the workload among your co-workers can help. Staying focused on the goal is important, but don’t obsess on it.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Your efforts to include friends just annoy them. Let them be the audience when you’re done. If you find a good collaborator, though, it could become more than a working relationship.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Make new contacts in your community. You’ll be surprised to discover how well known you are. Those new connections prove helpful in your career. When in doubt, stay close to home.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Some things need to be said and feathers have to be ruffled. Be tactful, but also be ready to deal with the fact that someone will be upset, and he or she will just have to hear it and adapt.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Be careful whom you contract with in financial undertakings. It could work out brilliantly, but is more likely to be a disaster. Sexual explorations can improve partnerships or help start one.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Of gays, Glee and generations

GLEEFUL | The cast of Glee poses with the show’s Golden Globe Award for “Best Television Series — Comedy or Musical” in January. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

TV has always been a reflection of both society’s current and future climates; and Fox comedy tells of great changes happening

HARDY HABERMAN | Flagging Left

I guess I have just renewed my “Gay Card” since I have become a fan of the hit television show Glee. The show’s weekly musical fantasy reminds me of those 1930s musical movies I grew up watching on my parent’s old black and white Zenith television. Yes I am that old.

Aside from the nostalgia factor, the show is very telling about today’s society and should be encouraging to anyone in the LGBT community. Several of the characters on the show are gay.

Glee is not the first show to have gay characters. That honor goes to the short-lived sitcom The Corner Bar back in 1972. (Vincent Schiavelli was the first actor to play a continuing gay character, Peter Panama, on U.S. television.)

But on Glee, though some plots revolve around the character’s being gay, more and more their sexuality is just an accepted fact.

Though Will and Grace did much the same thing a decade ago, Glee breaks new ground with its high school-aged characters. What I find refreshing about the show is both the treatment of the gay characters on the show, and more importantly, the country’s reaction to it. It is a hit!

The fact that Fox aired a new episode of Glee immediately following the Super Bowl — and the episode included a gay sub-plot and yet still garnered record-breaking ratings — says a lot. Though as a nation, the United States is still riddled with homophobia and all it’s variations, as a whole we are moving toward a level of acceptance I have never seen before.

And remember, I grew up watching black-and-white TV.

Television, for all its flaws, is a pretty good bellwether for American society and opinions. Though TV often helps shape attitudes, it also reflects them, and the medium of comedy has proven to be one of the most potent for both.

Had Archie Bunker in All in the Family not reflected the stubborn resistance of an older generation to change in the 1970s, it would have been far less funny. Had Maude not skewered the strident overly-politically-correct character played by Bea Arthur, it would never have resonated with viewers.

Now comes Glee, with a raft of teenagers and their inherent hormone-driven drama set to music that cuts across generations. Teen pregnancy, bullying, homophobia and the pitfalls of gay dating are all fair game — and the public not only gets it, it embraces it.

That is progress.

Now before you set pen to paper and accuse me of being a Pollyanna, yes, I know it’s still tough for LGBT people out here in the real world. But what I am encouraged by is the number of changes I am beginning to see.

Talk to young people, and ask them their attitudes toward LGBT people. From the ones I have spoken with, (in a very unscientific study) they do not see sexual orientation as the big deal as it once was.

The older generation who that harbors those prejudices against LGBT people are looking more and more like Archie Bunker. Groups who once held sway — like the American Family Association — have now been relegated to the status of a fringe hate group, where they should have been all along.

According to recent surveys, young people have more favorable views of LGBT people than do older folks. That’s encouraging. You see, that means the homophobes are decreasing by attrition as well as by change in attitude. And that means the next generation will be far less likely to hold the prejudices of their elders.

That means Americans can watch a show where the plot revolves around Kurt trying to figure out how to tell Blaine how he really feels and the fact that he is gay is not key to the plot. That is a big step from the days of gays being only the subject of dramas like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Killing of Sister George.

More importantly, LGBT people are no longer the punchline in comedy. Today it is the homophobe who is considered funny and out of step. Once again it’s the Archie Bunkers of this world who have become the punchline and that’s well worth smiling at.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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

—  John Wright

‘Trinity River Plays’ tonight at the Wyly

Dallas is the backdrop for actress-playwright Regina Taylor’s new trilogy

For Dallas native Regina Taylor, it was important to set The Trinity River Plays in her hometown. It’s something she intimately knows, which allows her characters to be grounded in a reality that’s close to home physically and spiritually.

“It’s not autobiographical, but it is set at home,” she says. “And that is as palpable as the womb in terms of identity.”

Dramatic storytelling is nothing new for Taylor, whose previous work as a playwright include Crowns and Drowning Crow. She’s also an accomplished actress with an amazing résumé spanning theater, television and feature films. She was the first black woman to play Juliet in Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet, but is probably best known for her role as Lilly Harper in the television series I’ll Fly Away, for which she won a Golden Globe and two Emmy nominations. More recently, she starred in CBS’ The Unit alongside Dennis Haysbert.

Yet even with her acting success, writing has always been one of Taylor’s truest loves.

“I started as a writer from as far back as I can remember,” she recalls. “I was writing my own children’s stories when I was little and it was with the encouragement of my mother who wanted me to live a creative life and empower me with the possibilities in terms of creating my own worlds. That changes your perspective on how you face the world and move through the world. It’s something I truly cherish.”

DEETS: The Trinity River Plays, Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Nov. 5–Dec. 5 (in previews through Nov. 11). $15–$85. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

—  Rich Lopez

A ‘River’ runs through it

Dallas is the backdrop for actress-playwright Regina Taylor’s new trilogy

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Actress and Dallas native Regina Taylo
HOME AGAIN | Actress and Dallas native Regina Taylor comes home for inspiration for her new plays.

THE TRINITY RIVER PLAYS
Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.
Nov. 5–Dec. 5 (in previews through Nov. 11). $15–$85.
DallasTheaterCenter.org.

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For Dallas native Regina Taylor, it was important to set The Trinity River Plays in her hometown. It’s something she intimately knows, which allows her characters to be grounded in a reality that’s close to home physically and spiritually.

“It’s not autobiographical, but it is set at home,” she says. “And that is as palpable as the womb in terms of identity.”

Dramatic storytelling is nothing new for Taylor, whose previous work as a playwright include Crowns and Drowning Crow. She’s also an accomplished actress with an amazing résumé spanning theater, television and feature films. She was the first black woman to play Juliet in Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet, but is probably best known for her role as Lilly Harper in the television series I’ll Fly Away, for which she won a Golden Globe and two Emmy nominations. More recently, she starred in CBS’ The Unit alongside Dennis Haysbert.

Yet even with her acting success, writing has always been one of Taylor’s truest loves.

“I started as a writer from as far back as I can remember,” she recalls. “I was writing my own children’s stories when I was little and it was with the encouragement of my mother who wanted me to live a creative life and empower me with the possibilities in terms of creating my own worlds. That changes your perspective on how you face the world and move through the world. It’s something I truly cherish.”

The trilogy consists of three plays, Jar Fly, Rain and Ghost(story), which unfold sequentially at each performance in the Dallas Theater Center production, co-produced with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

They follow the life of Iris Sparks, who is a writer, as she moves through these defining transforming moments in her life.

In Jar Fly, we see her when she turns 17 — the same age when jar flies (cicadas) go from little grubby worms living underground to insects climbing up a tree in the dark until the light of day hits it and it can shed its skin and spread its wings.

“It has this incredible voice that’s jarring,” Taylor says, “so you have this young woman trying to find her voice as a writer and a human being. It is the occurrences of this day that take her on this journey that will absolutely transform her life. And it’s what we do with these obstacles, this hard rain that inevitably comes in every life, many times and many seasons, and how we move through that.”

The second play, set 17 years later, focuses on that same hard rain.

“Iris is ready to face another storm as she’s 34 years old. It’s after the disintegration of her marriage and the diagnosis of her mother with cancer. You see this mother and daughter taking this journey together. And with that, there’s a transformation. Do we run away from the hard rain, try to outrun it, or do we stand our ground and take the nourishment from it to grow? We’re tested by life. How we meet those tests on a daily basis defines who we are. It’s an exploration of the human spirit and the tenacity of the human spirit.”

The trilogy closes with Ghost(story), which takes place the day before Iris’ mother’s funeral, then offers a glimpse at what her life is like — again, 17 years later.

“She’s trying to figure out where she’s going to go to move forward. And in that she wrestles with and embraces her ghosts. And that’s what we do. Our past is our shadows. Moving forward, we’re always circling back to deal with and wrestle with our ghosts,” explains Taylor.

Taylor wants audiences to embrace the humor and warmth of her Trinity River Plays, but most importantly, she wants to transport them to another place — even if the stories are set just a few miles from the Wyly.

“You have this arc, this journey, this development of the human spirit,” she says. “I think there’s poetry to the pieces.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens