Dallas Opera announces abbreviated 2012-13 season, another world premiere from Heggie

Last year, in a major cost-cutting initiative, the Dallas Opera trimmed its season from the planned five full-production operas (plus a chamber piece) down to four, one of which was scaled back to a concert version. The upcoming season looks even more spartan, with only three full-scale shows in 2012-13. But beyond that, there’s hope for some big things.

The so-called “Pursuit of Passion” season kicks off Oct. 26 with Verdi’s Aida, which will be directed by gay British composer John Copley. (I’ve been interviewing Copley for 10 years, and he always says he’s about to retire. So far, it hasn’t stuck… all the better for us. Aida will be followed in the spring with Puccini’s classic Turandot on April 6 and the return on April 12 of The Aspern Papers, which got its world premiere  25 years ago (in 1988) at the Dallas Opera.

But TDO isn’t just reminding us of its past premieres; it promises another in 2015 … once again from gay composer Jake Heggie.

Heggie, pictured — who composed Moby-Dick for its world premiere at the Winspear Opera House in the TDO’s inaugural season there — is teaming again with gay playwright and librettist Terrence McNally for the first time since Dead Man Walking. Great Scott will kick off its 2015-16 season. The rest of that season has not been announced.

The current season continues Feb. 16 with a concert version of Tristan und Isolde, followed by The Lighthouse, La Traviata and Die Dauberflote (The Magic Flute).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower announces line-up for Out of the Loop Fringe Festival coming this March

WaterTower Theatre in Addison brings back its Out of the Loop Fringe Festival for 11 days in March, and as always, there’s some gay content among the two-dozen performances. Among the highlights:

Bill Bowers, Beyond Words and a mime workshop. The gay mime — and really, he makes miming cool — returns again with his solo show which had an off-Broadway run last fall. It’s not all silent, as Bowers walks us through, with music, monologues and movement, what it means to be a boy. He will also conduct a workshop on March 10 instructing those interested in learning the art of mime and creative motion.

Charles Ross, Lord of the Rings. Two years ago, Ross performed his one-man, hour-long “summary” of the Star Wars Trilogy at OOTL; now he returns to condense all 11-plus hours of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, pictured, into a 65-minute show.

Kevin J. Thornton, Strange Dreamz. A performance piece from Thorton that includes standup and music about life as a gay man.

• Outcry Theatre, dark play or story for boys. Nick, a lonely teen, pretend to be the girl of 16-year-old Adam’s dreams in a play about online fantasy.

QLive!, Sweet Eros. Q Cinema’s live performance arm stages Terrence McNally’s play about sexual obsession.

Stella Productions, A Most Happy Stella. Several short plays about plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire, from gay playwright David Parr.

• Also, cabaret staple Amy Stevenson performs her song stylings in the lobby during the run of the festival.

Tickets are available here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

God doesn’t answer prayers of religious leaders who fought SA production of ‘Corpus Christi’

After unsuccessful efforts by religious conservatives to have it canceled, Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi opens tonight at the San Pedro Playhouse in San Antonio, the Express-News reports:

As it has across the country, the play has sparked some discord. Interfaith leaders met with Playhouse staff and asked that it be canceled. After their request was denied, they held a news conference last month denouncing the show and its portrayal of Christ.

[Greg] Hinojosa agreed to direct it, he said, because he was moved by the play’s message.

“For so long, gay people have been denied being able to sit at the table of spirituality,” he said. “Terrence McNally is very clear with his Jesus/Joshua character. His message is of love and acceptance and the divinity in all of us.”

Hinojosa has struck up a correspondence with McNally as a result of his work on the play. McNally has sent him several encouraging emails, noting that the play has prompted heated responses since its premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1998. At that production, patrons had to walk through metal detectors.

The San Pedro Playhouse will have additional security throughout the show’s run, its first in San Antonio, to ensure the safety of audience members and of the cast and crew, said Frank Latson, artistic director of the playhouse.

QSanAntonio has more on the correspondence between McNally and the play’s director, including the full text of an email from McNally to Hinojosa:

“It’s hard to work under such intense scrutiny,” McNally wrote. “I don’t envy you the pressure you’re under. I hope you and your cast stay safe and calm and creative and JOYFUL and that your voices are heard. I wish I could be with you in person but I am truly swamped with work in NYC.

“Let me know how I can be helpful from afar.

“Tell the cast how grateful I am to them. I won’t pretend the next weeks are going to be easy but I am confident they will be rewarding.”

—  John Wright

SA homophobes put new twist on played-out protests of Terrence McNally’s ‘Corpus Christi’

You’ve gotta hand it to the Alamo City. First they brought us Dan Ramos, and now this.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that a group of so-called religious leaders has banded together to denounce a scheduled production of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi at the San Pedro Playhouse, which happens to receive a small amount of funding from the city.

As you’re undoubtedly aware, McNally’s “gay Jesus” play has sparked controversy in various places across the country, including in 2010 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, when a scheduled production prompted Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to intervene.

But to their credit, these San Antonio homophobes aren’t just repeating tired old criticisms of the play about blasphemy, etc. That’s right, even though it’s total bullshit, at least they’ve come up with a new reason for opposing Corpus Christi: The group, which plans a news conference at City Hall this afternoon, claims that in addition to portraying “such a profane and disrespectful depiction of Jesus Christ,” the play is “insensitive” to the gay community because it contains a “crude portrayal of homosexual men.” Here’s an excerpt from the group’s letter:

“It would be easy, but inaccurate, to dispose of our concerns as a homophobic response to the depiction of Jesus as a homosexual leading a band of homosexual apostles. While many may find this characterization troubling, we feel that the crude portrayal of homosexual men in this play is, at best, an exaggerated caricature that is insensitive also to our gay and lesbian community.”

—  John Wright

Top 10: Perry, Dewhurst were tied to cancellation of gay-themed play at Tarleton

Otte-John
John Otte

No. 7:

View all of the Top 10

A Tarleton State University student’s choice to present a play with gay content for his theater directing class stirred controversy in the local community.

Tarleton State is in Stephenville, 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

John Jordan Otte, a junior, was assigned to choose a play meaningful to him to direct for his theater class. He selected Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi.

A 45-minute excerpt from the play was scheduled to be performed on March 27 along with selections from three other plays directed by other students in his class in a theater that held just 95 people. The public was never invited to attend.

Corpus Christi has a modern Texas setting and depicts a gay man whose life parallels that of Jesus. The character, named Joshua, performs a same-sex wedding.

When the community heard about the play, they flooded the school with complaints. Alumni threatened to withhold donations. Otte was denounced from local pulpits.

At first, Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio defended freedom of speech on his campus.

One of the actors in the play was given the choice by his parents of withdrawing from the play or getting out of the house. Otte took in his 18-year-old actor.

As the performance day approached, the time was changed from afternoon to 8 a.m. for security reasons, with only friends and family allowed to watch.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entered the controversy, issuing a statement condemning the play and use of state money.

State money, however, was not being used. Otte paid for performance rights for the play out of his own pocket.

After a final run-through, the professor canceled the production and a grade was given based on that rehearsal.

He cited safety and security reasons. Though not confirmed, several people called Dallas Voice and claimed pressure was put on the professor and on the president of the school by the governor’s office.

Rachel Dudley, a student reporter at Tarleton State, connected Gov. Rick Perry to the controversy when she obtained a copy of note from Steven Hotze, who heads a group of clergy in Houston that had been one of Mayor Annise Parker’s biggest detractors.

“We also owe a debt of gratitude to Governor Perry for his behind the scenes work to stop the play at Tarleton State. Ray Sullivan, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, was notified of the play on Thursday and after discussing it with the Governor, the necessary steps were taken to ensure that its performance was canceled,” said the note from Hotze.

In response, Cathedral of Hope brought a national touring company of Corpus Christi to Dallas. QCinema, which started a live performance group, promises a production in Fort Worth next year.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

QLive! announces 2011 season

QCinema founder Todd Camp decided to branch outside the bounds of the small screen and into live performance. As part of its 2011 season, the film festival announces QLive!, which presents live theater in addition to film. Like Dallas’ Uptown Players, it will concentrate on gay-themed plays and shows of interest to the gay community. The season includes:

Dying City (March). The brother of a man killed in Iraq confronts his widowed sister-in-law, and suggests something else may have contributed to his death. Christopher Shinn’s mystery play was a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Men from the Boys (April; staged reading). A sequel to Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band catches up with the characters years later.

Brian Gallivan: The Sassy Gay Friend LIVE! (June). The creator of viral videos about the “sassy gay friend” performs a live comedy show.

None of the Above (September). A comedy about the relationship between a 17-year-old and her SAT tutor.

Art (November). Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning drama about how an all-white painting divides three male friends.

Corpus Christi (December). Terrence McNally’s controversial play finally gets its Fort Worth performance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Corpus Christi’ documentary trailer debuts

Earlier this year, the will-it-or-won’t-it production of Terrence McNally’s controversial gay apostle play Corpus Christi generated tons of local (then national) buzz, first with a student production at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, later with an imported production at the Cathedral of Hope. The team doing the touring show were in the midst of making a documentary about their experiences.

They’ve just released a trailer of the video, and it actually looks pretty good. You can see it here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DVtv: In wake of Tarleton State controversy, 'Corpus Christi' arrives at Cathedral of Hope

Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” is set in Texas, but it’s never before been staged in the Lone Star State. That will change this weekend, when the Cathedral of Hope hosts a Los Angeles-based production of the play about a gay Christ-like figure named Joshua. This weekend’s shows grew out of the recent controversy at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. TSU student John Jordan Otte wanted to stage an excerpt from “Corpus Christi” as a class project, but the university canceled the production, citing security concerns. We later learned that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and even Gov. Rick Perry may have been responsible for cancellation of Otte’s project.

For the DVtv segments previewing this weekend’s shows, we sat down with the Los Angeles-based co-producers of “Corpus Christi,” Nic Arnzen and James Brandon (who also plays Joshua); with Otte and with the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at the Cathdral. Our interviews with Otte and Hudson are after the jump. Showtimes are Friday through Sunday at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets are $32–$52 and can be purchased at the door of the Cathedral, 5910 Cedar Springs Road.

—  John Wright

Otte: Safety on campus was the main concern

john 1John Otte, the student involved in the “Corpus Christi” controversy, reflected on the incident in a recent e-mail to Dallas Voice. He said if campus safety was the main concern, he’s happy with the decision to cancel the production at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

A plan to bring the production to Fort Worth has not moved forward this week, although Todd Camp said other theaters have stepped forward to offer space after Rose Marine Theater “rescinded” their invitation.

Here’s what Otte said in the e-mail:

Innuendo and rumor exists in political and populous opinion claiming there were other reasons for canceling the Tarleton class production of “Corpus Christi,” but I want to make it clear that I have no factual knowledge of any interference.

That being said if pressure was or was not received, I know the Tarleton administration, my dean and my professor did everything in their power to preserve academic freedom and to ensure the safety of all students at Tarleton State University.  They fought for as long as they could to stave off censorship and preserve this institution of higher learning.

In no way do I blame them for their decisions. I know that my professor, caring deeply about each one of his students in the department, weighed every issue before him and in the end our safety was much more important than the presentation of a play.

While I fear this can set a precedent for censorship through fear mongering, I in no way judge the decision of my professor. If our safety could not be ensured I am happier with the outcome at hand.

I hope that we can simply move forward and learn from everything that has occurred. After all why else are we pursuing knowledge in a higher education setting? The message remains clear from “Corpus Christi” unconditional love through all adversity.

—  David Taffet

'Corpus Christi' canceled in new venue

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John Otte, director of Tarleton State production of “Corpus Christi”

After announcing that they would host a production of the canceled Tarleton State University production of “Corpus Christi” and three other student-directed plays, the Rose Marine Theater has “recinded the offer” to stage the production.

Rose Marine Executive Director Adam Adolfo said the decision was made due to a “combination of factors.” He did not characterize it as a cancellation, since a date had not been set.

The theater made this statement:

Statement Concerning Tarelton State University Theatre Students:

April 8, 2010 – The decision was reached by the Board of Directors of Artes de la Rosa to withdraw the offer of the venue, The Rose Marine Theater, which had hoped to host the 4 theatre student directors from Tarleton State University in their continued Academic Directing Theatre Projects.  The Rose Marine Theater will not be hosting these 4 students and their casts at any time in the future. We appreciate the public response on both sides of this debated issue.

Also announced yesterday by QLive was a full-scale production of the play during the summer at the same theater.

“Discussions are occurring,” Adolfo said, regarding that production.

The Christian press has been touting its “non-violent protests” that led to the cancellation at Tarleton. Apparently threats of violence are what they claim are peaceful protests.

Adolfo confirmed that one threat had been received via Facebook.

—  David Taffet