Best Bets • 05.27.16

Friday 05.27 — Sunday 05.29


Texas Ballet Theater returns with First Looks

Earlier this month, Texas Ballet Theater debuted its latest performance in Dallas — a collection of three dances, including a world premiere. Now it’s Fort Worth’s turn … and anyone else who missed it. First Looks closes TBT’s current season with colorful and playful pieces from three choreographers.

Bass Performance Hall
525 Commerce St., Fort Worth
Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday at 2 p.m.

Friday 06.03 — Saturday 06.19


­­Uptown Players opens first of two Terrence McNally plays this season

Imagine the doorbell ringing and it’s your ex-mother-in-law. And your ex is dead. And you have a new boyfriend. And a child. That’s the fraught premise of Mothers and Sons, Terrence McNally’s Tony-nominated comedy-drama about complex relationships in the modern world. It’s the first of two McNally plays presented this season by Uptown Players.

Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Opera review: ‘Great Scott’ is an adrenaline shot to opera

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in 'Great Scott.' (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in ‘Great Scott.’ (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Does anybody really care about opera anymore? That’s the existential conundrum posed by several characters in the meta-opera Great Scott, a world premiere — based on an original idea — by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally.  When the Super Bowl is watched by millions, what difference does a never-before-seen 18th century Italian bel canto opera mean to the American culture at large really? Why bother?

The brilliant irony, of course, is that the existence of Great Scott answers its own question. A magnificent and glorious creation from the overture until the sweetly understated ending, this is a modern opera that defies expectations. It’s truly a game-changer: An adrenaline injection of life-force into a classic form.


The opera-within-an-opera about the fall of Pompeii.

First in the plus column is its creativity: Even in the heyday from Wagner to Verdi to Puccini, operas were based on preexisting sources — plays, legends, classics. But with its cellphones and contemporary dress and easy vernacular, Great Scott is wholly relatable and repeatedly unexpected. Like an MGM musical from the Golden Age, we meet the main characters backstage before the debut of a long-lost opera about Pompeii from the 1830s. The acclaimed soprano Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato, who despite a small handful of shaky notes was in fine form and acted brilliantly) has returned to her hometown to present this piece at the struggling American Opera, run by the optimistic impresario Winnie Flato (mezzo Frederica von Stade). Like The Producers, everything seems to go wrong — from the vain Eve-Harrington-ish newcomer (Ailyn Perez, powerful and hilarious) to the tentative romance between the conductor (Kevin Burdette, in a far cry from his work as Beck Weathers in Everest earlier this year) and the fesity stage manager (countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo) to the bickering tenor and hunky baritone (Rodell Rosel, Michael Mayes) to the bare-assed deux ex machina entrance — until it all goes wonderfully right. Arden finds her purpose, not unlike Princeton in Avenue Q, but with more recitatives.


Ailyn Perez gets laughs and gasps in her comic performance as a vain opera singer.(Photo by Karen Almond)

Great Scott is a solidly-structured comedy, the kind McNally has been crafting for 40 years. There are well-timed jokes (“This shit is hard!” Arden exclaims after performing an especially impressive aria) and finely-drawn personalities (there’s an embarrassingly deep list of interesting supporting characters) and even insights into the artistic temperament that never devolve into navel-gazing. Truly, this is a libretto to be admired for its nimbleness.

At three-and-a-half hours, though, and only one intermish, there must be room to parse and tuck; the fictional opera-within-the-opera Arden performs feels as if it is staged almost in full, and while Heggie’s music astonishingly mirrors true bel canto style, and the staging by Jack O’Brien is amazing, it drags out the metaphors too much. The same is true of Arden’s mystical conversation with the ghost of the composer Bazzetti (Guido Contini’s confrontation with his younger self in Nine accomplishes much the same in one-third the time). But as much as these scene seem to stretch out, it’s almost impossible to imagine where, exactly, to cut any notes from Heggie’s endlessly ravishing score.

World premieres of theater works always have a bit of a “work in progress” feel to them, but despite some quibbles, there’s little to be said badly of Great Scott. It is, simply, one of the most engaging modern operas produced this century. See it, and you’ll talk about it for years.

Great Scott next performs tonight at 7:30 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Nov. 15.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Dallas Opera ‘first look’ fashion show, opening night gala

The Dallas Opera launched its 2015–16 season this weekend with the world premiere of the Jake Heggie-Terrence McNally opera Great Scott to widespread acclaim. But the parties were a draw as well. On Thursday, the First Look luncheon in the lobby of the Winspear Opera House previewed the upcoming season of five opera with a fashion show featuring original pieces from designers like Michael Faircloth and Edo Popken, as well as accessories from Mulberry. Then on Friday night, despite torrential rains, the movers and shakers of Dallas and celebs including Tyne Daly and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed up for the late-night after-party with DJ Lucy Wrubel. Here are shots from both events. (Look for a review of Great Scott here later this week.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera seeks athletic dancers for world premiere of ‘Great Scott’

ThinkstockPhotos-485293865In October, the Dallas Opera will unveil its latest world premiere, Great Scott, from out composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally. The opera, set in Texas, revolved around a football team, and the creatives at the DO are in need of some men who can dance and look athletic at the same time. “For the four male dancers, The Dallas Opera is seeking candidates with strength, athleticism and the ability to convey a well-defined stage character.” Performers selected will be compensated for rehearsal time, and receive a performance fee. And they even get to appear onstage along with acclaimed mezzo Joyce DiDonato.

To schedule an audition (which will take place at the opera’s facility at Fair Park on Sunday, Sept. 27, from 2–5:30 p.m.), email your resume to

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

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