Fahari’s Harold Steward on KERA’s Art&Seek

Harold Steward

In this piece from Thursday, KERA’s Jerome Weeks talked to Harold Steward, artistic director of Fahari Arts Institute, as the organization begins its third season. Opening with two art shows (and a special edition of Queerly Speaking for Dallas Black Pride), Steward discusses Fahari’s confidence going into a new season, and some of that is due to the piece’s mention of the three Dallas Voice Reader’s Choice Awards the organization won. Collectively, the group won for Best Local Arts Organization, Best Theater Director for Steward for Fahari-produced The Bull-Jean Stories, and Q-Roc Ragsdale as Best Actress for the same show.

Steward: “Of course, it’s all based off of popular vote. But you know, we looked at it, and said, ‘Here we are, a volunteer staff, an even more volunteer budget because we don’t know what it is, and how do we come away with three awards when no other organization does?’ Well, that speaks to the people and their beliefs in this . . . What we’re doing is building community.”

We highlighted Steward and Fahari back in January.

—  Rich Lopez

Not just a ‘9 to 5’ job

Director Jeff Calhoun’s fabulous, unlikely journey from Dolly queen to professional Dolly collaborator

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

JeffCalhounSmileGenJeff Calhoun has been a Broadway baby for nearly 30 years, directing revivals of Grease and Big River, plus choreographing those shows and revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and Bells Are Ringing. He’s got a Tony Award nom and is best friends with Tommy Tune. But he’s still hoping for the Holy Grail every theater director craves: That one original show to call his own, the lasting legacy.

“I thought Brooklyn was going to be that for me — the next Rent — which tells you how little I know,” he says of his 2004 show that ran a respectable 284 performances. Then when he heard producers were adapting the Dolly Parton film comedy 9 to 5 for Broadway, he thought he finally had his shot. Only it was not to be.

“I was really disappointed when they hired Joe Mantello to direct,” he says plainly. Then some serendipity occurred: First, 9 to 5 turned out to be a bust on Broadway, running only four months. Then the producers did something that has probably never been done before: They hired a new director to retool the show for the national tour. And that was Jeff Calhoun.

“It was a miracle,” he says.

Directing 9 to 5, which opens Wednesday at Fair Park Music Hall, is an appropriate bookend for Calhoun, who got his start as a 21-year-old working with Dolly Parton on the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

“She was in her prime — and so was I, as a matter of fact,” he jokes. “I wanted to do [9 to 5] because, first, I love Dolly; and second, I wanted to do an homage to 1970s variety shows — Sonny and Cher and Carol Burnett and such. I knew this was perfect: It takes place in 1979. But [the in Broadway version] there was no context, other than the costumes and bad hair. You should feel like you’re back in the ’70s, from Charlie’s Angels to Burt Reynolds posing nude in Playgirl.”

Calhoun tackled the show anew, treating it “as if it has its own DNA.” There was a lot of adapting: Some songs were cut, others rearranged; the style was streamlined, jokes were punched up. And working with Dolly was its own reward.

DollyJeffCalhoun600
A GAY MAN’S DREAM | Jeff Calhoun, director of ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’ came full-circle with the show, reuniting with Dolly Parton, whom he first met on the set of ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’

“It’s been one of my favorite collaborations. I have a picture of her and me together [on the set of Whorehouse] that any fan, especially a gay person, will look at that and oh my god! All I am missing is Cher on my other side.”

 

The touring production also snagged some major talent in Tony nominee Dee Hoty (who worked with Calhoun on The Will Rogers Follies and, coincidentally, plays Miss Mona — the Dolly role — in The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) and American Idol runner-up Diana DiGarmo, who starred in the tour of Calhoun’s Brooklyn.

Calhoun is a quick wit with a naughty, uncensored side who gets dishy and expresses his opinions without much coaxing.

Broadway is run by “businessmen without imagination,” he says. “That’s what’s great about [the new musical] The Book of Mormon — it’s brilliant and it shows original thought — rare today.” He’s happy bin Laden was killed on Obama’s watch as it “may shut up the naysayers. My parents — I love them and they are great people — but they have this blind spot for Obama. They would vote for Nixon tomorrow if he was running.” And don’t get him started on Sarah Palin.

“I wrote a song about Sarah Palin — it stars with C and ends with unt,” he says. “She’s written a book but she’s never read one? I hate that she has pride in her ignorance — it’s as if everyone in the audience of Let’s Make a Deal became Republicans.”

Politicking aside, next up for Calhoun are two Broadway shows: A musical adaptation of Newsies (with a script by Harvey Fierstein) immediately followed by a show with yet another Texas connection: Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical. For a Yankee, Calhoun has surprisingly strong ties to Dallas.

“I was in Dallas with Busker Alley when you had that big flood and my upside-down rental car was the image that led the news,” he says. “And I love [Dallas Summer Musicals chief] Michael Jenkins — he’s one of my best friends. Yes, I’ve had so many good experiences there, both theatrically and in the bars! I love me some Dallas!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Observer honors TCC, Uptown Players, Station 4, Gary Fitzsimmons, Kevin Moriarty

This week’s Observer goes jumbo size with its annual Best of Dallas issue. These are the best issues because it’ll give the obvious kudos to best club, restaurant, actor, etc., but then also goes out of the box for awards like “Best Shiny Happy People” (The Dallas Family Band) and “Best Two-Fisted Drinking” (The Dirty Dusty at City Tavern (Ed. note: agreed!)). We were happily surprised to see the space they gave to some LGBT faves.

Right at the front of the first section in Culture, we see the award for Glee Club given to the Turtle Creek Chorale with a feature written by Elaine Liner. She continues her gay ways with a second feature, “Homecoming Queens” about Israel Luna’s travails as a controversial indie filmmaker. If you caught the live video stream of his radio show today on Rational Broadcasting, he flashed the page for the camera.

Other LGBT awards went to Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center (best theater director), “Broadway Our Way” by Uptown Players (best theater fundraiser), Gay List Daily (best blast of gay), District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons (best bureaucrat)and Station 4 (best dance club).

There are some others, but you’ll have to snag your own copy to read further on. But don’t try the boxes down here on Fitzhugh. They are cleaned out.

Congrats to all the winners.

—  Rich Lopez