From screen to stage

Q Cinema veterans tackle live theater with the guerrilla-like QLive!

CURTAIN UP! | Producing partners Todd Camp and Kyle Trentham have theater backgrounds, but QLive! is a departure from the movie-focused work their organization, Q Cinema, has done for a dozen years.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

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QLIVE: NONE OF THE ABOVE
Trinity Bicycles patio,
207 S. Main St., Fort Worth.
Sept. 23–24 at 8 p.m.
$15, QCinema.org

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Anyone who’s ever wanted to start a theater company will tell you that the biggest hurdle is finding the right space. It’s no different in DF-Dub, where the opportunities seem endless, but affordable spaces that can work for the demands of theater are limited.

QLive!, a new theater company based in Fort Worth, is finding ways to work around that. Its first full production, for instance, is None of the Above , a two-person drama by Jenny Lyn Bader. It opens Friday on the back patio of a bicycle shop just west of downtown Cowtown.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is the immersive experience, where it’s not just that you sit down and watch a show, but you experience a show,” says QLive’s Todd Camp, who founded Fort Worth’s LGBT film festival, Q Cinema. “The three shows that we have lend themselves quite well to that.”

Those three shows, which run this fall, begin with Above, which deals with a parochial school student and her teacher. In November, there’ll be Yasmina Reza’s oft-produced Art, which will hopefully happen in a gallery space (they’re still negotiating). It will close out the year with Terrence McNally’s controversial Corpus Christi, taking place in a machine shop near downtown Fort Worth.

QLive! has been a project three years in the making, and will be led by Camp’s Q Cinema cohort Kyle Trentham, as artistic director. The group has already launched a successful Tuesday night open mike comedy event at Percussions Lounge, and in February presented a staged reading of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play Spring Awakening, the day before the musical based on that play opened at Bass Performance Hall. They also brought Hollywood comedy writer Bruce Vilanch in for a one-night performance.

Like other arts groups with a large LGBT following that present works of interest to that community — including Uptown Players and the Turtle Creek Chorale — Trentham says QLive doesn’t want the label of “gay theater” … despite the big “Q” in its name.

“Young [audiences] don’t think in those terms anymore,” he says. “They just want to see theater they like.”

With Corpus Christi, Trentham says that creating an immersive experience will be crucial to the production. “It’s a working machine shop,” he says. “You walk in and the actors are working, getting their hands dirty. Then in the cleansing scene, they actually are cleaned.”

Camp, who has led Q Cinema for 13 years, is no stranger to controversy. He was a critical player in the late ‘90s “Labor of Love” project at the now-defunct Fort Worth Theatre. That group presented shows like Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band. A few times, there were protesters in front of the performance space, Orchestra Hall.

Considering the dust-up Corpus Christi caused in Texas last year when a Tarelton State University junior had his student production of it canceled, Camp is prepared for blowback.

“You are not going to tell me what I can and cannot do in my town, even if you’re the lieutenant governor,” he says. “This is an important work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who’s from Texas. … It’s an incredibly pro-spiritual show. It’s not anti-religion or blasphemous. It takes organized religion, which has been used to club the gay and lesbian community for many years, and retells the story that makes it a little more compatible and open to them.”

For now, they’ll have to see how their audience deals with a show outside a bike shop.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Applause: Stage pink

Queer highlights from the upcoming theater season

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Anticipation should be strong for the upcoming theater season in general. Ambitious shows like Giant, The Tempest, West Side Story and Hairspray all dot the stage horizon.
But we also like to see some of our own up there. As we look over the upcoming offerings from local theater companies, we always ask, “Where’s the gay?”  In addition to Uptown Players’ first  Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival, here are some of the others.

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Fall

Although the Dallas Opera canceled the opera she was set to star in, lesbian soprano Patricia Racette will still perform at a TDO gala. (Photo Devon Cass)

Singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik gave an indie music flair to the musical adaptation of the 1891 play Spring Awakening. Set in 19th century Germany, Awakening follows a group of youths as they discover more about themselves and their rapidly developing sexuality.

The original Frank Wedekind play was controversial in its day, depicting abortion, homosexuality, rape and suicide. Now the show just has an added rock ‘n’ roll score. Along with Sheik’s musical perspective, Steven Slater wrote the book and lyrics in this updated version which debuted in 2006 on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Musical. Terry Martin directs.

WaterTower Theater, 15650 Addison Road., Addison. Sept. 30–Oct. 23. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

It’s almost un-Texan if you’re gay and not familiar with Del Shores’ tales of Southern discomfort.  Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives are pretty much part of the queer vernacular in these parts, but Shores got his start way back in 1987.

How will those northern folks take to Shores work (And by north, we mean past Central Expressway past LBJ)? Jeni Helms directs Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will for McKinney Repertory Theatre this fall. As the family patriarch suffers a stroke, the Turnover family gathers as they wait for his death. This family may just put the fun in dysfunctional.

McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Sept. 30–Oct. 7. McKinneyRep.org.

WingSpan Theatre Co. will produce one of the greater comedies of theater-dom this fall: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Nancy Sherrard sparring over the gay wit’s price bon mots as Lady Bracknell.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Oct. 6–22. WingSpanTheatre.com.

Although A Catered Affair might sound a bit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it has the added flair of Harvey Fierstein’s wit. That’s because he wrote the book for the show alongside John Bucchino’s music and lyrics. The play is based on the Gore Vidal-penned 1956 film The Catered Affair starring Bette Davis.

When Jane and Ralph decide to get married, Jane’s mom Agnes wants to put on an elaborate spectacle of a wedding. The truth is, she can’t afford it and Jane isn’t all too thrilled about a huge affair. As in most cases, the wedding planning is more about the mom than the daughter and Agnes soon realizes the fact. Jane’s Uncle Winston — the proverbial gay uncle — is left off the guest list and is rightfully pissed. But as most gay characters, he rallies to be the voice of reason and support.

Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Ste.168. Oct. 13–Nov. 12. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Lesbian soprano Patricia Racette was going to be featured in the production of Katya Kabanová but unfortunately the show was canceled by the Dallas Opera. But fear not. Dallas will still get to bask in the greatness that is her voice as Racette will perform An Evening with Patricia Racette, a cabaret show with classics from the Great American Songbook for a patron recital.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Nov. 9. DallasOpera.org

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Spring

Nancy Sherrard will star as Lady Bracknell in WIngSpan Theater Co.’s fall production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ perhaps the greatest comedy ever written by theaterdom’s gayest wit.

Kevin Moriarty directs Next Fall for the Dallas Theater Center next spring. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play centers on Luke and Adam, a couple with some unusual issues. What’s new about that in gay couplehood? Not much, but when Adam’s an absolute atheist and Luke’s a devout Christian, the two have been doing their best to make it work.
The comedy played on Broadway in 2010, garnering Tony and Drama Desk nominations. And now Dallas gets to see how, as DTC puts it, “relationships can be a beautiful mess.”
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. April 13–May 6. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

Perhaps the most surprising queer offering this next season is Theatre Arlington’s production of The Laramie Project. The show usually creates quite a stir — at least it did in Tyler, thanks to Trinity Wheeler — so how will this suburban audience handle it? Doesn’t matter. Props to T.A. for taking Moises Kaufman’s play about the tragic bashing and death of Matthew Shepard to its community.

Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main St., Arlington. May 18–June 3. TheatreArlington.org.

Usually the question with MBS Productions is “what’s not gay?” Founder Mark-Brian Sonna has consistently delivered tales of gay woe and love that are sometimes silly and sometimes sweet, but always a laugh.

This season is no different. Playwright Alejandro de la Costa brings back drag queen Lovely Uranus in The Importance of Being Lovely. The last time we saw Uranus, Sonna wore the stilettos and pink wig in last season’s Outrageous, Sexy, (nekkid) Romp.  This time around, Uranus graduates to leading lady status as the show is all about her as audiences follow her through the changes she makes in her make-up, wigs and men.

Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. July 16–Aug. 11, 2012. MBSProductions.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

RCD, AIDS Arms among United Way beneficiaries

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas voted this week to disburse $25 million to 78 nonprofit organizations in the Dallas area.

Because of new criteria that emphasize improving education, income or health, some new agencies received money and others lost their United Way funding.

Among the regular recipients are Resource Center Dallas, which will receive $383,409, and AIDS Arms, which will receive $772,548. Bryan’s House is one of the new agencies receiving United Way funding and they will get $315,106.

Another new beneficiary is Turtle Creek Manor, a residential program in Uptown for people with co-occurring disorders of severe mental illness and alcohol or drug addiction.

Among those losing funding because they no longer fit the organization’s mission are two local Boy Scouts councils. In the past, some members of the LGBT community have chosen not to make  donations to United Way because of the funding of groups like the Boy Scouts that proudly enshrine discrimination into their mission and policies. Donors to the United Way can designate beneficiary organizations so that specific agencies of interest will receive the money.

—  David Taffet

Uptown Players’ ‘Broadway Our Way’ is underway

A theater queen’s heaven

Uptown Players is begging for money again, but that’s good news because it means the return of Broadway Our Way. A star-studded night of local theater peeps combine their talents to bring an evening of fab showtunes, but with some major twists. Because we all know Uptown Players isn’t gonna play it straight — and that’s a good thing.

DEETS: Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Through May 15. $40. UptownPlayers.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Death: Burleigh John ‘B.J.’ Smith

Burleigh John “B.J.”  Smith, 62, of Dallas died March 29 from complications due to liver cancer.

Born in Shreveport to the late Bernard Cyril and Gwendolyn Smith, B.J.Smith worked 20 years for Cinemark Theaters as a film buyer before retiring in early 2010. He had a very outgoing and uplifting personality and he never met a stranger. His hobbies and interests included singing with the Turtle Creek Chorale for 11 years, movies, traveling, cooking and enjoying food and wine with friends.

He is survived by his partner of 31 years, Dennis Bellotto,; his sister Lynn Norton and family of Flower Mound; his brother Barney Smith and family of San Antonio; and his cherished cat Lance.

In lieu of flowers, Smith requested that memorial donations be made to AMFAR www.amfar.org or The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society www.lls.org. No formal memorial service is planned at this time.

—  John Wright

Funding set for Easter in the Park

Pooch Parade, Dallas Symphony to highlight annual event in Lee Park

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Event coordinator David Berryman, working with the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, this week announced that he has put together funding from several sources to ensure the annual Easter in the Park will take place on April 24.

Kroger, Park Place Volvo and MetroPCS will sponsor the event, with Berryman’s company Bravo Event Group of Texas coordinating it.

Edna Jean Robinson and friend

“We’re all set to go,” Lee Park Conservancy President John Williams said.

There was a question whether the annual event would proceed as usual when the Turtle Creek Association that sponsored the event in the past split the Pooch Parade from the concert. That group decided to stage a “family friendly” event a week earlier.

The Dallas Symphony, however, was still scheduled to perform on Easter Sunday and had committed $60,000 for the performance to take place.

The Lee Park Conservancy, which operates Lee Park, was concerned about the DSO not having an audience despite having committed the funds to perform. And many in the LGBT community were angry over what they saw as an attempt to weed out participation by the LGBT community from Easter in the Park, which has always had a large LGBT contingent of participants.

Many saw TCA’s “family-friendly” tag line as code for “no gays allowed.”

After much discussion, though, the conservancy teamed with Berryman’s company and the Cedar Springs merchants to ensure the traditional Easter Sunday event would take place.

Still, funding was needed to hire the required police and a rescue squad and to pay for trash removal that has to be contracted with a professional company.

The city waived permit fees to help the organizations stage the event.

Registration for the Pooch Parade will open at 11 a.m. The cost is $10 per pet entered. Paul J. Williams will be the emcee and council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano will be among the judges. A special guest grand marshal will be announced next week.

Food and beverage vendors begin serving at noon and will be open though 5 p.m. The Dallas Symphony will perform in Lee Park at 5 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m., an Easter bonnet contest begins at select clubs on Cedar Springs Road. The list of participating bars will be released next week.

The April 17 event, renamed Creek Craze, will include a dog costume contest, and rescue groups will be at the park for adoptions. Food and beverage vendors will also be at the park.

Activities include an Easter egg roll. Children’s entertainer Eddie Coker and a DJ will entertain through the afternoon and a live band will perform at 4 p.m.

And all groups involved assure that “family friendly” means all families.

Williams said he was glad to see two weekends of activities in the park.

“I hope people come out and enjoy both,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

CRIME ALERT: Beware of burglars who removed tires from vehicle parked in Turtle Creek area

The following arrived in our Inbox this afternoon from Oak Lawn crime watch volunteer Nancy Weinberger:

I got email from [DPD's] central [division] about BMVs … 2008 Chevy SUV parked on Sale street 3100 block (Sale is a block off Turtle Creek towards Oak Lawn–it is a very short street) … had all 4 tires and rims removed while left parked on street.

WATCH for vehicles driving slowly through your neighborhood … probably a truck … looking to do the same to parked vehicles …

PLEASE REMEMBER TO REPORT ANYTHING THAT LOOKS SUSPICIOUS TO YOU. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. … I know 911 gets tired of hearing from me … but I call any time I see anything that looks funny just in case.

Better safe than sorry.

—  John Wright

Gay professionals find that necessity is mother of reinvention

Mark Shekter – When the recession hit his industry, Mark Shekter used his experience, talents to create new businesses

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

PASTRIES AND TAXES  |  Mark Shekter has reinvented himself during difficult economic times by recreating an old business and beginning new ones. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
PASTRIES AND TAXES | Mark Shekter has reinvented himself during difficult economic times by recreating an old business and beginning new ones. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Mark Shekter’s upscale residential design firm, Graphic+Design+Group, will celebrate 40 years in business in January. Surrealty, his real estate firm, has been selling homes in Oak Lawn and elsewhere for 25 years.

The award-winning home designer has had houses featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead lived in a house Shekter created. So does Nolan Ryan, and Shekter worked with Dave of Dave & Busters and the owner of the Houston Astros on their houses.

Shekter has designed many townhouses in Oak Lawn and he worked with a number of Turtle Creek high-rise condo owners to re-imagine their living spaces.

“They call me ‘The Space Doctor,’” he said. “But now builders can’t get financing and individuals are having a tough time qualifying.”
And, he said, there’s a glut of Oak Lawn townhouses on the market.

“In this down economy, you have to reinvent yourself, either with new ideas or bringing back some of the old ones,” Shekter said.
Developing new businesses is nothing new for Shekter. In the 1980s, during another downturn in the business cycle, he started a travel agency. He also created Lollapalooza, an event and party planning business.

“I love catering parties,” he said.

And so, to try and counteract the drop in the real estate market, Shekter decided to bring back Lollapalooza.

And since doing so, he has planned and catered everything from wedding and commitment ceremonies to Passover seders to dinner parties for two or four.

But Shekter explained that he does more than just cater parties.

“I approach the business like a contractor working with several subcontractors,” he said. “I go to hundreds of different sources to get the best of whatever you’re looking for.”

Along with Lollapalooza, Shekter also recently created Ruthie’s Rugaluch.

Rugaluch are a traditional eastern European European pastry. The name means “little royal twists” in Yiddish. They are thin, cream cheese pastry dough crescents filled with a combination of nuts, cinnamon, sugar, fruit preserves and raisins.

“It’s named after my mother,” Shekter said. “Everyone thinks it’s my mother’s recipe, but it wasn’t. She just liked to eat them.”

His partner in that business is an old friend who used to bake the pastries for the Neiman Marcus catalogue. Last year, he suggested they turn what had become just a hobby into a business.

Shekter said the rugaluch business is labor intensive and expensive.

To maintain his reputation for making his exquisite pastry, he spends quite a bit of money on fresh ingredients.

Minimum orders are $50 plus delivery charge. Orders over $100 include free delivery. The basic price is $19 for a baker’s dozen.

For large events, he said, they’re producing them by the hundreds.

And while catering and baking keep him quite busy, Shekter also created a third business. Two years ago, he helped a couple of his home design clients successfully challenge their property tax assessments.

“I was so successful, I decided this was another business,” he said.

So using his real estate and his design experience, Shekter reinvented himself in still another way: He became a real estate property tax consultant.

Using his knowledge of home design helped him judge whether an appraisal was fair and accurate. In a number of cases he even found inaccurate space measurements.

And his real estate experience helped Shekter access and judge comparative appraisal prices.

This year, Shekter has worked with 24 clients to challenge their tax appraisals. He said he got positive results for 20 of them.

He said that he charges a fee for his service, but only if he’s successful in lowering his client’s tax rate.

While the businesses may sound far-flung and disparate, Shekter said they are all closely related:

Many of his catering customers are people living in houses he designed.

His real estate customers have become his tax appraisal customers.

And his rugaluch customers have turned into kitchen redo clients and even new homebuyers.

“I’m always promoting and marketing,” Shekter said.

To order Ruthie’s Rugaluch, talk about a tax appraisal or design your next multi-million-dollar mansion, contact Mark Shekter at 214-520-8800.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Business Briefs • 07.23.10

Karim Harati-Zadeh opened a second Spectrum Chiropractic & Acupuncture location at 1300A W. Arkansas Lane in Arlington. His first office is on Lemmon Avenue in Oak Lawn.

Derrick Dawson passed his Texas real estate salesperson licensure exam and has joined Texas Pride Realty in Carrollton.

Eric Johnson has formed a new law firm with John Helms and Manuel Diaz at 6060 N. Central Expressway.

Turtle Creek Consignment & Estate Sales, a gay-owned, Web-based business, recently opened their warehouse showroom to the public. Located at 3737 Atwell Street, behind the Home Depot on Lemmon Avenue, they specialize in new and pre-owned luxury home furnishings, home décor, collectibles, fine art, vintage home accessories vintage jewelry, crystal, glass and pottery. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lula B’s moved from its Lower Greenville Avenue location to 2639 Main St. in Deep Ellum. Their second store is on Riverfront (Industrial) Boulevard and features 80 vendors selling funky, kitschy and collectible, vintage and pimpadelic items.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oak Lawn robbery suspect identified

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Dallas police say 39-year-old Cortnie Estelle (shown above) has been arrested and charged with at least three recent aggravated robberies in the Uptown/Turtle Creek/Oak Lawn area.

Last week I reported that authorities believed the same suspect was responsible for about seven robberies, several of which involved kidnapping victims at gunpoint and forcing them to drive to ATMs and withdraw cash. The robberies occurred over a two-month period beginning in mid-August.

Estelle was taken into custody on Monday, Oct. 19 and is being held on $300,000 bond, jail records show. 

—  John Wright