Uptown Players dominates DFW Theater Critics Forum awards


Sterling Gafford and B.J. Cleveland in ‘The Nance,’ this year’s most honored show.

Uptown Players’ production of The Nance proved the prohibitive favorite at this year’s annual polling/luncheon/ slugfest of the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum, which presented the show with four awards, while Uptown took nine total. Indeed, each of the mainstage productions won multiple honors.

The Nance, Douglas Carter Beane’s poignant comedy about a self-deluded gay burlesque performer, won a best director nod for Bruce R. Coleman, acting for star B.J. Cleveland and for the ensemble, and outstanding original music composition for Adam C. Wright. Uptown’s Catch Me If You Can won three awards, for director Cheryl Denson and actors Antony Fortino and David Lugo. And the just-closed Hedwig and the Angry Inch took a performance citation for star Kyle Igneczi and for director Jeremy Dumont.

Several other gay artists and gay-themed shows fared well, too. Blake Hackler won a nod for his direction of The Flick, which also took an ensemble nod. Local gay Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton was cited for outstanding new play or musical for Mississippi Goddamn, which also won for direction for vickie washington. And Danielle Georigiou won for best new play and best choreography for her queer-themed The Show About Men. Another choreography winner was out dancer Joshua L. Peugh for Colossal at the Dallas Theater Center. Paul Taylor was singled out for his performances in both Hot Mikado at Theatre 3 and Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play at Stage West.

Michael Urie, the out North Texas native who opened his one-man show Buyer & Cellar last September, starred in one of the favorite touring shows. The others were the Mandy Patinkin/Taylor Mac mime The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville (Eisemann Center for Performing Arts), Pippin (Dallas Summer Musicals), Once (AT&T Performing Arts Center/Bass Hall) and Endurance. Local actor Van Quattro won the final award for best new play for his solo show Standing Eight Count.

Jay Dias, the gay music director for Lyric Stage, received a special citation for his scholarship and restoration of the scores for two forgotten musicals: Lady in the Dark and The Golden Apple.

The entire list — which for the first time lumps actors and actresses into one category called “performance,” is below.

Outstanding Direction: Akin Babatunde, Don’t Bother Me… I Can’t Cope and The Color Purple (both Jubilee Theatre); Bruce R. Coleman, The Nance (Uptown Players); Cheryl Denson, Catch Me If You Can (Uptown); Jeremy Dumont, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Uptown); Black Hackler, The Flick (Undermain Theater); Katherine Owens, The Testament of Mary and Tomorrow Come Today (both Undermain); Matthew Posey, The Egg Salesman (Ochre House); Vickie Washington, Mississippi Goddam (South Dallas Cultural Center).

Outstanding New Play or MusicalMississippi Goddamn by Jonathan Norton; The Show About Men by Danielle Georgiou (DGDG); Standing Eight Court by Van Quattro (Rite of Passage Theatre Company, presented at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Festival and the Dallas Solo Fest).

Outstanding Performance: (Men) B.J. Cleveland, The Nance; David Coffee, King Lear (Trinity Shakespeare Festival); Hassan El-Amin, A Solider’s Play and Radio Golf (both African American Repertory Theater); Antony Fortino and David Lugo, Catch Me If You Can; Kyle Igneczi, Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Paul Taylor, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (Stage West) and Hot Mikado (Theatre 3); Pat Watson, Streamers (L.I.P. Service Productions).  (Women) Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Lydia (Cara Mia Theatre Co.); Shannon Kearns, The Testament of Mary; Jenny Ledel, for her season; Janelle Lutz, South Pacific and Lady in the Dark (both Lyric Stage); Ebony Marshall Oliver, In Real Time and The Color Purple (both Jubilee Theatre); Allison Pistorius, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Stage West); Sally Vahle, Medea (Dallas Theater Center);  Lulu Ward, The Two-Character Play; Sherry Jo Ward, Precious Little (Echo Theatre).

The award-winning ensemble of Jubilee’s ‘The Brothers Size.’

Outstanding Ensemble: The Brothers Size (Jubilee Theatre); The Egg Salesman; The Flick; Hands on a Hard Body (Theatre 3); Mr. Burns; Mississippi Goddam; The Nance.

Outstanding Creative Contribution: Robin Armstrong, fight choreography, Lovers and Executioners (Circle Theatre); Clare Floyd Devries, set design, The Explorers’ Club (Stage West and WaterTower Theatre); Danielle Georgiou, choreography, NICE and The Show About Men; Bob Lavallee, set design, The Rocky Horror Show (Dallas Theater Center); Joshua L. Peugh, movement, Colossal; Adam C. Wright, original music composition, The Nance.

Outstanding Touring ProductionBuyer & Cellar (AT&T Performing Arts Center); Endurance (Split Knuckle Theatre); The Last Two People on Earth; Once (AT&T Performing Arts Center and Performing Arts Fort Worth); Pippin (Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth).

Special Citations: Lyric Stage and musical director Jay Dias, for their contributions to the musical restorations of The Golden Apple and Lady in the Dark, and for the first cast recording of the complete score of Apple; The producers of Shakespeare in a Bar for attracting new and large audiences to non-traditional spaces and reminding us that Shakespeare can be unexpected and fun; Audacity Theatre Lab and Brad McEntire for bringing quality local and national performances with the creation of the Dallas Solo Fest.

Critics partaking include me from the Voice, plus these folks from the following outlets: Dallas Observer (Elaine Liner, Lauren Smart), TheaterJones.com (Mark Lowry, Jan Farrington, Martha Heimberg, David Novinski), Dallas Morning News (Nancy Churnin), Culture Map (Lindsey Wilson), Fort Worth Star Telegram (Punch Shaw, Mark Lowry) CriticalRant.com (Alexandra Bonifield) and Dallas Weekly (Martha Heimberg).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Congrats to Craig Lynch and Phillip Hearne!

Craig and PhillipThis has been quite a weekend for Craig Lynch, co-founder of Uptown Players. In addition to opening the company’s new show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, on Friday night, Lynch married his partner of 15 years, Phillip Hearne, on a small ceremony Sunday at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Lynch and Hearne were among the first to head down to the courthouse on June 26 to obtain a license; they had 90 days to wed, and took care of it in plenty of time. Congrats to you both!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: ‘Gilligan’s Fire Island’ teaser

GilliganOn Feb. 13, the latest in the Uptown Players-Jamie Morris team-ups of movie/TV spoofs (in drag!) will open for a month-long run at the Rose Room, and the cast alone shows it promises to be a doozy. Gilligan’s Fire Island puts the screw and passengers of the S.S. Minnow on the New York spit of land known for its gay guesthouses and cruise-y beaches. I’ll have an interview with Morris on Friday, but until then, check out this teaser for Gilligan’s Fire Island … and you’ll never year the term “little buddy” the same way again.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

2014 Black Tie Dinner: The Night in Photos

The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.

The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.

Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.

Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:

—  Tammye Nash

Theater critics bestow awards

Liz Mikel, left, and Tiffany Hobbs, right, were singled out for their performances in ‘Raisin in the Sun,’ directed by Tre Garrett. (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

The Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum met as usual the first Saturday after Labor Day to hash out our awards for the best of North Texas theater over the preceding 12 months, and the Dallas Theater Center ended up the big winner, with five of its shows receiving citations. Les Miserables, Fortress of Solitude, Oedipus el Rey and its in-repertory pair of Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park (Raisin‘s quasi-sequel) all took home major awards, including direction for the first four. Cast members from many were also recognized, including Liz Mikel and Tiffany Hobbs from Raisin, Allison Pistorious from Clybourne and Steven Walters from Les Miz. Uptown Players, coming off one of its best seasons, also won accolades for two of its shows: The gay comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (for direction and its ensemble) and for The Boy from Oz for its three stars and for its wig and makeup by Coy Covington. My own Actor of the Year winner for 2013, Tina Parker, won note for her performance in Detroit — one of nods to Kitchen Dog Theater, which also produced best new play winner Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle. WaterTower also fared well, especially for its recent musical Dogfight. The winners — which are voted on by a panel of 12 local theater critics, including me — are hashed out over a luncheon. There are between four and nine winners in each category this year.

The complete list is below.

Direction: Daniel Aukin, Fortress of Solitude (Dallas Theater Center); B.J. Cleveland, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players); David Denson, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions); Tre Garrett, A Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Tim Johnson, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Terry Martin, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Kevin Moriarty, Oedipus el Rey (Dallas Theater Center); Susan Sargeant, The Diaries of Adam and Eve and Happy Days (WingSpan Theatre Co.); Liesl Tommy, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center).


The cast of ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ was recognized as best ensemble, as was its director, B.J. Cleveland.

Actor: Adam A. Anderson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Jaxon Beeson, Stiff (Fun House Theatre and Film); Joey Folsom, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions) and Hank Williams: Lost Highway (WaterTower Theatre); Alex Ross, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Garret Storms, for his season of performances; Drew Wall, Nocturne (Second Thought Theatre); Steven Walters, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center).

Actress: Tiffany Hobbs, Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Spunk (WaterTower Theatre); Janelle Lutz, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Liz Mikel, Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center); Tina Parker, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Allison Pistorius, Venus in Fur (Circle Theatre) and Clybourne Park (Dallas Theater Center); Sarah Elizabeth Smith, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Juliette Talley, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Ashley Wilkerson, The Mountaintop (Jubilee Theatre).

Ensemble: Barbecue Apocalypse (Kitchen Dog Theater); Heroes (Stage West); The Echo Room Presents: Her Song (Echo Theatre); Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players).

Creative Contribution: Coy Covington for his wig and makeup design for The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players) and wig designs for Pageant (Uptown Players); Clare Floyd DeVries for her set design, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Jay Dias for his music direction, Nine and Titanic (Lyric Stage); Jeffrey Colangelo and Katy Tye for their movement design, Galatea (Prism Co.); the design team with Trinity Shakespeare Festival, for their season.

New Play or Musical: Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle (Kitchen Dog Theater); Booth by Steven Walters (Second Thought Theatre); Fortress of Solitude by Itamar Moses and Michael Friedman (Dallas Theater Center); mania/gift by Shelby-Allison Hibbs (Echo Theatre); Stiff by Jeff Swearingen (Fun House Theatre and Film).

Touring Production: Evita (Dallas Summer Musicals); The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess (ATTPAC); Peter and the Starcatcher (ATTPAC); Trick Boxing (Sossy Mechanics).

Special Citations: To Matt Tomlanovich, for reviving the Margo Jones as a busy performance space, opening it to fledgling companies at a reasonable price, and making it available to small festivals, poetry slams, readings and dance groups; and to Lawson Taitte, for his distinguished career in arts criticism.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players announces 2015 season

Nathan Lane starred on Broadway in ‘The Nance,’ which will receive its regional premiere from Uptown Players in 2015.

Uptown Players’ upcoming 2015 season will feature two major recent Tony winners, from a new comedy to a rock musical, as well as the return of a TV spoof in the Rose Room at S4 and the annual fundraising performance.

Things were more complicated for Uptown Players this time, scheduling-wise. For several years, they have shared the Kalita Humphreys Theater with the Dallas Theater Center, which moved to its new digs in Downtown’s Wyly Theatre, but which is still the primary leaseholder at the Kalita. DTC mostly performs at the Wyly … mostly — not exclusively. So when DTC announced its 2014-15 schedule this spring, it threw a monkey wrench into the works: Its plays would seesaw between the venues, and the timing was going to interfere with Uptown Players’ calendar.

But they worked it out, in part by starting a month early. The first show of their 2015 season will actually be in December 2014: Christmas Our Way, UP’s holiday-themed Broadway Our Way fundraiser (where men sing women’s songs and vice versa) will be held Dec. 11–14.

The first official show of 2015 will be Gilligan’s Fire Island, another spoof by playwright/actor Jamie Morris, who was last represented onstage at the Rose Room as Julia Sugarbaker in Re-Designing Women. As the title suggests, the castaways have gotten pretty gay.

The mainstage season will arrive at the Kalita in June, starting with the wonderful comedy-drama The Nance, then the regional North Texas-produced premiere of Catch Me If You Can, the rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the new off-Broadway hit Harbor.

See the complete lineup after the jump. You can also get season tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players adds Dan Savage to Pride Fest

Dan Savage for Intiman by LaRae Lobdell | PhotoSister.comUptown Players has added queer advice/sex columnist Dan Savage’s one-man show Savage Love Live to the lineup of its fourth annual Pride Performing Arts Festival, which runs in September. In addition to his column and books, Savage is best known as co-founder of the It Gets Better Project.

UP had already announced several of the shows, but today came out with the full schedule, which adds Savage and Steven Jay Crabtree’s Dysfunctional Divas.

Opening the festival on the Kalita Humphreys mainstage will be the concert version of The Last Session, a revival of a show first produced in UP’s inaugural season. It will kick off the fest Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. Savage Love Live will bring up the rear, closing the festival on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.

Here’s a list of the rest of the shows, including performance dates. You can get more information and purchase tickets here.

Mythical Beastie. Former college roommates Mark (a gay architect) and Greg (his straight friend) find themselves living together again after years of estrangement. Greg, a serial womanizer, invites his latest crush Wendy home to meet his best friend and to make an announcement that throws everyone and everything into a tailspin. Written by local playwright Bruce R. Coleman. Performances: Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 2 p.m.

From White PlainsA 2013 Off-Broadway hit, it  follows four men, straight and gay, as they attempt to take responsibility for past actions and move beyond them, aided and frustrated by celebrity, social media and viral videos. The play examines how male relationships change as boys grow into men and asks who speaks for a victim of bullying when he is no longer here to speak for himself. Performances: Sept. 13 at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 2 p.m., Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.

CommencingThe beautiful Kelli can’t wait for the blind date her friends have set her up on, until it turns out to be one very disappointed lesbian named Arlin. Mutually appalled, yet appallingly intrigued, they proceed to pull the screws loose on both straight and gay women’s culture, to find the common ground beneath in the search for love and self. Performances: Sept. 13 at 2 p.m., Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Falling Man. This play examines the lives of a diverse group of gay men from various backgrounds. Join Brandon Simmons in a tour-de-force performance as we meet a former drag queen, a young hustler who is taken over by the spirit of Tennessee Williams, the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer, and a former cha-cha champion who just wants to be remembered. Performances: Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 8 p.m.

Dysfunctional Divas. Steven Jay Crabtree presents yet another evening in the lives of his outrageous characters: the drama queen of lip-sync, Trayla Park; the superhero, Warrior Woman; the bombastic screen vixen, Martini Glass; plus other of Steven’s weird, wigged alter egos! Crabtree switches from boy to girl and boots to heels while playing his collection of kooky characters.  Rated R for adult language and humor. Performances: Sept. 13 at 9:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 8 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: A preview of Uptown Players’ ‘Pageant’

In today’s edition, I have an interview with Kevin Gunter, the musical director of Uptown Players’ second-ever revival, the campy hit cross-dressing musical Pageant. The show pits six “natural born females” against each other for the coveted title of Miss Glamouresse. But you don’t have to take my word for it — see what the contestants are like in this video, previewing the production, which opens tonight. And you can get tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sam Harris: At the ilume, at the Kalita and in bookstores

SamHarris at ilume Park

SamHarris at ilume Park

It’s a surprisingly Sam Harris-y time to be in Dallas. On Tuesday night, the actor-singer-writer helped open the new ilume Park development on Cedar Springs at a gala fundraiser for the Red Party, benefiting Legacy Counseling Center. Harris charmed the audience, reading from his new memoir, Ham, and even performed a few songs, sounding as clear and powerful as he did when he won the first-ever Star Search contest 30 years ago.

His reign doesn’t end there. Tomorrow in Dallas Voice, we run a review of Ham (preview: It’s hilar!) and in just more than a week, Harris is back for a one-man show at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, courtesy of Uptown Players. In it, he both performs essays from his book and sings numbers. And he’s still pretty easy on the eyes.

I’ve become a fan all over again. You will be, too.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players face possible protests over ‘Most Fabulous Story’

Uptown Fabulous Story 087KOThis year, Uptown Players got to do something they haven’t done since their first season: Open a late-autumn production. Since it was close to the Christmas holiday, they chose a (kinda) religious-themed play to inaugurate their new time-slot: Paul Rudnick’s sassy The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. A riff on the right-winger mantra of “The Bible speaks about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” Rudnick goes ahead and makes it about Adam and Steve (and their lesbian counterparts, Jane and Mabel … instead of Cain and Abel). Adam and Steve are mostly naked for the first 15 minutes or so.

Let’s face it: This is provocative stuff for the Bible Belt. Co-founder Craig Lynch even acknowledged that some gay theatergoers may not appreciate a satire of the Old Testament. Then again, isn’t pushing boundaries what theater is supposed to do sometimes?

Apparently, not everyone agrees. Lynch informs me that as of the start of this week, the company had already received 800 protest emails, though he attributed the vast majority of them to a robo-email program sponsored by a right wing religious organization. One patron even called and offered to buy out every seat for the entire run with the intent not to use the seats, to prevent any audience for the gay-themed play.

Similar protests have been logged in Oklahoma City and Austin, with varying degrees of success. One Catholic group has even called for a “Rosary of Reparation” on Sunday, to protest the show at the Kalita Humphreys.

Call me naive, but inviting hundreds of your followers to show up at a theater is a great way to give a troupe free publicity — which, I admit, is what I’m doing as well.

Of course, peaceful protests and disagreements are one thing; intimidation, violence and threats are another. So far, The Most Fabulous Story Even Told — which opens tonight, and runs until Dec. 15 — seems to have avoided any scary-level protests. I expect it will stay that way. After all, doesn’t the Bible say something about turning the other cheek? A good Christian should know about that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones