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

6 ways to fabulize your week

divineWe’re all about diversity in the gay community, and here’s how we prove it.

Let’s say you have a hankering to spend some time in the dark with gay Latinos this week. We got some suggestions. One is by seeing the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, a musical set in a South American prison. Another is checking out Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas, which features nine comic monologues dealing with all aspects of the gay Latin experience in the U.S.

If you’re tastes fall more along the lines of WASPy gay humor, you can still try to scrounge up a seat to Kathy Griffin, who is performing tonight at the Verizon Theatre. She’ll certainly talk about Kardashians, Real Housewives and, of course, “her gays.”

If that’s not your style, perhaps a little drag is what you need. The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is screening a 35mm print of John Waters’ outrageous classic Polyester tonight at 9:30 p.m., followed by a John Waters-themed dance party at 11. Costumes are encouraged. (You know you wanna try out that Tracy Turnblad get-up you have!)

If you wanna up the fashion quotient, the DFashion Week runway show — an inaugural fundraiser benefiting AIDS Arms and LifeWalk — comes to the Rose Room on Saturday. You can get tickets here.

For those who prefer the whole smorgasbord of choices, and like to be entertained as well, Sunday night is the Voice of Pride finals at the Rose Room. Ten singers walk in, one walks out with the title, cash, plane tickets … and bragging rights.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players reveals season including ‘Oz,’ ‘Vanya’

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A scene from the Broadway production of ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,’ which will be one of four mainstage shows in Uptown Players’ 2014 season

Uptown Players‘ 13th season — its fifth in the Kalita Humphreys Theater — is its most ambitious and impressive yet.

The company has scored two coups, snagging local rights to two Tony Award-winning hits: The musical The Boy from Oz and this year’s best play winner, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

In addition, UP will stage only its second-ever revival with the campy musical Pageant. The company’s first revival, Kiss of the Spider Woman, opens tonight. Rounding out the mainstage season will be The Lyons, a comedy-drama that had a Broadway run in 2012.

In addition to the season series, Uptown will have two bonus productions: the annual Broadway Our Way fundraiser, and the Pride Performing Arts Festival, with its mainstage production the musical Soho Cinders. The latter, however, will move from its position for the past three season during Dallas Pride, and now will coincide with National Pride Month in June. (It has already announced another co-production with the Turtle Creek Chorale of Sweeney Todd, following its successful collaboration this year with Ragtime.)

For the first time in several seasons, the troupe has no plans to do a cross-dressing bonus show at the Rose Room. Lynch held out the possibility, however, that such a production could be added down the line, if a property became available.

Here is the full season:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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Following a slowdown right around the Fourth of July, the theater scene is hopping again, with the opening tonight of Uptown Players‘ Kiss of the Spider Woman, pictured, while up in Addison WaterTower continues its super-gay show, Xanadu. Best idea: Check out Spider Woman this weekend and go to LGBT night at WTT on Wednesday, with a pre-show cocktail hour and discounted ticket. Then on Thursday two more shows open: Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas and the first preview for Theatre 3‘s first show of its season, So Help Me God.

If you’re in the mood for a little drag, there’s plenty of options as well. The Hidden Door hosts its 26th annual Leo Party and Miss Leo Contest on Saturday, with proceeds benefiting AIN’s Daire Center. And drag king troupe Mustache Envy gives its fans a gender-bending show at Sue Ellen‘s on Friday.

If you’re in the mood for even more giving, Resource Center Dallas holds a cocktail reception marking its 30th anniversary on Friday, and the Be An Angel fundraiser benefiting Legacy Counseling Center is on Saturday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players’ Pride Performing Arts Festival line-up

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Freddy and Amy

For the third consecutive year, Uptown Players will put on a bonus series of plays to coincide with Dallas Gay Pride Week, including some returning favorites and several acclaimed off-Broadway shows.

Returning to the mainstage of the Kalita Humphreys Theater for the third annual Pride Performing Arts Festival will be Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen, pictured above, two popular cabaret performers who were a draw at the first Pride Fest in 2011. They’ll open the series on Sept 5. The remaining shows will be performed at the upstairs Frank’s Place space. They are:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Re-Designing Women,’ ‘Penix,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Rx’

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Re-Designing Women. When Jamie Morris writes a spoof, he doesn’t hold back. Even before the actors come onstage for the first scene of Re-Designing Women, Morris’ send-up of the ’80s-era sitcom Designing Women, we’re treated to an “opening credits” video to remind us of the tone and characters. Of course, once the show begins (which is does at the Rose Room most Fridays and Saturdays for the next month-and-a-half), we simply revert, like muscle memory, to knowing who we’re seeing.

It’s the present day, and Sugarbakers Designs is going strong … well, not so strong. They’ve fallen on hard times. Finances are so bad, Suzanne (Ashton Shawver) has tricked the others into appearing on a Bravo reality show, Sugar Walls. They’re all mortified, until the show becomes a hit and Mary Jo (Chad Peterson) and Charlene (Michael B. Moore, whose vocal impersonation borders on the uncanny) become rivals while Bernice (Mikey Abrams) becomes the break-out star.

Morris, who also plays the stentorian Julia, has a knack for capturing the essence of a show while simultaneously updating it. Thus, there are tacky (but hilarious) jokes about “Sarah Palin’s half-wit baby” and the contemporary exacerbations that rankle Julia, including the cross-eyed Bravo producer Andy Cohen (Kevin Moore). (If you follow the ModernSeinfeld Twitter feed, you get the idea.) And while Morris never hesitates to push the line a bit too far (fart jokes!), this play — following Mommie Queerest, The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and The Silence of the Clams — is probably his best writing: The characters are sharply drawn and even better performed. And when Morris recites one of Julia’s famous speeches from the TV days (her “Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” riff), fully half the folks in the Rose Room seemed to recite along. That’s called knowing your audience.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jamie Morris: Behind (and in front of) the footlights in ‘Re-Designing Women’

image001-e1364929658275Before Jamie Morris started writing a series of plays — cross-dressing send-ups of campy films and TV shows like The Facts of Life, Mommie Dearest and The Silence of the Lambs — he was an actor. So it has not been unusual for him to perform, even in his own shows. Still, it was a shock to him when he realized, during pre-production on his latest spoof — Re-Designing Women, which Uptown Players is producing in the Rose Room at Station 4 starting Friday — that he would be in it.

“We were casting the show and they said to me, ‘How would you like to play Julia?'” he recalls over lunch at the Black-eyed Pea on Cedar Springs. “I texted my boyfriend that night and said, ‘I think they want me to play Julia.'” When he woke up the next morning, he was pretty sure they weren’t just joking.

The most peculiar thing about doing the show is that he hadn’t even finished writing it when he took it on. Morris, who lives in Las Vegas with his partner, didn’t complete Act 2 until a few weeks before rehearsals began. But, he says, serving as writer and star doesn’t make it any easier to perform.

“The rest of the cast assume I know every line, but I don’t,” he says.

He, like most of the rest of the all-male cast, still has to learn his lines under “about a pound of makeup.” Indeed, you’d probably not recognize Morris, with his scruffy grey beard, as the patrician Julia Sugarbaker from the sitcom. But hey, that’s why it’s being done in the Rose Room — it’s all about the illusion.

Re-Designing Women, presented by Uptown Players, opens Friday at the Rose Room inside Station 4 and runs through May 19. For tickets, visit UptownPlayers.org

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Column Awards: Full list of winners

columnIt’s not as well covered at the Oscars, but days after Hollywood hands out its treasures, The Column Awards — honoring North Texas theater — dished out its awards.

The Columns break down their awards into Equity and Non-Equity productions, which virtually doubles the recipients and leads to, for instance ICT MainStage, a Non-Equity company, walking away with the most wins of the evening (12). But multiple award-winning companies also include Uptown Players (6), Theatre Three (5), WaterTower Theatre (4) and Dallas Theater Center and Lyric Stage (3 apiece).

The complete list of winners after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Tomlin-BPatterson03Now that January is behind us, and it seems we don’t have to expect icy weather any time soon (though in Texas, ya never know), a lot of events are springing up for your entertainment calendar.

This is a busy weekend for limited-run events, many with gay appeal. Tonight and twice on Saturday, the Turtle Creek Chorale and Uptown Players co-present a concert version of the Terrence McNally-penned musical Ragtime at the City Performance Hall. I saw it last night, and, while long, it has some terrific singing — and acting — especially from Markus Lloyd and Tyce Green.

On Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and again a 2 p.m., Susan Nicely performs a free mini-opera, portraying Julia Child in Bon Appetit! at the Demonstration Kitchen inside the Farmers Market. To RSVP, go to DallasOpera.org. That evening, the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performs … and that’s a company that’s truly inventive. (We have a preview of it here.)

You can go to the ballet and still get out in time to see dance diva Kristine W headline the Carnivale celebration at Station 4 — she goes on at midnight.

On Sunday, Lily Tomlin, pictured, brings her one-woman show to the Winspear, performing her classic characters. She’s one of the legends of American comedy — you don’t want to miss it.

In addition, Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day is on Thursday, and next week welcomes to major touring productions — Catch Me If You Can at Fair Park (remember: DSM’s shows now begin a half-hour earlier than before — that’s 7:30 p.m. at nighttime performances!) and Anything Goes at the Winspear.

Don’t say you’re bored — there’s too frickin’ much to do!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones