This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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It’s feeling like a charitable weekend around the gayborhood.

First, there’s the LifeWalk team the Elizabeth Trail’rs (sponsored by Dallas Voice) that is raising money for the October AIDS walk with a pool party at the Belmont Hotel on Sunday. Drop off a $20 donation and enjoy the sun and water, as well as cocktails, food, a 50/50 raffle and more. It starts at 1 p.m.

That leaves you time to head over to Mario’s on Lemmon Avenue until 4 p.m. for another Sunday Funday fundraiser: a happy hour benefiting the Lone Star Ride in September. If you can, try squeezing in Bagels & Booze at JR.’s with drag performances.

Even if you aren’t raising money, you can still enjoy some cocktail parties — both at the W Hotel. On Friday, Dick’s Night Out arrives at the Ghostbar from 6–10 p.m. with DJ Brandon Moses, pictured, spinning; then on Saturday, Lush Mixer takes place from 7–10 p.m. at Cook Hall, also at the W.

And you can say goodbye to one campy gay play and hello to another; Avenue Q finally ends its 100-plus performance run at Theatre 3 on Sunday. Then Monday is the official opening night of the hilarious musical Xanadu, which features roller-disco!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: WaterTower Theatre announces 2013-14 season

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Terry Martin

Terry Martin, the producing artistic director for WaterTower Theatre, announced his theater’s upcoming season tonight, which includes the return of the (often very gay) Out of the Loop Fringe Festival as well as five mainstage productions.

Among the shows are a musical about a country music pioneer, a screwball comedy and several regional premieres, some by gay playwrights.

WTT’s next production, Black Tie (directed by Rene Moreno), opens May 31; the final show of the company’s 2012-13 season will be Xanadu.

Here’s the full lineup for 2013-14:

Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Oct. 11–Nov.3). This jukebox musical features the songs of the C&W legend, who died on New Year’s Day 1953 at the age of 29.

The Game’s Afoot (Holmes for the Holidays) (Dec. 13–Jan. 5, 2014). Ken Ludwig, the Tony-nominated author of Lend Me a Tenor and Crazy for You, wrote this regional premiere, a farce about actor William Gillette — famed for his performances as Sherliock Holmes — solving a real crime.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Jan. 24–Feb. 12, 2014). Another regional premiere, adapted from Mark Twain’s classic novel about the mischievous teenager involved in murder and intrigue.

Out of the Loop Fringe Festival (Mar. 6–16, 2014). The return of the annual celebration of unique theater. No lineup will be announced until next year, but the content usually runs toward racier, edgy productions.

Spunk (Apr. 11–May 4, 2014). Gay director and author George C. Wolfe — probably best known for mounting the original Broadway production of Angels in America, as well as the recent revival of The Normal Heart — wrote this play, adapted from short stories by celebrated African-American author Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God).

Good People (June 6–29, 2014). Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) wrote this comic and insightful character study about old friends and new lives.

Dogfight: A New Musical (July 25–Aug. 17, 2014). Based on the 1991 film, this regional premiere musical, co-written by openly gay composer/lyricist Benj Pasek, is set on the eve of the Kennedy assassination, where a man tries to win a contest by bringing the ugliest girl to a party.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kelsey Ervi: The sorcerers’ apprentice

Kelsey Ervi picKelsey Ervi hasn’t been out of school for even two years, and already she’s stomping out a vintage with her young career in theater.

The Waco native moved to Dallas in 2011 after graduating from Baylor. Obviously, she just couldn’t get enough Waco. Yeah, right.

“I grew up there, which is scary for someone who is gay,” Ervi says. “I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here.’”

But despite the Texas town’s conservative rep, Ervi says she got a great education in the theater department there, which was very open-minded. It also taught her how to do almost anything in theater — in front of the footlights and behind.

“The theater department was so wonderful,” she coos. “I acted, directed, wrote.”

Ervi continues to work as a jack-of-all-trades: Her first play produced, Waking Up, debuted at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival last year. Set in a bedroom, with 11 characters, it explored pillow talk in the modern age. The success of that show landed Ervi a permanent job in Dallas, as assistant to Terry Martin, the producing artistic director at WTT.

Moving to Dallas has given Ervi renewed energy about the potential of doing good work in the theater. Martin, one of the most respected directors in town, asked Ervi to assistant direct WTT’s current show, The Grapes of Wrath.

“My education at Baylor was great, but the tactile experience [working here] is a whole world of knowledge,” she says. “Grapes of Wrath is such a massive show. Terry has worked with the [Joad family cast members] and I’m working with the ensemble.”

Grapes just adds to her resume. Not only has she worked with Martin, but her career already includes several stints with the dean of North Texas’ theater directors, Rene Moreno, as both assistant director or stage manager on August: Osage County, Twelfth Night and The Lucky Chance.

“It’s such a learning experience,” Ervi says. “Rene is a wonderful teacher; he’ll [do something] then whisper to me, ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”

Ervi is continuing to write (she’s working right now on a three-woman show about the trials and tribulations of love and sex; she hopes to finish it over the summer), and she’s open to auditioning to act in a show “if I feel like I’m right for it.” But mostly she’s just happy to be pursuing her passion professionally.

“I love Dallas — it’s such a booming theater community,” she says. “Classmates talk about moving to New York, and I say, ‘Come to Dallas! It’s great here.’”

The Grapes of Wrath runs through April 28.

—  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

REVIEW: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

It’s a Wonderful Life is a heartwarming Christmas classic: A tender movie that avoids being cloying most of the time on its way to causing your heart to sink. It’s hard to go wrong with it.

But also hard to improve upon, as playwright Joe Landry proves in his “Live Radio Play” version, now at WaterTower Theatre. All the elements are there: An aw-shucks dumpling of a George Bailey (Matthew Laurence-Moore), a slimy Mr. Potter (B.J. Cleveland, in one of many impersonations), ZuZu remarking that an angel got its wings. We recognize them all from the movie.

And that’s exactly what’s wrong with this play — it’s not a play. Nor is it the movie. It’s little more than a staged reading, and it begs you to ask: How come?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

GIVEAWAY: Win tickets to see WTT’s “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” Thursday

WaterTower Theatre’s new production of the jukebox musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe officially opens tonight, and you can see it this week … for free! We have two pairs of tickets to give away for Thursday’s performance. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Addison Theatre Centre, and we have the tickets here for ya. Simply email Lifestyle@dallasvoice.com by 11 a.m. tomorrow, and on Tuesday around noon, I’ll randomly pick the winners. Then all you have to do is stop by the Voice offices before Thursday and enjoy a night of the music of Leiber and Stoler.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

My behind-the-scenes interview for WTT’s “Boeing-Boeing”

Please take a minute to review my inaugural installment of Conversations @ WTT, where I ply my interview techniques with cast and crew members of shows at WaterTower Theatre in Addison. First up: Andy Baldwin and Emily Scott Banks, two bright spots in WTT’s current production of Boeing-Boeing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: WaterTower’s (very gay) new season

Addison’s WaterTower Theatre released the schedule for its 2012-2013 season, and the line-up is among the gayest for the company in recent memory.

• The season begins in September with The Mystery of Irma Vep, experimental gay playwright Charles Ludlam’s hilarious send-up of melodramas revolving around the strange goings-on at a spooky estate. (Sept. 28–Oct. 21.)

• The holiday show will be It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This is a new concept for WTT, which typically stages a musical comedy or revue with a Christmas  theme. This production will transport the beloved film to the studio of a 1940s-era radio station for an authentic recreation of the old-school radio play. (Nov. 24–Dec. 16.)

• The season picks up again in January with Putting It Together, a musical revue featuring the music of gay composer extraordinaire Stephen Sondheim. Diana Sheehan, who played Big Edie in WTT’s Grey Gardens, stars. (Jan. 11–Feb. 3.)

• This past year, WTT’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival was super-gay — it often is. Next year’s line-up won’t be announced until early next year, but you can always count on odd and engaging new works. (March 7–17.)

• WTT’s gay artistic director Terry Martin, who recently starred in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Next Fall, pictured (Martin’s on the right), will direct Frank Galati’s award-winning adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, about the Joad family’s journey from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to the fields of California in the 1930s. (April 5–28.)

• Prolific playwright A.R. Gurney, who mined the field of WASP culture in plays like Love Letters, tackles the formal wedding toast in Black Tie, a comedy about a father trying to maintain some dignity at his son’s upcoming nuptials, only to have his own late father appear as a ghost, offering advice. (May 31–June 23.)

• The season ends next summer with one of the gayest musicals ever conceived: Xanadu. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s hysterically campy adaptation of the godawful 1980s movie musical, released in the waning days of disco, inserts pop music into a revised plot about the establishment of a roller disco. (July 26–Aug. 18.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower offers wine-and-theater package

It’s a little late to get started now — the first one was last night — but if you like theater and booze (and who doesn’t?) you can combine your passions at WaterTower Theatre.

The Addison company is offering a three-show series that includes tickets to select Wednesday night performances (June 6 for Boeing-Boeing and Aug. 1 for Smokey Joe’s Cafe still remain) and a pre-show wine tasting. The cost was $135 for all three shows, but WaterTower presumable has a system in place for two of three shows, as well as for those who are already subscribers. Call 972-450-6232 to find out.

While you’re at it, tell them they may wanna change the company name to WineTower Theatre. Could work.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

More on the Loop: “Strange Dreamz,” “Dark Play”

In addition to the shows at Out of the Loop I mentioned earlier this week, there are two productions I want to single out.

First is Strange Dreamz, Kevin Thornton’s one-man quasi-standup that includes songs (Katy Perry! Gaga!), short comic stories, a few jokes and some interplay with the audience. Thornton is funny and very out there, so not all the jokes seem to hit on a mixed audience, but like Johnny Carson, even when he’s not getting anything back, he puts it up for all to see. Your last chance to see him is Saturday at 2 p.m.

Next is Dark Play, pictured, a fast-moving, modern-day cautionary tale about Internet mischief. In it, a 14-year-old (the once-again remarkable Adam Gerst) cyber-punks an innocent 16-year-old by pretending to be his ideal woman. Only it all takes a strange turn from there. The play itself is on the brink of being outdated (no one has a tablet?) and the last 10 minutes implode, but the 90 until then are furiously intriguing. You can see that on Saturday, too — don’t miss it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones