Best Bets • 08.26.16

Friday 08.26 — Sunday 10.09


The stars turn out for ‘Constellations’

Nerd alert! Roland is a beekeeper. Marianne is as Cambridge academic, a physicist who studies theoretical cosmology. They meet and fall and love. And that should be it. But there’s chaos theory and wormholes and tons of other intellectual justifications for the myriad ways this girl-meets-boy story could play out … all of which do in this sophisticated two-hander, a romance with the universe of love at its feet. Alex Organ and Allison Pistorius star in Nick Payne’s Constellations, the season-open for the DTC.

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St. (Studio Theatre)

Saturday 08.27


Drag Racer Thorgy Thor performs at Marty’s Live

The new All Star edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race is underway, but last season’s quirky contestant, Thorgy Thor, is the draw this weekend in Dallas. She’ll bring her live performance to the gayborhood with a late-night set that promises to be as sassy as she is.

Marty’s Live
4207 Maple Ave.
Doors at 9 p.m., show at midnight.

Friday 08.26 — Sunday 09.11


‘The Toxic Avenger’ musical makes its North Texas debut

The musical version of The Toxic Avenger is a legend of things that never quite were. It got its initial staging at Houston’s Alley Theatre, before moving to off-Broadway for retooling and an eventual move to B’way. But the move never took place, despite widespread acclaim, and the rights to the show never came free… until Uptown Players snagged them for this cult classic about a green superhero.

Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Thunder role

Out actor Eric LaJuan Summers, a scene-stealing boy among ‘Dreamgirls’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor

Eric LaJuan Summers is tearing it up, stealing scenes left and right as the James Brown-ish soul singer James “Thunder” Early in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Dreamgirls. But despite all the attention, he’s always looking for the next great opportunity. Maybe… Deena Jones?

He kids, he kids… but kinda not.

When Summers started his career as an actor, he imagined himself as the staid, reliable, even dull leading-man type. The first time he auditioned for Dreamgirls, he was shooting for C.C. White, the studious songwriter.

“I’ve always been the serious one — the cute younger brother with a heart of gold,” he says of his self-image. But others saw something else.

“You should try out for Thunder Early,” the casting director suggested. That’s not really his persona, Summers countered. The casting director just shook her head.

“When you learn what your real type is, you’ll never stop working,” she counseled.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.55.38 PMTurns out she was right. Summers’ flamboyant turn Thunder Early gives the production a lot of its humor and sexual energy. And it’s just the latest role that shows his facility with over-the-top performances. Prior to Dreamgirls, Summers was with the Broadway production of Motown The Musical, portraying such irrepressible performers as Rick James, Jackie Wilson and Marlon Jackson. Before that, he auditioned for the role of Little Richard in the feature film Get On Up, but was deemed too old to play the teenaged version of the R&B legend (though his singing voice is in the film).

So tackling Thunder Early wasn’t much of a stretch. It’s the kind of over-the-top soul singer he’s become accustomed to. And he has a lot of inspirations to draw from.

“People always say the character is based on James Brown, but I add in some Little Richard, some Marlon, some Jackie,” Summers says. And audiences go wild, especially when the character goes off-book and drops trou during his Vegas number. Hey, a little exhibitionism never hurt anyone.

“Eric is a hoot and a great flirt,” says Joel Ferrell, his director for Dreamgirls. Told this, Summers feigns mock surprise.

“My mother saw the show and after she said, ‘So you don’t act anymore — you just show up and be yourself?’” he says. “I said, “How dare you! [Thunder] is a womanizer — I’m not!’ ‘That’s the only thing,’ she said.”

All of which leads to his desire to try something new and different. He thinks he could get the Celine-esque hand choreography of Deena Jones down. Or really anything that shows the chops he has.

“One of my favorite things about my first Broadway show [Aida] was, I had a death scene, I had a sword fight …  I want to do something serious. On a show like Will and Grace, I’m always Jack and Karen; I think it’s time to be the Will.”

That might be Summers’ goal, but audiences know what they like. And a little Thunder never hurt anybody.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 05.06.16

Friday 05.06 — Saturday 05.14


DTC, Cara Mia cross the border with ‘Deferred Action’

What happens to a DREAM Act deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? That’s the question posed by the world premiere play Deferred Action, a co-venture of the Dallas Theater Center and Cara Mia Theatre Co. Locally developed by authors David Lozano and Lee Trull, the play explores the effect of the federal immigration DREAM Act and how its enforcement affects undocumented aliens and their families.

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St.
Through May 14.

Saturday 05.07


TITAS celebrates dance with annual Command Performance Gala and dinner

Every season, TITAS imports some of the most innovative, new and storied dance companies in the world for months-worth of magic. But every spring, you get a sort of chef’s selection of the cream of the crop at the Command Performance Gala, which invites artists back to deliver a slate of amazing performance. This year’s line-up includes performers from MOMIX, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Joffrey Ballet and more. It’s a once-a-year extravaganza.

Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
7 p.m.

Sunday 05.08


Celebrate Mother’s Day with Women’s Chorus of Dallas

Mother’s Day is almost upon us, and so is the Women’s Chorus of Dallas’ annual spring concert, this year entitled Voices of Wonder. The outdoor concert at Fair Park’s Texas Discovery Gardens combines nature and formal music performances as well as a butterfly release. In addition, this year marks the inauguration of a shorter matinee concert, starting at noon.

Texas Discovery Gardens
3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Noon and 2 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The air up there

Untitled-Jamal-Story-0278Out choreographer Jamal Story takes to the heavens for Black History Month with aerial ballet for Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Executive Editor

Jamal Story is the first to admit that, as a gay man in the dance world, he’s lucked out professionally. In addition to touring with Madonna as one of her dancers, he also serves as dance captain for Cher.

“Friends of mine say, ‘If you’d only worked for Janet [Jackson], you’d have the ultimate gay triumvirate. But Janet only hires female dancers,” Story laughs.

Getting to hang with two women who really helped define what Story calls “commercial dance” has been an honor and a revelation.

“Cher is exactly who you think she’ll be: Equal parts girly-girly and tough broad,” he says. “But she and Madonna couldn’t be more different, though both are extraordinarily hardworking individuals and have a high sense of attention to detail. They are clear to the inch what their representations need to be. That was wonderful for me [to learn from them].”

But as wonderful as that kind of success has been, where Story really feels at home isn’t on a huge stage, twerking and writhing for throngs of rabid fans (even though, he admits, “that energy is astounding”). As an artist, though, “commercial dance is totally different from what I do.”

Story’s passion has always been honoring the long tradition of dance pioneered by African-American artists from Alvin Ailey to Joan Myers Brown. And he wants to share that passion with the widest audience possible.

“There are five black dance companies in America that are over the age of 30 — all founded by black women artistic directors,” Story says. That elite club includes Dallas Black Dance Theatre, founded in 1976 by Ann Williams (she retired in 2014). “They are the ones with a specific black repertoire aimed at maintaining the works of black choreographers and black themes.”

This weekend, Story joins that repertoire. He’s one of the featured artists creating an original work for DBDT’s program called Cultural Awareness, a mini-festival mounted specifically for Black History Month.
Screen shot 2016-02-18 at 10.30.33 AM“The cornerstone of the dance landscape [among these companies] is the tradition of preserving black dance in America,” Story says. “That includes a lot of the legendary ballets of Alvin Ailey, but in addition there is a large group of choreographers over the decades who have explored [that tradition]. I was trained under the aegis of that repertoire, and want to give audiences a window into that repertoire. I wanted to stay connected to that.”

Story’s affiliation with DBDT “has been a minute,” he jokes. He was an apprentice and guest artist while attending Southern Methodist University, then moved to Los Angeles where he continued to study black dance. So this program is something of a homecoming for Story, though he is excited to push some boundaries with his new piece, The Parts They Left Out, while still honoring the tradition of black dance.

“I don’t find it’s necessary to reach too far or hard to get to the energy of that black dance legacy — enough of it has been with me in my dancing for so long it’s there … it’s not something I consciously think of,” he says. But he’s elevating the level of work at DBDT… literally. His piece is almost entirely an aerial ballet. (He thinks it’s a first for the company.)

Training his dancers to move from terrestrial to ethereal dance presented a host of challenges.


FROM  CHER TO ALVIN | Jamal Story choreographed an aerial ballet for DBDT’s Cultural Awareness program for Black History Month. (Photos courtesy Brian Gulliaux and Jamal Story)

“The first thing is getting over a sense of the height,” he explains. “I don’t have the dancers too high in the air — every apparatus is accessible from the ground. But there is the idea that you are not connected to terra firma. What that means on a technical level is, the skills you have with your

work on the floor is all compromised — you have a different sense of your body in space.” For example, on the ground an arabesque requires standing on one leg while the

second creates a perpendicular line. Since there’s no ground to push off of in the air, you have to rediscover that line. And you have to rely heavily on your upper body. “On the floor, it’s a lot about your legs, a connective sense of the instrument moving in space; dancing in the air requires extraordinary upper body strength,” he says. “Add to that aerial partnering, and you’re having to manage another body in the air.”

As technical as the work is, though, to Story it’s still secondary to the meaning. The Parts They Left Out it explores specific figures in

Greek mythology “with a little more fleshing-out of the stuff that gets left out in the oral tradition of [ancient history],” he says. “In most cultures, the oral testimony is very important at first, and then it’s written down. But it leaves lots of room for questions. My preoccupation was in the implication of Greek history and how it was comprised of brown people.” Looking into different theories on the origins of man and studies of mitochondrial DNA, Story says “it becomes clearer and clearer that the ancient Greeks were probably people of color and their myths would be part of our canon as well.”

And that, Story insists, is something everyone can be proud of.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Bull’

Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Thomas (Ian Ferguson), a schlubby British salesman, fidgets nervously in a stark room. Across from him, Isobel (Natalie Young) sits coolly, dressed elegantly and moving with the stealth of a panther. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” she asks Thomas. He thought this was his good suit. Maybe she’s screwing with him. Then Tony (Alex Ross) walks in. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” he asks. And from there, the dominoes fall.

Bull, a play by Cock playwright Mike Bartlett, takes its name in equal measure from the bullshit that yuppie business types toss around each other and the bullying that takes place of Thomas, unrelentingly, for an hour. These aren’t playground taunts and gimme-your-milk-money strong-arm tactics; they are acts of outright warfare where words are weapons and victory requires scorching the earth of your adversary. It’s medieval, primal … and completely contemporary.

It’s also gimmicky, though not necessarily in a bad way. It’s easy to make people squirm uncomfortably while watching someone, if not self-destruct, then at least contribute to his own demise through poor decision-making. Just have the characters be unrelenting, the protagonist (? — Thomas is hardly a hero) do the exact wrong thing at each moment. It’s patent audience manipulation, but it does serve a purpose: Just how far will human nature take us? Does compassion ever kick in?

But an even better point raised by this production, directed by Christie Vela and performed through the weekend at the Wyly courtesy Second Thought Theatre, is whether Thomas deserves our sympathies. Awful as it is to say, Thomas projects his weaknesses and allows himself to be victimized by them. You wanna slap him and yell, “Stop being a doormat!” But maybe he can’t help it — maybe he is destined to be forever walked upon. After a while, his whiny lack of survival techniques begins to make you see the point advanced Isobel, Tony and later their bloviating boss Carter (Jeremy Schwartz): If you can’t swim with the sharks, you’d better get out of the water or relent to a life as chum.

Of course, as much of a weakling as Thomas is, the cruel mindgames Tony and Isobel relentlessly inflict upon him — from a homoerotic exercise calculated to emasculate him to bitchy snipes that burrow under his skin — take them to the point where they reject their own humanity. You begin to see this as some elaborate twist on the TV show The Apprentice (Bartlett even mentions the show, which, I wouldn’t be surprised, was his inspiration for writing the play). What they do becomes a form of torture. They are cold-blooded.

Still, the play is better than Mamet’s equally divisive and outrageous Oleanna, in part because the issues seem more present. And the fact the cast delivers all the animus with such steely-eyed makes it all the more shocking. It’s not the kind on play to see on a date, but do it. What, are you afraid you little pussy? Huh … punk?!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: DTC announces 2015-16 season lineup

rsDTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty_Photo by Tadd MyersThe Dallas Theater Center will offer up three world premieres, partner with Houston’s famed Alley Theatre and return to Shakespeare in their next season, Kevin Moriarty, the DTC’s artistic director, just announced.

The season will also take place almost entirely at the Wyly Theatre downtown; this season, every show has ping-ponged between the Wyly and Uptown’s Kalita Humphreys Theater. Only Romeo & Juliet, the company’s first stab at Shakespeare since King Lear several seasons ago, will be at the Kalita.

Also, for the first time since the Wyly opened, there will be no summer musical. After Sense & Sensibility closes in late May, the DTC will be dark until the Sept. 2 debut of Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical, one of the world premieres announced by Moriarty. Based on the cornpone TV show, it will launch the 2015–16 season, running Sept. 2–Oct. 11 in the Potter Rose Hall at the Wyly.

Concurrently upstairs at the Wyly will be the area premiere of The Mountaintop, the Tony-nominated play about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr. It will run Sept. 11–Nov. 15 in the 99-seat Studio Theatre.

The season will then pick up with the traditional holiday show, A Christmas Carol. Brierley Resident Acting Company member Christina Vela will direct the adaptation by Moriarty, which the DTC has performed for the past two seasons. It will play Nov. 25–Dec. 26.

In a rare double bill during Dickens, the world premiere play Clarkston will run Dec. 3–Jan. 31 in the Studio Theatre. The play is about two men — a descendant of the explorer William Clark and a grad student in gender studies — who explore issues of faith and doubt in modern society. The author is MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Samuel Hunter.

In January 2016, the action moves to the Kalita for Romeo & Juliet, directed by Joel Ferrell. It runs Jan. 27–Feb. 28. Then it’s back to the Wyly for the area premiere of All the Way, the Tony Award winner from last Broadway season about LBJ. Moriarty will direct the show, which runs March 3–27.

Deferred Action, the final world premiere, will open from local playwrights David Lozano (Oedipus el Rey) and Lee Trull (A Christmas Carol). It deals with a Dreamer — a young immigrant taking advantage of the Dream Act (April 20–May 15). Finally, DTC returns to the summer musical format with a new presentation of Dreamgirls, the Tony-, Grammy- and Oscar-winning fictionalized telling of Motown and the rise of the Supremes (June 10–July 24).

Season subscriptions go on sale Feb. 9 and are available for as low as $126 (A Christmas Carol is a “bonus” show).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Rocky Horror’ casting call changes

Two weeks ago, I posted a notice about an open casting call for Dallas Theater Center‘s upcoming production of The Rocky Horror Show (they are looking for engaging side-show-like acts). Well, some of the information has changed. Due to a schedule conflict with director/choreographer Joel Ferrell, the event will now be held at the Wyly Theatre (instead of the Rose Room) and the time has been compressed. The correct information is below:

Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.

Saturday, July 26

Check-in at 2:45 p.m., call from 3–4 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DTC announces 2014-15 season

DTC-DTE Kurt Rhoads and June Squibb - by Brandon Thibodeaux

Oscar nominee June Squibb, last seen at the DTC in Horton Foote’s ‘Surviving the Estate,’ will return to play the lead in ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

Dracula won’t be swooping into the Wyly Theatre any time soon, but Bruce Wood will make his debut with the Dallas Theater Center, and a recent Oscar nominee will make her return along with a Speedo-clad muscle man, the company’s artistic director, Kevin Moriarty, revealed this morning. The formal announcement will take place later today.

To kick off the season, audiences will get a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania taking a jump to the left in the season opening, The Rocky Horror Show. Joel Ferrell will direct the gender-bending musical at the Wyly.

Ferrell steps immediately into the next production, which will take over the Kalita Humphreys space. Driving Miss Daisy will star June Squibb — who was just nominated for an Oscar for Nebraska — as a prickly Southern lady and her relationship with her African-American chauffeur.

Bruce Wood, the choreographer and occasional stage director, will make his DTC debut with Colossal, a world premiere play-with-dancing about football. It continues the DTC’s preoccupation with sports onstage (baseball with Back Back Back, basketball with Give It Up aka Lysistra Jones, pro wrestling with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity).

“Consistent with [DTC’s mission of producing shows that reflect the community], this show is about people with disabilities — the man character is in a wheelchair,” Moriarty says. “The play will feature full-contact drills, with music provided by a drumline.” And the Wyly will be transformed into a football stadium, complete with bleachers and popcorn.

The musical Stagger Lee, written by DTC writer-in-residence Will Power and developed at DTC for several years, will have its main-stage debut.

“My first year here, I was approached by SMU, who wanted to present the Meadows Prize to a theater artist,” Moriarty says. “I gave them a list of about 10 names to discuss, and [when we decided on Will Power], SMU commissioned him to write a play as part of DTC’s season. The play is a mythical investigation of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Also scheduled in a regional premiere, The Book Club Play, a romantic comedy about, naturally, a book club.

“Christie Vela runs the perfect book club, but then a documentary film crew comes to shoot it just as a new member joins, and mayhem ensues,” Moriarty says. It will be directed by Meredith McDonough — one of three women directing shows at the DTC this season.

rsDTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty_Photo by Tadd Myers

Kevin Moriarty

There are several significant developments this season. In addition to producing a record nine shows (the current season was only seven shows), Moriarty is launching a five-year “classical theater” initiative, which will mount at least two plays each season written before 1900. The two presented this year couldn’t be more different — at least on the surface: The 17th century farce School for Wives and the ancient Greek tragedy Medea. But Moriarty sees a theme.

“Both are plays about women denied power or justice, who eventually are victorious,” Moriarty says. The plays will be presented in repertory at the Kalita, with the Moliere comedy performed upstairs and Euripides’ masterpiece in the long-overlooked basement space, once known as Down Center Stage. Sally Vahle will play Medea, but will also take a role in School.

“It will be true rep — we’ll rehearse eight hours a day, the first four of one show, then lunch, then the next four with the other,”says Moriarty, who will direct both.

A Christmas Carol — this season performed at the Wyly for the first time, and included as part of the regular season subscription — becomes a bonus show again. The version performed this past December, written and directed by Moriarty, will be revived, though Lee Trull will direct and Jeremy Dumont will serve as choreographer.

Another development is that the traditional family-friendly summer won’t take place — or rather, hasn’t been programmed yet. The final show of the season will be a stage version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But that production will conclude before Memorial Day of 2015, meaning the summer of 2015 may still have a musical in it … but it’ll be part of the 2015-16 season instead.

The Dracula Cycle,  set to open last year, was delayed when the playwright, gay scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, become entrenched in commitments in theater (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), television (Glee) and film (the Carrie remake). It was expected to return next season but has officially be taken off the books.

Here’s the complete schedule of shows and production dates:

The Rocky Horror Show at the Wyly, Sept. 11–Oct. 19.

Driving Miss Daisy at the Kalita, Oct. 16–Nov. 16.

A Christmas Carol at the Wyly, Nov. 25–Dec. 27.

The Book Club Play at the Kalita, Jan. 1, 2015 –Feb. 1.

Stagger Lee at the Wyly, Jan. 21–Feb. 15.

School for Wives and Medea at the Kalita, Feb. 19–March 29

Collosal at Wyly, April 2–May 3.

Sense and Sensibility at the Kalita, April 23–May 24.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DTC donates nearly $60K to NTFB

ACC NTFB Check Presentation - Kris Martin, Kieran Connolly - by Dana Driensky

Former Dallas Voice staffer Kris Martin, as representative for the NTFB, collects a check from Scrooge (actor Kieran Connolly) at the final performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Wyly Theatre. Additional donations at that performance raised the total donation to nearly $58,000.

For six Christmases, the Dallas Theater Center has collected canned food and cash from patrons at its annual production of A Christmas Carol, and this year was an especially good one. For its first time since returning to the Arts District — and its first time in the Wyly Theatre — the DTC managed 934 pounds of nonperishable goods (nearly twice the amount taken in last year at the Kalita Humphreys) and raised $57,993.81 in cash donations (above the average for prior years). That brings the total monetary donations — donated to the North Texas Food Bank — to $297,912.16 since 2008. Each dollar accounts for about three meals donated to the hungry across the Metroplex.

We’re big fans of the NTFB here at the Voice — I decorate a cake every year for charity, and the NTFB is a feeder donator the Resource Center’s food pantry — so we’re happy to see how generous people are. But the need continues beyond Christmas; you can donate time, food or money here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style


Crow Sculpture Garden

Downtown Dallas is the center of culture this week — in a big way.

Just like every month, the First Saturday tours of ATTPAC will be taking place, and there will be a street fair with lots of art from One Arts Plaza to Klyde Warren Park. But on the stages and galleries is where the real action is.

First, Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s 8th annual DanceAfrica will be performed Friday and Saturday at Annette Strauss Square. Inside the Wyly Theatre starting Friday is DTC’s preview week for Clybourne Park, the sequel to A Raisin in the Sun, both of which will be performed in repertory throughout October.

The Crow Collection of Asian Art, which is always free to the public, officially debuts its long-in-development Sculpture Garden, which encircles the Trammell Crow Center above the museum. The huge fu dogs (really lions) and the beautiful “sweepers” are among the draws outside, as well as the exquisite landscaping. Among the impressive items currently on exhibit inside the Crow are brass Chinese zodiac heads from famed artist Ai Weiwei, as well as a hand-painted Porsche that looks like a Chinese tapestry on wheels.

The new exhibit by gay artist Jim Hodges officially opens inside the Dallas Museum of Art on Sunday, but really, you can catch a sneak peek during the fair on Saturday. Hodges is a multimedia artist of such remarkable breadth, you mind will be blown.


View from the Reunion Tower GeO Deck.

Also on Saturday, you can divert south of the Arts District down to Reunion Tower to enjoy the GeO Deck, the observation level of the tower below the revolving Five Sixty restaurant. In addition to Halo, a system of table-sized iPads that allow you to explore the city (both visually from live cameras and its history), you can actually walk outside and get a 360-view of Dallas, from the Omni to the Trinity to Uptown. A level up from the GeO Deck is a cafe (also manned by Wolfgang Puck staff) that, live the formal dining room, revolves while you eat.

Then head back to the AT&T plaza on Monday for A Gathering 2013, the second performance of music, dance and the spoken word that serves as a commemoration and benefit for Dallas-area HIV/AIDS charities. (Check out a slide show of rehearsal photos below.)

That’s all in addition to LifeWalk in Uptown on Sunday, Dallas Black Pride and Tarrant Pride going on all weekend and the release of the most anticipated film of the season, Gravity. So, if you say you’re bored, it’s your own damn fault.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones