In ‘Big Gay Dance Party,’ Level Ground portrays Lincoln as never before

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
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KD Studio Theatre, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway. June 3–25. Fridays–Saturdays at 8:15 p.m.  $20.


Was the 16th president of the United States really Gaybraham Lincoln? That question is posed in the most unlikely of places — a fourth-grade Christmas pageant — in the play, Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, a new production from Level Ground Arts Theater.

It’s not just the outrageous theme that makes this show stand head and stovepipe hat above the rest. Each of three acts portrays the story from a different character’s viewpoint, and at each performance the audience chooses which order the acts are performed. Democracy in action, and all that jazz.

The theater company, which has only been around since 2009, got its start with what artistic director Billy Fountain describes as a “minimalist, very raw and gritty traveling production” of Julius Caesar. “We really just wanted to do shows that we were excited about working on and it didn’t seem like anyone around town was doing the shows we wanted to do.”

They started off in Deep Ellum before moving to KD Studio Theater last July. “Technically we are in our third season, even though we had a bunch of shows before the start of our first season and I’m so proud of what we have been able to accomplish and look forward to what is coming.”

With A Samurai Nosferatu and The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical on this season’s roster, it’s clear this company dares to be different. Hence Gay Dance Party.

“We approach all of our projects with an open mind, a dedicated spirit and a clear vision and process,” says Fountain. In the case of this play, the title is what piqued Fountain’s curiosity.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Man, I have to read this.’ The first time I read it, I cried. I couldn’t believe how much the characters grabbed me and the way the story moved. I fell in love with it almost immediately and knew it was really an LGA show I had to do,” Fountain says. “It’s a brilliant, amazing script and so painfully silly and loving and honest. It’s rare to find a script that accomplishes everything that it does. It’s beautiful in so many ways. How could I not do this show?”

So just how gay is this show?

“The focus is gay, but the story is about truth, fairness, and the power of each of our individual voices,” says Lloyd Chambers, who portrays three characters, including Honest Abe himself.

Taking a moment to rattle off a quote worthy of a Playbill cover, Chambers calls it “a roller coaster ride that swerves wildly and then descends into black hole, only to reappear wearing a stovepipe hat. It’s a real story that finds absurdity and reality sharing the same bill. I think it has a great sense of humor with big laughs and lots of dancing, both straight and gay.”

Fellow actor Collin Duwe describes the play more simply: “It’s gayer than Peter Pan on a pair of ice skates.”

Lincoln isn’t Level Ground Arts’ first foray into gay. Their Poseidon!

The Upside-Down Musical had its share of gay characters, and most everyone knows how ultra-queer their upcoming production of Xanadu is.

“I think Lincoln is probably one that really, boldly addresses many issues and does so in such a cool, direct way. I am thrilled we got to do it first here in DFW,” Fountain says. “I love getting to work on shows that are not afraid to present more sincere and honest voices. So often those voices get buried or hidden or silenced.”

Or shot in the head while watching a play.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.