Uptown Players 3rd Annual Pride Performing Arts Festival
The 3rd Annual Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival presented by Uptown Players is in full swing. Running from Sept. 5 through 14, the festival includes plays, staged readings and cabaret acts all with one central focus and theme: gay Pride.
The festivities began with a bang on the main stage at the Kalita Humphreys Theater with a performance by music and comedy duo Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen. The Chicago-based longtime friends have been performing around the world, primarily on gay cruises, for fifteen years now.
The lineup also includes the following staged readings and plays in Franks Place upstairs at the Kalita Humphreys Theater: "Made In Heaven" by Jay Bernzweig (presented by Uptown Players) about conjoined twins; "Good Boys and True" by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (presented by Uptown Players) about an all-male boarding school; "Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche" by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood (presented by Uptown Players) about the end of the world and the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein; "Dishing It Out" written by Paul J. Williams (presented by Paul J. Williams) about lunch at Luby’s; "The Timekeepers" written by Dan Clancy (presented by Theatre New West) about the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in WWII Germany; "Cock" written by Mike Bartlett (presented by Second Thought Theater) about a man, his boyfriend and his new girlfriend.
EdgeDallas.com had the chance to catch three of the Festival performances, including the opening act from Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen. The spotlight in the duo is definitely on Armstrong, with Allen serving as loyal accompanist, back-up singer and occasional deliverer of one-liners.
Armstrong has a sharp wit, a gorgeous voice and the most beautifully expressive face. She sang show tunes and blues and even a slowed-down version of Belinda Carlisle’s "Heaven on Earth." She does a good bit of stand-up, mostly funny. Some of it more on the painful side, the more self-deprecating she gets about being a "big girl" (her words). And she downed at least three cosmos on stage throughout the show, which seemed to leave her commenting a little too much on (and even signing a song about) her weight and telling everyone to live out and proud.
But there’s no doubt that the pair left the audience laughing at their humor, nodding at their political stances and shaking their heads at Armstrong’s stellar voice.
Also on the weekend agenda for Edge.com was Paul J. Williams’ "Dishing It Out." In this one-man show, which Williams both wrote and stars in, he plays six different characters. The setting? A rural Texas Luby’s restaurant where a tour bus has just stopped for lunch. Inside is a chain-smoking realtor, smart-ass servers on the cafeteria line and a nun with a very sharp tongue, a couple of whom are Williams’ long-time signature characters.
There is no arguing that Williams is funny, and some of the lines he writes left the audience belly laughing into the next line. "Let’s all open up our Bibles and close our minds," he says, playing a Southern Baptist preacher. But the piece drags a bit at the one-hour run time.
The show includes a bit of audience participation, as well, with Williams picking on audience members. Pointing to a bald man Williams says, "For every sin we lose a hair. Looks like we’ve got a slut up there in the corner." He also asks audience members to shout out realty terms for which they would like definitions. "Like new," Williams says, "means previous owners were homosexuals."
The final show on the Edge.com to-see list was "Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche." The show presents a hilarious premise in and of itself. The town "widows" get together in 1956 for their annual Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein Quiche Breakfast. But in a crazy, surreal, Sci-fi twist, the world as they know it ends with a nuclear explosion outside the walls of the reinforced community center.
In no time, the women confess to not being widows, but lesbians instead and then mayhem ensues as it is discovered that their fearless leader is pregnant with a boy. This she knows because -- gasp! -- she’s craving meat. The double entendres are endless throughout the show, which ends in mock tragedy as confessions are made and one woman dies in an effort to save the quiche, the unborn child and the world.
All of the actresses are impressive. But the standout is Morgan Mabry Mason as Ginny Cadbury for sure with her British dialect, expressive face and enviable line delivery. The script could use some tightening. Far-fetched is one thing; quite impossible is another, which the storyline sometimes is.
But the humor and the sheer fact that every audience member was made to wear a pre-filled name tag making them members and attendees of the event makes the show well worth catching.
Uptown Players should be commended for putting on this much needed festival. Here’s hoping the Fourth Annual is already on tap for 2014.
General Admission tickets for individual performances in Franks Place are $10-15. Festival passes to Franks Place allow you to see all six productions for just $55.
Uptown Players 3rd Annual Pride Performing Arts Festival runs through September 14 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd at Blackburn. For tickets and information, call 214-219-2718 or visit www.uptownplayers.org