I’ve been thinking for sometime how exactly to express the way I felt about Steel Magnolias…
Then I realized something… I’ve never been taught how to express the way I feel. Conversely, as a male, I’ve been asked not to share my feelings or get too emotional. Don’t express how I feel? Okay sure, but what the hell am I supposed to do when I like someone, or lose someone close to me, or feel fear or love? How am I supposed to tell my nervous system to not be aroused by the literal chemical dopamine firing through my body? Uhhh... just... I guess... be cool, bro. Just don’t be a wuss. Just be a man. Just stop feeling so much. Your father has “anger issues”. You have “anger issues”. You see what happens when you feel? Don’t feel. No one cares how you feel. So feel nothing! It’s better that way. Ya feel me? Here is a basic outline of the logic that was impressed upon my adolescent brain to be the normal way of the world:
- Emotions equal weakness.
- Only women show emotions.
- Men have no emotions.
- Therefore women are weaker than men.
- Man equals stronger.
- Stronger equals leader.
Steel Magnolias at Dallas Theater Center couldn’t have been a better example that emotional aptitude is the most valuable strength of all and women are masters of the craft. More accurately, THESE SIX WOMEN are masters of the craft. Alert the press! The seductive six fiercely powerful all female cast of Steel Magnolias got the Juice like that! (If you’ve never heard that term before listen to Company by Drake or visit Urban Dictionary.) Casting is two-thirds the battle in my opinion and with this cast, Joel Ferrell (Director) did the damn thing! Every member of this cast is currently or has been at a time, a member of DTC Resident Acting company and it’s clear why. Liz Mikel tells us in the Stay Late post-show conversation, that Joel knew, upon his offer, exactly who he wanted for each role and that they had to be his cast if he was going to direct. Not that anyone would have fought him on it, but he couldn’t have picked a better group.
01. My thoughts on the show overall.
This show is flipping Hilarious! And also sad. And empowering. And silly. And genuine. And so dynamic. And so authentic. And so mean. And encouraging. Ferrell’s production of Steel Magnolias made me feel things. Things I’m not sure how to interpret because I was poorly taught how to express the way I feel without using expletives. But good things... for the most part. Except for the heart wrenching gut punch of chemical emotions rushing through your system potent enough to tranquilize a T-Rex. Other than that it was all good. (Emotions are literally chemicals, and your nervous system’s reaction to the chemical adrenaline determines what you feel, in case you didn’t know that. I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows that. No, DTC does not dope you up before watching the show. I just want to make that clear. When you have diverse readership, assume nothing!) I also almost forgot to mention that the entire technical design team is all female. I tell you. Women should run the world.
You enter into the Potter Rose theater in full view of a gorgeously designed multi-layer set by Dahlia Al-Habieli. Although you’re in Dallas Theater Center’s main performance hall, the size of the stage has been reduced to that of a large living room, forcing a much more intimate playing arena for the actors and audience. As opposed to simply using only black cloth as masking for the wings, Al-Habieli elected to line the edges of the set with an almost Mediterranean pattern of etched wood spilling out from the center resembling a decorative lace cloth. This is Truvy’s hair-salon where the entirety of the play takes place. The set is beautiful; some might argue, too beautiful given the location and time period of the play. All of the costumes and colors are so bright that perhaps the play would be better served with a more dull and dilapidated salon signifying the women’s ability to make beauty out of even the most mundane.
02. The Players. My favorite.
No matter how beautiful or befitting, no set could outshine the vibrance of these women’s performances. Liz Mikel plays Truvy Jones, owner of the hair salon. Liz often gets cast as the lead matriarchal figure and it’s clear why: she plays it with ease. There’s something about her resonating voice that just makes you listen and you almost nod and squint as if to say “Amen” even if you aren’t religious, followed by a “Preach, sister!” even if you aren’t black. Christie Vela and Tiana Kaye Blair, play mother and daughter and it’s clear that... wait what am I doing?! This sounds to fucking formal. I’m making this shit sounds like I’m doing an NPR book review on The Inner Game of Tennis. Ugh I hate this! Okay! Whoa let me rewind a bit and get my bearings.
I’m not about to go down the list and say what I liked or didn’t like about each part of the show. That’s not how we do things ‘round here. What I will say is, that shit was funny! I had a good time and a great experience. And I want to make mention of my friends and colleagues on and off stage for their spectacular work at making such a dynamic show. I really did enjoy myself and because they are my friends I feel compelled to mention them individually. So promise not to fall asleep and I’ll make this brief. Sally Vahle’s entrance will definitely go down for me as the most memorable stage moment of 2018. Also, I have to correct myself because it’s Sally Nystuen Vahle, but I never say it because, frankly, I have no idea how to say pronounce it. And I’m going to guess that no one else knows how to pronounce it either because I have NEVER heard anyone else say “Sally Nystuen Vahle” out of their own mouth. But like the amount of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. Shit! This was supposed to be brief. Damn it, Ace! Think in TWEETS!
Y’all already know how I feel about Christie Vela... Christie Vela in EVERY SHOW = Damn. #Fav5
Tiana Kaye Blair is stunning. Genuine. Beautiful. Real. #Queen
Ana Hagedorn’s Annelle is the perfect mixture of Dits and Religious Fanatic to make you squirm with uncomfortable laughter. #Priceless
Nance Williamson is hereby dubbed the Queen of Comedic Timing! #ComicRelief
These women work so well together I don’t see how anyone but a bigoted misogynistic prick could not enjoy this production. #FightMe
03. DTC is F*cking shit up! In a good way.
HOLY SHIT, DTC flipped the script on their branding game. Hallelujah! Congratulations! Wow! I never thought they’d do it! Kudos to Tray LaCaze (DTC’s New Marketing Director) for getting the Theater Center the brand makeover it deserves and Rhealyn Carter (Director of Development) who leveraged her connections to get it all done for us pro bono! If you go to the theater you’ll notice they have revamped all of the artwork, implementing a new typeface and illustrated elements to every brand touchpoint and I couldn’t be happier. Everything is cohesive and specific and flows! Man, I can’t wait to see how they implement it with all the other shows. My design geek is showing.
I mean damn. They needed that. How you gonna be one of two regional theaters in Texas and look like Eeyore handles your public branding? I HATED DTCs branding... and I wasn’t quiet about it either. I’ll be honest, it got so bad I was considering leaving Dallas (literally leaving DTC and moving to another city) because of it. I was so frustrated. COME ON YO! I’m in my prime. I felt like my career wasn’t going anywhere. And if DTC is the best there is in Dallas and they don’t give a fuck about their image, why would they give a fuck about mine? I’m not sticking around that. No ma’am. not as a black man.
04. The Blacker the Berry, the realer it gets.
I had to get real with them up there, man because I love the work I do at DTC and my own brand is tied to their name. I’m a young black man in his prime! YOU SEE THIS WEBSITE! I take a lot of pride in having created a thoughtfully implemented brand for myself. Especially when it’s expected that black people don’t have their shit together. Expected to always be hustling. Always look like we’re struggling through. It’s expected that our work looks like we threw it together with what we could afford. It’s expected that we look less than. I’m not finna promote this halfassery to my friends and family. It’s hard enough to get them to fly to Dallas period. My dad won’t consider me a successful actor until I do a movie with Denzel Washington. Why on earth would he come to a play that looks like an ad on backpage?
I woudn’t give a fuck if it was THE GREATEST THEATER GOD EVER PUT ON THIS PLANET. I’m not standing for piss-poor quality. Naw fuck that! I don’t accept that. Everything I do MUST be better than the best I can do. For my own sake, yes but more importantly, for the sake of people classified as my race. When I would complain about the marketing, all I would get was a shrug of embarrassment from literally EVERYONE in the organization. “You’re right Ace, but what can we do?” So I would just start making my own graphics for the shows I was in because I was embarrassed to promote my work with the lackluster ads I was given. And when anyone got upset that I wasn’t staying in my lane, I would say “Do a better job, so I don’t have to.”
Naw, bruh. You talking to the wrong brother. Cuz I ain’t the one. You already know one of my biggest pet peeves is kicking ass onstage to an empty house because people mistook our theater for a community playhouse. Not that there’s anything wrong with community theater, but if we’re being honest with ourselves (which we all should be) it’s like Kia verse Mercedes; while I have enjoyed a pleasant ride or two in a Kia, I’ll take the Mercedes. I mean, their motto is how I live my life! The Best or Nothing - You feel me?! Anyway I really respect the Leadership for finally waking up to 2018 to create a beautifully cohesive brand just in time for DTC’s 60th Anniversary. Congrats!
05. Wrap it up.
I know I don’t have to say this to you because you know me already, but I promise I am a delight to work with! I’m just honest and I can speak very passionately sometimes. I also enjoy a good expletive if you haven’t guessed by now. Anyway, I think it’s about time I wrap up this little review shindig. Let’s grab a drink some time a chat more. I’d love to know how you feel too! Whether you agree or disagree, I’m always up for a good discussion. Peace!
PS – I WAS gonna say, since it’s Thursday, let’s head over to Beauty Bar for a drink. Thursday is typically DJ Sober’s night. People actually dance at his parties, so its not just a bunch of people standing on the side lines looking pretty. People are legitimately having a good time vibing to the music. He’s easily my favorite DJ in Dallas, but he doesn’t spin there anymore because apparently someone was sexually assaulted and Beauty Bar didn’t do as much as they could have, so Sober bounced! I respect that he’s a man of principle.
And hey, Beauty Bar. Be Better.
I am a professional Actor, Graphic Designer & Photographer. My career started as a full-time designer in 2013. Two years later, I said “hell no” to depression, quit my job and, went full-time freelance with my own design company, The Striped Heart. Shortly after I accepted a company membership with Tony-Award winning Dallas Theater Center’s acting company. My greatest asset is my creative outlook on life. I've been engrossed in the world of the arts since I was very young. They way art moves and inspires people is what keeps me going. I was born to be a connector and a leader. I strongly believe we were put on this earth to create. Therefor it is my ultimate goal to keep art and creativity alive and well for as long as I live. People say I'm not funny...