Teach a Dog
A musical tale of canine bigotry
“One hundred percent, the reaction was laughter,” says playwright and director L.A. Walker, recalling telling people the premise of her play No Labels. No surprise: It’s about a homophobic dog adopted by a gay couple. As it happens, laughter is the response she wants — No Labels is a musical comedy, which will be presented by the library district this month. You probably have some questions. A dog ... what? Why? How? Some answers:
My dog’s name is Austin. Very talkative dog. He just comes up to me and makes little noises. And it dawned on me that some of the issues we face, if they were addressed through a dog, which most people love, they might be a little easier to receive. I started writing based on that, and based upon all the curiosities and the fears we have about sexual orientation, and all the gender bias.
I’m a part of the LGBT community, and I’ve been directly affected by some of the hatred and bigotry toward homosexuals.
With this play, we open a door while people are in the safety of their seats and let them take a peek at people who are quite normal, just like themselves, who love each other, their animals, their community. And we do it through laughter.
There are two dogs, and they’re both (acted by) humans with dog makeup and dog behavior. They got into it right away — it’s an uninhibited role, and it’s kind of fun for them.
People, when they laugh, are far more receptive to accepting information than with a drama — drama causes way too much thought sometimes. Laughter gives you the opportunity to give them short bursts of information. People have received it even before they realize what has occurred.
We presented 20 minutes (of the show) at the Fringe Festival in 2015. We were beaten up badly by the critics — and we deserved to be. One pointed out something that really helped a lot, and that was, I had an opportunity with this topic to really say something. Initially, I went more for laughs. When I got corrected (by critics), I began rewriting until I finally came up with a script that I felt promoted laughter but also gave lessons. We’re proud of where we are now, and we invite those critics to come back.
This particular cast is the very best I’ve ever worked with. I’ve learned to let go, because everyone has something to contribute, and they bring so much to something if you allow them to. I don’t squelch that. I’m getting so much better at stuff because I’m learning from them.
Oh, my gosh, (the show is) so diverse — in our sexuality, in racial background, in genre of expression, whether it’s country, R&B, whatever. We are just diverse.
We’re excited about the opportunity to just say, “Come on, guys, we’re all just human beings trying to do the best we can to have a good world. Let’s just live and enjoy it.”
Dave Hickey on art and writing
You can empty a big bucket of descriptors on writer and critic (and former Las Vegan) Dave Hickey, and a lot of them would stick: genius, raconteur, contrarian, quote-machine, infuriating, brilliant essayist. With his long-awaited collection Perfect Wave due out in November, he’s back at UNLV for a pair of lectures at the Barrick Museum: one about art (Sept. 25) and one about writing (Oct. 2). If you care about either or both, he’s a voice worth listening to. 7p both nights, free, unlv.edu/barrickmuseum
Grapes & Hops Festival
Leave your under-21s at home for this evening of slosh and nosh in the preserve’s fetching autumn setting. Fine wine, curated beers, and foodie bites from restaurants to be named later, all to raise money for breast-cancer research. Sept. 30, 5-9p, $30-$115, springspreserve.org
Sam Boyd Stadium
While never a powerhouse program, UNLV football can still uncork some entertaining moments, and sporty Las Vegans must live in the hope that the team, under third-year coach Tony Sanchez, can find a winning groove — maybe in home games against Howard University (Sept. 2) or San Jose State (Sept. 30, the Mountain West conference opener), though probably not against Ohio State on Sept. 23 (an away game). Sam Boyd Stadium, unlvtickets.com
Las Vegas Philharmonic
The Smith Center
No soft season opening for this ensemble! The Phil comes out of the gates big, with Richard Strauss’ classic Don Juan, which marked the rise of his mature voice; plus, Common Tones in Simple Time, a 1979 John Adams number meant to evoke the feeling of gliding over a landscape. Also in there somewhere: a hit of Brahms. Sept. 9, 7:30p, $30-$109, The Smith Center, thesmithcenter.com
In addition to being a Downtown gallerist back when it was cool — shoutout to Kleven Contemporary! — Kleven is a skilled artist, and this show, Urban Naturalism, Again, finds her displaying her recent mixed-media/photo pieces. Sept. 5-Oct. 12 (opening reception Sept. 8, 5:30p), Winchester Gallery, free, 702-455-7340
Clark County Library
“Celebrating Your Freedom to Read” is the theme of this year’s Banned Books Week, September 24-30. It’s tempting to think of censorship as a problem modern society has put behind us — Orwell’s been dead for 67 years and counting — but at press time, Florida had just passed a law making it easier for people to challenge schoolbooks they find objectionable. Freedom to read shouldn’t be taken for granted, that being the point of this event. Sept. 26, 7p, free, Clark County Library, lvccld.org