Christian De Vries did a lot of living before he took over the small space on Washington Avenue and turned it into Bienvenue Theatre, one of Houston's most successful small theaters, gay or otherwise. In past lives he'd been a carpenter, a painter, an electrician and an actor. But no talent has served the man better than his flirty charm and his steel-hearted business acumen. No producer in town knows more about his audience and is less afraid of giving them exactly what they want. He provides free concessions and gives lots of warm welcomes to out-of-town audience members, and last but certainly not least, almost every show he's produced has filled up the stage with men in the buff. Take, for example, his most recent production, which bears the enticingly illicit appellation of Naked Boys Singing! The musical revue features ten -- count 'em, ten -- buck-naked men of various singing abilities who strut about the stage flinging their full frontal nudity much to the delight of the entire audience. The theater's seats have been filled to capacity ever since the show opened this summer. And what started out as a "gay thing" is beginning to find a place for itself with straight women who know a good thing when they see it. The shows are funny, solid and entertaining. And best of all, they're captivating to look at.
Christian De Vries did a lot of living before he took over the small space on Washington Avenue and turned it into Bienvenue Theatre, one of Houston's most successful small theaters, gay or otherwise. In past lives he'd been a carpenter, a painter, an electrician and an actor. But no talent has served the man better than his flirty charm and his steel-hearted business acumen. No producer in town knows more about his audience and is less afraid of giving them exactly what they want. He provides free concessions and gives lots of warm welcomes to out-of-town audience members, and last but certainly not least, almost every show he's produced has filled up the stage with men in the buff. Take, for example, his most recent production, which bears the enticingly illicit appellation of Naked Boys Singing! The musical revue features ten -- count 'em, ten -- buck-naked men of various singing abilities who strut about the stage flinging their full frontal nudity much to the delight of the entire audience. The theater's seats have been filled to capacity ever since the show opened this summer. And what started out as a "gay thing" is beginning to find a place for itself with straight women who know a good thing when they see it. The shows are funny, solid and entertaining. And best of all, they're captivating to look at.
Anyone who has heard Ray Hill's Prison Show on KPFT, a sort of lonely hearts' club call-in show for all those folks who've got loved ones locked up in the big house, knows something about the loud-mouthed activist. The political gadfly has been biting at the backside of prominent uptight Houstonians for decades. Whether he's holding a political rally in a naughty nude club or marching at the library for gay rights, he's always fighting for the underdog. For the past few years his political harangues have taken shape in a series of theatrical monologues in which he recounts the historical struggle for gay rights in Houston, a subject the passionate, flamboyant man knows a good deal about. Out since the soda-shop days of the 1950s, Hill has seen it all, from the shadowy cruising on Main Street and the burgeoning bar culture in Montrose to the fight for the repeal of the sodomy laws in Austin. Thanks go to Hill for his raging rants that won't let us forget how precious are our civil rights.

Anyone who has heard Ray Hill's Prison Show on KPFT, a sort of lonely hearts' club call-in show for all those folks who've got loved ones locked up in the big house, knows something about the loud-mouthed activist. The political gadfly has been biting at the backside of prominent uptight Houstonians for decades. Whether he's holding a political rally in a naughty nude club or marching at the library for gay rights, he's always fighting for the underdog. For the past few years his political harangues have taken shape in a series of theatrical monologues in which he recounts the historical struggle for gay rights in Houston, a subject the passionate, flamboyant man knows a good deal about. Out since the soda-shop days of the 1950s, Hill has seen it all, from the shadowy cruising on Main Street and the burgeoning bar culture in Montrose to the fight for the repeal of the sodomy laws in Austin. Thanks go to Hill for his raging rants that won't let us forget how precious are our civil rights.

Was there any group of young people more head-bangingly angst-filled than the twentysomethingers living in New York City during the cocaine-driven days of the 1980s? Not according to Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth, a wickedly cynical script about three would-be adults trapped in that dark crawl space between money, love and art, a space that yawned wide then bit down hard during the decadence of Reagan's "just say no" era. Anyone who witnessed the terrific Atomic Cafe production got an eyeful of the sorts of troubles '80s greed created. Patrick Reynolds as Warren, the towheaded sad sack of a man-child who's beaten by his father then verbally up-sided by his "best" friend, made the painful longings of the scared-shitless heartbreaking. And Drake Simpson as Dennis, the drug-dealing ogre who wants to love but doesn't know how, ramrodded the stage with the sort of spit-spewing, big-fisted energy that can make a show soar. Whipped into a frenzy of energy by Stephen Aleman's direction, the whole show made those teeth-clenching days of wine and overdoses mesmerizing.
Was there any group of young people more head-bangingly angst-filled than the twentysomethingers living in New York City during the cocaine-driven days of the 1980s? Not according to Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth, a wickedly cynical script about three would-be adults trapped in that dark crawl space between money, love and art, a space that yawned wide then bit down hard during the decadence of Reagan's "just say no" era. Anyone who witnessed the terrific Atomic Cafe production got an eyeful of the sorts of troubles '80s greed created. Patrick Reynolds as Warren, the towheaded sad sack of a man-child who's beaten by his father then verbally up-sided by his "best" friend, made the painful longings of the scared-shitless heartbreaking. And Drake Simpson as Dennis, the drug-dealing ogre who wants to love but doesn't know how, ramrodded the stage with the sort of spit-spewing, big-fisted energy that can make a show soar. Whipped into a frenzy of energy by Stephen Aleman's direction, the whole show made those teeth-clenching days of wine and overdoses mesmerizing.
African-American literary circles around this country may be singing the praises of such contemporary authors as E. Lynn Harris, Eric Jerome Dickey and Omar Tyree, but black Houstonians have their own Sensitive Brotha educating the men and satisfying the women with his dead-on words. This year author and local boy Troy L. Martin independently published and distributed his debut novel, Dazed and Confused: Surviving Life in the Game (Trojan Works Publishing), a witty, vividly funny, possibly autobiographical story of a young black man looking for success both professionally and romantically. Martin has a keen flair for incorporating facets of African-American pop culture that make the book a familiar, engaging dramedy for many readers. (White people should read this book just so they can finally understand how to talk to black folks.) The book has gotten raves since its release, and people inevitably snatch up copies whenever Martin does public appearances and reads excerpts. Here's hoping that someday Martin will get to experience the same love Harris gets when he comes to town for a book-signing, the kind of love where you have to fend off hordes of fans with cattle prods.
African-American literary circles around this country may be singing the praises of such contemporary authors as E. Lynn Harris, Eric Jerome Dickey and Omar Tyree, but black Houstonians have their own Sensitive Brotha educating the men and satisfying the women with his dead-on words. This year author and local boy Troy L. Martin independently published and distributed his debut novel, Dazed and Confused: Surviving Life in the Game (Trojan Works Publishing), a witty, vividly funny, possibly autobiographical story of a young black man looking for success both professionally and romantically. Martin has a keen flair for incorporating facets of African-American pop culture that make the book a familiar, engaging dramedy for many readers. (White people should read this book just so they can finally understand how to talk to black folks.) The book has gotten raves since its release, and people inevitably snatch up copies whenever Martin does public appearances and reads excerpts. Here's hoping that someday Martin will get to experience the same love Harris gets when he comes to town for a book-signing, the kind of love where you have to fend off hordes of fans with cattle prods.
Windchimes Cinema 8
Squish-squish, go your shoes as you enter the darkened theater. Squish-squish-squish, they continue, as you make your way down the aisle, eyes scanning for that perfect middle seat. To prevent anyone from blocking your line of sight to the screen, you might rest your legs over the chair in front of you. No one will want to sit there, not after your shoes have been in contact with the sticky residue of spilled soft drinks and scattered Skittles on the unwashed theater floor. Dollar movie theaters may be cheap, but they also tend to be dumps. Windchimes Cinema 8 is not as dumpy as most. The trash here gets picked up more often; the floors are a little less sticky; the banal arcade games actually work; the popcorn is made often enough; and the restrooms are relatively clean, big and easy to find. And of course there's the bargain: $1.50 after 6 p.m., $1 before 6 p.m., and a mere 50 cents on "Family Day," every Tuesday.
Squish-squish, go your shoes as you enter the darkened theater. Squish-squish-squish, they continue, as you make your way down the aisle, eyes scanning for that perfect middle seat. To prevent anyone from blocking your line of sight to the screen, you might rest your legs over the chair in front of you. No one will want to sit there, not after your shoes have been in contact with the sticky residue of spilled soft drinks and scattered Skittles on the unwashed theater floor. Dollar movie theaters may be cheap, but they also tend to be dumps. Windchimes Cinema 8 is not as dumpy as most. The trash here gets picked up more often; the floors are a little less sticky; the banal arcade games actually work; the popcorn is made often enough; and the restrooms are relatively clean, big and easy to find. And of course there's the bargain: $1.50 after 6 p.m., $1 before 6 p.m., and a mere 50 cents on "Family Day," every Tuesday.

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