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Making America Kinky Again

Halloween Magic re-'Boots' itself.

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It’s the year of reboots. ABC is rebooting the classic sitcom Bewitched under the direction of Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, featuring Samantha and Darren as an interracial couple. CBS is giving Murphy Brown a reboot, and several of the original cast, including star Candice Bergen, have signed on for the first 13 episodes. Twenty-five years after its premiere, Linda Bloodworth Thompson will reimagine the gay cult-classic Designing Women.  And October 20–21 in Houston, Halloween Magic roars back to the stage with its own unique reboot: Kinky Re-Boots/Making America Kinky Again,  a hilarious, wildly irreverent new production that is a breathless mashup of  situation-comedy favorites from the 1980s forward. 

All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Maude are all being considered for reboots this year,” says Gary Rod, Halloween Magic’s co-writer. “Everything old is new again, right? So in crafting this year’s script for Halloween Magic, we decided to capitalize on old favorites rumored to be rebooted, focusing specifically on Designing Women, Roseanne, and Golden Girls.

“The show opens on Halloween night at the White House,” Rod adds. “It’s a costume party! While a terrible storm is raging outside, Melania’s absence makes way for Ivana to come in and take over hosting for the evening.  

“The guests from Designing Women and Golden Girls, to name a few, prove to be a mixed bag of ‘nuts’ causing hilarious confrontations with The Real Housewives of the White House: Melania, Ivana, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Rod adds. “Everywhere you turn, the situation is continuously fraught with confrontation.”  

For almost three decades, Halloween Magic has presented wicked satires that irreverently skewer pop culture and politics, raising over $1 million for Houston HIV/AIDS service organizations in the process. This year’s performance will benefit seven entities: Lazarus House, Legacy Community Health, Montrose Center, Omega House, The Oral History Project, Pet Patrol, and Resurrection MCCR.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Lydia Meadows), center, breaks up a brawl between Ivana Trump (Darin Glen Fimple), left, and Melania Trump (Joel Brandt Quinones), right, in this year’s Halloween Magic production.

Halloween Magic began as a series of dinner parties in private homes in the early 1990s, at the height of the AIDS crisis. The event was the brainchild of longtime lesbian activist and Pet Patrol founder Tori Williams, and it initially benefited the AIDS Interfaith Council.  

“Gilbert Perez called one day and said that he wanted to host a party, but he wanted it to be a play. We thought it was a great idea,” Williams recalls. “Several years later, we stopped doing the dinner parties, and Gilbert kept the name and continued to produce the play which, at that point, benefited several organizations.” 

The first Halloween Magic performance, The Roxie Horror Beauty Shop, debuted in 1991 at the Majestic Metro Theater in downtown Houston. It was a madcap amalgam of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Steel Magnolias, and Little Shop of Horrors. In 1992, the production shifted to the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray, presenting the premiere of Hair Wars, a Roxie Horror sequel inspired in part by Star Wars. As the popularity of the production grew and a new venue was required, the event moved to the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center in 1993, where the Halloween Magic Players unveiled The Sound of Montrose, a madcap send-up of the famous Rogers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

The Hornberger was where the company hit its stride, drawing a devoted and burgeoning audience for such satires as The Phantom of Montrose (1994), A Streetcar Named Montrose (1996), and How to Succeed in Montrose Without Really Trying (1997).  

While the ribald productions provided welcome comic relief from the ongoing devastation of the AIDS crisis, they also played a critical role in buoying community-based service organizations.   

“For most grassroots HIV organizations like Pet Patrol, fundraising was a huge challenge, especially in the early years of the AIDS epidemic,” recalls Williams. “Because we were ineligible for long-term stable funding from federal, state, or more formal sources, groups like Halloween Magic were the only thing that kept us going. Funding from Halloween Magic was like pure gold.”

In the three decades since its inception, Gilbert Perez has remained a driving force behind Halloween Magic. He’s served as co-chair of the event numerous times, and is one of the production’s most popular performers. His interpretation of the spicy Cuban spitfire Venezuela María Concepción de Los Angeles Valdez Vallejo Gonzalez is a Halloween Magic staple. When he makes his grand entrance in an outfit so flamboyant that it would make a telenovela heroine blush, he consistently brings down the house.  

Many of the original writers, cast, and crew who have appeared in the productions and volunteered behind the scenes for two decades will reunite for the 2018 installment of Halloween Magic. The script for the production is written by Gary Rod, John Tucker, Craig Stephens, and Stewart Zuckerbrod. New to the team is director Ann C. James, who has helmed over 100 theatrical productions during a career that has taken her from the Bayou City to Sudan and China, where she was featured in the top-grossing Chinese film Wolf Warrior 2.  

Co-chairs for the event are PC Douglas, Gilbert Joseph Perez, and Ken Yancey. The honorary chair for the event is Houston police chief Art Acevedo.  

As in years past, the production will incorporate dance interludes with pop-music favorites, including “Masquerade” from Phantom of the Opera, Abba’s megahit “Take a Chance on Me,” and the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

In creating the script for Halloween Magic, one of the challenges that the writers face is the much faster pace of the 24-hour news cycle, especially in the age of Trump and Twitter—a pace that was unimaginable in the 1990s. Although the script for the show was technically finished at the end of August, “we focus on leaving plot and characters free and open enough to incorporate up-to-date news events as the show date approaches,” Rod says. 

“We still strive to be cutting-edge, off-the-wall and an equal-opportunity offender,” he adds. “So stop yelling at your TV. Join Halloween Magic, and get a whole new perspective on today’s situation—one that is guaranteed to make you laugh. Bigly!”

What: Halloween Magic presents Kinky Re-Boots
When: 7:30 p.m. on October 20; 4 p.m. on October 21
Where: Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 West 11th Street
Tickets: HalloweenMagic.org

This article appears in the October 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Andrew Edmonson

Andrew Edmonson has written about the arts for the Houston Chronicle, OutSmart, The Houston Voice, and Houston Ballet News. He won the Award of Special Merit from the Texas Chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
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