Sunday, June 5th, I had the pleasure of being the photographer for the third and final show of The Dingalogues, a stage drama-comedy presented by Black Diamond Productions. The act works as a re-interpretation of the popular Vagina Monologues, telling the moving stories of Same Gender Loving Men of Color.
Upon my arrival, it was apparent that it was going to be an eventful evening. Ticket holders excitedly filled the lobby of the 7 Stages Theatre in the Little Five Points district of Atlanta, GA. A full event staff was available to answer any questions before the show’s 5pm start time. In Anticipation, people were taking photos, discussing their expectations of the production, and collecting playbills.
The Sunday night show was hosted by The Gentlemen’s Foundation, founded by Juan and Gee Session Smalls. The theme of the night was aptly dubbed “Gentlemen’s Night.” Completely sold out, like the previous shows, every seat in the auditorium was filled and the event staff added additional seats for final-hour attenders. This has proven to be an all-around winning weekend for those involved and invested in the show.
As a very clever and witty opening to the show, the lights were dimmed and the music turned off. An attendee's phone rang, as she sat in the center of the audience. She answered and loudly began a hilarious conversation with the caller, to the dismay of other patrons. Agitation appeared on many faces and some began to quiet her. Others were simply bemused. She proceeded to walk to the center of the stage and reveal she was apart of the show. The gag was to make light and prove a solid point about phone usage during a stage production.
She introduced herself as Gail and humorously set the tone for the show by engaging members of the crowd and explaining the rules for the night. Holding no punches, she made jokes at the expense of the show-goers and even herself. Everyone appeared to be a good sport and this added to the excitement of the show.
The show started by introducing six different, yet intersecting, stories. Viewers were exposed to the in-depth complexities of a Social Activist, Preacher, Military Vet, Butch Queen, Drag Queen, and a Transgendered Female converting to Male. Reminiscent of Marlon Riggs’ essay film “Tongues Untied,” the production did an excellent job of revealing varied nuances of the Black Gay Community. So often there is only one story told in media and it usually involves promiscuity, terrible stereotypes, and high rates of HIV. The script dug deeper and blew the lid off situations including, the common exclusion of LGBT people in the Black Lives Matter campaign, the effects of sexual assault in the military, complex relationships, self-identity, and much more.
Every actor in the show was phenomenal, each offering intense emotional pain and profound comedic timing. Throughout the night, audience members switched from shedding tears to holding their stomachs from uncontrollable laughter. One of the standout performances of the night came from the character, Free, played by Rigardo Rush, II. His character, the butch queen, offered an intersection for the other characters. He showcased various talents throughout the night, including voguing, stand-up humor, and a well-choreographed fight scene. Another favorite of the night was Melody Mirage, played by the director, Erik Dillard. She was the drag queen, with some of the best punch lines, whose tale brought the audience much joy and enlightenment.
The set design was effective and very well executed. There were three main blocks; one, interchangeably a nightclub and small market. The second worked as a lifted stage for the activist played by Larry Walker, and the third was a church for the preacher played by Derrick Tennial. The use of furniture and great lighting effects created various other scenes, like a military base, community park, and a bus stop. Pertinent video clips and music were used to allow for set changes and to add depth to the characters.
The Dingalogues was superb. It provided affirmation to those in the community, while endowing new information to those who weren’t in the know. There wasn’t a dull moment in the show and it was consistent in its intentions from beginning to the very end.
At its close, the cast and crew of The Dingalogues received a standing ovation. This was followed by the assistant director, Ressie G., thanking the cast and crew. There was also a short Q&A portion for the audience to gain clarity or provide commentary.
The entire event moved to the lobby of the theatre where there were opportunities to meet the cast and take photos. With an amazing weekend for the cast and crew, one thing is for sure; this isn’t the last time you will hear about The Dingalogues.