June 24,1983 / Montrose Voice 21
Playwright Pearson Describes 'Ancestor'
By Lacy Cale
He's a bright-eyed cowboy who uses the
word "irrefutable" as easily as "ain't" in
conversations. He saunders in and plops
down like he just stepped down out of a
semi or in from three days on the range.
Not really what you would think would
show up for an interview representing a
leading playwright in the urban Houston
The person described is Max Pearson,
Houstonian of some 11 years, whose play,
The Ancestor is currently at the Main
Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd.
Ancestor is a "what if play, he said.
"What if an anthropologist, say a decade
after the evolution bombshell, found a fossil that irrefutably backed up Darwin's
theory, he questioned. "There has always
been contention between the creationists
vs. the evoluntionists, but most people
nowadays can accept at least parts of both
theories. But at the turn of the century,
when this play is set, it was a very volitale,
really touchy subject and those people
didn't want to hear anything about something such as evolution."
With this basic conflict in mind, Pearson centers the action around three main
characters: anthropologist Ralph Bingley
(Phillip Hafer), his companion and secretary Todd Jones (Joe Ponessa) and a
named Mavis Louise Eddinjjton.
"This one female journalist, who is a
religios zealot, is a very strong woman,"
said Pearson. "She writes for the National
Lion (something like the National
Enquirer), and intends to do everything
she can to discredit the scientist's find
after she wins his confidence and knows
all about it."
The play contains some "nifty confrontations," Pearson said, and there are inferences to the untold story of the scientist
and his assistant who are gay. "The fact
that they are gay is not something that
motivates the play," Pearson said. "It's
just the personal relationship they have,
but they are so involved with the project,"
this find of the missing link, "that action
moves the play along."
Pearson said he studied several months
doing the research to be able to write such
as play as The Ancestor. "Researching the
techniques they used for such discoveries
was difficult because not many books tell
about the way things were in 1912, It's
harder to find historical science books."
But the research paid off and the play is a
powerful drama dealing with people's
thirst for discovery and enlightenment
which is always hampered by the myopic
view of others.
This is only one of many plays Pearson
has written, among them a one-act The
Doodle Bug and a children's play which
has been published. He also did a couple of
radio plays at KPFT.
He stuided drama and playwriting at
the University of Houston, and other
schools, and has been writing some eight
"The payoff, because there isn't really
any money in it unless the play is just
fantastically popular, is in the audience
reaction," he said. "I love just being there
and hearing the whispers and watching
the expressions. It really gives you a feeling inside. That's why I didn't care for
radio. There was no interaction—no
audience that I could see."
Pearson said that Houston audiences
are lucky to have what he termed a third
alternative in theater. "Ten years ago the
theater in Houston was just stagnant.
Now it is looser and more interesting
things are being done. People have a choice with such places as Main Street, Stages
and Chocolate Bayou, where before they
had to choose between the Alley and community theater. Now they have a third
ThiB third alternative is the medium
that Pearson's work seems to fit best. The
Ancestor curtain time is 8:00 p.m. June 24,
July 1 and 8, plus a 3:30 p.m. matinee on
Sunday, June 26. An Arts for Everyone
cast party follows the June 24 performance. For ticket information call 524-
n Tina and Pam for a
Hot Night at the
By Hollis Hood
If the dancing before the show doesn't
heat up the audience at the Gay Political
Caucus Rally, Sunday, June 26 in the
Summit at 7:00 p.m., then a pair of sizzling
ladies will—Tina Turner and Pamela
Tina, a veteran songtress and legendary
mistress of rock/soul, said during a phone
interview from Canada that she is looking
forward to performing in Houston again.
She just finished a southern tour, with an
outstanding engagement at Rockefeller's
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," she
said. "I've been performing up here and
the crowds are a little stiffer. But when we
get down with these folks it'll really get
Tina said she doesn'treally get involved
in the politics of the event. "I'm an entertainer, and that's why I'll be there."
And she has been there, come back, set
trends, shook things up and done it all for
the past 20 years in show business.
She started out as what she defined as a
"country girl. I didn't know there was such
a thing as traveling around singing and I
wasn't into records, but I always sang in
talent shows and all. It was only after I
started going to movies that I wanted to be
a 'star.' I would dream about it. Then when
I went to St. Louis and met Ike (the show
was previously the Ike and Tina Turner
revue), I started singing with a band.
"I sang with the band on the tapes and
that's how I got started. The dancing came
from my own energy on stage and the min
dresses came out after that. I never realls
fit into those long sequended dresses, and
the image just came."
Variety is good for music, said Turner.
Rock and roll has come further than in
Elvis' day, and music is not categorized as
it once was. "What they do now is more
universal, more unisex. They do what they
want to do, and I like it." Some of the
attitudes and fasions of the punkers can
be transposed into other people's thinking, she said. "Some people are just looking for attention ... some things only
belong on stage."
And one person that certainly belongs
on stage, because she is a star entertainer,
Philip Hafer and Joe Ponessa play the anthropologist and his assistant,
respectively, in Max Pearson's play "The Ancestor," currently at Main Street
will share the spotlights with Tina on
In a recent interview with this Philadelphia native turned Texaan (she lives in
Dallas now), she said she is excited about
sharing the bill with Tina Turner, and
about riding on the Officer's Club float in
the Gay Pride Parade.
Stanley learned music at her grandfather's knee, she said. She and her brother
and sisters would all sing harmony to guitar accompaniment. "I tell people that I
learned to sing through the S&M method.
If we didn't do it right, he would take my
hand and bend it back. He didn't mean to
hurt us, but we learned to sing harmony
From that time on, she knew she wanted
to be a professional singer. Reared on the
classic folk music of the Kingston Trio,
Brothers Four and Simon and Garfunkle,
she studied her craft and headed off to
New York to make a name for herself.
While singing in a piano bar one night, a
German producer came in heard her and
ultimately offered her a record contract. "I
was like a storybook," she said. "They
flew me to Germany first class, and I had
never been out of the U.S. I Btayed in a
hotel that was a castle. I thought I was
Grateful for the experience and the
excellence the Germans demanded of her,
she was glad to get back to United States
soil. "You don't know how to appreciate
America until you go to another country,"
she said. "We would be recording and
there was a window in the studio and
you'd look out over the land mines and the
wall, but even so, Berlin was beautiful."
She said they record things differently
there. Instead of bringing in a few violins
to cut the record, they brought in an entire
symphony. "They could get their takes
done in just a couple of shots, and it would
take me more; it was wild."
During her year stay, she toured Holland, France, England and Germany and
has since appeared in South America and
Mexico as well taking audiences by storm
with her high-energy disco dance music.
Her current hit is "I Don't Want to Talk
About It," which she will be performing
among others at the Summit. "My brother,
James Lee Stanley and Seberin Browne,
wrote it. When I first heard it I wasn't
impressed, but in changing this beat discovered this would be fabulous for disco."
Stanley and her husband, Frank Man-
daro, have their own recording label now,
Komander, out of Dallas. "Even the doctor
that delivered my baby invested in the
company. We wanted it to be a Texas
company—record in Texas; we even press
our own records.
"We had no idea it would take off like it
has. We were just going to sell the album at
shows, but it's been out a week and we've
already sold out of 10,000 copies. (Don't
despair, they have reordered.)
"I'm more confident now. I feel my voice
is stronger now. We're very excited about
the future. It's bigger than I expected."
She expressed special thanks to the
Officer's Club for their sponsorship at the
Summit. "We are really going to have a
good act. We have new dances, new
costumes—it's really going to be great."
So be there. Tickets are still on sale for
$9.65 at Ticketmaster and Ticketron
outlets as well as Montrose Hair Design
and selected bars. Other guests include
Virginia Appuzo of the National Gay
Task Force and state and local politicians.