BWW Review: Utah State Senator Highly Entertaining in STORIES FROM MY SOUL

BWW Review: Utah State Senator Highly Entertaining in STORIES FROM MY SOUL

Jim Dabakis is a pioneer. But not a pioneer that Uthans generally define.

While he was concerned that his one-man show might be "the greatest train wreck ever," the state senator was enormously entertaining in the fundraiser "Stories From My Soul" on the Chapel Theatre stage at Salt Lake Acting Company. Dabakis is affable and quick-witted in person, and received astute direction and script guidance from Charles Lynn Frost. The Equity actor knows a thing or two about theater, creating the satirical Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a pull-no-punches Spanish Fork Mormon housewife character, for stage shows radio and Facebook segments.

The Utah Legislature is the primary stage for Dabakis, but he's also comfortable in a stage spotlight. Representing the state's 2nd senate district, he has also been a fixture of Utah television and talk radio and is the senate's only openly gay member He's known for his progressive voice in the highly conservative Red state. "I like everybody there," he said. "They are just all wrong on the issues."

A co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, he's also been a sensible advocate for the gay community with the staunchly anti-gay leadership of the Salt Lake City-headquartered Mormon Church. Attempting to open a dialog with honchos in 2008 during the church's fight against California's Prop. 8, Dabakis was told "there was no reason to talk to the so-called gays."

As a student he sought advice from a student therapist at the church-owned Brigham Young University-"Ken and Barbie-land, and I was mostly interested in the Kens"-and received counsel to "sleep with my hands above the blanket." It was also recommended that he stay away from the Smith Family Living Center building, where electroshock therapy was being used on acknowledged gay men.

Just before graduating, he was kicked out the university, for refusing to create a list of 10 other gay students, because he didn't know any other gays on campus.

Yet he also puts that history in perspective. "You've got to remember the time period." He joined the church because he was told he needed to Mormon to play on a church-sponsored basketball team: "And I wanted to play basketball. But I know that a lot of the good that is within me is because of these young friends I had."

Despite a snide prediction from "Dodecahedron" in the first comment after an advance article that "he's just arrogant enough to think anyone gives a fat rat's aspirin about him or his obnoxious show," the theater was full, with audience spilling onto theater steps. (Dabakis self-deprecatingly responded to the post: "Hi Dodecahedron. Sadly, some truth to your comment." And "Tylenol for everyone.")

His popularity in the state is undeniable. In his re-election bid, he received a record number of private-citizen contributions, along with 75 percent of the vote.

As a successful art gallery owner, Dabakis is an ardent supporter of the arts and a frequent theatergoer. He was "transformed and transfixed" seeing his first piece of theater, "The Fiddler on the Roof." "It changed me forever."

BWW Review: Utah State Senator Highly Entertaining in STORIES FROM MY SOULWhile he has no training as an actor, he was equally enjoyable as Will Swenson in the lead role when he played Narrator in Pioneer Theatre Company's concert stagings of "The Rocky Horror Show."

PHOTO COURTESY PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY

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From This Author Blair Howell

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