100% me

Vocalosity a cappella concert takes cast, audience on a journey back, and a journey forward


Nicole Weiss, left, tells her personal story as part of the Vocalosity performance.

TAMMY NASH  | Managing Editor

Even the longest journey starts with a single step. But perhaps, in this case, it’s more appropriate to say, with a single note.

Nicole Weiss and her fellow performers in Vocalosity spent some eight hours on a bus last Wednesday, headed to Greenville, N.C. It was just the latest leg in their journey, which launched in January and will wind up, some two months later, in Galveston, Texas in the first week in March — including a March 2 stop in Dallas for a concert at McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus.

“Luckily, we don’t have to perform tonight,” Weiss said in a phone interview from the bus. “Tonight, we get to just go to the hotel and relax.”

Vocalosity is the brainchild of Deke Sharon, vocal producer of the movie Pitch Perfect and musical director of the TV show The Sing-Off. The idea of the all-a cappella show is to put together 12 “all-star singers” into a group with would “go into people’s home towns, to sing and connect with people, to feel that joy of music and to inspire them to bring music back into their own lives.”

It was a concept that resonated deeply with Weiss.

Weiss is one of several — how to put it? — non-straight performers in the Vocalosity cast. She describes herself as “queer, bisexual, pansexual — any of the above,” and says that coming to terms with her identity has played a big role in her own journey.

Weiss says that when she first heard about Vocalosity and heard the names of Sharon and others who were involved in its creation, she knew right away she wanted to be a part of it. “I personally went to the open call in New York Center. I was the first person in line at the open call at 7 a.m., and I made it. That’s pretty rare, as far as my experience goes,” she notes.

The concert covers a “wide range of genres of music,” Weiss says. “But the journey of the show, the music, is so deliberate. Deke’s vision, his life’s work, he would say, is to get people to sing, whether they are singers are not. The point is not just for us to get to sing songs pretty, but to get the average person — someone who might have been told they can’t sing — to sing because they want to.

“There’s so much joy — in singing, in being part of a community that way,” she continues. “And we sing in the show, of course, but there’s also a section of the show where we tell her stories about how music has changed our lives, and made us who we are. We get such incredible feedback from the audience about how inspired they are by our stories.”

Weiss is one of four Vocalosity cast members who tell their stories during the show. Her story, she says, begins when she was born.

“I exited the womb singing, really,” she laughs. “I was always really confident about it. I sang all the time.”

And then came that one vocal teacher who “was not the kind of supportive person I needed, and I kind of shut down. Because of that, I started having a lot of insecurities around singing. And that bled into the rest of my life,” Weiss says. “I was afraid to be who I was. I so desperately wanted to fit in.”

And then came high school, and a show choir director who “was so kind to me, and who took me under his wing. He told me to sing like me, to be myself and to celebrate who I am.”

That choir director, she said, had her sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in a competition, and now, she gets to sing that same song at the end of her monologue in each performance of Vocalosity. And she gets to her from audience members who connect with her story and are empowered by it.

“When I was a teenager, I was bullied. I was made to feel I wasn’t enough,” she says. “So when I hear people who are like me, who went through those same things, telling me that hearing me tell my story inspires them to be themselves and live their lives — I can’t describe the feeling that gives me.”

While Weiss’s monologue in the show doesn’t reference her sexual orientation — another cast member does talk about being a gay man — that is a big part of her personal journey as well, she says.

“It’s just been in the past few years that I’ve really been able to own it,” she says of her sexual orientation and her identity as bi/pansexual. “I am really passionate now about having those conversations with people. There’s really a lot of bi-phobia out there. You’d think someone who is gay themselves would automatically understand. But it’s not that simple.”

Weiss says her personal journey helped her land her role in the musical journey that is Vocalosity. “I am who I am, and I am proud of that,” she declares. “There has definitely been a shift in the last few years in my confidence and I think that came through in my audition. I went into it with the mindset that I was going to be 100 percent myself, and if that was what they wanted then good. And if it wasn’t, I was going to be ok with that, too.”

“As it turned out, that’s what they wanted. They wanted people who were 100 percent themselves, people who would be that, own it.”

Weiss says that she hopes the Vocalosity concert — and the journey it represents — helps those who come to see it take the next steps in their own journeys, too. “I hope people leave wanting to go sing, feeling like they can go sing and do whatever else they want to do. I hope they leave knowing that they can go be themselves and that being themselves will make them the most successful person they can be.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2016.

—  Tammye Nash

Mary Gonzalez leads in re-election bid after early voting


Mary Gonzalez

Out state Rep. Mary Gonzalez will likely keep her House District 75 seat after early voting results gave her a strong lead Tuesday.

Gonzalez, D-El Paso, brought in 69 percent of the vote, compared to her only Democratic  challenger Rey Sepulveda, who received 31 percent of the early vote.

No Republican is seeking the office, so Gonzalez is sure to return to the state Legislature after final results come in.

She’s one of five openly gay state House candidates, but the only one with a contested primary.

Other out candidates are Celia Israel, who won the runoff in the special election to replace state Rep. Mark Strama in Austin and will face one Republican in the fall, and Denton’s Emy Lyons and Daniel Moran, who will both take on Republican incumbents.

Former state board of education member George Clayton is unopposed in his Democratic bid for HD 102, which covers parts of North Dallas, Richardson and Addison.

On the crowded Republican side, incumbent Stefani Carter came in second to former Dallas Councilwoman Linda Koop with 33 percent and 35 percent after early voting, so a runoff is likely.

Sam Brown received 28 percent of the vote with Adyana Boyne coming in last with 4 percent.

—  Dallasvoice

Stonewall Dems gather in Austin to talk pro-equality strategy in Texas

Former Congressman Barney Frank addresses the crowd during the Equality Forward Summit in Austin on April 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Texas Stonewall Democrats met in Austin this weekend for the first Equality Forward Summit to discuss how to gain support for pro-equality measures and ultimately turn Texas blue.

The event was the first collaborative effort between the Texas Democratic Party and the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus and drew about 150 people for the weekend’s workshops.

About 250 people, many standing, packed a room at the Hilton Austin Airport hotel after a day of workshops on Saturday to hear former Congressman Barney Frank speak about his time in office and the change he expects in the future.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker introduced Frank, during which she said she still considers herself an activist and has since learned of a gay agenda.

“I don’t know of any gay agenda, but I have been doing this long enough that we do have a gay agenda,” Parker said. “Our gay agenda is the ability to have jobs that we love, to support the families that we care about and to pay taxes.”

She said No. 2 on the gay agenda was serving openly in the military, which has been accomplished, No. 3 is feeling safe in schools and being free from bullying, and No. 4 is the freedom to marry.

Parker said all of the items on the list will gain support from Texas votes but it is Stonewall and the state party’s job to get that message out.

“But just as we as Democrats have a message that will resonate in Texas, the GLBT community has that same agenda that will resonate across Texas,” she said. “And when we openly advocate for that agenda, I’m standing here as proof that being who we are, being open and honest, we can win at the ballot box.”

—  Dallasvoice

PHOTOS: Lobby Day draws record crowd to Capitol


Openly LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, addresses the crowd on the south steps of the state Capitol on Monday during Equality Texas Lobby Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Hundreds of LGBT Texans and allies from across the state told their personal stories of discrimination, love and hope for a better future to lawmakers Monday during Equality Texas Lobby Day.

With more than 540 registered attendants, it marked the biggest Lobby Day ever, Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said.

Smith started working with the statewide LGBT advocacy organization as a lobbyist in 2003. He shared his experience with the crowd Monday morning, explaining that he came out to former state Rep. Carter Casteel, who had been his eighth-grade history teacher. He told her that he and his partner of 17 years, Rick, had loved each other dearly until his death in 2001.

And he asked her not to vote for the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between a man and a woman and passed later that year.

Smith said she acknowledged his love between him and his partner but told him she couldn’t vote against DOMA because she would lose her seat.

“The day changed my life because I learned that the people who serve this state are real people just like me,” he said, adding that more legislators need to hear stories to earn their support. “They just need to hear from enough of us to give them the strength to do the right thing for the people of Texas.”

Pansexual state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, thanked those who attended for standing behind her when she came out during her contested Democratic Primary last year and for encouraging her with their fight for LGBT rights.

—  Dallasvoice

Mary Gonzalez makes NBC Latino’s top 10 politicians to watch list

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez made our Top 10 LGBT stories of 2012 list in this week’s print edition, but she’s also made a national list of politicians to watch.

Gonzalez, D-El Paso, who became Texas’ first female LGBT representative and also broke new ground by later coming out as pansexual, was named by NBC Latino as one of its 10 Latino politicians to watch in 2013.

But she’s not the only Hispanic Texan politician people excited to watch. Newly elected Democratic Congressman Joaquín Castro and anti-gay Republican Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, who’s Cuban-American, also made the list.

View the full list here.

—  Dallasvoice

Mary Gonzalez officially becomes Texas’ 1st openly LGBT female state legislator

Gonzalez.MaryEl Paso’s Mary Gonzalez unofficially captured the Texas House District 75 seat back in May when she won a contested Democratic primary.

And without a Republican opponent in the general election, she sailed to an official victory Tuesday, becoming the first openly LGBT woman elected to the Texas Legislature. Gonzalez identifies as pansexual, so she’s also the first-known openly pansexual elected official in the U.S.

Gonzalez marked the news by thanking her family and supports this afternoon on her “Mary González for State Representative” Facebook page.

“Well it is OFFICIAL that I will be representing Texas House District 75 at the Texas Capitol. Thank you to all my family, friends and loved ones for all your support,” the post reads. “I recognize that I wouldn’t be here without the people who worked to make this happen. Let’s get to work- changing the world one day at a time.”

Congrats, Mary. We look forward to you making a mark in Austin come January.

—  Dallasvoice

The uber-gay original ‘Fright Night’ (NSFW)

In this week’s edition, I review the remake of the 1985 cult hit Fright Night with Colin Farrell. Walking down memory lane to my childhood (OK, I was in college), I got to thinking just how gay the original version was. How gay? Well, in addition to the vampire being portrayed as pansexual if not outright queer (he’s very fey as portrayed by Chris Sarandon), here are a few other elements that make it still a Very Gay Movie:

• Other than Sarandon, the name-brand star of the film was gay actor Roddy McDowall.

• 1985 marked the film debut of co-star Amanda Bearse, who played the hero’s love interest. Bearse later went on to star in Married… With Children before coming out as lesbian in 1993.

• Stephen Geoffreys, the actor who played “Evil” Ed, is openly gay. How openly? Well, you might know him from some of his other screen performances — under the name Sam Ritter — in films like Cock Pit or Guys Who Crave Big Cocks. Yep, Evil’s second career is in hardcore gay porn, pictured below.

Ah, I miss the ’80s.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sex in the city

TALK DIRTY TO ME | Three of the four creators of ‘Bedpost Confessions,’ including Sadie Smythe, far left, are bisexual, giving a ‘pansexual’ bent to many of the sexy admissions.

‘Bedpost Confessions’ moves sex talk from the closet into Oak Cliff

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

What would you do if your friend admitted to  being a prostitute? Or if your sister talked about having sex outside of her marriage with a 21-year-old virgin? Sexual talk outside of the bedroom can still be taboo, even in today’s desensitized world of fast hookups and Showtime melodramas. Bring up intercourse (or something far more intense), and most people will cringe or shy away.

Not Sadie Smythe. She says that such fear stems from shame, and she’s on a quest to change that.

“We do it because there’s this puritanical mindset pervading our culture,” Smythe says. “We want to start a conversation about sex and sexuality. It’s a pleasurable experience for people and that’s part of why we do it.”

Smythe is co-creator of the Austin-based show Bedpost Confessions, a sort of Vagina Monologues series of admissions and detailed sexual experiences featuring a roster of participants. Bedposts’ first- ever performance outside of Austin comes to Oak Cliff July 21.

“I thought Dallas should be our first stop as a good jumping off point,” says Smythe, a Dallas native. “Depending on how many people show up, we’ll be in the upstairs room at the Kessler. That’s such a great place and right in the middle of all that cool stuff.”

She could be surprised. Although current RSVPs are modest, if it plays out like her first show, that could change dramatically. Smythe expected about 20 people to Confessions’ debut and 60 showed up, crammed into a small space. Now the monthly event brings in close to 400 people — all there to talk about (and listen to others talk about) sex. With such a growth, the show plans for events in San Francisco and Boston.

Does that mean America is ready to shout out their sexcapades to the masses? Smythe hopes so.

“The more sex is taboo the more shame that surrounds it. I see that as a problem,” she says. “My feeling is that kids have a hard time understanding what sex and sexuality is about. Parents don’t feel comfortable because of the shame so kids go into their formative sexual years inadvertently hurting each other. Shame creates harm and we aim to take that harm out of the picture. So we just talk about it.”

She describes Confessions as pansexual because all perspectives are reflected and embraced. Local performer Roy G. Bivs is a gay man who talks about a time in Japan when he partook in prostitution to pay the bills. Smythe, who is bisexual, has publicly discussed her open marriage in her book Open All the Way. She’ll “confess” to her 21-year- old virginal conquest.

“My mother will be at this show so she’s gonna get an earful,“ Smythe laughs. “But it’s educational. That’s part of the beauty of it. Confessions takes you out of your own experience and other people can encourage flight.”
The audience can even confess their own sins, er … “experiences.”

“The hallmark of the show is the confessions,” she says. “Although we highly curate these shows and make sure they are smart, funny and entertaining we add an element of interaction that’s unpredictable.”

Those that go to a Confessions show are given a card to come clean about that which gets them off. Without names, the cards are read aloud during the show. (A sampling are on the show’s website.) Smythe says there’s a cathartic element to opening up.

“The audience notes are usually funny, but it also unifies the group as they all engage in it,” she says. “Sometimes they’ll even inspire discussion and ultimately, it’s a really fun and sexy show.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas