Love her way

Despite her Scottish accent, Oona Love is an all-American girl

RICH LOPEZ  | lopez@dallasvoice.com

Oona2-copy
FOLKING AROUND | Oona Love may dress like Stevie Nicks, but she finds inspiration in lesbian icon Mary Gauthier.

OONA LOVE
Sue Ellen’s
3014 Throckmorton St. Dec. 17. 9:30 p.m.
No cover. Caven.com.

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Oona Love thinks she’s boring. The most interesting thing about her, if she says so herself (and she does), is her Chihuahua mix, which joins Love and her girlfriend on the road while she’s performing and booking gigs across the country.

But Love herself has a Chihuahua’s tenacity. Prior to her Saturday gig at Sue Ellen’s, the Scottish singer by way of Nashville has booked shows at Lakewood Bar & Grill and after arriving in town, she lined up two more appearances.

So how does a “boring” Scot thrive in an indie music career filled with lesbians and guitars?

“My message is trying to promote peace, love, understanding and action,” she says. “My generation gets lost in talking about stuff but not doing anything. So all

I’m doing is just really trying to get my music out there. I logged 38,000 miles for the last year, trying to get people to hear that message.”

Love arrived in America 20 years ago to attend college, but she also knew that if anything in music was going to happen for her, it would be here. This is where her heroes are from.

“I’d always been into American singer-songwriters,” she says. “I’m kind of embarrassed to say it, but I really like John Denver!”

For Love, old-school folk inspired her music, offering the optimistic messages she shoots for. With a folk revival in recent years, she doesn’t find much in common with newer bands, though.

“I sometimes write about love and shit, but I always try to write more with a message like those singers,” she says.

Lesbian icons aren’t lost on her, either. She’s a big fan of Sinead O’Connor, but also gushes over folk icon Mary Gauthier and highly recommends her new album. Just don’t get her started on one self-proclaimed bisexual artist.

“I don’t get Ani DiFranco anymore,” she says. “She’s married with a kid now but, oh, I dunno.”

Love melds traditional undertones with a strong Americana perspective tying both cultures. In her album, Out of the Ashes, producer Doug Driesel and Love provide a fairly cohesive set of songs with heart and nice texture. Despite being more American than Scottish, the Celtic instrumentation isn’t lost. And she says the gays like it — and she means the boys.

“I do have a good gay male following,” she says. “Maybe it’s because I look like a drag queen. I’m a redhead with giant boobs, so that kinda helps. But it’s fantastic to play lesbian bars because it feels like you’re coming home. I’m a bit freer before a gay audience.”

Love doesn’t play the boxed-in-because-I’m-lesbian card. She refreshingly embraces the fact that she is going to appeal more to LGBT audiences, but also won’t hold back if performing in non-gay bars. She’s learning to play the game of booking various clubs, what to perform and how to reach out to her audience. But she’s still going to sing love songs to her girlfriend.

“I have no restriction. I don’t feel I need to walk into some hick bar and be overtly out, but I still sing to a woman,” she says. “I don’t raise issues about straight or gay, but if they like my music. But I try to set a good example by living an out lifestyle.”

Which doesn’t sound boring at all.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Victoria, victor

Tony-winning Dallasite Victoria Clark comes home for concert with TWCD

MARK LOWRY  | marklowry@theaterjones.com

V-Clark-3
Victoria Clark

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St.
Dec. 19. 7 p.m. $20–$48. 214-520-7828.
TheWomensChorusofDallas.com

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Broadway was not what Victoria Clark had expected.

The Hockaday School graduate always knew she wanted to perform, studying opera in Austria and at Michigan’s prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and matriculating Yale University before headed for New York’s Great White Way. She had a vision of what it would be like.

“I thought everyone was going to come to work with big moustaches and capes and be drinking and crazy,” she says, laughing. “But they would say things like ‘I couldn’t find a parking space’ or ‘my son is having trouble in English,’ talking about what normal people talk about. I think I wanted them to be more eccentric.”

Some 25 years after her first show (she was cast as an understudy in Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George), Clark has proven that the normalcy of working in New York theater is just fine — and that you can make a living at it (with insurance and benefits, even).

She had supporting roles in revivals of Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed… and  Cabaret, then won a best actress Tony Award in 2006 for the Adam Guettel-Craig Lucas musical The Light in the Piazza. She takes center stage again this weekend, as she returns home to perform with

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas in its annual holiday concert at the Wyly Theatre.

Clark grew up in the Greenway Park area near Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane. Although her parents weren’t especially artistic, their children found outlets for creativity. Clark’s brothers dabbled in bands, and her sister, Dawn Prestwich, became a screenwriter with an impressive list of television writing credits.

For Clark, though, it was all about singing — something her grandmother encouraged. She also developed a love for it at Hockaday, where she attended all 12 years, and became involved in drama as well.

“I remember that we learned to do everything,” she says. “We made the blintzes for You Can’t Take It With You and then ate them [in the show].”

One of her instructors, Ed Long, who’s still at Hockaday, encouraged her to attend Interlochen. Her choral director at First Community

Church, Don Herman, and Ed DeLatte of the now-closed Dallas Repertory Theatre, were both influential in pushing her to keep training her voice.

So she did, always finding the not-so-strange world of New York theater a welcoming place. She admits there have been many missed opportunities along the way, such as when she didn’t take the offer to workshop one of the Stepsisters in Sondheim’s Into the Woods (“When you get in early in a job like that, unless you kick someone in the shin or something like that, and you do a reasonable job, they ask the same group back”).

But one big opp she wasn’t about to pass over was Margaret Johnson, the American mother on vacation in Italy whose daughter falls for a hunky Italian man (played by Glee’s Matthew Morrison), in The Light in the Piazza.

“We did it three times, in Seattle and Chicago and then New York, and the show kept getting better and better,” she says. “The part was not written for me, but by the end I felt that it was. Pretty quickly they liked what I was doing with it.”

But even after 20 years of working in New York at that point, she was still not always confident. “Like every project, every day I was afraid I would get the call and they would tell me I was going to be replaced. Luckily Adam is very picky about voices and he liked my singing. That’s the one thing I could bring: I have a distinctive sound.”

That sound might bring her to Broadway again this spring, in a project that she can’t talk about yet. And it’s one that will charm audiences on

Sunday night with the Women’s Chorus. She’ll sing “Fable,” her big number from Piazza, as well as songs from her 2008 debut record, Fifteen Seconds of Grace, along with carols with the chorus.

And it’s a good bet that there won’t be any eccentrics with moustaches and capes hanging backstage — unless you count Santa.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Good will toward men

Homophobia nearly derailed the TCC’s planned Tyler concert, but some scrambling saved the day — even without drag queens

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

O, HOLY CRAP | A three-year effort for the Chorale to perform in Tyler was almost scuttled, but with a little help from Santa, Jonathan Palant, left, found a solution. Dallas will get its annual Christmas concerts, too. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

O HOLY NIGHT
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Dec. 15, 20 and 22.
8 p.m. $30–$67.
TurtleCreek.org.

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Almost since Jonathan Palant took over as artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, he’s been trying to schedule a concert in Tyler. He is friends with the choir director of the Marvin United Methodist Church, a congregation with an inclusive pastor and active concert series. It was all but a sealed deal earlier this year.

Then came word this summer that some powerful members of the church objected to a gay men’s chorus performing. The offer to perform there was revoked.

“At the time, my blood was boiling,” Palant admits. “But teaching acceptance is in our mission statement, and my personal approach is to encourage tolerance. This wasn’t a time for payback. A picture is worth a thousand words, like the one of the TCC standing beside the [all-men] U.S. Army Chorus. That makes more of a statement that a speech could.”

And he wanted to do that same with the Tyler concert.

“We circled back around and found a different location. Within three weeks we had three churches asking to host us. For acoustics and size, we went to the First Presbyterian Church, and they voted unanimously to approve it,” he says. Which means Tyler will be getting its chorale Christmas concert after all.

And the adage no press is bad press seems to be holding true. “Word has it everybody in Tyler is gonna make a night of it — I’m told it will be standing room only in the 750 seat sanctuary. It’s all the more enticing to attend [when you have been banned],” he says.

The chorale is well-known for its campy concerts, even (especially?) at Christmastime, but Palant says he wanted to go old-school this year — both in the slightly truncated Tyler version and the one that returns to the Meyerson Symphony Center for three performances, starting Wednesday.

“Since we’re back at our home in the Meyerson [following last year’s concert at the Winspear], I really wanted to make it ‘home for the holidays’ — your favorite Christmas carols that you could sing along to,” he says. “We’re leaving the plots and the theatrics behind this year and, as one member called it, the deluxe version of the TCC holiday concert because it’s very traditional — very stand and sing or as I call it ‘park and bark.’”

For traditionalists of another kind, however, there are plenty of chorale favorites. On the slate will be the popular Nigerian hymn “Betelehemu” with African drums, a few light-hearted numbers (one, called “Omnes Virginus Levite Manus” should recall the best of chorale humor, but is more invigorating than silly) and there will of course be “Silent Night” performed with American Sign Language solos and the dedication of poinsettias for departed chorale members (the number has grown to more than 180). And Santa Claus will be there as always.

“We have some new arrangements that are unique enough to keep them fresh but the melodies are still there, like an amazing version of ‘Silver Bells,’ a great gospel arrangement of ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee’ and a stunning minimalistic version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ — it’s the version used in the movie Sex and the City,” Palant says.

Sex and the City figuring into a Christmas concert? Sounds like the chorale we’ve come to know and love.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Fierce again

Cult gay performance artists PAH returns for one-night-only show

MARK LOWRY  | mark.lowry@att.net

POMO BETTER BOYS | Brian Freeman, center, teams with Thandiwe Thomas DeShazor and Dazie Rustin Grego for the new version of Pomo Afro Homos. (Photo courtesy Duane Cramer)

The Majestic Theatre,
1925 Elm St. Dec. 10–11
(Pomo Afro Homos Dec. 10 only). 7 p.m. $12.50.
ATTPAC.org.

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Any number of performance groups have followings while they’re still presenting work, but only a few leave legacies well beyond their demise. San Francisco’s Pomo Afro Homos — shorthand for Post-Modern African-American Homosexuals, in case you needed to know — lasted just five years in the first half of the 1990s, but they’ve been cited as influences on other performers and have at least one work that is studied on a collegiate level as an important text in black gay history.

Now all of that is coming back — albeit briefly — as one of the group’s founders tours a new show based on the original text, then called Fierce Love: Stories From Black Gay Life. (Notice the use of “fierce” long before Tyra or Christian Siriano claimed it). The new work, Fierce Love: A Remix, features a new trio of performers, plus a cameo from original PAH member Brian Freeman, who also directs the show.

“We were stepping into a void at the time,” says Freeman, a director, playwright and teacher in California. “There wasn’t much work that existed at that point [about the black gay experience]. There was a handful of novels, a few films.”

The remixed version is a highlight this weekend at the National Performance Network’s 25th anniversary showcase at the Majestic Theatre, featuring five recreations of seminal works from NPN’s history. (Others include a dance piece inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, and a performance from California solo artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph.) The Pomo Afro Homos show is Friday.

Freeman, with cofounders Bernard Branner and Eric Gupton (who died in 2003), performed monologues and comedy based on their experience as black gay men. The club where they started, in San Fran,

Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint, showcased the early talents of Margaret Cho, Lea DeLaria, Tim Miller and many others.

The trio, which eventually added Marvin K. White as a fourth performer, used experiences from their lives and others they know for the material, inspired by such writers and artists as James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde and Bill T. Jones. They toured Fierce Love around the country with mixed result; the mayor in Anchorage, Alaska tried to block a sign for the group on city buses, while in major spaces, including New York’s Public Theatre and Lincoln Center, they were readily welcomed. They performed the show in London three times.

“It was about life as it intersects with that community: Part of the African-American community, part of the gay community, part of the HIV community, and how those things don’t always play well together,” Freeman says.

He’s quick to add that it reaches beyond the boundaries of gays and African-Americans. “The show is rooted in this community, but also in lots of communities: Gay and straight, white, black, Asian, Latino,” he says.

Fierce Love: A Remix and the other shows in the NPN event are geared to support an organization that continues to support touring artists of multiple disciplines, whose work falls outside of the mainstream.

“We had a network to help us tour the shows and connect with other performers in different cities,” Freeman says. “A lot of the work that travels around the network is adventurous, community-specific, it’s not mass-market kind of work. Some shows have made the leap from the NPN to commercial runs.”

And some, such as the work of Pomo Afro Homos, has made the leap into history.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Bouncin’ wit’ it

When Big Freedia sissy bounces, everybody listens

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

MAN ENOUGH Big Freedia brings a whole lotta shakin’ to The Loft Saturday.

BIG FREEDIA
with Rusty Lazer. The Loft,
1135 S. Lamar St.. Dec. 4. at
7:30 p.m. $12–$14.
GilleysDallas.com.

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Sissy bounce. The two words either say it all — or say it all wrong.

But Big Freedia says it’s just a party to him. Relying on heavy samples and jagged dance beats, the sound is having a resurgence just as its home, New Orleans, is, too. And for Freedia, right now is the time for the world to get onboard. The gay performer plans to show Dallas on Saturday just how New Orleans gets down.

“At the end of the day it’s all bounce music,” he says. “That category just separates us from other rappers, but I’m totally fine with it.”

“Bounce music” has its roots in Southern rap and is characterized by party beats, sexualized chants and call-outs. Add a queer slant to it and it becomes “sissy bounce.” Outside its Deep South roots, sissy bounce takes on a more underground flavor.

And people are taking notice. Articles have been appearing more in recent years featuring Freedia and his gay bounce contemporaries, Katey Red and Sissy Nobby. But the music and musicians may have gotten their most rewarding exposure when Jonathan Dee’s impressive piece in the New York Times, “New Orleans’ gender-bending rap,” came out this summer. When the Times takes notice, people follow.

“It’s not a new thing going on, just right now,” Freedia says. “The music has been around for 20 years, but it’s new for a lot of people all around. There’s a boom and I’m just excited to be one of those artists.”

Out musicians across genres are having a noticeable emergence in music. Beyond mainstream Ricky Martins and Melissa Etheridges, indie rock, neo-folk and pop are genres bursting with their share of LGBT musicians contributing to the musical fabric; gay rappers Drew Mason and Yo! Majesty take on hip-hop to tell their stories in a genre that’s notoriously homophobic. But sissy bounce takes the gay perspective to different levels. The brash aggressiveness of it could be a declarative statement of Pride, but could it also perpetuate stereotypes?

“Bounce music is up-tempo with a heavy bass. It’s party music that’s all about ass-shaking and pussy-popping,” Freedia says.

Note that last part — sissy bounce is highly charged with lyrics on defiant sex and partying. Sometimes this is an image gay men can’t escape. As the profile of sissy bounce grows, it’s easy to ask if mainstream coverage will focus on the actual brilliance of the music as a whole or merely pinpoint lyrics that will be used as a tool against LGBT communities.

Sissy bounce might suffer from “parade syndrome,” where all mainstream media shows are scantily clad dancers and high-heeled drag queens rather than paint a complete picture. and rebuilding both his career and his home, Freedia is on the verge of bigger things and any publicity is good exposure. Besides, he’s got a positive message underneath all that rapping about “Azz Everywhere” and “Gin in my System.”

“My mission is to put bounce music all over the world and teach my culture about growing up with struggles. I firmly stand and believe on encouraging peers and my younger generation. If you believe in anything and move forward, good things can happen. That’s my message — especially in the gay world.”

Non-gay listeners can take heed as well. Freedia’s music has resulted in mixed crowds at his shows. This excites him as a gay performer to break boundaries.

“It don’t matter who it is. [Audiences are] loving what I’m singing and feeling it,” he says. “When I perform, my intention is all about bringing it and making people have a good time. Some people don’t know exactly how to accept it at first, but by the end, it’s a real party.”

Which sounds like a reasonable approach to the music itself for the uninitiated.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens