2011 Readers Voice Awards: Ultimate Diva!

<<<BACK TO CATEGORIES

 

MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING Ultimate Diva! winner Stacy McKinney accepts the donation made to her favorite non-profit from Dallas Voice Promotions Manager Terry Thompson.

You go, girl!

In spectacular fashion, a straight woman surrounded by gay men wins the Ultimate Diva! contest. And it’s not just the photo of Stacy McKinney — it’s how she lives her life

When Stacy McKinney entered a photo competition with the goal to be named Dallas Voice’s Ultimate Diva!, she encircled herself with hot gay men. It was more than a photo — it is a metaphor for her life. McKinney joined DIVA (the Dallas Independent Volleyball Association) not knowing it was a gay league but stuck around even after she found out. She’s been a tireless cheerleader for the group, donating her $1,000 winnings to it. Such a diva thing to do.

Dallas Voice: How do we know you? McKinney: I thought everyone knew me!

OK, for those of us who might not, what’s your involvement in the LGBT community? I got involved with DIVA and found that our Miss DIVA Pageant donates all the money to the Food Pantry. It went from there. I put my name on the volunteer list at the Resource Center Dallas. I started volunteering for GayBingo. Also, DIVA has given back to the city of Dallas recreation centers for the past 21 years. DIVA just hosted their bachelor auction and raised $5,000 for the pet charity, Mazie’s Mission.

How did you end up in the community? I went to try out for DIVA and ended up in the Competitive Division. When the vice president of memberships, Brian Borski, was thanking everyone and saying their main goal is to provide a social outlet to the gay and lesbian community, all the blood rushed out of my body. I freaked. When we were done I ran to the registration table and said, “Oh my gosh, is it OK if I am straight?” They were like, “Girl we knew you were as soon as you hit the door.” That was four years ago.

So what does DIVA mean to you? DIVA is a social volleyball sports organization but has also always given back to our LGBT community from its very beginning. We hold various fundraisers that benefit a local LGBT charity with the proceeds raised.

Is this Ultimate Diva! title going to make you just impossible to be around? Well, I already have a title within the organization as “First Lady of DIVA.” This is just the cherry on top.

When do you take off the tiara? I only take it off a few times a day — when I swim and when I am playing volleyball. But I do wear it to the court.

OK, are you really just a fruit fly? Yes, as it should be. I really don’t like straight people.

Will you ever surrender the title of Ultimate Diva!? Sure. I am always up for a good fight!

Apparently straight women can be ultimate divas: Don’t be jealous, I was born this way!

OK, Gaga.

<<<BACK TO CATEGORIES

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Flying solo

Weedman-New-Headshot

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Hilarious actress-playwright Lauren Weedman brings her one-woman show to Out of the Loop

……………………

OUT OF THE LOOP

NO…YOU SHUT UP
at Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Circle.
Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
WaterTowerTheatre.org

……………………

Get this straight: Lauren Weedman is not a standup comedian; she’s an actress who just happens to be insanely funny. There’s a big difference. Even as a straight woman and new mother, the Los Angelena often portrays lesbians in plays she writes. It’s all in a day’s work for a woman making a career channeling multiple characters in a single show with a precision and nuance that’s a joy to behold. This weekend, local audiences have an opportunity to witness her in action in her newest play, No… You Shut Up, part of the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.

Weedman officially got her big break as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a regular contributor on an NPR radio show, but her career began long before that.
“I started doing on-camera professional stuff when I was living in Seattle around 1995 when I was on a local TV show called Almost Live,” she says. ”But if you call Indianapolis community theater ‘the entertainment industry’ — and I don’t know if you should — it’s since third grade. I’m show-folk. Or circus-folk. Or a dirty artist-hippy — whatever you want to call it.”

The Daily Show, she admits, was an incredible coup, “even though nobody ever remembers me. And I wasn’t on that much during the year I worked there. And I was fired. Otherwise, wow! What a job.”

Weedman spent five years in Amsterdam studying, writing and performing. Before that trip, she thought she was the shocking one among her friends; but once there, she turned into a Puritan, “mostly about the overall passion for nudity all the Dutch people seemed to have,” she says. “I mean, if I was a seven-foot-tall skinny Dutch lady with uncomplicated nipples, I’d be naked all the time, too. But you just could not keep clothes on those people.”

Her varied life experiences show up in some form or fashion in many of her shows. No… You Shut Up comes to Addison via, of all places, Boise, Idaho, where a theater commissioned a play focusing on motherhood — even two-mommie households.

“Well, it’s a play. That starts to get annoying to hear, at least that’s what my friends always say because I’m always saying it whenever someone refers to it as ‘my act.’ As in ‘Lauren, you should meet my sister. You’d love her and you’d want to put her in your act,’” Weedman says. “I’ve done standup, but it’s not what solo theater is to me. The last two shows I’ve been focused on trying to make a narrative — plot-driven, character-driven, semi-autobiographical, fast-paced dark comedies.”

The rapid-fire switching of characters takes a lot of skill. And Red Bull.

“It’s like a dance, so I don’t have to think about it, or grab a hat and spend 14 minutes changing costumes to become another character. I get bored easily — I like to keep it moving.”

As a strong, funny woman, she naturally attracts her share of gay admirers.

“I think that my solo shows have continued to evolve and get better and better instead of sliding into delusion. All thanks to my very bossy, judgy gay friends, who come and see all my shows and let me know everything that they think. I’m a guest on a Sirius Radio show on Out Q with Frank DeCaro and Doria Biddle and they always make me feel like I’m this gigantic star who is just so underappreciated. So I love those gays. I always say the gays keep me on top because they yell at me and they monitor my weight. So they are like family. They are my family.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Boy-on-girl action

Two of Sundance Channel’s stars of a new queer reality show open up about girl-boy friendships — and how they hate the term ‘fag hag’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | stevencraiglindsey@me.com

tube
A REAL WILL & GRACE | Sarah Rose, a straight woman, and Joel Derfner, her gay best friend, are two of the stars of Sundance’s new reality series ‘Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys.’

No matter what your opinion is on unscripted television, anyone opening up his or her life for a camera crew — and potentially millions of viewers — has some balls: Maybe that comment will be taken out of context, or unflattering moments will be exaggerated or distorted, or a “character” will be created in the editing room to fill any number of pre-determined role: hero, villain, diva, token gay.

Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner knew this going into Sundance Channel’s new reality series Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which premiered this week, focusing on the lives of four couples (each consisting of one straight woman and one gay man). Luckily for them, the experience was positive, with only minor exaggerations implied in the final edits — so far.

Still, Rose insists she is not nearly as jealous of Derfner’s pending nuptials as the show makes it seem.

“They were hammering hard on how jealous I am and I’m not, for the record,” she says, having seen the first two episodes. “But I think one thing the show really does get right with us and the other three couples is the way we relate to each other. The sort of kind of friendship we have, the kind of bond there is.”

Their particular connection has certainly stood the test of time.

“We met in the dining hall at Harvard where we both shared a love for fried things and chocolate things. They supplied us amply with both and we’ve been the best of friends for the past 18 or 19 years,” Rose says.

“Oh my God, has it been 18 or 19 years?” Derfner exclaims with a laugh.

Derfner became involved when one of the producers, who knew him from musical theater writing circles, suggested he audition for the show; Rose was his natural partner in prime time. What attracted them to the premise is that for once, the relationship of gay men and straight women would be presented a little differently than is typical for Hollywood.

“The gay best friend is typically framed as a kind of sidekick. When Stanford Blanch is off-screen, he doesn’t seem to have a life on Sex and the City — he exists only in order to be Carrie’s friend. And my relationship with Joel isn’t a sidekick situation at all. He’s primary,” Rose says.

Before the show even aired, the duo were still getting used to glimpses of fame, like seeing their faces everywhere in Manhattan.

“We’re being chased by our own buses and I’m in this really unflattering wedding dress,” Rose says. “I have this idea that the entire Metro Transportation Authority is making fun of me.”

Perhaps that’s a downside of being associated with these shows, but there are plenty of positives even if the ratings aren’t huge. Both Rose and Derfner are writers and hope that any exposure from the show will widen the audience for their books. But it’s their friendship, and Derfner’s marriage, that ultimately benefited the most.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but Sarah and I have ended up spending more time together than we often do or are often unable to,” Derfner says.

“Joel works in his underwear. I’ve seen it,” adds Rose. “What I’ve discovered is the joy of collaborating with Joel. It’s a whole element to our friendship that wasn’t really present. We were sort of each other’s cheerleaders, but we weren’t each other partners in a business venture the way this feels. And it’s extraordinary. I’m falling for him all over again. It’s like being 18.”

A series of family tragedies and other obstacles had prolonged Derfner’s engagement to Michael Combs, but the reality show actually changed things for the better.

“The reality show was really the kick in the pants they needed to actually get that done,” says Rose, who was the official witness at both the legal and ceremonial weddings.

“We were on the verge of becoming the perpetually engaged couple,” Derfner says.

Instead, they now have a very detailed record of every challenging moment, every triumph, every smile and tear. Derfner hopes in some small way, his role in all of this will be to further the argument to legalize gay marriage.

They both also expect that people better understand the relationships at the focus of this show — and that the term “fag hag” be retired for good; “friend” is descriptive enough.

“From my perspective gay men and straight women often see the world the same way and we want the same things: chocolates, boys, to be thin. She wants boys and I want boys, but not the same boys,” Derfner says. “We understand each other and we recognize how we’re in sync, but there’s no competition so we can be completely 100 percent supportive of each other without worrying that somebody’s going to encroach on somebody’s territory.”

“I get all that, plus technical support,” Rose says. “I have somebody with the same plumbing and wiring and I can ask detailed technical questions [to help understand men].”

It’s a win-win for both of them — and a lot of fun to watch for us.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Ann Coulter, the right-wing Judy Garland? Oh puleeze!

Pundit turned stand-up for GOProud’s Homocon, and the jokes were all on the gays

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

Ann Coulter
Ann Coulter

Last weekend, the queen of the Neocons met the queens of the Homocon in a surreal event in New York City.

The group GOProud invited Ann Coulter to speak to them. This is the same Ann Coulter who called John Edwards a “faggot.” The same Ann Coulter who claims she has “never failed to talk a gay out of gay marriage.”

The same Ann Coulter who the event organizers called “the right-wing Judy Garland.”

From reports by those in attendance, Coulter delivered less of a speech and more of a stand-up routine. I have no problem with comedians, but her show consisted of gays being the punch line of every joke, if you rule out the jokes directed at black people.

Imagine standing in a group of LGBT people listening to and laughing at a straight woman tossing off one liners like, “Marriage is not a civil right. You’re not black!”

I am waiting for the laugh, and I expect I will continue waiting for a while.

Coulter continued her routine with remarks about why gays and abortion foes should band together, “as soon as they find the gay gene, you know who’s getting aborted!”

I am again left astounded at the strangeness of these self-proclaimed conservative gays who apparently feel chumming around with Ann was worth weathering the insults she spewed.

These folk, and there were only about 150 of them, claim they focus on “federal issues” rather than “state issues like marriage.”

I keep hearing echoes of 1950s white Southerner’s talking about “states rights” when they really meant retaining Jim Crow laws.

What these alleged gay conservatives miss is that to the GOP we are just a punch line.

LGBT Americans are not a group of citizens struggling against discrimination, they are just funny fags who can be so amusing and do a fabulous job decorating and styling hair.

To tell a group of LGBT people that civil rights are the sole property of racial minorities is outrageous, but for that same group to actually stand and pay some blonde bimbo to say it while clinking champagne glasses and making chitchat is appalling.

I fully realize that there will be lots of apologists for this strange event. They will say that I misunderstood the intention of the event; it was “to start a dialogue”… etc.

But a dialogue has to have some kind of give and take. It is not just someone talking and another person waiting to talk.

Perhaps there is some common ground for Coulter and her adoring Homocons in the fiscal responsibility I hear touted by the Republicans. But isn’t it funny that she decided to go for gay jokes instead of substance?

There will also be those who defend the Homocons by pointing to the Democratic Party and saying, “Hey, what have you done for LGBT people?”

To them I would say this, “Not enough!”

Still, at least with the Democratic Party, we are part of a real conversation, and we are not thought of as punch lines. We are not limited to the sidelines and asked to passively stand by while we are insulted and demeaned.

And as to the reference to Judy Garland? Well, for those old enough to remember Miss Garland, whose performances I adored, she was a tortured and sad woman who struggled with drug dependency and emotional ups and downs wilder than any rollercoaster. I suspect a lot of gay men admired her ability to persevere in spite of her problems and let her talent soar.

She was both brilliant and sad but she was bursting with enough talent to transcend the struggle and whisk audiences away over her own personal rainbow.

Ann Coulter, on the other hand, may have charmed the self-loathing Homocons with her snappy quips and tasteless attempts at humor, but for me she would be much better cast as the Wicked Witch of the East.

Now, would someone please drop a house on her?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Shawn lately

Comic Pelofsky pairs with Dallas’ Paul J. Williams for a gay ol’ time Saturday

COMIC PAIR  |  Paul J. Williams, right, opens for comedian Shawn Pelofsky at the Rose Room Saturday.
COMIC PAIR | Paul J. Williams, right, opens for comedian Shawn Pelofsky at the Rose Room Saturday.

SHAWN PELOFSKY
The Rose Room at Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Sept. 25. Show begins at 9:30 p.m. $4 cover. Caven.com

…………………………

Shawn Pelofsky has probably been on more gay cruises that any straight woman should feel comfortable claiming.

The L.A.-based comic, who performs nationwide with her Lady Haha & Friends Tour, has appeared on E! with Chelsea Handler, but is familiar to gay travelers for her frequent stints on Atlantis Cruises. She brings her act, alongside local comedian Paul J. Williams, for a show at the Rose Room Saturday.

Pelofsky chatted (with Williams) about what she likes about Dallas’ gay community and why she is so popular with gay audiences (hint: It’s her schnoz).

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: You were here a few years ago at the Lakewood Theater; how did this show come about? Pelofsky: I was already booked in Austin. I had a lot of requests from the Dallas boys from working the Atlantis Cruises so I thought, “If I’m gonna be that close, and we make it happen…” So I called Paul and he did it.

Williams: I am just a vessel for you to perform.

Pelofsky: Paul is so nice and funny.

Are we talking about the same person? Pelofsky: Yes. You can’t get much by me. He’s funny.

You’re straight — how’d you get to be so big in the gay community? Pelofsky: I was born with a Streisand face, so I couldn’t dodge anyone in the gay community — they stop me all the time. Actually, I wasn’t born with it — I broke my nose three times and it got this way. I think with that, people noticed me a little more.

About five or six yeas ago, I just noticed most of my friends were young gay men and I was working a lot of gay venues in Los Angeles. Then the Atlantis [Cruises] people saw me. I was really one of the first straight comics to work so much for them. I really represent the community because I understand that thought process, that mind behind the gay man. It’s my mind. And I’m very accepting.

Do you tailor your act for your audiences? Pelofsky: Sure. Believe it or not, I have worked in front of kids, and I do kid humor. Or when I’m in front of a bunch of old Jews in New Jersey. I can’t do all my gay material when I’m in Afghanistan for the troops.

Do you do it at all? Any “don’t ask, don’t tell” jokes when performing for the troops? Pelofsky: I haven’t really touched that. They say do nothing about that or the president. I just don’t go there. But it does come off the cuff…. But I do love gay humor. And I do it when I work at the Comedy Store.

Do you have any topics that are burning a hole in you comically speaking? Pelofsky: Yes, Prop 8. I support it. Just kidding!

You’ve worked Vegas — did you hear they are closing the Liberace Museum? Pelofsky: Yes! Who doesn’t wanna go to the Liberace Museum?

Williams: I just wanna know if they’re having a garage sale. I’d buy anything shaped like a piano.

Pelofsky: I want a Bedazzled jock strap.

You grew up in Oklahoma as, as you put it, one of 10 Jews born and raised in the state. Do you like coming back to your old stomping grounds? Pelofsky: I have not been to Texas in a few years. I’m not going home until Monday — gonna stay longer because I have a couple of best friends there. I will tell you this, though: I will always get to Texas before I get back to Oklahoma. My dad says, “You gonna be playing Dallas and not Oklahoma?” Yes.

But you like performing here? Pelofsky: Yes, I’m excited! I think the Dallas gay community is one of the best-looking communities, and I’ve been around. And yes, I know everything is bigger in Texas. And everyone knows I’m a size queen.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Labor Day play with ‘Songs from an Unmade Bed’ at Theatre Three

Art imitates life (sorta) in Theatre Three’s musical love triangle  ‘Songs from an Unmade Bed’

The chamber musical Songs from an Unmade Bed was written as a song cycle to be sung by one gay male character. But when Terry Dobson — the musical maven at Theatre Three as well as an occasional director, actor and playwright there — heard it, he couldn’t get an idea out of his head: That the musical made more sense if it was performed not from one point of view, but from three.

“I read the reviews from when it came out, and many mentioned that it lacked theatricality,” Dobson says. And he knew how to make it more theatrical: Turn it into a love triangle between a bisexual man and his two lovers: a straight woman and a gay man. Call it Sunday Bloody Sunday (in the Park with George). The result promises to be one of the edgier queercentric productions of the fall.

DEETS: Theatre Three’s Theatre Too,  2800 Routh Street, Suite 168. Sep. 3–Oct. 3. $20.
Theatre3Dallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Bed time story

Art imitates life (sorta) in Theatre Three’s musical love triangle  ‘Songs from an Unmade Bed’

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

THREE’S COMPANY | Gary Floyd, center, straddles the fence between his two lovers played by Patty Breckenridge and Christopher Wagley. (Photo by Ken Birdsell)

UNMADE BED
Theatre Three’s Theatre Too,  2800 Routh Street, Suite 168. Sep. 3–Oct. 3. $20.
Theatre3Dallas.com.

………………………………

The chamber musical Songs from an Unmade Bed was written as a song cycle to be sung by one gay male character. But when Terry Dobson — the musical maven at Theatre Three as well as an occasional director, actor and playwright there — heard it, he couldn’t get an idea out of his head: That the musical made more sense if it was performed not from one point of view, but from three.

“I read the reviews from when it came out, and many mentioned that it lacked theatricality,” Dobson says. And he knew how to make it more theatrical: Turn it into a love triangle between a bisexual man and his two lovers: a straight woman and a gay man. Call it Sunday Bloody Sunday (in the Park with George). The result promises to be one of the edgier queercentric productions of the fall.

Dobson employed an informal audition process, seeking out people he wanted to work with who would combine musically and emotionally in sync with his conception of the show. And in a weird instance of art imitating life, the cast of three includes two old friends and a newcomer, all of whom are gay.

Dobson jokes that several local actors who lobbied for the plum role of the bisexual will be gunning for Gary Floyd, but few would argue with the wisdom of his casting. Floyd was already a popular and admired singer and recording artist for decades before he tackled his first acting role in 2003’s Pump Boys and Dinettes, and he fast became a go-to guy for musical roles.

Floyd met Patty Breckenridge in 2006 in what became her breakout role in Aida at Uptown Players. The next fall, they teamed up again for City of Angels at the Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre, but this is the first onstage pairing since then for the close friends.

“It’s about time!” Floyd laughs.

“I kinda dropped out of theater for a while, just enjoying married life,” says Breckenridge, who married her wife Carrie Anne last year (the couple are currently expecting a baby in the spring). “But I was getting that itch to go back onstage. Then Terry called me and said, ‘I want to head in a different direction with this.’”

Breckenridge was onboard.

If there was an intimidation factor being odd-man out, Christopher Wagley doesn’t show it — or at least, he can use it to get into his character. Stepping into the chummy twosome has been easy for the newcomer to Dallas in his first show here.

Wagley spent 12 years in New York, acting and waiting tables early on (“I loved being an actor but hated being a waiter” he says), before moving to Dallas last year. Within a month, he was singing with the Turtle Creek Chorale’s Encore! group, which Dobson leads.

“There has been no issue at all,” Wagley says. “The fact we blend together so well musically is a byproduct of getting along together so well.”

Musically, they all related to the show, written by lyricist Mark Campbell with a score contributed by 18 different composers, including Jake Heggie, the gay musician who wrote the world premiere adaptation of Moby-Dick for the Dallas Opera this year.

“The lyrics are so universal, it could be a straight woman or a gay man or a bisexual,” Floyd says. Wagley agrees.

“The lyrics are so smart and absolutely universal, yet so incredibly specific to a gay man’s experience, whether it’s body issues or casual sex,” he says. Although Dobson had assigned all the songs to the cast, many tweaks have occurred during the rehearsal period.

“The other day, Terry asked me to sing one of the songs about not having a great body to myself [in a mirror] instead of to Gary — wow! It makes it so much more personal. We all have those moments.”

“I had heard of the musical from [my best friend, actor] Donald Fowler but hadn’t listened to any of the songs,” says Breckenridge. But she immediately became enchanted by it. “I have a couple of favorite songs. Everyone in the audience is going to relate to ‘Oh, To Be Stupid Again.’ I know I’ve been there. And ‘To Sing’ is why I became a performer.”

A lot happens in a quick one-hour show performed without intermission. “There are lots of poignant moments,” says Wagley.

None more poignant for the two old friends than one scene where Floyd has to simulate oral stimulation of Breckenridge.

“There’s no other woman in Dallas I would do that for!” Floyd avers.

“And there is no other man in town I’d do this with!” quips Breckenridge.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Flippin’ crazy

The ex is gone, but OCD real estate designer Jeff Lewis is not a ‘fun gay’

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

2.5 out of 5 stars
FLIPPING OUT
airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Bravo. Season 4 premiere Aug. 10.

……………………………..

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY | Jeff Lewis and his stable of largely incompetent assistants make you wonder why the unemployment rate isn’t even higher.

It’s ironic that the most fun gay reality program on Bravo is the one about a straight woman, but with the season finale of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List now in the books, our sluggish replacement is settling into her time slot.

“I used to be a fun gay,” Jeff Lewis, the OCD real estate speculator on Flipping Out, says in the season 4 debut. “Now I’m not a fun gay anymore.”
Ummm, I’ve watched this show for three years … when exactly was he ever a “fun gay”?

The Botoxed, demanding little martinet who drives his (admittedly) incompetent staff crazy with his nitpicking is an oddly compelling reality TV personality. His drama doesn’t seem manufactured — he really is a black hole of bad vibes.

The new season kicks off with some major changes. Gone from the series is Ryan, Jeff’s ex lover and long-time business partner, who last season apparently Google-pirated search engine results from Jeff, building his own company at his friend’s expense. The post-season reunion wrap-up last year was the most dramatic moment in the show’s history, and Ryan’s absence lingers like a ghost over all relationships gone sour.

But there’s still Zoila (the deadpan Latina maid) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus lookalike Jenni, Jeff’s Zen assistant, plus relative newcomer Jett, the hunky house assistant, and Sarah, his useless helper.

Jeff’s flat affect belies a droll sense of humor, but ultimately, as with most non-competition reality series, it’s a mystery as to why we should care at all about his life: The business is not all that interesting, his life no harder than mine and the season opener feels unfocused, even rote. What I’d give for a decent flip out this time.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens