WATCH: Joel Burns 1 year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech. It’s also Bullying Awareness Day in the city of Fort Worth. To mark the occasion, below is video of Burns speaking at the University of North Texas last week, reflecting on how the speech has changed his life.

—  John Wright

Gleeks on campus

At UNT, students unite for a diverse, inclusive show choir. And there’s no Sue Sylvester

TEENAGED DREAMS | UNT Glee Club’s 19-year-old members — RaShard Turley, Raena McEuin, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Gianna Millares (she’s 20), Lindsay Harris and Marissa Davis — were inspired by the hit Fox series to pursue their love of performing. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Thankfully, there are no slushies in the face for members of UNT Glee Club, an organization inspired by the smash-hit Fox TV show, Glee. There’s no Sue Sylvester, either. But there are plenty of similarities between the college club and their TV counterparts.

Founded in 2010 by Jose Coira, who recently graduated, the club arose as a direct result of the TV show.

“He was inspired to give students on campus an opportunity to shine like the stars they are,” says Kendall Butler, a 23-year-old dancer and current president of the club. “UNT Glee Club is compiled of talented performers who sing and dance.”

Unlike traditional collegiate glee clubs that focus on classical music, Butler says his group is inspired by and performs all types of music. Auditions for the 24-member show choir and 20-person dance team that comprise the club were so popular they had to turn away plenty of good talent.

“It’s very competitive and nerve-racking because you want them all to be in Glee, but it just doesn’t work out that way,” he says.
Comparisons to the show are easy because of the group’s diversity, according to Butler.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they follow us around and steal ideas for the actual show,” he says. “We get anything from the sweet Southern belle to the hard rocker, with only one thing in common: Music.”

And music is definitely one thing that the University of North Texas is known for. Having a talented glee club blossom on its campus is not a stretch of the imagination at all.

“We get all sorts of talented students that audition. From music majors to bio-chemistry majors, students come from all over campus and impress us with their voices and technical dancing skills,” Butler says. “Everyone we pick must be able to sing and dance. Most students can sing or dance, but we need our Gleeks to be well-rounded. Personality is also key — we want people who represent who we are.”

When asked if they were interested in commercial success similar to what the stars of the television series have enjoyed with their No. 1 CDs and iTunes downloads, the reactions of its members are somewhat surprising.

“Personally, I don’t feel like being world-famous or having record albums is what Glee is about,” says 19-year-old soprano Lindsay Harris, a psychology major. “Glee is about making friends, having fun and the enjoyment of being on stage and performing. Don’t get me wrong, I think seeing our glee club on a CD cover would be awesome, but our club is so much more than being famous.”

Alto and fellow psych major Jessica Ailene Rogers, 21, agrees.

“We have had our fair share of news coverage, as well as different people hire us to perform, but when it comes to ‘making it big,’ we just prefer to have fun and put on a great show for our friends, families and local fans.”

Butler believes a recording is definitely the direction the club would like to take eventually, but for now, everyone involved seems content to just explore their talents and have a good time. Most of all, UNT Glee is a place where students can be themselves, gay or straight, outgoing or reserved.

“It’s the club where friendships are born,” Butler says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Women’s History Month program at UNT

FROM STAFF REPORTS

In celebration of Women’s History Month at the University of North Texas, Megan Conway, professor of French at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, will discuss the life of Olympe de Gouges, an 18th century French playwright, political activist, abolitionist and feminist.

The program begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 in Room 225 of UNT’s Eagle Student Services Center, located across from the Willis Library between Avenues A and C (1147 Union Circle).

A question-and-answer session will follow.

The free lecture is sponsored by the UNT Department of History and is a part of UNT’s observance of Women’s History Month in March.

Conway’s presentation will highlight the feminist principles of de Gouges, who protested against the French government, organized clubs and parades, and wrote newspaper articles, plays, about 70 political pamphlets and a 500-page novel.

Conway is writing the first English-language biography of de Gouges, using information gathered from rare book libraries in the United States and France over the past 12 years.

De Gouges is best known for writing the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizenesses,” which acted as a counterpoint to the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.” The document includes her idea for a marriage contract, gender equality in marriage and the right to divorce.

De Gouges’ socially advanced ideas were not accepted by the government or many women, and she was beheaded by the guillotine in 1793 during France’s Reign of Terror.

For more information, contact the UNT Department of History at 940-565-2288. flagship of the UNT System.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Filmmaker Arthur Dong talks up gay documentaries at UNT

The University of North Texas gets in on the master class action. The college brings in gay filmmaker Arthur Dong to speak to five classes about working as a documentarian. He will also screen films during his stay.

His 1997 film License to Kill focused on anti-gay murders, which lends itself to the hot topic of bullying and its effects on the community. Dong questions mainstream media’s light approach to the resurging trend.

“I think reporters should be asking parents, administrators what their role was in shaping a particular bully,” he says. “It seems as though they are not being called to question their part. That shows mainstream media and society still has an acceptance of an anti-gay society.”

Dong will discuss his work with LGBT documentaries for the class “Lesbian, Gay and Queer Film,” taught by Dr. Harry M. Benshoff, who invited the filmmaker. Overall, his visit to the college will have him discussing techniques in creating documentaries to five classes in UNT’s Radio, Film and TV curriculum.

“I had a master class when I was in film class and it made me think ‘I could really do this,’” he says. “But I wasnt to talk to students about the production side and what to do when they get out of school. I want to express there should be a balance. Because there is no money in changing the world. You can get awards and pats on the back, but you also gotta feed yourself.”

He will screen four of his films over the two days including Forbidden City U.S.A., Hollywood Chinese, Coming Out Under Fire and Family Fundamentals.

— R.L.

Lyceum of UNT’s University Union, 1155 Union Circle, Denton. Oct. 18–19 at 7:30 p.m.  Free. 940-565-2537. UNT.edu.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas