Smith and von Wupperfeld outside Fair Park Music Hall, which has held a special place in both their hearts fro decades.
Paul von Wupperfeld and Andy Smith unite life, work and a passion for the arts
As active supporters of the lively arts, Paul von Wupperfeld and Andy Smith always enjoy a spicy plot and a little drama. (They’re gay, so that’s practically a given.) But even they couldn’t have predicted how this story would turn out.
In 2016, von Wupperfeld and Smith were named co-chairs of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ annual gala. Despite having a year to plan the event, they got crackin’ almost immediately. By January of this year, they’d nailed down the headliner for the Nov. 4 fundraising event at the Music Hall at Fair Park: Broadway mega-star Bernadette Peters. A huge get.
Hold your applause. This is where none other than Bette Midler forces a plot twist.
When Midler announced in September that she would leave the title role in the hit Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! early next year, Peters was tapped to take over for her, starting Jan. 20. That meant Peters had to drop out of the DSM Gala gig, leaving von Wupperfield and Smith scrambling for a high-profile replacement.
“Bernadette felt she needed to prepare for the role of Dolly Levi sooner,” says von Wupperfield in an email exchange while he and Smith were on a 12-day cruise across the Atlantic. “We were disappointed, but who could blame her for taking on such a great Broadway part?”
Certainly not this couple, longtime arts volunteers who, in addition to being a couple since 1990 (and married since 2004), also work together at Texas Instruments, where they are active in the company’s LGBT Pride Network. (TI recently scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.)
Goodbye, Bernadette, and hello to the new DSM Gala headliners: Tony-winning Broadway musical leading man Brian Stokes Mitchell and American Idol’s Katharine McPhee.
“If TI has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t get thrown off-course when something unexpected happens,” says Smith. “We now have two high-caliber entertainers as a result.”
Von Wupperfield credits his and Smith’s complementary personalities with how easily they deal with curve balls like the gala entertainer switch-up.
“Andy is much better at working through strategic plans,” says von Wupperfield, 51. “I’m better at executive tactical details. We have learned to disagree but not to take our differing ideas personally. Our closeness allows us to cut to the heart of the matter quickly.”
“We’re a team,” adds Smith, 50, “and I think a pretty good one. We just happened to both wind up at TI and it’s kind of cool that we get to share that part of our lives, too.” (Smith is executive director of the Texas Instruments Foundation and manages corporate giving. Von Wupperfield oversees the global translation management system. Both have been with TI for more than 20 years.)
They’ve also both been huge fans of Dallas Summer Musicals since they were knee-high to a chorus boy. “My first memories of musical theater — really, any theater — are at the DSM,” says von Wupperfield. “Seeing Richard Burton in a revival of Camelot [in 1980]. Such shows as Annie and A Chorus Line. We watched those shows through some antique mother-of pearl opera glasses that had belonged to some great aunts of mine. I was totally hooked!”
Smith’s 16th birthday present was to see Richard Harris in Camelot at DSM, he recalls. “I was in awe.”
This year’s DSM Gala features a sit-down dinner and silent auction, followed by the performances by McPhee and Mitchell. McPhee was runner-up on Season 5 of American Idol and went on to co-star on the Broadway-themed NBC series Smash. She’s currently in the cast of the drama series Scorpion. Her new album of jazz standards, I Fall in Love Too Easily, is set for release next month. Mitchell was awarded a Tony for his performance in the Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate, with nominations for his turns in Man of La Mancha, Ragtime and August Wilson’s King Hedley II. Last year he returned to Broadway to co-star with Audra McDonald in the new musical Shuffle Along.
Proceeds from the 2017 DSM Gala support the non-profit Dallas Summer Musicals and its education and community programs.
“The money we’re helping to raise will benefit the DSM’s big outreach program to students in Dallas, to expose them to theater, many for the first time, like I was,” says Smith. Remembering his trip to Camelot at 16, “I stood by the stage door after the performance and got Richard Harris’ autograph, which I have to this day. Seeing a Broadway production live onstage was a life-changing experience. It instilled in me a love of theater and the arts. There are thousands of kids like me who will see live theater for the first time thanks to DSM. We are very fortunate to have it as a cornerstone arts group in our city.”