Queer Voices

December 27th 2023 Queer Voices

December 27, 2023 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
December 27th 2023 Queer Voices
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Tony Award-winner Renee Elise Goldsberry graces us with the story of her theatrical journey, from Houston's bustling stages to the bright lights of Broadway, most notably as Angelica in "Hamilton." In an intimate conversation, Renee reveals the profound influence of the LGBTQ+ community on her and the theater world at large, and reminisces about her Houston upbringing that so deeply sowed the seeds of her passion for the arts. The cultural tapestry of the city, from its culinary to its artistic vibrancy, comes alive as we traverse her memories and look ahead to the exciting developments in Houston's theater scene.

Houston's local theater productions and their intersections with politics find a spotlight in this episode, as we wrap up a year that saw triumphs like "August: Osage County" and innovative twists on classics like "The Turn of the Screw." We don't just stop at the stage; the political stage takes center stage as well, with John Whitmire's mayoral victory and Mario Castillo's council election, underscoring the undeniable link between the arts and civic engagement. This segment peels back the curtain on the movers and shakers reshaping Houston's cultural and political landscape.

We bring our focus to the podcast platform, celebrating the evolution of Queer Voices from its radio origins to its current status as a beacon for diversity and discussion. Behind the scenes, Brian Levinca, Andrew Edmondson, and Deborah Moncrief Bell are the maestros crafting each episode's narrative, as we strive to amplify the stories that shape our community. Join us on this auditory adventure where we share advice, laughter, and the constant reminder that our shared experiences, whether on stage or in the voting booth, are what weave the rich fabric of our society.

Glenn Holt:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brett Cullum has a conversation with award-winning actress Renee Elise Goldberry. She will be performing a one-woman show for one night in Houston, january 20th, at the Hobby Center. Among other things, brett asked Renee why the theater seems to be so important to LGBT people.

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

Well, first of all, the theater community is what it is because of the LGBTQ plus community. Let's get it. Let's be straight about this we would not be great without the talent of that community of people and a huge, diverse community of people, and the stories they tell and the bravery in their decision to tell them honestly is the only reason why the theater is ever good.

Glenn Holt:

Then Brett Brian Levinca and Deborah Montcreef Bell wrap up the year that was and look forward to 2024, including what to look forward to in theater productions.

Brett Cullum:

In March, Alan Cumming and Patty Lepone, which both would just be amazing to see as well. So definitely keep your eyes on the Hobby Center for the Beyond Broadway series as well, and I think that Tuts has one of the most anticipated shows and coming up as well with the Sare Show.

Glenn Holt:

Queer Voices starts now.

Brett Cullum:

This is Brett Cullum, and today I am joined by Tony Award winning Broadway actress, television star Renee Elise Goldberry. She is a modern legend of the theater and she is coming to Houston for one night only to kick off a series called Beyond Broadway. She will sing alone and do some favorites on January 20th at the Hobby Center. We only have a short time with Renee, so let's get into it. What made you want to come to Houston to do a one woman show at the Hobby Center?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

I always want to come home. I'm from Houston, Texas. I've played there a couple of times. This will be my first time at the Hobby Center. I cannot wait. Oh well, great, You're from here.

Brett Cullum:

What do you love about Houston?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

I love that my family is there. I love that there are people. It's such a diversity. There are people from all over the place. I love the arts, the culture and, most importantly, I love the food. I love every single restaurant. I just love Houston. It's a million great memories and it's where I discovered my love for the theater.

Brett Cullum:

Where did you discover your love for the theater here?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

Houston International Theater School, hits I started going to. My mom sent my brother and I to theater school when I was eight years old. Just to get us out of the house in the summer because it's hot and we didn't want to do anything but watch television. She put us in a carpool to send us to HITS and I just fell in love with the theater. That love was nurtured in Houston with the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Symphony and the ensemble theater and just everywhere, every school play. It's just a wonderful place to fall in love with the arts and to grow as an artist.

Brett Cullum:

Well, you'd be happy to hear HITS is doing very well. They're still going strong, I know.

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

I was just there a couple of months visiting.

Brett Cullum:

You were made famous for creating the role of Intellica and Hamilton. When did you guys know? Was there a moment when all of you suddenly realized that this was going to be huge, that this was going to change theater?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

I knew when I first heard the demo of the song, Satisfied that my character Angelica Skyler sings. I heard Lin-Manuel Miranda on a demo that he probably made in his room, singing the song and rapping the song and my mind was blown. I had seen In the Heights, which was his first Broadway musical, so I was a huge fan of his work. I knew it would be great. I just didn't know that it could be that great, that anything could be that great. Most importantly, I was shocked that I was welcomed into the cast to play this character. Every piece of information that I got after just hearing that one demo continued to reaffirm what ended up being true and that it was truly a masterpiece. I believe the gift to the world and definitely a gift to all of us. They called the OBC the original Broadway cast. It definitely was a huge gift in our life and, most importantly, it continues to be a gift in the life of so many people I get to meet.

Brett Cullum:

Apart from Angelica, what was your favorite Broadway role that you thought?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

Oh, that's like cheating I know, Like choosing a favorite child. It's hard to say favorite. I loved being a part of the color purple. I loved being a part of the Lion King. I loved being a part of Good People. I've done some straight plays on Broadway. What I love most in terms of the musicals, probably just because of the role, is Mimi in Rent, just because one thing she's in the whole show. Some of the other characters I play are really great supporting roles and I don't have the weight of the whole performance. But Mimi, from start to finish, goes through a whole journey in that show. It really changed the lives of so many people. More young people come up to me and say that rent saved their lives than anything I've ever been a part of. It's so special, it's so important. It's a timepiece a bit because it's very much about that time in the 90s, but it's still life affirming and beautiful.

Brett Cullum:

I'm talking with Renee police Goldsbury and I wanted to go way back to where it all began. When I saw you first, you were in Allie McFeel as a singer for Vonda Shepard.

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

That's my girl, vonda Shepard. I know I was in my mid-20s I was like 25 or something like that. I was out of grad school. I was living in LA, I was trying to get a record deal. I wanted to be in Lilith's Fair. Do you remember Lilith's Fair? Are you old enough to remember? Of course, I wanted to be barefoot in some stadium with Natalie Merchant or something, singing my original songs with an acoustic guitar. In the meantime, while I was waiting for that to happen in my life, I got an audition for David E Kelly's new show called Allie McFeel. I was really grateful that they cast me. I got to sing back up for a lot of amazing people Definitely Vonda Shepard, but it was a who's who. Like Hamilton, it was a bit of a phenomenon in the 90s. All these superstars wanted to come guest on the show. I got to sing with Barry White, green, gladys Knight, rod Stewart the list is endless of people superstars that came and wanted to just be singing in that club. At the end of the episode we got to re-record masterpieces singing background with some of our great, great heroes. It was a really great gift to me to be a part of that show, one of the things I learned most from it was the value of keeping true to yourself when you become very famous. A lot of really, really talented, wonderful people became very famous on Allie McFeel. I was not one of them, but I learned a lot watching them navigate the pressure and the opportunity and it was really a gift to me.

Brett Cullum:

You've done a ton of television. I don't think that people know that as much because we associate you a lot of times as Tony Award winning Broadway actress, all of that. But you've done soaps, you've done series. Do you have a favorite project that you've done on television as opposed to stage?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

My current favorite project is Girls Five Ever. That's my love, that's my heart, heart, heart. It's my show that I'm doing right now with Sarah Bareilles, paula Pell and Busy Phillips. It's written by Meredith Skardino. Tina Fey is our executive producer. We were on Peacock for two seasons and now we're back season three on Netflix, so you'll be able to see all three seasons of Girls Five Ever on Netflix. This show is the funniest thing I've ever seen. Much less than a part of it is so funny it is so hard to even get the lines out sometimes. I'm just doing ADR for it yesterday and I couldn't even do my part because I was laughing at us. It's about a one-hit-wonder girl group from the 90s that decide 20 years later that they're back trying to figure out how to get famous again, and it's a hoot.

Brett Cullum:

Renee Elise Soldesbury. What do you prefer? Film stage, if you have a pick.

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

By asking me to cheat again against a child. What do I prefer? I love them all. I love them all. They all use similar gifts because I love storytelling, good storytelling. So they all use similar gifts, but they have slight differences in terms of the amount of people they can reach, in terms of the amount of time it takes to do them, sometimes in terms of the amount of money you'll be paid doing them. I would probably say, though, theater, just because it's what I first fell in love with, and you're right there, with an audience, there's just no space whatsoever between you and the people that are watching your show, and now that we can film theater, it can live longer. But then television and film is filming more. Theatrical performances. They're filming more. I sing and dance a lot on Girls 5, eva, so they're all merging. They're almost not that different anymore. I'm just grateful that I get to do them all.

Brett Cullum:

I'm talking to Renee Elise Soldesbury and we are talking all things theater and television. But I wanted to throw kind of a strange bonus question at you since we're on Queer Voices why do you think that theater appeals so much to the LGBTQIA plus community?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

Well, first of all, the theater community is what it is because of the LGBTQ plus community. Let's get it. Let's be straight about this we would not be great without the talent of that community of people and a huge, diverse community of people and the stories they tell and the bravery in their decision to tell them honestly is the only reason why the theater is ever good. Why, why does any marginalized group of people have the most important stories to tell? Why do they recognize truth in anybody's story, even if it's not their own? Why do we have that in common? I think it's because the root of who we are, the reason why we continue to exist, is our desperate need to be seen, known, understood, accepted and unconditionally loved by each other. I think that's what we do when we show up into those dark rooms and we get really honest about what upsets us, what inspires us. When we do that together and we create that family honestly, we are healing ourselves. So, gosh, that's the beginning of an answer. That's the beginning of an answer to that question. But there is the making of family in those spaces and there is the end of a feeling of being separate or different from each other in those faces.

Brett Cullum:

I think it works. Renee Elise Goldsbury. She's going to be in concert January 20th, 8 pm, hobby Center. Sarah Finkbult. It's part of the Broadway series that we're bringing in people just for one night, just solo. Is there a song that is a?

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

song. Yeah, that's it. Is there a song?

Brett Cullum:

There's a song You're looking forward to doing live that maybe we haven't heard you do before.

Renee Elise Goldsberry:

Oh, my goodness, I love them all. Gosh, you're killing me. What's my favorite song? Well, you know what I'm doing now. I mean, I sing songs from every genre in the show because we can and because we can be inspired by so many different kinds of music. I sing all of the songs from the Broadway shows I've starred in because I do want to make it out alive from the theater, and it's wonderful. It's such a gift to be able to tell the stories of those experiences you know to share. You know more than just the song but the background and the journey of my coming to that song. And also, I think what's new in what I'm doing in this concert is I'll encore with original music. I have an album coming out in a couple of months of original music and I'm playing some of that music now. If you cheer me back on stage, I'm playing it with my band now and it's been tremendously affirming and successful for me and I'm excited about sharing even more from my own most inner voice.

Glenn Holt:

That was Brett Cullum in conversation with Renee Elise Goldberry, who will be performing in a one woman show for one night here in Houston on January 20th at the Hobby Center.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

This radio program we Are Voices has existed since the 1970s. On KPFT we have this little crew of folks working every week to produce what's no longer unique because we're almost mainstream now, but we're still an important voice that might not otherwise get heard because it's not on that many places. So KPFT is very important to give voices to those who might not otherwise have voices. So, as Glenn always says, you participate by listening. You should also participate by supporting the station. So please go to kpfftorg and make your donation right away.

Bryan Hlavinka:

This is Brian Levinke, and today we're going to do the Year In Review, gay 2023. Deborah Moncreef Bell and Brett Cullum are joining me today. Welcome.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, welcome to you, Brian.

Brett Cullum:

Welcome to your own show.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

We've had quite a year.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Let's talk about it.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, we started off the year with Lily Roddy giving us an astrological forecast for 2023. And she's going to be with us again to talk about 2024. We can kind of check out just how accurate her view of the world according to the stars was. She's got 25 years of experience as an astrologer, so that should be an interesting show coming up.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And she's done that for several years on Queer Voices right.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, we kind of made it a tradition now, and then we've had Andrew has done a lot of work covering things going on at the museums, including some of the films that have been shown and the work of Queer artists.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I like to think of that as our arts and culture segments.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yes, well, we cover everything. I think the gamut of the political to you know what things community organizations are doing, as well as theater books.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And I think we now have a theater expert with this Brett.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yes, Brett's been a welcome addition to the show and I am really enjoying what he's brought to us because he has real insight, since he's an actor himself and a writer for Broadway world. So this this is a really good addition and gives us a little bit of an edge on how things get covered.

Brett Cullum:

And I wouldn't call me necessarily an expert. I think that I just go to way too many shows, and I think my husband would agree.

Bryan Hlavinka:

There's no such thing.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, Brian, and I will argue with you on that. There's no. I mean I can't go to all the ones I want to, that's for sure.

Brett Cullum:

I don't think anybody can go to all the ones they want to. I don't even think that I have achieved that status, but it helps reviewing them.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, I'm very envious of Joel Sandell and Deborah Hope for them doing their car takes where they review what are not review exactly, but they talk about what they've just seen and kind of highlight the various productions about town. And we have talked this past year about just what an exciting theater town Houston is.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So, Brett Brett, what has been your favorite production in Houston this year?

Brett Cullum:

Well, it's last year and I think that Deborah will agree with me was Augusto stage country and it was at the match theater and it was during the summer and, speaking of Joel and Deborah, deborah was in it, not Moncrete Bell.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, the other, deborah.

Brett Cullum:

Yes, the other famous Deborah.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And I told her. I said Meryl Streep has nothing on you because oh, I'm sorry, I dropped something, let's try that again. I told her that Meryl Streep has nothing on you because she rock that role.

Brett Cullum:

She was amazing.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yes.

Brett Cullum:

But the whole cast. It was just an embarrassment of riches and I think that, even if you stacked it up against the alley, it was produced by a company called Dirt Dogs Theater, which does all of their work at the match, and it's a husband and wife that's just producing team and they started off doing a lot of shows that were really kind of like almost male centered, I want to say, and Augusto stage country was County Augusto. Yes, yes, please correct me, but Augusto stage County was one of the shows that I just thought was amazingly well done, from the sets, to the lights, to the cast. It was just a stacked deck and I was so impressed with it. And Ron Jones, who is just kind of a theatrical legend here in town, directed it, so it was just amazing work.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And so what was your most unexpected production of the year? Brett, that's a good one.

Brett Cullum:

I was really surprised by the turn of the screw which was done rather recently here by catastrophic theater, simply because I went in sort of thinking we need this again. Turn of the screw it's been done forever, since the turn of the century in the 1800s when it was published, but they found a way to really bring it into the modern era and they combine cinematic expression, audio, live music, it, puppets. It was just insane. Again sort of an embarrassment of riches, of a lot of really wild design married with some really good, authentic acting, and again at the match theater, I believe. And it seems like these companies that are kind of doing work on the side and not in the traditional theater district are really doing some of the most exciting things, because I think that when you look at the shows in the theater district, they kind of play to what their strengths are the big glossy musicals or the big dramatic plays that they know are going to sell well, and these guys have just no fear. They go out there and do these wild experimental things. So it's interesting to see and I think catastrophic is always one of the ones.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I'm going to answer my own question and say that my favorite production of the year was not here in Houston, it was in New York, but it was by a Houston based producer, ty Blue, and that was Titanic.

Brett Cullum:

Oh my gosh yes.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Explain a little bit of what that plot is about.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So Titanic is the reimagining of Titanic, the movie, with Celine Dion being on board and experiencing the ship going down, and it's told through her songs and it is amazing.

Brett Cullum:

And it started in Los Angeles and it was just kind of one of these passion projects that Ty did and Ty was here in Houston for years and he went off to LA and I thought, what is he going to do? And then he produces this thing and it becomes a huge sensation in both LA, and New York City has all these amazing people in it. I think right now Frankie Grande and Willem Belli are both in the cast and it's just become bigger and bigger and bigger. I could not be more proud of Ty and I've done shows with Ty, but he's just hit his stride as a producer, which I thought was wild because he's always been a vocalist and an actor, so goes to show you and never know what they're going to come up with.

Bryan Hlavinka:

It is amazing You're in New York. You should go see it.

Brett Cullum:

But he needs to bring it here. We need a Houston production of Titanic. Maybe we'll get that next year.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

That's what I'm thinking. I'd really like to see that, but bring it here. So I think one of the most enjoyable experiences of this theater year was the Drag Wonderettes at stages and they really took on the whole issue of drag and formants with the Drag Wonderettes and with the legend of Georgia McBride. They had those two shows running and they were just such fun and very, very enjoyable. I've seen a lot of plays this year. You know. We've had the very serious like August, osage County, and we've had the always excellent productions at the alley. I think the one that I enjoyed the most was the and why am I blanking on the name of it Serving of Two Masters. That's what it was, with Chris Salazar really bringing it in the main role, but with the whole ensemble, just because they combined a plot line, a story, a play. But they brought in different aspects from the history of the alley, the performances of this year, their personal lives. It was just really, really fun and so I enjoyed that very much. Again at stages we had the 25th anniversary of Always Patsy Klein, which plays through the end of December.

Brett Cullum:

I believe it was the 35th 35th.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Oh gosh, it's hard to keep up, but yeah, I could see that every week. I think it's just such a wonderful production and, of course, a homegrown production with a work of Ted Sweeney Swinley I'm sorry, yeah, it's Swinley, and so I would say that's one of the things that I have enjoyed the most.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And I know that we could talk about theater for the rest of the show, but there's some other things that happened in Houston, namely, an election happened yeah.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And this past year, Brian, you talked with all the major candidates for mayor except Sheila Jackson Lee, and of course we know that John Whitmire was the winner in that race.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And, if you remember, he said that he would come back on if he won.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

All right Well let's hold him to that.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Yes, it's something to look forward to in 2024.

Brett Cullum:

We get to talk to the mayor, John Whitmire.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Yes.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

The second Whitmire to be mayor of the city of Houston, and then we were lucky enough to elect Mario Castillo for district H city council.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And why is that important, Deborah?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, mario is an activist and a leader in the queer community, but he also is very much a community activist and he believes in doing the work where you are, the importance of local politics and providing services to the people that live in your district. So it's important for a number of reasons, but for us to have a voice on city council, especially a city as large as Houston. Of course he was endorsed by the Houston GLBTQA. The LGBTQIA is the LGBTQIA plus political caucus, yeah, the caucus, but I like to call it us jib of tees or the A disease. But we have, for a number of years now, had queer representation in our city government and we mostly unfortunately we did not get Nick Helger, and the person that won against him is not someone that is a friend of our community, absolutely not, absolutely not. That's very unfortunate. We do have a good ally with John as mayor.

Brett Cullum:

Yes, and we have a good ally with the controller as well Chris Hollins. Definitely a supporter.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Definitely. Chris is wonderful and I'm very happy for him to have won that race.

Brett Cullum:

And such a young, vibrant politician that's going to have like a very long career.

Bryan Hlavinka:

He's going to be mayor one day.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Now, one of the people that you interviewed to be mayor was Amanda Edwards, and she dropped out of that race but then filed for Congressional District 18. And we now know that since Sheila Jackson Lee did not win as mayor, that she refiled for that race. So I'm just wondering if Amanda will stand a chance or if Sheila will hold her ground, because she's been unbeatable for many years now.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Like 30 plus years, something like that.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, so people may be, you know, be looking at. Do they want to keep her or do we want this other very positive young woman of color to take on that role? So that'll be something to watch. You know, someone I interviewed last January was Christina Wells, and anyone that knows me knows that I'm a big fan of she's. She's a local historian. What am I saying? Let's say that again. She's a local Houstonian who first came to prominence kind of doing some theater around town and but she was on America's Got Talent and that's really what exploded her career. And so she was in the 25th anniversary revival of Chicago and that played at the Hobby Center. So she was in the role of a matron, mama Morton, and rocked it, and so that was a real treat to get to talk to her. But she's been developing in her career and where I'm just kind of wondering what next we'll see from Christina, because she's just so amazing.

Bryan Hlavinka:

The sky is the limit.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, let's talk about pride a little bit.

Bryan Hlavinka:

What is going on with pride? We interviewed both the pride Houston 365 and the Houston's face and new faces of pride recently, but what can we say about this?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, houston Pride 365 has struggled for a number of years with maintaining enough people to have a functional organization and they had to recover from some monetary issues and some malfeasance, some bad actors within the organization and then getting hit with the whole COVID thing. I mean, when I look back on the interviews we've done, almost everybody has talked about something about COVID, how it had a negative impact or sometimes a positive impact because some people took the time out during COVID to be creative.

Brett Cullum:

Yeah, but for Pride and big festivals and things like that, I think it was a real hindrance because they really couldn't function very well and it was not in the best interest to bring the entire community together during that pandemic. So they really faced a unique challenge in a couple of years. I agree.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And then also we've had this brutal summer heat and that caused a lot of problems, especially in this most recent Pride, and they're having to readjust and rethink. But both Pride organizations the old and the new are making plans and doing things. They're doing things throughout the year, so it's not just the June events. I know that Houston Pride 365 is having a parade and festival event on June 29th and the new faces of Pride is going to be the week before, and I guess people will either decide whether they want to do either, or both or nothing.

Brett Cullum:

What's interesting to me is that I think both have announced other plans during the year. June is so hot and doing two festivals and two parades within a week of each other is going to be tough. You are going to either have to take a lot of sodium pills or choose one or the other, depending on how much you can handle the heat for two weeks in a row. And then I know that the new faces of Pride has been talking about doing some monthly events throughout the year so that you get a more even kind of Pride experience throughout the year. But we still focus on that June event and sometimes I wish we could move toward like Dallas, where they have it maybe a little later in the fall because of the heat. Houston it's hard, even with a nighttime parade. That country just holds that heat, no matter what you do and no matter who's organizing it.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I sure wish that one of the parades would move to October for coming out today.

Brett Cullum:

Yes, why can't we get around coming out today?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

I believe Houston Pride 365 is planning some kind of fall festival thing, so that that will be good, but it'll be interesting and it'll be. I just wonder if we will sustain it as a community to have both, or if one will fall away or just exactly what's going to take place. I'd like to see it as a positive, because both organizations raise funds and there are community groups that benefit from the exposure they get during Pride and with money that they can raise during that time. So it is an important part. And of course, we always feature the grand marshals on Queer Voices and we talked with all the major selections, including our very own, andrew Edmondson, who was honorary grand marshal.

Brett Cullum:

It's a big honor and definitely very well deserved, for as much as he's been a part of this show and the community for so many years.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And then the normal anomaly was named as honorary grand marshal as an organization, because they've just been done amazing work in the very short three or four years now and we've had Ian Hattuck as a guest several times and more recently Joel Esfute talking about the work that that organization does and that's really exciting. The normal anomaly specifically works with black, the black community, but they welcome anybody and that they've been doing this incredible festival, the black AF festival, and bringing in talent and it's another part of how we can celebrate throughout the year, and so that that's pretty exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing what, what comes next for that organization.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I'm very proud of the normal anomaly and even the work that Ian Hattuck is done. It's getting statewide recognition and they're kind of drawing around the state to these festivals and the work. So kudos to them.

Brett Cullum:

Well, they really represent a future of pride and doing things off cycle and doing things at an even more targeted community, which I think we need. Obviously, and that is the big question, can we support two major pride organizations? I think the Martin Luther King Day Parades we've had to in Houston for several years. Maybe it can work.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So now, deborah, what has been your favorite interview of the year?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, I have two, probably, that really stand out for me because they also were people who I am a fan of. One was with Alexandria Billings, who's a transgender actor and who first became well known in transparent but has done a lot of work since and wrote a memoir called this Time for Me, and she was just so giving and generous in her interview and that was a real treat and I highly recommend that book. It's a good read. And then the other one is Charles Bush, which has been someone who I have followed ever since vampire lesbians of Sodom and have really enjoyed his work, and he wrote a memoir along a weighted memoir, because he's had quite an interesting life and it's called a leading lady.

Brett Cullum:

His book is called a memoir of a most unusual boy.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Right, okay. Leading lady, a memoir of a most unusual and that title comes in part because he often plays female roles, and it's not the same thing like he's doing drag. He's in drag, but it's not. That's not the point. He really is what other wise would be known as an actress, and in fact he has a new play coming out, if sings ghost. I think it's going to be in March in New York, brian, if you are able to plan a trip then. And he just has such a large body of work 25 plays at least, including the Allergist's wife, which was a Tony nominated play and he too was just so charming and giving, and so I did really get a kick out of being able to talk to him. Now, leigh, you had an interesting interview with someone very dear to you, and that's with Arlie Ingalls.

Brett Cullum:

Yeah, no, for the sake of my marriage I would have to say one of my favorite interviews, my husband Arlie Ingalls, who wrote a book and it came out. It was the Prairie has a Rainbow. It was the second book for him. But I would also have to give an honorable mention to Sandra Bernhardt, who was the wildest interview I've ever done. I had no idea what was going to come out of her mouth from second to second. I had to throw away my questions and just roll with her.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, I don't think that. I mean she really carried the interview. But that's something that we like is when someone can just say the best interviews, I think, are the ones where I don't have to ask the questions.

Brett Cullum:

You definitely did not have to ask anything of Sandra. She absolutely went where she wanted to. She talked to politics. It's a really interesting interview from that standpoint because she really came here to Texas, and just came here to Texas alone this past year, to talk about specifically our politics the Greg Abbots of the world, the Ted Cruises of the world and it was wild, she skewered them.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Indeed.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And speaking of books, we had another local author wrote a book. Jd Doyle featured on Queer Voices from Time to Time and his book was called 1981, a Queer, or let me get this right.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

An American road trip, something like that.

Bryan Hlavinka:

My gay American road trip, that's right.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Gay American road trip and he talks about this journey he took through the country, and it was the pre-AIDS epidemic, and so his perspective on life at that time is very different than some of the books that we've had since that time. So what did you get from JD's book? You got to interviewing him about it. On Queer Voices.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Well, I think it's a very rare look at a time when everything was free and people were living their lives and not worrying about dying from an encounter. So it was like the last glimpse into that lifestyle before everything kind of came crashing down.

Brett Cullum:

What I appreciated about JD's book is it really is a piece of art as well as a novel or a story. He puts so many images into the work and it's glossy and it's pretty and it's one of those things that you could just have on your coffee table and thumb through at times. And I love that he listed out all the songs that he mentioned and things like that. It's a wonderful book from that year, 1981.

Bryan Hlavinka:

It really absolutely feels like he would love to hear that you said that you enjoyed the photos and all the look of the book, because he put a lot of effort into that.

Brett Cullum:

Well, that's what the book was for me. I mean absolutely. It was the most stunning looking book I've seen of the year.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Okay, deborah. What other interviews do we have that were highlights of the year?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, let's just give a shout out to JD again, because if anyone has never gone to queer music heritage and listened to some of the queer artists that he's featured, interviewed, that he played on the radio and that he's documented in the archives known as queer music heritage, and then his other work that he's done with LGBTQA plus history in Houston and with the Texas obituary project, which tries to give more of the story of people who have passed, particularly of AIDS, and sometimes at the time of their death it wasn't acknowledged that that was the reason that they passed and there was such shame and stigma attached to it. So that's been an important aspect of the work that he's done as a queer historian.

Bryan Hlavinka:

There are many stories of people that have found deceased friends and relatives that they didn't know why, that they found through the obituary project and it was closing of the full circle for them to close the loop.

Brett Cullum:

It's just devastating for me to see all of that and to see the way that it was worded, to actually see the documents from that time period and those original obituaries, because, like Deborah said, sometimes there was such shame around it and it's just amazing to look at that as history. Just like his book, that project documents a very dark period of time that should be memorialized and I think it's important.

Bryan Hlavinka:

He's doing the work of many men, so we should give him kudos and support.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And we do so, Brian. What was your favorite interview?

Bryan Hlavinka:

I think mine were the mayoral interviews, where we interviewed the different candidates from mayor and this was very early on before they kind of had the front runner, so everyone was kind of excited and kind of looking forward to the race. So it was a very interesting time so I enjoyed those the most.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And certainly one of the things that's going to happen in 2024 are the presidential elections, so and other races, that we have to constantly be vigilant and pay attention to who's running and what they're bringing and whether we can support them or not, and then to be able to be involved in getting the right folks selected. And certainly that's the work the caucus does among other groups. I just think it's just very important that we keep up with what's going on.

Brett Cullum:

Absolutely, it's going to be a really tense year, I think, going into 2024 and that election. I'll be very curious to see how it all pans out. I mean, of course, it's still early and we haven't seen exactly how the race is going to go, but wow early in the case it's going to be interesting.

Bryan Hlavinka:

On a lighter note.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

It will be interesting.

Bryan Hlavinka:

On a lighter note, can we talk about upcoming theater productions for 2024?

Brett Cullum:

I've got you covered there for sure. If you're planning on seeing Tina Turner, good luck. The Broadway Across America opens up in January and it's pretty much sold out. I'm seeing very few tickets available. But if you can get it, get tickets and definitely see that one, because it's going to be a big one and we've got one of my interviews coming up. One of the cast members, gigi Lewis, is actually from Houston, so she'll be in it, so that'll be a great deal. She grew up around Greenspoint. That'll be interesting.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

And when will that be?

Brett Cullum:

That's very early. That's the first part of the year. January 2nd is when it happens, so we really get going strong. And Renee Elise Goldsbury, who I also interviewed, is going to do a one woman show on January 20th. It's part of the Beyond Broadway series which is new for the Hobby Center, and they're bringing in Renee because obviously she originated the role Angelica and Hamilton, but she's also done things like Dream Girls and she's done Rent and she's done all of these amazing things on television. So she's got this whole repertoire she can present, which is going to be followed by in March, alan Cumming and Patty Lepone, which both would just be amazing to see as well. So definitely keep your eyes on the Hobby Center for the Beyond Broadway series as well. And I think that Tuts has one of the most anticipated shows and coming up as well with the Cher Show which is going to be in April and that'll be very interesting, I'm sure, for our consumers.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I saw that in New York. It's amazing.

Brett Cullum:

What did you think of it in New York?

Bryan Hlavinka:

I loved it. I love the costumes. I love the performances. They had Stephanie J Block who blew it away. I don't know who we'll get, but she was amazing.

Brett Cullum:

I'm sure whoever we get will be amazing because those tours are always so well produced, but it definitely will be interesting. You know, deborah and I were talking about Augustos, age County last year, where Dirt Dogs is going to be doing the Pillow man next year.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I love that show.

Brett Cullum:

Exactly Get ready in March. I know Deborah is not as much of a fan.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Well, I am and I'm not. I was very intrigued by it and I had an interesting experience when I saw it at the alley many, many years ago. So it'll be interesting to see how they do it at Dirt Dogs, and I just think people should be prepared. Now, one of the things that I found out was that when it was originally done, david Tennant played in it.

Brett Cullum:

Yes, Dr Hustar himself.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, who's? You know, one of the most amazing actors. I think currently that we have and love everything that he does. If you saw a Good Omens, I can't.

Brett Cullum:

I can't recommend it enough, so also in April, just in time for 420, the match theater is going to save you reefer madness. It's from the Garden Theater, actually, and Chris Patton, who is a big voiceover artist and celebrity, he does a lot of acting here in. Houston and directing. This is kind of his return to directing in Houston. He's been in LA for a long time but he's going to head up the show and it's reefer madness. It's going to be just incredibly fun. I'm sure they're going to have some special shows on April 20th, because the obvious reference of that Wink wink, yeah, nudge, nudge. But even if you are completely on the straight and narrow path, you'll enjoy it, because it's just a funny show. It's just really funny.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Can you give a little synopsis of reefer madness?

Brett Cullum:

Sure, well, reefer madness was originally an old film, kind of that Hollywood put out to show the dangers of marijuana usage and things like that, and it was very comical. Unintentionally, it was one of those campy things that it was meant to scare kids, but it probably enticed them more just because it was so funny. But the musical is actually taking that kind of warning, cautionary film and tale and making it just bigger and wilder and with, obviously, production numbers, and Jesus is actually in it, he's a character. I mean. All of these different things happen. It's very South Park.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, the original film was from 1938. And I saw that version with the new version of it, kind of back to back, and both are really well done, james Forrest. The first one, as you say, it's not intended to be humorous, but it is hilarious, just totally so funny. And then the takeoff that they did on it, oh gosh, when was that? The early 90s?

Brett Cullum:

That was actually the musical Diver. That was actually what. That was the one that they did redesign. That's what they're going to be doing at the match, so it's going to be kind of replicating that exact project.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, it was. There was a 1992 stage adaptation and then it was put out in 2005. And speaking of Alan Cumming, he's in that with Christian Bell and some other folks.

Brett Cullum:

Yeah, we all go full circle.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, yeah, so that should be really fun. I hadn't seen that yet, that that was going to be something coming up. What else is in store for 2024?

Brett Cullum:

There's a lot, but one of the things that I'm excited about, sasha Colby, winner of RuPaul's Drag Race from this past season 15, is gonna be the House of Blues on March 14th, so I'm definitely going to that, and she has promised that she's going to book local Queens as well, that they submit videos to Sasha through her website and then they get a chance to be on the stage with her and get a little bit of exposure and maybe some free drink tickets along the way. But I should be an interesting show and of course, she was the first woman to win that in regular season of Drag Race, so I'm excited to see her she was talented.

Bryan Hlavinka:

She deserved it.

Brett Cullum:

Oh, she blew everybody away.

Bryan Hlavinka:

It felt like Sasha Colby versus the world exactly so any other notable theater events coming up in 2024.

Brett Cullum:

I'm excited to see the alley do dial M for murder. We were talking about reefer madness being a movie or HBO show before, but dial in for murder Obviously classic Hollywood movie and thriller. They're going to bring it to the stage in May and that's going to be the alley Definitely doing that. There's ensemble theater is going to do a show in May as well, called on Midnight Friday the 13th, which I'm very curious to see exactly how that one works and how great that's going to be. So that'll be a good horse spoof for everybody. So go ahead. Probably the biggest comes out in August, right after pride funny girl Broadway across America. I know, brian, you probably saw the revival in New York, but I saw it in New York but I didn't.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I didn't see was Sutton Foster. She had COVID at the time but I saw with Hugh Jackman was in it.

Brett Cullum:

Yeah, great opportunity. Well, they're finally coming with the touring production in August, so that'll kind of be a big one to look at for Broadway across America.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Okay, in the last few minutes of this interview well, I just want to say that most of the theaters around town have a Queer night. We have act out at the alley that outsmart sponsors. And then there's an outfit tuts.

Brett Cullum:

There's even a pride night at Main Street theater. Every production that they do, they do a pride night as well, although, let's be honest, I do feel maybe LGBT I a plus.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I think it's all theaters gay.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Yeah, that's one thing. We all can agree on that. As far as when it comes to theater, that and it's not just a musical theater Although I do love the musical and we we did have a musical at the alley called cowboy Bob. That was a gender bender based on a True story of a woman who dressed up as a cowboy and robbed banks and in their Telling of the tell was really interesting, but there were some good songs that came out of that.

Brett Cullum:

I think I'm hoping to see that Be produced elsewhere in the country, but it was like it's reworked, though I think that it is a more interesting story than it was a stage adaptation and I think, if you read the original Texas monthly article about cowboy Bob, so fascinating and I don't think that they hit the right notes with the narrative of that one, although, like you said, the songs were amazing. But if you're a musical fan tick, tick, boom on the verge theater which Ron Jones, again we come full circle. He directed Augusto sage country. He's gonna do tick tick boom in February and Did it again.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Brad, you call I know sage country.

Brett Cullum:

Osage County. It's a common mistake that I do all the time with that play. For some reason, I want to call it something that it's not, but it is a.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So I wanted to wrap up with the 2024 predictions. Deborah, what is your prediction for 2024?

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

It's going to be quite a year. What can I say? I mean, I have no crystal ball and and I don't have at least talent for astrology. I just I just what I want to see. You know, there's what I want to see and I want to see our community be strong, to be more cohesive, to work in the spirit of community for the betterment of that community and for our city and for our state and for our country. So that's where I'm coming from. I'm looking forward to many more wonderful interviews on queer voices, hearing Brett cover the theater scene and you know I also wanted to mention, as we do this, that we did have the voices of Aaron Coleman, tiffany skills, wendy Taylor and Joel Tatum work with us this year and I'm hoping some of those folks will come back and do some more features. But it's important for people to know that there is queer radio in Houston has been for over 50 years thanks to KPFT and we want to hear other voices, we want to hear the diversity of community, we want other people to step in and say yes, I would like to be part of creating queer radio in Houston.

Bryan Hlavinka:

We need more careers on the radio.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

So contact me at debora, at queer voices org. And I'll be glad to talk to you about how you can become part of our collective. And I want to thank all the folks that did take part, such as Aaron Coleman, andrew Edmondson, wendy Joels, tiffany, brian and especially Glenn, as well as our wonderful Brett, because queer voices, that's just. It is the voices of all of us.

Brett Cullum:

We're as kind of hold that you hear at the beginning of the episode. It's in on a lot of our bros. Is our sound engineer just an amazing, almost Genius person when it comes to editing?

Bryan Hlavinka:

he does put a lot of work into that and we have very much appreciate him. So, brett, what is your prediction for 2024?

Brett Cullum:

Well, there's not too much to have to predict, is there? We're gonna have an election, we're gonna have two prides. We're gonna see how both of those go. I hope that for us here at queer voices, we get to hear a lot more from the community. If I had one goal for this show, it's to get some of our local people on here to tell their stories. I think it's fascinating to hear how each of us kind of have a story that contributes to the fabric of the Houston LGBTQIA plus community and it's awesome to hear all these interviews that you guys do and realize how much we have an, even in our own backyard, of people that are talented, like you mentioned, brian, earlier, somebody like a Thai blue that goes out and it's part of our community and gets big and other cities as well.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Absolutely Well. 2023 was an exciting year. I think 2024 will be even more exciting, so stay tuned to square voices.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Is that your prediction? Yes that 2024 will be an even more exciting year.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I do, I predict that.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

We'll look back on this in a year and and see if you were right.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Very good spoiler alert.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

He's right, I know he is.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Well, thank you Deborah Moncree fell for coming on and Brett Cullum for making this a wonderful show and making queer voices Reality every week here in Houston and on podcasts around the world.

Deborah Moncrief Bell:

Anyone that didn't hear any of our programs can go back and hear them as podcasts. So if you want to know what happened in 2023, there's a way to do it.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Thank you, and this is queer voices.

Glenn Holt:

This is Glenn from queer voices. Have you ever thought about getting into podcasting? Maybe you're already active in the LGBTQ community and you'd like to make your voice heard. We at queer voices are actively looking for volunteers to find and interview Community members for this podcast. You don't need any radio experience, just a desire to make a difference, or maybe you have something to say. Maybe you want to speak Editorially. Whatever your skills and connections, we need more help putting this show together. Every week. Just contact show host Brian Levinca through our queer voices org website and say you want to get involved. Hopefully our listeners will soon be hearing your voice on queer voices. That's queer voices, the worldwide podcast, and queer voices, the radio show, fridays at noon on KPFT Houston. This has been queer voices, which is now a home produced podcast and available from several Podcasting sources. Check our web page queer voices org for more information. Queer voices executive producer is Brian Levinca. Andrew Edmondson and Deborah Moncrief Bell are frequent contributors. The news wrap segment is part of another podcast called this way out, which is produced in Los Angeles. Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the Organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining products for queer voices I'm Glenn Holt.

Theater and Houston With Renee Elise
Renee Elise Goldberry in Concert
Houston Theater and Local Politics
Pride Organizations and Future Plans
Interview Highlights and Upcoming Theater Productions
Theater Events and Predictions for 2024
Introduction to Queer Voices Podcast