Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Fowler

Arts and Culture Reporter

Nancy Fowler is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, with a particular delight in the stories of people working in that intersection.

She received a regional Emmy Award for news writing at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and the Pride St. Louis' Felton T. Day Award for service to St. Louis' LGBT community. Her numerous fellowships include USC Annenberg’s NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater, and the Wake Forest University Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

Email her: NFowler@STLPublicRadio.org

Follow her on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: David Robertson’s "red phone" isn’t red at all. A black cell phone handles all urgent communications between St. Louis Symphony Orchestra music director and his family. 

During our interview, his wife, internationally acclaimed pianist Orli Shaham, rings Robertson from New York.

“Hang on, this is home. It might be important,” Robertson says.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Remember in the 1960s when being married was a woman’s holy grail, often achieved through incessant performances of just the right “bend and snap?”

Oh, wait, that was the 21st-century musical “Legally Blonde.”

Once upon a time, there was a world where the color pink peacefully coexisted with the ability to fix toys with motors.

In Wesley Middleton’s play in progress called “Unsorted,” characters Sweater, Slacks and Swimsuit dance happily together. But when Jacket demands the “clothings” be divided into Zums and Zing Zings, they become confused, and worry about which pieces of themselves they’ll have to cut off.

Will Copeland, at left, with his brothers at age 3 and, at right, age 4.
Provided by the Copeland family

The last time transgender teen William Copeland wore a dress was to his aunt’s commitment ceremony. The 5-year-old caved to parental pressure but on his terms: no bow in the back and only for the vows, not the reception.

“Big mistake! Huge mistake!,” his mother Laurie Copeland winces. “Why did he need to wear a dress to a lesbian wedding? They wouldn’t have cared if he’d worn a tux.”

Despite any early missteps, if you could special-order a family for a transgender child, it would be the Copelands of Creve Coeur.

Dieta Pepsi, aka Leon Braxton, leads a conga line up North Grand Boulevard.
2013 File Photo | St. Louis Beacon

If you’re thirsty for a tall serving of sassy drag queen, Dieta Pepsi hits the spot.

For nearly three decades, Dieta’s performed all over St. Louis, raising many thousands of dollars for local causes. Whether Dieta — aka Leon Braxton — is calling out bingo numbers or trivia questions, her unmistakable deep laugh and glamorously attired six-foot-three presence are ubiquitous in the St. Louis LGBT scene.

Kelly Hamilton
2013 File Photo | St. Louis Beacon

When Kelly Hamilton was 5, he stole his little brother’s tighty whities. He hid his bathing suit top, swearing it was lost when it was really stuffed in a drawer.

Once, in their shared bed, he was surprised to hear his older sister say, “You know the doctors can turn you into a boy now.”

Hamilton, a transgender man, doesn’t ever remember telling his sister he wanted to be a boy. Sometimes family just knows. But in 1980s Dallas, Texas, parents weren’t exactly embracing gender variance.

Lindsay Toler
2013 File Photo | St. Louis Beacon

Twenty-six-year-old Lindsay Toler of Tower Grove calls herself queer.

The Mizzou alum and journalist embraces this label even though she’s in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a man, and presents as the proverbial “girl next door.”

“I was a debutante growing up, I was in a sorority in college; I’m really blonde, really white — I’ve got a lot of privilege,” Toler says. “But you don’t have to be ‘other’ to be queer — everybody gets to be queer.”

Wait, what?

Birago, 7, Ajani, 9, and Jumi,12, sit on the couch with parent Cbabi and Reine Bayoc behind them.
Nancy Fowler | file photo

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - Every day, St. Louis artist Cbabi Bayoc spends eight hours painting fathers and 24 hours being one.

He and his wife Reine Bayoc have three children: Jurni, 12, Ajani, 9, and Birago, 7. As Thanksgiving draws near, the family is thankful for each other and for many aspects of the “365 Days with Dad” project.

"Y'aba" by Yvonne Osei, Portfolio's "Skin Stories" exhibit
Provided by the gallery

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Art can change lives. For example, “365 Days with Dad” Artist Cbabi Bayoc hopes that when people view his positive images of African-American fathers, they’ll fold those perceptions into their belief systems. 

But you can’t be changed by what isn’t there. For many years, African-American art was absent or spotty in many collections.

A series of performances at Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts will blur the lines separating art, theater and social work to break down barriers among people and communities.

Courtesy of the Pulitzer

 

Emily Piro, case manager at St. Patrick Center, works with "Staging Reflections of the Buddha."

A series of performances at Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts will blur the lines separating art, theater and social work to break down barriers among people and communities.

Courtesy of the Pulitzer

 

Emily Piro, case manager at St. Patrick Center, works with "Staging Reflections of the Buddha."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 16, 2012 - Get seven openings for the price of one -- although all are free -- at the Sheldon Friday night.

In its Bellwether gallery, the Sheldon presents "Liquid Terrain: 20 Years of Works on Paper by Eva Lundsager," exploring the worlds between landscape and abstraction. In the gallery of photography, "Edge of Darkness: Photographs by Steve Giovinco and Tim Simmons" examines the very moment at which light disappears.

In “Briefs: A Festival of Short Lesbian and Gay Plays,” the list of local theater celebrities is anything but brief. 

The Feb. 24-26 weekend festival includes such veteran and award-winning directors as Edward Coffield, Annamaria Pileggi and Ed Reggi, and actors Donna Weinsting, Troy Turnipseed and Ken Haller. Even burlesque performer Lola Van Ella gets into the act. 

Where: La Perla (312 N. 8th Street), 63101

Actors in David Mamet’s “Race” aren’t the only ones talking about race at the Rep this month. This Monday, the Rep hosts a free, one-night event using theater scenes to spark discussion about the issue.

An upcoming performance at the Edison is kind of like two shows in one, featuring a sketch comedy team that also sings.

The New York-based Water Coolers bring their songs and satire to the Edison for one Saturday night show. The group was created by husband-and-wife duo Thomas Michael Allen, co-creator of Off-Broadway’s “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” and Sally Allen, a corporate trainer. The Water Coolers initially played to audiences at professional conferences but quickly found their niche Off-Broadway and on tour.

An upcoming performance at the Edison is kind of like two shows in one, featuring a sketch comedy team that also sings.

The New York-based Water Coolers bring their songs and satire to the Edison for one Saturday night show. The group was created by husband-and-wife duo Thomas Michael Allen, co-creator of Off-Broadway’s “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” and Sally Allen, a corporate trainer. The Water Coolers initially played to audiences at professional conferences but quickly found their niche Off-Broadway and on tour.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 13, 2012 - Avalon Theatre and R-S Theatrics (formerly Soundstage Productions) are bringing down their Crestwood Court curtains with a pair of plays about love and cars.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 13, 2012 - What do you do with a treasure trove of huge photographs, many over five feet long, and one wider than 10 feet? When you're curator Eric Lutz of the St. Louis Art Museum, you comb the world for more and create "An Orchestrated Vision: The Theater of Contemporary Photography," opening Feb. 19.

Several years of thought went into Lutz's vision for hanging the museum's collection on a theatrical hook, using themes of built environments and the conflation of fact and fiction.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 12, 2012 - Exactly 40 years after the first building of St. Louis' Pruitt-Igoe housing projects was demolished, a group of designers, historians and other professionals is pulling together ideas about how to use the 57 acres where the failed development once stood.

What's a 'Cavalia?'

Feb 10, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 10, 2012 - You may have seen the billboards. Or if you've recently driven downtown, you may have noticed the 110-foot-tall, oddly-shaped white tent now going up near Busch Stadium. It's all part of "Cavalia" -- a name inspired by "caballo" and "cheval," the Spanish and French words for "horse" -- opening March 21.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 10, 2012 - If it's February in St. Louis, you know what that means: Get the good times rolling with Mardis Gras parties.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 8, 2012 - When we picture ourselves coping with disaster, we often imagine running to the basement where we've ideally stashed our canned food, bottled water and hand-crank radio.

But even if you're prepared at home, there's a good chance you might not be there when disaster strikes. Adding up car time and hours at work, places of worship and in numerous other activities, it's common to be away for half the day or more.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 8, 2012 - Whether you're bitter or bitten by the love bug this Valentine's Day season, there's an arts event in anticipation of the day to suit your mood.

"Love Gone Wrong, Songs of Love Amuck," presented Thursday by the faculty of Webster University's music department, pays tribute to broken hearts. Its unconventional message is delivered through such tunes as "I Attempt from Love's Sickness to Fly" by Purcell.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 6, 2012 - In a local take on "The Tempest," Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will present "The New World" April 27-29 in its first-ever Shakespeare in the Streets production.

For time immemorial, theatrical renderings of adolescent angst have revolved around typical themes of boy-meets-girl, or occasionally, boy-meets-boy or girl-meets-girl.

But boy-meets-horse? Though the premise is a rarity, the play’s not exactly new. “Equus,” first produced in 1973 and presented by St. Louis’ HotCity Theatre Sept. 10-25, tells the story of 17-year-old Alan Strang (Drew Pannebecker) and his sexual and religious preoccupation with horses.

Almost everyone knows of renowned author Samuel Clemens -- especially here in Missouri, where we're proud to call Hannibal his home.

But the life of the man whose pen name was Mark Twain is far from an open book.

For example, few people realize that a chance meeting in his early 20s with a young girl may have sparked and sustained his writing career and provided the inspiration for the character of Becky Thatcher in his most famous novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

For four years -- more than twice as long as an elephant's gestation period -- Karen Brody labored over her play about the ultimate conclusion of pregnancy. Then, "Birth" was born.

 

Newly engaged artist Arthur should be walking on air. But as a fetishist who's missing his favorite footwear, he's in a quandary.

So begins "Psychopathia Sexualis," a comedy revolving around an anxious soon-to-be groom, his wealthy socialite fiancee and his father's argyle socks.

Only within proximity to the socks is Arthur able to make love. However, in an unorthodox therapeutic move, his psychiatrist snares the potent pair.

Waiters whizzing by on skates was exactly what a scene from “Footloose” needed in the Stages St. Louis 2005 production, thought choreographer Dana Lewis.

In rehearsal after rehearsal, the performers rocked and literally rolled all over the stage without a hitch.

But during a technical rehearsal just prior to opening night, a bad fall left actor Zoe Vonder Haar with a broken arm, and put the kibosh on the skating idea. Theater-goers never knew what they’d missed.

Matt and Tom Smith
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

In high school, Matthew Smith busied himself designing websites, taking photos and making pottery. His younger brother, Tom, played trombone in the school jazz band, worked on his Eagle Scout badge and concentrated on honors classes in math, physics and geometry.

Like most teenagers preoccupied with their own pursuits, they didn't really notice anything unusual about their dad. But their friends did.

"They'd say, 'Your dad doesn't have any hair on his legs. Your dad's hair is really long'," said Matthew, 23.

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