Houston’s very own Teresa Zimmermann talks to About Magazine about starring in the titular role of Violet at the Queensbury Theatre, life as a professional actress, her role in The Anthony Project, and her love of the LGBTQ community.
(HOUSTON) – If you’re an avid theatre-goer or at least an enthusiastic karaoke-er, you’ve probably seen her face around Houston a time or two. But even if you haven’t, you’ve certainly heard her voice, whether it be at Guava Lamp, Stages Repertory Theatre, and now in Violet, where she stars as the titular lead, which opened just last night at the Queensbury Theatre. Her name is Teresa Zimmermann; that’s Teresa with no H and Zimmermann with two Ms and two Ns. She’s the host of Sunday Karaoke — affectionally referred to by its regulars as Theatre Karaoke — at Guava Lamp on Waugh from 8 PM to midnight, and has been acting in the theatre scene of Houston for years.
But Zimmermann wasn’t always so sure that the stage was her calling, in spite of the fact that she grew up in a strong performance family. For a long time, Teresa was convinced she’d go to beauty school and learn the ins-and-outs of hair and makeup. But her life took her down a different road to Sam Houston State University, where she graduated with a degree in musical theatre, and eventually led her to live performances everywhere from here on the land in Texas to in the sea as a cruise ship singer. Now, as previously mentioned, she stars as Violet in new Queensbury Theatre’s production of the Broadway sensation of the same name. And before About Magazine goes to see the show tonight, we got a chance to talk to Teresa about her life, her career, the show, and what we can expect coming up.
Anthony Ramirez: If you could sum up who Teresa Zimmermann is in three words, what would those words be?
Teresa Zimmermann: Driven. Focused. Passionate.
You are a full-time artist/performer/voice coach. Tell us what a normal day in your life is like?
I wake up, sleepily kiss my boyfriend goodbye as he goes to work, then I guiltily lay in bed for a little while longer. If I have something on the schedule, I’ll make a little bit of breakfast, sit down at the kitchen table and go over what I need to for the week — that is, until my cats start to lay all over my materials … and me. Lately, it’s been the script for Violet. Soon, it’ll be some new music I’m learning for gigs with the band, Danny Ray, and the Acoustic Production. Sometimes, it’s music for my students at Vivaldi Music Academy. When I’m rehearsing for a show, my days are much busier. But there are times when I’m not rehearsing or performing anything, and those days are filled with everyday to-do’s like watching Real Housewives, taking care of the apartment, planning dinner, socializing, going to the theatre, exercise, or more work-related things like preparing for an audition, researching repertoire, or reading plays. It’s not so much that my days are always full, but my week has a lot of varied work, whether it’s hosting karaoke, teaching voice, rehearsing, or performing, or even house-sitting. My goals are to prioritize and streamline my workload, prevent burnout, and only do work that involves my passion … in other words, find and/or keep the side gigs that I love, while maintaining a career in the theatre. I consider myself very, very lucky, and I’m so grateful that I am able to do that!
How did you find your way to the auditions for Violet? And can you tell people who may not be familiar with the show a little more about it?
I first saw that Violet was part of Queensbury’s 2018-2019 season on social media, and I was ecstatic. I love the show and the music, so I stayed vigilant watching for audition postings online and checking their website daily. Knowing I had a block of time between the closing of The Great American Trailer Park Musical and my next show also helped motivate me to really go for the part. So not only did I want this show, I felt like I needed this job (cue music: A Chorus Line’s “God I Hope I Get It”). I received my offer a short time after the audition and immediately began preparing.
The musical itself is based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts. It follows Violet Karl, from the rural Spruce Pine, North Carolina, as she travels through the South on a Greyhound Bus in September of 1964, just after the Civil Rights Act had been passed. She is on a journey to a televangelist preacher to heal and erase a scar caused by a blow to the face from a loose axe blade. On this pilgrimage, Violet becomes acquainted with a new world she’s never really been exposed to in the mountains. What unfolds is a beautiful story about following your heart, allowing yourself to forgive and heal, and what it means to recognize inner beauty in others and yourself.
The original Broadway production starred Tony Darling Sutton Foster. How does it feel being so talented that you’ve been entrusted with a role brought to life by such a star?
Phew! Well … to make something very clear, I am no Sutton. I think her legs are actually as long as I am tall, for one. And she can kick her face without throwing her back out. I mean, I can totally do that too … I just … don’t feel like doing that at the moment. Gimme a week.
But truly — being given this opportunity has been mind-blowing. Roles like this only happen every so often, so I’m savoring every bit of it. I feel like this feast of a character has been plated so beautifully and is so emotionally rich that I am sometimes doubtful that I can eat it all up. I would not be able to do it without the support and talent of the people around me on and off the stage — my beautiful (and local!) cast, our diligent crew, and our creative team leading the way. They inflate my wittle-baby-actor ego with love and humble me with their talent and hard work, all at the same time.
What do you think you bring to the production that maybe hasn’t been done before for Violet?
I cannot speak for other productions of Violet because I have not seen them, nor have I been in them, but I truly hope I can bring a sense of emotional depth that is honest and that feels as authentic to the audience as it does to the human body performing the behavior. Every part in this show has life flowing in and out of it; real-life perspective within concrete, predetermined, and written circumstances. I hope to convey the feelings of shame, hope, disillusionment, self-discovery, and so much more in a way that lets people know this isn’t just performance, it has all been felt at one time or another (by all of us). I hope they see it come through the vessel that is this character so that they can go through that process with us.
What are your top three favorite musicals and top three dream roles?
Only three?! Fine. Fine!
Chicago, Wicked, and Urinetown. Roles are a bit switched up though … Roxie Hart in Chicago, Elphaba/Nessa (don’t sleep on Nessa, y’all!) in Wicked, and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes.
You originally thought you were going to go to beauty school, in spite of being raised in a performance family. What was the moment you knew this was what you were supposed to be doing?
Every month, usually the week between paying rent and my next paycheck, I start to wonder if I’m doing the right thing. But something happens when I wait in the wings to remind me that this is my vocation. It started my freshman year of college before tapping onto the stage for Thoroughly Modern Millie [another Sutton Foster beauty], throughout my time at Sam, and happens in every professional show I’ve done since. I feel like a specific goal is in sight, even if it’s just for the next two hours. Even if it has nothing to do with me, personally. I’ve got a job to do, and it was given to me, specifically, to do. I have an obligation to show up, and that feels very fulfilling to me.
You’re very involved with Houston’s LGBTQ community — a large part of which intersects with its theatre community. Can you tell us what those two communities mean to you personally?
Almost all of my friends are involved in the theatre in some way, and are champions of self-expression, which is, also, important to the LGBTQ community. So it’s no surprise that in both communities I am encouraged to be myself. I feel at home with both. I’ve chosen to surround myself with those two communities because I know I will find people, friends (“framily”) — the good people out there, that make me feel safe, and that encourage me to do the same for my peers. However, it would be dishonest of me to disregard the critical environment in both; judgment, exclusion, and negativity are all aspects of our communities that we need to work on. That being said, something I love about both communities is that we are among the first ones to say, “Ok then, let’s work on it.”
Can you give us a little glimmer of what other projects you have on the horizon post-Violet?
Well, Anthony, I’ll be working with you next! I’ll be performing at a reading for your sitcom script, The Anthony Project, in affiliation with About Media. [Zimmermann will be playing the antagonist of the show, Erin, a conservative Christian who works at a fictionalized version of About Magazine on Sept. 29th]. I’ve also got a few gigs lined up with my band, and while I’m not at liberty to tell you exactly what my next theatre production is, I’ll give you three very obscure hints that likely very few people will get: chains, the bear that ran away from the park zoo, and capons.
Omigod I know what it is!!!
Violet opened at the Queensbury Theatre last night and continues performances through Sept. 23rd. You can then see Zimmermann in the About Magazine stage reading of its forthcoming sitcom The Anthony Project on Sept. 29th, as well as every Sunday at Guava Lamp hosting karaoke. A full review of Violet will be available from About Magazine tonight.
A review of Anthony J. Caruso’s LGBTQ film shot in Austin, TX, Brotherly Love.
(AUSTIN) – At nearly two hours, Anthony J. Caruso’s slow-paced film, Brotherly Love, feels a bit long; some of the characters might be seen as negative stereotypes; and yet there’s something oddly likable about this low budget indie, shot on location in Austin with a local cast.
Auteur Caruso stars as Brother Vito, a young gay man torn between his life with his gay friends and the vows of poverty and celibacy he’s about to take as a brother with the Catholic church. As the story opens, Vito, who lives in a monastery, still goes out cruising with his gay best friend Tim (Chance McKee). Vito desperately wants to jump into the car of the hot man who’s checking him out, but he stops himself, thinking of his upcoming vows. He goes to the White Party with Tim, where he feels out of place.
Vito doesn’t know what to do. He genuinely loves God and the church, but also loves his former life. He seeks counselling from Sister Peggy (June Griffin Garcia), a friendly, understanding nun, who thinks that Vito needs to get away for awhile so he can think things over. Vito is driven halfway across the country to spend the summer living and working in a halfway house for people with AIDS. There he meets Gabe (Derek Babb), a friendly, lonely landscaper who immediately takes a liking to Vito. The attraction is quite mutual, with Vito once again feeling torn between his love for the church and his natural desires. Will Vito remain true to his vows, or will he give in to Gabe’s not-to-subtle come-ons? The two are obviously falling in love, despite Vito’s pretending otherwise.
Vito and Gabe make for a hot, sweet couple. Actors Caruso and Babb have great onscreen chemistry, with Babb giving a particularly fine performance as a man who cannot live without love in his life. We learn that Gabe was once married.
“Now I have an ex-wife who hates me, a mother who cries whenever she talks to me and a father who fired me from the family business,” Gabe says sadly. Babb expertly conveys the emotions of the sweet, loving Gabe, who knows that he and Vito would be perfect for each other, if only Vito would open his eyes. Caruso is also quite good as he battles his mixed emotions.
Other aspects of the film don’t work quite as well. Chance McKee, as gay best friend Tim, appears to be a good actor, but his role is written as a stereotype. Tim is an over-the-top queen–he’s too over-the-top to be believable. He’s loud and brash, and talks endlessly about parties, clothes, and hot guys. We never learn who Tim is, all we’re told is that he likes to party a lot.
At one point Vito and Gabe meet a friendly lesbian couple, one of whom is an ex-nun who left the church to be with the woman she loves. That woman turns out to be a character who makes Tim seem tame in comparison. She’ll do anything for attention–after Sunday church services she smears chocolate cake on her face and laughs hysterically. It’s embarrassing to see a middle-aged woman carrying on like that. This character is a victim of bad writing–less would have been more.
Another flaw in the film is that the AIDS house where Vito is supposed to be working is presented as an afterthought. Vito shows up and meets the residents, who talk about Barbra Streisand a lot. With one exception, the house residents are not seen again until the end of the film. At no time during the film is Vito shown doing the work he was sent to the house to do–he spends the entire film with Gabe. How did the church elders and the house residents feel about that?
While far from a perfect film, Brotherly Love still entertains due to the terrific chemistry between Caruso and Babb. The burgeoning love story between these characters is sweet and romantic, and their scenes together are well written. They make Brotherly Love worth checking out. The fact that both men are nice to look at is an added plus.
While in Houston for her Laugh Your Head Off tour, comedy queen Kathy Griffin stopped by Pride Portraits to pay our friend Eric Edward Schell a visit, snap a few pics, and make a statement about her relationship with the LGBTQ community.
(HOUSTON) – While in town for her stand-up performance at Jones Hall Monday, August 20th, stand-up comic and comedian Kathy Griffin let friend of About Magazine Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits backstage before the show (you can visit Pride Portraits’ site by clicking the photo below). While there, Schell snapped a pick and Griffin made a statement about her relationship to the LGBTQ community. The photo snapped by Schell was released today (in which she wears the very same dress from her scandalicious Trump head photo), as well as her powerful statement about resistance and the LGBTQIA community:
“What defines resistance for me as an ally to the LGBTQIA is actions. There is nothing like doing actual door-to-door canvasing. I think the most important thing is educating people of all communities, especially the LGBTQIA community. Elections are every year. I have friends who get excited for the Presidential election every four years and the truth is, thanks to this crazy administration, that it’s the down ballot, it’s the local Attorney General, it’s the local Lt. Gov. They are actually the deciders of our human rights and our civil rights. As you know, nationally the GOP has been trying to dismantle the progression of minorities, in my opinion, since the civil rights act of 1965. They have been slow and methodical and played a long game. What I admire about the LGBTQIA community is that it’s a community that knows how to mobilize. I always say as a feminist, “We’ve got to learn from the gays, as women we bitch and moan, but gays actually get legislation done, they write bills, put candidates up and get them elected.” So honestly it’s about getting mobilized. Things like the bathroom bill, that isn’t a federal law, that’s somebody on a local level. I believe in what I lovingly call voter fraud, which is when I take to my own social media and I say, “All right gays, it’s not rock the vote, its vote for whoever I fucking tell you to vote for.” With this President it’s shirts and skins. We can’t keep playing nice. I don’t care about getting into the heads of angry white Republican men; it’s a fake narrative they’ve been given. In terms of the gay community, I don’t put anything past the GOP. I’m scared for equal marriage, but I fear we need to be worried about basic rights. We have a lot of work to do in the trans community too. For November 6th, we have to go back to basics; we need people to realize they can loose their rights. We need to make sure black people can get to the fucking polls. Educating people about what gerrymandering is. We have to start thinking long game.”
The 57-year-old comedian made headlines last year and sparked public outrage after posting a photo of herself holding what appeared to be President Donald Trump’s head covered in blood (but was really a Halloween mask doused in ketchup). The stunt lost Griffin many connections and gigs, including her annual New Year’s Eve hosting gig at CNN with former friend Anderson Cooper. The photo made Kathy Griffin famous in a brand new way, as she became the only comedy icon in all of American history to be personally attacked and targeted by a sitting President of the United States (something Donald Trump is known for doing on Twitter since his inauguration). While many of her Hollywood friends spoke out against her, many came to her defense. Recently Gilmore Girls & Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman Palladino told the Hollywood Reportershe was shocked by how Griffin’s colleagues “[…] hung that girl out to dry […]”. After a public apology she has since renounced, Griffin has made a terrific and successful comeback without an agent or manager, as she recently told Houston’s OutSmart. She sold out Jones Hall last night to a standing ovation and a very-pleased crowd.
Griffin, who has won two Emmy’s for her previous reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and one Grammy for her comedy album Calm Down Gurrrl. Since her earliest days as a stand-up comedian, Griffin has been an outspoken proponent of the LGBTQ community through her comedy, film work, and advocacy. In the time that has passed since her photo last June, however, many have come around to Kathy Griffin’s bold statement with the Trump head.
Regardless of what’s been said or done, Houston’s LGBTQ community is happy to have Griffin on our side and welcome her back anytime.
Pride Portraits is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by LGBTQIA Houstonian and advocate Eric Edward Schell, whom you can contact and follow by using the links below. Schell is an outspoken activist for LGBTQIA rights in the community as well as on social media and through his work. His nonprofit has worked in the past and continues to work with and photograph companies, individuals, and organizations throughout the country such as SXSW, HEB, Alyssa Milano, Monica Roberts, Beto O’Rourke, and many more. The mission of Pride Portraits, as stated on their website, is as follows:
Our mission is to visually represent the LGBTQIA community one photograph and story at a time. Visibility for our community is key to promote the humanization of a community that is dehumanized every single day.
Just because Brice Cobb (known better as drag queen Vitamin B) suffered an injury that broke her leg doesn’t mean she’s letting it break her spirit.
(HOUSTON) – Anyone who knows anything about Houston’s drag queens knows one thing: they may love to mess around, but when it comes to their careers, they’re aren’t here to play. Playful, hilarious, spontaneous, and spry, the drag queen community in Houston is constantly tapping into its wealth of personalities, powers, and pageantry to offer audiences something new. And from queen-to-queen, there’s something different to be offered to those audiences. Whether it comes from the reigning Miss Gay Texas America Regina Blake-DuBois’s unrivaled Broadway numbers at her Monday night show, The Broad’s Way, at Michael’s Outpost, the many cartoon character portrayals of Carmina Vavra, the beautifully eccentric costumes and mixes brought to you by Ondi, or the bearded beauty herself, Blackberri, singing at you to give her a dollar, there’s no shortage of different personalities in the Houston drag scene. And creating a personality that is new, vibrant, inventive, and novel isn’t easy. But what’s harder? Keeping it alive.
Drag isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for those without a thick skin. Like with all performance art, performing drag is taking the risk of being rejected by an audience. Will they like a performance? Will they understand the costume? Will I remember the words to the song? How can I own this and make it mine? There’s much to be considered. What draws people to drag is the very thing that make it so unique — its aberrance. And as time goes on, drag is becoming more-and-more cultural in and out of the LGBTQ community. Whether it be noticed by people outside the community watching RuPaul on a weekly basis, locals attending drag bingos and drag story times at local bars and libraries, or LGBTQ people attending its many events throughout their cities, drag is constantly gaining more steam and becoming more popular.
So what happens when tragedy strikes a queen on the road to success who’s made a name for herself and is gaining recognition? Ask Brice Cobb, otherwise known by his stage name as Vitamin B. Vitamin first made her stage debut last February and was well on her way to her two year anniversary in drag when she snapped her tibia in half earlier this month during a performance at Magical Girl Day in Houston. The weekend-long convention hosted a number of Houston’s drag performers, but during a performance of Katy Perry’s “Hey Hey Hey” (a relatively slow song), Vitamin fell backwards resulting in her injury, only to get back up and finish the number for her cheering audience. What Vitamin hoped was a quick-to-heal injury turned out to be her tibia split in half, which required full bedrest, a cast and bone stimulator, and a hiatus from drag until as early as the beginning of 2019. What followed, however, may have been equally devastating. Cobb, who is a substitute teacher by day and a full-time drag performer by night, was forced to hit the brakes on both jobs and was even forced to drop out of the very popular Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s during its third All Stars season.
But is B letting the injury keep her down? Not entirely. As a queen who took her drag seriously and one that worked to prove her place in the community, Vitamin B isn’t hiding away during this time of recovery. In fact, she’s here to make sure that no one forgets her name before her big comeback early next year. One way that she’s done this has been through a hilarious and well-received release of “albums” following the release of Ariana Grande’s fourth album, Sweetener. And the first one looked like this:
Yes, that’s right. Modeled after the Sweetener album cover came Vitamin B’s own Sweet-N-Low. But that’s not all. After gaining attention from her many drag and performer friends, Vitamin B has gone on to establish a pseudo-record label and “sign” her various entertainer brothers and sisters. Each “album” mimes the personalities of various performers, with tracks and titles named after catchphrases, personal lives, quirks, and trademarks. From Carmina Vavra’s Waluigi album to Tatiana Mala-Niña’s Looking for Roman, each album is a fun poke at the artist with the sort of love-filled trolling only a fellow entertainer who has worked alongside them could muster up.
Vitamin B told About Magazine:
“I mean the reason why I’m doing is this is because, honestly, I’m so alone right now. I’m separated from my life […] Making these album posts is keeping me busy and connected with my community.”
Take a look at a few of our favorite album covers below:
Lily VonTease: I Am Breast
Highlights: “Houston’s Drag Race? IDK Her”, “Please Book Me”, “I’m a Lesbian Now” (feat. Liza Lott), “Smallest Waist”.
Blackberri: Bearded Beauty Herself
Highlights: “Angelo Where Are My Photos”, “I Host Everything”, and “U Don’t Book Me, I Book You”.
Estella Blow: 1% African
Highlights: “I Scammed Adriana for $600”, “1 Point Behind” (feat. Ondi), “The Room Bar Stalls”, and “I Won Best Alt Queen and Quit Drag”.
Violet S’Arbleu: I Am 31
Highlights: “Carbs (Gimme Gimme Gimme)”, “Hi Hi”, and “There’s My Mom … Drinking Her Wine”.
Estella Blow & Blackberri: Blowberri
Highlights: “101% African”, “We Were Drunk When We Crowned Iris”, “Did Angelo Send Your Photo?”, and “Skin 2 Skin”.
Tatiana Mala Niña: Looking for Roman
Highlights: This whole thing is magic. Let’s be honest.
Angelina DM Trailz: AHHHHHHHH
Highlights: “Guys Come to Guava”, “Don’t Forget Your Vitamins”, and “Ahhhhh”.
Carmina Vavra: Waluigi
Highlights: (Also basically perfect, but if we have to pick) “Wahhhhh!”, “Bring Me Cigs”, and “Crimson Chin”.
Ondi: I Am White
Highlights: “I Am White”, “Zack Emerson’s Pubes”, “I’m an Artist. That Over There is Trash”, and “Have Some Taste Will You”.
Regina Blake-DuBois: Current Reigning
Highlights: “Fair Regina” (feat. the Broad’s Way), “Dessie’s Gown”, and “Good Witch”.
Dessie Love-Blake: Queen
Highlights: “Stage Mom”, “Let’s Just Have Everyone Lipsync”, “Regina is My Daughter”, and my personal favorite of all the song titles on any album, “Miss Pinky Nail 1894 … Kara Dion”.
One thing is safe to say: no matter how long Vitamin B is out of commission with her leg, with this level of love she’s showing the Houston drag scene, she won’t be forgotten and she will certainly have a place to come back home to when she’s fully recovered.