Last week a bevy of fabulous, well-known ladies overnighted in Dallas for different reasons. Don’t know if any of the Kardashians were in the crowd, but Cyndi Lauper, Oprah, Katie Couric and Kristin Chenoweth were and they made lasting impressions. At the Mansion a newlywed couple walked in only to be greeted by overnight guest Oprah who congratulated them on their nuptials. Katie had Mansion guests and staff members almost giggly as she charmed one and all. Cyndi, who looked a little puffy, did a meet-and-greet at an event that was so fast-and-furious it must have set records.
And then there was Kristin, the all-around mega talent, who hails from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She was here Thursday for the NasherSALON including an afternoon session with Booker T. Washington students.
But before getting started, know that Kristin was not in the best of health. She’d been fighting a nasty case of bronchitis since hosting Monday’s American Country Music awards show. Skeptics muttered that she’d probably cancel out on the Nasher, but they evidently didn’t know the Tony Award-winning songbird/actress very well. Kristin not only showed up, she scored home runs at every turn.
Booker T. Washington
Like a scene out of Glee, Kristin had a love fest with an auditorium filled to over-capacity. She told the students that her visit to Booker T. Washington had been “very emotional for me. I see myself 20 years ago. It’s been inspiring. . . very inspiring to be here.”
Originally the 4’11” Kristin wanted to be a ballerina, but at the age of 7 was relegated to the role of a rabbit in the Nutcracker because of lack of height. “Now, the rabbit sits next to Clara in Act 2. . . a very important job. The Sugar Plum Fairies dancers now have their vine that they dance with. One of them dropped on the floor. Those of you who are in theater know that when a prop falls on stage, it needs to be moved, especially in ballet. And I’m sitting next to Clara and there’s the vine left on the stage and Russian dancers were waiting and the orchestra was waiting. In my head I remember thinking, ‘What would a bunny do?’ So I hopped out there and put it (the vine) in my mouth and hopped back and the place went insane.”
She didn’t talk down to the 400 students. She talked with them like a big sister providing inspiration and tips about being an artist. Admitting that she had made personal sacrifices for her career, Kristin went on to say that she doesn’t believe there are rules, “which is why I love this place. You guys do it all. . . I didn’t have the opportunity that you have.”
Continuing on she admitted that she tries to stay out of the tabloids; “I’m about being an artist and less about the fame part of it. Nothing against the Karadashians. They should make the money while they can. But. . . and I do say ‘but’ (much laughter from the audience).”
On a serious note, she added, “It’s more about the process of creating what we do than the red carpet crap. That’s actually more work than it looks like, because you have people looking at every little thing instead of how your high C sounded.”
Later she warned them, “What we all are is artists. . . . Our job is to keep the flow (of creativity) going. . . Fight for those practice rooms. Fight for time by yourself. Be with people who inspire you. Work together. You have such a gift to be here.”
Of course, Glee came up and she explained how the cast of Glee was an extension of her. “Having kids look up to you is probably the most rewarding aspect of my time on this earth. . . and it makes me so happy that I could affect somebody like that. It’s very emotional, very emotional.”
Regarding training and education, she admitted to being “a big proponent of conservatory and college. Because all that stuff that you can’t wait to get to is going be there. There are going to be 20 people in line behind you who sound just like you, but what’s going to make you different is the fact that you spent the time looking at a Monet painting and wondering what kind of aria you could sing to it.”
Her advice to the students: “If you have anything else you want to do, go do it. It is hard. This takes everything you have. I have sacrificed a lot. I made some sacrifices . . . big time in my personal life, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. I’m a lifer.”
About her upcoming role in TV’s GCB, she said, “It’s got a lot of interesting press around it because it’s based on a book by Kim Gatlin called Good Christian Bitches. However, this gives me a great opportunity to talk quickly about this. I am a Christian. I would never do anything that would make fun of my religion. This is about five women who grew up in church together and how they deal with their demons and how they deal with their love for each other. It’s more about relationships than it is religion. It is very funny. . . It’s comedy, comedy, comedy. It’s one big package of chocolate cake.”
Asked to sing Popular, she responded without hesitation and it was noted that some of the students started singing along.
Her parting advice to the students was “to take care of yourself, and sleep is the best way to do it. Do whatever you have to do. Pop Benadryl. I’m sorry, people. Sorry, teachers.”
In addition to a standing ovation, the powerhouse received a goody bag that she rummaged through as if it were her first.
For a lucky few, the NasherSALON hosted a private meet-and-greet on the ground level of the Nasher Sculpture Center for sponsors and VIP types just prior to the salon taking place downstairs. Kristin showed up early for a tour of the Nasher, loving the Tony Cragg show, and then faced the lineup of guests including Lisa Troutt, Veletta Lill, Lynn and Allan McBee, Tanya Foster, Jeanne Marie Clossey, Jim Moroney and daughter
Jenny and Schlegel sisters Kim and Krystal. One warning was passed to photographers — turn off camera flashes. It seems that they result in Kristin having migraines. Didn’t matter. The little star shone bright enough as she greeted each person as if they were the celebrity. Instead of the Lauper hustle-through, Kristin chatted it up like a politician trying to lock down major contributors.
But once the photo session was over, she headed downstairs for the talk with KERA’s Jeff Whittington. Unlike the afternoon session of hanging with fellow artists, the evening Kristin was a tad more sedate. There was still the mischievous look and the Chenoweth giggle, but she was talking to nearly 200 adults with a couple of youngsters mixed in. In addition to retelling some of the stories from the afternoon, she told the group:
She lives in New York City more than Oklahoma, but she’s still just a girl from Broken Arrow.
- Speaking of the South, she said, “You know, there’s a misconception that we’re dumb. . . but we’re not. We’re smart.”
- Her dad, who is a chemical engineer, negotiated her first contract.
- She waited seven hours once to do an audition in New York.
- At one point in the talk she looked down at her dress and was surprised to discover: “I have a sensor on my dress from the store! That says it all!”
- To prepare for her role as Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, she went to Central Park for weeks watching little kids.
- “My biggest challenge to this day is staying healthy. I have bronchitis right now. . . but it’s not contagious!”
- “I love junk food, 7-Eleven, chain-store food.”
- “The only way to grow and get better is to push yourself.”
- She has a animal charity called Maddie’s Corner, which supports animals in need: “It’s animals helping people helping animals.” It was named after her Maltese, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth, that is the namesake of the actress Madeline Kahn, Kristin’s big hero.
- “I don’t have a husband. . . so I may have paid a price for [having a busy varied career] in that way.”
- Loves horror films and science fiction films.
- “Going to the theater is like water in the desert for me.” After a CD-signing in Frisco on Friday, she’s headed to New York City to catch up on plays, and “I can’t wait.”
She suffers from Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that can cause vertigo, headaches and nausea.
Then it was off to her hotel for a night’s sleep, to Frisco on Friday for the CD-signing and then to New York City for an appointment with a doctor.
Evidently the pride of Broken Arrow firmly believes that the show must go on. . . even if she’s got a nasty case of bronchitis.