Five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald will be performing Wednesday, February 25 at the Long Center with a pre-show appearance specifically tailored for the LGBT community, Night OUT. Co-Founder, Lynn Yeldell, caught up with Audra to find out about this rescheduled appearance and why she has chosen to be such a fierce advocate for equality, specifically gay marriage.
LsGs: The Night OUT invitation features a gorgeous photo of you and your husband, fellow actor, Will Swenson, from the NOH8 campaign. What was your first awareness of the LGBT community and what compelled you to become an advocate?
AM: I grew up in the theatre which exposed me to all kinds of people as early as nine years old. People were just people to me. Whether they were good, bad or indifferent. They were just people. And coming from an African-American family, I was taught early on that being judged and being prejudiced is a terrible thing. And as something I was going to be up against in life, I was taught to not do that, as well. By the time I was a teenager, I was in a performing arts high school with friends who were out at a very early age and it didn’t mean anything at all. It really didn’t. I became an advocate because I was just horrified at the second class citizenship of the LGBT community. It is just totally un-American.
LsGs: And you have chosen to lend your voice, pun intended, to champion marriage equality. In fact, you sang at the very first same-sex wedding in New York back in the summer of 2011.
AM: Yes! The one Mayor Bloomberg performed at Gracie Mansion. It was beautiful and I was honored they asked me. It was a lovely wedding and their daughters were just adorable. Mayor Bloomberg was just so proud and excited. Weddings always make me cry but this one made me heave and sob. I brought my daughter and she was excited, too. It was just incredible to be a part of witnessing such wonderful history.
LsGs: So, IF Texas ever legalized same-sex weddings, would you be interested in repeating that performance down here?
AM: Of course! Are you kidding? I have high hopes that it will happen everywhere, eventually. I know it feels like a really big “IF” for you down in Texas, but the dominoes are falling everyday and I have high hopes that we will get there.
LsGs: If it can happen in Iowa, maybe Texas stands a chance?
AM: And it happened in Utah, so who knows!
LsGs: We noticed your twitter handle is @AudraEqualityMc. There must be a story for adding your advocacy to your name, literally, on one of the world’s largest social networks.
AM: Well, I joined Twitter our of anger (laughing). I did. I joined Twitter after the first time marriage equality went up in New York and was defeated. I was horrified. And furious. And furious at my state. Like, “Are you kidding me? I don’t understand.” It just made no sense to me. Short of having a heart attack or a stroke, I was just going to rant to anyone who was going to listen.
LsGs: You are equally passionate about women’s reproductive rights by looking at your Twitter feed. I think you tweeted, “oh f**k off dude.” Share the details!
AM: Sometimes I get a little frustrated. (laughing). The bad thing about Twitter is that you can access it anytime day or night. And sometimes you are in your pajamas at home and someone is messing with you saying you are the sign of the devil and that you are evil and your body is not your own, you get a little frustrated. (laughing) And you let them know it.
LsGs: So you were following Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster for reproductive rights?
AM: Yes, of course! And that is why that guy came after me. Many of the pro-life advocates who are active on Twitter are given lists of celebrities that are pro-choice and their job is to go at them. I had publicly voiced support for Wendy Davis over the course of four or five days.
LsGs: We can’t wait for your February 25 performance at the Long Center. Do you have any favorite Austin spots?
AM: Unfortunately, I am usually not able to have time to explore, but everyone tells me it is just a kick-ass city. One I wish I could spend more time in.
LsGs: Well, we will have to do our job to get same-sex marriage legalized here so you can be a part of another historic wedding.