By JULIE DEVLIN
Tom Meeker is a rookie priest who's been
assigned to the nondescript rural parish of Cottonwood, Montana. Tom's
work is pretty routine, in fact, downright boring, until Vidal Stump, a local
hiker half-breed with a reputation for
troublemaking shows up at the church
one hot Saturday evening to confess.
Thus begins Patricia Nell Warren's torrid gay classic, The Fancy Dancer ,
recently reprinted by Harper Press. Tom
is attracted to Vidal from the moment he
sees him, but unable to process this forbidden attraction, he tells himself his
interest is purely professional. After
all, Vidal's propensity for trouble is
well known in the town, and to convert him
would be a definite coup for the young
priest, who is still regarded with suspicion by both his head pastor and the leading citizens of this small town diocese,
one of whom has sworn vengeance on him
for not supporting her efforts to ban
"obscene" books from the high school
Vidal of course, makes no excuses for why
he's suddenly become interested in the
church. For, in spite of an obvious wife
and child, Vidal is gay. He is also in love
with Father Tom, and has been from the
moment he first saw him. Since Tom isn't
about to show up at any of Vidal's favorite
hangouts, Vidal decides the best way to
proceed is to show up at Tom's church, for
confession and "counselling."
Ii doesn't take Tom long at all to figure out
what it is Vidal actually wants. Tom it
seems, wants it to, but it scares him lo death
so he tries to tell himself his feelings are
just friendship. Next he tries to pass them
off as brotherly love, and finally he simply tries to tell himself their wrong.
Nothing, however, works, a'nd before
long Imti and Vidal are lovers. In spite flf
the fact that Tom loves Vidal wuh all his
heart, and in s.ptte of ihe fact that he finds
more happiness in the realization of
who he is than he ever found in his religion, guilt eats away at him, causing him to
indulge in all sons of bizarre behavior to
stave off his growing paranoia that he
and Vidal are about to be found out.
Not even a foray to Colorado (ostensibly to attend a pro life rally, but actually
to be with Vidal for an extended period,
and to attend a meeting of Dignity, an
organization of gay Catholics), help
him overcome this guilt which is beginning to tear at his relationship with
Meanwhile, like something out of one of
Tom's paranoid fantasies, the town
book-burning terrorist has followed
him to Denver, and has been shadowing
him. Father Tom arrives home from his trip
exhausted and more confused than ever,
only to find her bitter accusations
hanging over his head. Vidal meanwhile, tired of Tom's vacillating, and
ready to leave town to finish his college
education, isn't exactly being supportive of his lover in his hour of need. In fact,
Vidal has decided he really doesn't care
who knows about his sexuality at this
point, since he's most of the way out of
town anyway and not likely to return anytime soon.
How Father Tom handles what happens
next, and how he and Vidal resolve both
iheir differences and their similarities, makes for a gripping conclusion.
Wonderfully evocative of small town
attitudes, the Catholic religion, and
gay life prior to AIDS. The Fancy Dancer is
a page turner from start to finish. Any gay
person who's lived and loved in a rural
area will be able to relate to Vidal and
Father Tom's dilemma. Even though this
story was written nearly 20 years ago, it
relates easily to today and manages to
■-how simultaneously both how far
we've come, and how lai we've yei io bo.
it 'ontinuedfrom front page)
ing careers - I don't if it would have happened."
As a percussionist, you don't play very
much. And counting is important, you
have to count all these rests...so in the
midst of counting, I am sitting there and I
am watching the conductor and I am
watching how one person can bring all
these people together, how one person is
bringing all these different musical voices
together and make them a unified whole
and obviously create something very beautiful and something very exofting. And in
the midst of counting all my rests, that's
when I said that's really special and, in my
15 year old precious mind, I said, '1 want
to do that,'" laments Stein.
Stein shared his vocational dream with his
junior high school conductor and before
long the band director let him conduct the
pep band for the basketball game which
"wetted" his appetite. "It was an addiction
of the most positive sort," says Stein. By
the time he was a senior, he was privately
studying with all three of the conductors of
the St. Louis Symphony.
The first time he heard a symphony orchestra, in the sixth grade with his class
was an experience which, he claims,
opened his heart and mind to the real
beauty of this art form.
His primary goal is to attract the younger
generation to the beauty of cultural arts.
"We are walking a tight rope between
trying to reach out in new contemporary
ways - not just to young people, but to
people who are young to the experience ol
the symphony■- and the other side of that
tightrope is falling into trying to reach to
far in compromising the essence and
beauty and the tradition of what this art
form is all about."
Stein believes the Symphony may have an
answer. "We've started a program called
Casual Classics," says Stein.
The premise is interesting indeed and really quite imaginative. "Instead of a concert basically being a 2 and 1V2 hour performance with a 20 minute intermission, it
is now basically about 75 minutes with no
intermission," he explains.
"I serve as the host. I'm talking to the
audience," asserts Stein. "Christoph conducted the first concert, so I also talked to
him and let the audience ask him questions. And, I went into the orchestra and
asked them questions."
According to Stein, the concept allows
him to the let the audience into the Symphony's process and let's them reach oul
more directly to the audience so that there
is more of bond forged, more of a link
created between the public and the Symphony.
"Our particular art form is the most challenging. At the Opera, they can sing in any
language in the world, all you have to do is
look up and you know in English from
reading the subtitles exactly what's going
n. The ballet is so visually oriented and
hen the story isn't obvious, their miming
things. The Alley, of course, is a theater
that speaks in words. And our art form
requires you to sit quietly and, in terms of
the visual activity, we are at the low end of
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HOUSTON VOICE / DECEMBER 27, 1996 11