Paul Oakley Stovall: From the White House to the Stage

When Paul Oakley Stovall isn't working for the Obamas (his day job) or hobnobbing with Oprah Winfrey, he's headlining at New York City's Joe's Pub with his new musical, CLEAR.

BY Brandon Voss

November 23 2009 9:05 AM ET

You were on the campaign trail with Obama and now work as an advance associate for the White House. What does that job entail?
I’m the liaison between the White House and whatever city that the president, the first lady, or the vice president are planning to visit. So I’m there about 10 to 12 days in advance of them, working with our embassy and with the local media to arrange the media coverage.

But you’re established as a playwright and a performer. What led you to the White House?
A little bit of luck and little bit of opportunism. I had a friend who had recently burned out on D.C., so he moved to New York and was working in retail with me. Then he got called to work on the Obama campaign. About six months into it, he called me up and asked me to come help out with an event. I did what he asked me to do, I submitted my résumé, and one thing led to another.

How do you find the time and energy to put on a show?
Being a part of this campaign and administration is probably the most inspiring thing that’s happened in my life. I’m constantly stimulated, meeting new people, seeing different parts of the world — Istanbul, Kosovo, Prague, Copenhagen — so I can’t help but be creative. There is no exhaustion.

How would you characterize your relationship with the first family?
I don’t really have a relationship with them. I’m not like, “Hey, girl!”

Michelle would probably love it if you chatted her up like that.
Michelle loves everyone, and I have a feeling that if a situation ever came up and we started talking, that would be completely fine. That just isn’t my job. But just from being around her, I can tell you she’s a fantastic woman.

Have you encountered a lot of other gay people working for the White House?
Well, there are plenty of gay people that work in the area where I work, and most are open, as far as I know. I’m certainly completely out to everyone — Secret Service included. I don’t have any problems at all.

Would you feel comfortable bringing a boyfriend around your colleagues?
You could absolutely do that.

As you know, Obama has been criticized for not doing enough to further gay rights. Is the gay community being too impatient?
He’s been clear from the beginning that it’s our movement and we have to make it a social imperative. I think that’s the right way for him to look at it. People forget that Abraham Lincoln did not magically free the slaves; things were bubbling up to the point where he had to do it. Yeah, it’s moving slowly, but good things come to those who wait.

Tags: Theater

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