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Becoming okay with Becoming Norman

August 16, 2010

Norman Dixon recalls the moment he froze. “Rehearsals were going great. I was excited. But something about that night, watching people file into the auditorium, triggered something in me. ‘Oh my God, what have I done? These people are here just to see me.’” 

Dixon had written a one-man show for himself. A gay Mormon, Dixon lost every ounce of confidence. “Who do I think I am? My God, these people are going to find me out. Thankfully my friend talked me down. ‘You can do this, they love you.’ After the first song, the nerves were gone and I finished the concert. It was phenomenal – a magical evening.” 

But something crept into his psyche. “I had never put myself out there like that. I don’t really understand why but it scared the crap out of me. I started shutting down. I needed to back away. After that night, I stopped performing. I gained weight.” 

It would be years later before Norman Dixon finally let go and moved on. “It was February of 2009,” he says. “My partner, Raul, and I went to Seattle to celebrate my birthday and visit some friends. We’d only been together a couple months. My partner had never heard me sing so I sent some music up to my friend, Gregory, who plays piano. I sang for him and his response was overwhelming. He was shocked that he didn’t know I sang and that I don’t let people hear me sing.” 

That’s when Dixon told him about the fateful concert years before. “He told me that I need to do another show. So I found a workshop with the idea of just doing a concert with some patter between songs. But it occurred to me that there was more to this than a concert. There was a real show here. I remembered different things about my life growing up and opportunities I let pass by.” 

The show turned into a play not only about growing up gay and Mormon but also looking at your life and the choices he had made. “I looked at reclaiming my lost dreams. It’s never too late.”

Dixon is 45, though he sounds 25 on the phone. “In some ways I feel like I’m 20 years younger because I’m just now doing things I should have done in my 20s.” Like being himself. “Exactly. Exactly! Really, there was just a lot of me that I withheld from people.” 

He believes he’s made up for that through some of the songs he wrote for his one-man show. He points, in particular, to “The World Within”: 

I’ve always been frightened of feeling the pain

that can come when you let someone in.

Then they go off and leave you with your broken dreams to start all over again.

So I never let myself open up, never shared my world within.

But I feel myself changing, something’s stirred inside — maybe it’s time to begin

Opening up to the feelings inside, letting my walls come down.

Daring to reach out for somebody’s hand and feeling this love all around.

I have been longing to show you my world, all that I have inside.

No longer held by the fears of the past, these feelings cannot be denied.

Becoming Norman,”  NoHo Arts Center 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 12. $20-$30. Pay what you can on Aug. 20. (800) 595-4849. Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

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