She's bright, bubbly and bodacious. She speaks in a dialect known only to those from the Utah County community of Spanish Fork. She is a character created as a mouthpiece for the "minoritized and miniaturized" people of the world. She is the Mormon mother of a gay son. She is Sister Dottie S. Dixon and she is the Utah Pride Festival's 2010 Parade Grand Marshal.
In the past year, Dixon, portrayed by actor Charles Lynn Frost, has spread her message of love and acceptance from the stage, earning her critical acclaim from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied communities.
"The phenomena known as Sister Dottie is much bigger than I had ever anticipated it being," said Frost.
Among an array of accolades received this year including Three City Weekly Arty Awards, a QSaltLake Fabby Award and a Best Actor nod by the Deseret News, Dixon has been chosen by the Utah Pride Center to lead this year's festivities as the parade's Grand Marshal.
And just as there are two pieces that carry Sister Dottie - Frost's labors and Dottie's message - so there are two pieces to honor in naming her as the Grand Marshal. Having a character as the festival's leader allows the work of the actor to be acknowledged and the concept of her message to be exemplified.
"We say thank you to Charles Lynn Frost and the creative team responsible for bringing Sister Dottie to life," said Valerie Larabee, Executive Director for the Utah Pride Center. "And secondly, that we bring the conversation for love and acceptance to more homes in Utah through putting Sister Dottie in the spotlight."
The character known as Sister Dottie S. Dixon was originally conceived by Frost and KRCL's Troy Williams, who hosted Dixon on the show What Not, What Have You and Such as That, which ran for about three years. The duo teamed up with Pygmalion Theater Company's Artistic Director Fran Pruyn, and in early 2009, Dixon took to the stage at the Rose Wagner Theater.
Her one-woman show tells the story of a casserole-makin' Mormon mother who, when faced with the news of her son's coming out, goes a journey of the heart and soul to find her purpose in the face of a changing reality.
Frost says that after three turns onstage, a couple of internal makeovers and a personal life and death battle with the H1N1 virus, Dixon has emerged with a deeper gratitude, brighter vision and stronger purpose.
"Her message was much more vital because I'd almost died in the doing," Frost said.
That renewal of strength is leading Dixon's charge going into the 2010 Utah Pride Festival as Grand Marshal. Just in time for the festival, Dixon has unveiled her "Battle Hymn Bill of Rights:"
- Families are to be preserved.
- Do not choose your church over your child.
- Stand up for your rights and for the rights of those you love.
- Speak out even if you're terrified.
- Put everything on the line.
Frost says Dixon symbolizes the strength and hope for families everywhere struggling to understand their identity. That she does it with the face of a loving mother makes the message accessible to all communities.
"As we wage the battle for LGBT quality, we can't forget that there are young people and old still trying to have the conversation with the people that they love about coming out," said Larabee. "And that has not gotten any easier in the face of the division that has been made present by recent political overtones."
For Frost, being chosen to be the grand marshal left him feeling "honored, humbled and scared."
And is Sister Dottie up for the challenge?
"Oh, you betcha!" Frost said.