In the mid-1970’s a young musician named Cindy Bullens arrived in Los Angeles looking to make it big. What followed is an improbable series of events, from fateful meetings with Bob Crewe and Elton John to Cindy’s embrace of her gender identity and her transition to Cidny, via a journey through motherhood, grief, and a return to music.
Somewhere Between: A One Wo/Man Show brings Cidney’s journey to the stage in a full multimedia experience. The show, directed by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein and produced by Nashville’s Ken Bernstein, is premiering in Santa Fe, before coming to Nashville for a three week run at Bongo After Hours Theatre at Bongo Java on Belmont.
“The show is autobiographical,” said Cidny Bullens. “It covers my life from 1964, when I arrived in Los Angeles, to the present. There really is a flow to it, it’s about my life. The first part of the show was my rock years, hanging out with famous people and famous places.” For instance, early on we see Cindy Bullens crashing a party and “meeting Elton John…. Two days later I was on the road with him!”
The story quickly moves into its second part, with Cindy “giving all that up and starting a family.” Don’t expect this to be a lull in the story, though, as it’s actually its hook. “The meat of the show is the death of my daughter Jesse from cancer at eleven and the aftermath of that. It ultimately brought me back into the world as a musician and performer trying to help bereaved parents, getting me back into the music business and touring the world making records. This brought me to places of service in ways I would never have done otherwise,” Cidny explained.
In 1999, Bullens released Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth, recorded shortly after her daughter’s death. The album includes big names, from Bonnie Raitt to Bryan Adams, and was ultimately awarded AFIM’s Best Rock Album in 2000. Bullens followed that up with Neverland in 2001 and dream #2 in 2005, the latter featuring old friend Elton John on piano.
In 2007 Bullens would found a new musical group, The Refugees, with fellow musicians Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland.
Since then, Bullens has actively released a good deal more music, both as part of The Refugees and as an individual. Bullens’ 2010 album, Howling Trains and Barking Dogs, for instance, features a compilation of songs Bullens co-wrote in Nashville while living here in the early 1990s.
“I lived in Nashville twice,” Bullens recalled. “I was a Nashville songwriter for many years in the 1990s, and I lived there twice in the 1990s. “I accumulated a greater number of friends in Nashville than in any other place. It’s my second home.”
Life changed significantly for Bullens in 2012, when Cindy began to transition publicly to Cidny. “I didn’t transition until later in life,” Cidny said. “I had lived a whole life as Cindy, as a woman, and though I’ve always known I was transgender, given the time and my generation, I just lived with it. Not that I had never considered it: I did, when I was nineteen.”
So what changed after that whole lifetime? “A young friend of mine who was nineteen called to say they were transition. It all exploded and my insides fell apart,” Bullens said, “and I knew I had to address it. It’s been a personal evolution: from the moment I was four years on I’ve always known that I was a man in a woman’s body. The show features flashbacks and stories from ages four (coming down and telling my mom I was not a girl but a boy), twelve (realizing I was getting breasts and being horrified that I’d have to live life as a woman), and nineteen (exploring sex change and realizing I couldn’t do it because of the costs and being all on my own.”
“My transition is new,” Bullens said. “It only began in the last four years and it was a revelation, if you had told me a few years before that I would have said no way. I knew my life was interesting before, but when I decided that I was indeed going to transition, I knew I had to write this show. I had had a ‘one-woman show’ in my mind for years, but once I decided to transition I knew the story arc was complete!”
The show is clearly more complicated that a one-woman or one-man show, Bullens struggled to explain. “It is the story of a transgender person, but it’s more than that, which is why it’s a one-wo\man show.” Bullens may have transitioned as a man, but likewise, he said, “I can never not be a grandmother or a mother, so it’s complicated. It’s not a show about my transition, it’s not about my two-time Grammy-nominee status, it’s not about the birth of my children and the death of my child, which is the defining moment of my life. It’s a show about all of it, because they are all me, they are all my life.”
Somewhere Between: A One Wo/Man Show is “lighthearted on both ends and not so lighthearted in the middle,” Bullens said. “It’s a multimedia event, with stills, videos and sound cues from my records, and I sing eight songs live that are woven into the show.”
Bullens’ story will be presented by Bongo After Hours Theatre on March 18 & 19, 25 & 26, and April 1 & 2 [NOTE – April dates were added and are not reflected on original promotional material]. See bongoafterhourstheatre.com for more information.