(San Diego, California, February 24, 2018). There will be a special ‘Act of Kindness’ in San Diego on Thursday, March 1st from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Halo Cinematic, benefiting Rachel’s Women’s Center (a Drop-In Day Center at Catholic Charities for homeless and low income women in East Village). This fifth Act of Kindness in San Diego is sponsored and led by Sue Vicory, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, humanitarian and the CEO of the global brand “My Power of One”.
This unique day of celebration will include collecting, organizing and ultimately distributing a variety of donations to Rachel’s Women’s Center. There will also be a star-studded photo shoot of local celebrities with photographer Aram Khachaturyan from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. as well as entertainment on a film set at Halo Cinematic in Mira Mesa (7620 Miramar Rd Ste 41 San Diego, CA 92126). There is very limited space available with a maximum of 30 individuals at any given time throughout the four-hour event. Caterer Simply Fresh will be providing food for the event.
“The mission of ‘My Power of One’ is as simple as understanding how significant we each are within humanity with our every word and every action making a difference. These words and actions are our legacy and fingerprint within humanity. We pride ourselves in doing intentional and sometimes anonymous random acts of kindness. Be the Miracle is our catch phrase.” – Sue Vicory
La Jolla, California couple Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers are truly an extraordinary couple! They are married co-creators and co-writers of The Geeze & Me– an original “boomer” musical about aging…which will have it’s World PremiereMarch 31 – April 29, 2017 in San Diego at TheTenth Avenue Arts Center.
Hedges, formerly of the folk duo Hedges & Donna (with ex-spouse Donna Carson, during the late 1960’s-early 70’s), is The Geeze & Me Composer/Lyricist and also plays several characters in the production (David, the Soap Boxer and Beat Poet) and Nancy, a member of the Director’s Guild of America,SAG-AFTRA is the Producer & Director.
According to Hedges and Nancy:
The Geeze & Me is a funny, irreverent, and poignant original musical. This timely show features a comedic troupe of eccentric players who team up to wrangle aspects of aging from an expert. An eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to blues to corner street doo-wop, accompanied by innovative choreography. The perils and benefits of growing older are reflected in the concerns of this diverse group of people.
Connecting with Hedges and Nancy for SJF Communications to provide PR/Publicity for The Geeze & Me has been a total joy and is never dull! Hedges is truly a master wordsmith and composer/lyricist/musician and Nancy, Actress-Psychotherapist, is warm, open, nurturing and very astute. They are equally excited about The Geeze & Me!
I am so proud to interview this “chill” dynamic duo, partners in personal life-and in the biz!
Without further ado….introducing our interview with Hedges Capers followed by Nancy Locke Capers!
Meet Hedges Capers by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications
Photos courtesy of Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers
Q & A with Hedges Capers by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications
SJF: Tell us about yourself, where were you born? Where have you lived?
HC: My father was a Navy Chaplain …the longest time I spent in one location was two years…until I was 50 – then I was stable for three years. It has been four years now and I’m planning on more in the San Diego/La Jolla area.
I was born in Princeton NJ…I lived in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Virginia, New York, Guam, California (Monterey, San Francisco, La Jolla, L.A., San Diego, Whittier, Beverly Hills, Benedict Canyon, Laurel Canyon, Hollywood, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach), Japan, Washington State & Washington DC and Hawaii. And some I don’t remember !
SJF: You have certainly lived EVERYWHERE! When did you first perform?
HC: My first performance was 1959 on board ship to Japan…I sang Endless Sleep and Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop. I began writing lyrics at age 11 and started composing music when I was 15. I received my BA at Whittier University and Masters of Arts at the University Without Walls, a tutorial program out of U.C. Berkeley. Private lessons: I’ve never had a music lesson, I tried a vocal lesson 5 years ago when I was unable to sing at all. The lesson was unsuccessful, but it led to my vocal cord surgery which thankfully was successful and instrumental in the content of our show.
SJF: Tell us about you as an actor
HC: I did theatre shows in college; Pajama Game – Playboy Of The Western World – Zoo Story – Rashomon and a few others… but I just wanted to be a singer I never thought about acting. … I went to college because I didn’t know how to get into the music industry (even after having signed a recording contract in 1961 at age 16). I didn’t want to pump gas or marry Leigh Deane Larson… I formed a trio my first week of college- we were hired to sing at a hotel dining bar 2 days after we met and sang together for four years at Whittier. We signed with Dot Records in 1966 and released a single in Japan which we were told made the charts there to #7.
In 1970 I had the title role in The Legend of Hillbilly John. The producers didn’t know whether they should get an actor they hoped could sing or a singer they hoped could act… the final two choices were Arlo Guthrie and myself… a stunning cast of amazing character actors Denver Pyle, Harris Yulin, RG Armstrong, Susan Strasberg and more.
SJF: Any low times?
HC: Hearing a group of kids ask Donna (my ex-wife and former duo partner) if she knew me? She said “Yes he’s my husband” – they looked at her then back at me then back at her and said “He doesn’t look at all black” but in their world it was not possible that a white man and a black woman could be married.. the only possibility was that I must be black… that night I wrote
“No child of mine’s gonna have to plant no god damn cotton. No child of mine ever gonna harvest up the rain No child of mine’s ever gonna have to know that pain. Steeple people twisted children God’s almighty bent and broken they went to Little Rock all alone and God went home”.
Anger and hurt were the emotions…Donna was pregnant and I was wondering are we doing to this child-any favors bringing him into THIS?
SJF: Tell us about your duo Hedges and Donna
HC: We opened for Nina Simone, Judy Collins and Bobby Hebb, Harry Belafonte, Neil Diamond, OscarBrown Junior and Jean Pace, Ritchie Havens … Groups that opened for us? Jackson Browne, Blood Sweat and Tears, James Taylor, Ritchie Havens, Hoyt Axton, Joni Mitchell and lots more…
SJF: Highs of your career?
HC: Too many highs to list them all …Headlining the Philadelphia Folk Festival… The Smothers Brothers Show, Carnegie Hall, The Tonight Show three times.
SJF: …and Lows?
HC: Lows… for a sad reason. At the Atlanta International Pop Festival 1970… the crowd estimates vary even today between 200,000 and 600,000 people… 750,000 was the count the artists were given…much larger than Woodstock. This was deep South… we had played The Hungry I in SF with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and were told by them ”You all can come”…it was their nod of approval to our music… as we performed on stage at the festival we were buzzed repeatedly by a series of Lear and larger jets… no other act had that happen… We were told later that Lester Maddox had orchestrated that as a show of his objection…
SJF: What differentiates you as a composer, writer, performer, former therapist, corporate biz guy?
HC: I don’t have a clue….but maybe? I’ve always loved lyric and loved word play… as a 5 year-old, I went to a school with first thru eighth grade in the same classroom and above the black board the alphabet and numbers were written out … I stared and then saw U R N U 2 B 4 U 4 U R 1 U C A B U T U Q U 2 B U. U 1 2 B 4 U? I 1 2 B 4 U 2! OG.
Language in Thought and Action by S.I Hiyakawa was my English book in high school. Albert Upton was my freshman college English professor and he was Hiyakawa’s chief semantic rival. I was partnered with the original Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) research team and was the first person certified to train for the Process Communication Model(PCM), the only two process models for human interaction…
All that to say I have had an extraordinary exposure to how words affect people, and I am pretty sure I’ve never looked at a phrase with that lens consciously.
SJF: Tell us about The Geeze & Me
HC: I would love to see The Geeze & Me on Broadway… In Vegas, and Branson and touring groups in regional theaters all over… I would love folks to feel that passion of “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings and there ain’t a lady fat enough to sing for this generation …” I would like people to hear the research regarding aging and feel empowered. I’d like to stand outside a theater in NY and hear people humming or singing “HOW OLD DO YOU FEEL?”
SJF: I am singing that tune all the time already!
SJF: What is your strongest asset?
HC: I love people! And I think I understand their worth.
SJF: Tell us two wonderful things and two difficult aspects of being YOU
HC: 1. I love the way my mind works especially with words… as they flutter by like Butterflies…Or like the way I hear Guilt and my mind says “it’s just decorative stuff that goes around mirrors (gilt) unless you put U in it… or being ‘now and here’ is really being ‘nowhere’ where you know where you are… I have developed a patience in my late 60’s that I never dreamed I’d have…2. Difficult aspects… my grief is way too close to the surface… I see it too clearly in too many places too much of the time.
SJF: Tell me what makes Hedges “TICK”
HC: I use to say “I’m just moving slide to slide and sucking on the main stream… but I think I was just being flippant… I think I just want to see my kids headed to something that might be full with enough joy to be really worthwhile and I still want to see a bit of tomorrow.
SJF: If you had to do it over again…how would you choose what do in life as a career/profession?
HC: I have been blessed to have done exactly as I dreamed.
SJF: What two things don’t we know about you?
HC: I don’t know what you do know so it’s hard to know what you don’t but…If you have asked me something I will tell you. I haven’t found it useful to hide
SJF: What are your fears??…
HC: I’ve had anxiety attacks at different times in my life that were debilitating… I think as a result of several years of drug experimenting… sniff, swallow or smoke without question…a really stupid period. Fortunately for me the era of designer drugs had not arrived then or I may have died as my son did.
I think I also fear I was not the father I should have been… my kids deny this but how can we ever really know?
SJF: Any regrets?
HC: 1- Not having been able to prevent my son’s death. 2- Not being cleaner with how I separated from Donna… I didn’t want to be the “bad” guy and so I drug things out instead of saying “I won’t do this, I’m leaving you.” Explanations can just muddy the water and invite attempts to change ones mind.
It is hard to have regrets when you are given the opportunity to live a life long dream. At 7 or 8 that’s what I wanted. At 7 we went to the Grand Canyon and my folks put my sister and me on the mule ride at the bottom of the canyon. It seemed like my mule wanted to nibble on things growing on the fall and you die side of the path. I was in tears but the path is too narrow to turn around or dismount and walk back so I had to go all the way… I cried until I realized my fear was unfounded… but my parents could hear me singing filling the Grand Canyon with joy for 45 minutes before the mules reached the top.
… if I reach for one regret, it’s that I didn’t do a better job of keeping clippings and songs and the journal writing I sometimes did… Moving as much as I did I never kept “things”- I would love to have been able to share those with my kids.. but … And the songs that were written that have been forgotten.
SJF: An ideal week for you would be…
HC: Watching The Geeze and Me on Broadway with my family and friends- playing golf (well!) with my buds.. singing … eating Swiss enchiladas.. swimming in warm water, walking on the beach at sunrise and again at sunset… hearing the world laugh … discovering that there really is an afterlife that works well enough to make any pain of this life irrelevant … KNOWING that I did what I was here to do, knowing, without a doubt.
SJF: What have been your life hurdles?
HC: 1. I was told at 16 my sibilance was so bad I would for sure never be able to be a recording artist…2. My height: I was 4’11” as a Junior in high School 3. I can’t sing the way I want to sing… ( I like the way I sing… it’s that there are ways I can’t that I’d love to but I think men don’t have the tool women have…).
I don’t think there have really been any hurdles because my life is evidence that I haven’t been stopped. There are things I haven’t done but the choice to not pursue has been mine, I have stopped.
Meet Nancy Locke Capers by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications
Photos courtesy of Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers
Q & A with Nancy Locke Capers by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications
SJF: Tell us about your upbringing, family, siblings, schooling, etc.
NLC: I was born in the SPAM capital of the world – Austin, Minn. We were solid middle-class. I grew up in Minnesota & Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh. Came to Glendale, California when I was 11. My Mother was a singer and housewife and my Dad was a businessman.
I have an older brother who is an international trade Attorney and previously worked in the White House as Legal Counsel under former Presidents Nixon & Ford. My sister, ordained in the Episcopal Church, was a Chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital in the 80s, during the A.I.D.S. epidemic. I returned to school at age 40 and have my Masters of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology. (Still think about going for my PhD. I’m a knowledge-hound.)
SJF: When did you begin acting?
NLC: I began acting when I was tapped for a Kimbie’s diapers hidden camera commercial with my baby son. Shortly thereafter, Geoff Lewis (Juliette Lewis’s wonderful dad) walked into my kitchen and asked me if I wanted to be in a movie. I said, “Sure.” He coached me on how to audition on the way to the meeting at Sunset Plaza, with the director, Floyd Mutrux. I auditioned, and when it was clear I was a terrible actor, he said “I have a waitress part with 11 or 12 lines. Do you think you could handle that?” and I was off to the races. A friend of mine, Robert F. Lyons, began teaching acting around this time and thought I might enjoy taking classes. I studied with him for two years before going on my 2nd audition.
SJF: Who have you taken private lessons with?
NLC: In acting: Milton Katselas, Robert F. Lyons, Joan Darling, John Voight. In Producing: Ron Schwartz, Jim Aubrey. Directing: Garry Marshall, Ulu Grossbard, Dwight Little, etc. You pick up a lot just being around a set.
SJF: Were you always enthused about acting?
NLC: Not at all. I didn’t really begin until I was 30. My son was a baby and so I didn’t start seriously auditioning until I was 30.
SJF: What are some highlights of your acting career?
NLC: “Pretty Woman” of course was so much fun to work on. I learned a lot from Garry Marshall and how he handled actors. True Confessions with Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro – I worked in a scene (later cut), but he was the kindest, most generous man. He completely normalized any nerves I was feeling. By the way, Milton Katselas used to say that “nerves are our talent trying to get out.” He put a positive frame on having nerves. He also said, “If you’re not nervous then you should be concerned.” That might be a tip-off that you’ll give a flat performance.
SJF: Have there been any low times?
NLC: I was previously married to an actor/director/writer and so we were each doing our separate jobs. The low times were really when the jobs weren’t coming in and the bank account was running out. Ninety-nine percent of SAG members don’t make a living at acting. We were able to live nicely and reap the benefits of being working actors. I made a decision not to do on-location work, which definitely impacted my hire-ability. I wanted to be a mom to my son and step-daughter. I’m not sure that I experienced “low time” because of it, but I felt it was more important to have a responsible adult at home, and my former spouse was working actively during that period and wasn’t able to provide childcare.
SJF: Any Pretty Woman stories?
NLC: Yes, but not sure I’d want to go public with them. Richard Gere was a perfect gentleman and quite kind. Jason Alexander was hilarious. Julia was like a fresh colt, very excited to be working on the film, along with everyone else.
SJF: Jane Fonda stories?
NLC: I was a spokesperson for Jane Fonda Work-Out Wear in the ’80s. They chose 3 women out of 700, so I felt incredibly lucky. We met. She congratulated me on getting the job. She was very kindhearted.
SJF: What differentiates you as a director, performer, person, actor, therapist, corporate biz person?
NLC: Hmmm. My humor? My curiosity in all things? My experiences with tragedy. I’m not sure. But I lost my parents at ages 18 & 26, so all three of us (me, sister, brother) have fairly wicked senses of humor as a coping mechanism. I think it’s a survival mechanism for those struck with tragedy as a young person. All my life I’ve found most people endlessly interesting. This, of course, reflects the kind of work I’ve chosen as an actor, writer and psychotherapist.
SJF: Tell us about The Geeze & Me
NLC: It began as a lark. Hedges had some unrecorded songs that were fantastic. I’d been missing the theatre world, so I thought maybe I could fashion a love story around those existing songs. But then, I (or he, one forgets who brings what to the table in collaboration) decided to do something about aging. We’re the largest demographic of elders in the history of the world.
So, Hedges went to bed at night and would wake up with this wonderful, funny, deep music that surprised both of us. It just came rolling out of him. He used to be a staff writer at A & M, so he knew songwriting structure. And so then I had to actually learn how to write a musical. This was tortuous and enchanting, but I don’t have a musical bone in my body. Thank goodness he was so prolific. At some point, we both began collaborating on the book. Somewhere (when it was still a little theater idea) it became clear that I would direct it-which was and is terrifying. It would be terrific if it had legs and went on to tour in regional theatres, etc.
SJF: What is your strongest asset?”
NLC: My publicist.
SJF: LOL!!! Thanks, Nancy! You make my work easy!
SJF: Tell us two wonderful things about being a Psychotherapist.
NLC: Two wonderful things:
1. It is an honor to do the psychotherapeutic work I do. When people say, “Ugh, how can you stand listening to problems all day” I don’t understand why they think this is difficult or depressing. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s energizing when someone talks with you on a deep, intimate level that does not often happen outside of the office. It’s invigorating to give another the space to explore safely. It’s a privilege.
2. Seeing suffering in all its disparate forms is humbling.
SJF: And two difficult aspects as a Psychotherapist?:
NLC: 1. I can’t fix them in 10 minutes. I have to let them take the time they need to heal and arrange their life differently or get out of a bad relationship. 2. There’s a chronic sense of loss in my job. People move, people don’t need you anymore, people have a hard time staying in therapy when they should – so, one learns to deal with it, but you invest YOURSELF in your clients. That’s a big part of the job. It’s in the relationship, the trust, the consistency, the non-judgmental dialog that allows a patient to heal.
SJF: Tell me…what makes Nancy “TICK”?”
NLC: I’m alive. That, and sheer terror. Joking. Kind of.
SJF: If you had to do it over again…how would you choose what do in life as a career/profession?
NLC: Well, primarily, I would not join a cult (Scientology). That was really an attempt to grab ahold of something, anything that gave me structure and the appearance of answers at that point of my life. I could have studying for my PhD. But I think you have to be allowed to explore and pay attention to what turns you on. Go where your passion leads you, if you’re lucky enough to have the time and financial support to do so. I think “following your bliss” just is not an option for most people, but that changes with age. For me I’ve been allowed to return to the world of the theatre which I’ve been away from for 20 years.
SJF: What two things don’t we know about you?
NLC: That I know how to make a delicious Hartquist Spring Salad Sandwich. And that I was on TWA flight 840 that exploded in mid-air over Greece.as a result of a terrorist bomb in 1986. I was on my way to Greece to meet my former husband on a film he was making. Ten days later I had to fly to South Africa as the lead in a film (Hostage) about terrorism, shooting in the fuselage of a plane for six weeks. We then had to go to Dallas to shoot a film we’d written.
SJF: What are your fears?
NLC: I think I have the usual fears that all parents have. I fear something happening to my son. Losing my stepson at age 20 was, and is, indescribably sad. Oddly enough, I don’t fear flying.
SJF: How do you “give back”?
NLC: We’re donating 50% of The Geeze & Me revenues to: A New Path, PATH, LGBT Senior Care, and The Unbattle Project. We’ve also given to the UCSD Center for Healthy Aging.
SF: Any regrets?
NLC: Of course.
SJF: Enough said!
SJF: Ideal week for you would be…NLC: Travel to Maui, read a great novel, swim in the ocean with mi amoré. (Kind of what I do here anyway….)
SJF: What have been your life hurdles? Successes?”
NLC: Overcoming panic disorder. Feeling like I’m not “enough”. Not being thin enough. Not being pretty enough. You know, typical American woman hurdles.
Successes? As I look back on my life, I’m aware that I’ve felt chosen by casting directors, by a director, by the producer. But I am also aware that it’s a roll of the dice. I’m not sure I take any particular pride in being chosen. I think the successes also had to do with persistence. You just kept doing it. And I was able to keep doing it because of nepotism or having a good day at that audition, or knowing the right person. I learned at some point that the confidence game is really about acting “as if.” I’ve seen major actors get squeamish if they have a crying scene coming up, whereas I’d worked with “lesser” actors who could cry on a dime. If one chooses a profession in theatre/films, you have to love doing it. It’s terribly hard on people because of the rejection rate. But, Mark Ruffalo went on 600 auditions before being chosen. You have to be good enough when you stumble upon an opportunity.
I tend to be a risk-taker. For example, this is my first time directing a musical. I have great support from extremely talented others – BJ (musical director), Hedges, having a great staff, fantastic cast. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway. That’s how we grow.
SJF: Who is your inspiration?
NLC: My mother. I’ve gotten to live the life she would have loved.
SJF: What are your 5 year and 10 year goals?
NLC: Seriously? That goal setting never works for me. Even when I’ve been diligent. I never said, “I’m going land a part on Dynasty in 5 years!” So much of my life has been being in the right place at the right time. I’m not sure I ever really consciously set a goal. Perhaps I should have. You know, I’d decide to take a class in screenplay writing (from Syd Fields) and then I’d write a couple of mediocre scripts, then I’d work on something and someone would show interest in it. So much of acting, writing, selling a script, getting my masters degree – it was all so pleasurable, with just the right amount of challenge.
SJF: Describe your dreams.
NLC: VIVID. I know you’re talking about BIG DREAMS, but I’m talking about nightly, very vivid, wild, entertaining dreams since I’ve begun directing The Geeze & Me. What subconscious?
SJF: Describe three pivotal events in your life.
NLC: My Father’s death. My Mother’s death. Marrying mi amour.
SJF: Role models- male and female?
NLC: Hmmm, well, I tend to be suspicious of role models, of idealizing an individual and projecting onto them all of my ideas about who they are. But you know who comes to mind? Béyoncé. I know. I’m a 68-yr. old white woman, but watch Drunk, In Love and tell me she’s not got it going on. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1JPKLa-Ofc) It’s hard to do overt sexuality and not feel used at the end of the day. And she’s brave enough to go for it. Hillary Clinton. President Obama’s grace and elegance. Jon Stewart’s genius. Stephen Colbert’s limitless mind.
SJF: Where are your favorite La Jolla/San Diego places? Your favorite places for a vacation?
NLC: In La Jolla – George’s; A small Greek restaurant called Cafe Athena in Pacific Beach, La Valencia Hotel for breakfast, Come On In’s cornmeal pancakes. My ideal vacation: on a beach anywhere. Paris, like most everyone. Lisbon. London. Monemvasia, Greece. Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs. I’m not a Trump Tower person, and I like small, manageable, places that feel personal. It’s a feeling I get in a place. But Jerusalem would be good, too.
SJF: Any memorable live performance experiences (or other), and why?
NLC: Anthony Hopkins in Equus. Raw power. I was sitting in the front row and I was certain that Anthony Hopkins delivered his monologue to me. Which is how great actors make you feel…
I also saw a recent production of The Normal Heart at the Diversionary Theatre that about ripped mine out of my chest. I can’t remember being so deeply struck by anything like that in a long time. Really visceral. The play is about the A.I.D.S. crisis hitting in the 80s in San Francisco. My sister was a Chaplain at San Francisco General at that time, and I recall vividly our conversations about what they were seeing then. About all the men who were dying. She saw it firsthand. The production, directed by Kim Strassberger and Claudio Raygoza was superb.
Many thanks, Hedges and Nancy for giving us a peek into your lives! It’s been a pleasure interviewing you!
The Geeze & Me
What if there was a musical – simultaneously serious and hilarious, that explores the wild ride of life’s later years, addressing the good, the bad and the ugly of aging? The Geeze & Me is a musical production about the aging process, upsides and down. The World Premiere of The Geeze & Mewill be presented in San Diego, March 31 – April 29 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center.
The Geeze & Me Production/Creative Team includes: Original Music/Lyrics by Hedges Capers and Book written by Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers. Produced and Directed by Nancy Locke Capers. Musical Direction by Will (B.J.) Robinson, Choreography by Joanne Lovejoy, Sound & Video by Joe Huppert, Costume Design by Max Cadillac, Lighting Design by Cynthia Bloodgood,Script Consultant Dilip Jeste, M.D., and Danielle K. Glorioso, L.C.S.W., in consultation with UCSD Center for Healthy Aging at UCSD, PR/Media/Press by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications, Casting by Samuel Warren & Associates, , with Brendan Hill as Assistant Director and Beonica Bullard as Stage Manager.
THE GEEZE AND ME CAST: Devlin (Kay), Hedges Capers (David), Kent Brisby (Bob), Byron La Due (Howard), Gabriela Nelson (Sherry), Jesse MacKinnon (Dwight), Lorraine Devon Wilke (Helen), Lolly Boroff (Mrs. Dingler), Susan Benninghoff (Miranda), Kiera Mersky (Bobbi & Margo), Lauren Preski (Margret), Erin Vanderhyde (Homeless), Susie Singer Carter (Science & Ginger) and Scotty Billion (Undertaker).
The Geeze & Me is a funny, irreverent, and poignant show about surviving aging. This timely show features a comedic troupe of eccentric players who team up to wrangle aspects of aging from an expert. An eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to blues to corner street doo-wop, accompanied by electric choreography and state of the art projections. The perils and benefits of growing older are reflected in the concerns of this diverse
SCHEDULE: Previews/Pay what you can with a casttalkback following the preview performances March 29 & 30th. Performances: March 31 – April 29, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION:The Tenth Avenue Arts Center, 930 10th Ave, San Diego 92101
For press info, interviews, photos or press comps, please contact: Susan J. Farese,
Classical Pianist Dr. Jeeyoon Kim is a PR client of SJF Communications, but she is so much more than a client. Jeeyoon is a kindred spirit and hopefully a forever friend. She exudes kindness, positivity, talent, wit, intellect, elegance and a keen sense of mastery, interaction, connection and engagement as a person and as a musician. I first heard, rather “experienced” her incredible musical talents after one of our early business meetings. Jeeyoon surprised me by granting me my own “personal mini concert”. I must admit, I had to hold back tears – it was so surprisingly magical. It was an emotional experience for me to hear the selections she played, watching her gently move to the rhythms of the classical pieces she performed so gracefully and poetically. She was truly “one” in concert with the music. She respectfully honored each composer and emotionally as well as technically “connected” to each piece.
Jeeyoon Kim is a force to reckon with! And so, without further ado…Ladies and Gentlemen:
SJF: Let’s start at the beginning! Please tell us about your upbringing, family, siblings, etc.
JK: I grew up in South Korea with one older brother. Both of my parents were business owners. I was raised to be independent, as my parents were always busy, but they always supported my music. They both were naturally good singers and they always sang a lot casually. I also remember the scenes of childhood involved with mountains, pine trees, Buddhist temples, and also contrasting high rises, busy cities and busy street markets. I was lucky enough to have both; places like New York City or scenery such as in the Smoky Mountains have almost an equal amount of feeling like of a home for me. I remember going to get fresh water at a nearby mountain top with my Grandma, and we would play badminton on the way back. I remember she always won those badminton games!. Going to a farmer’s market is one my favorite activities as that is one of the closest experiences I have in terms of getting produce just like we did when growing up in Korea. I still try to visit Korea once a year if possible. And most of those times, my list of foods I want to eat during my stay is always much longer than I can possibly eat then!
SF: When did you begin playing the piano? Private lessons? Were you always enthused about piano?
JK: I started playing piano when I was four years old, and I don’t have any recollection of choosing that myself. But I remember I always enjoyed going to the local piano institute on my own every day except Sunday to have a lesson and to practice. I thought it was always so much fun to play piano, and I still think it is!
SF: Such dedication at an early age-and ever lasting as you received your Doctorate in Piano Performance and Masters in Music Degrees at the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana!
SF: Do you ever feel stage fright?
JK: If I feel so comfortable and normal playing in public, then I will start to worry about it, as I believe that having those butterflies in your stomach is a necessary part of being a performer and that makes a live performance more beautiful and organic. No, I don’t have a phobia doing it. I also know nobody dies if I make a mistake. I just learned and still learning to deal with it, as I love to share music with people.
SJF: So…there’s no need to keep the butterflies at bay!
SJF: Do you have any different routines on a performance day?
JK: Yes, I treat myself like a queen. Haha, just kidding. Perhaps I try to do my best to do things as normal as possible in terms of what I eat, but less physical practice, more sleep, taking a long walk for a mental practice and fully acknowledging a feeling of gratitude of that day given to me as a gift that I can share my music with people. I certainly don’t talk much before the performance though.
SJF: Very astute elements of your routine! Interesting about not practicing much that day and feeling gratitude for your gift of sharing! And feeling comfortable with the “quiet” on purpose is a point especially taken.
SJF: What do you think about when you are performing?
JK: I think about music and the composer, following their emotional process or its course of hidden messages closely. I also think about the overall structural picture of the piece, as if I am building an aural structure, noticing where I am going and where I am. If I focus on the core message, then the rest of technical things will serve its musical purpose. But if I put a priority on the perfection of the notes, no music nor perfection would exist.
SJF: Yes, affirmed! I most definitely witnessed that when I hear you perform!
SJF: Do you exercise?
JK: I want to exercise more than I do now. Normally I exercise with my trainer once a week, and swim once or twice a week at the Broadway Athletic and Swim Club. Generally speaking, I like to do an intense conditional workout and also long distance swimming. As time is one of the least available resources I have, I want to do a more intense interval workout when I actually get to exercise. Sometimes I swim to practice a piece in my mind on purpose, especially at the end of a day. It takes at least three or four times longer to practice in my mind than its actual time on piano, but it is so valuable for me to do so. I feel mentally exercised yet physically relaxed afterwards. I love it.
SJF: It would be so cool to be inside your mind and note the process as you “practice” while swimming! Wow, you are featured on the cover and interviewed in Swimmer Magazine! How cool is that?!
JK: It is like a recurring dream, I had a thought that kept popping in my head, which was creating an album to be very much like ‘Jeeyoony’ and as close as my live performances. I have realized that the time and spaces that I can reach is limited, but at the same time it doesn’t have to be that way. I thought creating an album is a great way to connect with more people in this world, sharing what I am passionate about. I also wanted to collect many of the pieces that are like my old friends, which I often play as an encore. ‘Ten more minutes’ is also a concept behind when audiences ask for encores at my live concerts. Definitely that is not greedy, as I am not asking for 10 more days, but just simply wish having that10 More Minutes to cherish.
As soon as I had a concept in my head more solidly, it had its own life, evolving and expanding its possibility. I wanted to record pieces that are close to me, so it is easier to connect with people more. Then I realized that the time is actually ‘now’ to create. I presented the idea into a possible reality through crowdfunding, Kickstarter, to the world. I also wanted this project to be collaborated work with people, that mutually we all want this idea to be a reality. When it became successfully funded within 30 days, I have felt like I had received an excellent engine that can run so well, and all I had to do is to drive that engine with the best ability that I could ever have.
I cared for every single detail of this album, involving every aspects of this album, from each single note to finishing. I have created the best team for the album – a producer, sound engineer, graphic designers, photographers, a recording studio in New York City, and a great Hamburg Steinway. I feel content with it knowing that I did my absolute best – even though from the idea to the actual CD, it took about a year and half. I also feel that my whole life is fused in the album; if I didn’t have practice times when I was 4 years old, if I didn’t have that struggles and tears in my past studies and experiences, this would not have been the same.
The 10 More MinutesCD release celebration concert will take place on this December 11th, Sunday at 3 pm at Auditorium at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). That is a venue that I often performed at for the San Diego Symphony Chamber Music Series and the La Jolla Music Society. I wanted this national celebration to be where I reside, though this album is not limited to be local and I certainly hope some people from out of town can join this celebration as well. I can’t wait to celebrate this day with audiences, who have been in this journey with me all along. It will be certainly a concert that I will remember even without having that concert yet.
SJF: My anticipation is building, I cannot wait to see you present your gift performing and connecting with the audience!
SJF: What is your strongest asset?
JK: If I have to choose one asset that I find very useful in my journey it is the fact that I always look at the positive side and keep moving forward. There are struggles and difficulties, but I know at the end of it, I will get myself up again and continue my journey, doing my absolute best to be better each day. Some have said that I am strong, but I say I am not strong at all, but I will choose to get up again when I fall down, not because I am strong, but I know I will have struggles, which is normal, what I have to do is to learn to keep moving forward, learning valuable wisdoms on its ways. I always dream of a better version of me in 10 or 20 years.
See what audiences have to say about Jeeyoon Kim!
SJF: Valuable advice for all! I asked Jeeyoon’s Managing Representative, Bryan Smith to say a few words about working with Jeeyoon. Here’s what Bryan had to say:
“Jeeyoon Kim is truly a musician of the 21st century. Her polish and depth as a performer reflect a connection to music that is equally physical, intellectual, and emotional. A true citizen of the world, her empathy towards, and genuine interest in the people and communities around her inform her choice of repertoire and her interpretations. Combining world class virtuosity with a humanist and personal connection with the audience, Jeeyoon achieves a degree of engagement that is often lacking in soloists at this level. She brings a truly modern sensibility to classic repertoire. She is a joy to listen to, and what’s more, a joy to work with” -Bryan Smith
SJF: Tell us about your studio? What is like taking piano lessons with you?
JK: At the Dr. Kim Piano Academy, I have a wide range of students, beginners to advanced. I only have just handful of young students, but mostly students older than 16 and adults. I find teaching very creative. I see each student and their own character as if theyare an already beautiful bonsai tree. I find the areas that they need strengthening, and areas that they could shine more as it’s their strength. Finding unique ways for each student to accept these instructions to grow healthy in music is an art in itself. I sometimes feel like a therapist and need to be a good therapist to make them grow in music, as my students often say they get to know about themselves much more in piano lessons than any other activities. I love it.
SJF: Tell us…what makes Jeeyoon Kim “TICK”?
JK: Besides music, I do appreciate experiences with food. As a foodie, I can write an entire book about what I like about certain foods in certain cities. Recently I had an experience of dining in a restaurant called Benu in San Francisco. I still vividly remember every bite of every course. It was a really beautiful meal. I get excited about going on some adventures with a certain restaurant in mind. But my normal daily routine includes a very healthy and clean diet.
I love going to classical and jazz concerts, musicals, and plays. I get so energized and inspired from those live performances. I also like to play ping pong and pool. I can say I am not really great at it, but I get very into it. I own a good ping pong paddle and a pool glove for my left hand.
SJF: Those answers made me smile!
SJF: If you had to do it over again…how would you choose what do in life as a career/profession?
JK: Of course I would choose to be a pianist again, but besides that, I would choose something related to some language or food. Though I don’t definitely see myself as a cook even in a next life, I would love a job to communicate with people with different languages, which make me to travel for a job. After all, music is a language.
SJF: Here’s a fun question: What three things don’t we know about you?
I love watermelon. In fact, I have a weakness for them. I want to eat the whole intact thing in one sitting and I actually can do it undoubtedly, but I know I shouldn’t.
I have a black thumb, meaning I tend to kill all plants I have at my place. That is sad, but I really try. Not that I don’t water them, I do give them love and care, ,and water! Somehow no plants ever survived with me for a long period of time, even cactus. That doesn’t discourage me though. I keep trying to have them around me, doing my best to keep them alive. I talk to them each time watering them too -this might sound crazy but I do! I always get fresh flowers for my place. Flowers bring me a smile and that is more than I can ask for any object.
I enjoy at least an 85% or higher percentage of dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more I like it. A friend of mine brought me 100% dark chocolate from Italy, and I actually liked that too. Probably somewhere around 88-93% would be my sweet spot.
SJF: Watermelon… Sad Flowers…Dark Chocolate! I shall remember that in the future!
SJF: An ideal week for you would include…
JK: I would have one public performance, three days of teaching, one beautiful meal at a great restaurant with people I love, weight training three times, swimming twice, practicing every day at least 5 hours except for the day of performance, praying every day, sushi one night, sleeping 8-9 hours, and laughing a lot.
SJF: Well said – you are very disciplined!
SJF: Describe your dreams
I am living the dream already in terms of what I am doing for life. I want to continue doing my dream, and keep dreaming more than I can be capable of. My dream is my limit.
SJF: Ah, you are fortunate to be living your dream and are very inspirational to others!
SJF: One of your most memorable live performance experiences, and why?
JK: When I performed Schumann Concerto at the Hilbert Circle Theatre Hilbert Theatre in Indianapolis, there was a tornado national warning and a big storm would be hitting us about 3 hours prior to the concert. I was completely soaked, even for 5 seconds trying to get to the hall from a car. Then we all realized that people would be completely discouraged to come to a concert for their safety, not alone some orchestra members for trying to drive through the storm. We contemplate cancelling the concert, then except one second violinist, all musicians were finally there, so we decided to do it anyway. Until the time I walked out to the stage, I had no idea how many people would be there. All I was thinking was probably just handful of people might be present, but it would still be nice to play. Then when I walked out to the stage, it was almost a completely filled hall with about 600 people and more enthusiasm from the audience than any other concerts I had ever played. They all decided the concert hall was in fact the safest hiding place from tornadoes, as the hall is completely sealed and there was no window! I had so much fun playing in that concert. I felt like we are having a great party inside a cave.
Many thanks, Dr. Jeeyoon. You are truly an “extraordinary” gift to the world.
My serendipitous connection with two-time Telly Award winning Filmmaker Sue Vicory began in 2015. It was meant to be! San Diego filmmaker/entrepreneur/educator Jodi Cilley, the President of the Film Consortium San Diego and the founder and producer of the annual San Diego Film Awards (and an equally extraordinary person) recommended that I connect with her film colleague Sue. Jodi was so intuitive in facilitating our connection (which I hope will last a lifetime)!
A quote about Sue from Jodi:
“Sue Vicory is one of the most inspiring and amazing people I know. She has dedicated her life to helping others and has gone out of her way to help build the film industry in San Diego in a variety of ways. She is a role model and I’m constantly amazed by her efforts to help people from all walks of life.” – Jodi Cilley
After reaching out to Sue via email, my daughter Emmy and I were cast in the short fiction film Downstage for the 2015 San Diego 48 Hour Film Project. Sue’s production company “Heartland Films” produced and Sue directed, along with the writing team of Sariann Monaco, Holly Rone and Talia Pauletti. “Team XX” was a history-making, twenty-five member, all-female team. Downstage is now on the film festival circuit. You can view Sue’s films and videos on Sue Vicory’s YouTube Channel. Read my previous post about Team XX .
Besides working on Downstage Emmy and I have participated in a few of Sue’s community service projects and we continually network. It was because of witnessing Sue’s purpose, passion, vigor and selfless “chill” demeanor that I decided to interview her here as an Extraordinary Person, Sharing her Story!
Sue is currently on an amazing one year trip across the U.S. in her branded van with her “extraordinary” “My Power of One” (MPO1) 12 Acts of Kindness National Tour”. Her recently retired and extremely supportive husband Jay and their amazing (will tell you why later) Golden Retriever Kacy are accompanying her.
If not, the best way to describe it is a whirlwind weekend of tight deadlines, a love of the craft of filmmaking, an appetite for team building and bonding and a love for creativity. What more could film aficionados ask for? Oh, there’s also a screening on the “big screen” for each team soon after the weekend of filming!
How does it work? A team is formed and over one weekend, a short film (under 8 minutes, including a minute of credits) is written, filmed, edited and submitted within 48 hours! You might be saying “Are you kidding me”? NO, this is really how it works!
What’s the procedure? On Friday evening, in an orderly fashion, each team randomly picks a “genre”, (in San Diego there was a giant “plinko board” that teams took turns at), after which all teams are assigned the same line, character and prop that MUST be included in their film. For this 48 Hour Film Project. We’ll get to Team XX ‘ challenge soon!
Read more about the San Diego 48 Hour Film Project, which took place July 24-26, 2015. The event is Produced by Duane Trammell and Robyn Sarvis, and the website includes information about the Project, the film “Premiere” Screenings August 10-13, the “Best Of” Screenings and the wrap party August 22nd.
Producer/Director Sue Vicory, of Heartland Films (www.suevicory.com, Sue Vicory, IMDB Link) formed, Executive Produced and Directed the first “all-female” 27 member “Team, XX” film titled “Down Stage” for the 2015 San Diego 48 Hour Film Project.
“Down Stage”, a Holiday Film, will screen with 12 other film entries in Group A at 6:30 p.m., plus about 13 films in Group B at 9:00 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15 on 701 5th Ave. in the Downtown Gaslamp District of San Diego (92101) on Monday, August 10, 2015. Tickets are $15 for the “Premiere” Screenings and $20 for the “Best Of” screenings. Tickets
Team XX at the Horton Grand Theatre. Photo by Nannette DeRobertis
Vicory had several “bonding” meetings with most of the 27 members of the cast and crew (mostly from Southern California) a few weeks before the actual filming weekend. One such meeting had the 10 actresses, performing in a “mock talent show” audition which featured a variety of techniques, such as monologues, singing, dancing and improv.
With Vicory and a few Team XX’ers present, Team XX Assistant Director Jen Allen drew the genre “Holiday Film” for Team XX at the “kickoff” event at Liberty Station on Friday evening, August 24. The designated line for all teams was “Sometimes that’s (or that is) all you need”, the prop to be used was a “flashlight” and the character was to be either “Alan or Alice Downing, a Coach”.
Team XX writers included Sariann Monaco, Talia Pauletti and Holly Rone. The multigenerational writing team cranked out the “Down Stage” script about Mother’s Day within a few hours from Friday evening into Saturday early morning at Vicory’s seaside condo.
The crew included: Sue Vicory: Executive Producer/Director; Lori Jones: Producer, Jen McCleary: Assistant Director; Maidy Morhous: Production Assistant. Amanda Niles: Sound; Angela Wong: Director of Photography; Kymberrly Scott: 2nd A.D.; Krystin Cline: 2nd Camera; Tamara Ilich: Gaffer; Cara Myers: Editor; Natalie Lauer: Production Assistant; Danni Michele: Animation; Nannette DeRobertis: Photographer; Sariann Monaco: Writer; Talia Pauletti: Writer; Holly Rone: Writer; Corrinne Smith: Communications; Pamela Weigelt: Massuese; Miranda Muse: Massuese; Lisa Wintersdorff: Makeup; Crystle Orantez: Hair; Susan Farese: Public Relations. Special Thanks to SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Derek Johnston at the Horton Grand Theatre.
Team XX filmed Down Stage at the Horton Grand Theatre throughout Saturday, August 25th. In the meantime, editor Cara Myers began the editing process from her hotel suite at the Horton Grand Hotel as soon as Saturday’s footage became available and into Sunday with only one “pickup” of a voiceover on Sunday morning. Serendipitously, the “7 minute 29 second” completed film, “Down Stage” was turned in to the 48 Hour Film Project at 7:29 p.m.
I asked Sue Vicory about her experience with Team XX and the 48 Hour Film Project. Vicory stated “The passion within this group was palpable. We each brought our A Game to the production. Collaboration is a natural strength for women and it shows up clearly on the screen of our first film, “Down Stage”.
Down Stage will have a Premiere Screening with over 20 other films on Monday, August 10th at starting at 6:30 at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15, 701 5th Ave. San Diego, 92121. Here is the Ticket Link. Note: You must purchase tickets online, there will be no ticket purchases at the theatre.
Alyssa Goodman, Ph.D., Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
Susan Farese, SJF Communications (left) with Dr. Alyssa Goodman in Newport Beach, California, 2014
I first met Dr. Alyssa Goodman in Lexington, Massachusetts in 2008, when our daughters, now 16 & 17, were in the same 4th grade Girl Scout troop and then continued as fifth grade classmates. Besides being “Girl Scout and Classroom Moms”, our families spent time together socially.
Alyssa has always intrigued me. I admire her deep intelligence, humor and authenticity. She is easy to connect with and is truly “down to earth” vs. “up in the clouds”, considering she’s a tenured Astronomy Professor at Harvard! There’s no arrogance about her, she is not a diva, has a great sense of humor, and she does not intimidate others. She has a keen sense of awareness of her environment and the state of the world to include the skies, and loves making sense out of patterns of all kinds. As an aside, she also always wore the coolest colorful earrings!
Although my family and I moved to San Diego in 2010, we have kept in touch periodically. Dr. Goodman travels extensively and always lets me know when she is in my neck of the woods and vice versa. It’s my pleasure to interview Dr. Goodman as an “Extraordinary Person Sharing Her Story”
Alyssa Goodman, Ph. D.: Biography
Alyssa Goodman is Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education. Goodman received her undergraduate degree in Physics from MIT in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1989. She became full professor at Harvard in 1999, and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009. Goodman recently served as Chair of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and on the National Academy’s Board on Research Data and Information, and she currently serves on the both the IAU and AAS Working Groups on Astroinformatics and Astrostatistics. Goodman’s personal research presently focuses primarily on new ways to visualize and analyze the tremendous data volumes created by large and/or diverse astronomical surveys, like COMPLETE. She is working closely with colleagues at Microsoft Research, helping to expand the use of the WorldWide Telescope program in both research and in education.
And now, our interview:
SJF: You are extremely intriguing to me! Tell us a bit about yourself…
AG: Sure. Wow, this goes back awhile! I was born in NYC grew up on Long Island. When I was 8 years old, I was captivated by and in awe of marine biologist oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Oh how I really wanted to be a marine biologist at Woods Hole someday.
My eventual plan was to go to college first and study marine biology, but as time passed, I changed my mind. My new plan was to become a Physician, but a family member was very sick at the time and passed away. I soon decided that dealing with illness and death wasn’t for me either.
I was a good student and always had a love for science. I applied to the undergraduate program at Harvard (but ironically was not accepted)! About the same time, my younger sister discovered (while reading stack of college application material) that MIT only “early accepted” or “deferred” applicants but didn’t “reject” any. I was accepted into MIT and majored in physics.
My Dad helped me to find a summer Internship at an engineering company, where I subsequently interned for two summers, after high school graduation and after my freshman year at MIT. When it was time to plan an internship after my sophomore year at MIT there were two possibilities: An “underwater archeological dig” and NASA! I was one of 60 applicants for a scholarship to an underwater archeological “dig” that one had to pay for and missed out on the scholarship by one spot. I also boldly called NASA (no Google then…I merely looked the number up in the “yellow pages”) and accepted and was paid for a NASA internship.
After graduating from MIT in 1984, I was offered a job at the Bank of Boston, but said no and decided to delay working by going to Graduate School.
I was accepted to Harvard for graduate school and received my Ph.D. in Physics 1989. I did my post doctoral at University of California at Berkeley for three years. My first post-graduate assignment was teaching Astronomy in 1992, (which was ironic, since I had only taken one Undergraduate and one Graduate Astronomy course and didn’t believe that I had the “credentials”)!
Harvard Professor of Astronomy, Alyssa Goodman, speaks about the new capabilities of Microsoft WorldWide Telescope 5.0 at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington D.C. (Photo: Microsoft Corporation)
SJF: Very interesting that your awe of the ocean led you to your gazing at and studying the stars & galaxies! What have been your life hurdles? successes?
AG: While it wasn’t a “hurdle” I did have uncertainty as to when I would become a tenured professor at Harvard. In academia, all those years of education weren’t enough, even with a Ph.D. I was initially an Assistant Professor 1992-1995 and was considered Junior Faculty, then became an Associate Professor from 1995-1999. Normally Associate Professors are tenured, but that was not the case at Harvard. I taught for seven years and balanced an uncertain future, worrying that I would need to relocate, wondering if I could have a family, etc. before I was tenured as a full professor in 1999.
SJF: Your “uncertainly” has certainly led you to a highly valued tenured position at Harvard and many amazing opportunities to educate and inspire us! Which leads me to the next question: Who are three people that you admire?
AG: Jacques Cousteau, for his lifelong work as an exceptionally bright marine biologist, Albert Einstein for his views of Judaism as a ” philosophy” vs. a “religion” and Meryl Streep for her versatility as an actress.
SJF: What have been three significant/pivotal events in your life?
AG: My first memory of a pivotal event? Well, when I was in 9th school, I gave my National Honor Society speech. One of my friend’s moms was there and heard my speech. She told me way back then that I had a “natural talent” for public speaking. I didn’t realize what she meant at the time! Incidentally, that friend’s mom is actually now the mother of an undergraduate student studying violin at Harvard today! Another pivotal event was when I became tenured at Harvard. And of course, becoming a Mom to my daughter Abby was a very special pivotal event and remains so.
SJF: What are your fears?
AG: I fear that our beautiful planet Earth will be ruined due to climate change (as well as how some people treat it).
SJF: What are some of your strongest assets?
AG: I learn things well. I stop talking, listen and pay attention. As an observer, I see patterns and connections. I also remember things that don’t connect. I stay fit.
SJF: Those assets are definitely words of wisdom! What do you usually dream about?
AG: Some dreams are vivid and memorable, some that are bad, I instantly forget!
SJF: That’s brilliant and concise way of describing your dreams! Speaking of dreams, how do you support dreams of others? Do you “give back”? if so with which groups?
AG: Not being fluent in another language. Although I have studied French, I feel I could have studied a bit more.
SJF: Who are your role models? Male or female, in or out of your profession?
AG: This is very interesting, because they are both serendipitous friendships. A female role model I admire is Astronomer Vera Rubin (Dark Matter) and a male role model would be Bob Kirshner , a Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University who studied dark energy, and was a Wolf Medal Recipient.
SJF: What qualities should the younger generation aspire to have that you think are important in this day and age?
AG: There should be less emphasis on grades and more on actual curiosity and learning.
SJF: Agreed! How do you feel about the enourmous use of technology is being used today? Do you think we should connect more in person?
AG: I definitely use tech a lot, but have a love-hate relationship with it. I like it when it is associated with learning. I don’t like it as a time waster!
SJF: Any funny anecdotes about astronomy?
AG: I occasionally take a look at xkcd.com; It’s what I call “nerd humor” and it’s such a hoot!
SJF: I took a gander at it! Cool! What’s been happening lately and what is up next for you???
AG: I just taught a one day advanced workshop in San Francisco in February, 2015 called “See Think Design Produce” with Jonathan Corum, Mike Bostock and Edward Tufte: world-class design architectures for information, data, images, videos, diagrams, interfaces, presentations. We spoke about how to convey information graphically. In March I will be presenting at and attending “Tools for Astronomical Big Data” speaking about “Wide Data vs. Big Data” in Tucson, Arizona.
SJF: Those sounds like interesting workshops! Speaking of San Francisco, and Tucson, where have you traveled? Where is your favorite place in the world??
AG: My job has taken me many places in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres! My favorite place is Martha’s Vineyard.
SJF: Thank you so much, it’s been such a pleasure interviewing you and getting to know you even more!
Susan Lisovicz is a dynamic renowned Journalist (well known for her Business/Financial reporting) and mass communicator with an incredible resume. A 1978 Communications Graduate at William Paterson University in New Jersey, Susan received the President’s Medal in 1999. Ms. Lisovicz is a former Reporter/ Anchor for CNN, CNBC, and during college was a reporter for WOBM-FM.
Per her website (www.susanlisovicz.com) Susan was “live on the air when former President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to the NYSE and was the only reporter to get an on-air comment”. Susan has covered breaking general assignment stories such as September 11th, the death of Pope John Paul II and Hurricane Katrina.
Side note: Susan and I were grammar school classmates in the quaint town of Wallington, New Jersey until my family and I moved “down the shore” the summer before 8th grade. We both share a love for and treasure the Jersey Shore and the art of communications. We have continued to keep in touch throughout the years. I admire Susan’s professionalism, dedicated work ethic and enthusiastic zest for life. Susan Lisovicz is a truly a role model. I am proud to interview Susan Lisovicz, (“the other Susan” on the “other side of the interview table”)!
SJF: Please tell us a bit about your upbringing…
SL: I grew up in a small town in suburban New Jersey. One of four children, a middle child. My father’s nickname was Easy Ed. All of our friends liked my parents. Anybody who came over for dinner was entertained with an endless supply of true and embarrassing stories about each of the children. My mother went right back to work as a nurse in the hospital as soon as we all were in school. She worked weekends and weird hours. In return she was able to get off the entire summer. Thus began my lifelong love affair with the Jersey Shore, where we still have a house where we all congregate. Our big Saturday night dinners at the shore with my brothers, sisters-in-law and me cooking for a dozen or more people is one of my favorite things.
SJF: Yes, I remember that quaint small town, Wallington, N.J., where we were parochial school classmates. We also mutually treasure the Jersey Shore. My Grandparents owned a bungalow a few streets from your former home (which sadly washed away during Hurricane Sandy) at Ortley Beach. We had fun times at Barnacle Bill’s playing pinball back in the day! Where has the time gone? Moving on…How long have you been a journalist/reporter/professor? (Did you always want to be one)?
SL: I have been a journalist since I was 15. My best friend was a year older and editor in chief of the high school newspaper. She suggested I write about a recent rock concert I attended. I gave it a lot of thought, handed in the article and realized this was my life calling.
SJF: Serendipity! Who knew??? What a great way to take that first step. Speaking of steps…What have been your life hurdles? successes?
SL: It is not easy to stay balanced. It is a constant struggle. For much of my life I’ve worked in a high-octane environment. You are working with people who are smarter, better connected, prettier… you name it. It’s a constant reminder to recite the Serenity Prayer.
SJF: One would never know that you have struggled, you make it all seem so easy! So inspiring! Which brings me to: who is “your” inspiration ?
SL: Nelson Mandela, who forgave. Pope John Paul II, for his courage. Paul Newman, for his integrity. Ted Turner, for his commitment to the environment.
SJF: That is an incredible line up. Can you tell us about three significant/pivotal events in your life?
SL: First heartbreak: Love hurts. My sister’s death at 29: There are no guarantees. My first layoff: The glass is half full, not half empty. It’s a time to check out new frontiers and sometimes it’s destiny.
SJF: Do you have any fears?
SL: Oh, sure. Fear of losing my independence, physically, financially. Fear of not reaching my potential. Fear of getting lazy and tired and worst of all, jaded. But there are a lot of things that I worry about in a larger sense. I worry about a growing lack of civil discourse in this country…I don’t even want to give voice to my worst fears about that. I worry that despite an infinite number of examples about how we abuse our natural resources (air, water, wildlife) that we continue to be lousy stewards of this beautiful planet and I worry about the Middle East. It always seems that when things can’t get any worse…they do.
SJF: What do you usually dream about?
SL: I can’t remember my dreams. Maybe that’s a good thing.
SJF: What is your strongest asset? What do you need to work on??
SL: Everyone comments on my high energy (and I’ve never been known to drink coffee) as well as my enthusiasm and love of adventure. As for what I need to work on: patience, living in the moment, maximizing time efficiency.
SJF: Do you “give back”? if so with which groups?
SL: I am on the board of the Y in my town and I am actively involved in projects, I am a Eucharistic minister at my church, I’ve done volunteer work at a hospital in Bangladesh and a children’s camp in Massachusetts. I am a member of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society and Nature Conservancy. And I teach.
SJF: What’s up next for you??? Teaching at Cronkite, Consulting etc.
SL: I’m still exploring this new career. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve done lectures in Poland and consulted privately all over the country and Europe.
SJF: Do you miss reporting/anchoring?
SL: I’m still a news junkie. I do get totally entranced when reading some news stories. I will stare at a TV monitor at work on a big story. I think sometimes.. that would be fun. But TV news is an all or nothing game. Energy, focus, stress levels, b.s. It will push you. I did it for a long time. I wouldn’t say I’m out of the news business 100%, But I am doing things differently now. And it feels right.
SJF: How does it feel to be interviewed (as opposed to being the interviewer)?
SL: Well, I know what can go wrong in an interview. I know words can get taken out of context. I know that the focus in the piece can be on something completely different than the interview that it was based on. But there’s something called trust and respect.
SJF: Any regrets in life?
SL: I should be fluent in a second language, should have learned how to eat like a lady.
SJF: Big smile after that last comment! Now, onto a more serious topic: How did 9-11 impact you?
SL: It continues to be a sickening reminder of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Yet the resilience of man is also extraordinary. One of the most memorable weddings I ever attended was that of a friend who remarried several years after losing her first husband in the South Tower.
SJF: Do you have any particular role models? Male/Female, in and out of your profession?
SL: Derek Jeter, for the combination of clean competition and a quiet dignity. Of course I have an endless number of female role models. My mother, who raised four children and worked full time as a hospital nurse. She teaches by example how to live your life. Christiane Amanpour: brilliant and gutsy. Malala Yousafzai: eloquent and fearless. And countless women I am lucky enough to call friends who are strong, compassionate and fun.
SJF: What qualities should the younger generation aspire to have that you think are important in this day and age?
SL: Tune in. Vote. Care. Do better than the generation before you.
SJF: How do you feel about how much tech people are using all the time? Do you think we should connect more in person?
SL: Yes. Smart phones and tablets can actually be very alienating when used to excess. We need to connect in person.
SJF: Funny stories about anchoring?
SL: Oh, there was the earring that fell off mid sentence. Or Richard Simmons trying to hijack my live shot or getting a call close to midnight to anchor the overnight when I was sipping a beer in a hot tub.
SJF: Funny! But you are so resilient, I have faith that you handled all of those well.
SJF: How do you handle loss????
SL: It makes me appreciate life and love that much more. And it makes me recognize that loss is part of life.
SJF: On that note…thank you, my friend, kindred spirit and “extraordinary person”, Susan Lisovicz for sharing your story!
Erica has a really interesting story to tell…so…Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m thrilled to introduce you to my “kindred spirit” from New England, Erica McDermott, a.k.a. Erica McD.!
SJF: Let’s start at the very beginning! Please tell us a bit about your early years.
EMcD: Sure. I lived in Somerville Massachusetts until the sixth grade. We moved to Quincy, where I did the majority of my “growing up”. My parents married very young and soon after they welcomed me into their world. They’re still married today!
SJF: Sweet! Do you have any siblings?
EMcD: I am an only child and I LOVE IT!! It was very challenging to play the game Connect Four all by myself – I had to get creative. (Hahhaha I’m only half kidding)!
SJF: I marvel at your solo game playing abilities!! OK moving on… You know you’re a kindred spirit of mine-we’re both Registered Nurses, and we share the zodiac sign “Taurus” (no wonder), which is a premium! Where did you study Nursing and what is your specialty? Do you still practice?
EMcD: Yes, I’m a Registered Nurse. I earned my BSN (Bachelors of Nursing) with a minor in Chemistry & Biology in 1995 at Salem State University. Although I don’t currently practice, it’s important to me to maintain my license. I worked hard to earn it – it’s something that means a great deal to me. My specialty as a nurse was Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury and Neuropsychiatry. I often look for continuing education classes that focus on these areas.
SJF: Very impressive…and your credentials made me think about another funny nurse who is also an actress, Bonnie Hunt! How did the acting bug bite you? What propelled you?
EMcD: When my children were entering full day school, I decided it was time to get back into nursing. At the same time, I was asked to perform in a One Night Only benefit performance in my home town of Scituate. The show was called MOMologues, a comedy about Motherhood. The director Lisa Rafferty, was looking for funny Moms from my town, and people suggested they ask me to take part. I had been in exactly 1 play in Junior High School, and public speaking really never bothered me. After some thought, I agreed to do the show. When the show was over, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness. Without question, in 2008 I had found a part of me that I didn’t know existed.
SJF: Incidentally, Lisa Rafferty was kind enough to send me a note about you: “We’ve been so lucky to have Erica be a part of the development of two our MOM shows. Her talent shines through our material – her commitment and fearlessness sparks the comedy every time”‘
SJF: So…MOMologues was extremely serendipitous! And after the MOMologues?
EMcD: A few weeks after the MOMologues show, I received an email from Plymouth Rock Studios. PRS was planning on building huge Hollywood style Studios in Plymouth MA. They invited me down to see the plans. I still don’t know how they found me?? While I was there they offered me free acting classes over several weeks. I decided to go & didn’t share this new activity with any of my friends. I was fearful that they would think I was having some sort of a midlife crisis. I loved the classes, and was strongly encouraged to send a head shot and resume to local casting and modeling agencies. To my surprise, I started working the next week. My first job was a photo shoot for stock photos for a magazine.
SJF: Very cool! Such an amazing start to your acting/modeling career! How did they find you??? Talk about mysteries! Free acting classes are usually unheard of! And then a photo shoot to boot! Alright, now for the fun stuff…Come on..Tell us about your breakthrough role in THE FIGHTER and how it came about!
EMcD: Not long after that photo shoot I was called into Boston Casting for a film called The Fighter. They were looking for background actors to be “tough girls”. I was called into a room with about 20 or 30 other people, Casting Director Angela Peri spoke to the group. She walked by each girl assessing if they could get the “job done”. Girls were passed by over and over again because she didn’t think they looked “tough” enough. I had been taught in my acting classes that sometime you need to take a risk. I went for it. When Angela told me I was “too pretty to be tough”, I stepped out of line, got in her face and aggressively told her that she was going to give me part in movie. I may have dropped an F-Bomb…. or two. Little did I know that this was the first of 5 auditions that would ultimately earn me a supporting role in the Oscar Nominated film The Fighter.
SJF: That’s phenomenal! Ahem. I was at that casting call too, (LOL) but on a different day and placed in a different group of women…Angela took one look at me in my get-up: wig, bandanna, in snake pants and snake sandals with my supposedly “tough broad” stance & garb and matter-of-factly said: “Nah ah…Go over and talk to my casting associate, I want you for featured as a nurse in that other film, which was ultimately called “Locked In“. Yep I was one of those “passed over” but it’s all good, and then I was fortunate to be cast featured as a British Reporter in The Fighter anyway!! I really admire how you took the risk! That takes chutspah!
SJF: What are your “secrets” for newbies breaking into “the biz” or for those who aren’t booking roles or just need more opportunities? Any particular tidbits of advice?
EMcD: I acknowledge that what happened to me is ridiculously unusual. It’s almost hard to believe. I wish I had some magical advice to share with other people looking to break into the business. Classes, owning the choices I make during auditions and being prepared are some of the things that I try to do to stay on track.
SJF: Those all make a lot of sense! Can you tell us who your inspiration is as an actress?
EMcD: My family are very supportive. They believe in me and route for me. They all inspire me to work hard and to do my absolute best. We try to sit down for dinner, together, as often as possible. We really connect at this time, and talk about our day. When possible, I book auditions during the day while my girls are at school. I’ve learned how to juggle as so many Moms and Dads do.
SJF: Now for a little nitty gritty, how do you “get into” character?
EMcD: If I am being considered for a role in a biopic, I research everyone involved in the story. I look at photos, read books and watch documentaries if they are available. This process helps me see the whole picture before zoning in on one particular person. Kristin Swan from Swan Communications Therapies is my Dialect Coach. If I need to pick up a new accent quickly I can always count on her.
I often visit a coffee shop in Hingham to try out a new accent for the first time. It’s weird to speak to someone in a new voice for the first time. I feel that if I can do it, in front of strangers, and truly pull it off without anyone raising an eyebrow – that I have perfected the accent.
SJF: Erica, Kristin Swan was so kind to send us a note about working with you. Here’s what she had to say: “I will very gladly speak about my work with Erica!”
….”Erica is a talented actress with an acute ear and an excellent handle on accents. She makes my job as her dialect coach very easy as she comes prepared and is easily directed. To prep for a new accent, we research and chat specifics about the target accent and then with some additional pointers from me, Erica typically dives right in and starts practicing. I will check in and phonetically transcribe a paragraph or two from her speech, providing periodic check-ins until it is mastered. It never takes long, as she is a quick study. What is the most impressive about working with Erica is how analytical she is. She wants to understand not only the accent she is prepping for but also her own native Boston accent. Her level of awareness, her preparation and her tenacity leads to an end result that is natural and believable.”
SJF: Kristin really admres your work ethic! Very impressive! “Pahk the cah”, eh? (Can you tell I miss Boston)? Also quite a task, to research all the characters! Monumental!
SJF: Do you “give back” and if so, with which particular groups? Do you feel that it is important for other actors and celebrities do so as well?
EMcD: I support a few local charities and organizations here in Boston. I’ve been a fan of The Ellie Fund for years. They are a non-profit organization that fights breast cancer by easing its effects on patients and their families. I’ve followed The Home for Little Wanderers since I was in Nursing School. They’ve been open for over 200 years and have earned the reputation for doing whatever it takes to strengthen vulnerable families and to keep children safe.
SJF: How often have you hosted events as a celeb, which is a different “role” than acting. Is hosting events difficult? How do u prep?
EMcD: I’ve hosted quite a few events – sometimes I’m a solo emcee and sometimes I’m part of a group. Most recently I hosted the Imagine Magazine Awards Show at the Boston Hard Rock. It was fun because the room was filled with peers, colleagues and friends from the New England Entertainment Industry. I was able to poke fun at my friends and tell a few jokes – it was easy to prep for this event. What I loved about this specific party was that I truly celebrated the success of some pretty special people in my region who work in the film & television business. To hear exactly why they were given awards was inspiring to me.
SJF: Here is another recent interview link featuring you in IMAGINE MAGAZINE by Publisher Carol Patton: http://imaginenews.com/getting-know-erica-mcdermott/
Side note, folks…Below are a few photos of Erica’s metamorphosis as very different characters in those two films!
Erica McDermott as Tar Ecklund in The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams and her other “Sisters”
EMcD: – It took over 2 years to grow my hair out after filming The Fighter. Not a complaint, just an observation. I’d bleach my hair again in a second if a character called for it. I also had to keep the pounds on during filming. I can’t say that part was hard. Hahhaaa!
SJF: WOW! I think that your hair in THE FIGHTER (and that porch scene) is unmatched and will always be historic as was your cleavage (ahem) in American Hustle! Bagels or prosthestics???
SJF: I have a little surprise for you…One of your Sisters in “The Fighter”, another sassy, silly, serious actor, Melissa McMeekin has a little to say about you: “I just am so honored to know Erica. I have said so many times that being part of The Fighter was an amazing gift, but truly the best gifts were the friendships I formed with the amazing women that played my sisters. And Erica and I have become so close that I honestly can’t even believe that I didn’t know her 5 years ago. She is an incredibly talented and fearless actress. She is a complete natural, it’s like she just knows exactly what to do, her instincts are incredible. I really think she can do anything and she is probably one of the absolute funniest people I know. Her comedic timing is off the charts. She is one in a million and as beautiful as she is the most stunning thing about her is how truly amazing of a person she is”.
SJF: That was so nice of Melissa and so true about you, Erica! Keep on shining!
So, what’s next for you on the big screen?
EMcD: I recently worked on the Warner Brothers Pictures’ biopic, directed by Scott Cooper, about Whitey Bulger called Black Mass. My character is Mary Bulger, wife of ex-state senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). It was an incredible and memorable experience. The movie is set to hit theaters on September 18th.
SJF: I am sure we’ll stay tuned for that film! Benedict is nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Alan Turing in this year’s “The Imitation Game” at the top of his game as well!
SJF: Thanks so much Erica, for sharing your extraordinary story and for all of your photos!!
Dear SJF Communications Blog Followers and Visitors,
I wrote the poem “Ann’s Zest Ends” one evening in 1991, shortly after seeing the highly acclaimed film “Awakenings” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099077/combined with my husband. During the movie, which starred the late (and great) Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, I was in tears. It dawned on me why I was so sad. A female character in the film (“Lucy Fishman”, played by the phenomenal actress Alice Drummond http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0238541/ , reminded me so much of my Maternal Grandmother (kindred spirit and soulmate), Ann, who suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, was unfortunately institutionalized and died prematurely at age 60 in 1971. “Awakenings” had awakened many memories from when I was age 8-14, with such a warm, wonderful, zany and fun Grandma experiencing her devastating premature demise, before us and before her time. There were no day care facilities back then. It was a very tough time for our family. I “grew up” early because of this experience. I know I was called to the nursing profession as a result of this.
To make a long story short, one evening after being immersed in thought from seeing “Awakenings”, I couldn’t get to sleep. My husband was away on a business trip. I tried all my usual methods to relax and fall asleep, but simply couldn’t. All of a sudden, I grabbed the beautiful, then “blank” journal that my husband had given me as a gift. I thought deeply about Ann and reminisced. “Ann’s Zest Ends” simply and mysteriously appeared on the written page. It was chronological, it rhymed and it even reflected how I felt 20 years after her death. It was a surreal experience, because I didn’t have an intention to write. It simply “poured out”. I was crying and smiling, and nodding and acknowledging, remembering good times as well as sad times…I was amazed at the cathartic nature of writing about my loss of Grandma Ann, 20 years later.
After calling my Mom and reading the poem to her the next morning, Mom encouraged me to “share it with everyone”, so I did. I would recite “Ann’s Zest Ends” at business meetings, to health care audiences, caregiver groups, and to the general public. There was no limit. It was a truly cathartic, therapeutic experience. The response was always responsive and somewhat overwhelming, as someone would always come up to me afterwards and share their story about a loved one. We frequently would need tissues. I soon discovered the tremendous power of poetry as a result of “sharing the caring’ with others.
“Ann’s Zest Ends” led me to write more poetry “from the heart” which evolved into my book “Poetic Expressions in Nursing…Sharing the Caring” which was published in 1993. That led to my providing many presentations and seminars on the power of poetry in several states and overseas and as a “Distinguished Lecturer” in the International Nursing Honor Society, Sigma Theta Tau.
I wrote the poem 23 years ago and it still rings true to me, although there are definitely more support groups and possibilities as well as much more research done. This is my tribute to Ann and others with Alzheimer’s, past, present and future and the many devoted caregivers who continue to battle this devastating disease with patience, love and commitment to their loved ones.
This one is for you, Grandma Ann….
Yours in Poetry,
Grandma Ann and Susan
ANN’S ZEST ENDS
Susan J. Felice-Farese, MSN, RN
Her zest for life, boundless energy
A smile a minute, so full of glee…
Remembrances of my grandmother Ann, so significant to me.
She ran the show, she was “in the know”
About this or that, nonetheless, always on the go!
So sharp, so much fun, and so “on the ball”
How I long to remember, and long to recall:
Endless walks, sun or snow, when I was small…
She’d pick me up, when my spirit would fall.
My first real buddy, my first true friend,
Her ears and shoulders she’d always lend;
If I was sad, my pain I’d spend
(But always through her, my heart would mend).
But when I was about seven, in 1963,
Something in her changed, so drastically;
She would no longer laugh, (she no longer knew me).
She would wander about, so aimlessly
She would light the gas stove, and let the fire run free!
Her eyes then would gaze, in a wild “combat stare”
She grew mute and confused, (she would pick at her hair).
Who was this new stranger, taking over her mind?
Where did her spirit go, what did it find?
From doctor to doctor, this mystery grew,
It was 1965, and still nobody knew
To a state institution eventually,
(Her spirit then faded each day, religiously).
She grew steadily worse, it took six more long years
I would visit her with my mother, (we would share many tears)
Day passes were draining, the public would stare
We’d assist her in the bathroom, (comb the knots from her hair).
I wonder how she felt, personality “withered”
Did she realize her melt? (Were her synapses in a blizzard)?
On the thirteenth of April, 1971
When the hospital called us, ’twas the weight of a ton
She was terminally losing the battle, and had wasted away,
Lost all faculties, (not her choosing)
She died soon after that day.
I reached for her hand at the bedside,
To say “goodbye, friend” on that fateful day;
She mumbled and stared and “connected”
She mumbled as if to say:
“So long for now, Susan, for I’m afraid it’s time to take my rest,
-cause Alzheimer’s drained my life away,
(But at least you’ve inherited my zest!”)
Twenty years later, I weep for the past
Fond memories of Ann (she left the “good life” so fast).
Her suffering, although it was an unfair curse,
Was the stimulus for me to become a nurse.
As I seriously reflect on this draining disease
That “robs the brain” of freedom cells, and “independence ease”
I AM ANGRY NO DEFINITE CAUSE OR CURE HAS BEEN FOUND
ALL THE RESEARCH WON’T TOUCH THE PAIN THAT ABOUNDS.
If I had just one wish that would be granted to me
I’d want to spend a day with Ann, just her and me;
Her cheerful style, giving nature so gold,
Her best feature “zest”, her stature so bold…
(…But who’s kidding who…she was taken away in her prime-
A true servant of God, strong will, lost mind…)
“One who can still remember”
“Remember”, that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month:
In honor of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to introduce you to an inspiring, extraordinary person and true pink warrior, Sharon Slosarik, who is living life to the absolute fullest with Stage 4 Breast Cancer since 2006. That’s right, 8 years at Stage 4!!!! Sharon and I are “pseudo-cousins” and 2nd generation members of the very special one-of-a-kind “B-Cliff Club“, courtesy of our fathers and dear to our hearts. Little did they know what an impact the B-Cliff has had on our lives!
Much more about Sharon and her fierceness soon, but first a little history on the the B-Cliff Club (as you might be wondering about the name and how it came about)!
Tidbits About the B-Cliff Club
Sharon’s Dad Johnny (who sadly passed away in 2010) and my Dad Frank, along with 4 other grammar school buddies, Joe (Frank’s cousin), Steve, Paul and Vic, became lifelong friends in Passaic, New Jersey during the 1940’s and have continued through high school and life.
During the mid to late 1950’s…the six guys were courting and ultimately getting married to their sweethearts. They formed the very unique “B-Cliff Club”…each letter standing for the initial of their Italian last names. Sharon’s Dad Johnny provided the only vowel, the “i” in the group.
Each month or so, the young couples would gather at one of their homes. The guys would play cards, the ladies would chat about this or that. They’d all share conversations, listen to the music of the time, laugh a lot, enjoy food and light libations, etc. Twice a year they would host in some way or another.
The B-Cliff meetings continued over the years as each of the couples became parents, their kids endured K-12 and college, marriages, grandchildren and issues in-between etc. and we all became “cousins” by default! The families celebrated priceless friendships at Italian feasts, dude ranches, Great Adventure and other fun spots throughout the years. To this day, the B-Cliff Club meets every few months, despite miles between them the furthest living in Georgia, and some in Northern NJ and several in Southern NJ.
Sharon’s Story…Life Before Her Diagnosis
Now all about Sharon…She was born in 1967 to Uncle Johnny and “Irish” Aunt Connie and grew up with her older sister Dawn (who is 4 years older than Sharon) in NJ. She graduated from Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope, NJ and obtained her degree in English Writing and Communications at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989. After college Sharon worked for Dun & Bradstreet as a National Business Consultant and Risk Evaluation Consultant and then as Administrative Assistant to the Head of Dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY.
Sharon and her future husband John had known the same friends since 8th grade but had never met. It was one infamous evening, however after she graduated from college, when Sharon was “stood-up” on a date with another boy, that hit the icing on the cake. Sharon’s fierceness surfaced when she encountered that “stander upper” at the establishment John was working at. After telling him a thing or two…she boldly poured a beer over the guy! Incidentally they remain friends to this day (but John lucked out)!
One late night in NYC Sharon and her friend went to a comedy club. There she was, in ’90’s attire, including stiletto heels, her “jersey hair”, & “lots of makeup”. After the club, in the wee small hours of the morning, Sharon and her girlfriend went to a park because Sharon wanted to go on the swings. They had a heart to heart chat about what they were looking for in their future husbands. Sharon spouted off many of the qualities she was looking for..and her friend blurted out: JOHN! He is your ideal husband!
Needless to say, it took a little bit longer, but Sharon and John were happily married on 9.4.94. (fast forward…this year celebrated their 20th anniversary)!
After multiple attempts to conceive, they decided to try In Vitro. Their beautiful daughter Jennie, now 16, a Junior in high school, and a pink warrior-ette too, was born in 1998. More on Jennie later!
The events of September 11, 2001 strongly affected Sharon, as she lost several friends who either worked in the Twin Towers or were first responders who helped in the recovery of victims. After 9/11, she was compelled to make a drastic change. Sharon took a huge pay cut, took classes and embarked on her new career as a credentialed teacher. She has been teaching 9th and 10th grade English ever since (with gaps for medical reasons) at inner-city Passaic High School, the alma mater of the B-Cliff guys. She also is active as a class advisor. Additionally she serves as a tutor and chaperone for the New Jersey R.O.T.C. (Navy) as well as an advisor for the National Honor Society.
The First Diagnosis & Treatment
Fast forward to May, 2003, when Jennie was almost 5 years old. Sharon and John had gone to the rain delayed Yankees vs. Boston game in the Bronx that Wednesday evening. Late that night when they finally got home from the game, John was taking a shower after his then split-shift at work, with Sharon sitting on their bed. Sharon felt some “itchiness” in the area on her chest. She rubbed the itchy area and sadly discovered a lump on her breast. That was the beginning. They both shed the beginning of many tears. The next morning they rushed to Sharon’s OB/GYN, who ordered an urgent mammogram that afternoon followed by an ultrasound the next day after work. Once the pre-op labs and workup was completed Sharon had a lumpectomy the following Tuesday, which was standard practice at the time. The diagnosis was stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma an estrogen aggressive type of breast cancer which was bulging the lymph ducts. It was an omen that the ducts didn’t burst for fear of spreading. Five lymph nodes were positive. The decision to have the lumpectomy was because at the time, she was told that chemo, radiation and lumpectomy had the same success cure rate within 5%. The surgeon removed 5-6 nodes were biopsied.
In December 2003, Sharon experienced nine rounds of chemotherapy and 36 doses of radiation. Sharon lost her hair from the chemo and had other side effects. The radiation caused 2nd and 3rd degree burns, which required “Silvadene with gauze, tank tops, and big shirts” to go along with the pain and nausea.
BRCA-1 Gene Positive
A few years passed. Then, in 2006, Sharon found out that she was BRCA-1 gene positive. Of note is that her paternal grandmother and all of her grandmother’s sisters as well as all of her paternal grandfather’s sisters had breast cancer and several paternal relatives had colon cancer. She was the 4th generation to have breast cancer. Sharon’s sister Dawn has tested negative. Jennie will be tested at age 18.
Sharon’s Cancer Returns…This Time Stage 4
Once she found out that she was BRCA-1 positive, she decided to have an elective bilateral mastectomy as a precaution. While having her preop workup with labs and tests, it was discovered “accidentally” that her breast cancer had unfortunately returned. Despite her earlier Stage 3 breast cancer and treatment regimen of her lumpectomy, chemo and radiation, this time, her cancer was classified as Stage 4. Additionally, it metastasized to her lung, slightly on one of her ovaries as well as one of her fallopian tubes. Even with her physician’s reluctance, Sharon fought hard and ultimately had a bilateral mastectomy, removal of her ovary and had 4 inches of her lung resected.
The Surgery and Aftermath
After a terrible encounter in 2006 with her Oncologist who “didn’t want to treat her due to the fact that she was going to die from stage 4 breast cancer”, Sharon waited a year and found a wonderful new Oncologist and team. She was advised not to have new implants. In 2009, Sharon underwent and endured a 14 hour trans-flap reconstruction comprised of 6 or 7 procedures from a team of physicians. She had an enormous amount of postoperative pain which persisted for months.
In 2011 Sharon’s Physician started her on a new med, Zometa, twice a year. Zometa is an intravenous medication which treats bone problems from cancer. She suffers from difficult side effects from this treatment, including ongoing neuropathy.
Sharon sees her Gynecologist, Oncologist and Primary Physician regularly. She had scans every three months for awhile, then every 6 months. After celebrating 5 years at stage 4, since nuclear scans can lead to toxins she now has them every 18 months to two years.
Sharon’s Warrior Spirit and Community Involvement
Interview Q & A with Sharon
SF: Please share your involvement with Breast Cancer awareness in the community:
Sharon: My sister Dawn first saw a commercial for the Susan G. Komen walk in 2002 when I was undergoing my chemo and radiation treatment. The day I completed my treatment I registered both of us (without telling her) to walk 60 miles. Dawn and I first walked in 2003. During 2006-2007 I was having extensive surgery. In 2008, my husband John walked for me for the first time. I was supporting cheering him and others from the sidelines, since I wasn’t cleared to walk yet. John has walked for me alone from 2008-2011. http://www.the3day.org/site/TR/2014/PhiladelphiaEvent2014?px=3672255&pg=personal&fr_id=1863. I’m so proud to say that we have walked together since 2012!
Sharon and Dawn at the 2013 Philadelphia 3 Day Walk “PIt Stop”!
A Message from Sharon’s Sister, Dawn
It’s funny to think that when we were kids, Sharon and I couldn’t be in the same room together without trying to kill each other because now she is my best friend and I can’t imagine not having her in my life. That’s why her diagnosis hit me so hard. Your little sister is facing this nightmare and you can’t do anything to stop it. You just feel so helpless. Then I saw the commercial for the 3-Day and told Sharon about it. I thought it would be a great way to do something together to try and make a difference, but she was in the middle of her chemo treatments. Well apparently she thought it was a good idea too because when her treatments were done, she signed us both up and the rest as they say is history. She and I did two walks together before her 2nd diagnosis. We took time off from walking while Sharon began the 2nd round of her battle. Now the 3-Day is a real family affair. John, Jennie, Sharon and I walk and my mom and aunt volunteer as support staff. We have also become part of an even bigger “Pink Family” through the friendships we have formed participating in the walk. Our “pink peeps” as we call them are the most loving and generous people I have ever met. Their dedication to ending this disease warms my heart and I know that because of them, Sharon lives to fight another day. She charges forward with no hesitation to face every challenge that this disease throws at her. She never complains, never slows down, she just stares cancer right in the face and tells it to kiss her ass. I am so proud to call Sharon my sister. She is a true Pink Warrior. She is my hero and I love her very much!
Sharon: Yes, I remember three of them in particular. The three hardest days were definitely the day I lost my hair, the day I realized my daughter “gets it” and the day I had a doctor give up on me.
The hair day was really difficult because nobody really warns you. It is not a gradual thing it comes out in clumps and it hurts and it is horrible. I remember sitting there just pulling it out by the handful and I looked like that ratty doll from rug rats. My husband John said “That’s enough” and finally just buzzed it. Jennie was so sweet she was only 4, but she said “Don’t worry Mommy, you are beautiful on the inside so your hair doesn’t matter.” Oy that kid kills me but in a good way! John of course was already bald but a dear friend shaved his head for me and showed up at the Yankee game that night bald. He said, “Baby, it’s only hair… yours will grow back and so will mine.” I was speechless.
The next bad day was when Jennie was about 6. A friend from work had a heart attack and passed and I was getting ready to attend his wake. She looked at me and said, “What kind of cancer did your friend die from Mommy?” I said, “No baby, he had a problem with his heart.” Jennie replied, “Oh, he had cancer in his heart and that’s why he died.” In that moment I knew that she understood that what mommy had killed people and I cried the whole way to the wake. It’s one thing to know it yourself, it’s another to have your child know it. That part really hurts, she never remembers a time that mommy wasn’t sick, but at the same time it has given her such strength and compassion.
My other really bad day was when my physician told me she didn’t want to treat me because I had Stage 4 and was going to die so why would she waste her time on me. I left her office and wandered for blocks in NYC finding myself at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I sat down and lost it. Sobbing uncontrollably. A security guard got a priest but I was so upset I couldn’t even breathe or speak. They hit redial on my phone and luckily I had spoken to a friend who was an FDNY chief on the way into the city. He came lights and sirens to pick me up parked on the sidewalk, drove me to the nearest bar and lined up shots of Jameson’s I threw back a few, told him what happened, he did one himself and asked me her name. I did another and began to laugh. I knew if I gave up her name he was going to hurt her so I refused!
SF:Tell us about the IV pole story…
Sharon: When the cancer metastasized my poor husband was so upset. We hadn’t expected it but I pushed the doctor to biopsy “the probably nothing spot” on my lung, and what was supposed to be a “quick” procedure ended up a 4 inch lung resection with a chest tube. I was in the recovery room and John walked in and started to tear up. I looked at him and said, “Knock that off now, before I shove this IV pole up your *****, we beat it before we will beat it again.” The nurse looked at me and her mouth dropped, she asked, “Did you just threaten to shove that pole up that very large man’s ***?” I said , “yes I did and I will do the same to you if you don’t get me a wheel chair because I have to pee and I don’t do bed pans.” The nurses laughed so hard and we ended up having so much fun they pulled strings and got me a private room.
SF: How do you keep healthy?
Sharon: As far as keeping healthy I try to find a balance between healthy and fun. I don’t really deny myself “goodies” but I don’t over do it either. I walk as far as exercise goes, and I am careful around people who are sick or obvious germ hang outs. I also drive my doctor crazy sometimes but he has learned to trust that I know my body and I know my limits and has resigned himself that I am the only one allowed to set those limits.
SF: What are your coping strategies?
Sharon: Ok, so how I cope is easy, humor. I tend to laugh a lot! I never allowed cancer to interfere with my life, and my family never did either. I pushed through because I had a daughter and I knew she needed her mother. My dad lost his father when he was 7 and I wasn’t about to allow my daughter to face that because I knew how it had affected him even later in life. From the first diagnosis and every re-occurrence my question has been “OK, so how do we attack this the hardest.”
It’s funny, my conscious self is fine. I really handle it well but at one point I started to have night terrors. Apparently deep down inside, my mind was not laughing! I spoke to a therapist and my doctor finally ended up giving me some medication to help me sleep for anxiety. I am not big on meds but learned that it is sometimes better to take what you need and not be ashamed of it.
SF: Where did you inherit your “fierceness quotient”?
Sharon: I think I learned how to fight from my Grandmother Jennie and my Aunt Kay. They fought the same fight but we never really knew they were sick, and both beat odds they shouldn’t have at the time. Some days you could tell it was a “bad” day but they still always put us first. My dad remembered my grandmother telling them, “You lost your dad, you won’t lose me,” and she lived, she just lived. I remember my Aunt Kay went in the hospital two months before my wedding and they didn’t expect her to ever come home. She laughed at the doctor and said, “I promised Sharon and John I would bake cookies for their wedding.” She made 50 trays with her arm so swollen from lymphodema we thought we would have to cut her dress the day of the wedding, but somehow she woke up, no swelling, color in her cheeks and ate better that day then she had in over 6 months. We couldn’t keep her off the dance floor. It’s funny whenever I wanted to feel bad or say “I can’t” I would look at the picture of her dancing at my wedding and say “Hell yeah you can,” and I just did.
SF: Do you have motto or mantra?
Sharon: YES! I always say my motto is “Heaven doesn’t want me and Hell is afraid I am going to take over so really where am I going to go?”
Thank you so much, dear Sharon, and it is an honor to celebrate you as our Extraordinary Person sharing your story!