Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Two Broadway Ladies

The Ethels

Among Broadways' Best honored this month

Ethel Merman and Ethel Waters are among the talented and tenacious women of Broadway. They sang, acted, and danced their way to the stage that memorialized them. Their abilities earned them well-deserved claim and paved the way for many professional female performers who have come after them.

Both Ethels belong to the panethon of distinguished women of the stage to be celebrated in Transcendence Theatre Company's upcoming The Ladies of Broadway. This musical revue runs March 17 through March 25, 2018 in Northern California's San Rafael and Santa Rosa.

Merman, often referred to as "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage" began her career as a torch singer in clubs that headlined celebrities like Jimmy Durante. 

With her powerful voice and pitch she made her debut on Broadway in 1930. She clinched the audition for the role of San Francisco cafe singer Kate Fothergill in the George and Ira Gerswhin musical Crazy Girl. That's when she made  "I Got Rhythm" one of her signature songs.  She also appeared in a series of short Paramount musical films. 

Still active on Broadway, she won the 1950 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in Call Me Madam. She also starred in the 1953 screen adaptation and won the Golden Glove Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

In 1959 she starred in Broadway's Gypsy which had an impressive 702-performance run. 

Waters' full-bodied voice was also legendary. The first woman - the first African American woman - to sing the W.C. Handy classic "St. Louis Blues" on the stage, she rapidly rose to success. At 30 she was already on Broadway.

In 1927 she appeared in the all-black revue Africana and three years later the musical revival of Blackbirds. Her first departure all-black cast shows was Irving Berlins' 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer

Considered to be one of the great blues singers of her day, Waters also performed and recorded with jazz greats Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. Several composers wrote songs especially for her, and her name became synonymous with "Stormy Weather."

Women like these two are at the heart of The Ladies of Broadway which presents seven of today's accomplished female artists:

= Lindsay Chambers (Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Lysistrate Jones)
= Jennifer DiNoia (Wicked, National Tour of Momma Mia)
= Amy Hillner Larsen (National Tour of Hairspray, National Tour of Queen of the Desert)
= Leslie McDonel (Hairspray, American Idiot)
= Sydney Morton (Motown the Musical, Memphis, Evita, American Psycho)
= Kristin Piro (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, An American in Paris, Rocky, Catch Me If You Can)
= Laurie Wells (Mamma Mia, National Tour of An American in Paris)

These legends-in-the-making will perform iconic show tunes and dances made memorable by the two Ethels and many other women trailblazers who helped to shape Broadway for performers and audiences alike. Included are Bernadette Peters, Sutton Foster, and Audra McDonald.

The Ladies of Broadway reflects the high caliber of work that Transcendence Theatre is known for. According to  Director Eric Jackson, this revue also "incorporates stories alongside stellar singing and dancing" that continue to inspire audiences of all ages.

Transcendence Theatre Company is an award-winning, nonprofit arts organization comprised of artists with professional experience from Broadway, film and television. Established in 2011, it is based in Sonoma County. 

Headliners have included Sutton Foster and Megan Hilty, and featured performers have appeared in numerous Broadway productions such as The Book of Mormon, Mamma Mia, Les Misérables, Chicago, La Cage Aux Follies, and Follies.


Marin Center’s Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael: 7:30 p.m. Saturday - March 17 and 2 p.m. Sunday - March 18, 2018. 
Tickets:  or 415-473-6800.

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa:  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday - March 24 and 2 p.m. Sunday - March 25, 2018. 
Tickets: www.LadiesOfBroadway.com707-546-3600  Box Office daily 12 to 6 p.m. at 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa.

General tickets: $29 - $89. VIP tickets include pre-show festivities, premium California wines and artisan hors d’oeuvres: $129 - $139.

For more information about Transcendence Theatre Company visit

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Admirable Suffragists

Two Women Who Misbehaved

Many women are to be commended for their work as suffragists. These brave, future thinking people took to the streets to march for the right to vote. Because of them we have the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, that right was not fully extended to all American women until the 1960’s when, at last, African American women could vote.While there are many we owe a debt of gratitude to, here is a brief look at two of these folk heroines.

Mary Church Terrell

The daughter of former slaves, Terrell was the first African-American women to study at Oberlin College in Ohio. She earned a college degree in 1884 and went on to earn a master’s degree. Afterwards, she became the first African-American woman appointed to a school board. 

She was challenged by the fact that most national women’s organizations excluded African-American women. At a speech before the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1904, she said, “My sisters of the dominant race, stand up not only for the oppressed sex, but also for the oppressed race!”

Her credits include becoming a charter member of the NAACP and opposing Jim Crow laws by suing a Washington restaurant for refusing to serve African-American customers.

Elizabeth Freeman

Freeman was no stranger to law enforcement encounters that led to many arrests. She was adept at turning those unsavory experiences into media opportunities.  She was creative in her strategies as she worked with suffrage groups across the country.

Her strategies included speaking at public events, such as movie houses. Well-thought out tactics also included driving a wagon through Ohio. Stopping in every town along the way, she passed out literature and spoke to those who gathered. In some instances, she attracted listeners by dressing as a gypsy.

To learn more about these and other women, click here

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Folk Songs, Folk Music, Folk Dance 

If you are in a group of folklore singers, musicians and/or dancers who want to be seen by other similar groups in the world around the world, then you’ll want to know about the World Cup of Folklore. Held May 24-28 this year in Jesolo Venice, this four-day event is a marathon of activity.

Competition Categories 

  • Folklore songs groups, authentic folklore (choirs and ensembles)
  • Folklore songs groups, modern arrangement of folklore music; - (choirs and ensembles)
  • Folklore dances groups, authentic folklore; (folklore dance groups, ensembles)
  • Folklore dances groups; modern choreography (folklore dance groups, ensembles)
  • Folklore mix ensembles - Authentic performances; (live vocal, instrumental and dance)
  • Folklore mix ensembles - Processed performances; (live vocal, instrumental and dance)
This event was designed to create unity between people and cultures. According to the primary event organizer, Sopravista Internaitonal Festivals, the aim is to foster a sense of tolerance and respect for those how are different.

The organization also sponsors two other festivals in Italy: VII International Spring Festival at Garda Lake and the International Festival for Folklore and Contemporary arts (Le spiagge d'Italia).

Other organizers include Cultural Association (Cultura in movimento), the Municipality of Jesolo and the European Association of Folklore Festivals.

The three-member jury will award First Place Awards and Diplomas for each category as well as gold, silver and bronze medals. The best performers will also receive production of a video clip. Award winners also receive a copy of their performances which have been taped for broadcast on television throughout Europe.

In order to show off your program which won’t exceed 10 minutes in length, register now. For more details, click here

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Sea Shanties

Songs Aboard Ships

Folk songs reflect the lives of those singing them. Sea shanties were popular among sailors from the 18th to the 20th century. This style of work song could be heard in American merchant vessels prior to the Civil War.

These tunes could be heard while men adjusted the rig or raised the anchor. They were also sung when other tasks required the men to work together in rhythm, such as rowing. 
About these team songs, experts say their rhythms were precise and often used call-and-response elements. African Americans who sang while loading these ships, stoking steamboat furnaces and other tasks are credited with influencing these work songs that were belted out by all.

Freedom To Sing

In some instances, the lyrics, which were easily adapted, allowing sailors and slaves alike to sing about what they might not otherwise be able to talk about.

The range of music also included elements of minstrel music, popular marches and regional folk songs. Traditionally, they are grouped into three primary types: short haul shanties for shorter trips; halyard shanties for heavier work and capstan shanties for long, repetitive tasks.


One classic sea shanty example was a popular American folk song that had Irish roots.  “Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" while being a song about the railroad was adapted to be a work tune about working on a boat on Erie.

Other memorable sea shanties included “Blow the Man Down” and “Drunken Sailor”.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Healing Charms and Medicine

The Folklore of Healing Rituals

If you are interested in learning about the ways healing charms and medicine are being study, then you’ll want to know about this upcoming folklore event:

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the 
Study of Healing Charms and Medicine
Harvard University, April 6-8, 2018

 According to the conference sponsors, charms are understood as a ritual means of addressing situations of sickness, stress, and anxiety by way of a combination of special language and special actions.  They are also universal across human societies. For example, early Latin manuscripts and various other vernacular languages contain several examples of healing charms that blur the lines between magic and science. The link between them has not been severed. It has been noted that today, people routinely consult specialists in naturopathy, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine alongside, or in preference to, modern, scientific medicine.

Not only does the study of healing charms and other medical beliefs and practices have the potential to yield insight into traditional and historical systems of knowledge, but such study often has major implications for modern medicine. 

Charms can lead to the development of new medication and procedures, as when researchers from the University of Nottingham discovered that a charm from the 9th century Anglo Saxon manuscript “Bald’s Leechbook” proved effective in eradicating strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Pharmaceutical companies spend significant amount of money on researching the pharmocopiae of indigenous cultures across the planet in order to develop new drugs.

Because of the broad nature of this topic, this conference aims to bring together researchers whose work spans a broad range of areas, time periods, and disciplinary approaches. 

This event brings together the study of medicine, science, and religion, thereby bridging gaps between disciplines and uncovering connections between the traditions of various cultures.

Presentation themes will range from verbal magic in the Middle Ages, quarantines as magic, and women and childbirth.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Jacqueline Borsje, University of Amsterdam. She is a specialist in the study of Religion and in Celtic Studies and is currently leading a project called "The power of words in medieval Ireland."

Professor Richard Kieckheffer of Northwestern University, is one of the most prominent scholars of magic and religion in the late Middle Ages. He has a special interest in church architecture, and the history of witchcraft and magic. 

To learn more about the conference schedule click here. 

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Black American Folk Hero

Carter Godwin Woodson

December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950

This American folk hero, credited with being the “father of black history” was a first on many fronts. He founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and was one of the first scholars to study African-American history. This historian, author, and journalist also founded The Journal of Negro History in 1915 and launched the celebration of "Negro History Week" in 1926 which is the precursor of Black History Month.

Born in December 1875 he was the son of former slaves. His father, James Woodson helped Union soldiers during the Civil War and later moved his family to Virginia where a high school for black students was being built.

Early Years

Woodson earned his living as a coal miner and attended school irregularly until he entered Douglass High School. At the age of 20 he earned his high school diploma and went on to teach school in Fayette County. By 1900 he was appointed the high school principal and managed to continue his own education until he earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky and later graduated from the University of  Chicago with both a Bachelors and Master’s Degree. He followed that with a docatorate degree from Harvard University and a faculty member at Howard University where he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

He felt the role of African-American history and the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, and later published with Alexander L. Jackson, The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 in 1915.

Reducing Racism

The Association for the Study of Negro Life an
d History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), ran conferences, published The Journal of Negro History, and focused on those responsible for the education of black children. He believed that education was a key to reducing racism as were increasing social and professional contacts.

His first book, A Century of Negro Migration, continues to be published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He also studied many aspects of African-American history, including publishing the first survey of free black slaveowners in the United States in 1930.

He once wrote: "If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one."

His tireless effort has created a legacy that lives on. To learn more about him, click here

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Folk Couture

Folk Art Inspires High Fashion

Folk art has inspired today’s fashions. As a record of time and place, folk art is, essentially, functional art that has been made beautiful. The American Folk Art Museum is hosting a traveling exhibit that bridges the gap between the two. The final installation of Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art runs from February 4 to April 29, 2018.

The exhibit, which has already been shown at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the Huntsvilles Museum of Art in Alabama and the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Florida, features the work of more than a dozen designers who were inspired by folkart.

The Artists

The designers include Catherine Malandrino and Bibhu Mohapatra, among many others.

Malandrino’s designs bring together her native French couture with what has been called the street style of New York. Her iconic Flag Dress that features the American flag and is a statement about freedom, individuality, risk, fun, and open space, according to Malandrino.

She has designed a handkerchief dress that takes turn-of-the-century papercut with Odd Fellows symbols to a whole new level. Like the symbols, it too is meant to be a statement of fellowship and love.

A hand-held book of tattoo patterns gave Mohapatra insights into the stories tattoos can tell. Imagining a sailor at sea, he envisioned the body of water around the sailor to be like a woman. The result is a dress with suggestive tattoo designs beneath the garment’s watery organza surface. “She looks as if she has tattoos all over her body and this wave of organza is floating over. It is a dream, it is a reality, and it is also a fantasy,” said the Indian designer.

Special Program

Part of this unique exhibit includes a series of free talks by the designers who will give presentations on their respective folk art influences and artistic processes. For a complete schedule click here.

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