Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Write Your Memoirs

In the midst of researching plays and songs for upcoming auditions, I've been reading my Great Uncle George Thoemke's "autobiographical sketch," a slim novel that he wrote for those of us lucky enough to be part of his family.

That's him up there in 1999 with my Mom, me, my Grandma Eleanor, and his wife, my Great-Aunt Gladys.

He wrote his memoirs in 1993 when he was 71, and this delightful little book details his childhood in North Dakota in the 1920s and 30s, his brief experience as a "real-life cowboy," to a brush with showbiz (changing the marquee for films playing in town. Movies were only 5 cents! Can you believe it?). He also covers his experience with WWII:

"I was there on D-Day, June 6, 1944... where we shipped across the rough old English Channel to Normandy, France... We had a fire-fight at a place called Domfront, a French Village. The Germans left Paris. Now it was the Free French turn to march in glory. General Charles de Gaulle was in Paris, and we marched in a show of strength for him... We marched to the famous Arch de Triomphe, and our picture was taken and placed on the 3 cent stamp. We were duly honored, since, as a rule, only the dead appreared on U.S. postage stamps."

His stories make me think of my grandfathers, who also served in the war, and all the crazy stuff they must've gone through. They both died relatively young, though, so many of their stories are unknown. We just have bits and pieces from what others remember, and thankfully, we have old photos.

I love this picture of my Grandpa Daniel, my Dad's Dad.

And I am beyond grateful for my Great Uncle George's journal. He ends his stories in 1955 after his promotion to Captain Thoemke during the Korean War, and how I wish he'd written more!

I remember him telling us kids all sorts of stories, about how my grandma and her sisters were hoping to be the next Andrews Sisters.

Their mother, my great-grandma, was very musical and played the piano. My Great-Aunt Eleanor played the trumpet, Grandma Dorothy (that's her above on the left with a friend) sang and danced and played the trombone, and my Great-Aunt Gladys sang. My Dad always says he feels like me and my brother inherited our musical genes from them.

My uncle also remembered hearing The Singing Nun on the radio, and he was so proud when I won an award for playing her in the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

He and Aunt Gladys and Grandma Daniel would've loved one of the last shows I did Off Broadway, Johnny On A Spot.

It was written in and took place in the 1940s, and I couldn't help but think of them as I did it. That was their time, ya know?

So that's my message for the day: write your memoirs! There are amazing stories we can share with each other! And there is so much to be learned and loved and savored!

Monday, January 25, 2010


"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,

But I know I'm who I am today

Because I knew you..."
- Stephen Schwartz, "For Good"

This year began on Cloud Nine for me, marrying my longtime sweetheart.

But from that cloud I could see all sorts of changes, people coming into and going out of my life, like my dear friend Robert Pesti Terrell, who passed away on January 3rd.

Strangely, another friend, Margery Beddow passed away on the same day.

I worked with Margie last Fall on the Off Broadway revival of Charles MacArthur's 1940's comedy, Johnny On a Spot. She and I shared a dressing room, and we both came on later in the first act to spice things up, so we had plenty of time to chat.

She was Gwen Verdon's understudy for Bob Fosse's production of Redhead, and she toured as Lola in Damn Yankees, among other shows, and was a dedicated friend to both Gwen and Bob.

In another strange twist, my Great Uncle George Thoemke, who was born on January 3, 1922, passed away last weekend. He was an amazing man and like a grandfather to me since both my grandpas died before I was 5.

This pic was taken in 1999 with his wife, Gladys, on the left, and my Mom on the far right.

Uncle George served in WWII and was a great fan of the film Saving Private Ryan, because he felt it fully captured the horror of the war, especially the scene of storming the beach at Normandy, because he had done that himself.

He lost 2 of his fingers "when a German mortar shell exploded just a few feet in front of me." He detailed much of his life in a family memoir called "A Barefoot Boys American Journal." I'd love to see this little novel fully published. Perhaps one day...

All of these people, even though they have moved on, are still an essential part of my world. They helped me become who I am today through their gifts of love, support, guidance and encouragement. And though I am sad at their departure, they will always be a part of me.

Life is funny, because as some people move out of your life, others come into it.

On January 12th, my niece and nephew were born, Anna Joy and Benjamin.

What a privilege it is to be a part of their lives, to be their Aunt Laura and Godmother.

I love this picture of Rob and Anna. She was so alert for being 5 days old - lifting her head and reaching out to touch her Uncle Rob.

These people are all a vital part of me. They are forever in my heart, and they go with me everywhere I go. I am so thankful for each and every moment with them!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Great Gratitude

Indulge me in one last wedding blog.

There is so much planning that goes into this one day event and it flies by so quickly. Truly each moment needs to be savored.

I want to salute the small businesses that helped make our day so incredibly special. They are simply The Best.

Rob's sister, Lani, was essential in connecting us to small business owners who were available the day after Christmas. She really took care of so many details that helped me plan the wedding.

She was my Matron of Honor, and I told her she would make the best wedding planner in PA ever! :)

Our cake was done by Pam Kakes from McAdoo, and everyone said it was the best cake they'd ever tasted.

The wedding topper, "Together" by Willow Tree, was given to us by Jerry and Patricia Kane, parents of our dear friend, Michael Kane.

Michael and his partner, Carl (above left), are our NY Family, including our Best Man, Ataman (far right). They're all an absolute treasure!

Michael ran the music for us, Carl read a piece for the wedding, and Ataman was the perfect Best Man. Such excellent support!

Flowers were done by Smith Floral, I don't think I've ever seen such lush, big red roses! They were awesome!

Prior to the wedding, we had a small handfasting, conducted by our friends, The Herb Sisters, aka Tina and Maryanne, whom we've known since our days in the Shakespeare troupe at the PA Renaissance Faire.

The Sisters created various hand-fasting keepsakes for us that were a testament to the great treasures they make daily from their home businesses. Maryanne adorned the cord with jewelry and beads that she makes in her Torchsong Studio. And the handfasting booklet was right out of the top quality print-work and research that goes into Tina's Essential Herbal Magazine.

I am so proud of these women and all they have accomplished. It was such an honor to have them conduct our hand-fasting.

Then we had the wedding at a lovely church called Faith UCC.

The pastor is a wonderful woman named Reverend Jane, and she was great at guiding us through the service.

The reception was at the deliciously divine restaurant called The Top of the 80's. We were in their Great Room, which is surround on 3 sides by windows overlooking the lush valley. Since we had misty rain that day, my brother said it was like being in a cloud, which I thought was appropriate since I was on Cloud 9 already! :)

The food was exceptional! Better than some of the fine dining restaurants in Manhattan! And the service was excellent. We were so well taken care of!

In fact, everything was so wonderfully taken care of for our wedding.

My Mom was an incredible help to us from the beginning.

My brother, Sean, was my Man of Honor, and he was fantastic at making sure everything was cool, smooth sailing.

Everyone involved was just phenomenal and made our day so very very special.

Thanks to everyone for sharing in this joy with us.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Nothing Better

than marrying your best friend :)

The Big Day

As I get back into auditions after a short hiatus to get married, I'm reminded very much of how trying out for a role is like trying on a wedding dress. There are tons of beautiful, glittering gowns, but not all of them are a perfect fit.

Of course clothes are made to be altered, and even acting roles will change depending on who is cast. Look at the various actors who've played James Bond or Glinda the Good, for instance!

Even the wedding gown I chose actually started as something else. It was beautiful, to be sure, but the shoulders were floppy and the sleeves and skirt were too long.

Luckily, my sweetheart's co-worker, Annamarie Ferrando, took one look at the dress and knew exactly what to do!

She's a ballroom dancer on the side and makes her own gowns, so she was able to make the alterations to my wedding dress with ease.

Plus she had seen me perform Off Broadway in the 1940s comedy Johnny on A Spot and felt that I had an Old Hollywood glamor that my wedding dress should accentuate. So she took it apart and absolutely transformed it.

I was thrilled with the results!

She combined my favorite eras of Edwardian/Victorian England...

... and then took me into 1930s Hollywood with a lovely satin and faux fur wedding wrap.

One of my friends captured the back which really shows off the art deco lines. I was kneeling to talk to my nephew. :)

Annamarie said when she first took on the project, "People should look at YOU in the dress, not the other way around. The dress shouldn't wear YOU!"

And I loved that. I loved that she was able to tailor the dress to my personality. And her attention to detail was incredible! She didn't feel my crown had enough sparkle, for example, so she added extra pearls and rhinestones. Boy, did I feel like a fairy princess!

And I love that my guy was blown away when I walked down the aisle.

We were both so overwhelmed by all the love and joy that greeted us on that special day, and we will remember it for years to come.

It was truly one of the best days of my life, and I hope that everyone who wants to celebrate such a day, will have one!

Much love and joy to you all!

Monday, January 04, 2010

In Memory of Robert Pesti Terrell

I haven't blogged in a while. It's been a whirlwind, getting married, and that blog's to come, but first I had to pay tribute to a great man who passed away yesterday. His name was Robert Pesti Terrell, and he was married to my best friend from high school: Lisa Terrell.

Robert was such a sweetheart, and he and Lisa inspired me with their modern take on marriage. He had a weak heart, so he stayed home to take care of the house and kids while she worked, and he kept an immaculately beautiful home.

He was from NY and had that "New Yawk" accent even though he'd been in CA for quite a few years. It was wonderfully peppered with his great laugh and lovely sense of humor.

He loved when I'd send pics from Manhattan, because he'd grown up here and missed the seasons, but the CA weather was better for his health.

Robert had been having heart problems for years. His heart only functioned 10-20% of capacity so he was often exhausted, but he had such a lust for life and was so proud of his wife and his family.

Whenever I saw him, he reminded me of a human sprite, full of smiles and a sense of good-hearted mischief.

Robert and Lisa taught me never to take a day or a relationship for granted. Each moment is to be treasured. Good or bad, rich or poor, in sickness and in health. Love is always there.

I can't believe he's gone, but I know he's free from pain, and his presence is still deeply felt.

I'll miss you, Robert.

With great love and respect,