Feb. 5, 2015
Howl, then heal
A different sort of theatrical impresario aims to mend the rips in our social fabric
Four years ago, Judith Voss brought together a troupe of homeless people and produced a show that allowed them — through song, dance, acting, poetry and video — to share the facts and emotions of their plight with an audience at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater in Springfield.
Even before that, Voss directed a group of patients at a Eugene nursing home as they portrayed their own end-of-life situations.
Now she’s about to do it again, with a Saturday performance at the Wildish. Only this time the subject matter plumbs the depths of various addictions and the challenges of leaving them behind, as viewed through the eyes, ears and voices of people who have been there — or in some cases still are.
Each time Voss takes on a difficult new issue, it’s a labor of love. She operates on a shoestring with a lot of volunteer help from people with theatrical know-how, experience in social services and just plain good will toward people mired in some of life’s most severe difficulties.
“This work takes a lot out of me, and after the last show I thought I couldn’t do another one, which is why it has taken so long,” said Voss, who has a doctorate in special education, a master’s in counseling psychology and a bachelor’s in English and calls herself a “life enrichment specialist.”
The mantra for her devotion to troubled people goes back to a quote from religious scholar, teacher and author Andrew Harvey: “Don’t follow your bliss, follow your heartache.”
Which may be why, despite her exhaustion after the show about homeless living, it was only a matter of weeks before the next idea had planted itself in her mind.
“I heard a particular piece of music, and I got an immediate vision for a show about addiction,” Voss said. “I seem to be gifted by these visions — they’re very, very powerful.
“I suddenly could see how it could be structured and what it would look like on the stage.”
But she also had learned something from the homelessness show that still gave her pause and delayed her putting together this production.
“As powerful as that show was, and the amazingly positive way the community responded, I felt that it fell short of having any lasting benefit for the performers afterward,” she said.
“I felt they just melted back into the night. And I realized that if I were to do this again, there had to be some kind of help, some kind of healing for the people in the show to take away with them.”
Voss’ sense of sadness and deflation lasted until last year, “when I heard that same music again and had the same vision again of what I needed to do.”
“I spent the entire summer channeling my thoughts and letting the structure for this show develop itself.”
At the same time, she incorporated a business called Transformational Personal Theatre LLC. And like magic, things started falling into place.
One after another, she began meeting people — videographer, stage manager, choreographer, actors, musicians, woodworker, photographer, mask-maker, caterer, an entire choir and a therapist from White Bird Clinic’s Chrysalis behavioral health program — willing to share their expertise.
The result is “Not Here: From Howling Hurt to Healing Hope,” which will be on stage this weekend.
“It’s a very powerful program,” Voss said. “There are two acts, starting with ‘howling hurt’ and ending with ‘healing hope,’ and many of the performers have prepared something for both parts that tells their own stories.”
One actor, in the first act caught in the throes of a food addiction, endures the taunts others who call her ugly, fat and hopeless. Then she attends a class and discovers that she can be a beautiful dancer, a transformation she portrays in the second act.
Another participant who has lost his whole family due to addiction displays his sadness in Act 1 in the form of family pictures. In the second, he focuses on the nurturing relationship he has developed with his devoted dog, who now represents the possibility of family and hope for the future.
“Because so much of the play is so heavy and serious, we also threw in a group number with a little humor,” Voss said. “We call it ‘baggage,’ and it’s really hilarious.”
Best of all, Voss is getting her wish that the show won’t end with everyone just going back to their own lives.
“This group wants to continue being together,” she said. “Addiction is often related to a lack of love and support in people’s lives, and they don’t want that to happen.
“And we are lucky that the counselor who has been working with the cast during the production wants to continue on.” Even the audience plays an important role in a personal theater production, Voss said.
“When the actors bare their souls to the audience, they feel an enlivening of their own spirit that helps them claim their own healing power,” she said. “But they also give something, by sparking the audience to realize that whatever problems they face, they also can heal.
“So everyone is working together to accept healing in themselves and at the same time offer it to others.”
You can follow Randi on Twitter @BjornstadRandi . Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Art of Recovery
photos by trask bedortha
In theater as in life, timing is everything, though just showing up is a good start. And at the Healing Trauma Project on Coburg Road, where performers have been rehearsing in anticipation of its Feb. 7 show at Wildish Theater, the cast of Transformational Personal Theatre has definitely shown up, in itself a small miracle. These are people who, all things being equal, might not have shown up at all.
As well as being newfound actors and dancers and singers and poets, the folks at this rehearsal are addicts in recovery. They have had their struggles with drugs and alcohol and food addiction. Now they have gathered to transform their personal stories of pain and renewal into the stuff of performance.
They are, in essence, learning to stage their deepest selves as works of art — to turn themselves from victims to survivors through the positive alchemy of the creative process.
Not Here: From Howling Hurt to Healing Hope is the brainchild of Judith Voss, founder and artistic director of Transformation Personal Theatre, or TPT. Despite holding a masters in counseling psychology and a doctorate in special education, Voss choses to forego the strictures of standard therapy — the couch-and-talk model — for the more dynamic processes of fostering creativity as a means to overcoming trauma.
“What I am interested in is creative expression as a way of connecting or becoming reacquainted with one’s soul,” Voss says. “In my experience, the failure of one’s soul to thrive leads to great maladies of spirit, which in turn leads to depression, illness, addiction and a sense of being a living dead person, going through the motions of life in an existential crisis of loss of meaning and purpose.”
Artistic Director Judith Voss, paper in hand, checks in during rehearsals with the cast of tranformational personal theatre
In anticipation of the project, Voss in August placed an ad in local papers, calling for people in recovery who might be interested in performing in a theater project focused on wellness and healing, “No performance experience necessary.” The folks who volunteered, men and women spanning the age spectrum and recovering from various addictions, are now involved in creating a staged work that delves into the darkness and light of their true-life stories.
The idea, Voss says, is to take that core hurt at the center of an addict — a hurt often compounded by years of shame and secrecy — and bring it to the surface as part of a communal theater experience.
But wait, you might say: Isn’t enacting those stuck places of pain and angst exactly what any artist does in creating her art? Perhaps, but for addicts in recovery, just surviving can be an intimidating proposition, much less turning their pain into the stuff of art. At TPT, however, the idea of who can be an artist is radically egalitarian.
This notion of inclusive creativity runs counter to our consumer culture with its cult of celebrity, but it’s an especially foreign concept to people trapped in the hell of addiction. Voss says, “I have a hunger in my heart to make those who are outcasted, shunned and devalued, for whatever reason, feel that they are not only worthy, but also quite possibly the most gifted among us.”
It’s about process, really. What that process looks like at ground zero, among a group of recovering addicts, is gloriously chaotic, like a series of baby steps met with joy, support and bursts of hilarity.
During the several rehearsals I attended, the cast buzzed and hummed in nervous anticipation. There were lots of hugs, and “I love you” was heard regularly. Contrary to what you might think, recovery is largely an upbeat affair, focused on fellowship and unconditional support. Even as each individual member of the cast sought to hone his or her particular act, the group remained the primary focus.
Not Here is divided into two acts, the first dealing with the ravages of addiction and the second with the inspiration of recovery — the howl, then the hope. There are several ensemble pieces interspersed throughout, and they are perhaps the most moving of the whole production: The show opens with actors, wearing masks of their own making, crawling and hissing across the stage like rabid animals, an analogy of the addict’s double life, trapped inside an alienating second skin of need and desperation.
The individual set pieces offer a broad perspective on each performer’s path from addiction to recovery and, like some infernal vaudeville, they utilize a variety of forms. There is stand-up, interpretive dance, spoken-word pieces, poetry, vocal numbers — all of them culled from the intensely personal experiences of their creators and shaped by a recently discovered or reawakened artistic impulse. These pieces are raw and honest, and as jagged and joyous as life itself.
“These are people who have felt called to tell their personal stories as a way to release the angst of the power and grip of painful life experiences,” Voss says, adding that audiences attending the Feb. 7 production should expect “a show very different in intent and presentation than traditional scripted theater.”
For instance, an interpretive dance piece by Wendy Lopez titled “A Heroin Love Affair” channels the reeling fear of being strung-out through an idiosyncratic style that achieves a form of strangled grace; while Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” plays, Lopez flows across the floor like an earthbound ghost, reaching desperately toward the sky before collapsing in anguish. “It helped me out of my shell,” Lopez says about coming to perform for TPT. “I’m not an expressive person normally, and to get out in front of an audience and do something that’s not my craft is scary but exciting at the same time. It’s a new high.”
Mark Rolle, whose stand-up routine tackles issues of race, homelessness and meth addiction, says that working with TPT has been one of the greatest experiences he’s had. “It changed my life dramatically, because I have a sense of community, a sense of security in a way that could help me move forward,” he says.
A native of the Bahamas who wound up in Eugene by way of Virginia, Rolle — who also goes by the handle MC Rolle — says that his stand-up comedy is meant to be double-edged, inspiring laughter and thought at once. “I’m joking about it to make people laugh, but I’m telling the God’s honest truth. When they hear me, they’ll go in one way and leave saying, ‘You know, that’s messed up.’”
Transformational Personal Theatre’s Mark ‘MC’ Rolle, TPT’s Virginia Ashe and TPT’s Wendy Lopez
There it is: messed-up truth turned into healing art. TPT combines artistic self-expression with the self-discovery necessary to recovery, and the two modes compliment each other well. “There is a significant body of evidence showing the importance of creative expression for the well-being of humans,” says Shelby Cain, a mental health counselor at White Bird Clinic’s Chrysalis services who, along with financial support from White Bird, is offering her counseling skills to the troupe.
Howl, then heal | Arts | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon
Feb 5, 2015 … One actor, in the first act caught in the throes of a food addiction, endures the taunts others who call her ugly, fat and hopeless. Then she …
Eugene Weekly : Performing Arts : 3.24.11
From the Street to the Stage
by Bronwynn Manaois
The homeless of Eugene and Springfield will have the chance to be heard for at least one night as Street Code Theatre BRING’s its multimedia performance art to the Wildish Theater on Saturday, March 26.
The show, “A State of Grace: Multimedia Performance Art on Homelessness,” is under the artistic direction of Judith Voss, with technical direction by Ryan Zimmer. Spoken word, live music, movement and technical aspects that include projected images, video and tape recordings make up the 26 pieces unified by the theme of homelessness.
Ten performers represent what Voss claims are “important voices from the street represented in ways that are unique and creative, meant to humanize the faces of people you may see on the street.” The multigenerational troupe calls itself the Eugene Dream Weavers, and hopes to increase public compassion, dispel stereotypes and encourage community support of the local homeless population.
Through sharing their life stories, these marginalized people hope to affirm that humanity connects us all, regardless of circumstance.
Voss wants to pack the one-night-only event to show support to the homeless community, as all proceeds will go directly to the performers. She says no one will be turned away for inability to pay. Street Code Theatre takes place at 7pm Saturday, March 26, at Springfields Wildish Theatre; tickets are $10 and include a post-show catered reception. Donations of sleeping bags, blankets, hats and coats will be collected and given directly to people on the streets.
SPOTLIGHT ON HOMELESSNESS
ACTS FROM THE STREET
Theater director draws talent from the world of the homeless
Appeared in print: Sunday, March 20, 2011, page E1
Hard as it is to put on a performance of any kind, imagine the difficulty of pulling one off when all the actors are homeless. But if anyone can keep it — and the cast — together long enough to take to the stage, it’s undoubtedly Judith Voss.
She calls her troupe the Street Code Theatre, and they’ll do their “personal performance” show Saturday at the Wildish Theater in downtown Springfield. They range from teens to retirees, and what they all have in common is the experience — either now or in the past, for a few days or a few years — of not having a place to go home at night. The show is titled, “A State of Grace.”
“I started this group on a leap of faith, unaffiliated with any agency or organization,” Voss said. “None of these people are professional actors, most have never had any sort of theater experience, but they’re all wonderful — and they’re all worth caring about.”
Some of the pieces that make up the program involve all the actors on stage at once, while others are solo performances that range from poetry to dance to video. One actor plays guitar riffs between elements of the show. But everything on the agenda portrays a particular truth about the uncertain and fluid lives of the homeless.
Nailing down the cast was a major accomplishment, and keeping it together an ongoing struggle. On a Thursday during the early stage of rehearsals, 18-year-old Braydin Aurena — one of the most forceful personalities in the troupe — announced that she and boyfriend Conner Horner-Linch would be leaving for Central Oregon to give her a chance to reconcile with her mother, potentially throwing the 10-person cast into a major reconfiguration.
But by the following Tuesday, that plan had been abandoned. The young couple were back at the rehearsal space donated by the First Evangelical Church of Eugene — wearing the black-and-white Street Code Theatre sweatshirts Voss purchased for all of them — and ready to go on with the show. Mere days after that, Aurena, who describes herself as a “proud 18-year-old trans man” and has been on the streets off and on since age 14, ended up in the hospital with double pneumonia but got out in time to show up for rehearsal.
Each get-together begins with a meal of pizza or sandwiches, followed by a “check-in” time during which each person in the circle takes the floor in turn to share the challenges they’ve faced since the last meeting and how they’re coping.
Given the season and the privations of living without a home — several of the younger members of the troupe regularly sleep in doorways or even less-protected spots — rehearsals are often punctuated with hacking coughs or feverish cast members dozing in their chairs between pieces.
One stormy afternoon, married couple Lanie Baley and Allen Miller, who live in their car with their dogs, arrived nearly at the end of the three-hour session because of problems jockeying their vehicle from one overnight parking space to the next.
“I’m really tired today — I have a sore throat and I feel like being in bed,” Baley said. “But we forced ourselves to come.”
Somehow Voss, who never bosses but nonetheless manages quietly to keep order from descending into chaos, carries on, assisted by Ryan Zimmer, who has his own production company, Hi-Fi Video, but volunteers to provide technical direction and videography for Street Code Theatre.
For her part, Voss has decades of experience as a “life enrichment specialist,” both privately and for care centers, schools and public recreation departments. Three years ago, she orchestrated a performance that featured patients at a Eugene nursing home as actors portraying their own lives. But each time she undertakes to help a group share its particular creative expression, it’s a whole new challenge.
“These shows take a lot out of me,” Voss admits. “But it’s something I seem to have to do. Last fall, I thought I was done with this kind of thing — I moved and gave away 20 years’ worth of trunks full of props and costumes. But then I had a vision that I needed to do a show on behalf of people who are homeless. For me, sharing the talent and showing the value of people who are often marginalized in our society is a profound experience.”
As a 51-year-old woman with a doctorate in special education, a master’s in counseling psychology and a bachelor’s in English, Voss sums up her dedication to helping disadvantaged people portray their lives through performance by quoting religious scholar, teacher and author Andrew Harvey. “He said, ‘Don’t follow your bliss, follow your heartache,’ ” she said. “And that’s what I have often felt called to do,” to the point that she foots the bill for her theatrical productions from her own personal funds.
Her goal in directing this particular show “is to increase public understanding about some of the issues underlying homelessness by dispelling myths and stereotypes,” she said, “and in the process to provide each performer with a greater sense of self worth.”
Homeless people often are made to feel less than others, even almost invisible, “and for each to follow through on performing, not only does it give an outlet for personal stories to be heard, but it also seems to be providing a sense of worth, of doing something tangible to feel proud of,” she said.
That’s part of what drew Patricia Hampton to the group, even though her only experience with homelessness was being stranded in Eugene for 10 days once with her dog, waiting for a check to arrive so she could continue her journey. She later returned to Eugene, where she lives in an independent retirement facility.
“I spent those days until my money arrived living in my car in a parking lot,” Hampton said. “I showered at St. Vincent de Paul’s Service Station and ate where the other homeless people ate. I had nothing to keep warm, so St. Vinnie’s gave me a $15 voucher to buy a blanket and a pillow — to this day, I still have the same car, the same blanket and the same dog. And when I heard about what Judith was doing through a friend, I had to become involved.”
She has two pieces in the show. One is a slow dance trailing colored scarves in front of projected photographs while she reads an essay she wrote about “inner homelessness” and “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” by Christoph Gluck plays in the background.
Others portray their feelings about homelessness differently. Dylan Mocabee, a young man whose street name is Fox, recites a rap poem he wrote called, “The Hustler’s Prayer” and also demonstrates his prowess at break dancing.
Sometimes the artistic aspects of Street Code Theatre become hijacked by the realistic.
One night, “I happened to check my e-mail before I went to bed — it was a really cold night — and there was a desperate plea from Braydin and Conner, who were using a computer somewhere there was Wifi available, and they had nowhere to sleep,” Voss said. “I got up and got dressed, and I was able to get them space in a hostel for one night, and I met them there just before the final check-in deadline.”
When she arrived, two other members of the troupe also were there without a place to stay “and with no warm clothes, with just a sleeping bag wrapped around their shoulders, and they asked me if I could pay for them to sleep there, too,” she said. “I was not able to do that, and they thanked me anyway and walked away in the dark. That was heartbreaking.”
The next day, Aurena came to rehearsal with a poem she had written about the experience, “It Was Cold Last Night,” and it was immediately incorporated into the program.
Despite the energy it takes for homeless people simply to take care of their daily needs, Voss isn’t surprised that they have enough spirit left over to turn their lives into a performance.
“My experience is that people have a need to be seen, known and honored on a deep level that is as important as breathing, eating and sleeping,” Voss said. “If I can help give them that experience through this performance, then that is what I am meant to do.”
“For me, sharing the talent and showing the value of people who are often marginalized in our society is a profound experience.”
— Judith Voss, Founder of Transformational Personal Theatre’s Street Code Theatre
12 July 2014
Artist Story: Judith Voss | Wonderful Winkyvilles
CREATE! EUGENE ALL, FIBER ARTS, FOUND OBJECT
By Constance Tiffany Kell
Were you at the Wildflower Festival held at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum this past May?
You may have happened to glance down in the Art in Nature exhibit and see a beautiful mini-world, “The Winkyville Vaudevillians Cirque de la Wink”.
The Winkyville Vaudevillians Cirque de la Wink
Do you have what it takes to “get Winky”?
Here’s all you need:
Willingness to think small and make-believe on a miniature scale.
To be open-hearted and foster a positive connection with nature and each other.
Desire to spread cheer to others.
Winkyvilles are all about giving off uplifting, feel-good, do-good life energy in the larger world.
Judith Voss, Winkyville Builder Extraordinaire, has recaptured her connection to her innocence in play as a child. These are ephemeral projects, made only with natural and found objects within reach of where you are at the time.
Mr. Herschel Winky Wink Winkstophski (named by a former student), Mayor of the original Winkyville in 1995, hopes to make a special appearance at Voss’s Winkyville Workshop.
Who is Winky, the Mayor of Winkyville, and what are his origins?
“In 1995 I was on a road trip to perform at a conference in Olympia Washington with members of the theater company I was involved in. We stopped along the way at a Rest Area. When I opened my door, right there on the ground was a little tiny man wearing a tuxedo. I picked him up and immediately exclaimed, “Look! It’s Winky!” (note: to some he might have been just a plastic Polly Pocket figure, but to me, in that moment, he was magical!) That evening we were all camping and a dear friend and I, who was also a teaching colleague, sat on the ground and spontaneously started to make a village that Winky became the Mayor of, hence: Winkyville came to be.”
Mr. Winkstophski’s story developed out of the natural materials found within reach into a community that included everything from individual huts to a communal swimming hole. As mayor, he termed this “no imports” rule to go along with their pedestrian friendly miniature dwelling where toy cars could park outside of the city.
“We were definitely in the zone of “getting small,” and stayed absorbed in creating Winkyville for several hours. During that time a mythology about Winky and Winkyville and what it means to “Get Small,” and “Be Winky” began to form.”
The need to recapture the spirit of nature, especially when surrounded by a technocentric culture, sparked a movement that whenever Judith’s students would take a field trip or family vacation, they would simply “Wink Up” whenever it felt right.
The intuitive creativity allows one to slow down, enjoy the process in the making, experience the significance of Winkyville, and spread the cheer of getting small.
“It is important when gathering natural materials to make a Winkyville that one is mindful about not disturbing or destroying anything, that permission from nature to use an item or object is sought from within one’s heart, and that care is taken to only use what is needed and whenever possible to return what is leftover to the earth,” Judith explains.
With such a creative focus and a respect for her resources, Judith knows the pressures upon her when she must perform at places like the Wildflower Festival, “It takes time to shake off the cares of the day and to allow for uninterrupted time to be absorbed in an activity that is such a refreshing and reenergizing reprieve from the stressors of daily life,” she says. Simply sitting on the ground and rummaging around for her next inspiration in nature gives her a recharge of child-like wonder. It can be a collaborative experience, fun and uplifting for any age.
Long live the spirit and intention of Winkyville to bring people together in the child’s delight of the world and one another.
May we all continue to find ways to get small and Be Winky!
You can participate with Judith Voss herself as she delves into her joy of each moment at this workshop!
August 23 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm | $5 or 15
Workshop description: Winkyvilles are miniature environments created from found objects in nature. Learn about the history of Winkyville and make your own small dwelling to house fairies and other magical creatures. In this class – led by Judith Voss – students will make up their own Winkyville stories, tour each other’s creations and have their works photographed. Come one, come all to this relaxing event where you can get lost in cuteness. There is no wrong way to make a Winkyville!
PRESS ON TWO OTHER PROJECTS FACILITATED BY JUDITH VOSS
Eugene Service Station has bark about new doghouses
Categories: Email Newsletter, Homeless Aid, Environment, Volunteers
Author: Judy Hunt, enews editor
Date: Monday, November 21 2011
Eagon waited patiently while the humans sawed, fitted and pounded away their Saturday. He even posed with them at the urging of his master, a homeless man named Christopher who comes to the Eugene Service Station to get lunch, take a shower, do laundry, and other needs.
As the day grew chillier Eagon “asked” for his knitted sweater then stood in the rain, lifting one paw at a time from the wet pavement.
And on Monday Eagon was perhaps the most appreciative beneficiary of Judith Voss’s doghouse project. He could barely be coaxed from his chosen unit, a sturdy salt-box design on a six-inch foundation. finished with redwood stain, and furnished with indoor/outdoor carpet and a snug green blanket. When Eagon did appear he was still shrouded in the blanket.
At a farm store down the street a comparable doghouse retailed for nearly $150, not including the carpet, blanket, eye bolt, dog chain and stainless steel dish provided with each Service Station doghouse.
Kiosk and fir bark make it easy for owners to clean up after their pets.
Over the weekend of Nov. 19 a dozen doghouses were built and placed near St. Vincent de Paul’s Eugene Service Station, marking the spot formerly occupied by a muddy enclosure and a paltry collection of humble dog abodes. The fenced neighborhood was landscaped with fir bark. A person-sized kiosk with a doggy sanitation station was installed at the entrance.
The former enclosure caught the eye, and heart, of Judith Voss of Eugene. Better known for giving voice to the homeless through her involvement with Street Code Theatre, Judith resolved this time to give shelter to their four-legged friends.
She enlisted the volunteer help of her friend Dan O’Connell and her favorite remodeling contractor, Brett Breding, who brought employees and neighbors on board. He took on the job in part to honor of his own dogs, General and Tipper, who died this year.
Judith sought donations of materials and accessories, and paid the balance herself. She also monitored the jobsite over the weekend, chatting with the Eugene Service Station clientele and fielding media inquiries from beneath a big-nosed dog hat.
She could not overstate the importance of dogs to their homeless owners.
Eagon has staked his claim.
“Having a dog really knocks the corners off of being lonely,” said Christopher. He retrieved Eagon from a police spotlight several years ago as Eagon’s previous owners were being arrested under the Washington-Jefferson Bridge.
“I told them, That’s my buddy’s dog,” he said of the dog that’s now his buddy.
The relationship works both ways, according to Richard, a veteran who visits the Eugene Service Station with a terrier mix named Jyp.
“These dogs live for their owners – the guys and the ladies,” he said. “Jyp is the only reason I get up some mornings. He doesn’t know what a bad day is.”
“A dog is the best friend we have out here,” said Larry who forwent the warmth of the Service Station to help with doghouse construction.
For her part, Judith Voss hopes that others will see the doghouses and know that they, too, can do something to help those less fortunate. For starters, that could include delivering donations of pet food, saddle packs, and blankets to the Eugene Service Station, located at the north end of St. Vincent de Paul’s Lindholm Center at 450 Hwy 99 in Eugene.
“I am called to be of service,” she said. “My heart is touched by people who are homeless. I can’t describe the feeling when there’s an animal.”
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Eugene Weekly : Calendar : 09.28.06
|By virtue of some intense marketing, we heard about this show that, at first listen, seemed kinda … not Weekly-esque. It’s set in a long-term care facility, and the show’s only happening once. But then we went to the dress rehearsal, and frankly, folks, there’s nothing like real life to trump your ideas every time. The six Valley West Health Care residents and show participants in the Blue Giraffe Theatre Company‘s Messages from the Valley put on a show that was as moving as it was hokey. Sure, when you hear a 95-year-old woman singing “You Are My Sunshine,” you might start to wonder just when nursing homes will broaden their repertoire to include “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” or “Hungry Like the Wolf.” But then you get to the heart of the show, when the cast members speak their regrets and their joys, and you find yourself solidly in the midst of some stunning narratives. Director Judith Voss recruited a ton of talented crew members to help out, and the residents, from cheerful Thomas to perceptive, smart Helena to sweet Lily (pictured, right, with Edna, left), provide a glimpse of life most of us, separated from our elders, don’t get to see or hear. You have one chance to see this show. Don’t miss it. See Saturday Calendar.|
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FETCH THERAPY DOGS
Team of the Month: Pogo & Judith
Category: Team of the Month
Judith & Pogo started doing visiting therapy work as a team in 2005. Judith’s daughter had two spinal surgeries in 1996 and having dogs visit her in the hospital was an extremely important part of her healing process. Ever since then Judith wanted to provide pet therapy to others, and in 2004 she finally met the perfect therapy dog. He was a teeny tiny eight week old poodle, pomeranian, dachshund puppy. As soon as Judith picked him up he ‘spoke’ and said “Hi! My name is Pogo! Please take me home,” and that is what she did.
They started clicker training classes together when Pogo was four months old, and he loved going to school! Along with obedience basics he also learned many tricks which became a part of the circus act that Judith and Pogo performed for children’s programs, birthday parties, schools, and in numerous long term care facilities. Judith was Jolly, and Pogo was Lolly. Pogo has an extensive wardrobe and likes to choose his own outfits for visits. He passionately loves people and nothing makes him happier than to bring smiles and joy to all those he meets.
Pogo has provided therapy to people of all ages who have special needs, those in mental health crisis, individuals in hospice care, people living on the streets, a great many children, and a vast number of elders. At almost eleven years old he is slowing down on visits. But he does not want to miss out on dressing up and parading the halls and rooms for his annual Halloween visit to Valley West Health Care Center where he grew up for the first few years of his life and has visited periodically ever since.
Pogo exemplifies the best of what a therapy dog can do to alleviate pain, suffering, loneliness, and anxiety by offering unconditional love and uplifting engagement to each and every person he encounters. Judith has been astounded over the years to witness Pogo in action as he transforms from very wild, high energy playfulness into a calm, extremely well-behaved dog, able to modulate and attune himself to each person he is with. Judith is grateful to Stacy and Betty for all they do to keep FETCH going in order to provide support to so many in our community. Judith and Pogo have deeply enjoyed their work together over the past many years and are thankful to all those teams who are carrying on the work.
Copyright (c) 2011 Fetch Therapy Dogs. All rights reserved.