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Sitting and Talking

Promotional ad for Sitting and Talking

Durango PlayFest will stream an original play called “Sitting and Talking” on Sunday, January 31, at 7 p.m., followed by a live Q&A with the actors, playwright and director. The 55-minute play by Lia Romeo (ro-MAY-oh) of Boulder, CO, is a poignant story of a man and woman in their 60s who navigate the vulnerable, awkward, and sometimes hilarious path to online dating during the pandemic.

The one-time event is free but donations to the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) administered by the Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado are encouraged.

  • Register now for the play and Q&A: 
  • Donate any time at org/cerf

“An integral part of our mission is to promote and celebrate original playwriting, so we’re excited that technology allows us to showcase Lia Romeo’s latest work,” said Felicia Lansbury Meyer, artistic director of Durango PlayFest.

Actors Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years, Lombardi) and Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me, Hot in Cleveland) star in this one-night only event. Lauria and Malick are among the original founders of PlayFest and have participated in both seasons of the weeklong festival.

The Community Foundation has coordinated more than $1.25 million in CERF donations to assist individuals, businesses and nonprofits in the five-county region that are struggling because of the pandemic.


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Durango PlayFest Presents the Actors’ Journal

Like every other arts organization with events scheduled during the summer of 2020, Durango PlayFest was forced to cancel its new play festival as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the country.  Our friends in the theatre world shut their doors, too, and most actors had an unwelcome hiatus from their work as stage and screen productions came to a halt.

What to do with all that idle time?  More importantly, how to keep live theatre alive when it’s forbidden to fill stages with actors and theatres with audiences?

Veteran actor Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years, The Spirit, 9 ½ Weeks) had an idea.  Actors are creative.  Many are also writers or have kept journals of their experiences.  They love to tell stories, and they are used to being on camera.  So he asked a number of his actor friends if they would video themselves reading their stories, poems, or reminiscences.  And would they share their videos with regional theatres that are struggling during this pandemic?

Lauria was one of the inspirations behind Durango PlayFest.  He and fellow actor Wendie Malick have performed two-person plays in Durango many times.  They have friends here and love Durango’s southwest Colorado mountain community.  He thought Durango was the perfect environment for a new play festival, where established and emerging playwrights could workshop new plays with actors and directors as well as local performers and students in Fort Lewis College’s theatre department.

So Dan offered the actors’ videos to Durango PlayFest, along with four other regional theatres with whom he had connections.  Initially, there were a dozen videos from actors like Ed O’Neill (Married with Children, Modern Family), Charles Shaughnessy (Days of Our Lives, The Nanny), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, The Upside, Trumbo).  But Dan is far more ambitious.  His goal is to garner fifty-two actors’ video—a creative smorgasbord of tales from some of today’s best stage and screen performers.

Durango PlayFest is calling its episodic collection of videos the Actors’ Journal, and you can view Episode 1 at  This initial collection of tales features Tony Shalhoub, Joe Mantegna, Jodi Long, James Pickens Jr., Kim Brockington, and Alfred Molina.  To view these videos, go to the Durango PlayFest website and click on Actors’ Journal.  After an introduction, click on each actor’s photo to view his or her video.

I am on the board of Durango PlayFest and participated in developing the Actors’ Journal, and I found each actor’s story or memorable experience to be interesting or enchanting, well worth viewing during a time when seeing performers in a live production on stage is not possible.  Broadway is shuttered and there are no local live plays, but we can still be entertained and enlightened by these fine stage and screen performers.  Here are the actors featured in Episode 1 of Actors’ Journal:

Photo of actor Alfred Molina
Alfred Molina


  • Chocolat
  • Spider-Man 2
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Frida
  • Magnolia
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Breakable You
  • Law and Order: LA




Photo of actor Kim Brockington
Kim Brockington



  • Joker
  • Bull
  • School of Rock
  • Law and Order:  Criminal Intent
  • Guiding Light
  • One Life to Live
  • American Masters
  • All My Children
  • A Shift in Gravity (Durango PlayFest)




Photo of Tony Shalhoub
Tony Shalhoub


  • Monk
  • Men in Black, Men in Black II, Men in Black III
  • Galaxy Quest
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  • Nurse Jackie
  • Cars and Cars 2
  • Thir13en Ghosts
  • Spy Kids
  • The Siege
  • The Imposters
  • Primary Colors




Photo of James Pickens Jr.
James Pickens Jr.


  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • 42
  • Ghosts of Mississippi
  • The Conners
  • Yellowstone
  • Roseanne
  • The X-Files
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Practice




_Photo of Jodi Long
Jodi Long



  • The Hot Chick
  • Splash
  • Robocop 3
  • Striking Distance
  • Falling Water
  • The Blacklist
  • Desperate Housewives
  • Eli Stone
  • Miss Match




Photo of Joe Mantegana
Joe Mantegna


  • The Godfather, Part III
  • Criminal Minds
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • The Simpsons
  • Kill Me, Deadly
  • Compulsion
  • The Starter Wife
  • Joan of Arcadia
  • First Monday






Future episodes of Actors’ Journal will include readings by John Lithgow, Bryan Cranston, Dan Lauria, Wendie Malick, Lou Diamond Phillips, Reno Wilson, Priscilla Lopez, Ed Asner, Laurie Metcalf, Henry Winkler, Linda Purl, and Patrick Duffy, among others.

To view Episode 1 of Actors’ Journal, click here and enjoy.

Photos courtesy of Durango PlayFest.  Used with permission.

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POSTPONED: Taimane Gardner is Coming to Durango

NOTE TO READERS:  Since posting the following article about Taimane Gardner, Covid-19 has shut down our world.  Music in the Mountains has decided to postpone its 2020 summer festival, so Taimane will not be appearing this summer.  Hopefully, her concert will be delayed by no more than a year, but we don’t know yet when it might be rescheduled.  For the time being, I’d suggest clicking on the YouTube links below to hear some of her music.  I will update when I know more.  Meanwhile, keep your social distance and stay safe. 


Taimane Gardner, one of the world’s premier ukulele players, is coming to Durango, Colorado, this summer as part of the annual Music in the Mountains festival.  She will appear at the Chocolate Indulgence event at Cascade Village on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

I first saw Taimane perform in New York City at a nightclub in the Village.  I’d never heard of her and would not have gone to the club had I not been assured by Denise Leslie, the ukulele maven of

Photo of Taimane Gardner
Ukulele virtuoso Taimane Gardner

the Four Corners region, that this was a not-to-be-missed performance.  I’d learned that Taimane was from Hawaii, so I was expecting the beachcomber and swaying hula music you hear at a luau.  Then this beautiful waif appeared on stage with her tiny ukulele and enigmatic smile, and when she started playing I was dazzled by three things:  (1) I didn’t know an ukulele could make those sounds, (2) I’d never seen anyone play a string instrument that fast, and (3) this young woman could play everything from Bach to Led Zeppelin.  She is a virtuoso with a repertoire that encompasses the surf sounds of the sixties, and classic rock and roll, and flamenco, and hardcore, strait-laced classical, and she can morph from one genre to the next in mid-flight.

Taimane has long, nimble fingers that move across the fretboard with a precision and grace you normally see in world-class pianists—and if she hit a single wrong note, I didn’t hear it.  She began playing the ukulele at five and was discovered by Don Ho at thirteen, when he invited her to join his variety show at the Waikiki Beachcomber.  In her teens, she studied with renowned ukulelist Jake Shimabukuro, whom most of us would not know, but in Hawaii he would be like studying guitar with Jimi Hendrix.  Now in her early thirties, Taimane has performed around the world and has become not only a master of the instrument but a captivating performer as well.

On stage, she doesn’t stay anchored to the floor the way many instrumentalists do.  She dances and roams with restless energy, sometimes prancing, sometimes gracefully bowing and carving up space to an inner rhythm that seems to flow from her music but at a different tempo, her face lit by a secret smile I could not interpret.  I didn’t know if she was smiling at the joy of performing—capturing the ecstasy of her moments on stage—or if she was smiling at her connection with a captivated audience, or if her smile derived from the sheer pleasure of weaving such lyrical tales from the instrument in her hands.  Perhaps it’s all three.

Here are some YouTube clips showing Taimane in performance.  These clips showcase her virtuosity as well as the range of her repertoire:  from Bach’s Toccata to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games (performed in a beautiful Hawaiian setting), to a medley of surfing classic tunes, to Beethoven’s Für Elise like you’ve never heard it, to her standout performance at TEDx in Maui.  These clips will introduce you to one of the finest instrumentalists you’ll ever hear, but there’s nothing like seeing her in person.  Music in the Mountain’s Chocolate Indulgence this summer will be a don’t-miss event.  The chocolate will be provided by sponsor Animas Chocolate Company.  What could be better?  Delectable chocolates, cocktails, and Taimane Gardner.  You’ll be dazzled.


Bach’s Toccata like you’ve never heard it:

Led Zeppelin meets Beethoven:

Performing Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game in a beautiful Hawaiian setting:

Playing a medley of surf tunes:

Performing Für Elise:

From TEDx Maui:


Photo credits:  Photos of Taimane Gardner courtesy of Music in the Mountains.  Used. with permission.

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Review of Seizing Success by Dr. Mary Key

Mary Key’s Seizing Success is a rare volume on leadership for women that combines the right foundations for success with research-based, practical tips on how to develop the attitudes, confidence, and skills necessary to become a transformational leader.

The book opens with chapters on the bedrock fundamentals of self-development:  self-confidence, self-understanding, and resilience, what the author calls the “intra-personal foundations for leadership.”  In these and subsequent chapters on assertiveness, influencing skills, and transformational leadership, she delves into what we know about these topics based on thorough research in the field and how to apply those lessons to overcome stereotyping and restrictive internal dialogue.  She uses the concept of reframing to teach how readers to overcome barriers, whether they are externally or internally imposed, and how to seize success by thinking about yourself and your world differently.

She notes that women face conflicting expectations, some of which are gender biases from their work and home environments and some of which are self-imposed.  Women, she notes, tend to be less self-confident than men and more prone to thoughtful reflection, which can lead to self-doubt and inaction.  I appreciated her focus on taking responsibility for your success and not blaming others, which generally does no good.  I also appreciated her summaries of key points at the end of each chapter and lists of practical tips and strategies for implementing the lessons learned in this slim volume.

Of course, her lessons on transformational leadership apply equally to men, but this book is written for and will be of greatest value to women who feel themselves constrained by doubts and subject to gender biases and constraints that hinder them from achieving all they are capable of achieving.  I highly recommend Seizing Success for anyone wishing to be more effective in life and in the workplace.


Photo of Mary KeyDr. Mary Key is an international consultant, author, speaker and executive coach. She is the founder of the Key Women’s Leadership Forums: The purpose of the women’s forum is to bring together executive women to focus on pressing issues, leveraging their influence and aligning their careers with what is purposeful for them. Key received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and her BS from the University of Massachusetts. She was selected to be part of the International Women’s Federation (IWF), Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF), Leadership Florida, Athena Society and the CEO Council. She lives in Tampa Bay with her husband, Lewis, and their three cats.


Photos courtesy of Mary Key and used with permission.