By Sharon Wisch-Ray
A couple of weeks ago, Sheri Allen gave me the heads up that her talented husband Richard wrote a play that would debut at Stage West.
I am looking forward to reading my TVS pal Rafael McDonald’s feature on Richard in next week’s TJP, but in the meantime was thrilled to hear that members of Beth Shalom and others from Tarrant County were on hand in Fort Worth last weekend to see the premiere of “Starbright and Vine.”
More than 35 members from CBS attended the affair. The evening began with a wonderful dinner at the Old Vic Café at Stage West, and ended with a social gathering with the cast.
Allen’s comedy is about an aging writer who teams up with a disillusioned actress to write a sketch for an awards show on national television.
The play runs through March 23 at the Stage West Theatre.
“For years and years I was very story-oriented,” Allen, 54, said from his office at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “What surprised me most was that I could focus on the characters being together instead of having a contrived crisis, conflict and ending. It was a pleasure. The play wrote itself.”
Another thing that surprised him was how his meditations on aging and mortality would find poignant parallels in real life. He modeled the part of the older comic on Sid Caesar. Caesar died Feb. 12 at age 91.
He envisioned Jerry Russell, founder of Stage West, and father of Texas state senator and governor hopeful Wendy Davis, in the role. Russell read the part in a staged reading Allen directed in March 2013, but he died last September at age 77. “I knew it worked because of his performance,” Allen says. “He had so much to offer.”
Richard Allen is a two-time Emmy-Award winning writer who also serves as professor of Film, Television and Digital Media at TCU.
His plays have been seen on local stages over the past three decades. His most recent work, “The Seduction and Deception of Mozart,” was produced at the University of Texas, Arlington’s Mainstage Theatre in 2012.
Richard’s television credits include Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and As the World Turns.
“Parashah Plays,” Allen’s collection of short comic plays based on the Torah, are performed at synagogues and schools across America.
He is blissfully married to Cantor Sheri Allen of Congregation Beth Shalom, and has three spectacular children: Jeremy, Emily and Rebekah.
CAS receives one-of-a-kind American flag
Major Jay (Bear) Bernstein personally presented an American flag to Congregation Ahavath Sholom recently.
The flag accompanied Bernstein when he flew over the skies of Afghanistan on a combat sortie aboard an F-16 C+ Block 30 Viper assigned to the 457th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron as part of Operation Enduring Freedom on Mission A4531, Jan. 25, 2014, Aircraft #85-1412.
Major Bernstein and his family are members of Congregation Ahavath Sholom
“At Congregation Ahavath Sholom, our hearts are filled with pride, honor and humility at the gift and presentation of a unique American Flag. This flag is permanently displayed on the synagogue’s Wall of Attributes,” said Michael Linn, CAS executive director.
“We are proud and respectful of all the men and woman that have served in the Armed Forces,” he added.
Volunteer extraordinaire: Terri Mann
Kudos to Terri Mann, a registered nurse, who is a frequent volunteer in the Fort Worth office of Vitas hospice.
“I didn’t want to disappear from hospice,” Mann explains.
After almost 14 years as a hospice nurse, she realized in 2007 that a recent bout with breast cancer had left her unable to lift patients. Staying true to her hospice heart, she resigned as a VlTAS nurse and became a VlTAS volunteer in 20 IO.
Terri says her experiences, memories and the impact patients have had on her are as strong now as they were when hospice was her full-time job.
Although sometimes, just for a moment, Volunteer Terri slips into being Nurse Terri, officially her nursing skills do not come into play as a volunteer; volunteers simply spend time with the patient or help the family. She was needed by one family to drive their young daughter to an art class every week. The instructor included Terri in the class and she had a wonderful time — until the daughter decided she’d rather be with her terminally ill mother, and Terri’s volunteer services were no longer needed. “I felt sad,” Terri admits. “I was suddenly cut off from the whole family.”
Later the mother needed someone to talk to, and Terri was reassigned to the family.
Terri has a psychiatric nursing background that pays off in her hospice work, particularly when survivors are angry — a natural part of the grieving process, she says. “I just listen and offer solutions, and it usually ends in hugs.” She shares her hard-earned wisdom by teaching nursing skills one day a week at Weatherford College.
Over the years, when acquaintances worried that hospice was depressing work, Terri would respond, “No. I find it spiritual, but not depressing.” But she prepares herself, she says, just as she does when she climbs stairs to blow off steam or breathes deeply when feeling stress.
There is one more life lesson Terri is working on: don’t sweat the small stuff. It comes from her husband, a Holocaust survivor who is very clear on what is worth worrying about. “His views of what is important aren’t mine,”
Terri admits. “I see how he carries on, prioritizes. He sets a good example: keep it simple; don’t sweat the small stuff.”