Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Abundant Life - Sharing Our Stories

When I received the invitation for the play "Rosemary and Time" from the beautiful actress Judith Barcroft, I knew I wanted to see it. Theater is my first love of all of the arts, and I don't get a chance to see enough of it. Prices are high for Broadway and even Off-Broadway, and though I have a long history of being in and around the theater, that history sometimes makes me hesitant to go to plays because I've known and seen some of the best over the years and I've gotten to have a very particular view about what I like and I don't like. But I've known Judith for many years and I know she's one of the best actresses around, and I also know that she would only be in a play that was a very special one, so I clicked through the link in her email and checked out the website for the play. When I started to read about it and saw that the entire production staff were women, I sent an email off to Andrea Alton who was listed as the press and publicity contact, and said I'd like to write about the play and if possible meet the Director and Playwright. It is rare to see an entire production staff of women - theater and film will often have production staff and crew that is a combination of men and women, and sometimes all or mostly men, but to see a group of women theater professionals collaborating on a play is not a common occurrence, and I was intrigued and impressed with the idea of it. When I heard back from Andrea, we decided that I'd attend the invited dress and then make arrangements to see the play again a bit later into the run when the actors had some time to do the work that starts to happen once a play has an audience.

I love theater, more than any art form, because theater is always different. Night after night, you can have a run of a year or more, and actors will always find something new in their roles. The same actors, the same play, and always something new to see and feel and experience. The night of the invited dress I had a very special walk down memory lane - Judith and I had worked together in the past on a Craig Lucas play that was a very special play to me when we were in the LAB Theater Company that was part of the Circle Repertory Company. She had played my mother in that play, and she was playing a mother in this one, a very different role, but the reminder of the time we had shared together was still there. Before the play started, a man in the audience said hello to me, and though I recognized him, I wasn't sure where we knew each other from. When I asked him, he told me his name and that he was a theater photographer and I knew immediately that he was Gerry Goodstein who had photographed the Circle Repertory Company plays when I had first started there as an intern and in all the years afterward through all the seasons of astonishing plays that filled my history in my early years in New York. It was wonderful to see him working that night, to remember those wonderful plays and wonderful days and nights of theater and theater professionals - the people and plays that had forever changed my life and taught me so much of what I know.

The play "Rosemary And Time" is astounding. After I returned for the second time, I told Jennifer Fell Hayes, the playwright, that it's an important play, and it is. It tells a story that is based on a true story that a friend of Jennifer's told her about a member of his family in Yorkshire. I'm not going to give anything away, but I will say that the subject matter could have been handled in any number of ways that could have had so much less finesse and beauty, and Jennifer and the production staff handled it brilliantly. The writing is excellent - I'm a playwright myself and technically it seemed flawless. But there was something else that happens with great writing - it reaches to the heart of social issues through a story about people that helps us to think about our own stories and find a place of healing and begin to question the status quo. The production itself is amazing. The Direction by Kathy Gail MacGowan is impeccable, the actors are outstanding, and the music, lighting, set design, costumes and all other aspects of the experience are so completely and perfectly integrated that it is mesmerizing. There's not one false step, and I am someone who can be very critical - though I have a heart for actors and theater professionals, if it's not ringing true I will know it. The characters were all treated with such compassion, respect and love, even those who could be thought of as unlikable, and I felt myself wanting to understand and beginning to understand, and opening myself up to allowing others who might be in my own life who might seem less than likable to just be. This is the power of great theater. It opens us up to sharing our own stories, and to learning about the stories of others.

The second time I saw the play, I invited a friend who is not a "theater person" - unlike me he doesn't have a history in the theater and he'd never seen a play in such an intimate setting before. He loved it, and said afterward how amazing it was, and as we walked together up Broadway to catch our trains home, he said something that in some ways echoed what I love about great theater the most. "They were talking about things that were every day things, and they were engaged with each other and engaged us in their conversation. People don't really do that very often, talk about things that are important to them and their feelings about things that have happened, and it's good to do that. It's good to talk about those things and try to figure them out, to have a space where you can be encouraged to talk about them." It is good to talk and to share our stories, and to have a space and a place where we can share them openly and honestly. In that space we can decide to leave them behind or let them help us to move forward.

Playwright Jennifer Fell Hayes
And Director Kathy Gail MacGowan
Sharing Their Stories
Upper West Side
New York City


Jannie Susan

Sunday, February 11, 2018

An Abundant Life - Sweetness And Love

The name that Chocolatier Milène Jardine gave to her premier collection of couture truffles is "Live By Love," and that tag line runs throughout her website and social media posts. If I hadn't met her and understood that she is a healer at heart, I would have thought that she simply makes chocolate because she loves it and she wants to share that love, but that is only part of a much larger and much more beautiful story. There is nothing simple about Milène Jardine's truffles - they are individual artworks made with much time and care and handcrafted with the finest of all natural ingredients selected and blended with an eye and palate attuned to flavor and beauty and sublime sensory experience.

The first time I met Milène, she was at a culinary event at the City Opera Thrift Store along with some of the other food entrepreneurs who work out of the wonderful Entrepreneur Space in Queens that I have written about in these pages before. As I went from station to station I was delighted with the quality and personality of each person presenting, and when I found Milène, it was a dream come true. I have always loved Valrhona Chocolate - I have written before about a wonderful class I attended at their workshop in Brooklyn, and how that has long been my favorite chocolate to cook with. And here was this petite powerhouse of a Chocolatier with a display of the most beautiful truffles I've ever seen, and the chocolate she was using is my favorite Valrhona. I tried the one she calls Serenity that day, made with Irish whiskey, natural maple and Sea Salt - as she describes it herself, her collection "takes you on a journey to five countries across diverse continents" and Serenity reflects her experience of Ireland, with the exquisite merging of flavors meant to "carry you away to tranquility" which I can certainly say that at the end of a long, hot and busy summer day in Manhattan, they did.

I followed up with a meeting out at Entrepreneur Space to talk a bit more, and then visited her in the kitchen one evening when she was joined by the wonderful Chef Esteban Arias, who in spite of his busy schedule traveling all over to share his amazing chocolate and ice cream skills in some of New York City's finest kitchens is always a faithful help and support in Milène's truffle production. Her energy is contagious and I would have loved to have stayed there for the full length of time, but the end of her day would be some time around midnight and I needed to be well on my way home long before then. I did have a chance to see some of the wonderful activity and smell the gorgeous scents of the ingredients she uses. In addition to that perfection of Valrhona chocolate, she adds the finest fresh cream, real butter, and again in her words, "herbs and spices to heal the body." If chocolate can ever be healthy, Milène Jardine is making it so. The full line-up in her premier collection, in her own words, is as follows:

"Tradition - Harvey Wallbanger - A tribute to my grandfather’s celebrated Harvey Wallbanger cake, with a zest of orange and splash of herbaceous Galliano Liqueur. These flavors remind me of family, humor, and my home in the USA.

"Sanctuary - Ginger/ Turmeric/ Black Pepper - Influenced by the peace and divinity I found while exploring the temples of Japan and India. Ginger and turmeric are heated to bring chocolate and black pepper to an intense yet subtle flavor that balances and calms the body.
"Goddess - Hibiscus/ Mint – Honoring the female rulers of ancient Egypt, these chocolates were inspired by the Nile Valley tea of the pharaohs. Hibiscus, known for its refreshing and cooling effects on the body, is accented with sweet mint.
"Puriste - Dark Chocolate - Channels the passionate and devoted love of chocolate by the French people. Every time I create a batch of Puriste, I am transported to my favorite chocolate shops in Paris where art and food meet like lovers on the Seine River.
"Serenity - Whiskey/ Sea Salt - Inspired by the beauty and peaceful nature of Ireland where I fell in love with my father’s Irish heritage. Let the rich flavor of whiskey sweetened with natural maple contrasted with savory sea salt carry you away to tranquility."
In addition to these always perfect delights, as she travels and explores and blends and is inspired, she creates new taste sensations to inspire us all. The newest addition is "Lionheart," which is available in the "Winter Collection" gift box. A mixture of hops flower, cloudberry and real beer inspired by a hiking trip to the summit of Norway's Preikestolen, it will lift you up to float in the clouds on the happiest of mountain peaks while reminding you of the strength and courage it takes to get there. Combining her childhood love of making sweets with a history of travel, business experience and intense high level training at Macy's renowned Private Label Headquarters, the artisanal chocolates Milène Jardine creates are priceless. Available in five piece or fifteen piece boxes that are so freshly made they are perfection, as special gifts, business gifts or a beautiful gift for yourself. Follow her online, send an email, and sign up for her mailing list for special events. Her knowledge and expertise combined with her joie de vivre and love make every event she's involved in a memorable one.
Milène Jardine
Creating Deliciously
At Entrepreneur Space

With Seasonal Help
Including Thomas Jardine
Or As Milène Describes Him 
"Pa/Best Father Ever"
Following Six Photographs
Courtesy of Milène Jardine

Fresh Zest of Orange
Whisked With Galliano And The Finest Cream
For "Tradition - Harvey Wallbanger"

Video Courtesy of Milène Jardine

Made With Fresh Hibiscus And  Mint
Photograph Courtesy of Milène Jardine

An In-Flight Tasting
Photograph Courtesy of Milène Jardine

Five Piece Gift Box
Photograph Courtesy of Milène Jardine
Fifteen Piece Gift Box
Photograph Courtesy of Milène Jardine
The Newest Addition At Home


Jannie Susan