Community Palette

'The Children of Willesden Lane' with Mona Golabek at the French Embassy

January 5, 2017

Fresh from her acclaimed performances in London, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, American concert pianist, author, and radio host, Mona Golabek, shares her mother’s story, based on her best-selling book, The Children of Willesden Lane Mona Golabek is the daughter of Lisa Jura, a concert pianist, and French resistance fighter Michel Golabek. Her mother was born in Austria, and was one of 10,000 Jewish children brought to England before World War II as part of the Kindertransport, a mission to rescue children threatened by the Nazis. Although Mona's mother was rescued, her maternal grandparents died at Auschwitz. Her Father, Michel Golabek, received the Croix de Guerre for his heroism in the French Resistance during WW II.


Set in Vienna in 1938, and in London during the Blitz, The Children of Willesden Lane tells the true story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish pianist who dreams about her concert debut at Vienna’s storied Musikverein concert hall. But, with the issuing of new ordinances under the Nazi regime, everything for Lisa changes, except for her love of music and the pursuit of her dream, as she is torn from her family and sent on the Kindertransport to London. 


The story intrigued me because my mother was also from Vienna and escaped the Nazis at the age of fourteen. She didn’t escape on a Kindertransport but rather with her mother and also went to London before immigrating to the United States. Like Mona’s grandparents my father’s parents died in Auschwitz. 

Mona Golabek (Photo by: ) Mona Golabek


The Washington premiere of this work by Mona Golabek will be held at the La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Immediately after the concert at the Embassy, The Defiant Requiem Foundation will be hosting a dinner. The concert is one hour in length and features the music of Grieg, Beethoven, Debussy, Bach, Chopin and more.   


Proceeds from this benefit performance and dinner will support the mission, performances and educational programs of the Defiant Requiem Foundation. The Foundation was founded by Maestro Murry Sidlin, distinguished conductor, educator, and artistic innovator in 2008. It is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. 


The work of the Foundation is dedicated to preserving the memory of the prisoners in the Terezín concentration camp during World War II. Despite monumental suffering, disease, and the constant presence of death they found hope and inspiration in the arts and humanities. The Foundation achieves its mission by presenting live performances of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín and Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer. Distributing the award-winning documentary film Defiant Requiem to the broadest possible audience and perpetuating the Rafael Schächter Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Terezín in both the Czech Republic and the United States. The Foundation nurtures opportunities for Holocaust education centered on Terezín, including the Defiant Requiem film curriculum guide and the University Residency Project. Creating new initiatives and artistic programs to honor the creativity and courage of the Terezín prisoners and expanding overall awareness of Terezín.


Tickets to the concert and dinner begin at $250 and space is limited. For information please contact the Foundation office at 202.244.0220.

Click here to share your thoughts.

Vegetable Gardening with the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild

December 6, 2016

Founded by Franciscan friars in 1899, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is one of Washington's hidden gems, with a stunning Byzantine-style church; replicas of Holy Land shrines, Lourdes Grotto and catacombs; cloister walk; and beautiful gardens with more than 1,000 roses and other plants, flowers and herbs located on 42 acres. 

One of their community projects is the work being done by the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild (FMGG), an all-volunteer 501(c) 3 non-profit. This project led by Louis P. Maroulis is growing and donating literally tons of vegetables to those in need in the District of Columbia. The Garden Guild are the stewards for the greenhouse and urban farm located at 1400 Quincy Street, NE - within a 10 minute walk of Brookland/CUA Metro Stop - Redline.  

Since 2014, FMGG has harvested and donated over 13k lbs. (6.5 tons) of vegetable produce to various civic and religious organizations in the metro DC area such as the DC Central Kitchen, Martha's Table, Capital Area Food Bank, SOME, Joseph's House - Adams Morgan, and Iona Senior Services Center – Tenleytown.

In addition, FMGG is collaborating with the Casey Tree Foundation for replanting the Monastery's orchard with various fruit trees and the DC Beekeeper's Alliance to rebuild the Monastery's apiary of 20 beehives.  FMGG also provides workshops for natural soap making, jam/preserves, herb salts, herb propagation and educational tours to elementary school students.  FMGG received 17 ribbons in August 2016 from the Howard County, Montgomery County and Maryland State Fairs for home-made natural soaps and vegetables grown on their urban farm.  

You can volunteer at the farm as an individual or as part of a corporate or university group. Volunteer groups have included: Viacom/BET, Corporation for National & Community Service, Catholic University of America, American University, and Trinity Washington University.

In order to continue the amazing work they do the group is now raising money to rebuild and expand operations in their 100 year old greenhouse. This would allow them to cultivate organically and harvest vegetables year-round.  To learn a little more about the greenhouse click on this video.

The estimated cost of the greenhouse project is nearly $650,000. If you are interested in donating to this very worthwhile project or would like a tour of the existing greenhouse and to learn more about the work, contact Garden Guild

A tax deductible donation can be charged or checks mailed to FMGG, P.O. Box 29059 Washington, DC 20017. Make sure you put "Greenhouse Renovation" in the check's subject line.  Helping those in need get healthy meals is one of the best gifts we can give to a community. Rebuilding this greenhouse will multiply your gift and make it last for years to come. 


Click here to share your thoughts.

The Secret Garden at the Shakespeare Theatre

November 22, 2016

The Secret Garden was written in 1910 by Frances Hodgson Burnett and was first titled ‘Mistress Mary’ in the form of 27 individual chapters in the American Magazine. It was published as a children’s story one year later and quickly appealed to both children and adults.

 Charlie Franklin and Anya Rothman (Photo by: Courtesy The Shakespeare Theatre) Charlie Franklin and Anya Rothman

The story revolves around 10-year-old Mary Lennox who loses her parents to a cholera epidemic in the British Raj of India. She then travels to England and becomes the ward of her uncle Archibald Craven who is still grieving the death of his wife ten years earlier. Terrified of every nook and cranny of the haunted Craven Manor on the Yorkshire Moors, Mary seeks refuge in her late aunt’s mysterious walled garden, which she discovers holds some amazing secrets.

This musical version based on the children’s book A Secret Garden, was written by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon and won a Drama Desk and Tony Award when it was first presented on Broadway. It has been described as the story of hardship turned into hope, of beauty discovered in unlikely places, the power of the child’s imagination and the wisdom that accompanies growing up.

This production, superbly directed by David Armstrong, finds its way into your heart and one of the main reasons is its young star Anya Rothman who plays Mary Lennox. She is simply brilliant. A multi-talented young actress acting, singing and dancing. We are taken on Mary’s voyage through her young life where she shares her inner strength and belief things can be better.

The rest of the cast, and it is a cast of twenty-one, are wonderful with standouts including Charlie Franklin as Dickon whose beautiful voice and scenes with Mary bring hope to her life and warmth to the audience. Michael Xavier as Archibald Craven, Mary’s uncle, Josh Young as Dr. Neville Craven, and the grown-up Daisy Eagan as Martha, who won a Tony award when she played Mary Lennox on Broadway, are all wonderful. Lizzie Klemperer who plays the ghost of Lily Craven captures your imagination every time she sings.  

But then this production is more than the story or the cast. Their work is complemented with the incredible sets designed by Anna Louizos. While it took me part of the first act to get used to the constant movement of the set, there are five levels of movement, by the middle of the act I fully appreciated its brilliance and how it was used.  In the final scene of the show which takes place in the revived secret garden you could hear the gasp of the audience as the garden in all its revived glory was unveiled. 

Lizzie Klemperer (Photo by: Courtesy The Shakespeare Theatre) Lizzie Klemperer

The first act while strong moves a little slower than the second. The story unfolds slowly as Mary moves to Craven Manor and then discovers her young cousin, played by Henry Baratz, who is kept in his room being told and believing he is dying. Mary convinces him he isn’t and changes his life and that of her uncle leading to the happy ending by the end of the second act.

The costumes were wonderful designed by Ann Hould-Ward who also designed costumes for other Shakespeare productions including Man of La Mancha. These were not easy as most of the cast, after the first scene when they die of cholera, are ghosts dancing and singing around Mary and the Craven household.  They are all dressed in white yet Hould-Ward makes them memorable none-the-less. The lighting by Mike Baldassari enhances the set. There is an orchestra and one of the things occasionally distracting is the box at the front of the stage where the conductor’s hands pop up occasionally. But Rick Fox’s musical direction and arrangements and the beautiful voices of the cast make it a very minor distraction. 

The Secret Garden is at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Hall until December 31st. It is a wonderful holiday treat which you can and should take your children to see knowing you will enjoy it as much as they will. 

Click here to share your thoughts.