Lois returns to kibbitz

Greg Johnston, Peggy Billo, Laurie McConnell, Adam Moskal, Rachel Fenton perform. Photo: John Lamb

By Lois Caplan

After six months of R&R, PT, OT, ST and general misery from a fall  June 13, which caused brain injury, I am finally back in the saddle. Well, not totally but with the help of a wheelchair, a walker and some wonderful assistance from aids, friends and my family, I think I can function again as the Jewish Light’s longtime columnist. I have been producing columns since 1963 or more specifically, for 48 years. To tell you I have missed writing for you is an understatement and I hear, especially from my editor, Ellen Futterman, that some of you have missed me. Well, I’m back to serve you and to let my readers know about your interesting and meaningful social and charitable events. Just keep me informed by email at [email protected].  I don’t promise a weekly column as in the past, but I will try my darndest.

First I have to tell you about my experience as a handicapped person in a wheelchair. During the past months of recovery, I have been to St. Louis Symphony concerts, the Repertory Theatre, the Touhill Performing Arts center for ballet, the Fox Theatre, the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Kranzberg Theatre, Landmark Plaza Frontenac and Moolah movie theaters and the New Jewish Theatre, and in each case the management personnel has been graciously helpful.  Not only did they not make me feel like a burden, they worked at making me comfortable.

At last night’s NJT sold-out performance at the Jewish Community Center of “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” management knocked itself out to get me a front row seat. The play is well cast, intelligently directed and altogether enjoyable, so if you can get tickets before it closes on Dec. 18, go for it. Facilities for handicapped in our cultural community are awesome, thanks to all those who came before me starting with the remarkable late Max Starkloff, the founder of Paraquad. I am very grateful.

And brief kudos to the institutions that carried me from flat on my back hospitalization to semi-mobility on a walker.  First of all, St. John’s Mercy Hospital, which changed its name in the midst of my tsouris to Mercy, provided months of in hospital therapy and loving care. Then I came home to more intense therapy – three days a week of physical, occupational and speech therapy. Most recently, I have added water therapy under the expert instruction of Scott Uelsmann of Rehabilitation Professionals Inc., which is owned by yarmulke wearing, talented South African physical therapist Jonty Felsher.


OK, enough. No more looking back. Let’s start with New Year’s Eve when Grand Center presents First Night, bringing the magic of this year’s theme, “Xanadu” to life with music, dance, magic, comedy, activities for all ages and two fireworks displays. The action takes place from 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Dec. 31 at more than a dozen venues and on the streets of Grand Center from Lindell to Delmar boulevards. First Night buttons cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. It’ll get you into everything with a few notable exceptions like the St. Louis Symphony.  David Robertson will lead the orchestra in the annual New Year Eve’s concert with all kinds of surprises. Tickets are available at the box office, 314-534-1700.

On the subject of classical music, Sara Sitzer and Friends will perform a chamber music concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 in the JCC’s Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. The concert will feature trios by Mendelssohn, Schoenfield and Ravel in an eclectic evening of intimate music entitled “From the Salons of Europe to the Cafes of America” with repertoire ranging from European to American, from 18th century to contemporary.

Sitzer, a Chicago area cellist with roots in St. Louis (her mom is NJT artistic director Kathleen Sitzer), will perform alongside two other young professional musicians, pianist Louise Chan and violinist Tarn Travers. Last June, Sitzer founded the Gesher Music Festival of Emerging Artists in St. Louis, a unique Chamber Music program that focused on classical chamber music with Jewish thematic content performed by a group of young professional musicians.

Tickets for the concert are $15 when purchased in advance online through www.brownpapertickets.com/event/213015 and $18 (cash only) at the door. There is a $12 student ticket price at the door.

Save the date for “Puss in Boots,” the musical, which will be presented by Ready Readers and Imaginary Theatre Company Sunday, Jan. 29 at the Clayton High School Atrium, 1 Mark Twain Circle. This fundraiser for the Ready Readers program will begin at 1 p.m. and include activities for the kids led by the Magic House, St. Louis Science Center and Puppet Guild of St. Louis, as well as a silent auction for adults. The performance begins at 2 p.m. and costs $10 per ticket with all proceeds to benefit Ready Readers, a St. Louis-based nonprofit dedicated to inspiring preschool children from low-income communities to become readers.