Where History Comes Alive SoloTogether


The banquet table was full, the Longfellow porch was ready and the actors were ready to eat (as always).  The Spring get together of SoloTogether started with a light rain, but that didn’t stop twenty seven intrepid solo performers from getting to Cambridge.  We were rewarded with a rainbow and a wonderful meal for our efforts.  Here is who was there:


George Baker - John Adams

Kate Carney - Rachel Walker, Bethinia Owens-Adair, Annie Sullivan, Juliette “Daisy” Low, et al

Stephen Collins - Walt Whitman (the younger)

Norm Conrad -  Mini Minstrels (and his lovely spouse)

Jim Cooke - Calvin Coolidge, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, et al

Alex Daunis - Gilbert Stuart

Mike Francis - Galileo, The Stargazer’s Apprentice

Libby Franck - Julia Ward Howe

Jackson Gillman - Rudyard Kipling, storyteller

Deborah Anne Goss - Charlotte Cushman, 'Victorian Musicales',  'Anti-slavery songs', Proper Ladies

Gail Hamel - Abigail Whitney

John Horrigan - Historical lectures (Revolution, Weather)

Judith Kalaora - Deborah Sampson, Annie Adams Field, Lucy Stone

JoJo LaRiccia - JoJo’s DreamCart

Sally Matson - Susan B Anthony, Margaret Bourke-White

Sally Mummey - Mary Todd Lincoln (along with her spouse)

Gwendolyn Presutti - 5 African American women

Mel Simons - The Golden Days of Radio, Television, Rock & Roll, et al

Rob Velella - Nathaniel Hawthorne, young Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe

Steve Wood - Abe Lincoln

Sharon Wood - Mary Todd Lincoln, Betsey Phelps, Sarah Josepha Hale, storyteller, et al

Ted Zalewski   - Teddy Roosevelt, Postman Roulin, et al

Plus special guests:

Debby Craig - Sally Matson’s friend, a teacher and storyteller from NY

Laurie Marshall - Alex’s companion who has been teaching solo theater at Brown University and has performed as Talula Bankhead in the past.

Angela Harper - Co-Director of Original Programming at NewTV.

Andrew Eldridge - Co-Director of Original Programming at NewTV


With so many performers on hand, there was only a minute or two for each to offer their update, but here goes.

John Horrigan has been thrilled with the reception of The Folklorist, which has received numerous awards and been picked up by many other cable stations besides Newton’s NewTV.

Jim Cooke, who is our SoloTogether founding father, is now focusing on President John Quincy Adams as he has passed Calvin Coolidge by many years.  Jim regaled us with one of the president’s poems, “The Hourglass”.

Alex Daunis hasn’t been very engaged with his Gilbert Stuart, but rather doing more film work.  He even has ventured off to Hollywood to shoot some scenes for The Judge, in which he played a juror.

George Baker has written another speech for John Adams (the elder) so that he can perform encores at various venues.  He reminded us that we must remember what we do is 5% performing and 95% promotion.  He had the pleasure of meeting Harry Truman’s solo artist at the Harry Truman Museum after he had submitted to the museum on numerous occations.

Judith Kalaora finally got a booking for her Annie Fields program, which has convinced her Annie doesn’t have much potential.  In the works is a program on Christa McAuliffe.  Judith suggested looking into the TAP program under the Mass Housing department if you are interested in bringing programs to independent living venues.  TAP helps senior organizations with funding.  https://www.masshousing.com/portal/server.pt/community/property_managers/239/resident_programs   

Norm Conrad came out of retirement for a performance of his mini minstrel program when his son and grandchildren reproduced his act for a celebration of his eightieth birthday.

Sally Matson has  been taking Margaret Bourke White to veteran’s homes with great success.

Libby Franke has tried out a new character, Mary Peabody Mann, the wife of Horace Mann.  She also asked everyone to try to remember to send in their upcoming bookings for the calendar, since she loves going to see other performers.

Jackson Gillman is finally getting Kipling on the road (as opposed to sitting in Kipling’s house in Vermont) with a visit to the Worcester Friends meeting, sponsored by our own Katie Green.  Then Kipling will be off to the Solo Festival in NYC for Gillman’s off  Boadway debut.  http://unitedsolo.org/us/

Steven Wood related how rewarding it is to perform for an audience that actually knows you are getting it right.  Those shows inspire him and keep him going.

Sharon Wood’s original program “A Tribute to Sarah Josepha Hale” was not a first person portrayal, but a lecture for a doll club many years ago.  The club has asked her back for an encore.

Kate Carney has be sidelined with vocal problems, but is getting back into action bringing Annie Sullivan to the New York City Medicine Show Theater.

Steven Collins is keeping his one new show a year going with  a program on Irish poets and playwrights.  He was inspired by Jonathan Swifts’s “A Modest Proposal”, but then there’s Yeats, Behan,  Joyce, … where will the list end?  He’ll start this off as a class and then adapt it to a show.  He also suggested doing some shows for free, just to get the word out.  He performed Socrates eight times last year and feels it’s paying off now.

Deb Goss is focusing on Civil War music right now, but looking to WWI era songs for a new show with the anniversary of the war coming up.  She also asked a question to the group.  “How do you market characters who WERE famous once, but no one knows them now?

Sally Mummey told a lovely story about giving away a Mrs. Lincoln program to the nursing home where her mother resides for her birthday.  She’s also been getting requests for another new program, which we all know is quite an undertaking.  Katherine the Great may be Sally’s next project.

Gail Hamel has been taking advantage of the fact that Abigail Whitney was a friend of Abigail Adams to promote her program.  She also hinted that she has two new programs in the works, even while she is working the Freedom Trail tours.

Jo Jo LaRiccia has not performed in a while since video production has been filling her time.  She has started a new project, the Somerville Film Group to take her projects to a new level.  

Mel Simons has been having fun with his newest program, “Everything’s Coming Up Irish” between his monthly visits to WBZ’s Jordan Rich Program.

Rob Velella has retired his Longfellow presentation since Longfellow couldn’t get a booking.  Hawthorn is taking off though with programs coming up in North Adams and Newton.  Rob also announced to the group that he has gotten engaged to be married. Congratulations were offered.

Ted Zalewski is working on a new script based on Władysław Skłodowski, who taught mathematics and physics and was the father of Marie Curie.  Ted is especially excited about doing a program based on a historical Polish character since there don’t seem to be too many available.

Just as we were getting ready to close, Judith Kalaora suggested and Mel Simons seconded, folks might think about sending Jordan Rich at WBZ radio a note promoting your programs.  Judith has done call-ins to Jordan and was a co-host and Mel is a monthly regular on the late night (12:00 PM - 4:00 PM) program.  They both said Jordan is always looking for topics.  Even though he’s on very late, his audience is over 1 million and covers half the country.  It’s a great way to get the word out about your programs.

Time ran out and everyone retired to the parking lot at the Longfellow house where the discussions went on for some time.  We were still munching on cakes, cookies and pastries right to the end.  All in all, a very successful meeting.

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