Then it happened. Donna Federico, the artist, entered the stage. She was no longer my cousin. She was Matron “Mama” Morton – The matron of the Cook County Jail who believes that all favors she gives should be reciprocated. I was caught up in the musical waiting to see what happens next. The singing dancing, music and acting were wonderful. Then it happened, Matron “Mama” Morton was singing. She had a beautiful voice and what a great stage presence. I was transfixed on the actress, the singer, the woman who was someone who grew up with me. We were cousins; her father was my late uncle Don, brother to my mother, Rose. I was proud, honored, and feeling like I had never felt before. The musical continued and all too soon it was over.

We all went to the stage door. Donna came out and we hugged and laughed. We took photos and soon it was time for Donna to return to the stage for a question and answer session. She was going to meet us at the restaurant. Looking forward to the time when Donna would join us we left the theater and headed to the Monterey Coast Brewing Company.

At this time I would like to share my cousin’s brief bio with all of you.

Donna is a versatile actress she has been cast in roles as varied as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and Mama Rose in Gypsy. In addition to her acting abilities she performs as a theatre technician, as she creates and supervises makeup and wigs for the Western Stage. Her skills as a musician not only contribute to her performance of singing roles. Those music skills enabled her to create the soundscapes of hymns and folk music that played behind the action of The Western Stage production of The Crucible.

My cousin Donna began her undergraduate education at San Jose State and landed her first theatre job doing hair and makeup for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. “It was the first year the Oregon Shakespeare Festival started its indoor season with the opening of the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Sometime after her season with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she returned to study at the university, she completed her BA at North Montana College (now N.M.U.) in Havre, Montana, she then returned to San Jose State University for a Master’s degree in Fine Arts and acting. Feeling more prepared with her graduate degree and a lot of enthusiasm, Donna ventured out to design and act for stage companies. She worked theaters up and down the West Coast, including Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, San Jose Stage, San Jose Repertory and A.C.T. in San Francisco.

Donna joined The Western Stage in 1985. The Western Stage is a place where she was given wonderful roles like Rose in Gypsy and Lola in Come Back Little Sheba and Mrs. Anntrobus in Skin of Our Teeth. In addition to her acting roles she has gained experience in directing the Young Company, a summer theatre program for local kids. That play was just one of several wonderful theater productions the Young Company produced and she was able to direct.

She creates and conducts workshops that teach people how to apply stage makeup. However today the classes are much less often do to financial cuts in arts funding. Donna has remained with the Western Stage for over twenty years, even still in these days, cuts or no cuts, her enthusiasm and delight in theatre has remained. Donna is in love with acting and working in a live performance. She is one who has realized the vitality of the arts.