My Cousin Donna Federico – Photos


My Cousin Donna Federico “Songstress” the story continues……


The Western Stage was founded in 1974 and has evolved into one of the most respected theatres on California’s Central Coast. The Western Stage provides a professional platform for their educational mission. They produce a season of plays utilizing local talent, professional and pre-professional artists. The Western Stage and Hartnell College are committed to providing traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities for individuals of the Salinas Valley.

During intermission I learned that the Western Stage can remain stable even through the current tough funding environment for education in California, as long as the community participates by becoming supporters. I think it would be a pleasant experience for me to become a person who supports The Western Stage. I could attend each one of their shows and share my experience with others in the hope that they too will want to become supporters. That night I learned that the theater requires an audience to excel! I could also donate to this worth will organization. If you would like to contribute to this great organization then copy and paste this link you’re your browser

In addition to Donna Federico’s artistic contributions to The Western Stage, she has been a member of The Amazing Dr. Zarcon’s Breathing Machine, a jug band. This amazing jug band plays the old-time jug music as well as blues and crowd-rousing specials. It is my understanding that the band starts off with Donna belting out the blues and pulling in the crowd to join her with songs like Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher. Her rendition of My Kitchen Man brings down the house each time. Songstress Donna Federico has toured with the band and has been a dynamic crowd pleaser for years. Donna has not only been the bands vocalist I understand she can play a jug.

Just think what I have learned about my cousin. A talented woman who not only is my cousin, Donna is a singer, actress, director, teacher, songstress, juggist and a wonderful person. I cannot wait to see my cousin in future plays, singing with the band, or just sharing another meal together.

My Cousin Donna – the story continues some more


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.

My cousin Donna Federico – the story continues to build

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To provide you just a little background about the musical you may want to read the following:

The musical Chicago is based on a play of the same name written by the Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. Ms. Watkins was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. It was by her attending these trials that she was inspired to write the play.

Ms. Beulah Annan was the model for the character of Roxie Hart. She was 23 when accused of the April 3, 1924, murder of Harry Kalstedt. It was reported that Ms. Annan waited over two hours before calling her husband to say that she killed a man who “tried to make love to her”. She was found “not guilty” on May 25, 1924.

Velma’s character is based on Ms. Belva Gaertner, who was a cabaret singer. The body of Walter Law was discovered in an abandoned car on March 12, 1924. Two police officers testified that they had seen a woman getting into the abandoned car and then heard multiple gunshots. Ms. Belva Gaertner was acquitted on June 6, 1924. The lawyers William Scott Stewart and W. W. O’Brien were models for the character, Billy Flynn.

The musical Chicago was first written and produced late in the 1920’s. The original musical was developed into two movies that were produced and released by different movie companies. The first movie of Chicago was a silent film released in 1930. Another movie soon followed but it was released with a sound track in 1940. Today, the musical version of Chicago was rereleased and the musical is currently touring the world. The movie industry reacted to the reintroduction of this great musical by producing another movie. Prior to my attending the musical on Sunday I had not seen any version of Chicago. Heading into the theater was I was excited to know this would be, the first time to see my cousin Donna perform and the first time to see Chicago.

Seated and comfortable in the theater, I watched as the doors closed, the lights dimmed for the audience and brighten on the stage. Next my ears heard the beautiful sounds coming from the orchestra as the musical began. Wow what a beautiful sight. The stage was close enough to see the expressions on the faces of the actors. The sound from the stage was fantastic; I did not miss one word of dialog or miss one note.

My Cousin Donna Federico

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I drove all the way to Salinas, California to see “CHICAGO”

Sunday November 20, 2011 is a very important day. First and foremost it is the birthday of my oldest granddaughter Caitlin Johnson. She turned nineteen and plans to continue her education by attending junior college and has registered to start in January 2012. I am very proud of her and want her to continue with school until she has a BA and a Masters in a field of her choice.

On this special day Marti and I had made a date to join my Uncle Charley and Ginger to see the Western Stage production of “CHICAGO” at the Hartnell community college. My cousin Donna Federico has worked for The Western Stage for years (I think she said for more than twenty years). I was going to see my cousin perform for the first time. Where was I for all those years? What was I doing that kept me away from seeing my cousin Donna as she performed on stage? I do not want to think about the past so I will just focus on the day.

We left Aptos and headed over to Salinas. We were on our way to see Chicago. We arrived at the Hartnell campus and parked next to the theater. Uncle Charley and Ginger arrived right after we parked. We went to the will call window to pick up our tickets and then proceeded to our seats. We arrived about ten minutes prior to the start of the show. I was very excited and could not wait until the beginning of the show.