Joan Stein, Tony-Winning Producer, Dies at 59

by Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter

She partnered with Steve Martin on “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” and in a television production company.

Joan Stein, a Tony Award winner who produced dozens of plays on both coasts and partnered with Steve Martin in a television company, died Friday of appendix cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a family spokesperson said. She was 59.

Her husband of 35 years, producer Ted Weiant, told the Los Angeles Times that Stein was diagnosed just four weeks ago with the rare type of cancer.

Stein, who produced and/or served as general manager for more than 80 plays and musicals during her three-decade career, earned her Tony for best play in 1999 for Warren Leight’s Side Man, a drama centered on the turbulent life of a jazz musician. The drama also earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

In 1994, Stein partnered with producer Stephen Eich to present the Los Angeles premiere of Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the Westwood (now the Geffen) Playhouse. The show moved to off-Broadway’s Promenade Theatre and received the Outer Critics Circle Award for best production. Picassomoved to San Francisco’s Theatre on the Square and continued to play nationally and internationally.

With Martin, she created Martin/Stein Productions, a division of Carsey-Werner Productions. Their work included two short-lived series, 2001’s The Downer Channel for NBC and 2005’s The Scholarfor ABC.

Earlier, she produced the 1989 ABC telefilm My Brother’s Wife, starring John Ritter and Mel Harris, and 1992’s Crazy in Love   , starring Holly HunterGena Rowlands and Bill Pullman at TNT.

A native New Yorker and graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, Stein began producing off-Broadway with James Lapine’s Table Settings (1980), The Middle Ages (1983), The Miss Firecracker Contest (1984) and Tent Meeting (1987).

She made her Broadway debut as a producer with Larry Shue’s The Nerd in 1987. Her additional Broadway productions included Catch Me If You CanLegally BlondeButley and 9 to 5.

In 1982, Stein began a five-year tenure as the managing director of the historic Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., where she partnered with artistic director Josie Abady.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and became executive director of the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills, producing and general managing productions that included Love LettersForever Plaid,Ruthless! The MusicalBermuda Avenue TriangleThe Last Night at Ballyhoo and Nude Nude Totally Nude, a one-woman show starring Andrea Martin. She spent a decade at the Canon, which closed in 2004.

Stein also served as the theater producer at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colo.

Stein’s most recent projects include Motherhood Out Loud (with Susan Rose as co-conceivers/producers), which opened in September at Primary Stages in New York; Standing on Ceremony — The Gay Marriage Plays; the musical Mad Hot Ballroom; and Baby It’s You!, aboutThe Shirelles.

In addition to producing, Stein created and managed two theatrical investment funds, was a co-founder and served on the board of directors of New York Theatre Workshop and Women in Film, helped launch the charity Broadway Cares and for 22 years was a member of the Broadway League.

In addition to Weiant, survivors include sisters Marcia and Emily; nephew Keith and his wife Michele; niece Traci and her husband John; and great nieces and nephew Lily, Jacob and Marley.

Services will be held in New York, and memorials in Los Angeles and New York are being planned. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society (Appendceal Cancer Research).


Book Review – Shout Her Lovely Name

By Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

I don’t usually read short story collections (I prefer novels) but the sublime title, Shout Her Lovely Name, made me pick it up. The themes are jarring such as in the title story about a girl whose anorexia and bulimia terrorizes her parents, but the writing is so quirky (recipes are included) that you find yourself entertained and enlightened rather than dragged down. This is So Not Me is about a ditzy college student married to a much older professor who sneaks smokes while taking care of her newborn, but turns heroic, Madonna-like, on an airplane trip that features a nutty guy bordering on dangerous, a priest, and a baby being flown to adoptive parents. Developmental Blah Blah, (do I ever love her titles!) Cassie, a woman in therapy, deals with her and her husband’s aging and her challenging teenagers. The stories are heartbreaking and hilarious and you always learn something. While making love to her husband, Cassie lifts her husband’s t-shirt, then her own, and presses their bare skin together because she read that newborns should have at least four hours of skin-to-skin contact each day and panics that perhaps she didn’t provide this for her babies. In the story about the teen with eating disorders, Serber includes clinical definitions of the diseases.

My favorites are the suite about Ruby, an erratic, ambitious single mother whose boyfriend left when her baby was born, and Nora, her responsible, shy daughter who never knew her father. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories and these are a two-fer: the coming-of-age of both mother and daughter in California in the 1970’s. For those of us who lived through that decade, there’s plenty of fun reminders such as Short and Sassy shampoo.

The author really understands the pain of growing up. Ruby, like her name, is her dad’s jewel. “Ruby, Ruby, the college gal.” She rereads a poem he once wrote and published that is kept tacked to the fridge. Ruby, majoring in English, is trying to fulfill his dreams, the best of him. But he brings his whole self along, unfiltered, including his cigarettes. When he picks her up at the station from college break, instead of taking her home to her waiting mother, he takes her to a bar, plies her with liquor. You can see Ruby’s desperation to both be a part of her father’s world and differentiate herself from it. The father makes a pip of a disclosure to Ruby. (Why can’t parents save their terrible secrets for the priest instead of spilling them to their children?) And then Ruby has to go home to face her mother as if she knows nothing of the dark underbelly of her family life.

Is it any surprise that Ruby ends up pregnant by Marco, a guy who abandons her after the baby is born? Ruby’s parents are useless. She’s had so little true kindness that when a friend tries to be tender, she makes him shut up, afraid that she’ll completely collapse. This story, Alone as She Felt All Day, could easily be Alone as She Felt All Her Life. In her desperation to connect, Ruby continues to make choices that bring her even more loneliness.

Serber knows how and when to unspool info at the most piercing times. After giving birth, when Nora isn’t sure whether or not she’ll keep the baby, she thinks, “She wasn’t ready to let her mother know she delivered. Buried beneath the weight of Ruby’s dead sister, Sally (her mother) had opinions about babies and responsibilities.”

Although Ruby means to be a good mother, believes she loves Nora, her own life, like her parents’ lives, is so haywire that the milk of love curdles. In one story, Nora wants a white fluffy cat for Easter, but Ruby brings home a starving schoolyard stray. All the cat needs, Ruby says, is a full bowl and consistent love. Ironically, when Nora asks what consistent love is, Ruby, who is always off looking for a husband, takes a long swallow from her wine spritzer and says, “Someone to be there every time he meows at the back door.” What happens is haunting. The stray is a metaphor for all the deprivation and all its devastating effects in Nora and Ruby’s life.

Just when you’re as fed up with Ruby as one of her neighbors who yell-whispers about her “erratic home life” and “multiple partners,” we see Ruby’s heroism toward one of the girls in her high school English class in Take Your Daughter to Work. Serber keeps the reader on the cusp of condemning Ruby and applauding her and worried about the fate of Nora who, like Ruby, is desperate for attention and care.

The stories are so real that you can’t help wanting to ask Serber whether these things actually happened to her or to someone close to her. Shout her Lovely Name not only is beautifully written, but it also sizzles with the electric shocks of family life, no matter whose family and what their circumstances.

Short stories by Natalie Serber
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2012

Friends for Life? Wait Till Kids Enter the Picture

By Judith Warner, The New York Times

NOTHING can sink a friendship like differences over parenting. Sometimes the areas of disagreement are stark and dramatic, leading to blowups and out-and-out breaks. Most of the time they’re subtle and unstated, a matter of dark looks and long-simmering resentments, that erode, rather than rupture, formerly close relationships. Often they arise from a vague sense of betrayal, a friend’s having changed once he or she has had children, breaking unspoken assumptions about shared values and goals, how to live and who to be.

It’s the sort of relationship-fraying challenge portrayed with much humor in the film “Friends With Kids.” And it’s one that a Washington mother of three found herself forced to confront when a close friend became pregnant, revealing an entirely new side of her personality. “She immediately stopped her temp work because the Xerox machine might be bad for the baby,” said the mother, who, like several others interviewed for this article, requested anonymity so as to not compromise her relationship with the friend. “She changed all her shampoos. We pretty much had to detox the environment whenever we saw her from then on.”

The tensions deepened, she recalled, once the baby was born: “She practiced total attachment parenting. She never let anyone watch her baby. To go to a movie, she and her husband would go one after the other. If it was cold out, she’d bring the car seat into the house and warm it with a blow dryer” before bringing it back to the car. When the child was older, she said, “you weren’t allowed to say no to him. You weren’t allowed to set boundaries. We were at our wits’ end.”

No matter the cause, no matter how well-managed the reaction, the disagreements arising over parenting practices can hit hard and cut deep. Because what’s at stake is much more than different ideas about Ferber versus Sears, or organic versus conventional, or the use of timeouts, or the limits to be put on TV time. What is often triggered, in the divide between what mothers and fathers do or don’t do — whether or not those differences escalate into out-and-out confrontations — are convictions that push all the most basic parent-buttons.

“It’s the judgment: ‘You want to be popular with your kids, you don’t want to say no to your kids,’ ” said Rosalind Wiseman, author of the parenting advice book “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” who described herself as a less stringent parent than many of her peers. “The tone of voice conveys: ‘I am a better mother than you. I have control, you don’t.’ We all to a certain extent respond to it.”

In 1975, the psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg proposed a theory as to why certain areas of parenting — “feeding, sleep, toilet training or discipline,” she wrote in a greatly influential article for The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — were such emotional flashpoints for parents. There were “ghosts in the nursery,” she argued, residues of the “vulnerabilities of the parental past.”

For the current generation of parents, who tend to ascribe quasi-magical properties to the choices they make in their children’s early years, Dr. Fraiberg’s formulation couldn’t be more resonant.

Breast versus bottle, whole-grain versus white, cloth versus paper diapers — for many mothers now in particular, these decisions take on the weight of “political, moral and ethical stances,” as Claire Dederer put it, describing her cohort of right-thinking, left-leaning, semi-working, highly educated and deeply angst-filled mothers in her 2011 book, “Poser.”

Ms. Dederer believed that many of her generation’s parenting practices stemmed from the fact that they were nursing psychic wounds from the family disruption and disengagement that had swept through their own homes in the 1970s. [Read the rest of this article…]

FINALLY! Barbie is Going Bald

Have you been following the Bald Barbie movement?

Here’s the short version:

Two moms started a Facebook campaign called Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let’s see if we can get it made, to basically give young girls undergoing chemotherapy (or with Alopecia or Trichotillomania) a sense of normalcy and acceptance. Also for young girls coping with a newly bald family member or friend. They chose Barbie because she’s one of the most iconic dolls of all time, and even included a petition for GI Joe as well through

And people listened.

The group (which has evolved into a loving cancer support page) quickly caught the attention of national media outlets, garnering over 150,000 Facebook fans. Yet Mattel wouldn’t budge.

A few weeks after Mattel’s fiercest competitor, MGA (of Bratz and Moxie Girlz fame), announced that they are coming out with a line of bald dolls, Mattel made the highly anticipated announcement yesterday on their Facebook page:

Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times. We are pleased to share with our community that next year we will be producing a fashion doll, that will be a friend of Barbie, which will include wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience. For those girls who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed. We will work with our longstanding partner, the Children’s Hospital Association, to donate and distribute the dolls exclusively to children’s hospitals directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss. A limited number of dolls and monetary donations will also be made to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Through a thoughtful approach, we made the decision not to sell these dolls at retail stores, but rather get the dolls directly into the hands of children who can most benefit from the unique play experience, demonstrating Mattel’s ongoing commitment to encourage play as a respite for children in the hospital and to bring joy to children who need it most. We appreciate the conversation around this issue, and are interested to hear what you think!

Although these bald Barbie dolls won’t be sold on the shelves, they’ll be given to the little girls who need them most. And that’s a victory — not only for children with cancer, and not just to counteract the associated stigma, but for the power of moms in social media. They set out to get a Barbie made, and Mattel heard them.

[via babble]

Parenting a Parent

By Robin Gorman Newman

I feel like a contestant in The Dating Game television show… only I’m participating on behalf of my father. And, it’s not for a love match, but rather a live-in aide… two to be exact.

My mom passed away over ten years ago, and five years after that, we brought in a live-in aide for my father, though she’d really been largely more of a companion. It worked fine for some time, but in recent years, their chemistry has become challenging. Of late, I’ve grown certain that she and my father aren’t compatible long-term. He recently suffered two strokes and now that his needs are more acute, I’m working on bringing in two live-in aides to take shifts who I have greater confidence in in terms of managing my dad’s daily care.

It’s not easy witnessing the deterioration of a beloved parent. My dad was always so vibrant and social, and now, due to aphasia from the stroke, his communication ability is severely compromised and he has weakness on his right side. For the first time in many years, he looks like an old man. G-d bless him… he’s 93… and though he doesn’t look his age, he does look like he has aged. A stroke would knock the socks off anyone, and his recovery is a challenging one. Though he can be stubborn, for the most part he’s a trooper, plodding along with the OT, Speech and Physical Therapy. It’s not easy. There has been improvement, but he’s got a long way to go, and we don’t know how far he’ll get.

His situation brings to mind an endeavor I’m immensely proud to be a part of. I am Associate Producer of Motherhood Out Loud, a play by some of America’s most celebrated writers that had a successful Off-Broadway run recently at Primary Stages in NYC and is now poised to tour worldwide. Motherhood Out Loud shatters traditional notions about parenthood, unveils its inherent comedy and celebrates the deeply personal truths that span and unite generations. One of the pieces by David Cale entitled “Elizabeth,” touched me to the core from the first time I read the script… and even more so when it came to life on stage so poignantly by actor James Lecesne, who speaks the words of both the mother and son in the piece. I’d like to take the opportunity to share a portion of it with you, with the hope that if you find yourself parenting an elderly parent, you will know you’re not alone…

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post

The Boobie Beanie: Accentuate the Positive?

By Rebecca Odes

It is no big secret that I am a big fan of both boobs and crafts.  Behold the boob beanie, the perfect intersection of the two.

The boob beanie is a hat meant to look like a breast, which is meant to be worn by a baby while breastfeeding. The result is a kind of wooly trompe d’oeil, a cartoon boob where the real one would be.  My first exposure to the yarn breast was via Jordana Munk Martin and the creative and charitable Knit-a-Boob project at Oak Knit Studio.  These were actually wearable prostheses for breast cancer survivors. But the boob-as baby hat idea has since spread through the hooks and needles of the crafting community, populating the channels of Etsy and Pinterest and the like, bringing joy to some and outrage to others.

There is a seemingly never-ending stream of controversy about the idea- and the reality- of seeing women breastfeed. The boob beanie, um, brings it to a head.

Squeamishness about public breastfeeding is one of my biggest pet peeves about the way the world looks at mothers of babies. It really bums me out that breast exposure is considered totally acceptable for fashion, but not for function.  I hate that we are expected to bury our babies under layers of fabric to accomodate the fact that people can’t deal with seeing a baby being fed with a body instead of a bottle.  And I love how the beanie bucks this trend, poking fun at the idea of women “whipping their boobs out” in a cute, non-threatening way.

I’m guessing there are a lot of people who think this item is in poor taste, or perhaps even offensive. But to me, it’s a way of being honest and raising awareness about the importance of cultural tolerance for public breastfeeding.

What do you say?  Would you put your baby in a boobie beanie?

[via babble]

What a GORGEOUS photo!

The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.

By MomCenter Phillipines

When is it appropriate to call the police on your children?

Some children are stubborn learners, and despite a parent’s best efforts, behavior problems can persist. At what point is it okay to get the police involved in your child’s discipline?

See all the answers on Circle of Moms

10 Biggest Nanny News Stories of 2011

The holiday season and year’s end is a natural time for reflection. As we scan through our files, it seems to us that 2011 was a fairly busy year for nanny news. So we’ve compiled a list of what we consider to be, in no particular order, the ten biggest nanny news stories of 2011. See if you agree:

  1. Gadhafi Nanny Tortured – Shweyga Mullah, the nanny for the family of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Hannibal, is reported to have been tortured by the family. She had been doused with boiling water by Hannibal Gadhafi’s wife, Aline.
  2. The Babysitter Bill – The California state assembly introduced a bill, A.B. 889, AKA “The Babysitter Bill”, which included provisions regarding such issues as overtime pay, rest breaks and the right for household employees (nannies, housekeepers, babysitters, etc) to sue employers for failure to meet the provisions. Though not officially dead, backlash from its introduction led to its suspension before it made it to the governor’s office.
  3. Carjacked Nanny Hangs On – A Denver nanny, caring for a 3-year old boy was carjacked after helping an elderly man who had fallen. The carjacker drove off with the boy still in the vehicle, and the nanny hanging on.
  4. Nanny Takes It To The Bank – Next time you check your Bank of America debit card statement, say a little thank you for part-time nanny Molly Katchpole. Thanks to her efforts in getting more than 300,000 signatures on a petition at , the financial Goliath rescinded their plan to assess debit card users with a $5 monthly fee.
  5. Zanny the Nanny – Throughout her notorious trial for the murder of her 2-year old daughter Caylee, Casey Anthony claimed that a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, whom she nicknamed “Zanny”, was Caylee’s babysitter for a number of years, and had abducted the child. No such person was ever identified. Then, bizarrely, a woman by that name who had no prior knowledge of Casey Anthony, came forward to sue her for defamation of character.
  6. Woman Answers Ad for Nanny, Then Raped – In Scotland, Indulus Lukstins posted an ad for a nanny on a Latvian jobs site. An unidentified 21-year old woman answered the ad, was hired and picked up at the airport by Lukstins, and subsequently raped.
  7. Nanny Charged With First Degree Manslaughter – In Washington, Kelli Jacobsen was arrested and charged with first degree manslaughter of the 12-month old child she was nannying. Her trial is still pending.
  8. Nannies Try to Cash In – Herbert Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers, was apparently the target of several former household employees, including two nannies, who made false claims against Mr. Simon and his wife Bui.
  9. DeNiro’s Nanny Does Cash In – Former nanny for actor Robert DeNiro and wife Grace Hightower, Alexis Barry, is awarded $30,000 by the Manhattan Supreme Court for unpaid overtime.
  10. Focus on Nanny in Multimillionaire Divorce – When metric tons of case and divorce are involved, nothing is sacred and one is safe. Not even the nanny. In other news across the pond, hedge fund co-founder and multimillionaire Elena Ambrosiadou claims that her estranged husband hired a private security firm to spy on her nanny. The information that was gathered would then be used to coerce the nanny, Carmen Michalska, into testifying against Miss Ambrosiadou.