Theater LaB opens 23rd season


Theater LaB Houston makes a theatrical move to MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) this fall with the start of its 23rd season of major Houston premieres. 
The new season, which opens November 4 with the one-man musical, From Broadway to Obscurity, promises to be TLH’s biggest and best to date. As always, it will introduce Houston audiences to an outstanding array of theatrical productions that are exciting, bold, contemporary and not to be missed. 
Dreams collide in this hilariously revealing and high-energy musical confessional from Jersey Boys’ Eric Gutman who, at the peak of his career, moved back to his hometown to raise his daughters. Having performed over 1100 times (and to 1.3 million people) with the national touring and Broadway companies of Jersey Boys, Gutman played six different roles, including three of the Four Seasons. 
A consummate theater and singing professional Gutman shares his backstage stories, audience anecdotes and how he felt during the ups and downs of his career. He intimately details the rocky road to “making it,” and sweating bullets auditioning face to face with Frankie Valli himself.
The show, which runs November 4-8, is packed with well-known and great songs from on and off Broadway, dead-on celebrity impressions and a heart-warming script as Gutman takes the audience on his musical journey from Broadway star to suburbia dad.
More Shows in November
Next on the intimate stage will be Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany.
The show is an adaptation of the acclaimed autobiography of Eleanor Ramrath Garner’s youth – adapted by her grand-daughter, Ingrid Garner. It is the true tale of an American girl trapped in Nazi Germany. It runs from November 11-15.
Also on stage in November is the regional premiere of The Twentieth-Century Man by Tom Jacobson. Based on an obscure anecdote from Los Angeles gay history, the play first appeared in New York City as part of the 2010 New York Fringe Festival. It runs from November 18-22.
History and Mission
Theater LaB Houston was founded in November 1991, as a new professional, non-profit theater. Its mission is to produce and stage the very best in contemporary plays from nationally and internationally renowned playwrights and guest artists performing their original and unique productions. The theater’s founding purpose was and still is to mount dramas, musicals and comedies that take audiences on an adventure as they explore the human condition and the major issues of our times. 
From 1993 through 2012 Theater LaB Houston performed at 1706 Alamo in the historic First Ward. In November 2013, TLH partnered with Obsidian Art Space to produce the 2013-2015 season productions at 3522 White Oak Blvd.
Season tickets are now available and can be ordered at 

New book tells 30-year history of The Rose

Much is new at The Rose, Houston’s leading non-profit breast health organization.  With another mobile unit added to its growing fleet, The Rose is expanding its Mobile Mammography program into Corpus Christi and Louisiana.   

A new face, Dr. Claudia Cotes, board certified and fellowship trained radiologist, has joined The Rose and is onsite at The Rose Galleria office. A native of Columbia, Dr. Cotes’ ability to speak fluent Spanish is a much needed asset. She joins Dr. Mahdieh Parizi, Dr. Dixie Melillo and Dr. Ward  Parsons as The Rose continues toward becoming a breast cancer Center of Excellence. 
All imaging services are digital and range from initial screening mammograms to diagnostic ultrasounds to biopsies. Physicians personally visit with clients following diagnostic procedures, explaining results and next steps. Same day results are important to keeping women informed and engaged in their own good health. 
The hallmark of The Rose continues to be its ability to move women into treatment once they are diagnosed with breast cancer and The Rose’s Patient Navigation Program is modeled nationally.   
A new book, The Women of The Rose, The Story of Mammograms, Miracles and a Texas Non-Profit That Beat All the Odds, will be released October 15.  The book, written by The Rose co-founder, Dorothy Gibbons, captures the 30-year history of The Rose, its service to women regardless of their ability to pay and shares stories of incredible courage and faith.  It also exposes the hard truth about who can and cannot afford health care.  
Gibbons said, “I’ve tried to be both fair and respectful, while allowing the public an intimate look at the making and growing of a nonprofit. It was, at times, a daunting responsibility, with days of frustration sprinkled by moments of deep joy. But, then, I don’t remember a day in our life at The Rose when we didn’t expect a miracle.” 
Gibbons has spent a lifetime promoting awareness and encouraging women to take care of themselves and know their own bodies, yet in the book, she insists “Awareness is not enough.” 
Gibbons said, “I am thankful we live in a time when it’s okay to talk about breast cancer and mammography. I remember when we couldn’t say the word ‘breast’ in public. And, I’m grateful for the Octobers filled with an over-the-top frenzy promoting breast health awareness. But, being aware isn’t enough. Awareness without action will not save even one life.”
As The Rose’s namesake, Rose Kushner, said, “All the education in the world doesn’t mean squat if there is nowhere for a woman to go to have a mammogram.” 
Today, there is a lot more awareness than in 1986 and a heck of a lot more money, yet too many women are still going without annual screenings and way too many are dying. A commitment of dollars to actually provide screenings and diagnostic work-ups, biopsies and consults is needed.
The book is filled with stories of women needing help, women winning and losing the cancer battle, people who showed up and gave it their all. The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an organization that has impacted half a million lives. It’s a true story, as big and diverse as Texas.  
Access to Care is at the core of The Rose’s mission. The Rose Mobile Mammogram Units are booked year round and bring screening mammograms to women where they work, teach or worship. 
Over 300 businesses, school districts and corporations are partnering with The Rose.  Mobile events offer co-branding opportunities to major supporters and corporations. Physicians are also offering The Rose Mobile program in their offices, making services convenient to their patients. Health organizations and Federally Qualified Health Centers rely on the total services available through The Rose.
Today, The Rose provides access to care to over 40,000 insured and uninsured women each year through two diagnostic centers: The Rose Galleria (5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300, Bellaire) and at The Rose Southeast (12700 N Featherwood., Suite 260, Houston) and through a fleet of Mobile Mammography Units covering most of Southeast Texas.   
For more information, to schedule a personal appointment or book a Mobile Mammography Unit at your place of business, call 281-484-4708 or go online to   
The Women of The Rose is on sale now at both Rose locations, and the Kindle edition will be available on October 19.  Every book sold benefits The Rose.

Losing My Mammogram Virginity

From behind her pink-goggled eyes, the little girl smiled up at me. With a swim float encircling her waist and an Esther Williams-era bathing cap adorning her head, she had one message for me: “Do it for those who love you.”

As I stood nervously in the x-ray room, that statement gave me a measure of comfort, albeit in an a-ha sort of way.
So, this is why we mount campaigns around themes of “girl power” and “I am woman. Hear me roar.”
This is why we wear t-shirts emblazoned with slogans telling us to “fight like a girl.”
This is why every October, we pink out.
These cute and clever calls to action exist because monthly self-exams, mammograms and what they both aim to discover – well, these things suck.
A few days ago, I walked my most delicate parts up to a tall, torturous-looking machine, smirked sophomorically at the manufacturer name displayed across the top – Hologic – and prepared to lose my mammogram virginity.
Nothing ominous had sent me here. Just another year around the sun and a marked change in the conversational priorities of my yearly GYN exam.
“Schedule a mammogram before you are 40,” my doctor said casually at my last appointment. “Don’t put it off.”
Just a year prior she’d been asking if I had further reproductive plans (negatory). Now? Onto “older life” issues like the merits of elective hysterectomies and baseline mammograms.
So, here I stood, in an open-faced gown sans deodorant, lotion or perfume as per instruction, staring at the swimming cutie on the poster and starting to sweat.
The tech was superb. Informative and kind. She kept the process as dignified as possible.
“How old are your children?” she asked, eyeing the section of my paperwork that had asked about chest tenderness.
“Four and six,” I said, adding this part of my body hasn’t quite been the same since baby girl’s Birth Day in 2009. “Yeah. Is tenderness like that um…normal?”
“Honey, pregnancy does all kinds of wild things to women’s bodies! It’s completely normal.”
Exhale (sort of).
It was mid-afternoon and, no doubt, she’d already done this several times before me, issuing commands like “Move your foot to the left. Place your chin here. Put your right hand on that bar. Don’t squeeze so tight.  Relax your shoulders. Hold still.” And, my personal favorite (required while taking the x-ray), “Don’t breathe.”
I felt a wave of relief as she completed the first one. My best friend and my mother, both of whom I’d consulted prior to the appointment, were right. No big deal.
After the second, I felt more confident. And, those pesky shoulders were relaxing too.
Then she tilted the Ho (logic). Ow to the left. Double ow to the right.
I’d stepped away from the machine, ready to slip my earrings back on and be far, far away from this necessary drudgery when she informed me we weren’t done yet.
“I thought you said there were just four?”
“I said four to six. Let’s do one more, and if this one turns out good, then you’re done, okay?”
Okay. Dammit.
Thankfully, the Ho went back to her upright position, leaving me to approach with slightly less trepidation.
With my chin upward, cheek pressed to the glass, arms gripping the bars (tight, but not too tight), and my feet placed most awkwardly below, I thought of my precious little E.
“Doing it for you, sweet girl.”
After all, in the name of preventive care, temporarily squashed mammary glands are a small price to pay.
This is a beautiful, fragile life, and I intend to squeeze many more moons of joy out of the time that remains. (Plus, there’s Motrin and Malbec at home.)
So, c’mon Hologic – let’s do this.
Rebecca C. Walden is a freelance writer based in Texas by way of Birmingham. She is a marketing and public relations pro working in higher education.

Survivor raises awareness of IBC


Just over eight years ago, Terry Arnold was told “we are sorry but it is most likely too late.” This came after four months of hearing “there is nothing seriously wrong.”
What a jump, a mind stretching leap from “not to worry” to “oh my, you have an out of control cancer that most physicians have never heard of, and treatment knowledge is limited.”  
When she was first told she had Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer, she went through a range of emotions, reactions and coping skills. 
Flashing back to the late 1970s when her grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, she remembered her family whispering the “C” word. They were afraid if the word cancer came out of their mouths, it would somehow boomerang back and get them all.  
Knowing how cancer staging was at that time, one can understand the fear.  Exploratory surgery was common practice in determining the spread of the disease. 
Arnold said, “In my cancer experience, I felt like I was walking on quicksand.  Nothing was as I would have expected it to be.” 
Inflammatory Breast Cancer is not typically found on a mammogram. Outward physical signs are the first clue and at that point the cancer is Stage 3.  Life expectancy is less than 50 percent to make it to five years, and her diagnosis was Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a double whammy. She learned quickly that IBC was uncharted territory.  
Although the disease was first written about 200 years ago, and is viewed as the most fatal of all the breast cancers, it did not even have a medical encoding number.  There were no textbooks to teach breast specialists about IBC.  
“I felt I was faced with an injustice, I just could not look away,” said Arnold.  
She lobbied the State of Texas to declare an Inflammatory Breast Cancer Month.  In May of 2011, the proclamation was read in the House and Senate. She formed Facebook groups and set up meet-ups with other IBC patients, even on an international level.  The power of one became the power of many.  
“The quicksand was deep and engulfing, but we were finding a foothold.  The lack of research was just shocking for IBC and really not all that impressive for Triple Negative Breast Cancer either.  I just assumed that since breast cancer was such a hot topic, that breast cancer research was well funded.  To a point it is, but for the ones that are most fatal, like IBC and TN, the void is wide and deep,” Arnold explained.
Almost no funds go to IBC and very little to TN.  Because of this, she has devoted her time — as a volunteer — to educate the lay community about IBC and TN and also to raise funds for research via a foundation she started, The IBC Network Foundation. 
In the past three years, the grassroots charity has funded $330,000.00 to research and by the end of this year it expects to reach the half million dollar mark. The volunteers have been invited to be a part of the IBC International Consortium to help foster and fund research.  There is also a sister charity in the United Kingdom. 
The IBC Network recently held its first gala in honor of an IBC patient. The theme was “Wish Granted. Hope Lives,” and the supporters look forward to more stellar events like this as the foundation grows to meet the needs of the dedicated researchers.
“People ask me, do I feel victorious?  Like a survivor?  A warrior who slew her dragon?  Some days I do,” Said Arnold. “But, some days I feel worn down by the mountain of need in the cancer world.  Mostly, I feel grateful.  My hope is to continue the pink mission started by others before me and direct more funds to research.  We need research.  And, one day we all can feel victorious when we truly have an answer for this because out of the 40,000-plus women who die each year of breast cancer in the United States alone, the largest percentage of those deaths were due to Inflammatory Breast Cancer.”

Bayou Greenways 2020 to reshape city's urban fabric

More than 100 years ago, urban planner Arthur Comey laid out a master plan for Houston that included a park system organized around its bayou corridors, a plan that created continuous ribbons of green along Houston’s bayous that tied together parks and diverse communities.

By 2020, that vision could finally become a reality.
Bayou Greenways 2020, a part of the Bayou Greenways Initiative, is organizing and pushing the completion of the greenways connections, a 150-plus-mile, continuous line of all-weather trail along a least one side of Houston’s nine major bayous. That will make Houston the number one city in the United States for off-street walking and biking paths, Mayor Annise Parker said.
The bayous that will be connected by a continuous ribbon of green space by 2020 are Cyprus Creek, Greens Bayou, Halls Bayou, Hunting Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, Brays Bayou, Sims Bayou and Clear Creek. 
“The beauty of these bayou corridors is that they crisscross our city and our county. They touch every corner of the city,” said Roksan Okan-Vick, executive director of Houston Parks Board, which is leading the private fund-raising efforts and managing the acquisition, design and construction of Bayou Greenways 2020. 
“Part of our mission at the Parks Board is to increase equitable distribution of these types of green spaces to benefit all citizens of the greater Houston area. That benefit is that you are closer to this kind of a space where you can take the dog out, throw a Frisbee, and walk an extra day a week because it’s easier, it’s closer to you,” she said.
Those bayous have a way of stitching those communities together like no other method, Okan-Vick said. 
Houston is known as “The Bayou City,” but really, it hasn’t effectively used the bayous, instead focusing on roadways as the city has grown. 
“We really want Houston defined by its most significant natural resource, its bayou corridors. The Bayou Greenways 2020 project will reshape the city’s urban fabric in a way its roadways haven’t quite been able to,” Okan-Vick said. 
“You’re stitching institutions and places together that otherwise did not have a chance to mingle except through roadways,” she said. “And, being out in person, outside of a vehicle, is a different experience. Residents are able to be out there in a space that we all feel comfortable in, in a park space where everybody is equal, and being able to go back and forth between your neighborhood, your little part of the world, through other communities, through other places.”
The green space will be natural habitats complete with birds, bugs, butterflies, tree cover, meadows and/or tall grasses. The width of the “shared-use trails,” which will be shared by bikers, walkers and others – anything but a motorized vehicle – will vary.
That access can have significant impact on the quality of life for residents of a city not so long ago dubbed “America’s Fattest City” by Men’s Health magazine. When a person walks a few more times a week, the health benefits can be considerable.
The bayous float to the top of the priorities list.
Over the past 100 years, connecting the bayous dropped down the list of priorities. It wasn’t deliberate, Okan-Vick said, but city leaders just sort of forgot about it as the city dealt with the pressures of growth. 
“We, sometimes, just looked at those bayous as just the drainage ditches, something that were there by necessity,” she said. However, 10 or so years ago – around the time Houston first earned the “America’s Fattest City” moniker – the city gained an increased awareness of the benefits green space along the bayous could bring. 
Now, this $220 million project is “unleashing” more than $2 billion worth of existing green spaces and bits of trails, Okan-Vick said. 
“We’ve been building hike and bike trails along our bayous for years,” Parker said. “What has been missing are the connections. I wanted the job finished.”
“It’s a huge generator from that standpoint, in terms of bringing some of the assets to life that we really weren’t quite able to use like we will be when these bayou greenways are completed,” Okan-Vick said.
A combination of private funds and public funds from the bond that passed in 2012 are paying the bills for the project. Private funds will cover $120 million; as of press time, the Parks Board had raised $81 million.
“Roksan understands the importance green spaces provide to our quality of life,” Parker said. “Without her drive and determination, we would not have the funding needed to pay for all of the planned improvements. This is a true example of the benefits of a public/private partnership.”
Moving along
A couple of years into the project, there’s activity taking place in different segments.
In the large segments, the Houston Parks Board is acquiring lands which will be turned over to the city after the projects are completed. Other sections are seeing design work and construction.
The Brays Bayou segment was recently completed, and soon the White Oak Bayou segment will be finished too.
Okan-Vick grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, a beautiful, historically significant city with an incredible urban fabric, she said. She came to Houston to earn her master’s degree in architecture at Rice University.
“Thirty-five years ago, I don’t believe we had the maturity to embrace the greenways like we are today,” said Okan-Vick, who worked for the Friends of Hermann Park and was the city’s first female director of the Parks & Recreation Department before joining the Houston Parks Board in 2004. 
She continued, “I think we now have an increased awareness — because of how fast we are growing — that this is the most beautiful natural asset we have. If we don’t protect it, we are really hurting our city. We are doing a disservice to future generations and the future livability of our city. There’s a way to embrace both the growth and the stewardship of these natural assets to make the city one of the top livable cities in the United States.”
Dave Schafer is a free-lance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
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