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Lamplighters Music Theatre – Volunteerism

“Volunteer Spotlight – Kathryn Fox Ma

What do seahorses, high tea, and designer clothing have in common? The answer is the inimitable Kathryn Fox Ma, one of Lamplighters Music Theatre’s most active volunteers. Since 2007, Kathryn has been our go-to person for organizing and beautifying the silent auction displays that the Lamplighters feature at the annual Gala. With a sophisticated eye for design, Kathryn provides the invaluable service of showcasing the items in ways that encourage attendees to bid, which has a direct impact on the Lamplighters’ fundraising efforts. Over the years, our silent auctions have generated more than $170,000 in support for the Company, and Kathryn is quick to share praise. “It’s really the whole team of us. Jim MacIlvaine, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Kristen Jones, and all the Guild volunteers who help support the Lamplighters.”

Kathryn Fox Ma

Kathryn routinely donates a gift basket of handcrafted, natural soaps and accessories from Seahorse Fine Soaps, of which she is the proprietor, as well as a High Tea For Two serving set and goodies in a keepsake box, to the auction. Both items are among the bidders’ favorites each year! But her volunteerism isn’t restricted to this event. Kathryn also brings the decorative sparkle to our annual spring fundraiser (Too Much Happiness, formerly known as Hidden Treasures) and is a consistent organizing force—and a delightful presence—at many donor receptions and Company meetings.

Kathryn and her husband Zach became involved with the Lamplighters in 2004 through their daughter, Marina, who began participating in the Gilbert & Sullivan Scenes summer program (a collaboration between the Lamplighters and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music). “She felt so comfortable and happy in the program that she attended an audition workshop with the Lamplighters, and soon after got cast in a production ofThe Mikado,” says Kathryn. “Marina was young, so I stayed there for rehearsals, too. I didn’t want to just sit around, though, so I asked Barbara Heroux [who was Artistic Director at that time] if I could help. Barbara would throw me into anything- it was fun!” Marina has since appeared in many Lamplighters productions, and also volunteers to create special video and slide presentations. Not to be outdone, Zach—a Tai Chi Sifu—has donated certificates for martial arts instruction, as well as pieces of his original artwork, to the auctions, and he can usually be found serving behind the bar at our special events.

Zach, Marina, and Kathryn Ma

Kathryn’s most recent business venture,Brava! Fashions, combines her love of the performing arts with her degree in Merchandising/Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. The clothing line, which has been showcased at a fashion show at the Lamplighters rehearsal space, features stylish performance attire for female orchestral musicians and other women on-the-go. “The line is really taking off, especially as I’m able to give the designer feedback from musicians, who have different needs depending on their instrument,” says Kathryn. She adds that one of the dresses in the collection is named afterDiana Dorman, principal clarinet player in the Lamplighters Orchestra, as well as Orchestra Contractor & Music Librarian. “The dress has classic lines with no adornment in the front, so it doesn’t interfere with my clarinet. I love it!”

The Mas have been an important part of the Lamplighters family, in a variety of ways, for over a decade. “Knowing we can depend on volunteers like Kathryn to put together a great silent auction makes the staff’s work so much easier,” says Development Director Amy Himes. “Her friendly, no-nonsense manner and a generosity of spirit makes her a great person to work with.” Hats off to you and your family, Kathryn—we are so grateful for your involvement.”

A Dire Need for Dresses!

Our friend, Barbara wearing the "Diana" Dress.

Our friend, Barbara wearing the “Diana” Dress.

I am in heaven this morning!  Just received our latest shipment of new dresses!  I have to rein myself in so I don’t just try them all on!  They’re practical, appropriate for playing in the orchestra, wearing out to dinner, to auditions, interviews, performances.  They’re elegant – the Bamboo rayon drapes well, yet doesn’t cling.  It moves with you when you walk.  There’s the feminine flutter of a hemline, the sweet detail of a rosette at the small of your back, placed just so…  I love these styles and want all of them!

The big three for Fall:  The classic “Diana” dress, with it’s scoop neck, modified Empire waist and three-quarter sleeves.  It’s tea-length so it’s comfortable and covers everything.  This dress is named after one of our favorite women, Diana Dorman, of the Lamplighters Music Theatre Orchestra.  Next, we love the “Carol Ann” style, The popular cowl neckline, three-quarter sleeves, and straight style to cover the knee, take you from work to a night on the town.  This dress was named after our lovely, dynamic Fashion Director, Carol Campbell.  Then, lastly, we have my personal favorite, the “Cleora” dress.  This scoop neck style has three-quarter sleeves, each decorated with a single, charming rosette, which echo the lovely rosette which anchors the ankle-length fabric in the back.  I named this dress after my sister’s best friend, Cleora, whose beautiful 1940’s face evokes memories of wartime romance and roses under a white trellis.

Each of these dresses is available in sizes XS – 3X, in black; new colors coming!  $198.00.

Brava!’s “New Black”

S.F. Opera Orchestra

I don’t know why people, including me, always say about a new season’s trendy color, that it’s the “New Black“.  There isn’t any color which can replace black; you can’t beat it.  It has always been the standard for elegance, versatility and style.  At Brava!, black is our most important color; not our only color, but certainly our raison d’etre.

After all, the original idea for Brava! came to me while I was attending a concert of solidarity,  performed by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra last year.  Amidst the appalling orchestra lockouts in Minnesota, and Atlanta, they had been negotiating their own contracts, unsure of the future.  There seemed to be an ever-eroding respect for the Performing Arts, and especially music education, creating an apprehensive atmosphere among professional musicians on a national level.  The Orchestra came onstage at the Concert Hall, relieved about the results of their successful negotiations with the Union.  The men looked fine in their tuxedos;  the women wore their concert blacks.

I knew, of course, that orchestral musicians must wear black in the orchestra pit, but hadn’t really thought about this.  There are about thirty female musicians in the S.F. Opera Orchestra, and each one has to come up with a concert black outfit for every performance.  There are ten operas scheduled for the 2015-2016 Season, which runs from September – December, then May through June, for a total of 68 regular opera performances, plus any other events the Orchestra is required to perform.  This means that each of these women must come up with at least sixty-eight concert black outfits each year.  Sixty-eight! Even with double performance days, and switching around the same outfits every week, you’re still looking at a big need for black performance attire.

I saw that the gentlemen looked pretty good in their tuxedos, but the poor ladies were wearing any black they could find.  They clearly had issues with matching dye-lots, shrinking, fading, and fit.  A lot of them looked uncomfortable.  These women were world-class musicians, and I thought they deserved better, especially in this alarmingly pervasive atmosphere of disrespect for the Arts.

When I worked backstage for some of the Lamplighters Music Theatre productions, I had also been required to wear all-black.  Being an ex-New Yorker, I certainly owned plenty of black pieces, but always struggled to find comfortable and appropriate black outfits. I laughed to myself, because these days, if I need to wear appropriate, comfortable and stylish black these days, I have my bamboo clothing by Carole Wang.

“I could help them dress.” I thought.

This was no fleeting thought. I decided to see if providing a working wardrobe for female orchestral musicians was a viable idea.  I took an informal survey of my friends in the Performing Arts, and found It was as I’d thought;  the respondents all faced the same wardrobe dilemmas. I was surprised to find that half of these women were professional singers and actresses.  It seems it’s also difficult to find the appropriate audition outfits, or stunning dresses for big events and recitals.  I knew I was definitely onto something, then.

About six months later, during my opening event at the Lamplighters Music Theatre rehearsal space, I was further surprised.  After our fun, informal fashion show, there was a rush to purchase.  And, these women weren’t only buying concert black, but also in these same pieces in colors, for elegant casualwear.  The final surprise was that these clothes had a such a wide appeal, to ages 25-65, and to a variety of body types.

Real clothes, for real women.

Brava! has the “New Black Concert Black.

A Little Help from my Friends

PinaforeI think we all need some help at times.  I know I do.  I always feel bad when I am not in a position to help someone when they really need it.  Brava! is not just a company that sells clothing; it’s a company with a conscience.  I want to help people.  I want to pay it forward.

For this reason, I’m attaching links to some websites my friends own.  I believe these links are relevant to the Brava! creed, and I encourage people to check them out.  If you look, you’ll see a pattern here.  One of my favorite companies is The Lamplighters Music Theatre.  I became involved with these wonderful, talented people over ten years ago, through my daughter’s love for the performing arts.  They’re like family to us now.  I serve on the Lamplighters Music Theater Guild, happily, and lend my fund-raising efforts towards this excellent theatre company with my whole heart.  I love their educational programs which introduce children of all ages to the magic of Gilbert & Sullivan, and musical theatre, the best kind.  My daughter’s life was changed forever the first time she saw “H.M.S. Pinafore” at Yerba Buena.  Little did she know at the time that she would appear in “Pinafore” on that very same stage within a few years.  Happy days!

Every time someone spends with Brava! the Lamplighters Music Theatre receives a percentage of my sale.  It’s a win-win situation.  Check out this season’s fabulous production of “H.M.S. Pinafore“!  If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.  If you have, some of your old favorites are back, and some new stars are in the making. Photograph by Craig Hudson Photography, 2010.

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