A Conversation with My Friend Jen
I was happy to see the front page story on my friend Jen Rowland last Saturday. She’s the new director at the Glove Theatre, but I have known her for several years as the wife of my e-mail buddy Detective Jerry Resiak in Nassau County.
Jerry first started reading my column when he and Jen were living on Long Island and thinking of moving here to Caroga Lake. They were spending summers and vacations here while they fixed up a house on North Bush Road. They wanted some local information on contractors in the area since we had just completed building our own house on the lake which they had seen driving by and stopping in after reading about it in my column.
So I asked Jen about her past in the theater, and here are her answers.
K: How did you first get involved in theater?
J: I was always involved in theatre and singing and dance since I was a young child. Singing in the church choir and participating in school and community drama. My family was employed by the TV stations and theatres throughout New York. My Dad became head of the electric shop at NBC after many years with the props department. He was involved with TV when TV was in its infancy. Everything he did he talked about at home and I soaked it all in. Stagehands, scenic artists, lighting, audio.
I am one of many cousins who is working in the arts. We all kind of gravitated towards those fields because our family was involved. I loved singing in the choir and was always playing guitar and writing my own stuff.
In 1994 I got involved with the Cancer Care organization which put on a yearly fund raiser under the direction of Maryellen Barnes, who is a professional director and choreographer and has worked with other directors such as Bob Fosse. She became a true friend as well as my mentor. We worked together on a number of fund raising shows over the years, fine tuning our collaboration and becoming quite adept at putting shows together that were fun for the participants and effective fund raising tools.
Although singing and dancing is my first love, writing is one of my forte's and that included writing lyrics for stage ads for local businesses who would pay for their ad to be part of a four night run. It was fun and a great advertising method for the business. We were so good at it that there were waiting lists for the shows ads. In 2002 the children of our fund raising production were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall.
K: I know I had to waitress and bartend while waiting for my big break. What did you do for a “means to an end” job?
J: My day job was Secretary to the Chief of Police. After ten years at this position, my health issues took their toll and we realized that lifestyle changes were necessary, we moved here to our vacation home in Caroga Lake. Leaving our oldest four children behind on Long Island was a really tough decision, but necessary to enable me to slow down a little and just regroup.
K: What are you doing now besides directing at the Glove?
J: Originally, I thought that raising Alpaca and spinning their fiber was to be my new career, but that has been put on the back burner for the moment. Jerry raises bees and takes care of his beehives, and we would still love to have our own animals, but the Glove Theater opportunity came up and I jumped at the chance to be involved with this incredible group of dedicated volunteers.
K: I had heard the Glove was on its last legs. What did you do to turn it around?
J: We have taken the Glove from nearly closing its doors to having programming and a planned 2010 season that the community can enjoy. This is not a one person task-it was only done through the cooperative efforts of a group of volunteers who work together and are tireless in their dedication. I have such respect for this group who have kept the Glove Theatre running under incredibly difficult conditions. And they have succeeded. Together, there is no stopping us.