farewell to 2018
This year’s letter has been a tough one to prepare. I wrote most of the text in very early December, not realizing that mid-December would bring the unexpected passing of my mother. I also remember that my cousin Deb experienced the tragic sudden loss of her sweet husband Shunil at the beginning of 2018. And, of course, we have had to deal with the insanity that this country seems to have become, with not many signs of hope in the future for a time of truth, love, and simple human kindness. So, it will be difficult for me to look back on the year 2018 with any fondness – and yet I know that many wonderful things happened – great times with family and friends, great work experiences, and great food! So I will try to remember all the good of the year! Here goes.
Stephen and I ushered in 2018 by attending a “Studio 54” New Year’s Eve party – but ended up, as usual, at home by midnight sharing the best eggnog on the planet (from Broguieres Farm Fresh Dairy in Montebello!).
We started out the year with a hike on the Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Park (the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains). Our guide book had said it was a “moderate” hike, but we beg to differ and we were exhausted by the time we emerged, and felt fully justified in our celebratory lunch at Geoffrey’s, overlooking the ocean!
Rebecca and Carl had a very busy year – beginning with a trip to Dubai in February. In April, Rebecca came out to visit us for Passover, and we were able to do a walking tour of a very interesting part of the downtown LA area (including the Angel’s Flight funicular, the Grand Central Market, one of LA’s most interesting old bookstores, and a flight down the outdoor slide on the 54th floor of the OUE skyscraper!) – as well as spend the day hiking and visiting with cousin Deb.
At some point early in the year, Rebecca and Carl made the decision to move from New York to Los Angeles! This transition began in June with Rebecca flying out in June to bring Potemkin (the cat!) to stay with us while they were in transit. (During that trip, we were lucky enough to see an outdoor production of Henry IV starring Tom Hanks as Falstaff!) Then, after Rebecca finished her fourth year of teaching high school, Rebecca and Carl headed out on a trip to beautiful Peru and the amazing Machu Picchu. Once they got back to New York from that fabulous trip, they loaded up a rental van and drove across country (visiting friends and family along the way) and moved in with us while they looked for work.
Rebecca fairly quickly was hired as the Southern California Organizer for Bend the Arc: Jewish Action; an activist group that spent the fall working very hard to help “flip the House” in key SoCal districts. Carl followed not long afterwards with a job in a private financial firm, American Financial Network, in Calabasas. Once they had their jobs – and a car! – they then quickly found a lovely 2-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood. We are thrilled that they are so close!
In August, Stephen and I celebrated our second 36th wedding anniversary with a “staycation” in a lovely hotel in Long Beach. There was a rooftop pool (and cocktails); a lovely dinner, and a movie – so decadent!
Later that month, I was thrilled to be able to attend the wedding of niece Lisa in Thunder Bay. That involved flying to Kansas City, where I joined Peggy, June and Art – and drove the two day trip to Thunder Bay. Rebecca and Carl flew up to join us, in Thunder Bay but Stephen was not able to come due to a Redlands Symphony concert that he had to oversee. The wedding was beautiful – with a gorgeous mountain backdrop and lovely weather – and we so enjoyed visiting with family and the U.K. relatives of the groom, Mr. Adrian. I then flew from Thunder Bay to Toronto and got to visit family and friends for a few days.
In September, we got a call from our old Long Beach neighbors Chris and Dawn Smith to say we should join them at the Laguna Beach Ritz Carlton for a visit. When we got there, we found out that there had been a mix-up with the reservation and in order to make it up to the Smiths, the very fancy hotel had given them the best suite in the hotel – with a wrap-around terrace with ocean views and access to the lounge with non-stop food and drinks! We had a blast sharing in this opportunity with them – including a trip to the beach with a hotel staffer who set up our chairs and umbrellas, and then was so thrilled with the sizeable tip he got from Chris that he sent a bottle of champagne and some chocolate-covered strawberries up to the room later that evening! It was fun to re-connect with the Smiths (and the Clarks!) and a little shocking to see young Colton, Gwen, Everett and Delaney all looking so grown up!
In October (while Rebecca and Carl were still living with us), we helped Rebecca out with canvassing for Democratic candidates; celebrated Rebecca’s birthday with a dinner at the extraordinary Farmhouse Restaurant; and had the supreme gift of seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl, complete with appearances by members of the original cast and hosted by Danny Elfman himself (who sang the role of the Pumpkin King for us!).
November, of course, kicked off with the mid-term elections and gave Rebecca and her colleagues a lot to celebrate!
December started off with the annual Hannukah Latke Party at the home of the parents of Rebecca’s childhood friend, Anna Pearl; as well as a special Bend the Arc Fundraiser event to celebrate the elections and plan for the future.
Work-wise, Stephen had a very busy year of teaching, coaching, and working with his new quartet. He did his usual stint with Disneyland’s Candlelight Concerts; and The Nutcracker in Long Beach – and he also began work as the Personnel Manager for the Redlands Symphony under the leadership of his old friend Ransom Wilson (from New York days). Stephen also got to Toronto to visit his mom and the rest of the family in May (for Mother’s Day) and again in November for Tanya’s 93rd birthday!
For New Musicals Inc., it was a year of updating and renovating. We had already gotten all new flooring (and a new color scheme) in the front part of the building the previous year – and in 2018 (because of a generous bequest from a former member), we were able to renovate our Main Hall with a new paint job and beautiful black sound-absorbing curtains all around – turning the space into a pretty classy looking black-box theatre type space. We have capitalized on that by getting lots of new rental bookings, as well as making use of our new green wall (hidden behind the curtains) to shoot a series of greenscreen internet musicals which we have been releasing on our YouTube channel. I have been thrilled to participate not only as film crew, but also as Mother Nature, Khassandra the Psychic, and a story-telling Goat Girl. I also got to participate in a panel discussion on the new musical “Soft Power” at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (with their beautiful garden!); started a monthly advice “vlog” (video blog) for musical theatre writers (HOW TO GET NO FEEDBACK FROM ELISE); and make my annual pilgrimage to New York for the NAMT Festival and Conference (although this was the first time in five years that I didn’t get to stay with Rebecca!)
June was a crazy busy month at NMI, with the opening of the new musical Manson’s Girls and the production of our annual 15 Minute Musicals (all seven of them – four of which I directed) at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. We followed that up with our biennial BIZ OF THE MUSICAL THEATRE BIZ Conference – this time in our own beautifully renovated space – and we were able to take advantage of our technological advances to include panelists from all over the country via video conferencing. (One of our panelists, a Broadway producer, told us it was the most organized and best run video conference he had ever participated in!). NMI also ran a summer Boot Camp, and I directed two huge readings of new musicals with really big casts – so it was a very busy summer!
The end of the December and the dawning of the New Year was a difficult time for the Dewsberry family. I got the call (from brother Fred) on Saturday, December 15th, that June had had a sudden and unexpected hemorrhagic stroke. Rebecca and I got a quick flight out of LA to Kansas City and were there by that evening, but June had already slipped into a coma from which she never awoke. The family (Dad, me, my brothers Bruce and Fred, sister-in-law Peggy, Rebecca, and my niece Cara) spent time with June in the hospital on Saturday night and Sunday, and then June was transferred to the Village Hospice on Monday. We were with her (and talking to her and singing to her) every moment, and were all gathered around two days later, on Wednesday at 9:30pm, when June took her final breath. It was unexpected and heart-breaking for us, but we were comforted by the family (especially nearby cousins David, Pam, Kathleen and their families; and June’s cousin Carol), friends, and John Knox residents and staff who rallied around us; as well as by the knowledge that June had led an amazing and full life, that she would not have wanted to linger, and that she spent her final moments in the Hospice that she had helped found and in which she so strongly believed.
We put together a small, informal open house on the next Sunday (with help from my niece Adrienne, who had arrived on Thursday), primarily for residents of John Knox Village who wanted to pay their respects, and we are working on plans for a more formal Celebration of Life currently set for April 27th in Lee’s Summit.
Back in Los Angeles, I was thrilled to get a chance to meet Carl’s parents (Carl and Joan) and sister (Kiersten). We got to go to a couple of concerts with them, spend Christmas Eve all together at Carl and Rebecca’s new apartment, and spend Christmas Day together. It was slightly more subdued than it might have been, but it was great to meet these lovely people and to begin to be a family as Rebecca and Carl start their life together here in Los Angeles.
I will admit that it’s been a tough few weeks for me. I don’t suppose you are ever ready for a parent to leave you – but I really and truly wasn’t ready for this and still find myself struggling to believe it really happened. I think about her many times a day, of course, and find myself tracking my progress through the infamous Kubler-Ross theory on the stages of grief (I think I’m in “depression” right now, although anger still rears its head occasionally). But I do know that acceptance will come eventually.
I am thankful to the many many people who have reached out with comfort and prayers; to my siblings who stood together with me by our mother’s bedside; to the love and support from my husband and daughter and son-in-law(ish); and to my amazing father who has had to shoulder the loss of his soul-mate of more than 65 years and was still able to dissolve us all into hysterical laughter through our tears with, among other things, his plans to throw away the comforter and pillows that were only ever used when company was in the house anyway!
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019 for all of us!
Elise (and Stephen, Rebecca, Carl, and Potemkin!)
A Wedding in Thunder Bay
Our Toronto Family
A Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles
Rebecca & Carl
Mishe Mokwa Trail Hike
Potemkin Settles In
Miscellaneous Family Moments
TOP: A Core Curriculum session in NMI’s newly renovated Main Hall – with Elise and John presiding, and lots of folks joining us via video conference on the TV screen; LEFT: the new space ready for the 2018 BIZ Conference; ABOVE: the hall transformed into a Greenscreen Studio.
NMI has been shooting a LOT of “greenscreen” musicals – shooting against a greenscreen, then removing the green and replacing it with any background we want! Many of these have not yet been released, but to the RIGHT is one in which Elise plays “Khassandra the Psychic”. Keep an eye out in the future for Elise as Edna Fervor (129 Ways to Find a Husband); Mother Nature; and a story-telling Goat Girl (among others)…
Pictured below: Khassandra the Psychic; Edna Fervor; Mother Nature.
ABOVE: A moving poem written by Cara Dewsberry.
RIGHT: Some pix from the informal tribute to June at John Knox Village. A formal memorial service is currently scheduled for April 27 in Lee’s Summit.
A full obituary for June can be found at https://parklawnfunerals.com/obituaries/dewsberry-june-elise/