Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #26

November 10th, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
(pictured above: Chandra Dieppa Ortiz)
click the image to visit Chandra’s website

228 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 Let your imagination and Chandra’s picturesque canvases walk you into her childhood and the stories of her – and your – past that abound in grandma’s world.

Travel with this Afro-Latino family from Cuba to Key West to Patterson, New Jersey to Tampa, Florida and Tallahassee too – little money but times of joy and laughter. Memories will keep you safe from ridicule, from harsh accusations, from false defamation of every kind. You know who you are.

Chandra Dieppa Ortiz’s exhibit “Cultural Armor” continues at La Casa De La Cultura gallery. The closing reception, where you can talk with this fascinating artist, is this coming Wednesday, November 15, from 5 – 7pm. The Center for Latino Arts, which houses the gallery, is at 85 W. Newton Street in Boston’s South End.

The two rooms are ablaze with the colorful paintings. Grandma’s stories inspired the gouache and watercolors in the first of the exhibition halls: the migrations, meeting her husband who was from Macon, Georgia, listening to music, the fishermen hauling and cleaning a rainbow of a catch, women’s work that was never done. Her daughters’ struggles.

Chandra took care of her grandmother until she died two years ago.

“She was so welcoming a person. You’d come into her room and she’d scream and shout your name.

“I’d complain about having so much laundry to do and she’d talk about the great wash tubs she’d used, and the wash boards for scrubbing the clothes. You see them in the paintings.

“And when she saw how I visualized her stories, she’d get all excited.

“My grandmother made me sweep the (dirt) yard,” notes Chandra of a figure bent over a broom in one of the paintings as another woman sits at a window and a third rests wearily on the front steps. “I didn’t see the point but had to do it anyway. We didn’t have much but it had to be neat.

“I think of the rhythms of the work, when I paint,” she said. “I put on between seven and twenty-two layers of paint to make the story I want. Black stories are complex. The depth is important to me.” She began as a child with cheap poster paints that her mother provided, and drawing from comic books. Her childhood homes were decorated with colorful flowers and fans.

America’s urban communities of color are the subject of the paintings in the second room. The snow and frigid temperatures has forced the people in, out of the cold on a holiday night; the housing project is serene. Young men traveling the elevated absorbed in their books and music. MC’s spinning in a duel, lost in the beats. A man drives a horse and wagon through the streets and if you look closely you’ll see rifles stacked beneath the blankets in his cart.

How do we make history record us, they ask.

Center for Latino Arts website

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Kirsten Childs)
photo credit: Max Ruby

229 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 As a little girl, Kirsten Childs dreamed of becoming the greatest dancer in the world.

That dream was deferred.

However, another, maybe bigger, theatrical dream has come to life for the creator of “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin.” Childs’ musical is about acknowledging the true you beneath the mask you’ve donned to make your way in the world.

The SpeakEasy production, directed by Jacqui Parker, opens November 17 in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End. (Parker, the artistic director of Our Place Theater, starred in SpeakEasy’s production of the Tony Kushner musical “Carolina or Change.”)

Childs was off to a fantastic start as a show biz dancer when the legendary Bob Fosse cast her in a tour of the musical “Chicago” that culminated in Childs playing Velma to Chita Rivera’s Roxie.

The reality of few jobs and hardly any shows to try out for experienced by most dancers of color was near at hand, however, accentuated by the devastation of the dance community when AIDS first struck. Cast next in an all black company of the musical “The Boys From Syracuse,” she and the rest of the talented actors were stranded when the financial backers lost interest in the show.

Childs looked around at “the incredible African American actors and there was not proper work for them.”

She thought “I can complain or I can do something about it. I can start writing.” Out of adversity came a musical memoir that traces the path of Viveca “Bubby” Stanton as she navigates life and a career from Los Angeles in the stormy 60′s to New York in the redemptive 90′s. A score that combines jazz, pop, and Motown is the musical backdrop to Bubbly’s handling conflicting messages about gender, race, and relationships.

Childs says that how she brought her musical to fruition “is almost a development model.” It journeyed from Musical Theatre works to the NAMT Festival and in 1998 to O’Neill Center (where August Wilson developed “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” his first Broadway play). By 2000, the play was at Playwrights Horizon which staged its New York premiere. All along the way, the play picked up major cash award, including the Richard Rodgers, the Jonathan Larson (named for the late creator of the musical “Rent”), and the Kleban Award.

Now a professor at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program , Childs is seeing more and more “composers, lyricists, and libretto writers of color, and women and older people too interested in finding their voices.

“I think that’s wonderful, really exciting,” she said about the musicals on the horizon. “I’m so hopeful about musical theater.”

The SpeakEasy production features Stephanie Umoh as Bubbly, a role originated by LaChanze who starred in “The Color Purple” on Broadway as well. Umoh is the Boston Conservatory junior whose performance last spring as Sarah in the New Rep’s production of “Ragtime” wowed audiences. Jose Delgado is the music director/ conductor.

Speakeasy Stage Company

by Kay Bourne
(l to r: Ed Hoopman, Jonathan Orsini, and Naheem Garcia)

221 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 One weekend morning not long ago, actors lined up early in a corridor on the sixth floor of a building in downtown Manhattan to audition for . . . body parts! By day’s end some 1200 hopefuls had tried out to be an arm or a leg, or more prominently a cadaver in a morgue or the victim of a rape or murder for Court TV reenactments of crimes that had gone to trial.

The old adage “TV eats faces” means that viewers get bored fast with seeing the same star. The industry maxim has taken a morbid twist which has been accentuated by 9/11. Victims have attained celebrity status, as have the personalities who exploit their pain or death.

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo explores the grisly and crass phenomenon with its absurdities in her satiric “After Ashley.”

The comedic drama runs through November 18 at the Plaza Theatre in the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston.

A compelling, sardonic production from Company One nails Gionfriddo’s perceptive drama in every respect. The thanks for this riveting production belongs to the clarity of Shawn LaCount’s direction, which illuminates the outrageous turns of events while keeping the story going, and to the actors for providing believable people even at their most grotesque. It’s an accolade to LaCount and the cast that you’ll have to stop yourself from joining in on shouting matches the characters are having.

The twitchy Ashley who’s gaining on 40 has major regrets about her life. She loves her teenage son, Justin, whom she confides in, but not domesticity in the Bethesda, Maryland suburbs. She feels distanced from her husband whom she sees as a man who sympathesizes with the pain of people he hardly knows but lacks sensitivity when it comes to his own family.

Dad, Jordan Hammond, arrives home to announce he’s hired a medicated schizophrenic living in a shelter to do yard work. Ashley objects but to no avail.

Mercifully, we’re spared seeing Ashley murdered by the handyman. We do hear Justin’s call to 911 and refusal to leave his mom’s side until the police arrive. The nation is soon privy to that same frantic 911 call, over and over again on newscasts, and then when the plea become the lyrics to a popular song.

The media frenzy and its impact on the Hammonds is underway, and Justin nearly drowns in the quagmire of the fiction that is built up about his mom.

Young Jonathan Orsini gives an amazingly measured performance as Justin, the pivotal character who, shaky himself, nonetheless possesses the only sane compass for maneuvering through the media blitz. Kelly Lawman offers an apt portrayal of a housewife on the edge, while Ed Hoopman is ideal as the workaholic hubby who finds an excitement in living he’d given up on.

Naheem Garcia is wonderful as the unctuous, bullying, exceedingly ambitious TV host who officiates over a parade of tragedies as if they were floats in a homecoming. Ana Nogueira is perfect as the girl who flirts with Justin because she’s enamored of his phone call and his celebrity but whose better nature takes over as she gets to know him for real. And Lonnie McAdoo gives a hilarious portrayal of a maker of sex tapes.

Purchase “After Ashley” tickets here

by Robert Nesti
(pictured: The ensemble of Hairspray)
photo by Paul Lyden

230 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 Is it possible to resist “Hairspray?” It certainly doesn’t seem so. The musical version of John Waters’ delirious film satire on 1960′s pop culture has racked up more than 1700 performances on Broadway, a number of national tours, and, presently, an in-the-round re-staging at the North Shore Music Theater that’s a high-energy delight.

Waters has long been independent film’s bad boy, but with Hairspray, he toned down his characteristic raunchiness to tell a sweet tale of a hefty teen, named Tracy Turnblad, who charms her way onto a local teen dance show, and integrates 1962 Baltimore in the process. Not that Waters completely ignored his subversive side: he did, after all, cast the 300-pound drag queen Divine as Tracy’s housewife mom Edna in one of her final film roles.

That casting idea is replicated for the musical, which at NSMT is played with wonderful comic brio by Paul C. Vogt (best-known for three seasons on MAD-TV.) With his deadpan expressions and basso line-deliveries, Vogt appears to be channeling Divine; which isn’t a bad model to follow; and he’s nicely matched by newcomer Bridie Carroll as Tracy. Her bubbly enthusiasm and strong vocal belt are integral to the production’s success.

As is Barry Ivan‘s dynamic staging, which is played at an astoundingly high energy level. His recreations of pop dance styles from the period are tirelessly and hilariously rendered. He makes the most of Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman pastiche score, turning virtually each number a show-stopping turn by members of his talented ensemble. Certainly, the statuesque Inga Ballard tops the show with her stirring rendition of the second-act spiritual “I Know Where I’ve Been”; and Deb Lyons takes comic honors with her hilarious ode to success, “Miss Baltimore Crabs.”

Bookwriters Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan amplify the film’s themes of racial integration and personal empowerment, making “Hairspray” something of a candy-coated message musical. Set designer Howard C. Jones gives the open playing area the look of television teen shows of the period (think Hullabaloo;) which is brilliantly complemented by William Ivey Long‘s Broadway costumes (which won him a Tony Award,) and Gerard Kelly‘s towering beehives and bouffants. When the elements converge for the kinetic finale, ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat,’ “Hairspray” soars into the musical-comedy stratosphere.


(photo credit: Basil Childers)
231 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 Described as “Brilliant . . . one of the major modern dance choreographers to emerge in the past ten years.” by Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times, Ronald K. Brown’s EVIDENCE performs at The Cutler Majestic Theatre for two shows only, December 1 and 2.

Blending African, modern, ballet and hip-hop dance styles, Ronald K. Brown’s powerful choreography offers finely crafted, exquisitely danced stories about heritage, truth, destiny and mankind’s desire to liberate the spirit within. His award-winning company, Evidence, speaks through explosive jumps, vibrant colors, complex patterns and compelling images.

World Music/CRASHarts is offering a 2-for-the-price-of-1 SPECIAL for the Ronald Brown performances, valid over the phone, only, and must be ordered before November 29. Just call 617-817-4275 and mention you saw the “RONALD BROWN 2-for-1 Special” in the Kay Bourne Arts Report when ordering. The Cutler Majestic theatre is located at 219 Tremont Street, downtown, Boston. Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE info

by Lisa Simmons
(pictured l to r: Ruth Ellen Fitch, President and CEO, Dimock Community Health Center; Reverend Jessie Jackson, Representative Dianne Wilkerson)
Photo by Don West

223 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 The music, the food, the beautiful people, Steppin’ Out 2006 proved to be another successful, grand party for a very worthy cause, Dimock Community Health Center. With the backdrop set in New Orleans (down to the fried alligator) the night was filled with magic. From the opening night gala, sit down dinner, where Reverend Jessie Jackson addressed the crowd, to the cool sounds of New Orleans Jazz, Jazz Quartets, R & B, Gospel, and the Latin Beat, Steppin’ Out had it all.

The rhythms and the music poured out of each venue allowing you to catch a piece of all the music as you roamed the halls greeting old friends and making new ones. It is as much an event for musical artists to lull you in by their sounds as it is for individuals to network, converse and communicate outside of the day-to-day work environment. Deals get made, partnerships formed and old conversations get revisited. But what really makes this evening so special is the ability of Boston’s communities to come together, under one roof regardless of political designations, religious affiliations or racial makeup.

It is an evening of purpose and everyone there understands it is to raise money for a community organization that tirelessly serves the needs of individuals and families throughout Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and Mattapan.

Steppin’ Out New Orleans Style – entertainers

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Robert Gossett)

224 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 If you’re a cop on TV, you may very well be African American.

“It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed,” observes Robert Gossett , who portrays a cop’s cop, Commander Taylor on “The Closer.” The police show genre is so popular, “black actors are cast in every role from the intelligent good guy to the bad guy – he’s a person,” says Gossett about one of the kinds of roles for African Americans on TV that aren’t stereotypes.

“Couple the long standing popularity of these shows to the fact that realistically there are many more African Americans on police forces,” said Gossett whose father was a police officer when there were far fewer African Americans in blue. “Once the forces opened up, we gravitated en masse. I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

Gossett has had considerable experience playing cops from an F.B.I. agent on “Arlington Road” to Lt. Hudson on “Silk Stalkings.” He was a plain clothes cop on “Lady Killer” and Lt. Lu on the docudrama “Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills.” He’s played a host of other roles, as well, with a resume that downloads at two pages and more.

As to Captain Taylor, Gossett sees his character as “a cop who’s worked his way up through the ranks. He’s not a political appointment or affirmative action. His promotion has taken fighting and scratching in L.A. working in a white male base.

“He enjoys his work and it takes it seriously how it affects the community. He believes in law enforcement. He’s hard edged but fair,” said the actor, whose cousin Louis Gossett, Jr. is also known for delving into the parts he plays.

Being a regular on “The Closer” is another plus for Gossett. “I get to be part of a cast; it’s wonderful. You get to develop a full character, hone your skills and explore all the facets of the character,” he said.

Robert Gossett’s filmography

(pictured: Denzel Washington in DeJaVu)
225 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 Wow! First Deval Patrick, now Hollywood. There are lots of great films coming up in the next few months that feature actors of color. Here are some to look out for:

DeJa Vu with Denzel Washington – opens November 22. Everyone has experienced the unsettling mystery of déjà vu – that flash of memory when you meet someone new you feel you’ve known all your life or recognize a place even though you’ve never been there before. But what if the feelings were actually warnings sent from the past or clues to the future? In the captivating new action-thriller from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott, written by Terry Rossio & Bill Marsilii, it is déjà vu that unexpectedly guides ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) through an investigation into a shattering crime. Called in to recover evidence after a bomb sets off a cataclysmic explosion on a New Orleans ferry, Carlin is about to discover that what most people believe is only in their heads is actually something far more powerful – and will lead him on a mind-bending race to save hundreds of innocent people.

Pursuit of Happiness with Will Smith – opens December 15. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a bright and talented, but marginally employed salesman. Struggling to make ends meet, Gardner finds himself and his five-year-old son evicted from their San Francisco apartment with nowhere to go. When Gardner lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm, he and his son endure many hardships, including living in shelters, in pursuit of his dream of a better life for the two of them.

Dreamgirls with Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy – opens December 22. Director Bill Condon brings Tom Eyen’s Tony award-winning Broadway musical to the big screen in a tale of dreams, stardom, and the high cost of success in the cut-throat recording industry. The time is the 1960s, and singers Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) are about to find out just what it’s like to have their wildest dreams come true. Discovered at a local talent show by ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), the trio known as “the Dreamettes” is soon offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening for popular singer James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Subsequently molded into an unstoppable hit machine by Taylor and propelled into the spotlight as “the Dreams,” the girls quickly find their bid for the big time taking priority over personal friendship as ego-driven Deena gradually nudges out the less attractive Effie in a blatant attempt to capitalize on her newfound fame. Now, as the crossover act continues to dominate the airwaves, the small-town girls with big-city dreams slowly begin to realize the true cost of fame may be higher than any of them ever anticipated. ~ (Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide) Moviephone

by Nancy Hurlbut
(pictured: Lanna Joffrey portrays Mulaya)

227 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 The solo show “9 Parts of Desire” by Heather Raffo peformed by Lanna Joffrey at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston displays all the advantages and disadvantages of a one-actor play that has a mission.

Recently I performed a solo show which I wrote about the secret act of incest and its emotional fallout. Even as I delivered it before a full house, I knew I was not offering a character whose life has to change in the presence of an audience of strangers, in ninety minutes. Rather, like Hallie Flanagan’s WPA theatre project “Living Newspaper” during the late 1920′s, I was reporting a case study of a young woman, including the scientific analysis of her brain, who had no “theory of mind,” no idea why she was on a course of self-destruction. It was an objectified news story, with clips of the character’s interior fear and fury.

I experienced a similar distance from playwright Heather Raffo’s nine characters, women who represent the historical and present turmoil in the country of Iraq. Their nine names are listed in the Lyric Stage Playbill with an enclosed flyer announcing that all characters in the play are fictitious, including Layal Attar who is an actual living artist. Her painting “Savagery” is the inspiration for Raffo’s play, and I wish we could have seen it. I wonder how you can write a fictionalized character using the exact name of a real artist.

With lovely adjustments in body, voice, and costume, actor Lanna Joffrey portrays the agony and deepest desires of the 9: old and young, professional and spiritual, rich and poor. The tearing of the ancient Iraqi cities by the Conqueror is seen in the suffering and strength of the women. In spite of enslavement, rape, even beheading of loved ones, the women have the will to be angry, hopeful, loving, and creative.

The simple set from J. Michael Grigg‘s, a pool of running water, is perfect. It speaks of the great rivers of Persia, and the water and blood of living things. Lights play off it, and make wondrous designs on the scrim. Carmel O’Reilly, Director, has used the lighting, the pool, and the changes of costume to their best effects, subtly and organically.

“9 Parts of Desire” is a modern “Living Newspaper,” a statement about woman oppressed and woman triumphant. I would have been more engaged, however, if the play had told the story of one particular person, with a particular challenge, and a particular solution.

“9 Parts of Desire” ticket info

198 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 Only a few more Official ONE LOVE dvd’s and cd’s featuring Ky-Mani Marley and Cherine Anderson are left!! Below are actual comments from some who attended TCOF’s Official ONE LOVE dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY in March 2006 at RCC, when the co-star, CHERINE ANDERSON attended as our special guest:

“Fantastic. I loved it.”
“…Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”
“…Thank you for opening that movie to the Boston community. It was REALLY good! Hopefully, more quality movies like that will come out of Jamaica and marketed abroad…”

“…Better than The Harder They Come…”
“…a complete experience to come to a public setting and see a Black love story that ends on a positive note with such talented young people…”

“It was really an immense pleasure to attend the ONE LOVE event. I enjoyed watching a bunch of our young, Black people show-casing their talents. Also, I enjoyed the movie, including the young woman from Jamaica who played the lead role…She was wonderful…”

The Official ONE LOVE dvd and cd are the first of many quality, independent films and products available to you, through TCOF. The ONE LOVE dvd is $20 and the soundtrack is $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com or visiting The Color of Film website . Order ONE LOVE dvd and cd here

226 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #26 The Providence Black Repertory Company presents THE COLORED MUSEUM, by George C. Wolfe, directed by Don Mays, featuring Pam Lambert, now until November 19. Click here for tickets .

This weekend, Friday and Saturday at 8pm are the final performances of To Kill A Mockingbird presented by RCC’s Mainstage. Tickets are $10 and $5 for students and senior citizens and can be purchased at the door, or call 617- 541-5381 for advance reservations. RCC Mainstage is in the Media Arts Building, 1234 Columbus Avenue, Roxbury.

Cyrus Akeem Brooks (pictured on the left) plays X- Ray and Shauday Johnson-Jones (right) plays Armpit in Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of HOLES, Louis Sachar’s compelling story of fate and friendship, playing until November 26. For ticket information call the Wheelock Box Office at 617-879-2300 or click here.

December 1 marks the opening of Boston’s 37th consecutive season of Langston Hughes’ BLACK NATIVITY. This year’s twelve performances are dedicated to the memory of John Andrew Ross (1940-2006), and his 36 years of service as Black Nativity’s Musical Director. Performances at The Tremont Temple, 88 Tremont Street in downtown Boston are the first three weekends in December. Tickets are $41, $32.50, $25 and $17.50 and for information click here or call NEXT Ticketing at 617-423-6000.

URBAN NUTCRACKER, the family holiday classic with an inner-city edge, is December 8 – 17, this year at John Hancock Hall, 180 Berkeley Street, downtown Boston. World-renowned Flamenco dancer Isaac de los Reyes makes his Urban Nutcracker debut in a sizzling dance duet with five-season Urban Nutcracker tap super star, Khalid Hill (also an original dancer in Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in the ‘Da Funk.) Tickets are $20/$32/$40 To order and for more information call 877-548-3237.

Crossing cultural and geographical borders is the subject explored in paintings of Dorchester artist Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper on display at Thayer Academy in Braintree, November 13 through December 15. Paintings in oils and watercolors depict the cultures of India, where she lived in the late 1990s, and Jamaica, her native country, which she visits often. The opening reception is Thursday, November 16, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Regular gallery hours are 8 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. The Thayer campus is at 745 Washington Street, near the Braintree stop on the Red Line. For more information, contact Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper at 617-825-9760 or lucilda@earthlink.net, or Anni McDonough, curator of Thayer Arts Gallery, at 781-843-3580 or amcdonough@thayer.org

CALL FOR ENTRIES – Roxbury Literary Annual – Teen Writers Wanted – Submissions due by December 1st. Contact Terri Brown at tbrown@madison-park.org. Do not delay, do it today!

Again,the movie, LIVE AND BECOME has been extended at the West Newton Theatre, 1296 Washington Street. Based on the non-fictional stories of many African boys raised in Israel, LIVE AND BECOME magnificently tells the epic story of an Ethiopian boy, Shlomo, who is airlifted from a Sudanese refugee camp to Israel in 1984 during Operation Moses. Shlomo is plagued by two big secrets: He is neither a Jew nor an orphan, just an African boy who survived and wants, somehow, to fulfill his Ethiopian mother’s parting request that he “go, live, and become.” See Kay Bourne’s review in our previous Kay Bourne Arts Report #24, and call 617-964-6060 for times and directions to West Newton Theatre or click here .

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