Internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende began writing novels
in 1981. Since then her books have been translated into 27 languages;
two of the books were made into motion pictures and theater plays.
All her works have a common theme: life is precious and should be
lived free from oppression. Her novels feature female protagonists
whose strength, intelligence and creativity enable them to endure
hardships, fight oppression and improve the world around them.
A Marin County resident since 1988, Ms. Allende
typifies the characteristics of her protagonists. She combines
toughness with gentleness, spirituality with independence. A
Chilean native, Ms. Allende, through her actions and her novels, fought
the Pinochet regime until its downfall in 1988. Originally a
journalist, she wrote her first novel, "The House of Spirits",
in 1981 to bring attention to the brutality of the Pinochet regime.
Since becoming a Marin resident, Ms. Allende
has greatly and purposefully lent her support to numerous philanthropic
organizations and agencies which enrich our community.
Ms. Allende has received several honorary
degrees and her books have received numerous awards including:
Best Novel of the Year-Panorama Literario, Chile, 1983; Book
of the Year, Germany, 1984; Grand Prix d'Evasion, France, 1984, Grand
Prix de la Radio Television Belge, Belgium, 1985; Freedom to Write,
Pen Club, USA 1991 and many others.
To read more about Ms. Allende on her web site. www.isabelallende.com
Read the extended biography by Marianne Rogoff.
Winifred Baker's musical and conducting excellence has brought the
best of choral music works to audiences in Marin, the Bay Area, New
York and Europe. For forty years, she has conducted the Winifred
Baker Chorale and San Francisco Civic Chorale. The Chorales
have performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the Marin Symphony,
the San Francisco Civic Opera, the San Francisco Pops, and sang twice
in New York's Carnegie Hall.
Ms. Baker has created a legacy of trained
singers throughout the Bay Area and the country. Some of the
original members of her Chorales and Children's Chorus still sing
with her, as do several of their children. Others continue to
bring musical talents they developed under her tutelage to choruses
and audiences throughout the world.
The world of conducting is one that has been
primarily populated by men. Ms. Baker has ignored the musical
glass ceiling by her perseverance, her energy, and her attention to
excellence. Ms. Baker has won respect from many, including Arthur
Fiedler, Sandor Salgo, Peter Toboris (who invited Winfred to
conduct in Carnegie Hall) and Gary Sheldon, conductor of the Marin
Symphony. In 1976, she became the sixth woman invited to join
the London-based Incorporated Society of Musicians in the Conductor's
Section, sharing this honor with such notables as Benjamin Britten
and George Solti. Her impressive musical skills have dissolved
barriers, paving the way for other women to perform and conduct in
the great cathedrals and music halls of the world.
In addition to conducting her choruses, Ms.
Baker is a Professor Emeritus at Dominican College and teaches piano
classes on campus. She is an active member of Marin Music Chest,
passionately advocating for a return to music education in schools
and colleges. She has received numerous awards for her musical
contributions including the "Distinguished Women Award"
conferred by Dominican College, the San Francisco Arts Commission's
"Award of Honor," the Women Musicians of San Francisco's
"Musician of the Year" Award and the "Music Educator
of the Year" Award, elected by the Marin Symphony, Marin Opera
Company, Marin Ballet Company and Youth in Arts.
Winifred Baker's passion for musical beauty
and her commitment to excellence has inspired her listeners, her students
and her colleagues for over forty years. She is a giant among
musicians and a beacon for those who aspire to make a mark, whatever
their chosen profession.
Read the extended biography by Barbara Euser
Margie Belrose is founder and director of The Belrose School and Theatre
in San Rafael. At The "Belrose", Margie Belrose teaches,
performs and directs. Theater colleagues proclaim that Margie
exemplifies the stage motto, "The show must go on." Through
hard work and steadfast devotion to her dream, she has earned the
respect of associates and audiences. In 1954 she and her late
husband, David, founded a school for performing arts in Marin.
The Belrose School and Theatre today offer Marinites affordable theater,
and opportunities to act, write, produce and direct. Belrose
has taught dance, music, acting and singing to generations of local
families. Her tenacity and perseverance have served her through
the years when she has been called upon to surmount overwhelming odds.
Abandoned as a child, she lived in an orphanage
except for short periods with her aunt and father. After graduating
from high school she moved to San Francisco where she met and married
one of her dance teachers. The sudden death of her husband in
1971 left her alone to raise her two children while operating The
Belrose School and Theatre. Today, with her son, she operates
a large non-profit costume shop that benefits the Belrose Performing
Arts Center scholarship program. One of her programs is the
Belrose Jr. Players for children eight to fifteen years of age.
She provides scholarships for children to enable them to participate
in Junior Players and the Belrose Musical Summer Camp program that
has been in operation since 1978.
Read the extended biography by Marilyn L. Geary
Kay Boyle was a renowned poet, teacher and author of poetry, short
story collectives and numerous articles. For twenty years her
short stories in the New Yorker helped to define literary form.
As a woman in a man's profession, she served as the New Yorker's
foreign correspondent in the 1940's.
Encouraged by her mother to become
a writer, despite formal education ending at the eighth grade, Ms.
Boyle defined her writing as an expatriate in the "lost generation"
colony of artist and writers in the Paris of the 1920's.
The accomplishments of which she was most
proud were her teaching and humanitarian work. She was a professor
of English at San Francisco State University for eighteen years,
retiring at age 77. As a passionate woman with strong convictions,
she sought to better the world by fighting Nazism and McCarthyism,
by focusing on the anti-war and civil rights movements, and by founding
the San Francisco Chapter of Amnesty International.
Her awards and honors were legion: O. Henry
prizes for short stories, fellowships, and a California Literature
medal. She was one of the few women admitted to the National
Institute of Arts & Letters and continued her writing after moving
from San Francisco to Marin in 1989. In 1989, she was honored
by the Women's Foundation for her contributions to the causes of peace,
freedom and human rights.
Read the extended biography by Daryl Siegel
Ann Brebner is helping to change the face of downtown San Rafael through
her successful efforts to renovate and restore the Rafael Theater
as a permanent home for the Film Institute of Northern California
which produces the Mill Valley Film Festival.
As a past Board President and current member
of the Board of Directors she has, by the strength of her vision,
her sensitivity and integrity helped developed the Film Institute
into a substantial, widely respected, broadly-based arts organization.
She is a founder of the Marin Shakespeare Festival, and of Northern
California Women in Film and has served as an advisor to Bread and
Roses and is a director of the Pickle Family Circus. She was
also instrumental in the development of the College of Marin drama
program and its theater.
A native of New Zealand, Ms. Brebner abandoned
her pursuit of a career as a concert pianist and applied herself first
to medicine and finally to theater arts. She studied all aspects
of theater at London's famous Old Vic Theatre School and has directed
in New York and the Bay Area. She was President of Brebner Agencies
Inc., a respected agency in San Francisco representing writers and
actors. Ever fascinated by why we do, what we do and how actors
function, she is the author of "Setting Free the Actor; Overcoming
Creative Blocks." She as two sons, Alexander and Jay.
Read the extended biography by Nancy Nakai
Laurel Burch (1945 - 2007)
Mystical beings and familiar icons expressed Laurel Burch’s own brilliant and loving spirit. Her artwork and designs of fantastic felines, mythical horses, creatures from ocean and sky, people from many lands, all serve as symbols, to remind us of the ongoing world of the spirit.
As a self-taught painter and entrepreneur, Laurel perceived herself as a folk artist. She told visual stories, beginning as a child when she fashioned small gifts from odds and ends for her grandmother. At fourteen she left her troubled home, taking with her only a paper bag of clothes and osteopetrosis, the rare bone disease she was born with.
With no job, no money and no plans, she landed in San Francisco, where she earned her room and board by cooking, cleaning and babysitting. She began making and wearing jewelry, earrings and necklaces, from old coins, bones and beads. Her creations became bridges to friendships and patrons, and these artifacts became treasures for people all across the country and collecting Laurel Burch became a phenomenon.
Throughout her life, she refused to give in to her painful osteopetrosis. Even during long periods of convalescence, when she was forced to paint from a bed or a wheelchair, she held onto her paints and her brushes. "I refuse to have anything in my life," she said, "that I can’t turn into something magical and beautiful." Even from a hospital bed, she continued to create, calling up that indomitable spirit from what she called her "inner sanctum." Later, in an isolation forced by her illness, Laurel was able to travel the world via her website, sharing her designs and messages all over the globe in the forms of prints, fabrics, scarves and more.
Laurel performed hundreds of speaking engagements around the country, with an emphasis on healing. "My bone disease was my gift," she told others. And her gift of generosity and commitment extended to many organizations, giving her time, art work, her name and her heart to hundreds of boards, organizations and causes, including Glide Memorial Church, KQED TV, San Jose Cleveland Ballet, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Gandhi Memorial International Foundation, and many others.
She was appreciated by many of these organizations who celebrated her humanitarian participation as well as her art work. Her awards include the SF Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Women of Vision Award, Living Legacy Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
The Marin Women’s Hall of Fame adds its adulation of this creative and inspiring artist’s accomplishments: prolific painter, designer, poet, public speaker, community activist and humanitarian.
Schisgall Currier is the founding Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare
Company. During her 18 year tenure, she has done everything that needed to
be done to get the company on a solid financial and artistic footing.
“Everything” includes acting, directing, constructing
sets and props, board building, fundraising, special events and
development in the broadest sense.
Marin Shakespeare Company is widely recognized
for its professional productions each summer at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre
on the campus of Dominican University of California. Under Lesley’s
leadership, MSC has garnered national attention and won many awards.
MSC is also renowned for its educational outreach programs for thousands
of Marin students each year.
Innovative programs are Lesley’s hallmark.
In 1991 she began education programs that now serve more than 5,000
students annually with classes, summer camps, in-school and after
school programs, student matinees, and a Teen Touring Company. More
than 35 schools participate each year. There are free outreach programs
to young people from Marin City and the Canal neighborhood, as well
as to inmates at San Quentin. Lesley empowers students and instills
the desire to use their own abilities and expand their creativity.
Directing is another strong point. Her adaptation
of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, which she wrote and directed,
was nominated for “Best Overall Production of 2002”
by the Bay Area Critics Circle. Her original adaptation of Alice
in Wonderland delighted audiences at Marin Shakespeare Company in
Lesley took her vision “on the road”
by helping start a Shakespeare festival in Los Barriles in Baja,
Mexico. For five years Lesley and husband Robert, Marin Shakespeare’s
Artistic Director, put on annual Shakespearean productions with
the locals, with Lesley co-directing and acting in all five productions.
In 2006 Lesley arranged for Marin and Baja Shakespeare to host the
Shakespeare Theater Association of America (STAA) conference in
tiny Los Barriles.
Lesley holds a B.A. in Religion from Princeton
University, where she received the Frances LeMoyne Page Award for
Theatre. She served on Theatre Bay Area’s Theatre Service
Committee for six years, is past president of STAA, and has twice
been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, an honor
bestowed only on the nation’s best and brightest. The proud
mother of Jackson and Nate, and only 44, Lesley is an exquisite
role model for young women in the arts.
Joanne Dunn's contributions to Marin is an awesome task. She's served
Marin County arts and service organizations as founder, board member,
fundraiser, and PR person for 47 years. She's been happily married
to Gordon Dunn for more than 50 years. A commitment from Joanne
means long-term dedication.
life is the arts began in the 1960's, when as a board member of
the Marin County Junior Theater group, she joined the Masque Unit.
This group brings live theater to children all over the Bay Area.
Over the years she's been an actress, playwright (10 plays!), director,
stagehand, and "gofer." She's still an active performing
has co-founded four major arts organizations. In the 1970s Joanne
and two friends saw the need to supplement arts education in the
schools. The result was Youth In Arts, a highly visible and effectve
nonprofit serving 30,000 Marin students annually. Simultaneously
Joanne founded its volunteer arm, Youth In Arts Auxiliary, she originally
underwrote Youth In Arts and served as its first executive director
(40 volunteer hours/week). Both YIA organizations continue to flourish
after 35 years, and Joanne is still involved.
the 1980s Joanne and friends who share her love of the arts saw
that the county's many various arts organizations were too small
and isolated to have significant impact. Thus the Marin Arts Council,
bringing these individual organizations together under one powerful
umbrella, was born.
the 1990s downtown San Rafael was on the decline. Joanne et al.
saw this as opportunity for the arts community to help and be helped,
so Art Works Downtown was born. This nonprofit creative haven provides
gallery, studio, and living space to artists at reasonable prices.
AWD has been a boon not only to artists and patrons, but it has
made a positive impact on Fourth Street's appearance and economic
growth. AWD is now regarded as one of the Bay Area's premier galleries.
has also worked tirelessly for the Marin Ballet, Marin Wildcare
(formerly Terwilliger center), and San Francisco Theological Center's
Montgomery Chapel. Joanne is also mother of a grown daughter, Sunday
school pageant director, advisor, friend, and more. The common thread
is her vision, imagination, skill, and tenacity. Her talent has
not escaped notice. Mike Groza, recently retired from the Marin
Community Foundation, remarked. "I think we should nominate
Joanne to be the next director of FEMA." We agree!
Mimi Baez Farina first picked up a guitar when she was thirteen.
By the time she was eighteen, she was performing her music on stage.
Since then, Mimi's life has always been close to the performing arts.
In 1974, Mimi became the founder and guiding force behind Bread and
Roses, a non-profit organization which brings free, live, top-quality
entertainment to people confined or isolated in institutions.
Over the years, Mimi has made a significant contribution to the lives
of people in prisons, convalescent homes, AIDS wards, rehabilitation
hospitals and other confined situations. A successful musician
with numerous recordings and live performances around the United States
and Europe, Mimi has used her own talents and enlisted the talents
of others. These artists, by volunteering their time and abilities,
have made a positive difference in the lives of an often forgotten
Bread and Roses currently produces over 400 live
shows each year, reaching a total annual audience of about fifteen
thousand people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bread and Roses
does not charge any fee for its shows. It operates through donations
and grants, keeping its entertainment affordable for all people.
Mimi Farina's commitment and dedication to the success of Bread and
Roses have now inspired other agencies serving many communities throughout
the country to establish similar services.
Read the extended biography by Nancy Nakai
Emily Gates is known not only as a inspirational community member
and role model for young women and girls, but also as one of the most
respected and beloved chorus and musical theater teachers in Northern
California. Born and educated in Ohio, Ms. Gates married her
high school sweetheart and began a music teaching career which continued
through the birth of four children, a move to California, and twenty
years of teaching music in the Novato Unified School District.
She currently teaches Concert Band, Concert Choir, Jazz Choir, Show
Choir and Musical Theater Workshop at San Marin High School.
Ms. Gates serves as a board member and Jazz Show Choir Repertoire
Standards Chair of the American Choral Directors' Association, has
hosted choral festivals and given workshops for the California Music
Educators' Association, and is a member of the Novato Music Educators'
Conference, the California Band Directors Association and the International
Association of Jazz Educators.
Ms. Gates has assembled and coached innumerable
musical groups that have achieved regional and state awards.
She counts her real rewards through the achievements of her former
students in the musical and theatrical fields, many of whom attribute
to her the awakening of their talent.
Anna Halprin, a Marin County resident for over 50 years, has won national
and international awards in recognition of her prestigious achievements
as a dancer and choreographer. Halprin is considered to
be one of the most highly esteemed 20th century dancers, whose ranks
include celebrities such as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham.
She has received the largest dance award in the country, the Samual
H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement.
Since the late 1930's, Halprin has revolutionized
her art form and has inspired fellow choreographers to take modern
dance to new dimensions. She has been an innovator throughout
her career, experimenting with improvisation, with the audience-performer
relationship, and with the place of dance in the social and political
In the early 70's, when she was diagnosed
with cancer, Halprin's focus shifted to healing, not only for herself,
but for others and for the planet. This concern led her to work
with cancer patients, and to create healing rituals for the community.
One such ritual, the "Circle the Earth" dance, is performed
annually at Easter on Mt. Tamalpais and has been introduced in 36
countries throughout the world. Her "Planetary Dance: A
Prayer for Peace," was staged in Berlin at an event commemorating
the end of World War II. In 1995, Halprin was invited by Mikhail
Gorbachev to present an invocation at the State of the World Forum
in California. She published Dance as a Healing Art,
as a source of guidance and support for those living with a life threatening
Read the extended biography by Rita Gardner
Smith's middle name must be "Music." She arrived in the Bay
Area from Kansas (just like Dorothy) in 1957, with a degree in Music
Education from Kansas University. Typical of the time, Marilyn
placed her career on hold while she and her husband Bob raised five
children, who all attended Mill Valley Public Schools.
became involved with the music program at Old Mill School. Before
she knew it, was producing musicals for Steve Riffkin, then a
student teacher. Concurrently, she produced outdoor concerts
for the Marin Symphony and the Children's Fun Concerts with Hugo
Rinaldi at the Veteran's Auditorium at the Civic Center. In 1976,
with funding from Mill Valley, Marilyn produced Steve Riffkin's
original Bicentennial Suite and presented it in the Headlands. This
production involved setting up a shuttle bus system, which led to
her next adventure.
Board of the Mountain Play found itself without a production staff;
they had filled in the 1976 program with a free band concert and
picnic. They discovered they needed a shuttle bus system to get
crowds on and off the mountain, so they asked Marilyn to produce the
next year's play - mainly because she had busing experience.
Marilyn's first Mountain Play (1977) was "Clothes," a musical
written by George Leonard and Susan Trott, with original music by
Steve Riffkin. A takeoff on "The Emperors New Clothes," the play
was an instant hit. With "Clothes" the Mountain Play discovered
that Marin audiences love musical theater.
During the next three years, Marilyn continued as a volunteer
producer of the event. She brought in Martin Frick, Michelle Swanson
and Ben Dickson as Artistic Directors. In 1981, James Dunn, then head
of the Drama Department at the College of Marin, came on board,
bringing access to an enthusiastic talent pool from the College. Dunn
added "surprise" elements to almost every production. But Marilyn would
be the one who scouted and located the "special effects" requested by
Dunn. The effects ran the gamut from a World War II airplane, to a cow,
a horse-drawn carriage, a motorcycle, even Cuban dancers -effects that
gave the productions authenticity.
For the last
quarter century musicals have continued to thrill Mountain Play
audiences. Marilyn continued as Executive Director until retiring in
1999, her 23rd year with the organization. Today the Mountain Play,
in its 92nd season, is thriving. This wouldn't have
happened without Marilyn Smith.
Phyllis has the extraordinary ability to visualize possibilities,
and organize and orchestrate vision to reality.
During the past 40 years, Phyllis has committed
herself to volunteer community service through leadership in supporting
existing cultural institutions and developing new ones. She
has worked to further understanding about the role that art plays
in quality of life. By learning a new vocabulary to communicate
with businessmen and politicians, she has been successful in advancing
her culture goals. She welcomes obstacles and challenging barriers.
Among her many accomplishments is her 32-year
leadership of the Marin Ballet Association during which time she aided
in its growth and development, including the purchase of its building.
She helped salvage and spearheaded the building of the Civic Center
Memorial Theater and served as founding member of what was to become
the Marin County Fair and Parks Commission.
A fine visual artist herself, she has designed
and produced original posters for the Marin Ballet, "Dance Through
Time", and the International Dance Alliance. Her
leadership and fundraising efforts have enabled the development of
many cultural organizations including the Art Works Downtown, Youth
in Arts and Marin Arts Council.
Phyllis' two daughters, four granddaughters,
their friends, ballet school graduates, artists, co-workers and friends
declare her as an important role model in their lives. She believes
that her most lasting contributions to the community are her four
children who are making significant contributions to the community
on their own.
here to learn more about this woman.