June August has had a varied career as a writer, composer, and performer. Among her completed works are the book and lyrics for The Key of Me, a musical inspired by the life of Ethel Waters. With late actor Arthur Peterson, June co-authored the solo show ROBERT FROST: Fire and Ice, which premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse before playing off-Broadway and touring internationally for more than five years, including performances in the Netherlands, Germany, George Mason University, and two return engagements to theaters in Los Angeles. She penned the book, music, and lyrics for six family musicals, including How to Succeed at Witchery Without Half Trying and The Man in the Crooked Hat.
June has done television voice-over work and performed in regional productions, including A View from the Bridge, The Real Inspector Hound, Medea, A Lion in Winter, Fiddler on the Roof, Why Hannah's Skirt Won't Stay Down, and A Doll's House. While living in Florida, she was resident composer and music director for Lollipop Children's Theater. Her songs are published by Tommy Dreams Music Group (ASCAP) and are included on the CD sets 125 Songs For Kids and Baby Concerts.
In addition to creating and producing dozens of short educational films and audio-visual materials, June co-authored the children's book The Adventures of Lagu Lagu the Hawk, which she is currently adapting into an animated feature film, two texts with her husband, Dr. Jay Zorn: Listening to Music, now in its 5th edition, and Music Listener's Companion, and with Dr. Jayne Campbell, she co-authored Broadway Beginnings: Creating a National Identity.
For more than fifteen years, June conducted business and technical writing workshops in Fortune 500 companies throughout North America. For the past three years, June has been teaching an 8th-grade writing class at St. Bede's School in La Canada.
June was Editorial Director of the Education Division, Walt Disney Productions, Director of Public Information, WPBT-Channel 2, Miami, and Director of Public Information, University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Boston.
| SONNY FOX
When Sonny Fox was in the fifth grade she wrote Family Humor, which was about her family and what she perceived as their idiosyncrasies. That was the beginning of her enjoyment and appreciation of the written word.
Sonny is a graduate of UCLA where she was an education major, with a minor in English and speech. Prior to marriage she taught elementary school in LAUSD and at Francis Parker, a private school, after marrying and moving to Chicago. While at Francis Parker she wrote Cindy Lou, a book for children, which was published by J.P. Putnam Sons. The book went into numerous printings and became a well known classic. To this day, and to Sonny's amazement, she meets adults who recall the book from when they were children.
Another book for children followed, which was also published by Putnam. It tells the story of the Chicago Fire and is titled Chicago Burns . While living in Chicago Sonny had articles published in women's magazines.
After returning to Los Angeles with her family Sonny decided to venture in real estate. She joined Jon Douglas Company when they opened their first office in the San Fernando Valley. Over the years the Company has evolved into Coldwell Banker. Sonny became a top agent with Coldwell Banker, one who not only knew real estate, but an agent who was highly respected in the business and in the community. Sonny has had articles published in real estate magazines and wrote articles for the newsletter of a local elementary school which she co-sponsored.
A sequel for Cindy Lou has been written as well as a book about real estate. Right now Sonny is concentrating on Sexy Widows, producing the play with June August, and the book of poems, co-authored with June August. This has been a long journey, traveled without a suitcase.
* * * * * * * *
Why not? It was 2006. June August and Sonny Fox had just lost their husbands and, with them, the lives they had led for decades—everything they had taken for granted. What more did they have to lose? At first, adult children, family, friends, neighbors were caring and attentive. There was still energy in the house—and a bowl of soup, and a muffin to eat with a cup of tea or coffee. Once everyone returned to their own lives, they ate alone, went to sleep alone, woke up alone. Car keys and cell phones seemed to disappear. Everyday activities associated with their spouses—reading the morning paper or watching a favorite television show—produced sudden tearbursts. Life, in a word, sucked.
|Sonny Fox and June August
But it wasn't over. June and Sonny took the next step. Some call it a bereavement group. Some, a support group. To them, it was something to look forward to. The meetings sponsored by H.O.P.E. Foundation were a safe place to unburden themselves among simpatico companions. And maybe, just maybe, the group would help them find what they were looking for: Hope.
"I woke up and realized my life had changed 180 degrees," Sonny said at one of the meetings. "I was now completely responsible for myself." Then June shared, "I wanted to see my husband's death not as an ending point, but as a starting point."
Sonny is a realtor. June is a writer. The 5th edition of the music appreciation book she had co-authored with her husband had just been released. She was a ship without a sail—a writer without a current project. After several overtures, Sonny finally convinced June to meet her for lunch at Mo's in Toluca Lake. Sonny proposed writing a book of uplifting poems for widows, but by the second lunch at Mo's, the project had taken a new direction. "I'm not a poet," June said. "I write books and plays and songs. Why don't we write a musical? Maybe it'll become a television series or a film."
"Show business!?!" Sonny exclaimed. "Aren't we a little old to get started in show business?" "The right time is the time left," said June. "If we're going to go for it, let's go big."
Over the next six months, poems poured out of Sonny, and June completed fifteen songs. It was time to try out the music for friends from our bereavement group. "They sat in Sonny's living room and listened as if the songs had been written just for them," June says. "And they were. They laughed at the humor and related to the sentiments because we were all at the same point in the healing process. Yet we knew we had the basis for a score."
The next step was to make the music accessible to a wider audience and put it into a context. In 2008, thanks to a Dramatists Guild program called Friday Footlights Festival, June was offered a free performance venue in Noho. With Sonny's input and only three weeks to make it happen, June cobbled together a script, completed the score, and found a cast and crew. Sonny quickly learned the knack of filling a theater. An enthusiastic audience of 80 friends, relatives, colleagues, and anyone else they could persuade to come out on a Friday night saw the debut performance of Sexy Widows.
"They loved it!" Sonny recalls. "They really loved it."
When the Crescenta Valley Y scheduled a reading as a grief program before the December holidays, June wondered whether the title Sexy Widows be appropriate for the event? It became SEQUEL: Life Begins Again. An audience of 100 showered encouragement on the two widows. But the show was still evolving from personal experience. Sonny's poems spoke to the early stages of grief and loss. June's script was looking toward the future. It needed further character development and a clear story about life after grief.
"I interviewed dozens of widows and widowers, and I became a student of my own recovery process," June says. "Whenever I sat down to write, I relived grief." So she put the script aside and worked with Sonny to complete the book of poems, adding song lyrics taken out of the show.
"But the characters wouldn't stop talking to me, even in my sleep. Who were these people—demanding that I breathe life into them as authentic human beings? I didn't know them well enough to put words into their mouths."
Sonny suggested that they offer to produce two performances as fund-raisers for HOPE Foundation, the non-profit that sponsors the group where they met. It would be a win-win—motivation to continue developing the show as well as an expression of appreciation. Negotiations began with the Board of Directors, and in September 2010, SEQUEL: Life Begins Again was mounted anew. The two sold-out performances garnered an excellent review from the Tolucan Times. More than 700 people had seen the show since its inception.
As the widow of a professor of music at USC Thornton School of Music, June was entitled to join the Emeriti Center of USC, an organization of retired faculty, staff, and surviving spouses. When a luncheon for widows and widowers was announced in late 2010, she invited Sonny to join her. "I don't know why, but I brought the review and the program for the show with me," June recalls.
Also at the luncheon was Bob Scales, Dean Emeritus of the USC School of Theater. She told the group about the show and gave Bob the program and review. He offered to help. Two widows found what they were looking for: Hope—now combined with Opportunity.
"It soon became apparent that anything is possible with Bob Scales on your team," June says. Their association launched more than a year of intensive script revisions, with a final package under original title, Sexy Widows. It was no longer a question of whether the title was appropriate. To the two widows, sexy means "vibrant and alive." And it inspired them to create a web site dedicated to people who are bouncing back from loss and seeking information, support, and an outlet for self-expression.
The musical Sexy Widow will have a 6-performance run during the first two weekends in June at the 24th Street Theater, Los Angeles. For more information, visit the Web site: TwoWidowsProductions.com or call: 818-203-1984.
Why did two widows decide to shoot the moon? Because they wanted to exercise the power to reclaim their lives.