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Stratford’s Coriolanus Streams Hard and Fast into our Cinematic Heads

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As I dive in day-by-day into the seemingly infinity swimming pool of streamed theatre, I can’t help but notice that the waters are deep with various degrees of warmth and comfort. The National Theatre in London is turning out stellar films of their productions that almost make you feel you are getting something that rivals the real thing. I strain to think that anything can actually best the human experience of sitting side-by-side-by-side (have to throw in a Sondheim reference) in a theatre, although what I’m luckily experiencing is coming pretty close. Generally speaking. This can definitely be said about the second Stratford Festivalproduction, Coriolanus, that has been made available for free on their YouTube channel.  The roll-out of the Stratford Festival On Film series has been scheduled around four themes that seem pertinent to this time of government response to a pandemic and hopefully this streaming will spark further thought or conversation amongst viewers. The theme is ‘Social Order’, an idea most needed to debate and discuss as we watch the world either rise to the occasion or fall apart in selfish disarray. It started with King Lear and continues with this mind blowingly beautiful production of Coriolanus and later this week with a sexy steamy Macbeth.  Other themes to follow are ‘Isolation’, ‘Minds Pushed to the Edge’, and ‘Relationships’.

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Photography by David Hou.

Coriolanusthe man and the myth, figures prominently in the idea of ‘Social Order’ and global politics, particularly with the fatal flaw of prideful arrogance. The man and soldier is a snob of the highest order, looking down his hot-tempered nose at the lower class. He believes with all his aristocratic arrogance that plebeians don’t deserve very much, especially when it comes to political power. It’s a position that should resonate well within the States as the party in power seems to value the strength of the economy and holding onto power over lives lost.  In the opening moments, when Coriolanus’ majestic bust transforms into a symbolic talking head, the dicotomy of power over empathy is thrown a complicated curveball in terms of history and governance. Many could think of his refusal to pander as something refreshing and heroic, if it were not for the unlikeable aspects of his speech and personality. What is clear, is that this production, the brain child of director and designer Robert Lepage (Cirque du Soleil’s Totem), is magnificently dynamic and progressive, pushing forth creative stances both visually, intellectually, and emotionally that rise high above the rest. It’s captivating in its theatrical inventiveness, giving us a new way to see and hear this complex, somewhat daunting play. It’s a wonder of a stage show, bordering on filmatic, and then filmed for our enjoyment. A captivating double duties idea to relish in.

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Members of the company. Photography by David Hou.

This Shakespearian tragedy, written somewhere between 1605 and 1608, is based on the life of the legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. It focuses its literal eye on the socio-political arena, a topic most revelevnt to our time and place, and played out within the framework of social media and the surging forth of populism around the world, unwrapped before our eyes with a clear minded focus. Lepage, alongside his production company Ex Machina, sets out to enhance and connect to the themes laid out by Shakespeare, but using formulations that are borrowed more from clever filmmaking than classic literature and traditional theatrical techniques. The multimedia wonder that topped most of Toronto’s best-of-the-year theatre lists in 2018 succeeds spectacularly, smoothly narrowing our vision on what’s important and expanding our horizons to the bigger picture. He closes the vantage points to purposeful force our eye to follow his, borrowing most extensively from film techniques to tell a story wrapped in back room politics and ferocious war rhetoric. It’s filled with tremendously vibrate visuals that take us deeper inside the emotional and the intellectual of its story, fulfilling the theatrical task with fearless confidence and ingenuity.

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André Sills (left) as Coriolanus and Michael Blake as Cominius. Photography by David Hou.

Presenting its themes within across-the-board cinematic foundations, the story of the titular aggressive military leader, played by the powerful André Sills (Soulpepper’s Home), is electric with intrigue and modern day parallels. A political talk show scenario radiates out in waves, in the beginning, throwing us quickly into the deep conflict with a glass shattering pop. “Who does the wolf love?” And the response is a lamb that he can devour.  This is the essence of the violent war games we are being given, played out by adrenaline-addicted toy soldiers grown large. The elaborate play-pieces are set down in child-like fashion, and the transitions from one state to another fly up and float elegantly across the stage like steam on a hot sauna floor. It’s almost hard to imagine when watching the film, how it would be to watch live, but it also plays with our imagination most elegantly. The manipulations within the power structure, embodied by the fascinating Tom McCamus (CBC’s ‘Street Legal‘) as Coriolanus’s smooth-talking advisor, Menenius, and the dynamic duo, Stephen Ouimette (‘Slings and Arrows‘) and Tom Rooney (Stratford’s 2017 Twelfth Night) as the manipulative tributes Junius and Sicinius, resonate. They play out the conflict dynamically in luxury cocktail bars and fine restaurants, giving the false edge of honest civility but offering none underneath. During those problematic political times, they provide an elegant backdrops for a master class in ensemble acting. The actors, including Michael Blake (Stratford’s King Lear) as Cominius, are smart and swift in their dissimulating of information gathered, and dynamic in their shared and multi-leveled meaning.

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Stephen Ouimette (left) as Junius Brutus and Tom Rooney as Sicinius Velutus. Photography by David Hou.

Fanning the flames of populism among the Roman plebeians, Coriolanus is doomed to a rapid merciless downfall, and Sills finds the right edge of antagonism that reigns supreme. He’s far from likeable, giving us a menacing performance that borders on disruption and post-traumatic stress disorder.  He flinches and flexes within his towering performance, but softens in the arms of his loyal wife, Virgilia, played with understated care by Alexis Gordon (Shaw Festival’s Brigadoon). But it is in his aggressive discomfort when trying to appease the people of Rome that throws him tragically down into the dirt.  Filled to the rim with arrogance and obsessive pride, Sills’s Coriolanus fuels his own banishment, throwing impatient insults at the people whenever pushed to the edge. The rebuttal to his disdainful manner sends him forcibly off, driving full speed, most theatrically dynamic, into the arms of the enemy, Volscian general Aufidius, played with a strong sexual force by Graham Abbey (Stratford’s Tartuffe). Embracing the warrier with an erotic touch of love and respect, the delicate dance of adoration wraps up Coriolanus’ defection to the Volscian side in a muscular hold. Abbey finds energy and insight in his portrayal of a sensual man who is dynamically invested in his handsome lieutenant, strongly played by Johnathan Sousa (Stratford’s Othello), and then the mighty Coriolanus, sparking an engaged warrior stance within them both.

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Members of the company. Photography by David Hou.

Equally strong and aggressive, Coriolanus’ manipulative, strong-willed mother, Volumnia, played with a powerful strong punch by Lucy Peacock (Broadway’s 2004 King Lear), digs into the text with relish, finding every imaginable sharp edge and dramatic emotion within her magnificent soliloquies. She pushes and prodes at all those around her, forever finding it impossible to hold her tongue, even when she pretends or insinuates that she should. She finds humor in her rage, and frightening thought in her manipulative power, decoding the way into her son’s heart as her son’s wife watches on in passive bewilderment.  It’s charged and forceful, almost too big for the tightly orchestrated structure to contain, especially when filmed so beautifully by film director Barry Avrich (“The Last Mogul“). This is a performance for the stage, and one I’m sad to have missed.

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Members of the company. Photography by David Hou.

The cinematic beauty of what is being orchestrated on stage wonderfully mystifies and engages. The design leads the eye to glide along by the mimicking of a camera panning shot or a forced close-up. The blackness moves in, giving our vantage point direction while demanding reflection on a character’s introspection and purpose. Even in Lepage’s recreation, involving a funny conversation between soldiers using text messaging, Coriolanus finds depth and humor in a clever stylized creation. It’s in Lepage’s daring that he finds theatrical beauty and power in the pseudo-filmatic construct. Destined to be forever remembered for its strong sense of self, the usually difficult long play marches forward with a sure-footed arrogance that is worthy of the titular character, but without any of the prideful disdain for his audience. His unique approach finds clarity in the vision, making this Coliolanus sing in the myriad of projections, shifting set pieces, and expansive horizons. I was never really clear, when watching the streamed filming of the stage show, how he was able to accomplish all of this technological perfection, but it’s there, for us all to understand and dive into with Shakespearian glee.  Climb in and drive forth with speed, as you are sure to be amazed and enlightened with the ride. 

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André Sills as Coriolanus. Photography by David Hou.

The next filmed production in Stratford Festival on Film series is Macbeth, my favorite, and it looks delicious. For those who are able in these trying times, please consider donating to this or any arts organizations, as they strive to continue to provide artistic beauty and intellectual stimulation in a world shaken by this pandemic. My hope is that this gift will remind people just how vital the arts are to our communities, our sense of self, and (for many of us) our sanity. https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/SupportUs

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For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Events

The Ellen Hermanson Foundation Auctions Off Jackets To Save Women’s Lives Part 3

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We told you about the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, annual Summer Gala to raise funds for women and breast cancer. Tomorrow night is the auction of denim jackets painted by famous artists. We told you about Shani Grosz and Roger Sichel who have created rocking jean jackets. Today Jane Elissa whose jackets are a staple in the Broadway community.

Jane also donated a pillow and painting.

Jane Elissa is a New York based artist creating artwork on canvas combining elements of paint, created appliques, collage, beads, vintage materials and tapestries. Each unique piece tells a story capturing the imagination, emotions and point of view that is uniquely hers. She has many celebrity clients and her work has been featured on national morning shows as well as QVC and HSN.

Eddie Redmayne’s jacket Jane did for him fro Cabaret

For the past 30 years, Jane has been voluntarily raising money for cancer and leukemia research through her benefits and designs. We are honored to add Jane Elissa’s collectibles to our product line as a percentage of each sale will be donated to charities.

Jane Elissa

The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center is designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR).  The Center offers a wide spectrum of breast health services, including education, early detection screenings and breast cancer treatment and support. The Center utilizes state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques, including computer-assisted mammography, ultrasound and a breast biopsy system that locates breast abnormalities and obtains tissue samples.

Breast cancer is a mind-numbing experience, not only for each patient, but for their families and friends. In a time of tremendous stress, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Ellen Hermanson Breast Center offers a comprehensive patient-centric approach. Under the leadership of our fellowship-trained breast surgeon Dr. Edna Kapenhas, the Center includes Board-certified radiologists, pathologist, oncology nurse, radiology nurses, patient navigator, and certified technologists. Satellite diagnostic services are also located in East Hampton and Hampton Bays.

Did you know early breast cancer rarely has symptoms. Self-examination, an annual clinical examination and, depending on your age and family history, an annual mammogram are key to detecting breast cancer as early as possible. While most breast changes are not cancerous, it’s important to have them evaluated promptly. If you discover a lump or any of the other warning signs of breast cancer, especially if the changes persist after one menstrual cycle or they change the appearance of your breast, see your doctor immediately. If you’ve been treated for breast cancer in the past, report any new signs or symptoms right away. Symptoms may include:

  • A lump in the breast or a lump in the armpit that is hard and often does not hurt
  • Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple (redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange)
  • Fluid coming from the nipple

In the event of a breast cancer diagnosis, and once definitive surgery has been completed, the patient may be referred to a medical and/or radiation oncologist for further treatment.

The Ellen Hermanson Foundation

To bid on the jackets and see more click here.

For more information visitellenhermanson.org.

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

ARGENT RETIRES — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Rod Argent, a founder and longtime keyboardist for the British Invasion band the Zombies, has announced his retirement from touring following a stroke.

The group’s management announced in a statement that said: “We are saddened to report that Rod Argent, founder, keyboardist and primary songwriter of the Zombies, has suffered a stroke. Rod had recently returned home from a triumphant Zombies tour of the U.K. and spent a weekend in London with his beloved wife, Cathy, celebrating his 79th birthday and their 52nd wedding anniversary, before the stroke occurred.

“He was hospitalized overnight and released the next day. Doctors have advised that Rod will need several months of rest and recuperation. Rod has asked us to convey that he has made the very difficult decision to immediately retire from touring in order to protect his health. He was already preparing to wind down his live performance schedule after health scares on recent tours.”

In January 2022, the Zombies pushed back tour dates to 2023 after an unnamed member required an “urgent but non-life-threatening” medical procedure.

The band has been active in recent years, following their 2019 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They released their seventh album, Different Game, last year.

Argent and the Zombies had their first hit in 1964 with “She’s Not There.” The Hertfordshire, England-formed band, featuring singer Colin Blunstone, scored three Top 10 singles by the end of the decade, including “Time of the Season” from their classic 1968 album Odessey and Oracle, their last before a 1991 reunion LP.

During the break, Argent led the band Argent, which had a Top 5 hit in 1972 with “Hold Your Head Up.”

Argent and Blunstone, along with original bassist Chris White and original drummer Hugh Grundy, got back together for a 50th anniversary tour of Odessey and Oracle in 2017. (Original guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004.) The quartet has since toured with other current members of the band.

The statement concluded, “We don’t know what the future holds. What we have to tell fans today is that all upcoming performances by the Zombies will be canceled.”

SHORT TAKES — Watched the cast of Stereophonic perform two numbers on Thursday’s Today show.

This is the show that openly boasts that the play is a performance of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and how it was recorded. I was actually surprised by just how closely it sounded like that album. If I was Mick Fleetwood, I’d ask for some of the profits. Amazing! …

Nicky Hopkins

You may not know the name Nicky Hopkins, but in the 60’s and 70’s he played with everyone from Joe Cocker to John Lennon and George Harrison.

He also put out a killer solo album called The Tin Man Was a Dreamer in 1983. He passed away years ago, but there’s a new doc on him (Session Man). He was a great player. Check out the trailer: https://thesessionmanfilm.com

… A Broadway-play on the life of Muhammad Ali is in the works … Saw the first commercial yesterday for back-to-school. does that mean the summer is officially over? …

Kevin Costner’s Horizon is going to MAX shortly. Sadly, it has not been the smash everyone desperately wanted. Check out Deadline’stake on it: https://deadline.com/2024/07/horizon-2-delayed-1236006327/

The Alec Baldwin trial has begun in Santa Fe. Will he testify? Hard call. Again, I think it was just a terrible accident. Should gun-safety be increased on movie sets? Of course …

Jeff Zucker

The Zuck returns? Rumors spread like wildfire Thursday that Jeff Zucker (NBC and CNN) will now run CBS News. He’s a visionary for sure … Happy Bday Shep Pettibone … RIP Shelley Duvall

NAMES IN THE NEWS —– Jackie Stander; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Owen Bradley; Jon Bon Jovi; Brad Balfour; Jordan Gray; Steve Immerman; Tony Seidl; Frank’s Steaks; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Nancy Ruth; Teresa Knox; Freda Payne; Brenda Lee; Mike Campbell; Veruca Salt; Bonnie Culpeppersmith; Roy Trakin; Daryl Hall; Jonathan Wolfson; Carl Perkins; Tommy James; Carol Ross; Marty Ostrow; Jann Wenner; and BELLA!

 Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Times Square Chronicles Presents The Hamptons

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Since “Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents” is so popular, we decided to do a summer edition called “Times Square Chronicles Presents The Hamptons”. We started with the Bay Street Theatre  Gala because it is what we know.,,,,,theatre. The Gala honored Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, and Dr. Georgette Grier-Key.

In this episode you can see Richard Kind, Marc Kudisch, Scott Schwartz, Tovah Feldshuh, Lena Hall, Tracy Mitchell, Rose Caiola, Stewart F Lane, Lliana Guibert, Kate Edelman Johnson, Steve Leber and Bonnie Lautenberg and Riki Kane Larimer.

You can watch us here

 

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The Ellen Hermanson Foundation Auctions Off Jackets To Save Women’s Lives Part 2

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Yesterday we told you about the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, annual Summer Gala to raise funds for women and breast cancer. Ellen Hermanson was an articulate, courageous and indomitable warrior in the war against breast cancer. Her personal battle with the disease began when she was diagnosed with breast cancer while still nursing her six-month-old daughter. Ellen fought against her disease medically by undergoing surgery and aggressive chemotherapy. She also fought against breast cancer by becoming an activist and advocate. A journalist by training, she used her prodigious talent as a writer to give voice to the needs of breast cancer survivors and to educate her readers about the importance of being well informed, the challenges of living with breast cancer, and the availability of resources to help with the myriad problems that arise as a result of breast cancer. Her remarkable accomplishments attest to her extraordinary inner strength and selfless generosity. Ellen lost her hard-fought battle with breast cancer at the age of 42. She was working on an article exploring the then new and exciting potential of the Internet as a source of information and sharing for patients and their families. Ellen left a legacy of dignity, courage, determination, grace and love to all who knew her. To honor her memory, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation has been established to support and continue the important work she began.

Julie Ratner along with her sister her sister Emily Levin co-founded The Ellen Hermanson Foundation in honor of their younger sister, Ellen. The foundation has distributed more than $4 million in grants. Julie is a member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the New York State Breast Cancer Network.

Roger, Julie and Roger’s jackets

Part of the way they will raise money is to auction off denim jackets painted by famous artists. We told you about Shani Grosz and now Roger Sichel has created rocking jean jackets. One for adults with his famous photo of Janis Joplin. He also did a second jacket for kids with his newest art….Puppy on Futuristic Mars.  Rogers art was at Coachella this year and is on the moon. His art is in several galleries in Beverly Hills, Palm Beach and The Hamptons.

To bid on these jackets, attend the Gala or just donate go to #EHFGala2024

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The Ellen Hermanson Foundation Auctions Off Jackets To Save Women’s Lives

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The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people affected by cancer. This Saturday they will host their annual Summer Gala to raise funds. The event on  July 13, is from 6:30 to 11:30 PM at Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club. Beside oceanside cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dancing, and an auction, followed by an after-party beach bonfire and s’mores. 

The foundation will honor Dr. Fredric Weinbaum, medical doctor and former Chief Administrative Officer/COO of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and The Honorable Rebecca A. Seawright, Member of the New York State Assembly whose 3-D screening bill, signed into law, expands access to cancer screenings without cost sharing to include 3-D Mammography. 

Part of the way they will raise money is to auction off denim jackets painted by famous artists. Three of the artists are friends of T2C and we want to highlight their work as well as give you insight on how to bid for a really good cause.

Shani and her jacket

First up is Shani Grosz. Her denim jacket combines fashion and Shani’s passion for painting she created a fantasy hand painted garden themed denim jacket trimmed with a lace bustle for drama and sprinkled with Swarovski crystals . All created with a magical vibe and a theme quote painted in the back of the jacket that reads “ the darkest Nights produce the brightest stars. “ … with the theme that women going through tough times such as cancer treatments are the true bright shining stars.

Shani is a graduate of Parson’s School of Design, and has established herself as an important and internationally recognized designer with over two decades as the President and Designer of SHANI Collection. She has won many prestigious design awards for her well executed vision of “Wearable Art”. Over the years, she has dressed various celebrities, news anchors, Broadway stars, television personalities and developed numerous wardrobes for both film and TV and as a teacher within the Designer Critic Program at FIT, Shani works closely at developing up and coming talent. Shani designs for the modern woman, celebrating her multi-faceted lifestyle that allows her to be both feminine and strong.

Shani

To know Shani is to know that she is a girl’s girl, so it’s only logical that her designs are about feeling free and comfortable in your skin. Shani’s designs are like the perfect little black dress –something every woman needs in her wardrobe that she can always count on to let her look her best. Her dresses are available at www.shanicollection.com. Please follow us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/shanidress.official.

To bid on Shani’s and the other artist were highlighting read more tomorrow.

On February 15, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation awarded $363,000 in grants to further its mission of assisting people being treated for breast cancer. The funding advances the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where no patients are turned away for lack of insurance, as well as its local satellite locations and Ellen’s Well, a psychosocial support program for patients. Grants were also awarded to members of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation Community Partnership to support bilingual outreach, social support, and breast care education for women without ready access to health care.

This year, funds raised will go toward acquiring a cutting-edge tomosynthesis mammography machine at the center, providing breast screenings and diagnostic procedures, allocating Ellen’s Well micro-grants for transportation and social services, supporting the Phillips Family Cancer Care Summit and paying a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a nurse practitioner, and an oncology nurse patient navigator at Ellen’s Well.

For more information visit ellenhermanson.org.

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