CVIndependent

Tue12012020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Back when the news was being dominated by the federal “zero-tolerance policy” which was resulting in family separations at the border, I attended a presentation by the writers’ group at Coachella Valley Repertory—always a great way to experience local talent.

The final writer performing her original work was Barbara Fast, the new pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, doing a piece she called I Am Miriam. She told the story of Moses’ journey down the Nile in a reed basket, into the arms of the Egyptian princess who adopted him into the royal kingdom, from the perspective of Miriam, Moses’ sister.

In Fast’s version, Miriam followed her brother’s journey and then suggested to the princess that she could get a Hebrew woman to breast-feed the baby—enabling their real mother to suckle her own infant. When Fast said her line about how no child should ever be separated from its mother, the audience gasped—a collective intake of breath at the ironic current relevance of that age-old story. I still get goosebumps when I recall the moment.

Barbara Fast, 67, has been in the desert for only a year and a half. She was born and raised in New York City, the only child of working parents.

“I was what used to be called a ‘latch-key kid,’” says Fast. “My mom and dad were big influences on me. I would get to go to work with my dad sometimes, at the Veterans Administration, and I learned to have respect for those who serve in any capacity in our government.”

In high school, Fast specialized in math and science. She then attended Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in philosophy, and went on to earn a law degree from Georgetown University.

“My senior high school year was 1968, when so much was going on, particularly the King and Kennedy killings,” she says. “I had already become involved in local political campaigns, and then once I was in college, there were the Kent State killings, bus riders in the South, and marches. Fairness and justice were always really important to me.”

As a lawyer, Fast went into trial practice. “It was what I seemed to be good at, and I loved the thinking,” she says. “I became a prosecutor in New York state—not a defense lawyer, because I was all about justice and discretion on behalf of the people. In the late 1970s, New York was coming out of bankruptcy; graffiti was everywhere. I felt I was participating in upholding standards. Every day, there were ethical issues.”

The work required an enormous commitment. Fast and her husband decided to move to Connecticut to start a family, and she began to teach law.

How did Fast go from law to religion?

“My husband is Jewish, and I’m sort of Catholic (from a mixed marriage),” she says. “We decided to raise our children in the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Westport. I was doing lots of volunteer work on environmental issues and was asked to give personal witness at the church for Earth Day. I spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing to do five minutes, but I realized then that although I had always been standing in the back, I wanted to be in front of the church. I wanted to engage the hearts of the people.

“We live in this world, and it’s about how to live with integrity and joy. We don’t know for sure what happens afterward, so we can only imagine and wonder. What I do now is about how we live our lives. If we can ask the right questions, we can get to the right answers.

“Somebody once said to me, ‘If it knocks more than once, it could be God knocking.’ I’ve never forgotten that. I applied to go part-time to Yale and felt at home in divinity school, studying the Old Testament and ethics.“

Fast met her husband, Jonathan, in college, but it wasn’t until they met again at an alumni event that they got together. They have now been married 35 years.

“I have three wonderful children: Molly, my stepdaughter, and two sons, Ben and Dan. Jon was a novelist, but we both made career shifts at about the same time. He started teaching social policy, and I went into divinity school.”

What brought them to the Coachella Valley?

“About two years ago, we decided to retire, after kicking it around for about a year. I had served churches in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and then back to Connecticut, and I was tired. After the Sandy Hook shootings happened nearby, I was in a state of trauma. It was all just so sad.

“Jon was retiring, and our son Ben was in Los Angeles, so we looked around there. Then we came over the mountain originally thinking it was ridiculous—it was August, and the temperature was about 114! But we fell in love with this area. It’s affordable, and there are so many creative people here. We wanted a place that was near a UU church, and when we attended, we found a great group of people, friendly and smart. We knew the church was in transition; they weren’t ready at that time for a full-time pastor, but I did preach there a few times.”

Shortly after arriving in Rancho Mirage, Fast sought out the CV Rep Writers’ Group, run by Andy Harmon.

“It’s wonderful,” she says. “I had crafted stories as part of sermons, not just about individuals, but about human beings in general and the human condition, trying to make connections with how we are living now. I had presented stories, after gathering evidence and analyzing it, as a lawyer. Then I did it in sermons. Now I wanted to expand my capabilities. Biblical text is very compact, so when I was writing about Miriam, I asked myself, ‘Why did she go into the water? How did she get there, down the Nile? What must it be like to sacrifice your child?’”

Fast says a “calling” is when your greatest love meets the world’s greatest need: “It takes different shapes at different times of your life.”

Lucky for us, Fast’s current time of life is here in the desert. She shares stories with her “audience” every Sunday, making a difference in the community, and bringing goose bumps to her listeners.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 13 and 27. $15 at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Doris and Me!—From CV Rep’s Cabaret Series

Back by popular demand, this tribute to Doris Day features Scott Dreier singing from the Doris Day songbook, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20; and 2 p.m., Sunday, June 21. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Funny Little Thing Called Love—From Desert Theatreworks

This Jones Hope Wooten comedy, featuring four tales, is all about that four letter word: L-O-V-E; at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, June 19, through Saturday, June 27. $26 regular; $24 seniors; $16 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

McCallum Theatre Institute’s 2015 Summer Session Festival

During the SHUFFLE Concert, a genre-bending chamber-music celebration, the audience chooses what pieces will be performed, at 3 p.m., Monday, June 15. $10 to $15. Argentine twin brothers Martin and Facundo Lombard are joined by five tango musicians for a concert experience based on Astor Piazzolla’s spirited Nuevo Tango in Lombard Plays Piazzolla, at 3 p.m., Wednesday, June 17. $10 to $15. David Gonzalez conjures up jazz-infused narratives in Mytholo-Jazz, at 3 p.m., Friday, June 19. $10 to $15. Three-performance pass $20 to $35. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood—From Theatre 29

This musical ends differently every night, depending on what the audience decides. A rowdy ensemble of actors mounts a staging of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, and everyone is a suspect in the murder of young Edwin Drood; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, June 27; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, June 7 and 21. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Nicky as Carol—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Carol Channing impersonator Nicky Ciampoli performs a tribute show at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 6; and 2 p.m., Sunday, June 7. $25. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Sundays in Summer Series

Tish Oney performs in Divas and Masters of Jazz at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 7. Keisha D sings Keep Calm, It’s Just Love at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 14. We’re Still Here is a cabaret revue featuring Noni Lambertson, Marge Harris, Pat McCann, Patti Gallagher and Jean Sorf, at 2 p.m., June 21. Jeanne Page reworks the Great American Songbook in Reboot Live at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 28. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731.

Published in Theater and Dance

La Cage Aux Folles—From Palm Canyon Theatre

Georges manages the Saint-Tropez nightclub, featuring drag entertainment. When Georges’ son brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents, things get crazy; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 15, through Sunday, May 24. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, May 9 and 23. $15 at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Fiddler on the Roof

College of the Desert presents Fiddler on the Roof at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3; $20 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Hold These Truths—From CV Rep

During World War II, university student Gordon Hirabayashi fights the U.S. government’s orders to relocate people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Gordon begins a 50-year journey toward a greater understanding of America’s triumph—and a confrontation with its failures; at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, May 3. $45. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Little Dog Laughed—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Mitchell Green is a movie star on the verge of hitting it big. One problem: His agent can’t seem to keep him in the closet; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, May 17. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The Magic Show

Dean Apple performs magic and illusions with FlowBox, Chazz and Minnie at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24. $20 to $25. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

The Miracle Worker—From Desert Theatreworks

The classic play about the life of Helen Keller is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, May 8, through Saturday, May 16. $26 regular; $24 seniors; $16 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood—From Theatre 29

This musical ends differently every night, depending on what the audience decides. A rowdy ensemble of actors mounts a staging of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, and everyone is a suspect in the murder of young Edwin Drood; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, May 29, through Saturday, June 27; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, June 7 and 21. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

The Sleeping Beauty—From CK Dance

CK Dance presents the storybook ballet at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 22; and 3 p.m., Saturday, May 23. $20 to $30. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Wait Until Dark—From Theatre 29

An apartment in 1960s Greenwich Village becomes the site of theater’s most terrifying game of cat and mouse, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, May 9; there is also a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 3. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

A Chorus Line—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The legendary musical about a group of performers auditioning for a Broadway show takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 and 28. $15 payable at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Duck and Cover—From Dezart Performs

This play about 1962 America—and specifically, the trials and tribulations of 12-year-old Stevie Whitebottom—makes its West Coast premiere at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $22 to $25. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The famous play about slave Pseudolus’ attempts to help his young master earn the love of a courtesan named Philia is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 20, through Sunday, March 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delany sisters—Sadie, 103 years old, and Bessie, 101—take the audience on a journey through the last 100 years of our nation’s history, from their perspectives as African-American professionals, at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $45. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

I Totally Know What You Did Last Donna Summer—From Palm Canyon Theatre

This musical by Dane Whitlock melds slasher-movie tropes, 1990s films and Donna Summer hits at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

Blackmail, political corruption, intrigue, romance and razor-sharp wit abound in equal measure in this piece of satire by Oscar Wilde, performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday Feb. 7; there is also a matinee show at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Jack—From College of the Desert Dramatic Arts

This humorous twist on the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28; and 3 p.m., Sunday, March 1. Prices TBA. At the Pollock Theatre at College of the Desert, 43400 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; codperformingarts.com.

Love! Valour! Compassion!—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about a group of longtime gay friends is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

McCallum Theatre

A sing-along to the film Grease takes place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1; $15 to $20. Midtown Men reunites four stars from the original cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4; $35 to $55. Supreme Reflections is a tribute to Diana Ross and The Supremes featuring the Desert Symphony, taking place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5; $45 to $95. Memphis: The Musical features the songs of underground dance clubs in 1950s Tennessee at 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 10 and 11; $45 to $95. The classic musical comedy Guys and Dolls takes the McCallum stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15; $35 to $105. Hershey Felder stars in George Gershwin Alone at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 1; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Urinetown: The Musical—From Theatre 29

This comedic tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a Gotham-like city at a time when water is extremely scarce is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 28; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 8 and 22. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance