Last issue, we opened a series focusing on docents, and the Montecito volunteers who work these positions throughout this county. We previously profiled Kathryn Zupsic, who is one of two Montecito docents at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The second is Shirley Waxman.

Having been a docent for 10 years at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Shirley Waxman has no problem speaking in absolutes. “I love my work; being a docent is one of the most wonderful experiences of my life,” she says. “I will be a docent here forever!”

It was a decade ago that Waxman moved to Santa Barbara and when she says she busied herself by attending museum tours, most frequently at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. There she met docent Steve Haitt, who encouraged here to become one herself. “Steve credits himself with making me a docent here,” she jokes.

Shirley attended the docent school and has been leading tours ever since. Her specialty is American Art.

Not having an art background isn’t an issue for museum executives. Docents range in a variety of backgrounds, from parents to rocket scientists. The museum provides art history classes, along with training on public speaking and on how to conduct a tour.

Docents are kept up in art history with weekly continuing education classes, along with classes on upcoming exhibits.

Waxman says she believes that the role of the docent is “to enhance the experience for the visitor, especially for students; it is important for them to make their own discovery about the art.”

Waxman has served as vice president and president of the Docent Council, and she’s now a trainer for new docents. “We become best friends and continue to educate ourselves on art by visiting Florence, Rome, Paris, Spain, the Yucatan, Washington DC and other places,” she explains. “We all feel so incredibly lucky to be a docent; it is a great gift that we receive by doing this work.”

Adults interested in becoming a docent are invited to attend the museum’s Orientation & Coffee on Friday, May 12, at 10 am. For additional details or to make a reservation, contact Kristy Thomas at 884-6434 or e-mail

One Final Hurdle

As if Santa Barbara Theater hadn’t experienced enough. The fledgling company’s final show to its inaugural season was to take place on April 21 and lead actress Susanne Spoke had a sprained ankle. As it was, the play, Michele Lowe’s “String of Pearls,” presented a score of challenges, not the least being that each of the four actresses play a combined 27 female roles in 90 minutes without intermission.

Luckily, understudy Donne McRae was there to take Spoke’s place. In seamless fashion, McRae worked the stage and the audience with her three cohorts Jacqueline Schultz, Alicia Wollerton and Stephanie Stearns as if it were their 100th performance together.

“Michele's play demands a group of talented performers. We are very fortunate to have this tight-knit ensemble of professionals in Santa Barbara Theater’s String of Pearls,” said a smiling and enthusiastic Stephen Sachs, SBT co-artistic director.

It is of note that Sachs’s West Coast premiere of “String of Pearls” won raves from LA critics and was the Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choice. Its success down south lends reason to believe Sachs and company were confident to test the play’s risqué and explicit material on a Santa Barbara crowd.

The play takes the audience through a 40-year journey of a string of pearls. The pearls travel from owner to owner telling the tale of each. All the owners are women whose life stories evoke laughter and tears, rage and peace, sadness and joy. Their ages range from 6 to 70. Lowe’s play can be taken at face value, or one can choose to travel into the emotional realms that belong to women at various times in their lives: as grandmother, mother, sister, wife, professional, retired, married, divorced, gay/lesbian, in love, bitter, sexual, and not. Viewers may argue that, conceivably, a few of the characters could be left out and the story could still be told. That, however, does not take away from the underlying theme of the script, and the ability of the actresses to perform it so credibly.

And what may you ask was the audience reaction to such a progressive and liberal script? Post-play remarks included, “amazing, fantastic, wonderful,” while others were moved to tears. “Santa Barbara audiences are laughing at different points in the show than did LA audiences,” Sachs observed. “Santa Barbara Theater has found that we have very sophisticated theatre-goers in our area.”

Among the audience were locals Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden, Michael Towbes and wife, Ann Smith, and Santa Barbara County Film Commissioner Martine White. Eva Marie Saint stayed after the matinee show on Sunday to congratulate each of the actors. Also in the audience were Paul Quackenbush and Marianne Woodsome.

For more info contact 963-7282.