A Stage for Smoke-free Kids

At her Balinese-inspired Montecito home, Julianna Friedman hosted an elegant cocktail party on January 10 to introduce Theatre of Life for Children, an eight-week summer program funded almost entirely by the Carpinteria-based Patricia Henley Foundation. More than 100 people, including First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Leslie Ridley-Tree, came to the event to hear about the program, which was conceived by Jan Mathews (CEO) and Linda Laurie, a songwriter and columnist who is serving as executive director.

According to the Patricia Henley Foundation website, the purpose of Theatre of Life “is to provide an accessible, community-based, multi-cultural performing arts program dedicated to healing and developing the talents and passion in children,” especially those at risk.

Children at risk, the website says, are those suffering from smoking-related illnesses and who come from poor backgrounds and are at a higher risk of smoking.

More than five years went into developing the theatrical curriculum, which will include guest speakers from the entertainment industry who have been invited to speak at the summer program. Professional actors, directors, choreographers set designers and musician will serve as mentors. Among the “Theatrical Stars” listed in connection with the theater group are Rona Barrett and Tab Hunter.

The chatty and festive guests of the cocktail party made for an upbeat night of revelry to open the new year. Fashion sense ruled the evening with attendees elegant in their attire – black gowns, suits and an accompaniment of diamonds. A musical introduction by Sapphire Azizes on the saxophone and Michael Napier on the piano set the mood as Henley made it a point to meet and greet all the guests as they arrived. As they departed, every guest was given a Theatre of Life application and a red rose.

Funding of Theatre for Life came from the Patricia Henley Foundation, an organization created by Henley, a lung cancer survivor. In 2005, Henley won $16.7 million in damages and interest from tobacco industry giant Philip Morris in a landmark case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. A San Francisco jury had originally awarded $51 million to Henley, a chronic smoker of 35 years. She has said she’s committed to donating a bulk of that settlement to stopping kids from smoking and treating kids with respiratory ailments such as asthma and smoking-related illnesses such as cancer. “People are addicted, not stupid,” Henley says.

More on the Program

After eight weeks of training, Theatre of Life for Children will culminate in two performances at the Marjorie Luke Theatre this summer, under the direction of Peter McCorkle. The casting call and audition process has already begun for the program, which will run from July 9 to August 19, five days a week from 9 am to 4 pm. There is a small fee to participate in the program to cover the cost of daily lunches and snacks. Space in the program is limited to 50 children. No experience necessary to audition. The audition will take 30 minutes and it will be videotaped.

For more info contact Poppy Tuomi at ptuomi@patriciahenleyfoundation.org or call at 568-3600.