Doris Dear/Ray DeForest (Hostess/Singer)
Performer, producer, activist, community leader, Ray DeForest, a successful lifelong working actor/storyteller & singer, is also known as his award winning theatrical character Doris Dear. Ray is a 2-time winner of the prestigious Silver Telly Award, the 2022 International Communicator Award winner, 3 time winner of the MAC Award and a Broadway World Award winner. Ray has spent years as a host and featured 'expert' on The Food Network, HGTV, Fox TV, local and national TV shows and more. He’s been featured in numerous movies and TV productions, performs in his popular cabaret-style shows and stars in the award-winning series, “Doris Dear’s Gurl Talk”, in its 4th season streaming on BroadwayOnDemand. Ray writes, directs, and produces the series which was an immediate hit and won several prestigious awards. In addition to entertaining audiences and raising funds to support theatre development, Ray is a member of the distinguished Dramatist Guild of America. It’s through his lifelong love of theatre that Ray nurtured his storytelling and comedic talents, as well as his ability to connect with an audience and take them on an emotional journey. Long before theatre life beckoned Mr. DeForest to Manhattan, he found himself growing up in 1950-1960s Staten Island, where idyllic "Americana" was a real-world version of Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings. But what is one to do when they don't fit the traditional mold? Through the challenges of self-expression, Ray found a creative outlet through character development and performance, and continues to be richly rewarded by audiences who react to the experience and find a safe space in his character Doris Dear’s maternal presence.
Her annual show, "The Doris Dear Christmas Special", is now celebrating its 7th year of sold-out raves!
Aaron Lee Battle (singer)
Aaron is 2022 recipient of the Hanson Award from The Manhattan
Association of Cabarets (MAC) and a Backstage Bistro Award winner for Outstanding Vocalist. Aaron has appeared at many of the cabaret rooms in New York City over the years. He has performed at The Apollo Theater’s Music Café with Tom Thorndike and
as resident guest artists at Gunay Restaurant in Istanbul Turkey.
I am extremely honored to be a part of Doris Dear’s Christmas Special! Thank You!
Eve Eaton (Friday Only) (Singer/The Dears)
Eve made a return to cabaret after a nine year hiatus with 2015’s Back to Billy: A Love Affair 30 Years in the Making, for which she was nominated for a Broadway World Award in the Best Show, Female category (directed by Lennie Watts, musical direction by Steven Ray Watkins). She is regularly involved in Lennie Watts’ Arrangement Experience shows and was recently seen in the “Gone Too Soon” series at the Metropolitan Room (musical direction by Ricky Ritzel). She hails from the beautiful Pacific Northwest (Olympia, Washington) where she spent her formative years in theatre. While she spends the majority of her time working in the financial services industry, she’s happy that she found her way back to singing. She is a certified life coach and avid traveler. She loves singing in Pig Latin, is not a dancer but pretends to be one, and has a soft spot for spicy cheese flavored microwave popcorn. Thank you Eve for stepping gin at the last minute!
Meg Flather (Singer)
Meg Flather is a two-time Bistro Award winner and a four-time Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs (MAC) Award winner who recently won the 2021 BroadwayWorld.com Cabaret Award for Best Song. Meg received a 2022 Major Female Artist MAC Award nomination for her work in her critically acclaimed show, Rodgers & Hammerstein 2021+. Meg has released eight CDs of her original music (all of which are available on Apple music). Meg has also authored two books that are now available on Amazon: Home Shopping Diva. . . Lessons, Lyrics and Lipstick and Hold On Tight . . . a love story. Her new one-woman musical, Hold On Tight, partners her original songs and stories from her book about caring for a parent with dementia. The piece premiered at The United Solo Theatre Festival at NYC’s Theatre Row where it won the festival’s award for Best Storytelling Show. She has written and recorded songs for independent films, Off-Broadway, and on behalf of HIV/AIDS, 9/11, Alzheimer’s, Autism, suicide awareness, political activism, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
She has appeared on all home shopping networks in the US, Canada, and Australia, and proudly serves as Brand Ambassador for StriVectin skincare on HSN and TSC, Canada.
Emily Kate Gentile (singer)
Soprano Emily Kate Gentile (née Naydeck) has gained recognition in both traditional and contemporary opera and classically-based music. An advocate for new and innovative music, Emily has recently premiered compositions by Peter Frost, Rossa Crean, Griffin Candey, and Joe Rubinstein.
On the operatic stage Emily has enjoyed singing the likes of comediennes, soubrettes and lyric soprano roles such as Gabrielle in La Vie Parisienne, Musetta in La Bohème, Nanetta in Falstaff, Pamina in The Magic Flute, and Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.
A native of Pittsburgh, Emily is a longtime NYC transplant living in Brooklyn. Emily holds a Master of Music degree from the Maryland Opera Studio, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Ithaca College. Thank you for stepping in at the last minute!
Crystal Kellogg (Singer)
Crystal originally hails from a small town in Iowa but she always had big city dreams! Her parents raised their 5 children with a deep love for theatre & music (often singing songs together accompanied by Mom's guitar). When Crystal turned 10, she saw her two older sisters on stage and immediately knew that's where she belonged.
Crystal has taken her career across the entire country, having performed in 49 out of the 50 contiguous states (come on Alaska!) as well as internationally. Two fun facts: Crystal is the only left-handed member of her family and can imitate several animals, most notably the "screeching monkey".
On Broadway, Crystal was in "Finding Neverland and played Ms Hathaway in "School of Rock"
Karen Mack (Singer/The Dears)
Karen is a ten-time MAC Award winner for vocal performance and songwriting, as well as for her current vocal harmony work in NYC pop vocal group Those Girls (thosegirlssing.com), and for 12+ years prior with talented singer/songwriter Michael Holland as half of the pro vocal duo that brought the acclaimed & ridiculous retropop series “Gashole!” to the world. LGNY says “in addition to her sense of humor, she has the kind of voice one longs to hear…her flawless placement, appealing style and dead on performance are electrifying!” and The Village Voice echoed “Mack can sock anything with a rock beat out of the ballpark.” Club appearances include Town Hall, Symphony Space, B.B. Kings, The Bottom Line, Caroline’s, The Fez, The Bitter End, and numerous college keggers. As a songwriter, she was acknowledged for her debut CD "Take That" (Miss Prim Records) in a cover story by Show Business Weekly on promising writers on the rise, in prestigious, well-established company that included Julie Gold (From A Distance), Amanda McBroom (The Rose), and John Bucchino (Grateful).
Currently, she can been seen in tandem with New York Times hailed jazz pianist/vocalist Elliot Roth monthly at Pangea (NYC). And if you don't care so much about music, but are into quality baked goods, be sure to friend her on FB before October when her daily baking and posting for National Cookie Month begins (yes, that's a real thing... yes, she bakes a different cookie every single day... seriously. )
Jana Robbins (Singer)
Jana Robbins, is an American producer, actress, director, teacher, and speaker. She has been nominated for Broadway’s Tony Award and is the winner of Olivier and Drama Desk Awards for her West End, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
In 1974, Robbins made her Broadway debut in Good News as Patricia Bingham and standby for Alice Fay as Professor Kenyon. In 1983, Robbins starred as Lenny McGrath in Crimes of the Heart on Broadway. She returned to Broadway in 1988 in Romance, Romance. She finished off the decade in the original cast of the 1989 Broadway revival of Gypsy, in which she played Mazeppa and served as a standby for Mama Rose. Also in 2000, Robbins appeared in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife on Broadway as the standby for Marjorie and Lee.
n 2018, Robbins stepped up as the lead commercial producer of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, along with producing partner Hal Luftig, to transfer The National Yiddish Theater Folksbeine’s production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish directed by Joel Grey up town to Off-Broadway’s Stage 42. The show garnered both she and Hal Luftig the 2019 Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Revival of a Musical,” the New York Outer Critics Circle Award for “Best Revival of a Musical,” the Drama Critics Circle Award “Special Citation,” and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for “Best Musical Revival.”
Wendy Russell (Singer/The Dears)
"I love singing. I love teaching singing & performing. I love almost any type of music. I love harmony and blending. I love finding music and rhythm in ordinary, every day things - like the sound of my wiper blades when it’s raining. I love taking a song and turning it inside out, making it a whole new experience." Wendy Russell interview with Richard Skipper (http://richardskipper.blogspot.com/2016/04/wendy-anne-russellshes-one-of-those.html)
“Showcasing her considerable acting chops, Russell delivers one of the most emotionally devastating moments of the evening–a brilliant mash up of “For No One” (Lennon/McCartney) into Carly Simon’s “Comin’ Around Again,” powerfully sung as a gut wrenching internalized monologue of a cornered distraught housewife.” & “Musical Director Steven Ray Watkins on piano and harmonious vocal backups and Director Lennie Watts collaborated successfully (with Russell) on uniquely tailored arrangements that spotlighted Russell’s exquisite voice, refreshing humility, and simple “less is more” approach to life thereby giving greater clarity and drama to the evening”. – Billie Roe/Broadway World.com
Blake Allen (Musical Director)
BLAKE ALLEN is an internationally recognized, award-winning composer and musician, having performed on Broadway in Tootsie and Stephen King's Misery, and at major music halls including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Strathmore Music Center, to name a few.
Allen has four chart-topping albums, with his autobiographical musical opera, The Shards of an Honor Code Junkie garnering four million streams since its December 2021 debut. Featuring GRAMMY, TONY, and Drama Desk award-winning talent, the album earned the #1 spot on Amazon Classical and Billboard Cast Albums charts. A coming-of-age story about a homosexual Mormon who embarks on a journey of self-love while challenging Brigham Young's staunch eight “Honor Code Rules,” opened up the conversation about LGBTQIA+ student treatment at universities with its themes of suicide, trauma, and self-love.
For more information, visit https://www.blakeallen.org.
Lina Koutrakos (Director)
Anyone who has witnessed the consummate talent of Lina Koutrakos recognizes that she is indeed a force - a persistent Pied Piper presence who with both heart and skill subtly drives home messages teeming with universal empowerment. From Singer to Director Koutrakos' authenticity inspires nothing short of the same in others.
With numerous awards as Director, Koutrakos builds a framework that showcases who an individual is while weaving that into an honest, entertaining and seamless show for the solo singer. With both instinct and skill Lina fine focuses each singers vision of themselves into a one of kind performance. From the music and the spoken word to the arc of the piece itself, every show is highly crafted for and unique to its performer.
Lina started teaching performance classes in the 1990's. She was a long time Master Teacher at the original EUGENE O'NEILL CABARET SYMPOSIUM, THE YALE CABARET CONFERENCE and the ST LOUIS CABARET CONFERENCE.
She co-founded NY's SUMMER IN THE CITY and is the founder of the annual and ongoing MIDWEST CABARET CONFERENCE in Chicago. Along with Robert Breig she has just launched THE GATEWAY CONFERENCE in St Louis.
Lina has spearheaded specialty workshops and Master Classes throughout the U.S. Most prominent being the IN CONCERT Series. Koutrakos's PERFORMANCE CONNECTION umbrellas THE ADVANCED PERFORMERS WORKSHOP in NY City and the now yearly week long workshop in MYKONOS Greece each September.
🎄 A Christmas Tale from Doris Dear 🎄
Welcome to the Rumpus Room and the 7th Annual Doris Dear Christmas Special! As many of you know, last year we had to cancel 2 days before the shows run because I caught a very harsh COVID. It was an upsetting thing to do, but I had no other choice. So this year, we are bringing you the show we had planned for you with some new additions and cast members.
I love doing these holiday shows. It brings back all those wonderful memories of growing up in our home in Staten Island, NY with my mom and dad, Taffy and Duke, and my sister Nancy. Our home was always full of holiday decorations outside and inside. I am a very lucky girl you know, I had a wonderful family that was full of laughter and love.
The holidays were always a time of parties, music and food. Taffy & Duke loved celebrating the holidays with friends and family. It started right after Thanksgiving with finding the perfect tree and setting it up in the picture window. Taffy would get all the ornaments out of the closet and carefully place each one in the perfect spot. Each one represented something special. My diaper pin was one she loved to show me. She would tell me about what it was like having me in her arms and watching me grow up. She taught me so much. Each day is in honor of her and Duke.
She would then bring out the German tinsel that she saved year after year. Real tinsel… made from lead that you would have to hang one piece at a time. It was heavy and didn’t float like todays plastic tinsel. It hung “heavy”. It was beautiful when Taffy was done. Then she would sprinkle the tree with mica snow! Ah the smell of pine, mica snow and Pall Mall cigarettes always meant Christmas was close!
Taffy took a ceramics class with the girls and made a white Christmas tree with little pink birds on each point. I still have that tree today and it is always proudly displayed in my home. The rumpus room was of course fully decorated with pine boughs and a pink wreath. The wreath was made of fiberglass! If you got too close you would get glass filaments under your skin. It still hangs over the bar cart! Taffy loved the “miracle fibers” that modernized the housewives life!
Mom loved holly as well. Taffy said holly meant that “friends were welcome”! She was right. Friends were always welcome in the Rumpus Room. Many nights were full of friends sipping the holiday favorite “Tom & Jerry”. It was an old-fashioned drink that they all loved. It is a concoction of brandy, rum and spices all whipped up into yummy holiday cheer! We even had a special Tom and Jerry bowl that Taffy carefully unpacked each year and proudly displayed.
Of course every year we put on our Christmas aprons and made spritz cookies! A delicious butter cookie dough (that I loved munching on when mom wasn’t looking). We would dye batches red, green or leave plain. We had a metal “gun” that would push out the cookies in different shapes like trees, wreaths, stars and more. Then we would decorate them with colored sugars and little silver sugar balls. I loved those days in the kitchen with mom. Once when she was out shopping, my sister Nancy and I decided to surprise here with a homemade batch of cookies. We whipped up the dough, which was totally wrong, and we ended up eating the entire bowl of cookie dough!!!
Music was always a big part of the holidays. The record player was stacked with albums from Bing, Perry, Dinah, Andy and more. Nat King Cole was moms favorite. His album was played over and over throughout the holidays. I still love hearing those recordings and some newer ones as well. Of course one of my favs is the music from "A Charlie Brown Christmas". It is the album that introduced me to 'jazz' music.
Christmas eve was reserved for family only. We would get all dressed up and Taffy would cook up a wonderful dinner. There were lots of hors d’oeuvres. Something was always molded… usually a new recipe she would find in Better Homes and Gardens. Followed by a scrumptious dinner made up of many courses. Usually a ham was the center piece of it all. Glazed carefully during cooking with a pineapple glaze that glistened in the candlelight on the table. Afterward was a delicious dessert. Taffy’s favorite was lemon galosh! It was made with lemon pudding, lady fingers and whipped cream. Gosh that “Galosh” was delicious!
With our tummies full and a smile on our face, we would head into the family room. There was paneling on one wall (real wood Taffy would say!),and a mix of “new colonial” and mid century modern. Shag carpeting was wall to wall with plenty of Christmas decor everywhere. Duke would disappear into the bedroom to change into his Christmas outfit, which was a red nightshirt and matching cap. Then we would all gather around the tree and sing Christmas carols with Duke holding the Christmas candle. It ended with us lighting the Christmas candle, smiles on our faces and ready for Santa to visit. We always had a good laugh. Cookies and a glass of milk were placed on a plate and off to bed we went.
Duke loved creating that perfect Christmas for us. In the middle of the night he would throw bricks on the roof of the house so I would think it was reindeer! He wore a Santa outfit and made prints in the snow to the front door. He had jingle bells he would ring and a lot of ho ho hoing! I would peer out the window trying to get a glimpse of Santa but all I usually got was Dad’s well-placed Santa hat going by my window.
Christmas day was always exciting. Checking to see if Santa ate the cookies we made and drank the milk (he always did), followed by opening presents. Taffy and Duke always showered us with gifts. The latest toys, and a stocking full of chocolate and always a tangerine! During the depression money was scarce and giving an orange or tangerine was a very special gift and Taffy said it was important to always remember those tough times and celebrate that they made it through and live a good life now rich with many people and things. A big yummy breakfast with Dukes homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs and crisp bacon was always the menu which I loved. No one made better biscuits that Duke. Then afterward we would get dressed and do our yearly trek to see Grandparents and cousins. Those were full holidays that I truly cherish each and every year.
So as I hang my diaper pin on my tree, I remember all the marvy times I had in the past and how truly blessed I am to have the life and friends I have now. So to all of you who have been a part of my life I say a very big THANK YOU and...