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Home Events - New Yorkled Magazine Cultural Event Free Event Lecture / Discussion The Arts Event Virtual Online Event Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s: Using Theater and Improvisation Skills for Managing Parkinson’s
Oct 19 2022

The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan Presents:

Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s: Using Theater and Improvisation Skills for Managing Parkinson’s

Wednesday, October 19
Beginning at 5:00 pm

Prior Registration Required for this Virtual Event

—A free live-streamed event co-hosted by Caroline Kohles & Alessandro Di Rocco, M.D., Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s is supported by a community grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation —

—Featuring Dan Dumsha and Quinn Contini of Tightrope Impro Theatre, Larry Gifford of The PD Avengers, stage and screen actor Alex Montaldo, Broadway musical director and actor David Loud, and a conversation with 4-time Tony Award Winner Boyd Gaines, star of the stage and screen–

New York, NY –On Wednesday, October 19, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (MMJCCM) will present a free virtual event, Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s: Using Theater and Improvisation Skills for Managing Parkinson’s, which will explore how theater and improvisation can be helpful tools in managing Parkinson’s.

The hour-long event will feature Alessandro Di Rocco, M.D., director of neurology, Parkinson’s and movement disorders at Northwell Health, and Caroline Kohles, MMJCCM senior program director, Health + Wellness, who will lead this conversation on the impact of the performing arts on Parkinson’s (PD).

Viewers will meet members of Tightrope Impro Theatre, which has partnered with the Parkinson’s Foundation and Mount Sinai Hospital on a study to quantify the benefits of improv on PD, and Larry Gifford, a co-founder of PD Avengers, and founding member of the Parkinson’s Performance troupe, who will share his experience and the benefits he has gained from doing improv. 

Broadway musical director, actor, and author David Loud, in conversation with Broadway and television star Boyd Gaines, will share experiences from their life in the theater and how their careers evolved with Parkinson’s; and, actor and co-founder of StoPD Theater Alex Montaldo will discuss his production of The Boxer, featuring an integrated cast of actors and people living with Parkinson’s, and how an actor’s training is useful to people living with PD. 

“We are pleased to continue our series where attendees can experience firsthand the positivity that can be gained through using theatrical tools as an aid while living with Parkinson’s,” says MMJCCM Senior Program Director of Health + Wellness Caroline Kohles.

The virtual event is part of a groundbreaking JCC program founded 15 years ago to improve the lives of those impacted by Parkinson’s. The event begins at 5:00 PM EDT and is free, though prior registration is required. You can register at Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s: Using Theater and Improvisation Skills for Managing Parkinson’s. Registrants will receive a Zoom link to attend and will be able to engage with participants and submit questions during the hour.

The groundbreaking Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative at the JCC helps improve the lives of those impacted by Parkinson’s. Through education, exercise, support groups, and other programs, and in collaboration with the medical and local communities, people impacted by Parkinson’s remain active, connected and empowered.

Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s is supported by a community grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation. Broadway’s Best for Parkinson’s is part of the Edmond J. Safra Wellness Initiative at the MMJCCM.

About the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (MMJCCM)

Together with its community, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan creates opportunities for people to connect, grow, and learn within an ever-changing Jewish landscape. Located on 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the MMJCCM is a vibrant non-profit community center on the Upper West Side. It also presents a robust slate of virtual programming, serving an even wider community. The MMJCCM serves over 55,000 people annually through 1,200 programs each season that educate, inspire, and transform participants’ minds, bodies, and spirits. Throughout COVID-19, the MMJCCM has pivoted to meet the community online, exceeding 102,000 registrations to over 3,000 virtual classes and programs in the earliest part of the pandemic. Since its inception, the MMJCCM has been committed to serving the community by offering programs, classes, and events that extend beyond neighborhood boundaries, reaching people at all stages of their lives. Learn more at mmjccm.org.

Bios of Co-Hosts and Participants (in alphabetical order)

Quinn Contini is an alumnus of Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary, has been a member of Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton since 2014, and is the co-artistic director of the Canmore International Improv Festival. A year spent working in every department at Alberta Theatre Projects in 2011 instilled in him a keen interest in the organizational side of theaters, and he went on to earn a degree in entrepreneurship from the University of Alberta. He is an actor, writer, and co-founder of Marv n’ Berry – Sketch Comedy, cast member of Off Book The Improvised Musical, and has emceed the dog show at the Calgary Stampede for four years. Since 2015, he has taught improv for youth classes at the Citadel’s Theatre’s Foote Theatre School, and he has been a faculty member of the Rapid Fire Theatre Academy since 2018. He also spent two years coaching the University of Alberta improv group. 

Teaching and performing have brought Quinn from coast to coast in Canada and the United States, around Europe twice, and as far as Dubai. He has created and co-created numerous new shows and formats that have been seen at festivals around the world. He is beyond thrilled in his new position of executive director for Tightrope Impro Theatre, as the dream of starting a theater company close to the mountains is beginning to come true.

Alessandro DiRocco, MD is a world-renowned leader in the field of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. He has been the principal and co-investigator of numerous research studies including NIH and major national and international foundation-sponsored studies, having been awarded nearly two dozen grants to support his research efforts. Dr. Di Rocco sits on the Parkinson’s Foundation Board of Directors and the Melvin Yahr International Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, where he served as President for over eight years. Dr. Di Rocco also serves on many advisory boards and committees, including the World Federation of Neurology Congress on Parkinson’s Disease. He has authored over 90 articles, 12 books and book chapters, over 125 abstracts, and other publications. 

Dan Dumsha is Tightrope Impro Theatre’s director of improv for health and wellness. A graduate of Queen’s University’s Dan School of Drama and Music, he also holds a degree in community education. Dan has performed and taught theater and improv for over 20 years and has trained professionals in applied improv for the workplace since 2014. As a facilitator with Improv for Business, he has led l training for teams from Microsoft, Amazon, and many other organizations across North America. He performed as a mainstage ensemble player at Vancouver TheatreSports for seven years and was on the faculty of the Improv Comedy Institute. 

After moving to New York City in 2015, Dan studied improv with UCB and Annoyance Theatre,  and founded the Dirty Little Secrets Improv show. Returning to Vancouver, he co-founded Momentous Comedy and continues to produce improv shows across the city. Dan is president of the Queer Improv Society of Vancouver, where he builds community through improv. After resisting for a long time, Dan finally created an Instagram account for his dog, Kai, @kaidangerfloof. 

Boyd Gaines holds the unique distinction of having won Broadway’s Tony Award four times and three of those were in a different category: in 1989 as Best Actor (Featured Role – Play) for Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, in 1994 as Best Actor (Musical) for the Revival of She Loves Me, in 2000 as Best Actor (Featured Role -Musical) for Contact, and in 2008 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the revival of Gypsy. No other actor has won Tony awards in these many categories.

In addition to Broadway, he has performed with The New York Shakespeare Festival, the Roundabout Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among many other regional theaters. His film and television credits include FAME (1980), Porky’s (1981), I’m Not Rapaport (1996), Funny Games (2007), as well as numerous roles on L.A. Law, Murder She Wrote, Law & Order, Caroline in the City, and Frasier. Boyd is currently on the teaching faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. 

Larry Gifford was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 45 in 2017. In 2018, he launched the podcast, When Life Gives You Parkinson’s. He had been searching for a podcast from the perspective of a person with Parkinson’s and couldn’t find one back then. Having worked in radio for 30 years, and being a storyteller all his life, Larry figured his search to find such information was a sign that the most important podcast he discovered was his own. 

After reading the book Ending Parkinson’s Disease, with its prescription for action, he was prompted to start a series of conversations from which The PD Avengers were born in the Fall of 2020, along with Soania Mathur and Tim Hague. In 2021, Larry helped to create a technical brief with the World Health Organization (WHO) “Parkinson’s Disease: a Public Health Approach.” The brief focuses on the global challenges facing people with PD and how the lack of prevention, awareness, services, therapies, treatments, and care has created barriers to building an integrated system of interdisciplinary care, particularly in low-resource settings. It also discusses workable avenues for action in the domains of advocacy and awareness, prevention and risk reduction, diagnosis, treatment and care, career support, and research. 

Caroline Kohles is the senior director of health and wellness programming at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. In her 17 years at the JCC, she has spearheaded a progressive slate of fitness programming, creating 100+ group fitness class schedules and health and wellness programs for populations ranging from tweens/teens to prenatal/postnatal moms and seniors. Her signature work includes developing a range of cancer care programs in partnership first with Mount Sinai Hospital and with Alison Estabrook, M.D., a nationally recognized breast cancer surgeon. 

A health and wellness professional for over 25 years, Kohles is co-founder of Nia New York, a holistic lifestyle and fitness practice. She also designed the nationally and internationally recognized Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s program at the JCC, now in its 15th year, in partnership first with The Fresco Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center and now with Northwell Health.

David Loud is one of Broadway’s most respected music directors and vocal arrangers and has the distinction of having originated three roles on Broadway as an actor. He served as music director for The Visit, starring Chita Rivera and Roger Rees; other Broadway credits include The Scottsboro Boys, Sondheim on Sondheim, Curtains, Ragtime, A Class Act, Steel Pier, and revivals of Porgy and Bess, She Loves Me, Company, and Sweeney Todd. He originated the role of Manny in Terrence McNally’s Master Class (starring Zoe Caldwell and Audra McDonald) and he played Sasha (the conductor) in Curtains. He made his Broadway debut in Harold Prince’s original 1981 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. 

Off-Broadway, David created the vocal and dance arrangements for Kander and Ebb’s And the World Goes ‘Round.  At the Vineyard Theatre, he was the music supervisor for three world premieres: Kid Victory, The Landing, and The Beast in the Jungle, all with music by John Kander. He conducted the incidental music for Mike Nichols’ revival of Death of a Salesman and collaborated with Wynton Marsalis and John Doyle on A Bed and a Chair, a jazz interpretation of Sondheim’s music. Other recent projects include The Land Where the Good Songs Go, a dramatic cycle of Jerome Kern songs at Merkin Hall, and First You Dream, a concert of Kander & Ebb songs that was broadcast on PBS. He is a favorite at Lyrics and Lyricists, the long-running series at the 92nd St. Y. 

David is a graduate of Yale University and has been on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama and Fordham University. Currently, he is the music director of the Manhattan School of Music’s new musical theater program, which he helped found in 2017. His book, Facing the Music, a Broadway memoir, was recently published by Regan Arts, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Alex Montaldo is a film, television, and theater actor based in New York City and Los Angeles. He’s a Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute graduate and also holds a degree in clinical psychology. His most recent theater credits include Enda Walsh’s Misterman, Shadow Boxing by James Gaddas, Orphans by Lyle Kessler, and Golden Boy by Clifford Odets. Some of his television credits include One Dollar (CBS), Mr. Robot, Mr. Robot: Behind the Mask (USA Network), and Modern Love (Amazon).  He will be appearing alongside Scott Haze and Kate Lyn Sheil in The Seeding, a psychological horror film set for theatrical release in 2022. 

Alex co-founded stoPD (Support and Training to Overcome Parkinson’s Disease) with Roberta Marongiu, Ph.D., in 2014. StoPD offers a variety of exercise and arts programs designed to improve motor and non-motor symptoms for those with Parkinson’s. For more information, visit stop-pd.org or alexmontaldo.com.


The event is finished.