I have been thinking lately of all the wonderful mentors I’ve had over the course of my very blessed life. Why do I use the word “blessed”? It’s because I truly do feel that luck played a huge part in what happened to me, professionally and personally, not to mention serendipity and friends and being ready, willing to work hard, show up on time and not be a pain in the ass. Oh, yeah, and talent. It’s funny how little talent can mean if all the other stuff isn’t working for you. I know amazingly brilliant, gifted actors and musicians and writers who simply never could get their careers off the ground.

But I digress. This is about mentors: Along the way, there were these wonderful people who encouraged me or turned me in a different direction. I will write about them from time to time, because they deserve recognition and I need to salute them.

My number one mentor was my mom, when I was around 5 or 6. You see, I had a horrible stutter as a child and was dreadfully shy; I hid behind her skirts. Trying to form a complete sentence was agony so I often didn’t try. Mom decided to take me to the Henry Street Playhouse, a Greenwich Village gathering place for all kinds of free classes. We took the bus and the subway from Queens all the way to downtown Manhattan once a week for several weeks. There was some kind of class for young children who had speech impediments, I think. My memory is fuzzy about any other details except the important one: eventually, all of us kids had to get up on the stage and recite a poem. I was terrified, absolutely terrified. I don’t know how I found the courage, but I got up there, recited the poem (can’t remember which one) and…. I did not stutter. At all.

Not only that, but guess what? I LOVED being on stage. I mean, it was home from the start! Ta-da!!!!! The entire experience totally turned me around (thank you dear, sweet, smart Mom). The stutter didn’t disappear overnight, but it gradually went away. And my personality changed from withdrawn to gregarious, even somewhat loud-mouthed on occasion. (Gee, really? I can hear my friends and family saying with a wry smile.)

That experience formed the direction of the rest of my life. I knew when I grew up I was going to be an actress and nothing and no one was going to stop me!