Musical celebrating the trailblazing life of Mother Cabrini coming to Forest Hills

The musical workshop celebrates the courageous life of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini), a fearless woman breaking barriers and blazing trails long before it was acceptable or “happening.” (Photo credit: AnnaMarie Prono)

A musical about the courageous life of Italian-born Roman Catholic nun, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, is coming to Forest Hills.

The theatrical production, “Happening Woman,” by playwright AnnaMarie Prono, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 13, and Sunday, Nov. 14, at Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church, located at 70-01 Kessel St.

“I think that this show is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about the first American citizen to be named a Saint in the Catholic Church. I am looking forward to seeing it,” said Rev. Frank Schwarz, pastor at Our Lady of Mercy.

Set in the present day through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl with multiple sclerosis (MS), Cabrini’s life provides the backdrop to inspire a young woman to overcome her own challenges as she comes of age. 

Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic religious institute that was a major support to her fellow Italian immigrants to the United States. She was also the first U.S. citizen to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in July of 1946. 

Prono, a native New Yorker and architect whose career was cut short by MS, a condition which affects the brain and spinal cord, had an epiphany to produce a play about Cabrini after Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to erect a statue of the nun — even though she received the most “She Built NYC” campaign votes in 2018. 

According to Prono, she was fascinated and needed to know more about Cabrini. 

“She was a woman who refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. As someone with compromised health, I identified with that and spent the next year getting to know her. She accomplished great things and I want to do the same,” Prono said. 

“Happening Woman” is more than a feel-good musical, Prono’s team said. 

“It’s about real people and real-life situations and finding solutions. We aren’t highlighting the negative, rather we are celebrating a real life miracle maker, who lived and worked in New York City,’’ the team said. “She made a difference in the lives of people who are no longer with us, but today she continues to motivate and bring positive energy to all who are receptive. We want our show to resonate with the youth in our communities.”  

“Happening Woman” was conceived just before the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020. 

According to Prono’s production partner, Malini McDonald, despite social distancing restrictions, Prono continued writing and collaborating with musician, friend and the show’s composer, Robert Kaufmann. 

Kaufman wrote the theme song and “Happening Woman” was officially born. 

“Despite social distancing restrictions, AnnaMarie continued writing and collaborating with Bob Kaufmann. Technology aided us with Zoom and emails, until it was safe to meet in person again,” said McDonald, who also has MS. 

ThermApparel, a company that focuses on technologically advanced and barely visible cooling vests commonly used by actors, athletes and individuals with heat intolerance, is a presenting sponsor of the musical. 

Kurtis Kracke, CEO and founder of ThermApparel, said their goal is to help people do more of what they love by reducing exhaustion and fatigue caused by heat and exertion. 

“You can’t tell, but AnnaMarie was wearing her cooling vest during her GoFundMe video,” Kracke said. “Like Mother Cabrini, she is inspirational to others as an example of someone living life to its fullest despite significant challenges brought on by MS. In addition to sponsoring the musical, we are featuring AnnaMarie as a #RIPupMS hero because of her dedication.” 

To help bring “Happening Woman” to other churches and schools, Prono’s team has launched a GoFundMe page to raise $6,800. The funding will be used for the venue, the production (set, costumes, props), the technical team and technical support. 

Adult tickets are $15 and tickets for children/seniors are $12. However, since it’s a workshop, the team is inviting guests within the church and theatrical circles at no charge. Guests are required to wear masks and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

“We hope these professionals will be able to help us bring ‘Happening Woman’ to more audiences, especially churches and schools,’” McDonald said. 

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