After 47 years of friendship, two former Bellmore teachers will collaborate on an autobiographical musical by Donna D. Lipari: “The Medium … the Music … and ME!” will debut in September on Manhattan’s Theatre Row. Her longtime friend Gary Gaccione will direct.
“People are fearful or curious of the unknown,” Lipari said, referring to the reactions she receives when people learn that she is a spiritual medium, which is a major focus of the play. “The show will be about overcoming painful experiences and finding the courage to live an authentic life.”
The pair’s friendship began when they were teachers at Jacob Gunther Elementary School in Bellmore. They retired from the school before it closed in late 2011.
Lipari describes herself as “spiritual,” and as a psychic medium who can “hear the voices” of dead relatives and loved ones. She does private readings, and said she brings peace and comfort to those she helps. She also runs a second business, called Specialty Serenades, where she writes custom poems and songs for people, and has coached over 500 young singers for 25 years.
Gaccione thrives more from the technical side of things. He runs Creative Arts and Design Studio Inc., transforming dated hospital and business interiors into refurbished modern designs. He started the Creative Arts Program at Gunther, which later spread throughout the Bellmore School District. Gaccione said his artistic inspiration stemmed from his own time as a student at the school.
“When I was in sixth grade, I created a puppet theater to teach other kids,” he said. “It helped them learn, but it didn’t last — it was taken apart.”
Years later, after earning a master’s in art history and appreciation from C.W. Post, he was hired by Gunther. He tried to teach students through art. The Creative Arts Program reflected Gaccione’s belief that any artistic medium can be a teaching tool. Through videos, art exhibits or original musical productions, students not only learned lessons but they helped their community, he said.
“School wasn’t easy for me,” Gaccione said. “I always wanted to focus on artwork, and academics weren’t important to me. Because of my troubles, I never forget the other side of the desk. It was a breeding ground to be a great teacher.”
Lipari, who has a master’s in special education, taught children with special needs, using song to help them master concepts they found difficult, she said.
Gaccione and Lipari said they have worked in their respective disciplines toward a common goal: to spread a message of peace and equality.
“Artists have a responsibility to educate others,” Gaccione said. “We should try to help make the world a better place.”
Lipari promotes acceptance, and the understanding that everyone exists equally, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation, she said. The show explores how her work as a medium offered healing and guidance to others, and in turn brought the same to her.
“My biggest message is that we’re not here to be anything other than ourselves,” she said. “We’re here to love and to serve. The show is a combination of that, and how I never gave up.”
The two agree that they make a perfect working pair. Lipari brings the music and life story, and Gaccione provides focus and a unified theme.
“I needed to be with someone who understands,” Lipari said. “At the same time, I need someone who will be critical. I need to be molded.”
Sherry Radowitz, another longtime Bellmore resident and a friend of Lipari’s, said she recognized the project’s potential and the power behind Lipari’s message. She serves as the consulting editor and script supervisor for the show.
“I love the integration of the messages in the play,” Radowitz said. “There is a strong interplay of music in spirituality and the spirituality in music. You get to see how she integrated those areas and how they define her.”
“There is no room in the world for negativity,” Lipari said. “If you have a dream, it’ll be true. There are never any mistakes.”
Lipari’s first major play will premiere on Theatre Row on Sept. 28. Visit www.mediummusicme.com for additional information.