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Rena Strober and Imagine That! A magical musical journey of the music from Sesame Street

“Imagine That!”

A MAGICAL ALBUM LIKE NO OTHER
RENA STROBER & FRIENDS

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To Benefit Guide Dogs of America and The Gavin R. Stevens Foundation.


By Patrick Donovan – Author/Screenwriter
US Navy Disabled Veteran – 1980 – 1991
Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 09/25/2020

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“If you’re as old as I am, and my wife says I’m older than dirt, then you’ll remember Sesame Street and the beautiful music that peppered this wonderful icon for children.”

– Patrick Donovan


About Imagine That:
Rena Strober is a Broadway, film, and television actor who lives in LA and is also a teacher and advocate for the blind community. Rena has spent the last year and a half working on a magical album of classic Sesame Street songs, Imagine That! The Sesame Street Music of Joe Raposo & Jeff Moss, featuring a cast that includes Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), French Stewart (MOM, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Michael Leon-Wooley (The Princess and the Frog), acclaimed opera singer Cristina Jones (“the Blind Soprano”), and an entire choir of the young blind children Rena teaches in LA. What started off as something simple and small blew up into something incredibly powerful and important.

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This album, which was just released, will help raise awareness and funds for Guide Dogs of America and The Gavin R. Stevens Foundation, whose mission is to find a treatment and cure for blindness, focusing on the very rare eye disorder Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA).  Only 150 individuals in the US have this genetic mutation condition, and two of them are Rena’s students.  (Note that September is National Guide Dog Month. Rena wanted to be sure to release the album in time for National Guide Dog Month.)

11-year-old Gavin R. Stevens, a featured singer on the album who has studied with Rena since he was six years old, was born with LCA and is blind.  Rena and Gavin have sung together at concerts and in videos like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADVJmKmAV4s.  Rena coached Gavin on the National Anthem, and then he actually sang the National Anthem for the LA Kings and Lakers!  Gavin and his family live in Corona/Eastvale, CA.

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The album was recorded at Sony Interactive in LA, with Sony donating the studio time, an entire Motion Capture stage, mics, sound equipment, a wonderful engineer, and an assistant.

About Rena Strober, my good friend:
(Source: IMDB)
Rena Strober is known in New York and across the country from Broadway performances, TV appearances to her 1-woman show to concerts onstage at Lincoln Center, Town Hall and so many other venues.

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Rena was seen on Broadway as Cosette in Les Miserables. Most recently Rena starred opposite Betty Buckely & Peter Scolari in the Off-Broadway comedy White’s Lies. Other New Yorkers know her from her sold-out 1-woman show Spaghetti & Matzo Balls! Other NY shows include My Life with Albertine at Playwrights Horizons, Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi, playing the title role at the York Theatre. Rena recently completed a year on the National tour of Fiddler on the Roof as Tzeitel playing opposite Topol, Harvey Fierstein & Theo Bikel.

Rena originated the role of Tonya in the pre-Broadway production of Zhivago (Directed by Des McNuff) for which she was awarded the Outer Critcs Award of San Diego for her performance. Regionally she has appeared as Belle in Beauty & The Beast, Billy Smith in the Goodspeed Opera House production of Babes in Arms, Shelley in Bat Boy, Jenny Lind in Barnum (with Peter Scolari), Eliza in My Fair Lady and Louise in Gypsy. Rena was also a member of the original L.A cast of Reefer Madness and can be heard of the cast album. Her TV credits include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Kings for NBC and Jacob’s Gift for PAX TV. Rena has sung at home plate at Shea Stadium, at NASA for the rocket launches and for the famous Friar Roasts for Donald Trump, Don King and Pat Cooper. Rena released her debut album Finding Home last summer which is the soundtrack to her solo show Spaghetti & Matzo Balls!

Rena received her bachelor’s in science from Skidmore College, graduating Cum Laude in her major. (Drama) She spent a semester at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’neil and another semester working for the National Theatre of London. Rena is also a proud alumni of Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Center.

The album sparkles with contributions from such luminaries as Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), French Stewart (Mom, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Michael-Leon Wooley (The Princess and the Frog), Deborah Grausman (“Smartie” on Sesame Street), acclaimed opera singer Cristina Jones (the “Blind Soprano”), and DOTZ, The Blind Children’s Choir.

These iconic songs inspire decades of fond memories, yet are as engaging as ever for new little ears. They deserve the luxury treatment they get from this wildly talented, top-of-their-game team coming together to put on a classy show filled with a cheerful Broadway sense of style.

The many facets of this project coalesced via the trio of Fred Mollin, William “Chip” Beaman of Knighthawk Digital Entertainment Group, and the extraordinary vision of Broadway singer/producer Rena Strober, who says, “What the world needs now, more than ever, is the music of Sesame Street. We need to be reminded that being kind is simple and being ‘different’ is beautiful. No matter what your abilities or disabilities, if you ‘Believe in Yourself,’ you can do anything!”

Producer Fred Mollin (Rita Wilson, Linda Ronstadt, Lyle Lovett, Billy Joel, Steve Webb, and many others) has shaped Imagine That! The Sesame Street Music of Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss with sensitivity and skill to create an overall powerful unity of sound, style, and concept.

Highlights include Rena Strober’s exquisite vocals on “Imagine That!,” “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” “Being Green,” “Sing,” “To Love a Child,” and “Imagination,” which show off her delightful storytelling charm. French Stewart and Jason Alexander bring their adorable humor to “I’m Pretty/I’m an Aardvark,” while Rena Strober and Jason Alexander make a perfect boy/girl duet of “Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers.” DOTZ, The Blind Children’s Choir shines on “Sing,” “Believe in Yourself,” “What Makes Music?,” “One Small Voice,” and “To Love a Child,” and Cristina Jones, Rena Strober, and Michael-Leon Wooley offer a rousing rendition of “High Middle Low,” enhanced in this version by musical saw, washboard, plectrum banjo, and tuba!

Album Details:

Imagine That! The Sesame Street Music of Joe Raposo & Jeff Moss
Release date: August 28, 2020
For all ages
Label: Rena Strober
Producers: Fred Mollin, Rena Strober, William “Chip” Beaman of Knighthawk Digital Entertainment Group
SRP: $14.99 CD (with braille cover) or $9.99 digital download
Run time: 39 minutes

The Review:
What a fantastic thing that Rena has done. I’m so very impressed and this album harkens me back to the day when I was a child and watch Sesame Street and we only had four channels. Three VHF, (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and one UHF band, Channel 31 in Rochester, NY in the 60’s and 70’s.

Rena’s voice is soothing, beautiful and is like wrapping yourself with a warm blanket. You can close your eyes and remember a simpler time. Remember Big Bird and all the other Muppets as well as the “LETTER” of the day! God, I’m 60 now and that was so far in my past, but it makes me smile as I write this. Now sit back and enjoy the interview with the gorgeous, the lovely, and extremely talented, Rena Strober.

The Interview with Review with Rena Strober

Here’s the audio for our low vision and blind audience and the transcript of the interview follows.  Enjoy!

Transcript of the interview:

Patrick Donovan: Thank you for joining me today, Rena. It’s a pleasure. Welcome to the Hollywood Times interview podcast.  How are you and your family doing with this pandemic? And are you and your family safe and healthy?

Rena Strober: Well, I love that you’re the Hollywood Times because I’m also, I live in Los Angeles. So you say pandemic, I know in the global aspect, but right now it’s 107 degrees in Los Angeles. We have a pandemic in a pandemic, but thankfully I’m doing well.

My family’s doing well. I have a three-year-old who. I was really scared for her that she would feel the weight of the world, but she doesn’t, as long as she has some silly putty and a marker to draw on me with, she’s happy. So, my biggest concern are the children and the next generations from this, but I think they’re proving to be very resilient.

Patrick Donovan: Well, good. I’m really happy to hear that. you are having a heat wave right now, aren’t you?

Rena Strober: Oyi,yes. Word for heat wave.

Patrick Donovan: What’s the temperature down there right now.

Rena Strober: It’s 102, where I am, but if you’re living the LA, I mean, I’m on near downtown. So, but if you live in the Valley, you’re getting up to 111 today, so.

Patrick Donovan: Wow. Well, let’s get started and I know it’s going to be a lot to unpack.  So let’s take this a little bit at a time. Talk to me about your early beginnings, where you went to school, going to Broadway. And of course, Disney.

Rena Strober: I’m from New York. So I was brought up about an hour North of the city to parents who really appreciated the arts and music. So I lived in a home with a lot of music, a lot of Yiddish music actually, but also a lot of Gershwin, a lot of Broadway, a lot of Rolling Stones from my brothers , and I knew immediately when I was around five and I was put in dance class that I loved the stage and I felt comfortable there and I felt accepted there. So I proceeded to train over the summers and the Catskills at Stage Door Manner. Performing Arts Center, went to college for drama.

I’m a very big proponent of education and not just luck and looks. So I trained very hard throughout four years and then very quickly, my luck actually did set in a little bit, but I think it was also hard work that paid off. And I, I booked the national tour of Les Miz pretty close out of college. And then I was transferred to Broadway and then from there, I just started to have a really wonderful, career on stage on television and voiceover. and thankfully, I mean, I’d like to say that I graduated college in the last decade, but I didn’t. So I’ve had a lot of, a lot of yeah. Ups and downs, but also a lot of incredible experiences.

Patrick Donovan: Sounds like fun. you know, I have done some singing myself and I’ve been in plays at high school when I came back when I was in the Navy and went back to my, you know, high school and I played in the pit band for one of their. Things it would full uniform. And I was at a Catholic high school Brother Edward Boyer was the guy that was there, Cardinal Mooney. And he was like, you know, we have a guest today and he had me stand up with my trumpet.

It’s great. But anyway, I actually had an opportunity. I’m going to share this with you because I’m going to send you the video. I actually had an opportunity when I went to Utah for my work, we went in my boss is a Mormon and he took me to the tabernacle, the one where the, the choir practices and it’s, it’s made like a boat. There are no supporting things at all. There is no sound system. 90 meters away at the altar. She ripped a piece of paper. You could hear it.

Rena Strober: Wow.

Patrick Donovan: Yeah. And she dropped the needle and you could hear it drop. It’s Amazing! I sang a song from a group called Up with People every hear of them?

Rena Strober: Of course, yeah!

Patrick Donovan: I love them! They have a song called Moonrider and it’s a, ah, a piece that was a poem written by astronaut Eugene Cernan looking back at the earth and I sang it acapella in there and it was like, Oh, my God!

I’ll send you the video. It was great. I’m a tenor. So I enjoy singing. But anyway, talk to about your experiences as Cossette, you mentioned Les Misérables and the off Broadway  comedy White Lies and what it was like to work with Betty Buckley and Peter Scolari.

Rena Strober: Oh man. Well, first of all, doing Cossette in New York on a Broadway stage, it was a show I saw when my eighth grade went on a trip, you know, and I could never have dreamed I’d be doing it, but, It was just, I mean, first of all, Cossette survives the three hour ordeal.

So she lives with Marius, so I was like, “Yay! I get to live!” But it was just, it was just, it’s a dream come true of course everyone’s like, “Oh, you played Cossette.?” I love “On My Own.” And I say, “No, that was Eponine.” Oh no, no. I love, I dreamed a dream and I say, no, that was fun, Jean. So unfortunately, no one really knows Cossette’s songs because she’s the soprano that runs out on stage at just the moment you need to pee.

Because it’s about an hour and 20 minutes into the show. But I still loved it. I love, love, love it. And then White Lies was the last show I did in New York before I moved my life to Los Angeles in 2010. And it was a comedy and it wasn’t a musical, but one of the greatest musical theater actresses, Betty Buckley was the lead, which was so amazing. We’ve since remained friends and watching her work and seeing how generous she is on stage, but also a woman who has succeeded in the theater by being a strong woman. And I loved, I love seeing that and I loved getting to learn about that and how to speak up for yourself.

And as far as Peter Scolari, Oh my God. It doesn’t get, like, I was like comedy gold. I’m a kind, kind human. His son was. 10 I think, and his son would sit in the audience and I would just watch him, sort of connect with his child. And I didn’t understand that until I became a mom a few years ago. Just how, how meaningful that is.

And then Tuck Watkins was also the lead guy in that show. And, and tuck is, he’s about to come out in boys in the band and, he’s a big TV guy, but it was, it was wonderful. I mean, I just, we just made people laugh.

Patrick Donovan: So anyway, that’s sound like so much fun, man. what is it that tell me about your one woman show Spaghetti and Matzo Balls? It sounds like fun.

Rena Strober: Yes. That was the first one woman show I ever did, and I went all out. I did it off Broadway for about three months, and then I was brought to Leeds, England to headline a festival there and I did it all over New York. I had the, I was raised Jewish in New York people always think I’m half Italian, half Jewish because of the title, but, but it’s not about that. There are other shows about that. Actually, Rain Pryor does an incredible show called Fried Chicken and Latkes because that’s more about being African American and Jewish. It’s brilliant. If you get a chance to see it.

Patrick Donovan: Send it to me.

Rena Strober: Yeah. Spaghetti and Matzah Balls, it was about me being a nice Jewish girl, but I used to spend a lot of time in New York and this is all true. I’m eating dinner at Rayos in Spanish, Harlem, and singing at this restaurant. You might know from the tomato sauce in your local Isles of Ralph’s for $9. And I did that for years and, and one thing led to another and I ended up getting entangled in a little bit of a mob hit and one guy, this is a long story that you guys can Google, there was a law and order about it. one guy killed another guy and I went on a very deep soul-searching journey about my love for the Italian culture versus my acceptance of my own Jewish culture.

So the show sort of celebrated the, the nights I had up at Rayos with all these incredible Italians, and then came to a halt with the shooting and then my journey on, in Les Mis actually, to heal from that and find, find my pride for being Jewish.

Patrick Donovan: You went through an actual crime is what you’re saying or was it?

Rena Strober: Oh yeah, this is before the days of like gun violence was like rampant. This was like, when someone shot someone, it was rare.

Patrick Donovan: Yeah. I remember in Rochester, New York where I grew up, I’m Italian. There was a couple of people, [raspberry sound] popped, a few people

Rena Strober: I was singing. Don’t Rain on My Parade and apparently two guys got into an argument and about me singing and then when one guy shot the other guy, but, but the press and the media sensationalized, it, it was, it was a beef they had with each other. I’m sure that had nothing…

Patrick Donovan: Don’t they always? Don’t they always sensationalize?

Rena Strober: Yeah. So, I just, I was merely a. Caught up. I got caught up.

Patrick Donovan: That’s a shame. I’m sorry. You went through that a year. Okay. Now with all that and all?

Rena Strober: I actually bought Rayo’s tomato sauce for the first time recently, and I think [inaudible] yeah, it’s very good. $9.00 but it’s very good.

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, well. I grew up in Rochester, I guess they had Ragu was there or Cantisano Foods, which was Ralph Cantisano and then he sold Ragu over to New Jersey, and then he made Francesco Rinaldi, you know and the Cantisano sauce, you know, we used to drive by Lyle Avenue and Rochester, and there was the Ragu place and that you could smell the tomato sauce as you drove by. It was unbelievable. Anyway, you were best known for and correct me if I’m wrong, Tzeitel in Fiddler, on the Roof playing opposite Topol.

Rena Strober: Yes. Tzeitel [Seidel]. Yeah.

Patrick Donovan: And that had to be a fantastic experience. Tell me about that.

Rena Strober: Well, as a Jewish girl who grew up in New York, we watched Fiddler like, you know, like every year when you guys were watching the Christmas Story or a Wonderful Life, we probably were watching Fiddler on the Roof.

So I grew up watching Topol, you know, he was Tevya although, as a girl who very passionate about original soundtracks, I do love Zero Mostel’s Tevya and then I was cast as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter. It was an, it was Topol’s farewell tour so, 74-year-old Topol decided to go on the road and this was 2009.

It was it’s pretty. It was pretty exciting. I don’t think I was in a place that I really wanted to be on the road anymore. I’ve actually played Rochester a bunch. But I did love it. I got very close with the girls who were my sisters and my mom in the show. We’re still very close. Topol ended up tearing his rotator cuff and Harvey Fierstein came in to play Tevya and then get this, Harvey had to go back to New York to open La Cage for three weeks, so Theodore Bechtel came in at 86 years old. So I had the Papa trifecta when it comes to Fiddler on the roof.

Patrick Donovan: [Laugther] Unbelievable!

Rena Strober: For any Hollywood people out there. I played the Pantageous. If you saw it in 2010, with Topol, that was me.

Patrick Donovan: That’s great. You’ve done so many other things that we need a couple more interviews, but I want to get right to why we’re here. Imagine that it’s a magical, like no other featuring the music of Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss. You have featured guests like Jason Alexander, French Stewart, Michael Leon Willie, Christina Jones, the blind soprano and DOTS, the blind children’s choir. I love your voice in those songs. I got to listen to them. It’s soft, sweet, and lovely. This was such a magical undertaking. Wasn’t it?

Rena Strober: It’s all Sesame Street music. I mean, Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss were the original composers of Sesame street and for anyone. in their forties to seventies or even eighties who, who grew up watching the original Sesame Streets, that music was the foundation of, yeah, it was, was the soundtrack to our lives. So, I had a child and I felt that the world needed to re-hear this music in particular. I do a great deal of work with the blind.

I teach, young blind children voice and I teach, physicality for the stage and I’m also a very big advocate for celebrating the blind and for hiring the blind because they should be hired in whatever capacity a sighted person is hired. But when it came to this music, you look back at Sesame Street and you realize the message was tolerance and inclusivity and kindness.

And boy does this world need a little of that reminder right now. So I set out on this, like what was a small, personal journey. Suddenly I had Jason Alexander and French, and this choir of 15 young blind singers who will just blow you away. and Sony Interactive, asking me to record there because they wanted to be part of it.

And, and Fred Mullen the producer of this album out of Nashville, who also was so moved by this music. I mean, everybody just kept dropping what they were doing to make this album happen and that’s when, you know, the world needs it. And so I just moving, and I kept moving forward and thankfully we had done all the recording that was all done by January so we didn’t have to worry about the restrictions.

So it was just a matter of mixing and mastering and designing and getting it out there and making sure we’re raising money for guide dogs of America, which is a guide dog organization here in Southern California.

Patrick Donovan: Just about to ask you that. Tell me about it was a great segue, thank you. What are your goals and dreams and most importantly, supporting Guide Dogs of America, and the Gavin R Stevens Foundation.

Rena Strober: Yeah. So my goals and dreams are just for people to hear this music and to go, “Oh, right. It’s really easy to be kind.” “Oh, look, there’s a, a blind person at this coffee shop. I, I’m not gonna pet their dog because you should never pet a guide dog, but maybe I’ll say hi, or maybe I’ll, I’ll ask them if they need me to go get them a cup of coffee.”

Like it’s, it’s about bringing people together and reminding people to just stop for a second, go off of Twitter and remember that humanity needs a little music. It needs a little Sesame Street. Guide Dogs are so important to me because, I’ve watched many of my young singers go from too young to have a guide dog and being very dependent on others, to having a guide dog and gaining this kind of independence. I think a sighted person will never understand.

It translates into confidence and independence and leadership and the, the idea that a guide dog can, can help a blind person be safe and be alive and go to work and, and. It is just really important and Guide Dogs of America as a small organization here in Sylmar, they’re always looking for puppy raisers.

So if you want a little puppy, you get to keep the puppy for 18 months and then the puppy goes off and changes someone’s life. But when you bring back, just, you know, when people are like, how do you bring the dog back? They give you another puppy right away. So you’re…

Patrick Donovan: Nice! Well, there’s a website for that, right?

Rena Strober: Yeah. GDA, I’ll make sure to share that. And then Gavin R Stevens was one of my first students at the Academy of Music for the Blind here in California. I met him when he was six and he was born with a very rare condition called LCA. So he was blind from birth and he was the first person to show me that music and the voice come from a much deeper place than I ever thought imaginable.

And he went on to sing the National Anthem for the Kings and the Lakers and he was on Little Big Shots. I mean, he is like, the greatest. I used to call him my, my future third husband, but he’s 11. I feel like I can’t do that. So his parents, when he was born, started the Gavin R Stevens foundation to research the LCA gene.

It’s a very rare gene, but I have another young singer on the album named Ali Elliott. And she was born with the same gene. And you hear these voices that are so full of joy and, and purity that they should be celebrated. And those are the two organizations that proceeds from the album will be going to.

Patrick Donovan: That’s great. You know, and you speak about, people that are blind. I interviewed Roy Samuelson, you know, he is he’s Hollywood’s voice and

Rena Strober: We’re working together right now.

Patrick Donovan: You should tell him you talked to me because he’s doing audio description. That’s why I put up both the audio of the interviews and the written word, because just like he said, and I got inspired by this and I’d like to get more involved. People that can’t see, want to experience what we are doing right now. That for people that can and just want to read, and for them, they actually are benefited. Instead of someone who could just read something because they’re getting our emotion, they’re getting our feelings instead of just reading words on a screen or a newspaper, you know, and are excited.

Rena Strober: And what Roy is doing I mean, he is transformed… I’ve worked in audio description as well and one thing, my students who were blind tell me is “Ah, it’s so boring audio description. It’s like, it’s so it’s so lifeless and Rena, can’t you do more?” But Roy is trying to change that. He’s trying to make it an art and he wants to the audio describers to have that energy and to enter, reflect the energy of the scene and one of Imagine That! as the name of the album, but it’s also the name of one of the songs. And I’ve been working really hard to do a music video with animation, with me and animation, which I’ve actually completed. And I’m not releasing it yet. No, it has audio description. So Roy is producing the audio description.

Patrick Donovan: Way to go!

Rena Strober: For my video. And not only that we hired, one of my singers from the album, who’s a young, blind actress to do the audio description because I was like, here’s our opportunity, your show. Yeah. But Roy is very passionate about hiring, engineers who are blind and editors who are blind. Like he. He’s incredible, he’s just…

Patrick Donovan: I’d like to reach back out cause I’m a disc jockey and I have that voice, you know, but anyway, I’m going to ask you something. Talk to me about your interest in sci-fi and how you’re connected to a project that I heard about. And I understand it’s in the late stages of development and the creator visited Warner Brothers back in January of this year. so tell me about that project.

Rena Strober: It’s so interesting because I’ve had many, really cool opportunities in life. I sang God, Bless America at Shay Stadium, I used to sing for the mob and then about eight years ago, I was asked to sing the Anthem and a NASA launch in Florida. And I went to Florida to Cape Canaveral to the Kennedy Center and got very close with a lot of the, I mean, I’m a girl, I’m a child of the eighties so I grew up watching launches and. So I have a, very deep connection to NASA and, I just befriended a lot of people there and ended up getting introduced to the creator of that. I love Sci-fi but it was more my interest in space through the NASA lens. so I was introduced in that direction from the scientists cause I think there are scientists and NASA engineers working on that project. And so I actually went in that door, literal, science, what do you call them?

Patrick Donovan: I don’t know, but he talked to me about, would call it. I

Rena Strober: thought that he’s a rocket scientist. So whenever I,

Patrick Donovan: but he actually talked to me about a story about NASA, where there was an administrator and he had a plastic disk on his desk. He said, “What’s that, plastic?”

He says, “No! It’s Transparent. Aluminum.” He said, “What! That was in Star Trek.” He said, “yeah, the movie.” He said, “That’s the real thing. We just got the patent for. He said, “10 years, 10 years after the movie was made Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” Transparent Aluminum was what Scotty was talking about, and there was sitting on the desk and patented internationally. It’s real!

Rena Strober: Wow. Bill saw me randomly do a concert in Baltimore. Years ago, he was in the audience and I brought up a little girl to sing with me, cause I love singing, he was friends with that family and then he’s like, Would you come to NASA to do the Anthem?” and I dropped everything. I just moved to LA and I was like, I’ll get on a plane.

So that was my introduction to that project and then, as most actresses will tell you. I think we I’ve always wanted to be put into like Klingon makeup and I want to like, just look super cool on camera, so sci-fi does that and it’s also a beautiful project and it’s so well thought out and exciting and, it includes women in very beautiful, powerful positions.

And so I am just hoping and then we can get our blind actors in that show. Like look at we, they had a blind actor, Star Trek. What was that guy’s name? Oh, what’s his name?

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, you ready? Right. Jordi La Forge. It was his character and it’s, LaVar Burton. He also played in roots, the second edition.

Rena Strober: Burton came to the Academy of music of the blind and interviewed me and Gavin Stevens. So like it’s all full circle.

Patrick Donovan: I went to a Star Trek convention a long time ago and he was up on stage. I got a chance to ask him a question and I knew he had been going through the different Tony Robbins thing, which I love Tony Robbins. Right. And I said, are you. Are you a product of Tony Robbins, personal power? He says, “No, I’m a product of my mom and dad.” [roaring laughter] Well, he was being funny, but he, he got it.

Rena Strober: Yeah. So, I mean, life is full of adventures and, and, Yeah,

Patrick Donovan: It is amazing. I know, you know, Scott, he did all the sound effects at NASA.

Rena Strober: Scott Gershin!

Patrick Donovan: Yes. Yes!

Rena Strober: So, we went out to NASA together so he could record that launch and he’s a big sound designer in Hollywood.

Patrick Donovan: Oh yeah.

Rena Strober: He does all of Guillermo Del Toro’s movies. So he’s, but he’s also as NASA geek. So, I love friendships. I love them.

Patrick Donovan: But we’re going to do a little thing to honor the late James Lipton. Remember inside the actor’s studio. Were you ever on it?

Rena Strober: No. No,

Patrick Donovan: Now’s your chance. Okay? James died on March 2nd. Of this year and it said he was 93. And I’m going to ask you a few questions. So here you go.

Rena Strober: Wait, wait, doesn’t he ask about profanity?

Patrick Donovan: No, no.

Rena Strober: Okay, good. Just making sure.

Patrick Donovan: I don’t ask that question.

Rena Strober: Ok, ok.

Patrick Donovan: Don’t worry about it. Yeah. I purposely skip it because you know what? It’s not about the profanity. I really don’t care about that. I care about you and your thing, but here we go. Here’s first question. Number one. What is your favorite word?

Rena Strober: Subwoofer.

Patrick Donovan: Subwoofer. [roaring laughter]

Rena Strober: Yeah, I love that word. There are no other words that allow you to go. Woah. Woah, Sub Wa.

Patrick Donovan: I remember those speakers I used to have from my own turntable and the big, huge thing. It would be a subwoofer and the tweeter and the mid-range.

Rena Strober: Yeah, that’s a sub-woofer.

Patrick Donovan: Okay. What is your least favorite word? Would that be a above woofer?

Rena Strober: We’re going in a different direction.

Patrick Donovan: Please.

Rena Strober: That’s my least favorite word.

Patrick Donovan: What is?

Rena Strober: When Hollywood says, “We’re going in a different direction.” No. No. No, thank you. Didn’t get the job. See, there’s more of a sentence.

Patrick Donovan: Oh I see, it’s more of a sentence. [Laughter]

Rena Strober: I hate the word diet. I’ll go with diet.

Patrick Donovan: Diet is it. What turns you on?

Rena Strober: Peanut butter whiskey.

Patrick Donovan: What?

Rena Strober: Yes, it’s called screw ball. It is my newest lover. It is screwball peanut butter whiskey. Go to BevMo, go get it.

Patrick Donovan: I’ve heard of a slow, comfortable screw, which is a mixture of different drinks. And people look at you funny

Rena Strober: All you need is peanut butter whiskey.

Patrick Donovan: What turns you off

Rena Strober: Racism?

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, me too. I agree.

Rena Strober: Our current administration…

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, that too. There are several answers here.

Rena Strober: Yeah, yeah.

Patrick Donovan: What sound or noise do you love?

Rena Strober: Mm, the sound of my daughter laughing?

Patrick Donovan: It’s always the kids.

Rena Strober: I know.

Patrick Donovan: Beautiful. What sound or noise do you hate?

Rena Strober: It’s funny. Like I really hate when she cries, but that’s, I know that’s cliche, but it does something to your soul as a mom. but I also hate the sound of riots right now. I hate the sound of Donald Trump’s voice. Oh, God. It’s like, it’s like worse than giving birth.

Patrick Donovan: [laughter] You don’t remember that either.

Rena Strober: Oh, you remember. I only have one child because I didn’t forget.

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, I know. But I heard women don’t actually remember the pain. And then that was an old Bill Cosby joke. And the wife said, “What is it like?” she says, “Take your bottom lip and pull one over the back of your head.”

Rena Strober: [laughter]

Patrick Donovan: Anyway, what profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

Rena Strober: Well, I’m really working on advocacy, because it’s important. So continuing to attempt to be a bigger advocate for the blind. I’m working on training to be an antiracist. I know that that sounds,

Patrick Donovan: Oh, be careful.

Rena Strober: Another profession right now I just want to do anything that can help reverse the damage that’s been done to our world and raise up. my black and brown friends and my blind friends and my gay trans friends. so in some sort of advocacy, I guess I’d love to, I’d love to work.

Patrick Donovan: That’s great. That’s great. What profession would you not like to do?

Rena Strober: I would not want to be a gynecologist. Like I, I just don’t want to be a gynecologist.

Patrick Donovan: We will take that under consideration in your next career move

Rena Strober: Or a gastroenterologist. I think ologists, I don’t, unless it’s a mixologist, I don’t want to be part of it.

Patrick Donovan: No Proctologist?

Rena Strober: Nope! No Proctologist. No Urologist. No, my Dad’s a Nephrologist so he does kidneys, which isn’t as bad. No ologists.

Patrick Donovan: Okay. Alright. And here comes one. If heaven exists. What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly Gates?

Rena Strober: I think I’d like her to say, oh shit, I made a mistake. Go back. that’s the first thing. And then if he didn’t make a mistake, I’d want her to say you’re done good kid.

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, I thought you, when you said, oh shit, I want to go back needs no, start over. Let’s rerecord record that section. [laughter]

Rena Strober: No, no, that’s what I want her to say,”Go Back, go back!”

Patrick Donovan: Got it. I like the fact that you said she,

Rena Strober: Oh, definitely.

Patrick Donovan: Oh, that’s good. Yeah, definitely. It’s like, it reminds me of that movie with Ben Affleck and [snapped finger] what’s her name that played the female, the woman, God in the movie. Oh, I can’t think of it. He was an angel. Uh, I can’t think of her name.

Rena Strober: My brain doesn’t work like that.

Patrick Donovan: I know it’s not enough. I’ll think of it after we’ve hung up. Alright, I’m going to turn the mic over to you Rena, to talk to your readers and our listeners about anything you’d like to, with the remaining time we have.

Rena Strober: Wow. That’s, that’s a huge thing to hand the mic to muah! I just want you to know that you can go to band camp and Band Camp is a wonderful platform where they give so much of the money that you spend on music directly to the artists. So, I listened to my album on iTunes and Amazon, but I’m letting people know to go to Band Camp, to download, Imagine That! so you can listen to 14 glorious Sesame street tracks. Everyone is just better than the next. You will smile.

You will remember your childhood. and you’re going to make a difference because a lot of people feel really stuck right now and not able to make a difference, but I promise you by sharing music and by supporting Guide Dogs of America and the Gavin R Stevens Foundation, you’re making an immediate difference in somebody’s life, but you’re also making a difference in your own.

Patrick Donovan: That’s fantastic. You got as much time as you want.  James would walk away and have a seat somewhere else.

Rena Strober: Oh that’s funny! I just want people to go spend 39 minutes. It’s 39 minutes the length of this album, spend 39 minutes listening to the lyrics and music of Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss and the voices of the children. It’s a breath of fresh air

Patrick Donovan: Yeah, it is. Oh, the lady sang the song. Ironic. Who was that?

Rena Strober: Alanis Morrisette!

Patrick Donovan: Yes, she didn’t talk but when she spoke and it blew up Ben Affleck’s head. Good movie. I couldn’t remember the name, but it will eventually. But anyway, well, listen, thank you Rena, for your time. This has been a pleasure. Great to speak to you and I can’t wait until your next great project.

Rena Strober: Well, thank you so much. Stay safe. Stay in air conditioning. If you’re in California,

Patrick Donovan: I’m in Washington state. It’s 54 degrees.

Rena Strober: Oh my goodness. I’m jealous. Well, have a great weekend.

Patrick Donovan: You too!

Rena Strober: Byyyyyyeeeee!

Links:

Click to view Rena’s IMDB page here.
Click to view Rena’s website here.
Click to view Rena’s Facebook page.
Click to view Rena’s Twitter page.
Click for “behind-the-scenes” video here.
Click to view the Imagine That! Promo video here!