QUARANTINE QUARTET, Part 3: The Youthquake!

Made using TurboCollage from www.TurboCollage.com

This edition of “Quarantine Quartet” features four young working actors/performers who live in New York City.  I have had the privilege of seeing all four of them work their magic on the stage MANY times, and they never disappoint!  The theaters may have gone dark, but the collective creative energy of this bunch is powerful enough to light up the Manhattan sky during a power outage (Sorry, that was a 2003 flashback…). Get to know Jerome Brooks Jr., Dani Martineck, Travis Schweiger, and ReW STaRR as they share their inspirational stories…


pandemicjerome2JR: Hi, Jerome! Thanks for speaking with me! So, what was the last social gathering or event you attended before the “social isolation” took over?
JB: A memorable social gathering I attended pre-quarantine was in March, when I went to see The Hot Wing King Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre, inspired by Katori Hall’s brother’s relationship with his same-sex partner. Katori is the book writer for the Broadway show Tina The Musical.
JR: Wow! “Tina” was on my list before all this happened… How are you staying busy during the pandemic?
JB: During this pandemic, on March 19th, I found out about the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s (NAMT) 15-minute musical competition contest for a show that was written post-March 19th.  On March 23rd, I started writing the musical Social Distance. I submitted the first 16 minutes and I’m continuing to develop it into a full length musical. I currently have 11 songs at 35 minutes total. This show is centered around four ethnically diverse New Yorkers as they navigate video meetings, social media home workouts, and the new normal. But on March 28th, I received a letter– after I returned home from preparing food for the elderly– from my landlord’s lawyer that was postmarked March 26th– informing me that I need to vacate my apartment on April 15th, 2020.  My life turned upside down, and I wrote this song for the musical called I Give Up:

JR: Wow. Sorry to hear that… but it’s extraordinary how inspiration sometimes comes from the most unlikely places…
JB: I lost the inspiration to create as I continue my new quest to find a stable home, but Poet Shadenia Savid — who is an Apollo Champion and published poet with a new book– asked me to lead a prayer during her Instagram live with Tony Winner George Faison and the attached video is what transpired as I try to move forward with some glimmer of hope & faith:

DJ Michael Forde also contacted me and said that he was going to play a house song that I helped produce that we recorded called Beauty Is Found Deep Within and here is that video:

He inspired me to dance and dream to my own music. That’s the interesting thing about life– to dance in the rain! He also organized this photo shoot with photography by JCP Images, which was supposed to accompany the release of the four-track EP featuring four different new mixes of the original song Beauty Is Found Deep Within.  That song is originally from my 2017 CD titled MultiGenre Music, which is available on all outlets like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc.
JR: Wow!  It all looks and sounds amazing!  What’s the first thing you are going to do when the pandemic is over?
JB: When this is over I’m going to go to church and to the bar!
JR: In which order? (Laughs) I hope to get to meet up with you in church or at the bar… or anywhere else! How funny is that, that the last two times we hung out it was at a church and at a theater with a bar in the lobby? Thanks for speaking with me… and thanks for all the inspiration!

You can see more of Jerome Brooks Jr. on Twitter ,Instagram, Facebook, CD Baby, and YouTube.



JR: Hi, Dani!  Thank you for speaking with me?  So, what’s the last social event you went to before the New York City lockdown?

DM: Two days in a row—the days right before theatre in NYC shut down—I had tea dates with two excellent non-binary art friends! They were both kind enough to meet me in Chelsea near my office, and I took them to my favorite coffee shop (Luna Coffee). It was already a little writing on the wall, because Luna wasn’t doing enough business to stay open, but I was happy to give them some support and order hot chocolate to go. And to get some dear hugs in with these sweet friends before self-quarantining with my husband in deep Brooklyn. Before that, the biggest social gathering I attended was my own axe-throwing birthday party in late February. I tend to check in with friends one on one or in smaller groups. My terrible secret is I’m not actually a big party or nightlife person. I might be the “morningest” person you have in this series, haha!

JR: (Laughs)  You may just be getting up when most of them are going to bed!  By the way, I am insanely jealous that you have that green screen in your home!  Look at the way you and your husband can travel to so many places without leaving the apartment! (Laughs)  So, how have you been keeping yourself busy and creatively satisfied during the pandemic?

DM: I’m one of the extremely lucky people who still has a job and is able to fully telecommute at this time. My boss at Parity Productions went above and beyond to get me a work laptop on March 12th, which was the day we found out our current production was canceled for the rest of its run and we all started working from home. So I’m keeping busy with that, and also leaning hard on my exercise and meditation routines. I’ve been strength training at home for nine months now, so working with what I have at home is familiar. The biggest change is I’m having to constantly remind myself to relax my expectations and show myself kindness.

I’m also staying busy with a couple creative projects. The pandemic interrupted crowdfunding and production for a short film I’ve written—funnily enough, about loss, grief, and coping—so my co-producer and I quickly shifted gears and turned the film’s social media into a hub of self-care tips. Coming up with content for that has been a fulfilling exercise, and the videos I sent you were made for that! I’m also working with a producer on a new podcast series as quickly as I can drag the story ideas out of my brain.

JR: Oh my Goddess I love these so much!  Looks like you’ve been staying sane, which is more than I can say for myself! (Laughs) What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the masks come off?

DM: The first thing I’m going to do when this is all over is visit a friend with a pet and hug on BOTH OF THEM! And probably ask more strangers walking their dogs if I can pet them. (Laughs) I didn’t realize how much passing random dogs on the street was keeping my pet-ological clock at bay, and right now my husband and I are both really feeling the limits of our pet-banning studio apartment. I’m watching more animal Vines and videos than I ever have in my life! The other day I watched some bunnies hopping around this dude’s backyard in England for twelve whole minutes. And last night, I had a dream that we adopted this perfect kitten and then I immediately had a weepy panic attack because “we have to hide her, and I’m bad at lying, and there’s no place for the litter box, and how will we afford vet bills?!,” but there was absolutely no question that we were adopting that kitten.

JR: Go ahead and adopt her!  I won’t tell, and hopefully neither will the 2,000 people who view this! (Laughs) Thank you for speaking with me, Dani!

Visit Dani on Facebook and Instagram.  Also visit Dani’s site for The Rushing of the Sea here.


JR: Hey, Travis!  Thank you for speaking with me!  First off, how have you been doing during the New York City shutdown?

TS: It’s a tough thing. In these times, it can go either way. It can cause panic, fear, depression, and just boredom.  Or, you can find ways to enjoy this time, and find creativity, productivity,  ways to connect, and to just utilize and be grateful for what we have.  How do I put this?… This is such an uncertain time. It came kind of unexpectedly, and we didn’t plan for this. But I do think that in this time of isolation– for many of us who were just trucking along and putting our hours and energy into  work– it was about time for us to kind of settle in and find ourselves. This is a time where a lot of what’s been underneath is now coming to the surface. We’re now having more time with ourselves, with a lot of reflection and a lot of things that are just arising. I do think that’s a good thing, you know?

JR: Yes! I think that if there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that the creative side of people is coming out, especially with people who perform for a living.
TS: That’s the beautiful thing. At least we’re trying: We’re making an effort, we’re getting off of our sofas, and we’re finding ways to connect and to create and to share and to express ourselves. We’re trying to find ways to decompress. As a generation and as a worldly unit, we’ve been so disconnected for so many years and decades. I think that in times of tragedy, there are also a lot of triumphs. I think there might be some sort of Renaissance coming out from these times. Zoom, and virtual classes, and virtual get-togethers… That’s all awesome stuff. That’s a start!

JR: I am trying to jump on the Zoom bandwagon, with mixed success! So… what was the last big social event that you remember before this shutdown?

TS: I’m in the middle of an indie feature film shoot. We were just on our third day of shooting. That pretty much was the last kind of social get-together where I was around lots of creatives. So, that was the last one.
JR: Did you just all come to a realization, “Oh, well maybe we should just put this on hold for while…”?
TS: Yeah! It came about halfway into our production. A few weeks in, we decided that it wouldn’t be wise to be shooting at Penn Station or shooting in the street.  We might get caught and stopped by authorities. Also, it was an unhealthy thing to do. It was unsafe. It was sad: I really wanted to keep going, and keep creating, and keep working  with these people. But things happen, you know?

JR: I hear ya! How have you been keeping busy during this time period? How do you satisfy that creative restlessness?

TS: The best thing I can say is that having structure in these times was so helpful. I just wake up in the morning, I do my yoga, I do my shadow boxing, I do some meditation, I do squats and pushups. After that, I journal and reflect. I do this thing called The Morning Pages in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s very helpful to unlock that creative genius and that abundance of creative flow channeling inside of you. And, I’ve just been watching films, and working on scripts, and working on projects that I have lined up: just prepping for those roles, shooting monologues, and shooting scenes on self-tape. Also, I’m cooking, and planning for the future, and just spending time with loved ones. We welcomed a new cat named Pumpkin into our house yesterday.
JR: An adopted cat?
TS: Yes, adopted.
JR: That’s great. I’ve always felt that the animals are so important to have as companions.
TS: Yeah! They’re so helpful, ’cause they’re just full of love, and so peaceful and so calm, and they just provide– how do you call it?– this warmth that we need at this time. Companionship! That’s what I was looking for…
JR: Absolutely! So, of course the gyms are closed during this pandemic. As a personal trainer, what’s some advice that you could give people for staying in shape while they’re staying home? What do you personally recommend?

TS: We have so many aspects of our being that we want to take care of: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical… So I would say start off with some yoga in the morning, some meditation, and some sort of workout– whether you’re working on your abs, your chest, your legs, your arms… If you don’t have any weights, just do 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats. The biggest thing that’s going to help keep us in shape is our mental state: how we talk to ourselves, how we project our thoughts, and what we manifest from those thoughts. I would recommend having some prep recipes to make during the week. Have smoothies. Have three meals a day. To save time, use a crockpot and find whatever kind of ingredients you can to put a nice meal together. You can have that for a few days of the week. That’s the kind of package you can put together for your day. And it’s a lot to keep you productive, you know?

JR: Right, right. So can I assume that you don’t really approve of eating too much takeout food?
TS: (Laughs) It couldn’t be any more simple than just cooking from home, because you know what’s going in there. You’re the master of your kitchen.  You’re taking full responsibility for what you’re having, and what’s going into your body and into your system. Also, whenever you make something, there’s always a magic in it. There’s always some love. There’s this alchemy: You’re putting these things together, and you put it in this nice, beautiful dish, and it smells good… It might suck the first time or it might be magical! There’s just something beautiful about cooking at home.

JR: Yeah, there definitely is. I think a lot of people are probably cooking for the first time now! (Laughs) In New York, there’s a lot of places to get takeout food. But I think that people may finally be discovering the joys of cooking, or rediscovering it if they haven’t cooked in years. Yeah, it can be fun and it can also be much healthier for you too.
TS: Yes. Isn’t that something how we’re all being brought back to the simple things, like cooking and just sitting at home, reflecting or connecting? We needed this stuff to happen.
JR: No doubt! What’s the first thing you’re going to do when this is all over– when they finally say, “OK, you could take off the masks. It’s safe to go outside. It’s safe to socialize!”?
TS: Wow! It’s almost surrealistic, right? What are we going to do? (Laughs) For me, it’s just to be outside. Something that I’ve always wanted to do was rock climbing and archery: just stuff to get back in touch with nature and with reality. Yeah!  That’s the first thing I would do: just sit outside and hear the birds and feel the breeze. And to have a picnic with family and friends. And… to finish that film that we’ve started!

JR: Oh yeah! Well, I look forward to seeing the final project!  I plan to NEVER be home after this is over. I’m going to say yes to every single invitation and go out as much as possible. (Both laugh.) So… anything else you want to share with the masses? Any advice about coping with these recent tragic events?
TS: Coping? I would say just try your best to keep your spirits up. Show gratitude and appreciation for what we have, and for those who are not sick and those who are helping at home. Count your blessings. Keep that creative spirit going. Whatever project that was on the back of your mind and you couldn’t get to: Get to it now, ’cause you never know what might happen to that project and how it might blossom and flourish once you get started. You’ll never know who you’ll become when you start with these things! One other I can share that actually works with me is getting with a group of your friends, or just even just one friend. and having a challenge– like some sort of creative or fitness challenge, and keeping each other accountable, and seeing where that goes and where that takes you. It’s great to create these habits and to develop that discipline and dedication.
JR: Agreed! Thanks for speaking with me, Travis!

You can connect with Travis on LinkTree here.


pandemicrew3JR: Hello again, ReW!  As a full-time socialite, what was the last social gathering or event you attended before the “social isolation” took over?
RS: The last gathering i attended was a gig i had at The Hard Swallow on 1st Ave on
Tuesday, March 10. i was supposed to go to a wrap party for a film i was in on March 15 but it got cancelled hours before it happened or didn’t happen. Some pictures from that gig are here..


JR: How have you been staying busy during the pandemic?

RS: How i have been staying busy…

Thanks so much for this opportunity of sharing my pandemic {purgatory) LIFE WITH YOU!

i have actually been drawing a picture every day and now have my pandemic art collection.  These are drawings from suggestions from people, so please send me a suggestion and i will draw it.  The collection will continue for as long as we are in ‘pandemic’. i post them on my IG @rewstarr and also save them here….

i have written two new songs , one called ParanoiaMania and the other for my beloved friend Alan Merrill called More Than Rock N Roll.  This was taken off the live broadcast I had on Sunday, April 12th:

i also have been hosting a renegade ReW & WhO? show which is a gathering of sharing YOUR ART, whatever it may be.  A song, a story, a joke, a smile, your aura, laughter… whatever. i have had five to date. They all stream live on the Rew & WhO Facebook live page and there is a direct link for people to join in the gathering.  i will happily share with whoever wants to be a part of the party.  i know “party” doesn’t seem like the right word these days.. “pandemic purgatory party”….let me clarify!  Here is the debut show:

All of them are on Facebook to view.  Here are some pictures are here from the gatherings…


I had a live gig the other night in memory of my beloved brother from a different mother Alan Merrill the writer of the song the whole world knows ‘I LOVE ROCK N ROLL’.

He passed on 3/29 from this coronavirus and has made it very real to me. Here is a link to my first show in his memory:

The next will be on 4/30 at 7pm and will air on FB Live here.

A person i used to write with came across this song we wrote many years ago and he sent it to me.. i barely remembered the song until i heard it and found it to be so appropriate for today’s times.. i made a video from my pandemic art collection up until that day.. of course the collection keeps growing… since then…

i have been doing online workouts every darn day.. i’m even able to take my friend’s classes now who teaches in LA here’s a picture with me and my VIPS helping {ZsaZsa Gabone and my black cat):

I’ve also been giving Facetime guitar lessons!


JR: Yes, I met ZsaZsa Gabone.  My husband Joe wants to know if your cat’s name is Eva GaPaw! (Laughs) Wow, you wore me out with all you’re doing!  What’s the first thing you are going to do when the pandemic is over?
RS: The first thing i will do when this is over.. is hug my children and visit my parents..
PLAY LIVE IN CLUBS AGAIN… START WORK on all the film projects that have been
postponed or cancelled { i was literally booked through JULY!!}…..THE BEACH…
and a few things i cannot tell you!!!

JR: (Laughs) I think they are the same things I can’t tell YOU!  Thank you again, ReW!!!


pandemicrew15Visit ReW STaRR on Facebook at http://facebook.com/rew.asterik and on Twitter  on her official website http://www.LuVReW.com!

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