By: Diane Feen Contributing Writer
Judi Mark is a theatrical tornado. The Chicago native, who has performed and lived in New York, has quietly been residing in Delray Beach the past few years.
Not many people know that this petite brunette has a resume that can fill you with awe, and a larger than life persona on stage and in life. Her one woman show – Laughing Through Life – was recently performed at the Boca Black Box. Mark commanded the stage while dancing, singing and telling the story of her life through song.
“When I worked on a cruise ship the Cruise Director had rules and the rule was that all female performers must sleep with the cruise director,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
But these bold admissions didn’t seem morbid or unfortunate, they just propelled Mark into the limelight even more. Her history is quite impressive starting at age four when her mother took her to creative movement classes.
“My mother took me to dance classes so that I would not have big thighs,” she said.
She never got the dreaded thunder thighs, but she got something else in its wake.
“I have had a successful performance career spanning over decades with TV appearances, film, Off-Broadway, concert stage, regional theater, cabaret and cruise ships,” she said.
Mark worked with Danny DeVito in an off-Broadway play and became a choreographer as well. She also studied with the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York and has stories of the grand dancing diva clad in a flowing caftan.
“The Graham technique is very dramatic (and so was Ms. Graham). I went on tour with them as well,” she said.
There’s a lot more to this dancing and singing snowbird. She worked at dinner theaters and cabarets like The Algonquin, The National Arts Club, The Laurie Beechman Theatre, The Metropolitan Room, The Iridium, Sweetwater’s, and Florida nightclubs like Les Violins, The Copacabana, and the Konover Hotel.
In her show “Laughing Through Life” Mark talks about her father’s strict approach to child rearing, that ultimately gave her the drive to shine on stage.
“I learned to laugh at my life through the ups and downs,” she said. “I like to entertain people so they leave feeling good.”
Mark had another side to her professional persona. She has a B.S. in Education and an MFA work in Dance-Choreography. That led to a successful career as a master teacher, creator and curriculum writer of high school sequential dance programs in NYC public schools. She produced dance concerts and taught dance students and mentored student dance teachers at Hofstra University.
Mark, who has been trained in ballet, modern dance, jazz, theater, voice and piano – is also a chip off the old block. Her mother Dorothy was a pianist who would play show tunes and classical music at home. Her father Leonard was a recording engineer. When Mark found her mom’s sheet music in the piano bench it set her on a theatrical mission.
“My mom had song-books from Ginger Rogers, Chita Rivera, Carmen Miranda (my idol) and more,” she said. “My show is a tribute to my mother and to the generation of music from the Great American Songbook, 1930’s to the present.”
There is another side to this dancing darling – she was a member of the New York Friars Club. She also produced successful shows like “Girls Night Out,” “Triple Threats” and Ballroom Dance events.
Mark’s show is made up of little snippets of her life – which is far from ordinary. But rest assured her love of Florida is not merely to gaze at palm trees and walk on the beach.
“I am not here to worship the sun, but worship my art,” she said. “I spend all my time creating and performing. Delray Beach is a great place.”