by Bonnie Rusinko
I would like to introduce a very impressive creative writer, director, actor and founder of Waxhaw’s Storefront Theatre, Judy Simpson Cook.
My first thought was to WOW you by listing all of her accomplishments over the last 40 years, which include awards, honors, grants, productions (in at least 12 states), workshops, and performances on stage, TV and movies. However, such a list would fill at least three pages leaving me very little room to share with you the warm, generous and loving person behind this ‘bigger than life’ dynamic and energetic personality.
Judy was born and raised in Waxhaw and has nothing but fond memories of her childhood and teen years. Judy draws from these memories as she writes her plays.
She and her brother, Jerry, grew up during the years of early television. She fell in love with Judy Garland and Shirley Temple and would dance through the house mimicking their every move and wanted to become an actress just like them. That desire to become a professional actress remained with her for years; however, with no drama classes offered in school, plus knowing her parents frowned on this idea, she tucked her desire in a small corner of her mind.
After Judy graduated from Parkwood High, she entered Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and Fine Arts.
With degree in hand she was hired as a 10th-grade English teacher. However, after a year Judy realized that teaching was not where her heart was and admits she wasn’t that good at teaching, so she left it to find work that was a better fit.
While working for a public relations company writing advertising and promotional material, she met her future husband and best friend, Ron, who she said is a God-send with his computer, video and advertising skills.
In the late 1980s, she began work as a casting director for the Jan Thompson Talent Agency (JTA) where she represented professional actors and assisted producers and directors in casting television commercials and feature films. While working, she managed to write 11 full-length plays, three one-acts, and a one-woman show.
After nearly 15 years at JTA, Judy decided it was time to quit and devote her energies to writing full-time.
In 2005, she and Ron returned to Waxhaw to live in her childhood home. She said it was like finding a pair of comfortable shoes that had been lost. (By the way…Judy is a ‘shoe horse’).
Within a year of her return, Judy founded The Storefront Theatre, originally performing at the Museum of the Waxhaws and eventually moving to a larger space at Waxhaw Presbyterian Church.
The Storefront Theatre just kicked off its 11th season of five plays, including “We like Short Shorts: A Festival of 10-Minute Plays,” a competition which receives submissions from all over the country and is a favorite among theatre-goers.
Judy and Ron love being back in Waxhaw and enjoy spoiling and playing with their rescue dogs, Jesse, Winston and Jenny, in the fields and woods behind their house.
Judy is very active in her church, Providence Presbyterian in Charlotte, where she sings in the choir and occasionally writes and performs monologues about the women of the Bible.
She is a former president of the Waxhaw Woman’s Club and remains active in the club’s work in the community. She gives freely of her time to promote and encourage the arts through her association with the Union County Community Arts Council and her membership in the Dramatists Guild of America.
Yes, Judy Simpson Cook is one remarkable talented lady, so full of life and willing to share her God-given gifts to audiences throughout the country.
I promise you once you sit, listen and watch Judy with other performers interact with each other on the stage, you will be “hooked” and, like me, will look forward to the next Storefront Theatre performance which is “The Tangled Skirt,” scheduled for Nov 18 and 19,
Check out www.thestore fronttheatre.org for times, cost and additional information.
Bonnie Rusinko is a member of the Waxhaw Arts Council.