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Fingernails in the Side of the Cliff

Tina deVaron in Fingernails in the Side of the Cliff. Image by Stephanie Eagan.

Fingernails in the Side of the Cliff is Tina deVaron’s solo show about being the daughter of world-renowned conductor Lorna Cooke deVaron and finding her voice as a professional musician. deVaron voices both her mother and herself and performs new, original songs on piano.

Parent-child conflict is a common theme in autobiographical works. It is even more fraught when the parent is exceptional or famous. Tina deVaron’s mother was both, as well as a perfectionist. deVaron stands when she delivers lines as her mother and sits on a stool or at the piano when she is herself. In a particularly moving moment, deVaron tells about seeing her mother conduct a choir for the first time. Her child’s voice is perfect – enthusiastic and delighted.

In contrast to her mother’s brisk, professional manner, deVaron is warm and hopeful in her delivery. The contrast extends to their music careers and mothering styles. From a very young age, deVaron supported her mother emotionally and practically, administering pep talks after disappointing rehearsals and taking on cooking for the family by age nine. Her mother, meanwhile, downplayed Tina’s accomplishments throughout her life and failed her at pivotal moments in her music career.

deVaron was the first woman to land an ongoing gig at the Waldorf Astoria playing jazz – on Cole Porter’s piano – a job she held through pregnancy and beyond. Her story parallels her mother’s, from music training, to marriage, to finding great success and satisfaction in her career, to having children. However, deVaron departs from her mother’s path when she begins to compose her own songs. She writes several chart-topping dance hits and enough songs about motherhood to present a concert at her local church.

deVaron bops to her dance hits with swagger and glee. Then she performs several of the songs she wrote for her children. They are tender, sweet, and full of emotion. deVaron is an excellent musician, but she never looks happier or more at home when singing these songs. This light, which allowed her to endure her mother’s less joyful approach to life, shines through the ninety-minute performance. It’s a delight that’s not to be missed.

Fingernails in the Side of the Cliff

Performed and Written by Tina deVaron

Directed by Gretchen Cryer Scott

October 26, 2022

The 13th United Solo Festival

October 4- November 20, 2022

Theatre Row

410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)


STEPHANIE EAGAN is a professional writer based in NJ. A fan of every type of live performance imaginable, from taiko drumming to political performance art, she travels the tri-state area and beyond in search of music, art, theater, and excellent coffee.


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