Jewish Journal

In Search of Love

How one teacher spends her time while looking for Mr. Right.

by Debbie L. Sklar

Posted on Jun. 6, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Just as I can honestly say that I don't think I'm mother material, Lisa Cohen of Costa Mesa sure is.

Cohen, 40, a single mom and a busy drama teacher, is recently divorced, but actively looking for that special someone. Like many young Jewish singles in Orange County, Cohen has found that trying to meet her counterpart is a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. Perhaps that's why she immerses herself in her work.

"I've gone to one event, but it just wasn't for me; it's funny because it took so much chutzpah just to get up and go," said Miss Lisa, as she is fondly called by her students, during a visit to one of her productions at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach last month.

"I'm looking for a special, spiritual individual that I can share my life with."

The popular, part-time teacher was surrounded by young children dressed in a variety of costumes for a performance called "Fairy tale Theater." And while she gets much praise from her students' parents, fix-ups are nearly next to nil.

"I wish they would fix me up, but it rarely happens," she said.

Cohen is also the drama instructor and curriculum coordinator at Pacific School of Music and the Arts in Costa Mesa and runs her own party planning business, Creative Arts & Parties for Kids.

"I've loved the theater my entire life; I wanted to become an actress," she said. "It never panned out, so I decided when I moved to California I'd combine my love of theater with my love of teaching children."

As for the fairy tale-themed parties for the young, this teacher's events are well known around Orange County for the sheer delight that they bring to children. "I have adults that dress up around a specific theme -- like a princess -- and they intermingle with the kids and create a festive atmosphere," she said. "The outcome is terrific and the kids really get involved."

Cohen should know about kids. She has a 9-year-old daughter, Leah. "She is a very special little girl," Cohen said. "She really is the light of my life and keeps me going. I work hard at being a mom, and find it to be the most rewarding experience."

The perky brunette admits that while she's somewhat gotten used to the single life, working solely with young people makes it nearly impossible to meet the man of her dreams. Cohen hopes he's out there, but until he crosses her path, she'll stay buried in work. "I really do love my job and enjoy working with kids on a daily basis, especially when their faces light up. I am up for meeting and sharing my life with the right person, though."

A third-generation Denver native, Cohen is the daughter of a professional musician father and a registered nurse mother. She founded Dance-on-Wheels/Creative Arts & Parties for Kids in 1986 with the dream of bringing arts programming to children in an accessible and affordable manner at their schools.

She has watched her dream grow in the Los Angeles area from three to 45 schools. Now, in Orange County, her party business helps bring arts programs to about 15 local public and private schools, as well as community centers and organizations.

When she first landed in Tinseltown, her first job was in the service industry rather than in theater. "I was a bad waitress, let's just say," she laughed. "The way it started was because I was truly unfulfilled in other jobs that I had. So, I started teaching dance to preschool kids after noticing a preschool sign one day while driving. It just hit me after a friend said to strive for whatever I wanted and it would happen. It was the believe-in-yourself manifest that led me to an epiphany."

She also noticed how dance was being taught in the schools. "I was so distraught and disappointed by what I saw, I decided to start my own program." With $12 in her pocket, she did.

She eventually moved south and landed her first gig at Temple Bat Yahm, the same temple she said has embraced her beyond her wildest dreams. "I've had some hard times, and the temple has been there for me," she said. "When I was down to my last dollar and didn't have enough food to feed my child, they told me to pull my car up to the back door and Rabbi Miller loaded it up with $500 worth of groceries."

When she isn't teaching kids dance and theater, Cohen dedicates one day a month to the Jewish Community Center teaching Jewish adults with disabilities creative movements and expressive therapy.

Now that summer has kicked into gear, she will spend her time teaching in Costa Mesa, study philosophy, kabbalah, working on a series of books for her Web site with Leah, and trying to find her bershet.

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