Monalisa DeGross PlaywrightAt various times if you'd...


Monalisa DeGross Playwright

At various times if you'd asked Monalisa DeGross what she wanted to be, she would have answered: gardener, opera singer, weaver or tarot reader.

But today, thanks to having won the ninth annual Drama Competition for Black Playwrights sponsored by WMAR-TV (Channel 2) and the Arena Players, she offers a different reply: writer.

"A Relative Stranger," her play about a woman confronted by the daughter she abandoned at birth, will air at 7 p.m. Saturday on Channel 2. (It will be rebroadcast at noon March 10.) And this spring her first children's book, "Donavan's Word Jar," will be published.

"This is a real dream come true," says the 40-year-old secretary for the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Dreaming is perhaps what Monalisa DeGross does best. Growing up in East Baltimore, where she still lives, she filled journal after journal with stories. Her husband and two children tease her about her imagination and curiosity, qualities that have caused her to attend several colleges (without graduating) and study everything from accounting to tile mosaics.

That same imagination, however, now has her conjuring up how audiences may react to her first produced play.

"That's going to be the ultimate terror," she says. "I don't think they'll come after me with torches but . . ."

What if you earn a living in life insurance and your job seems about as exciting as one long TV test pattern?

Well, if you're Joyce Sica, you volunteer to become the folk music coordinator at the Coffeehouse at Otterbein. Then, when that venture takes off, you help open a similar one called the Folkal Point in Ellicott City.

You don't earn a penny, have practically no free time and enjoy every single minute of it.

"I just love the music and I love giving other people the chance to experience it," says Ms. Sica, 44, who lives in Randallstown.

Several years ago, she discovered the musical genre after her mother died. "I found folk music real comforting," she says. "It speaks to people more than other types of music. It looks inward to emotions."

Last month, she helped organize the coffeehouse's first benefit, raising $4,000 for the homeless. Her husband, Tony, who shares her passion, hosts WCVT-FM's folk music program "Detour" Sundays at 3 p.m.

But there's a certain irony to her story. During the folk-filled early '60s -- when everybody was singing "Blowin' in the Wind" -- Ms. Sica was busy raising two children and listening to Frankie Avalon.

"I keep wondering," she says now, " 'Where was I in the '60s?' "

Have someone to suggest? Write Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or call (301) 332-6156.

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