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Meet Catherine the Great

January 8 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Janina Birtolo is back–as Catherine the Great.


ROSSIYA-MATUSHKA: MOTHER RUSSIA recounts the story of Empress Catherine II, the longest reigning – and last—female leader in Russian history and a ruler who built her country into a world power.

Born in 1729 as the minor German princess Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine gained a new name, title and homeland when she married her second cousin, Peter III, heir to the Russian throne. Disappointed in her husband’s intellect and abilities and resentful of being pushed to the sidelines, Catherine staged a coup and overthrew her hapless spouse, becoming sole ruler of the immense country.

Although denounced by both contemporaries and historians for her dictatorial monarchy, Catherine the Great proved an enlightened ruler who did much to bring her adopted country into modern times. While she is often remembered today merely for keeping sequential lovers, the play shows that Catherine’s story is much fuller and more fascinating than most people realize.

Janina Birtolo was born and raised in New Jersey, the daughter of a scientist and a stay-at-home mom who was greatly interested in the arts. Because of that unique combination, she grew up surrounded by music and theater and by discussions of evolution and chemistry–a true liberal arts education! That education continued when Janina moved to Boston. Deciding to concentrate more on the arts than the sciences, she earned a BA in English at Boston College and an MS in television broadcasting at Boston University.

Her writings have appeared nationally and in such local publications as Gulfshore Life, Times of the Islands and Naples Health . She also does considerable writing for not-for-profit organizations. In 2001, Janina was chosen “Writer of the Year” by the Florida Magazine Association. She is a field producer for WGCU Public Media, having worked on such shows as Arts Edition Prime Time, Connect! and MAKERS: The Women Who Make Southwest Florida.

Writing one-person plays about famous women is Janina”s special passion! This is something she had wanted to do for a number of years, because there are so many great women whose stories are not well known — even when their names are! That sense of personal connection prompted her to make her plays more than a simple re-telling of each woman’s life. In each case, Janina looks for what she feels is the lesson the woman’s life embodied, the message she would like to share with us today.



January 8
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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Fort Myers Regional Library, Meeting Rooms
1651 Lee St.
Fort Myers, FL 33901 United States
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