April 11, 2019

Experience emotion and hope


The Loss World Monologues 2.0  120 Park Street UMC, 120 Park St., Belmont, NC 28012 

Kelly Zirbes a/k/a Kelly Z


Singer/Songwriter, Performer

 Growing up listening to her mother sing was the inspiration Kelly found to become a songwriter. Her first memory of music was her mother's voice as she sang along with records late at night. A single mother of five living with hardship and pain, music was her mother's salvation. In her teens Kelly dealt with what she felt and saw in others by writing songs about it. She wrote songs of disappointment, pain, loss, loneliness and so much more but always of survival which was something her mom taught her to do no matter what. In 1995, performing her original songs on stage with a band sparked a passion and soon thereafter created a strong songwriting team of Kelly Z and her guitar player, Perry Robertson. Writing alone or with Perry, Kelly uses music to help ease the sorrows of the life she sees around her, to stay strong and to find a way to understand a life that sometimes makes no sense. Kelly’s songs always make her listeners smile as they find a way to understand their own struggles through her lyrics and music.  

Kelly's empathy is clearly expressed in her beautiful and emotional performance of Mary's words and Kelly's own original music.  The combination is unforgettable. 

Mary London Szpara

Kelly Z (Kelly Zirbes) and Mary London Szpara

 Mary was raised on the shores of Lake Michigan and was determined to "Move where it's warm" at an early age.  The opportunity arose as she turned her love of music into her calling as a radio DJ.  She became a gypsy moving from city to city, finally landing in Richmond Virginia where she met the love of her life and soulmate Michael. They moved throughout The States, finally landing in Charlotte NC, where Mary was a rock and roll DJ, turned voice actor.   When Michael died, she poured her thoughts into volumes of journals and the book “The Loss World” was the end result. It was released in 2013. With the encouragement of friend and director Glenda Kale, it was adapted for stage in 2015 as The Loss World Monologues.  The debut performance featured a cast of nine women.  Each turning Mary's words into their own and bringing sorrow and loss to a responsive audience.  

In late 2017, Kelly Z approached Mary about a collaboration of spoken word and music. After months of collaboration. Mary and Kelly were able to bring Mary's words and Kelly's music together to create The Loss World Monologues 2.0 which debuted in 2018.  TLWM 2.0 continues in 2019.   

The original play is available for production here 

News & Events

Upcoming Events

April 11, 2019 Presented by: Gaston Arts Council


The Collaboration Continues with Kelly Zirbes and Mary London Szpara.  Venue TBA
The Loss World Monologues 2.0 is an intimate look at death.  The daily, monthly, yearly challenges and triumphs  are woven with tears, humor and music.

The Author/Musician collaboration is becoming a growing art form across the artistic community within the last year.  
In this Creative Pollinators Series, Mary and Kelly have raised the bar by inviting local artists to submit their work.  Key phrases highlighted/verbalized during the performance are to be inspiration for visual art.   
The art will be on display with an opportunity for those who attend to see how words are interpreted on canvas .

Calling all Artists to become Part of the Event

Phrases for art inspiration

Are you and Artist?   The Author/Musician/Artist Series are popping up around the country.  You can be a part of this growing experience.  Your art will displayed in an area where event goers can see your vision of chosen phrases used in the performance.   Sell your work to attendees

Great opportunites to expose your work to new audience and be involved in this new and exciting way of combining the arts.

Artist submission deadline: March 15, 2019


Give customers a reason to do business with you.

Submit photos of work to :

See more details in poster



Kicking off Season 3

Gastonia, N.C. – It's Season 3 of Creative Pollinators and Los Angeles' ownSinger/Songwriter, Kelly Zirbes, aka Kelly Z, will be in town to accompany Playwright/Producer/Graphic Artist/Voice Actor, Mary London Szpara to present "The Loss World Monologues" - A Performance of Music and Spoken Word on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at the Gastonia Conference Center - 145 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way (formerly S. Marietta St.) Gastonia NC 28052 .  Doors open at 6:30PM and Kelly Z and Mary London will take the stage at 7PM.  An in depth Q&A will follow their performance. Refreshments are served during the networking portion of the evening. 

Seating is limited RSVP ~ at http://bit.ly/2tJyEWO or call (704) 853-ARTS. 

More September 2018 Performance Dates in LA and North Carolina to be announced

The New Play Exchange


The New Play Exchange is a streamlined script discovery and recommendation engine for the new play sector. TNPN is an alliance of non-profit theaters dedicated to  the development, production, and continued life of new plays.   


Find out more

'Loss World Monologues': Life without her Soul Mate



June 02, 2015 02:21 PM

Updated June 02, 2015 08:07 PM

The hot line rang during Mary London’s DJ shift on a Richmond, Va., radio station. Uh-oh, she thought. The boss is about to get on my case.

The voice on the line actually belonged to a listener who was going a little crazy. Part of a song kept running through his head, and he couldn’t identify it. After he sang a little, London rescued him: The mystery song was Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Heartache.”

Something clicked, she says.

A year to the day after that 1978 phone call, London and Michael Szpara wed. Their 25-year marriage, and the healing she achieved after his death, inspired “The Loss World Monologues,” a drama that premieres Friday in UNC Charlotte’s McKnight Hall.

Radio listeners on 99.7 The Fox and other Charlotte-area stations knew her as Mary London after she and Michael moved to North Carolina in 1985. But “Loss World Monologues” carries her full name, Mary London Szpara.

The play grew from the journal she began when Michael died in 2004, after eight years of battling hepatitis C and its side effects. Szpara and director Glenda Kale enlisted nine actresses from their 20s through their 50s, then blended their experiences with Szpara’s to create interlocking stories of loss and survival.

“None of us gets out of this life without losing someone we love. None of us,” Mary Szpara says. “This (play) is a place that offers therapy and healing and joy and laughter. But most of all, it offers hope.”

Szpara began studying music as a girl in Wisconsin, she says, and she loved it. When a high school theater class required students to try a guest shot on a local radio station, she saw where her love of music could lead. She DJ’d part-time in college, then launched what became a 20-year career.

“I loved being able to turn other people on to music,” Szpara says. She was the queen of trivia, reveling in sharing the music’s backstories with her listeners.

“I think music is a great unifier in the world,” she says. “I was too young to be part of hippie nation, but I’m old enough that I understand and embrace all that it entailed. … Imagine what the world could be like if we actually unified it with music. I always felt that was kind of my calling in life.”

Music certainly unified her with Michael Szpara. Though he worked in advertising when they met, he had owned a Richmond music store and promoted concerts. Michael was as hooked on music as she was.

The couple spent evenings with friends playing air guitar with the music cranked up full blast, she says. They sometimes spent evenings exploring the hundreds of promotional albums they had accumulated through their jobs.

“They were great albums that nobody knew about – unless you were a freak like we were,” Szpara says.

Sensing that radio was moving away from the kind of conversational, personalized shows she enjoyed, Szpara left in 1995. She went into voiceovers and other behind-the-scenes work, eventually starting her own production company.

In the midst of her career change, the couple learned that Michael had hepatitis C. “We considered it the most horrible blessing we could ever have gotten,” Szpara says. “It made us draw together. We had to fight for his life.”

The battles ranged from making insurers pay for treatment Michael needed – including a liver transplant – to coping with medications’ side effects. While awaiting the transplant, the two met another couple awaiting a transplant: Walter Kale, a cancer patient, and his wife, Glenda, then East Mecklenburg High’s drama teacher. The couples pulled together, and Glenda observed the qualities that would later enable Mary Szpara to turn her experiences into a play.

“She’s so open,” says Kale, now retired. “She’s probably the most giving person I’ve met in my life. … It’s just second nature to her to reach out.”

At the beginning of 2004, Michael and Mary’s 25th-anniversary year, the couple decided to have a yearlong celebration. They vacationed in Hawaii; visiting Texas’ Space Center Houston let them imagine going aloft themselves. A few weeks before the anniversary, Michael died of a heart attack.

Mary’s soulmate was gone, and she turned to a journal to help her sort out her feelings.

She turned sections of the journal into a 2013 book, “The Loss World.” Kale, whose husband died a few weeks after Michael, thought the book’s meditations on heartache and recovery could make powerful monologues. The two have spent a year crafting the stage version.

The play, Szpara says, shows that turmoil can give way to a happy ending, as it does when she thinks of Michael today.

“Really, I never lost him,” Szpara says. “He’s still a huge part of who I am, and I carry him with me wherever I go.”

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.


Mary London Szpara’s play looks at turmoil and healing after the loss of a loved one.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: McKnight Hall, Cone Center, UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd.

Tickets: $17 advance, $22 day of show.

Details: 704-372-1000, carolinatix.org.