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Long Wharf Hails Levin, DeStefano
by Allan Appel | Oct 9, 2013 4:55 pm
Posted to: Arts & Culture
Yale’s former president Rick Levin learned accounting working a summer job in high school with his grandmother, whose company made all the costumes for the San Francisco Opera. He also did a good JFK imitation.
Retiring Mayor John DeStefano was so “painfully shy” as a boy he never once appeared in a school play or production, not even the Christmas pageant. He learned to address “different rooms” only when he stepped out on to the stage of politics in New Haven.
Those tidbits from the theater autobiographies of the city’s two departing leaders emerged Wednesday afternoon as they each accepted the Founders Award from Long Wharf Theatre at a lunch ceremony at the Union League Club.
The award has been given intermittently since the 1980s to recognize long-term commitment to the Long Wharf, established in 1965 as one of the country’s pioneering regional theaters.
“Rick and John have given their gift of work and love,” Long Wharf Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein said in his presenting remarks.
The result over the last two decades has been “a more commodious, more welcome place to make theater,” he added.
Levin said that he grew up in San Francisco in a family that not only appreciated the arts but made costumes for productions.
The firm his grandmother ran, Goldstein & Co., designed and made costumes for a wide range of the opera companies west of the Mississippi.
When he worked summers for her, he got his grounding in bookkeeping and accounting, which led ultimately to a career as an economics professor.
“She had a gift for looking at the drawings and making designs,” he said.
In an interview after receiving his Founders Award, Mayor DeStefano observed that politics is in part performance. He recalled being so “painfully shy” as a child, he never once stepped on the stage to help conquer that diffidence. He learned to be comfortable talking to “different rooms,” or audiences, of New Haven citizens by watching former Mayor Biagio “Ben” DiLieto up close.
DeStefano said New Haveners (audience members?) have not for their part been shy about responding to him. Over the years he said he has learned that certain municipal, er, performances, such as budget roadshows, play better in certain venues.
“Why do I do budget presentations in church basements?” he asked rhetorically. “People are more respectful [there].”
Levin’s said his brother Steven is the actor in the family. As a young man Steven wrote a musical version of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Rick Levin recalled that when he on the stage at his Lowell High School, he was usually running for student-government office. “I always gave speeches,” he said, and also attracted votes with what a termed a pretty good JFK imitation.
He declined to perform it for the Independent.
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In an interview after receiving his Founders Award, Mayor DeStefano observed that politics is in part performance.
You right about that.
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