Sylvia Rifkin was taking a typing test at the V.A. Hospital in West Haven when JFK was assassinated. She wondered if she got the job with the doctor because of her typing skills—or because she cried so much and so well.
That line, delivered as part of a collective monologue by 10 seniors from the Tower One/Tower East apartments, was part of an evening of theater at the Long Wharf’s Stage II Monday Night that played to vigorous applause from some 60 audience members.
The collective work, titled Snapshots, evolved from the Elderly Play Project, a Long Wharf and Tower One/Tower East partnership. As part of the project, seniors attended all the plays of the Long Wharf’s 2012 season and met to discuss them with Long Wharf educational staff and to create a theater work of their own.
Click on the play arrow to watch Corkie Weinstein read some of her lines in Snapshots prompted by attending Satchmo at the Waldorf, a play by Terry Teachout and starring John Thompson.
The ten senior playwrights attended the season’s plays for free in exchange for also attending sessions before and after the Sunday matinees. Then they met with Long Wharf staff to process their own reactions to the plays and to use the theater experience to evoke dramatic recollections of their own.
In 2012 themes of the season included JFK’s assassination, race relations in the 1950s and ‘60s, and weight loss after holiday eating binges.
Here are some speeches from the script:
Ellsworth Lindsey: “In 1963 I had just completed my first year as head waiter at a private country club. I and two fellow workers were driving in North Carolina (my first south of the border) to visit my friend’s mother-in-law when we lost our directions and stopped for help and some lunch. A sloppy looking waitress took our orders and then said, ‘You will have to go around back to pick up your sandwiches.’ The three of us turned on our heels and left the joint.”
Sylvia Rifkin: “Once we were traveling and stopped to eat. My youngest son at about age 4 saw a black man in the restaurant and said out loud, ‘Mommy, look at that man’s dirty face.’ He had never seen a black person before.”
Ida Fidler: “Loved The Shadow. I liked the suspense. We would stop what we were doing to listen to The Shadow. We got accustomed to watching television instead of just listening to the radio no matter what we’re doing we took time out for The Shadow, even if we were in the car we would pull over to the side of the road. Heaven forbid we should miss The Shadow.”
No Room At The Taft
After the play concluded, Tower One/Tower East senior Laura Levine, who was in the audience, said the presentation reminded her of Louis Armstrong’s performance at the Shubert in the 1950s.
She saw that performance. She had vivid recollections of her own.
She worked in a doctor’s office downtown and never missed a Shubert show. She sat in the high balcony. “Fifty cents!” she recalled with delight in her eyes.
Then she added” “When Louis Armstrong came to the Shubert, they wouldn’t let him stay at the Taft ” Hotel.
Levine had a family member who would put him up. Her aunt ran a small hotel on Crown Street, and there Armstrong stayed.
Other playwright/readers not mentioned above include: Terry Berger, Marjorie Garrison, Bettye Morrison, and Leah Wallach, who died during the play-going and playwriting process. Monday night’s performance was dedicated to her memory.