Read about the activities of our “extra-curricular” groups: Book Club, CAST (Improvisation, storytelling, etc.), Poetry Circle, French Conversation Group, New Yorker Fiction Salon, Photo Club, Scene-iors Acting Troupe, Writers Guild.
During the final week of our Fall Term, BOLLI’s “Book Group” engaged lunchtime attendees in a BOLLI-wide discussion of Philip Roth’s novel, Indignation.
Roth’s book is set in the 1950s and features a butcher’s son from Newark who escapes the family ties that bind by enrolling at a small, traditional college far from home in the rural Midwest.
The BOLLI Book Group’s co-organizers, Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz, moderated the event. “I think the One Bolli, One Book conversation went extremely well,” Charlie says. “I’m not very good at estimating the number of people in a crowd, but I would say there were at least 3 or 400 people in the room.” Abby suggests that 30-40 were actively engaged in the conversation circle, and mentions that another 10-20 observed from the tables.
Charlie points to the conversation as having been lively and substantive. “Rosalie Fink told me that, although she hadn’t read the novel, she found the discussion so interesting that she went out and bought it and read it, and, since that time, she’s become a bit obsessed by Roth, recommending that we do another one of his novels–American Pastoral or Nemesis. Another ‘silent’ participant, Marty Kafka from The New Yorker Fiction Salon, told me that, although he hadn’t read the book, he found the discussion so interesting that he stayed just to observe/listen.”
Both Charlie and Abby believe that the event may become an annual one, but, whether that happens or not, the BOLLI Book Group offers excellent reading and discussion opportunities on a regular basis.
Watch The Bulletin for specifics about the group’s upcoming reading and discussion plans.
During the Fall Term, the BOLLI Photo Group treated us all to a glimpse of their activities in a wonderful lunchtime presentation. It helped to introduce this very popular Special Interest Group to the membership as a whole and highlighted some of its activities.
Group organizer Joanne Fortunato kicked off the presentation with some images from the group’s October trip to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. She focused, in particular, on one outdoor installation called “Lincoln” One would think the photographers’ images would all be quite similar considering that they were shooting the same thing. But, clearly, this is never the case! Note how very original these shots are!
Other members of the group presented aspects of their work for the BOLLI lunchtime audience.
Linda Brooks shared her “Photography Projects with a Focus.” She particularly likes working with themes and, after her “Windows and Doors Calendar” (which you can find on the blog by scrolling through SIG “Photo Group” items), she started creating books, including a dog story for children. She photographed the 30 day gestation period taking place in the robin’s nest outside her kitchen window, and is now into flowers.
Helen Abrams provided “Photographing Trees: A Personal Journey.” As a docent at Mt. Auburn, she has an excellent opportunity to check out a huge number of different types of trees and focus on their fascinating differences–their twisted trunks and branches, their leaves…in all sorts of light. She says that they eventually start to look like they’re going to move! (You can find one leg of this journey in a very early blog item by scrolling back through the SIG “Photo Group” items.)
Steve Schwartz showed “Interpretations: Familiar and Artistic.” He says that, as a CPA, photography fulfills his fascination with the intersection of precision and feelings. His work, exemplified by his “Lincoln” photographs above, clearly does just that!
And, finally, the irrepressible BOLLI photo enthusiast/SGL/and field trip leader extraordinaire Arthur Sharenow rounded out the event by providing “Tips for Taking Good Pictures,” sharing some hits and misses. Always a treat!
The group meets on one Friday afternoon per month–check the BOLLI calendar for meeting dates/times. At each meeting, the group takes time to critique each other’s work, share ideas, and plan events. Any interested BOLLI member–from beginner to professional–is welcome! Coming up, another photography show featuring works by members of the group will be installed in the Purple Room for the spring term.
During the last week of the fall term, the BOLLI Membership Committee sponsored lunchtime presentations celebrating ourselves and our activities, providing our fellow BOLLI members with entertainment, discussion, and more! First up, that week was our intrepid group of actors providing a program called “Going Solo.”
CAST (Creative Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre)On Monday, our CAST Our CAST members performed monologues drawn from plays (many of them one-character shows) featuring characters from real life. The performers provided the following glimpses of fascinating people–
Sue Wurster started off the program with a piece drawn from the play Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein by Marty Martin. The play, a single-character work, featured Pat Carroll in its off-Broadway run in New York in the ’70s and takes place on the eve of Stein’s eviction from her Paris apartment. In this portion of the work, she talks about the inner self as well as what she was trying to accomplish in her work.
We then moved back in time (and place) from the Paris of 1933 to the Amherst, Massachusetts of the mid-19th Century. In this scene from William Luce’s one-woman play, The Belle of Amherst, the reclusive poet talks about her father, her sister, and, of course, her poems.
In 1932, the National Geographic Society awarded its Gold Medal to Amelia Earhart for becoming the first woman (and the only person since Charles Lindbergh) to achieve a solo transatlantic flight. In this passage from Laura Annawyn Shamas’ one-woman play, Amelia Lives, the aviatrix reflects with some amazement upon the extraordinary public response to her flight as she accepts the medal for her achievement.
In Marcy Lafferty’s one-woman show, Vivien Leigh: The Last Press Conference, drawn from the Leigh’s own words, we are given a portrait of the troubled and gifted actress not long before the end of her life. Here, she talks about her most determined campaigns in life: marrying Laurence Olivier and landing the role of Scarlett O’Hara.
In a very unusual piece, First Lady, playwright Erica Christ has provided a unique look at the woman who used her position as Argentina’s first lady to fight for women’s rights and care of the poor. Here, Peron (after her death) reflects upon what it means to be a woman in Argentina…and more.
Twin sisters Margaret and Allison Engel have provided a vivid image of brassy Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins in their one-woman play, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. In this portion of the play, Ivins turns her humor on Texas politics as she tries to write about her father.
A scientist herself, Bette Winer was drawn to this particularly powerful monologue from Carson Kreitzer’s compelling play, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this passage, the scientist reflects upon the volatile age that he and his Los Alamos crew ushered in when they invented the modern devil, the atomic bomb.
So, is CAST a closed group? NO. Does one have to audition in order to be involved? NO. What if you’ve never been on stage in your life but are kind of interested in maybe trying some acting–is this something you could join? YES! And so, how would you go about doing that?
Just watch the Bulletin for announcements of our upcoming meeting times (next at BOLLI on Thursday, January 5 from 12:00 – 1:30) when we engage in lots of fun activity–we do some warm-ups, play some theatre games, engage in some improvisation, read scenes and/or plays, and so on. No experience necessary–just a desire to have some creative fun!
This week, the last of our Fall 2016 semester, is full of wonderful celebrations sponsored by the Membership Committee and some of our BOLLI Special Interest Groups. Join us for a wonderful array of festive frolic!
MONDAY: CAST “Going Solo”
(Creative Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre)
Seven of our BOLLI thespians will present monologues drawn from plays featuring real-life characters. Above, rehearsal shots feature: Monique Frank as Emily Dickinson, Eileen Mitchell as Eva Peron, Sandy Clifford as Molly Ivens, and Becki Norman as Vivien Leigh. Others include Bunny Cohen as Amelia Earhart, and Bette Winer as J. Robert Oppenheimer! Come and support the remarkable work of these wonderful performers!
TUESDAY: RADIO FREE BOLLI RETURNS!
Back by popular demand! “Home Cooking Jazz” DJ’s Judith Stone and Nancy Connery take their weekly radio show on the road to 60 Turner Street. This week’s show features great musicals through the ages. Come and enjoy music pulled from Broadway shows from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. Along the way, we’ll provide exciting trivia opportunities (complete with exciting prizes) and end up with a Grand Prize Drawing!
WEDNESDAY: “One BOLLI, One Book!”
BOLLI’s Book Group, led by Charlie Marz and Abby Pinard, will moderate a BOLLI-wide discussion of Philip Roth’s novel, Indignation. The novel takesreaders back to the 1950s with a butcher’s son from Newark who escapes the family ties that bind by enrolling at a small, traditional college far from home in the Midwest. What could possibly go wrong?
The group’s next “One BOLLI, One Book” event will take place on Friday January 6 at 12:30 when the discussion will focus on Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel who depicts life before and after the collapse of civilization in this gripping, surprisingly beautiful novel about the endurance of art and the shared stories that connect us and make us human. Then, on Friday February 3 at 12:30, the discussion will be about Atticus by Ron Hansen. An aging Colorado rancher, in trying to unravel the mystery of his son’s death, struggles to come to terms with his life. A moving and beautifully written novel about blame and responsibility and the illogical, consoling, and ultimately redemptive power of the human heart.
THURSDAY: A 21st CENTURY TEVYE
Boston based actor Jeremiah Kissel stars as Tevye in a new production of the acclaimed musical, Fiddler on the Roof, at Watertown’s successful New Rep Theatre. On Thursday, Kissel will join us at BOLLI to talk about his experience in this show, offering his perspective on playing a “21st Century Tevye.” The show, directed by Austin Pendleton (award winning director and HB Studio acting teacher who originated the role of Motel Kamzoil the tailor on Broadway), opens on Friday, December 2 and has already been extended to run through January 1.
Dropping by the BOLLI Gathering Space at 60 Turner Street on a Tuesday afternoon, you might find some unusual activity underway as CAST members work to discover, develop, and refine their performance skills in the dramatic arts.
An outgrowth of BOLLI’s long-standing “Scene-iors” Acting Troupe (an annual springtime course offering in which participants work on and present a staged reading of a play for the BOLLI community-wide audience), CAST provides interested members with opportunities to engage in a variety of creative drama/theatre exercises and basic acting work.
During each CAST session, the group does some warm-up pantomime followed by improvisation, concentration, and observation exercises. The techniques explored are then applied to short scenes from short stories, novels and plays as well as poetry.
Recently, after a rousing session of pantomimed catch and jump rope, the group was split into two sections who were each charged with the task of creating tableaux highlighting “the key moment” in its well-known fairy tale. Of course, at BOLLI, this meant first spending several minutes in highly animated intellectual discussion and debate about which moments in these tales are truly seminal. (In “Red Riding Hood,” for example, is it when the wolf gobbles up Red? Or is it when the Woodsman arrives on the scene? In “Cinderella,” is it when Cindy loses her slipper or when the Prince arrives to try it on the Ugly Stepsisters?) The intensity and commitment to the work were palpable.
Later in that session, various “misunderstood” fairy tale characters appeared on an improvised Dr. Phil-like television talk show to air their woes. Here, Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford) share their frustrations with their television audience.
During another session, we delved into the importance of “focus” in setting any scene and applied what was learned about the use of the eye to scenes offering particular “focal” challenges. Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell (below) take some planning time to determine how to approach George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl, a story in which young George’s Grandmother downs a dose of quite a nasty concoction which gives her such a jolt of energy that she shoots up to the ceiling where she is suspended for some time.
Another group—consisting of Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, and Bunny Cohen—took on the challenge provided by The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, a short story by Ray Bradbury in which a man who has just committed a murder becomes completely obsessed with removing his fingerprints from every inch of the man’s home.
After the two groups viewed each other’s work, Bunny broke into a huge smile. “This is so much fun!” she said to the rest of the CAST. Then she grinned. “Remember when we used to just stand there and read?”
The group will continue to meet on Tuesdays throughout August and then, when the new term begins, will switch to a Friday time. Watch the weekly Bulletin for meeting announcements—any interested BOLLI member is welcome to CAST a line at any point!
Seems like such a natural for BOLLI, doesn’t it? And yet, BOLLI’s Book Club has only recently been added to an ever burgeoning array of Special Interest Groups at 60 Turner Street. Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz have been active in both the New Yorker Fiction Salon, focused on short stories, and the Poetry Circle. Both are avid readers as well, and so, it seems as though it was a completely logical step to team up and lead a BOLLI-wide Book Club. When asked about the forming of the group, the two had much to share.
> What made you decide to start the group?
Charlie: I wanted to be in a book group in which I had some greater control over the choices made. Not that we’re not completely open to others’ suggestions, but I did want to be able to exert some significant influence over what we might read. I didn’t want to do it alone and thought co-leading with Abby, one of BOLLI’s most voracious readers, would make it more interesting and enjoyable – for me and for those who attend.
Abby: It was an easy decision for me when Charlie suggested it. I love to talk about books almost as much as I love to read them, and I knew there were many BOLLI members who would be ideal companions. I had gotten to know Charlie in the New Yorker Fiction Salon and the Poetry Circle (also venues for lively discussion), and I knew his leadership would elevate any discussion.
> Have you been in other book groups?
Abby: I’ve never been in a private book group, but, after retirement, I started attending a drop-in group at the library led by a wonderful professional book group leader (yes, there is such a thing). I came to trust her selections and particularly enjoyed the books I would not have chosen on my own.
Charlie: I’m in a non-fiction book group. Mostly, we don’t talk about the month’s selection. Almost every conversation becomes a discussion of politics, more often than not the Middle East. I thought it might be time to find an opportunity to actually talk about interesting and provocative contemporary literary fiction.
> How did you go about choosing the books that you have chosen for the group thus far?
Charlie: So far, they’ve been a mix of books we’ve read and felt would be good for discussion (Stegner’s Crossing to Safety) and books from our stacks of books we’ve not read but that have been well received (Schlink’s Homecoming and Erdrich’s The Round House). We’ve also tried to focus on work that is relatively accessible (i.e. in paperback and without long wait lines at the library), relatively short (200-300+ pages), and by important if sometimes overlooked writers.
Abby: We also wanted to mix things up: something old, something new, some challenging, some less so,…
> What plans do you have for the future of the group?
Charlie: Our hope is that we will continue to meet monthly throughout the year and that there will continue to be a group of 15 – 20 who find the books selected and conversation sufficiently interesting to trust our choices and to return as often as possible.
Abby: What he said.
> So, what are some of your all-time favorite books?
Abby: Here are a few, spanning many years–The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess, the four “Rabbit” novels by John Updike, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth, anything by Philip Roth,…
Charlie: Hard enough to remember what I read last week. I suppose McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay, early John Irving, McKewan’s Atonement …
Clearly, these two have excellent taste, and each gathering of the group is sure to be an animated and engaged one. Come once–come regularly. And enjoy!
The Scene-iors end-of-term staged reading presented on Thursday, May 19 was, indeed a hit, and, for the first time, BOLLI members who may not have been in attendance, can see a variety of photos of the production–provided by Bunny Cohen and Allan Kleinman. (Let your cursor hover over a picture to see its caption.)
Welcome to The Dining Room by A.R. Gurney!
The group would love to see your comments–use the box below!
Some Scene-ior “veterans” were asked to reflect on what drew them to the activity. Eileen Mitchell, Ron Levy, Carolyn Allen, and Davida Loewenstein shared some of their thoughts and memories…
I was inspired by active & engaged SGLs who led lively discussions & encouraged play readings: Jim Robbins, the Shakespeare guru, who is now in Arizona; Elaine Reisman, modern plays with morals, who is now at Brookhaven, and Lois Ziegelman, from Aeschylus to Tennessee Williams, who is still at BOLLI.
My favorite story is our first public performance that took place in a cozy conference room at South Street – in the former BOLLI offices. We did Table by the Window by Terrence Rattigan, and there was only one person in the audience, but when he laughed — we were hooked! Then we moved to a classroom on campus & 30 people filled the room. Most shows have been at Turner Street, but once we even played at Spingold — on the main stage.
The shared laughter, caring, and emoting are my best memories.
I acted minor roles in high school productions that used to be reviewed by the London “Daily Telegraph”, and so I joined the Scene-iors. The best part of the experience was always the camaraderie among the regulars and how we often succeeded in making something from less than whole cloth.
There were and probably still are challenges, particularly the Turner Street location and our so-called “stage”. What was always most impressive was how the company scrounged and loaned props and costumes. And how about those family a.k.a. cast parties?
When my husband turned sixty, I gave him acting lessons at New Rep. It was like a new room had opened for him, and he loved it. Everyone asked me if I was acting too. ” Oh, no,” I said. “Every bell needs a clapper.”
Then, years later, when I joined BOLLI, I decided to try it–after all, I didn’t have to memorize anything. So, I threw myself into the role of a hag ( I prefer not to think of it as type casting), and I was paired with fellow hag Bunny Cohen in a play by William Inge. I had such fun disappearing into the role. For the performance, my daughter came down from NH, my other daughter left work and took my two grandkids out of elementary school, and my son Bruce blew off work for the afternoon. It was a treat to have them there, and I was thrilled to discover how easy and wonderful it all was.
I also loved the people — I was part of a team — Eileen, Becky Myers , Davida, Pete Rieder, Irwin, Ron Levy, Bunny, Monique Frank.
Bobbe Vernon and Charlie Raskin played teen-agers in love . I watched, entranced, as the years fell away from them. ” Wow,” I said. “They really have chemistry together.” I was thrilled when Charlie wore my late husband’s Navy jacket. It was as though Bob were in the play, too.
The next best experience was Separate Tables, another wonder-full team experience. I dragged tables and windows and curtains and plants from home, along with taking over the role of the hotel manager from Wendy Hiller! I watched the movie a couple of times, and the group spent a post-performance meeting watching it too. I, a confirmed loner, felt the joy of belonging.
First and foremost, Scene-iors is fun! But that’s not why I originally joined the group. I did it to answer a challenge–from me to myself. I dare you, Davida, to be in a play. I had NEVER been in a play and just wanted to add acting to my experience bag. I assumed it would be a one-shot activity, but I loved it and have been in Scene-ior productions ever since.
I think acting has made me really think about the characters in plays and books–who they are at a point in time and how they came to be that way. It’s not much of a stretch to then apply this type of thinking to people I actually know. I guess this is another way of saying that I think that even my limited acting experience in Scene-iors has served to increase my sensitivity.
Participating in Scene-iors is such a wonderful opportunity for BOLLI members. I’m surprised that more people don’t give it a try…but, then again, it took a dare to push me to “take the plunge!”
During the Lunch & Learn hour on Thursday, May 19th, the Scene-iors, BOLLI’s intrepid troupe of actors, will present a staged reading of A.R. Gurney’s play, The Dining Room. Gurney’s play provides audiences with what the Samuel French acting edition describes as “an in-depth portrait of a vanishing species: the upper-middle-class WASP.” Under the able direction of Becky Myers with assistance from veteran Scene-ior Eileen Mitchell, a small cast of actors portrays a wide array of characters in a collection of vignettes that bring the dining rooms of a dying culture to life.
The Dining Room cast includes: Sandy Clifford, Davida Loewenstein, Becki Norman, and Bobbe Vernon as both young and old, male and female characters. Irwin Garfinkle portrays all of the families’ patriarchs, and Sue Wurster serves as their maids.
When asked how she chose the play for the group, director Becky Meyers said:
“The Dining Room was a good candidate because of its structure–a series of vignettes with essentially unrelated characters. I knew that I’d be able to pick & choose which scenes to include, depending on who and how many were in the group. This semester, we have six cast members, and, of course, everyone has several different roles. Due to the play’s structure, one of the most challenging aspects of my director’s role has been to work out the blocking.
“Choreographing all the entrances & exits has truly been like herding cats–but a fine herd of cats it is! I think the most challenging thing for cast members will be, not the blocking and the costume changes, but the getting truly into & out of different characters multiple times!
“The first time I directed, I chose Love of One’s Neighbor, a satire by Leonid Andreyev, a very funny social commentary that had lots of small roles. Another year, three one-act plays by Susan Glaspell provided a humorous take on very serious topics, such as feminism and Freudian analysis. Another one with a serious bent was Waiting For Lefty, which, again, was a series of vignettes providing multiple parts for cast members.
“I love this stuff. The plays themselves, the cast members, the camaraderie, the BOLLI audience!”
The cast members are equally enthusiastic about The Dining Room. Sandy says that “I love having the opportunity to explore many different characters that range in age from a young boy to an old woman.”
Bobbe echoes Sandy’s sentiments, adding that “the challenges are making quick costume and personality changes, but the hardest part will be trying to sing on key!”
“I really enjoy the opportunity to play both older and younger characters,” says Becki Norman, “and, of course the friendship and camaraderie of the group.”
When asked what he most enjoys about his experience with the show, Irwin grins and says sheepishly, “My harem.”
A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members