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.
The BOLLI Journal committee hosted its first lunchtime program on Monday. November 14th—a literary and artistic “salon” in the spirit of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. We drank alcohol-free bubbly and indulged in cheese and crackers, brownies and grapes as we explored the creative process and its place in the BOLLI Program. Steve Goldfinger’s poetry (below left), Barbara Jordan’s photos and paintings (middle with Marjorie Roemer), and Jane Kay’s (right with Margie Arons-Barron) tale of a lovingly remembered childhood icon, a blue glass slipper, delighted the audience. Listening to each of these creative BOLLI members answer questions from Marjorie Roemer, Sue Wurster, and Margie Arons-Barron brought into focus the way in which BOLLI members change and grow as they explore and develop new talents within the BOLLI environment.
Thanks to all who came and participated. We look forward to many more such programs and invite all of our BOLLI members to become involved with the next Journal issue. Please submit your poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photos, and art to the Journal – submissions open from now until June of 2017. In the spirit of sharing, we include the brownie recipe–not from the Toklas’ cookbook and with no hidden ingredients. In fact, the recipe includes no leavening agents at all!
Grease and flour a 9 x 12” pan preheat oven to 350 in saucepan, melt two sticks of butter and one 4 oz package unsweetened chocolate remove from heat beat in two cups of sugar and one teaspoon vanilla beat in four eggs mix in one cup of all-purpose flour fold in one package semi-sweet chocolate bits pour into prepared pan bake until done (about 25 minutes, depending upon your oven) cool on rack and try not to eat them all at one sitting.
Possible variations on this recipe are endless. Any kind of chocolate chips will do. Try adding a fruit cup mix at holiday time. Nuts. Almond flavoring.
Maxine Weintraub, who heads the 2018 BOLLI Journal committee as editor, is no stranger to arts and letters magazines. She is a regular contributor to The Goose River Anthology and has produced two volumes of her short stories.
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!
MEET MEMBER LARRY SCHWIRIAN: DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE
I was born and raised in a small town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, the second of five children. I guess you could say my father was a small business person–he owned a milk hauling route, picking up raw milk from farmers and hauling it to a dairy. As cows give milk twice every day, this was a 365-day a year job, so we never took family vacations. Still, he managed to serve on the town council for over thirty years and twice served as mayor of the town. When my mother was fifteen, her mother died, and she became surrogate mother to her six younger siblings. So, I grew up with not only an older brother and three younger sisters but with sixteen girl cousins who all lived within walking distance. Our house was where everyone congregated for morning coffee, gossip, and news analysis.
At eighteen, I went off to Case Institute of Technology to study engineering but decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I transferred to Western Reserve to study architecture. It was there that I met my wife Caroline. A year after graduation from Case Western Reserve University, we were married, and a year after that, we moved to the Boston area, working as architectural novices in large firms in Cambridge. Very soon after that, the first of our three sons was born, and a few years after that, we moved into our historic home in the Auburndale section of Newton.
Over the next forty plus years, I worked for a number of large firms in the area and eventually became a project manager and/or a project architect. I had the opportunity to work on projects all over the country in addition to doing local projects like the Harvard Square Subway Station, The Wang Ambulatory Care Center at Mass General Hospital, Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown, the addition to the old Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston, and One Newton Place in Newton Corner.
In 2010, Caroline and I retired from our positions in large firms, and in 2011, we established our own firm, Caroline & Lawrence Schwirian, Architects LLC. We still do some residential work, and I still do some technical consulting with larger firms, but for the most part, we have enjoyed retirement, watching our grandchildren grow, and trying to keep up with gardening, yard work, and house maintenance.
In the fall of 2015, we joined BOLLI, and, for the first term, just attended the Lunch & Learns. I also participated in the Sages & Seekers program and joined the BOLLI Writers Guild. For the second term, I signed up for Betsy Campbell’s “Five Stories in Five Weeks” writing class, Peter Carcia’s “The Art of Storytelling” class, Mary Ann Byrnes’ “The Elephant in the Room” class about metaphors, and Larry Koff’s class on “The Death and Life of Cities and Towns in Metro Boston.” I enjoyed all the classes, but I especially relished the opportunity to refine my writing and storytelling skills.
Here is one of the nonfiction pieces Larry has done as a participant in the BOLLI Writers Guild.
GIFTED OR TALENTED
(In Response to the Prompt: “What a Remarkable Gift”)
What is the difference between being “gifted” and being “talented?” Although there are no generally agreed upon definitions for these two words, they are similar in meaning but are generally used in different ways. The term “gifted” is most often, but not always, used in conjunction with intellectual ability and implies an innate quality. In many school placement decisions, individuals with IQ scores above 130 (the upper 2% on the bell curve) are generally classified as being “gifted.” While a person’s IQ may or may not be a true measure of intelligence, it at least measures some innate ability. The term “talented” is most often used to describe someone with an acquiredability to perform significantly above the norm in any one of many different endeavors, including but not limited to music, art, food preparation, or athletics but typically not intellectual pursuits. A person becomes “talented” after much hard work and practice.
I am aware of no numerical scale that can be used to evaluate “talent” in music other than the number of records or albums sold by an artist, but it would be unfair and foolhardy to compare the “talent” of a classical violinist to a pop singer by this method. Similarly, there is no logical way to numerically evaluate a painter, a sculptor, or a chef. Sports may be the exception. In baseball, for example, the batting or earned run average can be used to evaluate a player’s performance. In football, a quarterback can be evaluated based upon the percentage of passes completed, touchdown passes thrown, or number of games won, but you can’t really evaluate the “talent” of a defensive lineman by comparing it to the “talent” of a running back or quarterback.
Using the above meanings, it is possible to be “gifted” without being “talented” and “talented” without being “gifted.” It is also possible to be both “gifted and talented,” which is probably the case for most people who rise to the very top in their respective vocations. It could be said that people like Madonna and Shakira are both “intellectually gifted” and “musically gifted” as well as being “talented.” Many people would agree that Elvis Presley was “musically gifted” and “talented” but not “intellectually gifted.” Many who don’t make it quite to the top can be very “talented” but not necessarily “gifted.” Similarly, most lists don’t include Sharon Stone as being among the one hundred most “talented” actresses, but I have read that she has a nearly genius IQ of over 150.
While it appears there is at least some standard way to evaluate whether a person is “intellectually gifted,” there is no universally accepted, objective way to evaluate and compare the “talent” of two or more individuals. One would have to say then that “giftedness” is innate, but “talent” is in the eye, ear, nose, or taste buds of the beholder.
You can leave comments for Larry in the box below.
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!”
So, I dare you, BOLLI members, to try acting!
A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members