Tag Archives: Special Interest Groups

CAST-ing Our Lines! Another New BOLLI Special Interest Group

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.

MALIGNED MOMS Snow White's Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella's Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)
MALIGNED MOMS Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)

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.

GEORGE 1
SETTING THEIR SCENE Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell

 

GEORGE
George (Monique) is stunned to see Grandma (Becki) in robust, rising movement.

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.

FRUIT
OBSESSION TAKES HOLD Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, Bunny Cohen

FRUIT 2

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

MEET MEMBER LARRY SCHWIRIAN: DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE

Larry
Member and Writer Larry Schwirian

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 acquired ability 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.

 

 

BOLLI’s New BOOK CLUB

BOLLI’s New BOOK GROUP

With Charlie Marz and Abby Pinard

 We’ve compiled a selection of diverse and fascinating novels for your post-semester enjoyment. Read the book, bring lunch, and join us for a lively discussion!

Tuesday, June 7 at 10:30 in the Blue Room

Homecoming

Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink (author of The Reader):   A thought-provoking novel about a German scholar’s search for the truth about his father’s role in World War II.

 

Wednesday, July 6 at 12:30 in the Blue Room

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner: A deeply affecting portrayal of enduring marriage and the lifelong friendship of two very different couples.

 

 

Tuesday, August 9 at 12:30 in the Blue Room

The Round HouseThe Round House by Louise Erdrich: The National Book Award winner about the struggle of a teen-age boy to come to terms with violence and injustice on a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation.

 

For more information contact Charlie Marz (cmarz@rcn.com) or Abby Pinard (apinard@snet.net).

OUR SCENE-IORS PRESENT: “THE DINING ROOM” by A.R. Gurney

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!

MEET MEMBERS EILEEN, RON, CAROLYN & DAVIDA: “I Dare You, BOLLI Members, to Try Acting!”

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…

EILEEN MITCHELL

Matinee3
Eileen Mitchell in rehearsal for “Waiting for the Matinee”

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.

RON LEVY

ron levy
Ron Levy as rugged “outbacker” in Australia

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?

CAROLYN ALLEN

Most of group
Carolyn Allen during a rehearsal break last fall

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.

DAVIDA LOEWENSTEIN

Davida
Davida Loewenstein rehearsing a Joyce Carol Oates monologue.

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!

 

MEET MEMBER JOANNE FORTUNATO: LEADING A “BUDDING” CAMERA CLUB

Joanne Fortunato, BOLLI and Photo Club Members
BOLLI Member and Camera Club Leader, Joanne Fortunato

I developed a passion for photography after receiving my first click n’ shoot camera in 2004.  I would spend hours in my backyard and around my neighborhood shooting everything, most especially nature.  In 2007, my husband and I took a trip to South Africa, so I purchased my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel, for the trip.  I was so excited about photographing such a magical place that I took over 5000 photos during a 3 week period.  600 of them were shot in 3 hours as I watched a giraffe giving birth in the wild!  After this adventure, I spent a lot of time trying to learn everything I could about photography.

In the spring of 2016, I entered the world of BOLLI.  The first semester I took only one class, “Memoir Writing” with Jane Kays, and was not sure what to expect.  Since I had spent my career in the world of science, I had decided to take classes in areas that I knew very little about and did not feel not good at.  Writing fell into this category.  After my first class, I wondered if I had made a good decision.  Everyone in the class wrote wonderfully, and I did not feel that I belonged.  In my professional career, I loved challenges and problem solving, so I bit the bullet and decided that I would do my best, even if I was the worst writer in the class!  After all, I was doing this to expand my life experiences.  In the end, this was the best class that I could have chosen as a first.  I am a people person, and as everyone shared their personal experiences, I began to feel bonds with my classmates and BOLLI.  The next semester, I was fortunate enough to get into Arthur Sharenow’s photography class which reignited my interest in photography. I have especially loved all of his photo outings!  My passion for photography has grown, thanks to the photography classes that I have taken, and we now have the BOLLI Photography Group, which I am helping to facilitate.

OUR MOST RECENT PHOTO GROUP OUTING

On Friday morning, March 18th, nine members of the BOLLI Photography Group (Diane Becker, Linda Brooks, Maike Byrd, Bunny Cohen, Linda Dietrich, Rickey Ezrin, Carole Grossman, Sandy Miller-Jacobs, and I) met at the Wellesley College Botanical Gardens Visitor Center and toured the Margaret C. Fergus Greenhouses.

The greenhouses are warm in temperature, so we were able to leave our winter coats in the Visitor Center before we embarked on our walk through the five attached spaces. We spent about two hours meandering through the various houses where we shot lots of photos of unusual cacti and flowers.

Here is a “gallery” of some of the pictures that I took.  (Put your cursor over each image to read its caption.)


Most of us will be going back for another visit to shoot all the amazing plants that we did not have time to get to on our first go-around..

To top off our photo shoot, six of us enjoyed a delicious lunch at Juniper Restaurant on Central Street in Wellesley!

Highlights of the Self-Guided Greenhouse Tour:

  •  Desert House containing desert-dwelling plants from around the world; observation of desert adaptations; exploration of the concept of convergent evolution.
  • Tropic House with several layers of plantings; observation of adaptations to a rainforest environment; exploration of a bromeliad’s habitat.
  • Hydrophyte (Water) House containing pools filled with fish and water-growing plants.
  • Economic plants such as banana, coffee, sugar cane, papyrus; explanation of growth cycles and uses.
  • Tropical Pitcher Plants; discussion of the adaptation of these insect-eating plants to their environment.
  • Misters: being sprayed by the misters in the Fern House and propagation beds is often a highlight for elementary school kids!

The greenhouses are free, open from 8 am to 4 pm daily but closed on weekends during the summer.  Parking in the Grey Lot is also free.

More information about the gardens can be found at http://www.wellesley.edu/wcbg

 

 

 

 

 

MEET MEMBER HELEN ABRAMS: Shutterbugs in the Snow

BOLLI Member and Photographer Helen Abrams
BOLLI Member and Photographer Helen Abrams

Helen Abrams, a second year BOLLI member who led the photography Special Interest Group’s recent tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery, reflects on Mount Auburn, and photography.

Being in nature led me to bird watching and photography. Living in Watertown, right next to Mount Auburn Cemetery, I was able to indulge both interests while also learning how to become a tour guide and docent. Over the past eight years, I’ve led tours on famous people (inventors, explorers, women reformers, artists), symbols of passage, Jews buried at Mt. Auburn and photography. After leading photo walks during the spring, summer, and fall, I decided to try a winter walk. I am particularly interested in photographing trees and have found that it is in the winter when their bark, seed pods and overall trunk and branch formations are the most sculptural. I invited Jim Gorman, one of the cemetery’s foremost horticulturalists, to join us.

1 single branch

 After the tour, Helen reflected on the group’s venture.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Bright sun, fresh fallen snow, brisk but not windy. Since the walk started at 2 p.m., we got the long shadows of afternoon light which was especially interesting for photographing trees, grasses, and monuments.

The BOLLI group—including Martha Berardino, Maike Byrd, Ricky Ezrin, Joanne Fortunato, Dick Hanelin, and Arthur Sharenow—carpooled to Auburn Lake and parked along Oak Avenue. From there, we circumnavigated Auburn Lake, which has a great collection of unusual trees as well as long vistas with a bridge that cuts the lake in half. It’s sometimes called “Spectacle Pond” by birders.

2 branch w shadows (1)

As we walked, Jim talked about the trees. He talked about when they had been planted (especially those after the Hurricane of 1938), shared some historical facts about them (such as the discovery of the Metasequoia or Dawn Redwood that had been thought to be extinct), and what to expect from them at different seasons of the year. He pointed out pine cones, “antlers,” seed pods, and the famous Bald Cypress “knees.” Best of all, to me, was the array of unusual types of bark on the trees which, without leaves or flowers, were particularly handsome against the snow. A highlight was the Lacebark Pine with great patterns and shapes in blue and gray hues.

3 mottled branch

Having Arthur Sharenow on the tour was so helpful. He was so generous to everyone by sharing his great knowledge of photography. He gave us valuable insight into camera equipment, exposure settings, battery use in the cold, shooting from different perspectives, and more. Dick Hanelin, who admits to loving abstract work (or, to paraphrase him: “I hate literal shots”), spent much of the afternoon on the ground.   He says it gave him a different vantage point for shooting at unusual angles.

4 Dick in Snow

By 3:30, we were back in our cars, heading home.  All in all—great fun!

Helen enjoyed a career in healthcare which culminated in a fifteen year stint at Harvard University Health Services where she served as Director of Contract Management and Strategic Planning.

Seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list, and since sightings are never guaranteed, I may just fly to Tromso in Norway and stay there until I’ve had my fill!  Three major personal interests evolved for me over the course of my working life: nature, travel, and learning.   Finally retiring this past August, I’m now free to explore them full time.

BOLLI is certainly richer for it!

Click here for an album of truly spectacular shots by various members of the group!