Friday, November 8, 2013

A Theatrical Adventure

For the review of Witnessed by the World, click here.

When I first met Ronnie Cohen, she was a housewife and mommy. It was the early 1980s and her husband, like mine, had gotten a great gig in the international business world, and we all were posted to Geneva. A rising star in the world of advertising, she was now in the business of raising a two-year-old, and in Switzerland to boot.

She contacted me in order to learn if I had a place for her in the theatre group I had started. As a youngster she loved nothing more than going to plays in New York, and she had seen the first two offerings of The Little Theater of Geneva and was looking for something to do.

Ronnie was one of the luckiest finds in all my time in Geneva. She was beautiful, talented, and fun to work with.
At first I had to show her the ropes, but I was doing that with all the expat Americans I could round up to participate. I asked everybody I met if they wanted to get involved--the conversation at a cocktail party might go something like this, "Have you ever been in a play before?" "I played the Christmas tree in the first grade." "Sounds good--we could use a man of your talent and experience!" Because the Americans were looking for things to do, and our crowd were clearly having fun, The Little Theater of Geneva, an American-style community theatre--grew like mad in just a few years. I and many others pulled four plays together, building sets, finding costumes, teaching acting classes, and a number of people who had known nothing about the theatre were now up to their necks in it.

After a couple of years graduating from gopher, troubleshooter, backstage hand, and stage manager, Ronnie asked if she could direct a show. She wanted to do Death Trap. My management style is that basically if I'm sure you know what you're doing, I let you do what you want. She asked me to be her stage manager, I agreed, and she was launched. The next season she took a role in Chapter Two, and she stayed behind the scenes after that until she and her family were transferred back to the States.
Needless to say it was a big loss for the theatre, and for me personally, but we kept in touch, even after I got back to the U.S. When I decided after 20 years in Alabama to return to the New York area, I looked her up. She was now in a high-powered advertising job and writing plays with a collaborator as a sideline. I came into the city to see a couple of her productions off-Broadway.

Tomorrow night, November 9, I'll be doing it again, with a big one. Ronnie and Jane Beale
have written Witnessed by the World, a play about Jack Ruby, the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

It's previewing at the 59 East 59th Street Theater, and may have a much bigger opening somewhere else very soon. I'll be there with bells on, sequins anyway, bursting with pride and delight at my young friend's success and perseverance. I'm the one behind the scenes now--way behind--but I couldn't be happier for her. I'll let you know how it goes.

1 comment:

  1. I just noticed that this post is getting more hits than my actual review of the play. Please check my post "Conspiracies: Witnessed By the World Reviewed" if you want to see what I thought of the play after seeing it. I changed the title of that review so it might be seen by those interested.