Friday, May 31, 2013

The Last Five Years

Every five years, like clockwork, there is a reunion of some sort.  The one I am about to celebrate is not one that I can even believe is happening.  In fact, everyone who is of the same age, or close to it, can’t believe that time passed so quickly.  It happens… the difference between our generation and our parents, is that at 50 or 60 or 70, they didn’t feel like they were still 20, or 25, or 30. At least it never appeared so.  They were just what they were.

One of the things we are going to do at the class luncheon is to ask people to describe their lives in 2 minutes, Try it.  Unless you did absolutely nothing but pick your nose, it is almost impossible to narrow what you think was important into a two minute snapshot.

Here’s my snapshot (I knew you were desperate to know).

Got my Masters in Communication Theory (whatever that means), had a baby.  Left out getting married because that wasn’t one of my finest moments. Was a University Professor for sometime.  Accidentally found myself working in Presidential politics. Moved to Washington (where else would you do that). Got married again (this time it was great)  Had another baby. Wrote two political humor books and a documentary.  Decided to write and produce musical theater. Did it.  Moved to NY. Found new family.  Living happily ever after.

Probably left something out but since no one but my friends from college, who are still my friends, could even try to fill in the blanks.  Who cares about health concerns or emotional traumas. They seem not so important in such a great many years. Which brings us back to the reunion.  There are a number of people who are not coming, who we would  have liked to see.  But, for the most part, we see them or speak to them as much as is possible,  so they remain connected to our lives.  Keeping the people we love in our lives is hard work because everyone is somewhere else. But it is well worth the effort. Then, why are we at this reunion?  Did I want to be acknowledged for all my amazing accomplishments.  No, they aren’t so amazing.  Did I want people to say, “Oh, she looks so young. She hasn’t changed a bit.”  Even I, in my most distorted illusion, I know that’s simply not true, even for the people we knew when we were seventeen, and who might still see us through those seventeen year old eyes.

The truth is (and you know how I am about truth), visiting with my kids, seeing one of my best buddies, Soozie, and being able to take a break from Gefilte Fish Chronicles, the Musical, is, for me what this reunion is all about. Most of the professors we admired are dead, or don’t show up. I know, they can’t show up if they are dead. Duh. Oh, and of course, making fun of the people we never liked, is part of the overall joy.

There is too much thinking going on here. So, I’m just going to go to activities, drink a lot, and enjoy the weekend.  Nothing else to say – even though, We’re just Sayin….   Iris

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Team Gefilte, at the White House

Just to give you an idea of what our life has been like for the last few weeks, when I woke up last Wednesday morning (having returned very late from Washington DC and the Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical, command performance at the White House), David was packing his bags. “Where are you going?” I said. “To Australia, this afternoon”, he informed me.  “You’re kidding,“ I said.  “No,” He said.  “We have talked about it and its on every calendar we own.” And off he went. 

in front of the West Wing

A few weeks ago, my friend Steve Rabinowitz called me to find out if we would be interested in performing in the White House, some time in May for Jewish American Heritage Month.  Sure, I thought. It will never happen so it doesn’t hurt to say yes.  Two weeks ago I called him just to say, “I assume we are not going to the White House”.
“Don’t be so sure, I’ll get back to you,” he said.  Sure enough, he called me later in the day and said, “How does the 22nd work for you.” (It was May 7).  “It doesn’t give us much time,” I said.  “OK, I’ll call you right back” Which he did, to tell me that we were on for May 21st.

the Team Gefilte bus, flashing across the NJ Turnpike
During my political career, there were a number of times when putting an event together , last minute, was not uncommon. Of course, then I had staff and money was allocated, and there was an infrastructure. (None of which was the case this time.)  First I had to raise about $16,000. When you have an Equity level cast, it ain’t cheap.  Then there was  transportation, food, per diem, costumes & props, rehearsal space, technical needs, musical instruments, the people who played them, video, printing costs and those unexpected “miscellaneous” expenditures.
a warm up stretch
Most of Team Gefilte were working in other places. It was no easy task to put them back together -- that includes the director, stage manager, and casting director.  Oye, the repeated phone calls.  Of course, we could not forget the public relations, (D.C and NY-- we were in Broadway World and the NYTimes)) programs and materials for prospective investors.  It doesn’t sound like so much, but believe me, it was mind boggling. 

Team Gefilte 
From the time we knew we were going to do this, until we got to the White House, we never had a full cast rehearsal. What was supposed to happen was that we were supposed to have a two hour, full cast rehearsal AT the White House -- which would have happened if the security people had allowed all of us, cast and crew, in at the same time.  The entanglements of Sequestration (the excuse given for anything in government which isn’t operating fully according to form,) were the supposed excuse that the clearing Secret Service officer (it was down to one guy) didn’t get everyone properly cleared through the system.   By the time the rehearsal happened (in fast forward) we had an hour -- we thought. But then we were told that they were going to let the guests in at 1:30.  Which meant that maybe there was 45 minutes to work out all the kinks.  Did I mention that Matty and I had to rewrite the show because it is a two hour show and they only wanted an hour and 15.  The first time they fully ran the ‘wedding’ scene was when they ran the wedding scene in the show. 

Team Gefilte was amazing.  Not only did they pull it off, but they had people laughing and crying in all the right places.  It was truly a living, loving production about celebrating the power of family and the importance of Jewish Heritage. 

Ben and James prepping with no time to prep

We rented a bus which left NYC at 6am, we rehearsed and performed from 12:30 to 3:15 and then we went to a VIP reception with the Vice President.  We loaded up the bus at 6:30 and were back in NY by 11:30pm, with a stop at the nicest rest stop between NYC and Washington --- the Delaware Rest stop. 
 [Jordan and Ben did a stretch routine at the Rest Stop:   see a video version of it here!]
Anyway, it has been a non-stop couple of weeks. I for one, (I always wondered what that meant. How can you be more than one?), am exhausted.  But let’s be honest, a command performance at THE WHITE HOUSE, what could be more of a statement on the value of what we created. Broadway World was all over it.  And so were we.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Monday, May 13, 2013


When it started, I was curious about how the TV people would present the development of a Broadway musical.  Well, all you have to know is that they have cancelled next season, so all those questions left unanswered will live forever in our minds…. unanswered. 

When I invest my valuable time in destination TV, it is usually because I like it.  This was not the case with “Smash.”  It was a terrible show. But for those of us in the theater, we were curious about how they would portray “us.”  Or, what we really wanted was to be able to explain to all the people who are curious about what we do, that we were certain characters on the show. Nothing I liked better than to say to folks, “have you ever watched “Smash?” --- well I’m kind of Angelica Huston.”  Although to tell you the truth, I like the Jerry character, because he’s a Producer with endless funds. 

When I started writing this blob, sometime about two weeks ago, I had no idea that a performance at the White House, was in my future.  Yes, that White House. But last week, Gefilte Chronicles the Musical, invited us to the White House in honor of Jewish Heritage Month.  Who knew there was a Jewish Heritage Month? Although it is certainly a Religion with lots of Heritage, and good fish. 

Anyway, I have been spending most of my time like Angelica Huston. Except, she has people who work for her.  One does the PR, in a kind of a sleazy way.  She plants false information with people on the Tony nominating committee which discourages them from voting for anyone but her client.  This woman is truly offensive. Yes, there are sleazy people in the business but never as obvious as this woman.  It’s important to keep reminding myself that it’s only a TV show.  And on television there has to be drama, tension, heroes, victims, liars, sex, villains, and most importantly, pithy dialogue.  Unfortunately, the scripts for “Smash” were terrible.  They made some wonderful talented actors into blithering idiots. Well, maybe they didn’t blither, but it came pretty close. 

So, was there any good news about “Smash?” Of course there was. It gave a great many out of work Broadway actors a salary and benefits for at least, the time it was on.  Plus six weeks.

Back to the White House.  We are thrilled and honored to have been invited.  We are kind of like “the little engine that could.” We just keep moving forward with our gem of a show, and eventually we will have audiences all over the country and maybe even the world…. Toot, toot, toot.   We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Da Fridge

When I look at my fridge in the NYC apartment, ( I can’t do it in our place upstate because it is stainless and nothing sticks but fingerprints), I see a visual diary of moments and people that are important to me.  When did putting stuff on the fridge become something people did?  (Even Wikipedia doesn’t know). And why do we make it the place where we keep these treasured memories?  Even when we were going to sell the apartment and the real estate agent said that we had to remove anything that would divert the potential buyers attention from thinking about it as theirs, the first thing we did was remove all the stuff on the fridge.  It was lonely without those things in which I found such great comfort and so much of our history.

Here’s what we have in our kitchen behind a variety of amusing magnets:

Pictures of our grandchildren and those close enough to be grandchildren.

Pictures of our children and their friends who we have come to know and love enough to attend any performance we can, within a regional geographical distance.

Sweet little notes that remind us of special days.

Telephone numbers we don’t want to lose.

Remembrances of events we attended and we liked or we hated but the pictures were good.

Pictures of people we may not know, but would like to. For example, we have a picture of Amanda Green, who produced Law and Order SVU – which we love and could watch 24/7.  As it happens, her father is a photographer who David knows, and I have met.  He’s a lovely guy, and we told him we worshipped his daughter (I think that’s how we got the picture), but we failed to mention that Jordan wanted to be the dead body at the beginning of each show.  Still we admire her genius and she has earned a place right up there.

So what criteria does anyone use for refrigerator prominence? We mostly stick things up when we have nothing else to do with them. Then we search for a magnet that will hold it, until we replace it with something more timely or meaningful. We do not have special attractive magnets that might also mean something.  We just use giveaways – so as not to take away from the importance of the stuff.

 The most interesting memento on the fridge is a drawing given to Jordan by someone who’s name got wet, so we don’t know who it is --  Ann something. But we like it so it remains. Oh yes, and a lovely note from Julie Harris, a remarkable actress, also written to Jordan.
Anyway, take a look at what you have saved in this prominent place and see if it creates a picture of who you are or aspire to be – ours has nothing to do with any of that, but at least I know where to find the telephone number for the garage.