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the Angel Orensanz center

A quick word, before I head out into a very cold New York City. First, all is well, my health is fine, the trip was fine; the flight was so seamless I knew something would have to go wrong and sure enough, some problem with the Airtrain, the monorail out of Newark Airport to the train station to the city, a big crowd stuck waiting – but eventually the monorail came, the ancient train came, there’s the city in the distance, and then there we are in Penn Station, and cousin Ted had told me – take the E train to 53rd and Lex and then the 6 to 77th, and that is what I did, with my suitcase full of books. Easy peasy. And here’s home in NYC, Ted’s apartment full of antiquities, Chinese burial statuary, dinosaur eggs, it’s like living in a museum. I have said this before.

I rested and got organized and Ted came home from work – the law office founded by his father Leo – had his private yoga lesson, and then we set off for the Lower East Side on the new 2nd Avenue subway. Though it was bitterly cold, I was sorry not to have arrived earlier down there, those hallowed streets of my father’s ancestor, Chrystie, Delancey, Hester. We met Ted’s husband Henry down there – he came in by train from Northport, where he lives and Ted goes on weekends. And then we found the Angel Orensanz Centre on Norfolk Street. Wow.

A synagogue founded in about 1849, transformed into a performance space – just gorgeous. I met David Serero and learned the setup, and finally it all began.

I’ll tell you more about it later. Suffice to say – it’s not easy to take a 4 act tragedy and reduce it to an hour and 20 minutes with many songs, including My Yiddishe Mama. There was a young, hard-working, likeable cast, and David is an ambitious, energetic man with a very big voice. It was wonderful to have my family, Ted and Henry, and second cousins and fellow Gordin great-grandchildren Peggy and Jill and great-great-grandson Zack, there beside me. I had a 15 minute speech prepared and rehearsed but finally, when David introduced me, I winged it, cut it way down and figured out what to say.

Afterwards, a man came up with tears in his eyes and told me his great-grandfather had been a cantor at this very synagogue at the time of Gordin. A woman came up to say, “You are saving your great-grandfather. I have huge admiration for people who work to preserve memory.” That meant a great deal. And others were very kind. A scowling man asked, “There was no music in the original, right?” Absolutely not, in fact, my great-grandfather’s whole career was based on creating serious drama and keeping music and comedy to a minimum. Then, blessedly, Ted got us a cab and we sped home, where he opened a bottle of wine for me, and we debriefed.

I was silly to be so nervous. God knows why I put myself through it. Well – it’s New York, it’s me standing and speaking from the heart in front of a large group – last night more than 100 – of the most critical people on the face of the earth, New York Jews. Okay to prepare carefully – though despite all that, in the end I had to make it up on the spot – but not to make yourself nearly sick with nerves. Crazy.

Another great thing was that we completely missed the State of the Union address by the orange blowhole. A blessing. Another blessing: the NYTimes, a magnificent newspaper fighting to save this country from itself, delivered to the door. Read it over coffee this morning. The sun is shining, there are actually birds singing out there in the concrete. and New York awaits. I do the whole thing again Thursday, but for now – theatre, all day, and family.

PS Just got an email notice from the theatre where I’m going this afternoon to see my favourite actor, Mark Rylance. There’s a list of what’s not allowed – drinks and snacks, babies, and then “No weapons are permitted on the premises.”

Only in Amurrika.

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2 Responses to “the Angel Orensanz center”

  1. theresa says:

    Really enjoyed this, Beth. And whew, no weapons. I look forward to your review of today's play!

  2. beth says:

    Thanks, Theresa!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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