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The Lehman Trilogy – a tour de force

I hasten to write today, lest you think I am wallowing in the Slough of Despond. For today has been so full of blessings that I’m floating, and it’s still only 5.15.

A gorgeous Saturday – fall is always iffy, and it’s been cold and wet and hot and sticky – today, breezy sun. Off on the bike to the market, where the plenitude is overwhelming. I bought a big basket of peaches since this is probably their last week. Had a long talk with old friend Duncan, a banjo player who sells real estate and whose daughter was in kindergarten with mine.

Home for an enormous lunch of fresh everything, where an email awaited from Pamela, a blog follower I’ve never met, writing with kindness and eloquence about yesterday’s rant.
As you are probably not aware, I greet my day with you and a cup of Joe. Your latest post touches on a theme that is dear to me. To sum it up, you are a writer, and so you write. It is your gift. You were probably taking notes in the hospital nursery and editing them in the crib as your parents tried to catch up on some sleep. As for the commercial success of your writing, you have earned your living and supported your family by the power of your pen. How many people can claim that? In your work you touch countless people, and help them to improve their ability to write well. There is power in that because there is power in words. 

Write, and keep on writing.There is no “someday” in the world of art, there is only the beautiful now of writing. The beautiful now of being asked what you do for a living, and the powerful ownership of being able to say I am a writer. People will either step away, because words and writers are powerful, or they will draw closer and warm their hands by the gift you so freely give to the world.

Wow! Thank you, Pamela. She’s a writer too, whether she knows it or not.

Got another email, this one from Marsha Lederman of the Globe in Vancouver. She told me the director Bob Baker, whose work for decades involved demeaning, insulting, and crushing actors, has recently been expelled from Actor’s Equity for abusive practices. Unfortunately it comes too late, he retired or was forced to retire a few years ago. Bob is the reason I quit the theatre; my experience working with him and his partner Tom Wood was so excruciating that I decided I needed to find another way to make a living. So of course I chose something as lucrative as acting – writing! Way to go, girl! Marsha interviewed me about Bob; unlike many colleagues, I’m able to speak freely because I’m no longer in the biz, and so is my friend Chris, whom I asked to speak to her as well. At last, after nearly forty years, justice.

Another email from my new writer friend Caitlin, sending links to some of her work, which is beautiful and wise. And from Anna, a picture of her boys fishing with their dad in Lake Ontario. (I hope they don’t eat what they catch!)

Then the big treat – off to see The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre Live at my local Cineplex, eight minutes away by bike – a masterpiece, a tour de force, an extraordinary piece of theatre, a 4-hour world vision created on stage by 3 actors in a glass box, with a piano playing live beside the stage. Directed by the brilliant Sam Mendes, it’s breathtaking, the story of 3 penniless, hardworking, clever immigrant Jews from Bavaria who open a small cloth shop in Montgomery, Alabama, eventually become cotton traders, then bankers, then move to New York where their sons and grandsons take over – until the company becomes simply a money machine run by cold outsiders and collapses in 2008. So besides the story of one family, the play is also the story of immigration – what happens to values from one generation to the next – and of modern capitalism, as all values are lost. A director of marketing arrives, late in the game, to show the partners that what needs to be done is to persuade everyone to BUY.

Two intermissions, the first I ran into old friend Ron Singer, who gave me a Best Performance award in a drama festival when I was 18, in 1969, and launched my acting career, the second spent with a glass of cab-sauv. I emerged, blinking, from this very long production to Yonge-Dundas Square, to be engulfed in crowds of people in a frenzy of buying.

The play tells the story of one side of my family, my father’s side, my grandfather born to poor Jews from Minsk; Pop found a way to buy a dress company that was going bankrupt and make it profitable again, and always spent hours a day poring over the stock market. I never found out how he survived the Depression – my father would have been 8 and his brother 5 – but he did and prospered, helped my dad buy a house in 1956, as my dad and uncle helped me in 1986.

As always after a magnificent piece of theatre, I feel bigger and wiser, as if I understand something I didn’t before. Last night, Michael Moore spoke to Bill Maher about this being an era of “cruel capitalism.” This play shows how that came about.

Now it’s  6, the sun is shining, there’s a freshly-picked cucumber in the fridge – the biggest one yet – and I don’t care, right now, whether I can be called a successful writer or not. I know how to relish the  hell out of a day like today, and isn’t that what matters?



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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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