Before World War II, when I was growing up in Chicago, it seemed that every little girl was expected to take either dancing or piano lessons. Since I wasn’t double jointed, and my mother didn’t think we could afford a piano, she decided to give me what was then known as “elocution” or Dramatic Art lessons. Starting when I was only four, Mom took me downtown on the Illinois Central train every single Saturday for my private lesson. By the time I was ten, my teacher was putting on little plays with all of her students. Though I never had the ingenue lead, I was usually cast in a juicy role as the bratty sister or next door neighbor. I stuck to it, even branching out with a few students of my own. At age fifteen I did my own adaptation of Rudolf Steiner’s play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, thus making my debut as a monologist. “Oh, Robert, Robert,” I cried, as Elizabeth Barrett. And then (in my deep baritone) as Robert Browning: “Elizabeth, please don’t leave me!”
Before enteriing college, I had already broken into radio with a few commercials and a line here and there on a “soap opera.” At sixteen, I started as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and life was never the same. Wisconsin didn’t have a Theatre department, so I majored in Speech and English with a minor in Boys and Politics. After graduating with a B.A. I fled to New York where I continued studying theatre with the famed German director, Erwin Piscator. I also worked for my friend from Madison who had opened an avant-garde bookshop in Greenwich Village. It was the ‘forties, and since I was unable to find an affordable apartment in New York nor was I able to score a role on Broadway, I boarded a coach train at Grand Central Station, for my return to the toddlin’ town. There I discovered agit-prop theatre and a coiterie of midwest actor friends. Three years later, I met a handsome young intern, and the rest of that story is history. (This, and other adventures of my early years, are chronicled in my two memoirs, You Can Take the Girl Out of Chicago and The Promise at the Dairy Queen.)
Flash forward a few years, and I have settled with my husband, daughter, and son in the San Fernando Valley in California. There began the hunt for a suitable agent–one that would make me (if not a star) at minimum a working actor. A few gigs on television convinced me to continue my work writing and performing one-woman shows. I soon became a “name” on the ladies luncheon circuit. When my own kids were in school, I went back to college, emerging three years later with a Masters Degree in Theatre Arts from UCLA and many new friends half my age, many of whom are recognizable names today. I count as other friends my colleagues in the wonderful theatre companies which I was blessed to join. I still act occasionally with Theatre Neo, and in the prestigious Beverly Hills professional company, Theatre Forty, where I have played such plum roles as Ruth in Collected Stories, Sophie in Social Security, Maman in Uncle Vanya and Dorothy in Twigs, and best of all, the one-woman play, Rose.
Television and film have offered me several opportunities to be seen on the big screen, but the internet has given me a chance to stretch my comedic muscles. Go to my reel below for some examples, and, as my mother always said, “Enjoy!”