By JOSH WEISBERG
Two months before the pandemic hit, my wife and I notified the landlord that we didn’t intend to extend our lease past April 30th and we’d be moving out of our DUMBO apartment. We knew our new place wouldn’t be finished yet, but we had some options to cover the two-to-three-month interim; it would be a little cramped but manageable. Then the lockdown went into effect, all residential construction stopped, and our short temporary horizon became a very uncertain future.
However, due to a sequence of events that included my 91-year old father being hospitalized in February and vacating his residence, we found ourselves moving back into the same Brooklyn brownstone I had moved out of as a teenager forty-five years before. With Dad recuperating very well at my brother’s nearby, we would now move most of our stuff into a rather nice duplex that happened to be filled with the furnishings and other accoutrement of my parents' sixty-five years of married bliss.
Moving companies have been deemed an essential service and the move itself was business as usual, except for the face mask worn by each mover. They packed up our furniture and clothes, which we had carefully marked for storage or for the new abode. We had whittled down the things we were taking to the new place, but it still amounted to a substantial pile which we would have to integrate with the existing furnishings.
Those who have had to inventory and determine the fate of a parent’s household know exactly how challenging it can be, particularly when said parents seem not to have thrown away ANYTHING! Steamship tickets from that transatlantic trip in 1952? Check. Every report card from all five children? Check. All the receipts for the renovation done in 1965? Check.
Don’t get me wrong: much of this process was enjoyable, and it was fun to go through some of what I found with my dad, who remembered most of it like it was yesterday. (“Yes, during that trip we stayed at a small hotel on a canal in Amsterdam that had the most wonderful breakfast.”) From my Player’s perspective, I particularly enjoyed going through the hundreds of Playbills they had collected dating back to the early Fifties, many in pristine condition.
My word, they saw a lot of theatre. And concerts. And opera. With five kids, no less. Most Thursday nights they enticed our nanny to stay and keep my brothers and me from killing each other and headed out on the town. They made excellent use of their rare free time and saw the cream of Broadway, Off-Broadway and concert performances.
Judging from the program collection, their taste in theatre ran from the conventional to the slightly avant-garde, and they took in everything from Arthur Miller premieres to Annie. There appeared to be a marked preference for great performers, and they saw them all: Paul Scofield, Alec Guinness and Lotte Lenya, among others. I particularly enjoyed the Sixties era. Not only were the productions iconic, but the advertisements are great as well. Why so many ads for women’s undergarments?
So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and wish we had been there, with a select very few from the collection, courtesy of Barbara and Erwin Weisberg:
A Man For All Seasons (1962) – Starring Paul Scofield
The School For Scandal (1963) – Directed by and starring John Gielgud, plus Ralph Richardson and Geraldine McEwan
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1963) – Yes, the production with Zero Mostel
Beyond the Fringe (1963) – Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore
Golden Boy (1965) – Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Gossett and Lola Falana
Cabaret (1966) – The original Broadway production starring Joel Grey and Lotte Lenya and featuring Jill Haworth as Sally
The Great White Hope (1968) – James Earl Jones, of course
The Man In The Glass Booth (1969) – With Donald Pleasence
Josh Weisberg co-founded WorldStages and Scharff Weisberg, Inc. He is now at Navolo Audio-Video. Josh is technical advisor to The Brief Chronicles.