Friday, January 29, 2016

The Past Is Still Present

When Vol. 6, No. 2 of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator was published earlier this month, a great deal of space was devoted to a story entitled, “Woodward at Temple,” which started on page two. 

By page five, the piece had drifted into telling tales of the Unstabled Theatre, which was then located at 16 Temple, just north of downtown Detroit. Today, it is just another empty field waiting to become the home of Wayne State's Ilitch School of Business.

The Unstabled was less than five hundred feet away from Detroit’s main north-south thoroughfare, Woodward Avenue, that ran from the Detroit River through several suburbs before ending up in Pontiac, Michigan.

Still Unstabled After
All of These Years

I hold on to items of value, and as I was rummaging through my collection of miscellaneous and various, I found the program for the June 15-17, 1962 presentation of Jack Gelber’s play "The Connection," at the Unstabled Theatre.

Edith Carroll Canter directed it and the actors were listed in the following order:
Harvey played by Harvey Gotliffe, Dan by Dave Rambeau, Leach played by Lenny Pitt, Solly by Bob Malchie, Sam by Woodie King, Ernie by Marty Gorak, Photographer by James Palosaari, Harry by Carl Schurer, Sister Salvation by Sheila Schurer and Cowboy by Leno Jaxon. It also included Dick Smith-Lighting, Sheila Schurer as Stage Manager, Program Design by Carl Schurer, and Publicity by Harvey Gotliffe.

That was more than fifty-three years ago, and since I have just turned eighty, I decided to revisit the past, and discover who was still around and where, and what they had been doing. Google and YouTube were my allies, and could be yours if you are interested in learning more about the cast members mentioned below.

Seek and Ye Shall Find 

Finding Harvey Gotliffe was relatively easy, since I occasionally find him looking back at me in the bathroom mirror. although he seems to be older than he was in 1962.

David Rambeau, is a multi-faceted creative young man of my age, who is a prolific writer, producer and host of the television show “For My People.” He has helped the Concept East Theatre grow since its inception in 1962, and is the author of numerous articles on what’s going on politically and socially in Detroit, where he still lives.

Lenny Pitt and I just finished a most interesting phone conversation. It was a short distance call, since he lives in Berkeley, about 75 miles away. He’s a lot closer than when he left Detroit in 1962 to live seven years in Paris where he studied mime under Marcel Marceau’s teacher. He has been a photographer, performer, author, and his autobiography “My Brain on Fire” will be coming out this March.

Woodie King has been a successful actor and in 1970 founded the New Federal Theatre in New York City. His purpose was to integrate people of color and women into mainstream American theatre, and he has been doing so for more than forty-five years. He found time to answer an email I sent him, after easily finding his life story listed on Google.

The Schurers are now living in Atlanta, and have been on my email list for a while, and I think about them every time I walk down stairs and pass Carl’s magnificent painting of the folk and blues singer, songwriter and guitarist William Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly or Leadbelly. Carl and Sheila helped found the Red Door Gallery in 1963, next to Wayne State University. It was Detroit’s first avant-garde and cooperative gallery. Carl sold his paintings to raise money for the entire family to move to Greece, and I purchased Leadbelly. He’s travelled with me from Detroit, to Toledo, to San Jose, to Fresno, to Detroit, to Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, before he settled in Santa Cruz.

“Is That All There Is?” Asked
My Dad and Miss Peggy Lee

I have settled here, too, and as soon as I finish writing this piece and posting it, I will start working again on my memoirs, My Incredible Odyssey. The book covers a five-year period from 1981 through 1986, when I traveled around the world searching for and finding relatives, after my parents died seven weeks apart in 1981. I began writing it in 1983 while living in a cousin’s chalet on a small lake just outside of St. Saver in  Quebec. I typed more than 150 pages then on my old Royal Upright typewriter, however the book's completion has been delayed by life.

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