Tuesday, March 08, 2011
more memories......

In 1981, on Friday, February 13th my three-one-act plays, "Nobody Safe Here", opened at Theatre West. It was the second time in my Theatrical life that I experienced this incredible creative experience--a true collaboration....Above, 'Jen The Hen', the third of the three-one-acts, in which Betty played me in the present. This was a play about my mother's death and the profundity of this experience seen through the eyes of 'Naomi' at the time of my mothers death in April 1966, and in the 'present'---in this case, 1981 (Though it could be whatever year the play is being 'played')....the wonderfully sensitive Betty, who actually knew my mother, played me in 1981...and the incredibly talented Elizabeth Berger, played me at the actual time of my mothers death in 1966....... And the astoundingly talented and dear Annie Guilbert...aka Ann Morgan Guilbert, played 'Jen The Hen', my mother, and Brilliantly, I might add. This was such a personal play---such a heartfelt play, and everyone connected to it---the cast, the director, the set designer, the producer---were so incredibly committed and so on the same page about this deeply felt material---we were all, almost thinking as-one-person. That it all worked and was so very very successful in every way---extended three times---and even actually making money for Theatre West---an unheard of 'happening', was due to the dedicated commitment of everyone--starting with my dear Betty...And this is what made it such a special theatrical experience. See, there's dear Seemah over on the lower far right? Seemah played my late sister Robin, perfectly....And the wonderful Alan Jordon played my brother Gordon to a 'T', and the very very talented Pamela Dunlap, who played my sister Gene, was right on the money....In the background, you can see the huge painting I created for the set, with the complete blessings of our extraordinary Set Designer, Charles Berliner---who also happens to be my dear friend, too....in fact, it was Charley's idea that I paint this painting for the set....... There were three 'playing' areas on the stage.....'Naomi' in the presents home/chair (we actual brought one of my barrel chairs from home, along with a little red triangle pillow that had been in my mother's house)....the Hospital room, and the Visitor's Lounge (which you cannot see in the picture above)---and Charley had this wonderful idea to have a White Curtain as they do in Hospitals, that 'Naomi' in the present, pulled back at the beginning of the play, so as to reveal the playing areas (as in the picture above)....plus we created an area right at the foot of the bed that was the Harkness Pavillion Dining Room. Gene and I had many a meal in that Dining Room, and there was a scene between 'Young Naomi' and Gene that took place in that Dining Room, with 'Naomi' in the present, looking on, as well as the image of 'Jen The Hen' always there in the hospital bed....... It was a complicated play because of the two time periods, but it worked! And that is what mattered.....These three one-act plays seemingly unrelated, really were very much related, in their own way..... The overlapping of 'jobs' made it very exciting, too.....the super bright and extremely talented Deirdre Meehan directed two of the plays and versatile amazing Betty directed the other play, which Deirdre and Pamela Dunlap both 'acted in'. How we ever did all this, I don't know. But we did. Above....Deirdre and Betty upstairs in the Rehearsal Room at Theatre West. Rehearsals, are, for many, the most exciting time of a play---particularly a new play. Both Betty and Deirdre gave me so much support during this process, when many changes took place and lots of re-writing happened---it was nurturing in the most positive way and it brought out the best in me and made the plays that much better, too. "Jen The Hen" was the most difficult because it had had the least amount of work-shoping, so a lot of re-writing happened during this very exciting rehearsal period....... The thing is----Betty set the tone. Because of who she was as a person, she brought out the BEST in everybody. I don't think any of us had ever been better, except when we worked with her at other times. Always, she created an atmosphere where you wanted to do your best because she was doing her best and was always so kind and loving and professional.....I've always said, people who normally didn't like one another or in some cases--couldn't stand each other---worked beautifully together when Betty was involved. Luckily, we didn't have very much of that with "Nobody Safe Here".....but what little we did have was completely dissipated by this magic that Betty always brought with her---this calmness....I don't ever remember seeing Betty nervous or edgy when working in the theatre. Another gift she would give everybody---like I said, she set the tone, and we all were our best selves because of it.That 'magic' was just who she was inside and out.....That ability to see the good in everyone and to give unconditional love---you cannot learn how to be that kind of person---this was innate in Betty's nature. Even when giving criticism in the Wednesday night Musical Comedy Class, which she taught, or in the Monday Night Workshop---whatever she said was always said with kindness and love----a great gift to the person she was trying to help.....

Below....a snapshot taken after the show one night when our mutual friend Lois Land had come down from Northern California just to see the play---Betty without wig....... Behind us, Production Pictures from "Nobody Safe Here" hanging on the Lobby wall at Theatre West.....It was a truly special and memorable time, in every way....A joy to remember......



More To Come........









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31 Comments:
had this to say:

That sounds like an amazing play and I am just sorry I didn't get to see it.
I loved the desctiption of Betty that she could keep egos and attitudes in check. That is as amazing as her talent.
You certainly had your hands full with that production but it had to have been so rewarding. To sit back and watch your life being portrayed by others, in your own words, would be both thrilling and chilling.

Wonderful post Naomi.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 4:08:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

My daughter's theater minor requires her to take a directing class, the final for which is directing a one act play for the campus theater. (She's really in charge of the entire production.) I'll pass these along to her for reference. Maybe they'll entertain an audience in Kirksville, MO in late 2012.

Cheers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 5:45:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, in all the times I have visited here and read of your wonderful memories and everyday happenings, I never realized you are a playwrite too. Not only that, but a set artist. Thanks so much for sharing. I used to paint theater scenery for a local theater. Loved it. Was my most favorite job! Plus, I always got to go to dress rehearsal for free because of that. Sigh.......... the good ol'days, hmmmmm? Take care. xoxo

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 8:00:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

It's so rare to meet people that give others a sense of calm, safety, and manners. We could really use someone like that now in the public discourse. Where have civility and manners gone? I've only met one person in my life who brought out the best in others, who could come into a situation and diffuse the difficulties in other people's personalities. You know when you meet someone like that, just how special that quality is. It's a natural gift.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 1:46:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

It sounds like an interesting and deep play about life and letting go. It is wonderful you have all these memories with Betty, these creative times that lasted all your lives.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 4:32:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

from Julie,

Found your site by way of Rainy Day Thoughts. What a treasure trove of stories about theatrical history and its community. You made a beautiful tribute to Betty Garrett, too. I'm impressed by the rich life you have led in the arts and with the people you've known.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:03:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Hugs to someone who also brings out the best in those around her- you.

Blessings

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:48:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I love when you share the really magic moments from your life. I didn't realize that Betty was such a gracious person. I love being around people like that. I was so happy when the ladies of "The View" added in their post-mortems that the Academy overlooked and mentioned Betty. I think that was on Friday. I smiled and thought of you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 10:39:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I really don't know why you aren't writing a book! you know how i love the "old" photo's and wish I had as many wonderful memories as you do. This is why Betty will live on forever.. hugs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:21:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I love so much when you share these wonderful moments from your life. I would love to make a voyage to the past to see your play "Nobody Safe Here"!
Thank you my dear for the lovely photos and memories of you and your dear friend Betty.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:04:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

I LOVE seeing these pictures and memories of your play.
I don't think I've seen them before. They are simply wonderful and thanks for posting them. xo, Audrey

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:42:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Such a bittersweet time of reflection,
remembering and grieving. Your friendship--your love for each other is so clear. I am honored that you have chosen to share them.
xo

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:14:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I wish Theatre West would revive your one-act plays, they sound wonderful! I love hearing about Betty--what an actor's actor on top of everything else. How long did she keep that long hair in a braid, I love it! She was always so beautiful, until the day she died.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 11:45:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I feel like a broken record but: it is so wonderful that you have photos and memories to share with us. You have a way of "talking" so it's like I'm right there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I'm here! I"m here for the memories and the stories and, of course, your ever lovely photos. Thank you for sharing all of them! XO

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 9:22:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

It's wonderful when that which you've envisioned actually comes to life, as your play did. It sounded very complicated, but true talent (such as Betty and the others who starred in it) always adds to the vision and never takes away.

What a blessing she was to you and, in return, you to her... you to all. You are a blessing.

Keep remembering and sharing. I'm sure it hurts when you do, but eventually having all this written down will serve as a balm.

xoxo

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:11:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

You have so many wonderful photos and memories!

Betty must have been so special the way everyone got on together in her company. Some people have that ability, but they are rare. What a gift!

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 10:16:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Today there would be a youtube clip of this. I enjoyed getting your insiders peak into theater and hearing about how the stage was set up. I can only image the content of the play, which I assume was mostly based on dialogue.

On a looseleaf comment note, I had something I was going to post about Charlie Sheen this week. There's so much humor around the drama, but in the end it's a tragedy. To watch the attention, fodder and money being made around someone's mental illness is a crying shame.

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 6:58:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I really wish I could have seen the plays, Naomi. The loving way you write about Betty has to please her and her family. She seems like a phenomenal person, inside and out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 8:11:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I enjoyed this and seeing all the photos! I wish I could have seen that play! I love watching plays. You and everyone involved are/were so talented!!

You have so many wonderful memories and photos of your dear friend Betty. I know it's still so hard for you. I've been thinking of you often. Love and hugs!

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 8:38:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

your friendship with Betty is such a gift and the memories will keep her near
to be collaberative and inspiring to others while still being a powerful presence is so rare and Betty did that

hugs sweet lady

Friday, March 11, 2011 at 6:05:00 AM PST 

Blogger Pat
had this to say:

What a wonderful relationship you had with Betty and such priceless shared experiences. I can imagine the joy of having something you have created brought to such fruition in such a loving atmosphere.
I know how fraught producing a play can be - let alone an original, but with Betty's serenity keeping all on a even keel you were truly blessed.
Were you tempted at all to take part or direct? You showed great trust.
And I'm wondering how you met Betty in the first instance.
I hope these fascinating posts are helping you to cope with the loss.

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 3:09:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

The more I read about your memories of Betty, the more I admire both of you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 6:06:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Kevin R.
had this to say:

Dear Naomi,
The death of a mother can be a life altering experience...and a painful one. Your mom seems to me a very interesting woman; I find it very compelling when you talk about your mother.
What a wonderful, rich history you shared with Betty.
I hope you are doing well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 12:57:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I love how you let us walk down memory lane with you. I feel like the way you write we are there. Sounds like an amazing play....thanks for sharing..case no one has said that yet...zman sends

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 2:52:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

It is rare to find a talented person who is so kind and generous and brings the best in others. Your Betty was a great lady and you are too Naomi. I enjoy so much reading about your plays with Betty and the good time you had. Your memories are a great solace.

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 2:59:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Its amazing my friend.. I am glad you have such fond memories of all your loved ones..

Esp Betty. she was a keeper as a friend goes and I have to admit I dont have a close friend like you did her.. but she will always be remembered in the right places by you.

again thank you for sharing her and the rest with us..

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 10:56:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Your memories are so lovingly shared here. In addition to my appreciating your dear friend, Betty's talents even more, I also enjoy reading about your professional relationship together. I'd known only of your Broadway show and hadn't been aware you had written dramatic plays produced, too. Sounds like a group of one-acts that would be quite pertinent today. Participating in theatre can be a unique experience I think. Can only imagine what a thrill working with Betty must have been.

In the wee hours of this morning my TV turned to THIS network. A movie I remembered enjoying many years ago was just starting -- Betty Garrett and other stars including Jack Lemmon, Janet Leigh, Bob Fosse and others in the delightful "My Sister Eileen."

Monday, March 14, 2011 at 10:36:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi I am so sorry I haven't been over here and missed the news of Betty. I can only imagine the sadness in your heart. You have such a gift of pulling us into your life and heart and you've always portrayed Betty as such a wonderful, kind, creative, talented...friend and person. Since my best friend and I have been together for thirty years now I just know the heart loss I would feel with her gone. I think you guys were a true blessing to each other. Hold on to those precious memories. A big bear hug to you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 7:06:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories and a beautifully crafted tribute to such a good friend and actor. In her plasma, rare to find today. Thank you for sharing Betty with me. Some losses are not recovered from, just endured. Your many special times together will soften the blow, and of course, she would have wanted it so.

Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 7:46:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love reading your stories, Naomi...You and Betty seem like you were two peas in the same pod... I'm so glad that you two were friends..

Friday, April 8, 2011 at 12:06:00 AM PDT 

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