I’m going to the Judson Memorial Weekend. It’s been held for years near Ivoryton, Ct. Many years before I knew about Judson, I was an apprentice at the Ivoryton Playhouse. When we sweep past it on our way to the Weekend at Incarnation Center, I’m flooded with memories. Milton Stiefel, his brother Irving and his wife owned and ran the theater. Milton Stiefel had begin his career with David Belasco.
During the summer at the Playhouse I had motley chores: clean pots for the set designer, smear soap on mirrors so they wouldn’t reflect on stage, clean the restrooms. On rare occasions I’d appear in crowd scenes. I reported to a Syracuse senior, Jim Hutton, who had a Hollywood career (Where the Boys Are) and was Timothy Hutton’s (Academy Award) father. Of course, this fifteen year old had a crush on Jim. But Jim was more interested in the sexy girls in the Guys and Dolls chorus line. Rudy Vallée sang his last songs in a tiny nightclub across the street from the theater. In those days film and stage stars trekked around to regional theaters. After filming Julius Caesar, Marlon Brando appeared in Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Wally Cox (Mr. Peepers, anyone?) was his co-star. Katherine Hepburn’s father was a Hartford doctor and the family had a summer house in nearby Saybrook. I think Ms. Hepburn began her career at Ivoryton. Seeing her in the audience, at intermission I crept near her to gawk. She was petite and dressed in a well cut white linen suit. Petite? you say. Honestly, she was about 5’3”. I know she looks taller in films. Maria Riva starred on the Ivoryton stage but the real star was her mother, Marlene Dietrich. Every afternoon the crew hung around the box office phone. Like clock work it would ring at 5 p.m. Irving’s wife answering in her version of a classy accent, would hold the phone’s receiver so we could all hear Dietrich’s famous teutonic growl.
Graphic Lessons: What do a thirty-four-year old, a nine-year-old and an eighteen-year-old have in common? Murder.
Millie Fitzgerald applies for a private school teaching job, faints on a dying man in the school kitchen, deals with a troubled nine-year-old and with the eighteen-year-old niece of the murdered man.
Graphic Lessons: Nine-year-old Dana is the only witness who overhears a person fighting with George Lopez, the soon to be stabbed Windsor School kitchen worker. Who can she tell? Her mother who never listens or accuses her of lying? Her father who’s started a new family in Singapore? She tells Millie.
Graphic Lessons: NYPD Detective Steve Kulchek is assigned the murder case at the prestigious Windsor School. What’s bugging him? His partner being stabbed ? His hated boss, Captain Dick Holbrook, being a trustee of the Windsor School? Losing his girlfriend to Holbrook?