As children, my sister and I were lucky to be exposed to many opportunities. Our parents weren’t rich, but they sacrificed to allow us to grow as children. As youngsters, we both took tap, ballet and singing. Even had a performance on the local TV station. Since we had a piano in the house we rented, I took piano lessons and played through most of my early childhood. I stopped when I moved away from home after graduating from high school.
I was always drawing. The nuns gave up on me in school – I would sketch in class sometimes when the classes were boring – like math. Other subjects came easy and I was able to get good grades in spite of my constant sketching.
As a high school graduation present , my mother arranged for private lessons from a famous art teacher in the Washington, DC area. He pre-mixed his paints and used various colors and shades to convey the sense of depth and light. Later, I studied at the now gone, Washington School of Art. Started off studying commercial art, but one of the instructors there convinced me to switch over to fine art studies. He was one of the artists who designed some of the chapels in the Washington Cathedral.
COLLEGE, THEATRE AND SUMMER STOCK
Went to 2 years of college at George Washington University in DC and became involved with the George Washington University Players, which ignited an existing love of theatre.
As a result of some drama workshops I took under the direction of Father Gilbert V. Hartke, director of the Catholic University Drama, I started working with some of their plays. Worked props in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and had a part of a doctor in Mollier’s Imaginary Invalid.
Father ran a summer stock theatre at Olney, Maryland – which was very popular. Many big names in the broadway theatre world came as visiting stars. The theatre supported an apprentice program, which, even though I was working full time, allowed me to join on a part time basis. Olney was a long drive from home in DC, and after a close call with a strange man following me home one night, Father allowed me to sleep in the Green Room at Olney on the weekends.
As an apprentice, we did many jobs. Cleaned up the theatre, took tickets and showed people to their seats. Sold drinks and candy during intermissions, worked on costumes, props and just about anything that needed doing. Sometimes we would taxi the visiting stars to various locations.
The main house at Olney became my second home. It was an exciting world and I got to meet and hang around people whom I admired and read about in theatre books and magazines. Dina Merrill, Carrol Stone, Maggie Phillips, William Windom, and many more – too numerous to mention. Many of them had their picture in Bloomburg’s History of the American Stage.
It was thoroughly exciting.
When I started getting involved at Catholic University, my mother was dying of cancer and while working on the play Hamlet, met and became a good friend of the actress, Willie, who was playing the Queen, Hamlet’s mother. Willie was at C.U. studying for her masters in music. She had a wonderful lyric soprano voice. Once she came to the hospital with me to see my mother and started singing for her. She had the halls of the hospital crowded with people who had gathered around to hear her singing.