In 1955 I was a junior in college studying to be a physical education and dance teacher. The dance part was fine, but I intensely disliked team sports and the thought of teaching them was depressing although I chose the college and major precisely so I could support myself after graduation. I never applied to liberal arts colleges because I didn’t think I was smart enough, nor did I want to ask my parents to pay for my education. This college was far from New York City so I could get away from my family, and inexpensive enough that I could pretty much pay my way by working in the summer and taking a part-time job during the school year
In 1964, my then husband, son, and I moved to Delaware from Rhode Island where we had both been involved in creating theatre for children. As adults, we performed traditional plays for children, which was well-done, but left me emotionally unsatisfied. I wanted to create a different kind of theatre for children—one in which children as well as adults participated, where actors with varied points of view helped create the play. I also wanted more diversity in who performed and the subject matter of the play, not just children’s classics. I wanted to make theatre for children that was emotionally and psychologically empowering. I had a dream of creating theatre with people from the city and suburbs, white and Black, young and old, where what I wrote developed from the actors’ interests, bringing who they were into the creation and performance of my play.
I saw him from across the busy street—a young boy crying—no adult in sight. I walked over to him and asked what was wrong. “I’m tired of being told I’m stupid.”
“Who calls you stupid?”
“Everyone. I’m eight-years-old and I can’t read. I’m stupid. “
“Not being able to read doesn’t make you stupid, it means you need special help.”
“Lots of people try to teach me but nothin’ works. I’m just stupid.”
As we were talking, a woman came up to him. “Teddy, I’ve been looking all over for you. Why did you run away?” He didn’t answer. He moved closer to me. I guessed she was his mother. If she asked who I was, what would I say? A woman who saw her son crying and tried to comfort him?”
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.