Sisters will share their love of theater with Everyman class

Course over four Sundays will explore playwrights

Stage

November 13, 2003|By Donna M. Owens | Donna M. Owens,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

They are funny, witty and dynamic, two thespians whose love and knowledge of the theater is as apparent as their mutual affection.

And the fact that Baltimore natives Vivienne Shub and Naomi Greenberg-Slovin just happen to be sisters, both in their 80s - well, that's simply icing on the cake.

"I hope our lives help to change the definition and concept of octogenarians," says Greenberg-Slovin, 80.

Indeed, the sharp and vital siblings are helping to change the scope and concept of theater with their innovative new course, "Finding the Playwright Between the Lines."

The four-part series gets under way this Sunday at Everyman Theatre, the community-based Equity company on Charles Street.

A fresh take on some of the world's most famous playwrights, the course aims to explore the personalities and creative motivations of such dramatists as Sophocles and Tennessee Williams.

Described by the creators as a journey through time, each class will provide an intimate view of the playwrights, through play readings, anecdotes and history.

"We know that the social climate in which playwrights lived influenced the characters they created," says 85-year-old Shub, one of the company's resident actors. "This is another way of looking at the playwrights' creations, source and its roots. We learned that so much of what great playwrights wrote came from their own lives."

Greenberg-Slovin, a dramaturg this season at Everyman Theatre, conducted the research for the series and wrote most of the text. Shub, a veteran actor and teaching artist, is the presenter for each class.

Born and raised in Baltimore, the sisters are collaborating on the topic of theater for this project. They have a full range of theatrical and professional experience.

Shub, who most recently appeared in Everyman productions of Hedda Gabler and the one-woman show Rose, has worked in theater along the East Coast and was an original company member of Center Stage.

Her resume includes episodes of TV shows such as America's Most Wanted, Homicide and films such as John Waters' Cry-Baby and Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

She was part of Towson University's theater faculty for two decades, is a past president of the Baltimore Theatre Alliance and is featured in the recently published Lives in Art: Sixteen Women Who Changed Theatre in Baltimore.

Greenberg-Slovin is a professional musician who trained as a cellist at the Peabody Conservatory.

A longtime resident of the Netherlands (with her late husband), she has also worked as a psychologist/therapist, writer and researcher and has translated everything from Dutch poetry to science books.

Her career has included speechwriting on children's advocacy issues, ultimately presented before such international agencies as the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization.

"They form a perfect team," says Vincent M. Lancisi, Everyman's artistic director. "Naomi has vast experience in research, writing and psychology, while Vivienne can get in the mind of the playwright and bring those characters to life."

The four classes will be broken down into ancient and contemporary themes.

"The Origin of Modern Theatre" features readings from Greek masters such as Euripides (Medea); "Restoration and Industrial Revolution Periods" will delve into Aphra Behn, the first English woman playwright (The Rovers); and "Contemporary Playwrights," (in two parts) looks at such playwrights as Tennessee Williams and works including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie.

The sisters say Everyman Theatre offers the best backdrop for their work. The professional repertory company composed of local and regional artists strives to present quality theater that is accessible and affordable.

"This intimate setting is precisely what the community needs to get a better feel for what we are presenting, and I hope we succeed," says Greenberg-Slovin.

Adds Shub, "The enjoyment of the audience is important. We have such a good time, and want them to enjoy it, too."

The "Finding the Playwright Between the Lines" classes will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. this Sunday and Nov. 23, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St. Registration is $50 for the series. Though class size is limited, space is available. Call 410-752-2208 or register at www.everymantheatre.org.

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