This interview is being conducted for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society on September 25, 2008 and I am interviewing Lillian (Lil) Strouss and my name is Helena Schlam. Lil, this is a great honor for me to get to hear your story. Let me start by asking you how long you’ve lived in Columbus, approximately.
Strouss: I think it was 1960 when we moved here so it’s about 40 …
Interviewer: 1960 is close enough. Before we started, you made a comment that you only came, you came to Columbus over 40 years ago. Can you tell us about your family and your Jewish experience when you were growing up as a child.
Strouss: I was born in Boston, in Brookline actually, and my father and mother belonged to Temple Israel in Boston and …Rabbi was quite famous. He wrote Peace of Mind. I don’t …(Editor: Joshua Loth Liebman).
Interviewer: I can check that author and did you know him?
Strouss: Oh yes. At that time I was just a child and I attended Temple Israel and I have a brother who’s older than I am and he lives in Palm Springs and Rhode Island part of the year. And my Jewish background is I went to Sunday School. It was a Reform Temple and my grandparents were a mixture. They were Russian-Polish and Austria I believe.
Interviewer: And did your grandparents come to the United States or did your parents?
Strouss: Oh no. My grandparents, my parents were born here.
Interviewer: And your grandparents came?
Strouss: And we, they resided in the Boston area and my father was in the fur business. He was a furrier in Boston, actually on Park Street near the Old North Church.
Interviewer: What a wonderful area.
Strouss: On Boylston Street.
Interviewer: We want to know your general background too. It’s important.
Strouss: Well my theatrical background …
Strouss: That’s why I’m bringing this in. As a child I was quite shy and I took, my mother had given thought that I had elocution lessons and I sort of took to that and singing and I loved theater. And, I went to a school called the Bishop Lee School of the Theater and studied with Wilma Dearborn Carter who was quite well known as an instructor/teacher of theater and drama.
Interviewer: At what age did you begin studying this?
Strouss: I was about 12. I went through high school. I would take the street car I remember, take from our home up in Chestnut Hill and take a street car down from the Circle, down to the Boston Commons and I’d walk across the Commons. In those days it was safe as a child and …
Interviewer: Did you feed the ducks?
Strouss: And feed the ducks and swans. I went by myself, and I studied once a week approximately at the beginning and then I’d go in a couple of times a week and studied with Miss Wilma Dearborn Carter.
Interviewer: So it was a supplementary school?
Strouss: No, I went through high school …
Interviewer: So were you in Brookline High School?
Interviewer: That’s a very famous high school as well.
Strouss: I went to Brookline High School and graduated, Akers House, and graduated from Brookline and I went to college from there, Ithaca College …
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Strouss: upstate New York and got my Bachelor of Fine Arts, B.F.A. in Theater and Speech. And that was my under-, the theater was my main focus. And it was at Ithaca College that I was sort of selected as a theater student to attend these companies. At that time there were a lot of stock companies in Boston.
Strouss: And the Cape and places outside of Boston, Swampscott, Lynn. And I was selected in my junior year to go into a company of actors and I was the ing�nue. And we went to Lynn and Swampscott, Massachusetts and had our own company there. And this is interesting, at that time Boston was very proper and actors were not welcome. And we, when we were in Lynn, sleeping on the stage, the company, the whole company. And a member of our company was Pat Carroll. You might have heard of Pat.
Strouss: She played, she was on Broadway recently actually. Let’s see, what role, the one woman show and I don’t know what’s happened to her but she was part of our company. And then our company was invited to the Cape and there was a stock company at White Horse Beach. It was the Priscilla Beach Theater. It was a school all day. We learned all day and at night we performed. And we had professionals come in and this is where I met Edward Everett Horton and I played in “Springtime for Henry” that summer and I was his secretary and I mean, I really, it was a blast because he was funny and I sort of had a crush on his nephew and it was a good experience. But I have to back up a little. In Lynn, Gloria Swanson was due to appear in “Goose for the Gander”. I was part of the company and I did props for her and I had a small role. And her daughter Michelle and I became very, very good friends. Gloria was not a nice person. Yes. So she signed at that time for “Sunset Boulevard” when she was with our company. That was really a historical moment because that was her famous show, you know.
Interviewer: Of course, I understand. And I am curious as to whether many of the actors and actresses were Jewish or whether that was, you were, it was even in your consciousness at the time.
Strouss: No, I don’t think there was another Jew there.
Interviewer: You were probably the only one?
Strouss: Oh I was pretty sure that I was the only Jew in the company. Now, you know, our audiences, there were a lot of Jewish people on the North Shore and that’s who we drew. Summer stock and theater at that time, even these little “Petticoat Fever” and those little plays that we did, people loved to come and see it. I mean it was, today you couldn’t get anybody …
Interviewer: That’s tough.
Strouss: But it was a great draw for people, you know, to come and as I say we did have Jewish audiences. My grandmother on my father’s side performed in the Catskills. I will never forget going up there to watch her perform “By Mir Bis Du Schoen”.
Interviewer: What was her name?
Interviewer: Uh huh and was her …
Strouss: Cadiff. That was my maiden name.
Interviewer: Was that her stage name as well?
Strouss: And I was just a little girl. Listen I might have been six or seven years old …
Interviewer: But it made quite an impression.
Strouss: Well that line was there. The theater was in our family. I have come to that conclusion that there’s a certain amount of showmanship because my granddaughter now is performing on ice and, you know, she’s a star on ice so there’s that performance kind of thing that we have; we love to be out there.
Interviewer: But what about this grandmother’s, your grandfather’s, how, what, did he like his wife being a performer and what was your …
Strouss: He was a very, he was a quiet man.
Interviewer: I guessed that that might be.
Strouss: Right. He was a very quiet, sweet man and, you know, he just went along I guess. ‘Cause I don’t remember that. I was very young. All I remem–, there were certain moments I remember of her performing and I was embarrassed. And my father was a musician. He played with the Senior Orchestra for the Boston Symphony, the violin. He played here. He entertained Heritage people. When he moved here when my mother died, he was their star performer at Heritage House. They loved him. He was a gorgeous man, very handsome even when he got old. And he performed and loved the ladies. And I think almost recently, somebody came up and talked to me about him, that she had remembered him. He played the violin. He sang. He was a performer. So that was his mother.
Interviewer: And were you very close to your father? Not so much?
Strouss: I was close to both of them.
Interviewer: But the strain or the thread in your family of performances you observed, is very strong.
Strouss: And my, it carried over because my brother’s son is a famous producer-director in Holly- wood sitcoms.
Interviewer: Well what is his name, your nephew?
Strouss: Andrew Cadiff.
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Strouss: Andy Cadiff and he’s just finished producing a film in England …
Strouss: with Burt Reynolds and it hasn’t opened yet. I don’t know if it ever will but he’s, he went from television, he was directing on Broadway and off-Broadway …
Strouss: and he worked, he went to Harvard and Hal Prince discovered him. He was a student of Hal Prince’s. I don’t know if you know who Hal Prince is.
Interviewer: Oh yes, oh yes.
Strouss: And he worked with Hal for many years. He stage-managed a theater. I went to see the opening of “Evita” with Patty Lupone and he got me good seats and I went to the party afterwards with him. And yeah, he’s still at it. He’s very much …
Interviewer: But I’m interested in this family tradition. So does your brother have a talent in …
Interviewer: So he passed it to his son?
Strouss: Yeah, I mean, and perhaps his wife somewhat. She was a lawyer in Boston. She is a lawyer but they’re still alive.
Interviewer: I’m not good with names but …
Strouss: No I’m not either.
Interviewer: but the story and the Jewish background are all very, very interesting.
Strouss: Yes and that’s it, that’s my background. Want the foreground now?
Interviewer: Well, why not?
Strouss: I mean, things enter into my mind as we’re talking about the past and how it all came about. I came to Columbus around 1960. I was in a very, three little kids and my ex-husband was going to Vet School and the children were babies. David, my little one, my little one-he’s now 53. He went to Rose Schwartz’ Pre-School …
Interviewer: Oh at the JCC?
Strouss: Yeah, yeah. And the other ones went to Berwick.
Strouss: The two little girls went to Berwick and I joined Temple Israel and I’ve always been a member of Temple Israel. I still am. I’m not an active member but I am a member. But the other part of the family were not Jewish, my ex’s family. My family were Jewish.
Interviewer: Yes. You were telling me about your children and …
Strouss: Yeah they went to Berwick and Rose Schwartz and I was not well. I just kind of crumbled under the leaving a life over there and coming here with three little kids and my ex was over at school most of the time and I was quite lonely. So one day the telephone rang and I had brought a nanny with me actually. That’s how the kids were being taken care of ’cause I was not able to drive, do anything.
Interviewer: It was difficult for you?
Strouss: So the phone rang and I’ll never forget it. I answered it and it was a man’s voice and he said, “Lil?” And I said, “Yes”. He said, “This is Harold Eisenstein. I’m at the Jewish Center, head of the Cultural Arts and Theater.” And I said, “Yes”. He said, “I understand you’re an actress”. And I said, “Not any more”. Well, again I will back up. In Youngstown when I first got married, I opened up a little theater school to keep myself active when I first got married, in my mother-in-law’s home which was an estate and I had little children I was teaching at that time. That was the only thing, my only tie into theater at that time. And then I moved here and had nothing until this telephone call.
Interviewer: It was very important.
Strouss: Yeah he said, “I’m doing a play called ‘Ondine’.” You’ll see the pictures. I said, “Yeah”. He said, “I’d like you to play Princess Berta”. I said laughing, “What?” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding”. I said, “I can’t do anything”. I said, “I can’t stand up, I get dizzy and I’m not able to function properly.” And he said, “Just do me a favor,” he said, “come over.” And he said, “Just come on over and we’ll talk, we’ll talk.” That was Harold. “We’ll talk.” So like, so I came over, I went over and I was living at the time on Dover Road and the Center’s here and Dover Road’s right over there so it was not very far.
Interviewer: Not far?
Strouss: So whoever was working for me took me over there and I sat down with him and he said, “I know about your background and I would,” and he said, “and I wanted to meet you.” I said, “Okay”. He said, “This play, Harriet Sklar was playing Ondine,” he said, “and I want you for Princess Berta”. I don’t know if you saw the picture of me with, in the costume.
Interviewer: Wonderful costume.
Strouss: Yes. He passed away, Roger Allen. Anyway, and Gilbert was in that, what was his first name, not Ivan, his brother who was an actor. (Editor: Mack) So I went with this completely strange group of people to the Jewish Center and we read through the play and I read it and I thought, “What if I pass out on the stage”. I was very unsure of myself at that time. He said, “You can do it”.
Interviewer: Harold knew who he was dealing with.
Strouss: So from that day on I was his, as far as the theater was concerned and I became very interested in the Jewish Center and very interested in the Cultural Arts Department which, with Harold and Ann Roth, I kind of developed. I started getting things moving in cultural arts. I went and did “Ondine” for him and after that, I was just doing a show a year. Then we …
Interviewer: So were you both acting and directing?
Strouss: No, no. Oh no. No, just acting.
Interviewer: Only acting? Oh I was mistaken. I thought you directed some plays.
Strouss: Oh my God yes, I did, after he stopped.
Interviewer: I see.
Strouss: That, I haven’t gotten to that yet.
Interviewer: I’m sorry, I’m rushing you.
Strouss: No I started there but there’s more here. Then this group called “Player’s Theater,” which originally was “Player’s Club” you know, they told me that, I decided I wanted to find out about it. So I went over there and got the information which I didn’t like because they didn’t have all of the Jewish people. You know, Bea Roth, they were all aware of it at Gallery. That’s why they started Gallery Players. But Players was THE community theater at that time. Players Club Theater.
Strouss: On Franklin Avenue.
Interviewer: Oh. And so this was in the 60s?
Strouss: No we’re, yeah, uh huh, 60s. Uh huh.
Interviewer: When you first came to Columbus?
Strouss: Yeah but this is a little …you know, after I got involved with Harold, I became very involved with Players. The director there became a good friend of mine and he got me involved. The first play I did was “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody”.
Strouss: But I played the nun and I loved the people there. I loved the people. I was very comfortable. I started becoming who I really felt that I am.
Interviewer: And so you were active in both places?
Strouss: Oh yes. I did a show a year for Players and a show a year for Harold. And then, as far as acting, let’s see, “The Price”. We did “The Price”.
Strouss: I think you’ve got all the pictures for that. “Light Up the Sky”. I don’t know whether you, did you get the, I have a big poster of “Light Up the Sky”. Linda Katz was in that. Larry was in it. I mean, all of the people that were active at Gallery Players. Did you get a list of my plays? ‘Cause I don’t have it.
Interviewer: So when you became involved with Gallery Players with Harold, had they been in existence very long?
Strouss: Well I think Harold came in, I know Irene Braverman said that she was here longer than Harold.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: She was here before Harold.
Strouss: And I figured I was here from 19–, I started in 1960. I think Harold might have come in late 50s.
Strouss: You’d have to look that up.
Interviewer: We have an interview with Harold. I can look that up.
Strouss: Yeah I’m pretty sure he was the 50s, late 50s. Then Harold, let’s see, I think as Harold slowed up we were in the old Jewish Center …
Strouss: at that time. He asked me if I would direct a show that was …
Interviewer: It will probably pop into your head. Tell me about the show.
Strouss: It was a comedy.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: “Bedroom Farce”.
Strouss: He said, “I want you to direct this play”. I said, “Harold”. He said, “No you can do it”. So I did it. And …
Interviewer: Was that the first play you ever directed?
Strouss: Well for Harold.
Interviewer: Oh for Harold.
Strouss: In my school I directed. But I was never interested in it.
Strouss: That was not my thing. I mean I didn’t want to work, to teach and all that stuff which eventually was what I love to do. I loved it more than acting because for me, directing was like paint–, and I’m very much in the arts. I work at the Museum, I do a lot with children and the arts so directing a play is like painting a mural or painting a picture, putting the pieces together, a symphony, you know …
Strouss: and it’s kind of, that’s how I …
Interviewer: It’s a lovely description.
Strouss: So I became really a director and I didn’t do as much acting. Dates?
Interviewer: Dates are not important here. But so you were involved with many seasons then of Gallery Players?
Strouss: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Were you also involved with the committee or was there a committee?
Strouss: Yeah I chaired the committee. I was on the committee. I’m still on it.
Interviewer: So how did you, what change did you see in Gallery Players then all through the years?
Strouss: Oh well we were, we really conducted ourselves as a governing committee …
Interviewer: Yes. Where you would have a planning committee meeting?
Strouss: He was our motivator. He was our innovator. He was our director. He kept us afloat and people wanted to work, you know.
Interviewer: Were you all volunteers or were you paid?
Strouss: No, no. We’re volunteers, all volunteers. Huh uhn. No, and as a director, which I should be paid but I give the money back. I never, the money was not, the important issue was not the money and the actors, a couple of shows I did, I hired an actress from New York.
Strouss: Yeah, Kay Rothman.
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Strouss: I had Kay come in for a couple of my shows. Darn, if I only had my resume …
Interviewer: Well uh, were you the first to hire someone?
Strouss: Oh no, Harold, when I did “The Price,” brought in Larry Storch.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: We had Larry Storch was our professional actor for that and I’m sure that Harold might have had other professionals in. But we had a very talented group of actors here at Gallery Players. I mean we did, I mean, a nucleus of people who, Joe Heitter, I don’t know if you ever met Joe.
Interviewer: I did not but I know that Gallery Players was very important in the Jewish community.
Strouss: Well in the community at large, we had a tremendously good reputation as a community theater. We were in competition with Players.
Interviewer: Well I was going to ask about that. So what was the relationship then with Players Club?
Strouss: Well we used the same actors.
Interviewer: So was it a good relationship even though you were in competition?
Strouss: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Jerry Ness, that was his name, the director of Players. I chaired that too. What I tried to do is to have the community aware that, not only the Jewish community, but the community at large, you don’t draw an audience just for Jewish people.
Interviewer: Of course not.
Strouss: You have to have that, those seats filled with the community.
Strouss: And I mean I know this is a Jewish thing that we’re doing here and I think it’s very important. But I’ve always been of the philosophy that it isn’t only the Jewish community. You have to satisfy other people as well if you want to stay in business. We go to other businesses for money …
Strouss: You know, we don’t just go to Jewish people for money.
Interviewer: Well as a personal insertion here, when I was in the last night of “Ballyhoo” I thought to myself how important it was for non-Jews to see that play.
Strouss: Oh yeah. You know what our mission was?
Interviewer: Tell me again.
Strouss: The mission was to present Jewish theater for Gallery. It’s to present Jewish theater but not only Jewish themes. Like I directed “All My Sons” which is not Jewish but it has a Jewish feeling.
Strouss: And that’s what Harold and I talked about all the time, Jewish feelings. ‘Cause I did “Broken Glass” which was Jewish of course, you know, but there’s two different plays by Arthur Miller. Then we did “The Crucible” which has nothing to do with Jews. But it was an Arthur Miller play. We’ve done Jewish playwrights …
Strouss: and Jewish themes, you know. We incorporated both because theater is Jewish. Go to New York. It’s Jewish, of course. It’s either a Jewish director, a Jewish playwright, David Mamet, all your great playwrights, except for Shakespeare. He probably had some Jewish blood in him too.
Interviewer: Could be.
Strouss: But you can’t get away from it. The Jews started this all.
Interviewer: What do you think is the Jewish part of theater? What aspect? I’ve thought about this question often that what are the values that make theater a natural for Jews to be attracted. Your expression, “Gallery is like a child to me”. Tell me more about that.
Strouss: Well I think I sort of watched it grow. I’ve watched it go through certain stages like you do with a child. There are disappointing times and there are times that it just explodes with glory and doing great things. And I hope that it continues to do great things. I hope that we will go down on record as being one of the great Jewish community theaters in the country. I think when we had our great moments, and I hope to see them there again, and again …
Interviewer: Well 60 years is an impressive record for Gallery.
Strouss: Yeah that it’s still in existence because a lot of theaters have gone down under. But we have the support of the Jewish Center. Without that and of course the Reslers were very instrumental. You know that. And Bea and Buddy Roth, going back to the history of this theater. If you are aware of the history with the Roths, the money that they have given to the theater and the Resler Fund, which helps us operate the theater.
Interviewer: And wasn’t Florence Melton also involved?
Strouss: Originally, yes, she was originally involved. I wasn’t that, I didn’t know her that well. But I knew Eleanor Resler. In fact I really worked very closely with Eleanor toward the end of her life, with the theater. She cared a great deal about that, yes. I’d go visit her at her home as Harold did too and we talked about Gallery and the future of Gallery.
Interviewer: Well that was very important.
Strouss: Yes, uh huh.
Interviewer: And so did the Reslers leave some endowment or did they have a fund of …
Strouss: Oh yes, they endowed the theater. I mean we have a Resler Fund.
Strouss: and Jackie Jacobs I believe handles it.
Interviewer: So that’s …
Strouss: That’s keeping us afloat. We’re lacking a great deal …for having good publicity and, you know, getting the message out. Michael Grossberg has done a great job and he is the critic for The Columbus Dispatch. And he has reviewed most of our shows and he does the best he can as have the suburban papers. But the Center itself needs to put in more time and effort as far as commercializing the theater.
Interviewer: Well it is a real opportunity. Let me ask you about some of your favorites. If you can, or all of your plays, your favorites. I would say which is your favorite play that you performed in?
Strouss: That I performed in?
Interviewer: Yes, your favorite role.
Strouss: It wasn’t here.
Interviewer: That’s all right.
Strouss: It was at Players. I played Banana in the “House of Blue Leaves”. Do you know the play?
Interviewer: I do.
Strouss: By John Guare, yes. I played Banana. I loved that role. She was such a crazy lady. And …
Interviewer: I wish I had seen it with you in it.
Strouss: Yes and then I played Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” which was a challenging role for me. This was at Players. That was quite a challenge. And …
Interviewer: Is there a favorite if you just think about Gallery Players?
Strouss: Well …
Interviewer: Perhaps we’ll have a follow-up interview and have that list in front of you and that would make it easier.
Strouss: “The Price” was an important play for me because Larry Storch was in it. And Joe Heitter and Burt Lewis. We had a wonderful cast. We did the show twice actually, once with Larry Storch and once without him. And, let me see, another favorite of mine but it was at Players, was “The Music Man” because I played Eulalie and I can’t sing a note.
Strouss: That was a fabulous show. Irene Braverman was in that one too. She played the mother. No, I think directing became more of a focus for me after, at Gallery because I directed quite a few. “The Sisters Rosenzweig,” I directed that.
Interviewer: That was wonderful.
Strouss: “The American Daughter,” Wendy Wasserstein.
Interviewer: That was excellent.
Strouss: I loved doing those shows. And I, you know, my directing resume is quite extensive as is my acting. But …
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite playwright then as we talk about these productions?
Strouss: Well I think Arthur Miller maybe. I would love to have seen Gallery attempt to do “Death of a Salesman” but for some reason we never did. We might have done it before my time. I don’t know. But I know Miller has a lot to say, you know, and I’m not really up to more of the contemporary Jewish playwrights right now ’cause I’m kind of out of that realm. I’m not reading plays as much so …
Interviewer: Well there’s a time for everything and maybe that is a good lead-in to ask you how do you think the Columbus Jewish community has changed over the years or do you think it has changed?
Strouss: That’s a hard question for me because I’m not involved that much in Jewish organizations.
Interviewer: In any …boards and …
Strouss: No, not any more. I used to do readings and lecture at the women’s organization, the B’nai B’rith and at Council of Jewish Women and I used to bring in excerpts from shows and present them at the Heritage House, stuff like that, but I am not involved with Jewish organizations. My Jewish organization is the Jewish Center.
Interviewer: Well it’s important to have a strong supporter there.
Strouss: Yeah that’s my family, uh huh.
Interviewer: And you have made sure that you support them all along …
Strouss: Oh yes.
Interviewer: with, in every way that you can?
Strouss: I think it’s very important.
Strouss: I do think it is and …
Interviewer: You mentioned a granddaughter who was in theater.
Strouss: Well she’s not in theater.
Strouss: She’s a senior in high school and she is, she skates. She’s an ice skater.
Interviewer: Oh yes. Where does she live?
Strouss: In Cincinnati. Uh huh, Ashley. And then I have one that is a horseman. She shows horses. She goes to school in Tennessee and, with her horse, and she’s an equestrienne rider, you know. She shows horses and hunts, jumps, and does the whole thing. And we’re a big horse family. On my son’s, my son and his children, they’re all horse people. That is my son.
Interviewer: And where do they live?
Strouss: My son is in Ipswich, Massachusetts and he’s a lawyer in Boston. And he plays polo as his father did and that’s why the carry-over. The Strouss family were big horse people.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: Well they were department stores and then they, the kids didn’t want it so they, you know, the stores eventually, they’re all in the east, eastern Ohio, Youngstown.
Interviewer: What was the name of the …
Strouss: Strouss’s, Strouss-Hirshberg …
Strouss: And then it became the May Company.
Interviewer: Uh …
Strouss: All of the stores have gone into Macy’s.
Interviewer: And your daughters, where do they live?
Strouss: Well Patty my middle daughter is in Cincinnati and her daughter is Ashley …
Interviewer: The ice skater?
Strouss: and she will be going to college next year.
Interviewer: You must be proud.
Strouss: Yeah well I have more, I have a granddaughter who is a lawyer.
Strouss: Yes she’s 30 years old and she’s just finished clerking for a federal judge.
Interviewer: Well that sounds good to me.
Strouss: She has a job in a law firm in Baltimore working for a civil rights and human rights organization, the law firm.
Interviewer: So this is, how many grandchildren do you have?
Strouss: I have five.
Interviewer: Okay. What are the names of your children?
Strouss: My oldest is Sandra Elizabeth Strouss and she lives in Baltimore, Maryland and she is a school teacher, first grade, at the Bryn Mawr School and she has two children, Allison who is a lawyer and Justin who is in business school in Atlanta. And then I have Patty, Patricia Elaine Strouss who, her name is Patricia Elaine Malin, M-A-L-I-N, and her daughter is Ashley Malin who will be l8 in four weeks. And then I have David Strouss who is my baby and he’s a lawyer in Boston and he lives in Ipswich and he has two girls, Caroline and Samantha. And that’s my family.
Interviewer: That is a wonderful legacy.
Strouss: Uh huh. Yes. I’m very proud of them. They’re very, they’re great kids, very great kids.
Interviewer: Are any of them particularly interested in Judaism or not so much? No, well that’s part of what the American experience sometimes is.
Strouss: They don’t go to Temples, I don’t believe. Well Patty in Cincinnati, and I don’t know the name of the Temple but …
Interviewer: That is interesting.
Strouss: She and Ashley, yes. And yes I’m very happy that that’s happened and they became very, what happened was the rabbi in their temple’s daughter was skating with Ashley and they became good friends. The rabbi sort of took them under his, and took them, they go there for services, they have Passover dinner at his house and he’s taken them under his wing and, uh huh.
Interviewer: That’s a very nice story. Well I want to get on our interview with a line that you mentioned before we started recording about your great-grandfather who was in Russia and what was his …
Strouss: I don’t know how authentic this is. My …
Interviewer: Well it’s a family story.
Strouss: I guess. My, well it could be a big lie too, I don’t know.
Interviewer: But the fact that your …
Strouss: My grandmother’s, we’re part of the Adler family. You’ve heard of John and Luther Adler?
Strouss: That was my grandmother’s family.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: The Adlers. That’s where it really, on her side, so there was a great, strong theatrical influence in Jewish theater …
Strouss: with the Adlers even, you know, up to about 10-15 years ago. Andy, who is my nephew who is the director-producer …
Strouss: he was very involved with the Adlers at one time when he was trying to make it in New York, really. She had a school. Her name was Stella Adler. Anyway my grandmother, my great-great grandmother was murdered in Russia. My grandmother was Elizabeth Goodman. This was all Russia, Odessa. They were in Odessa, Russia.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: And …
Interviewer: But the story was that your great-grandfather …
Strouss: Well my grand–, great-great- probably great-grandfather, his name was Urofsky. And remember the Czar and his family were murdered by the, the head of the army there? His name was Urofsky so everybody thinks it was a relative. I don’t know how authentic that is but I have it down that the great-great-great-great-grandfather was Abraham Urofsky and he was from Russia, Odessa. And my grandmother was born, no it must be my mother was born in New Jersey. My grandmother was born, one was born in Austria. Sophie Hammel was her name and she was born in Austria. So there was, I remember the Galent–, what did they call them?
Strouss: And what was the other one?
Interviewer: Oh the Litvaks?
Strouss: The Litvaks, and they fight.
Strouss: That’s, oh, we used to have that. Because my grandmother from Austria was very, and my grandma from Russia was …so they used to really have their little arguments, it’s funny. And they …
Interviewer: And as a child did you see them argue? Not really?
Strouss: I don’t remember much. I remember we had a beach house and, near Boston, in a place called Nantasket. And it was a summer place. And when they’d all come down on Sunday, I guess I was very little, I’d sit out on the porch and do my little crocheting ’cause I didn’t want to hear what was going on inside. But no, I don’t think that, you know, I don’t think it was bad arguments. It was just they were from different civiliza-tions I guess. My grandmother, my mother was, my parents were born in this country. They’re, I don’t think there’s that much …
Interviewer: Do you know how your parents met?
Strouss: Well she was 16, she lived in Dorchester. I don’t know how they met but I know that he fell in love with her when she was 16 and married her, so.
Interviewer: And so was your father then older than your mother?
Strouss: Oh yes, about 10 years.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Interviewer: That pattern was common.
Interviewer: Well many wonderful things that you have been able to tell us and I want to go back to Harold Eisenstein and your relationship.
Strouss: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Because we now especially want to focus on that with the anniversary coming up and as a kind of memorial. So you had a wonderful description of how he called you …
Strouss: Oh yes.
Interviewer: and started you in Gallery Players. But what were some other memories that come to mind about your working with Harold?
Strouss: Well he was a very strong director and I will say that I learned more from Harold as a director. That’s why I consider myself a very good director. But I learned a great deal about directing from Harold, you know, and painting this picture that I told you about. I just think that he was amazing, about him being able to get actors who really didn’t know what they were doing up there, to get something out of them, to get a performance out of them. He was a very, I respected him a great deal as a person, a man, as a director, actor and teacher. He was my teacher and my coach.
Interviewer: Well he had made a remarkable contribution to the Columbus Jewish community.
Strouss: Yes he has. Uh huh. And he’s very well known and very well thought of and you know, you just mention Gallery Players and people know that it’s Harold Eisenstein. But life goes on now, you know.
Interviewer: Well and it’s wonderful that you are directing a play.
Strouss: I’m not directing.
Interviewer: You, I misunderstood. I thought you would be this season.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Interviewer: Are you involved in the celebration for the 60th year?
Strouss: Oh I think someone said that they wanted me to say a few lines. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But that is coming up next month in October.
Strouss: Yes, October. Uh huh. I’m doing this Alan Woods production. I am playing the mother. It’s a Reader’s Theater. I cannot give you the name of the production but we will be doing one performance here and one performance at Hillel.
Strouss: Like they did last year. And I just got the revised script yesterday. It’s a comedy and it’s a family situation and it’s fun and Alan’s really excited about it and I love Alan Woods. I think he’s great. You know him?
Strouss: Oh of course you do. And I am looking forward to doing something with him.
Interviewer: Well I think it’s also interesting that you are now doing theater at Hillel and bringing that experience to the Jewish students at Ohio State University so …
Strouss: Well I hope to. But this is just a read, you know, Reader’s Theater. It’s not a great endeavor. Anybody can sit down and read a script so, you know. It’s going to be fun.
Interviewer: Well I think that your involvement in theater, I …
Strouss: I have cancer. I’m a cancer survivor. I’m doing very well except right now I’m having a few problems but we’re hoping to overcome it and, you know, and I’m feeling really good. But I get tired. I get very tired. So I couldn’t do anything and they kind of laid low with me because they knew I was not up to par and I can’t take on anything. I have given up the Museum, which is my other love. I adore being a docent, taking children through and introducing them to art and making that a beautiful experience for children. And I’m back there now. I’m starting, they’re just putting me in, you know, not on a heavy schedule but just as lightly as I can handle.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well you continue to make contributions to the community.
Strouss: Well I’m very selfish. I do it for me too. I mean I love, that’s what I love. I love all art. Art is where it’s at. That’s how I feel. And of course I think that the contribution to the theater has been very, very important and I hope that we can keep the theater going, the Jewish theater. I think there is a little confusion in my mind about Jewish theater. Now I think maybe that’s where it’s at. I don’t know, I think this would be a very good discussion that should be addressed since we are the only Jewish theater.
Interviewer: So in other words what is Jewish theater?
Strouss: Yeah, well I think there is a group that thinks that it has to be heavily-content Jewish.
Strouss: And then there’s my feeling that you get a great playwright or you have a sense of what the Jewish being is …
Strouss: That’s what Jewish theater, or even like the comedies, the wonderful Jewish comedies that everybody loves, the Neil Simons and the, you know, stuff like that. And then there’s education, “Ballyhoo,” you know. There is that kind of, there’s a lot. It isn’t just putting people on the stage and doing “Jewish” themes. ‘Cause you’re not going to draw audiences. You can’t.
Interviewer: And that is a very interesting observation in terms of what has happened to American Jews because when they first came and were Yiddish-speaking, they wanted to go to the Yiddish theater.
Strouss: That was my grandparents. They did the Yiddish thing. But that’s not what it is today.
Interviewer: No the statistics support, no, no, the statistics support that so maybe what we’re talking about in Jewish theater is the sense of how it represents the Jewish experience …
Interviewer: in America.
Strouss: Yes. What is the Jewish experience? What is, it’s different for every–, for a lot of, you know, everybody.
Interviewer: It has very many …
Strouss: Your experience is probably much different than, I don’t know, we might be on the same wave length but I know my family’s all intermarried. They’re, they’re not Jewish and they’re Jewish but they’re, how can I say it?
Interviewer: Well there have always been many ways to be Jewish and perhaps …
Strouss: Yes, okay. I am a Jew.
Strouss: In my heart I am a Jew.
Strouss: I never would deny it. I believe in the Jewish philosophy of what a Jew is, the goodness, you know, all of that. Incidentally, I just remembered, my rabbi when I was growing up was Rabbi Joshua Liebman at Temple Israel who wrote Peace of Mind. I just remembered that. It came back to me. He was my rabbi. And Rabbi Levy who was also on the pulpit at Temple Israel. And that’s who I grew up, my Jewish background was growing up with those rabbis, so. When I got married is when my, I kind of married into an intermarried family but my ex-husband, Bud, his family built the Jewish Center in Youngstown and also the Social Hall, the Strouss Social Hall at the Reform Temple there. I just remembered that, just came to me.
Interviewer: Well that’s very interesting in terms of …
Strouss: Yeah, the family were all intermarried. None of them were Jewish.
Interviewer: But …
Strouss: Oh I should say the boys did go to Temple on the holidays but their families didn’t. But they …oh, well, yes. That reminds me of a play that I directed called “The Immigrant” but this is quite a while back, so.
Interviewer: That was the story of an immigrant in Texas.
Interviewer: And that was my grandfather’s story.
Interviewer: And I saw the play.
Strouss: Where were they from? That they just had the hurricane.
Interviewer: In Houston?
Strouss: No, no.
Interviewer: Where the hurricane was?
Strouss: Yes where the people all had to leave. What was that?
Strouss: Galveston. This took place in Galveston.
Strouss: And oh that was a fabulous play. That could have been a revival right now. That would have been a good revival.
Interviewer: So you directed that play and did you originally find it or what, did the committee …
Strouss: Oh no, the Play Reading Committee.
Interviewer: Found it and decided to do it? And you directed it?
Strouss: Uh huh.
Interviewer: So I think we should continue and have a bit of an interview with your resume in front of you …
Interviewer: so we can discuss the plays …
Interviewer: in more detail.
Strouss: Yeah and then I could have more inform–, I’ll bring my resume and also ’cause I forget names so easily, you know, that I’m at that stage, I’m old.
Interviewer: Well, but you have a wonderful experience to tell about.
Strouss: Yeah I do have.
Interviewer: This will be continued.
Interviewer: Thank you.
* * *
INTERVIEW WITH LILLIAN STROUSS PART 2
Today is December 4, 2008 and we are at the Columbus Jewish Federation Building and I am Helena Schlam who will interview Lillian Strouss to continue our previous interview of September 25, 2008. This interview will focus on Lil’s experience with the Gallery Players and her extensive theatrical career in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a pleasure to be able to continue the interview Lil and I would start actually by asking you a little bit about Florence Melton’s role with Gallery Players and whether you were connected with that when she founded it. Or you came on the scene later as you told us previously, with Harold.
Strouss: I came later. I had nothing to do with the theater prior to my beginnings with Harold and I forget the year.
Interviewer: But when you came on, Gallery Players was already …
Strouss: In the old Jewish Center.
Interviewer: the old Jewish Center?
Strouss: Yeah, uh huh. We were, yeah we were there for a while before they built this one.
Interviewer: And how was the stage and performing in the old Jewish theater?
Strouss: Well the …
Interviewer: I mean the old Jewish Center.
Strouss: The stage was not a theater-theater. You know, it was used for other purposes too. Because, it was like a big hall but we had a nice stage and we could hear people bowling in the alley next door. I mean it was …
Interviewer: Oh how cute.
Strouss: Yeah, we’d laugh about it. It was very community. It was very community. We didn’t have a beautiful theater like we do in the Roth Resler Theater.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So your beginning performances were at the old JCC.
Interviewer: Could you tell us about some of those earliest performances.
Strouss: Well when I came on board, I, I don’t know whether we left off here or not, I hadn’t been doing much when I first moved to Columbus and I had that telephone call from Harold Eisenstein. And he introduced himself and said that he would like me to, he was doing a play called “Ondine” and he would like me to read for it. And I said no I haven’t done anything in quite a while since I have little babies and I had just moved to Columbus and I really wasn’t ready to get back and do anything in that, as an actor. And he said, “Well at least come over and we’ll talk. I’d like to meet you.” So I went and we talked and he talked me into coming for the first readthrough and Harriet, oh I can’t remember her last name, (Editor: Slott) played Ondine and Harold wanted me to play Princess Berta. And I remember the rehearsal hall. We had a green room in that building and that’s where we rehearsed, downstairs. And anyway from “Ondine” we went to, he was doing “The Delicate Balance” next and that’s when I started acting again and from there it was “Camino Royale” which was a great show that Harold loved doing. We had a great time with that. And “Jezebel’s Husband” and I played Jezebel. And I did …
Interviewer: How was that, playing Jezebel?
Strouss: Oh I had a massage on stage. I was wrapped up in a towel.
Interviewer: Oh my.
Strouss: Yeah it was kind of fun. And of course I was pretty young in those days. Anyway from there we did, Harold did “The Price” and Joe Heitter and myself and Graden Goss and I believe, I don’t know if Burt Lewis was in that one. We did it twice, “The Price”, and then we got Larry Storch in, the actor from New York. And Larry Storch was in “The Price” the second, I’m sorry, I don’t know if it’s the first time or the second time that we did it. I know Joe played it twice. I played his wife twice. And Larry Storch was the auctioneer and I don’t remember who the rest of the cast were.
Interviewer: But was it difficult to get someone to, an actor or an actress …
Strouss: Well no, Harold …
Interviewer: to come from New York?
Strouss: Not with Harold. I mean Harold had a lot of “ins” in New York. He knew a lot of the right, Harold knew a lot of, had a lot of resources in New York to get it. And Larry enjoyed coming here. He had a … So that was “The Price”. And then we did “Light up the Sky”. I played Irene in that. And “Blithe Spirit”.
Interviewer: …Go ahead. That’s fine.
Strouss: “Light up the Sky” and then “Blithe Spirit” and I played Ruth in “Blithe Spirit” in that performance. And then the last was the second “Price” with Larry Storch. And that was my acting as far as I know. I can’t remember anything else that I did. At the same time I was working at Players Theater.
Interviewer: Well let me ask you about these productions at the Jewish Community Center.
Strouss: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Were all the original actors Jewish or do you know?
Strouss: Oh no.
Strouss: Oh no. It was not, it was open. This was a community, we considered ourselves a Jewish community theater open to the public, absolutely.
Strouss: Absolutely, uh huh.
Interviewer: Well that’s an interesting point that we need to make.
Strouss: No, huh unh.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And then, how did things change once the new building was built and you had a different stage and what kind of plays did you do in the current Jewish Center stage?
Strouss: Well I remember that I directed, I started directing in the old theater. I had been directing at the Village Little Theater. I did “Our Town”, I believe that’s in, was in Westerville or someplace like that. And “An Enemy of the People” at the Worthington Community Theater. I don’t know if you have that down. And the first show I directed, and this was in the old theater, was “Watch On The Rhine”.
Interviewer: Oh, a very serious play.
Strouss: Yes and Billie Hazelbaker played the mother or the grandmother. It was a wonderful cast, a beautiful set. I mean it really was and unfortunately, my memory is not great so I can’t name people but I do recall how the set was one of the most beautiful we’ve ever had.
Interviewer: But …
Strouss: And it was in the old theater.
Interviewer: It’s more interesting to us to get your perspective and we don’t really need the names of the other people.
Strouss: Uh huh.
Interviewer: But just your remembering what the set was like is very good.
Strouss: Well this was a lovely set and this play did involve a lot of community theater people, people from Players Theater as well as, when I cast it. And let’s see …
Interviewer: Well let me ask, do you prefer directing or performing in plays?
Strouss: Well I think I like, I love to do both.
Strouss: But I think I love acting. Unfortunately, lines are hard to learn at this age so that’s why I don’t do anything in acting.
Interviewer: Well now have you ever both directed and performed in a play?
Strouss: Oh no, you mean directed the same play that, no, no, no, no, no.
Interviewer: Does anyone ever do that?
Strouss: Well I imagine …
Strouss: once in a while you probably do in some small theaters where there, you can’t cast it.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: or something like that. But then when I got into directing, I really enjoyed directing because to me as I think I’ve told you before, directing was like, and I’m very much into the arts, I feel it’s a painting that I’m putting together on a canvas and with the color and the set and everything is, and I’m in charge, you know. And I do love the directing part of it. So and then usually we have a pretty good show. So we did “Bedroom Farce,” was over at the old theater. And “Betrayal” I did here at Gallery Players.
Interviewer: Okay. (Blank space on tape.) So when you directed “Betrayal,” was that your first Pinter play to direct?
Strouss: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Interviewer: And you just said that you thought it was a really fine production.
Strouss: Yes it was a beautiful, well I don’t know, it’s not the kind of show that bring in hoards of people but it was extremely, I was very satisfied with it.
Interviewer: It was effective theater.
Strouss: Yes and then after “Betrayal” I did “Little Foxes,” Lillian Hellman which, of course, I am a great fan of Lillian Hellman’s and one of my desires, I always wanted to do the play “The Children’s Hour” but I always get voted down on that.
Interviewer: I’m also a fan of Lillian Hellman.
Strouss: Uh huh. I do think that she’s a fine playwright and that she writes well, and then we did “Social Security” and I …
Interviewer: I’m not familiar with “Social Security”.
Strouss: It’s, I believe it’s a comedy.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: My memory isn’t great.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: I think it’s a comedy and “The Immigrant” which was the story in Texas of the, what’s the town that they came over?
Interviewer: To Galveston?
Strouss: Galveston. And the, yeah, that was a fine play and I remember the set for that too. Chris Klapp designed the set and he did most of my sets, Chris Klapp, and he’s worth mentioning ’cause he’s a fabulous, fabulous set designer. And not only that, I got him into, on the stage a couple of times, acting. He got such a kick out of it. Chris is one of my favorite people. And …
Interviewer: Well I can say that I did see that production and I remember it very well.
Strouss: Do you?
Interviewer: It was wonderful.
Strouss: Yeah with the way he had the set, you know, the house, the porch and he revolved it. It was revolving, he made a revolving stage which was quite an accomplishment.
Interviewer: The play was very strong.
Strouss: Yeah, Beth Pettit I remember played one of the roles and I forget who played the others. But you’ve got all that information here now. And “Crossing Delancey” started me with the great comedies which I’ve just had the best time doing. And we brought Kay Rothman in, who was a New York actress, and we brought her in to do the show, “Crossing Delancey” and Mark Mann was in that. He’s a well-known Columbus actor and it was a good show. I thought it was anyway. And “Cemetery Club” and that was about the time that I was diagnosed with cancer so, do you want that on here?
Interviewer: It’s okay.
Strouss: Or you can eliminate it.
Interviewer: Right. And so would you say that any of those that you’ve just …
Strouss: …the “Cemetery Club”.
Interviewer: Oh dear. But of these, the plays that you directed, do you have a favorite among them?
Strouss: I really loved doing the comedies and, you know, some of the others too. “Cemetery Club” I didn’t love at that time. I had a hard time because I was in radiation and so I would, really rested all day and came at night and Linda Katz at that time, what was her name, and she’s, anyway she helped me direct so that, you know, she was by my side and helped me with that. And then I did “Shana Madel”. Do you know that?
Strouss: That’s a lovely show. “Just a Second” which was a great comedy and that’s, Irene Braverman was in that and I believe Billie Friedman was in it. It was so funny, so much fun. And “Boca” which was just so-so. Then I was privileged to direct “The Broken Glass,” Arthur Miller. So it was my second Miller show. And besides … . many other people. So I don’t know, I just, Arthur Miller is to me up there with the greats and I was very pleased with “Broken Glass”. I thought it was one of my best shows. It had a fabulous cast. Uh huh.
Interviewer: I saw that as well and I thought it was very strong.
Strouss: Very well done. Uh huh.
Interviewer: I was very moved.
Strouss: Yeah it was a good show. And “The Sisters Rosenzweig”. And this, what happened here was interesting. Harold had hired Chuck Dodrill from Otterbein to direct the show but he was having some medical problems and Harold asked me if I would like to take a stab at it and I said, “Sure,” that I’d try it. And I did and they had a beautiful, beautiful set, a wonderful cast and I was very pleased with “The Sisters Rosenzweig”. It really was great theater and Wendy Wasserstein, the next one was “The American Daughter” and I directed that and Wendy Wasserstein was here at Hillel and I introduced myself to her and we had quite a chat and, you know, of course since, she’s deceased, so. Too bad because she was a great, great playwright. And then I did “God’s Favorite” with my, another, it’s one of my favorite comedies, really had a wonderful cast with that one too and “What’s Wrong With This Picture,” another comedy. And then I did “The Diary of Anne Frank” which got all kinds of accolades from all over for the performances and for the show and the set and I was very proud of that, very proud of that show. Course it’s such a wonderful play.
Interviewer: Yes it is a wonderful performance too so you had every right to be proud.
Strouss: I had very, very fine actors doing that. I remember going to Temple, this is interesting, it was, my memory, the Kol Nidre and it was at the time that I was ready to put the show together and I heard the Kol Nidre and I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to use that under the father’s last speech. And that’s what struck me and we did it, you know, and it was very poignant and I thought it was extremely well done. And so that was, “Anne Frank”. “Visiting Mr. Green” was great, very poignant story if you know the play.
Interviewer: I saw it and liked it.
Strouss: Very poignant. And “The Book of Ruth” and then of course, I ended with “All My Sons” which was my most recent play.
Interviewer: Well you have quite a history of …
Strouss: Well with Gallery, as far as directing, I’ve done a lot and I have been extremely well rewarded for all of this because every one of them has, you know, has been a delight, a great, great adventure for me directing those shows. I’m very proud of what we did and I think we selected good shows to do, shows that would maybe not attract everybody but I think, you know, some of them do. Like some people like just comedy and some people don’t want to, but you know, I think our job is to entertain and to educate and that’s why I like to do both a serious play and a good comedy. So …
Interviewer: So as Chair of the Theater Committee, is that what you’ve always urged, to have that kind of diversity.
Strouss: Yes but I, I mean, play reading is a group endeavor. They have a Play Reading Commit-tee. The Chair does not select. Most of the shows, you know, they have to, everybody has to vote on the shows.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: And hence, they had a vote, so. And I also think that a lot of, at least it used to be, that we’d have to get permission from the upper, you know, to do certain shows, that it was okay.
Interviewer: You mean from the Jewish Community Center or …
Interviewer: You also had to get the royalties.
Strouss: Well yes you always have to get the rights. And who’s ever in charge of the theater, the acting, the managing director, you know, had to be careful about whether or not it’s available or we could get sued or, you know, so and I’m not exactly certain if they have to go through the …
Interviewer: The Board?
Strouss: the Board or anything like that before we do a show. It might have been at one time. I’m not sure about that. Huh unh.
Interviewer: Well how do you think local theater has changed over the years or do you think it has?
Strouss: Well I was very fortunate because I was very involved with Players Theater which at one time was Players Club Theater, which was not having any Jews there and I probably was the first or the second Jew in that theater. And I became very close friends with the Managing-Acting Director of Players Club, Players Theater. They changed the name to Players Theater. And then I went, I headed up that Board for them for several years so I tried to do a show for Harold every year and do one for them because it was a lot of work. I was chairing that committee over there and we had a very strong committee at Players Theater. That, I don’t know what, do you know Players Theater? Were you around for that? ‘Cause they put on …
Strouss: top-notch theater and I thought it was a great privilege to work over there with Jerry Ness as my Director and then Ed Grayseck who was the Artistic Director.
Strouss: And I traveled all through Europe when he wrote his play, with him when he put it on in Paris and London and he allowed me these wonderful experiences in theater, you know, which enhanced me as an actress and director in my career.
Interviewer: But it also supported his goals and …
Strouss: Oh yes.
Interviewer: you helped him achieve his goals.
Strouss: So we had a very strong theater at Players. It was really much to my chagrin when the Board decided they wanted to be bigger and better and they wanted, you know, to become a professional theater and then we moved into the Riffe Center and after that I just kind of stood off the Board and didn’t do anything. But they did some great, great theater and a lot of our people who performed at Gallery were working at Players too, a lot of them. And it was a great experience to do both, to work with Harold here, take the best of both places.
Interviewer: It’s good that you could do that.
Strouss: But there were, I wasn’t the only one. There were a lot, I mean if you just roamed around and talked to certain people in theater, you’ll find, old people like me, that they worked in both areas, yeah …
Interviewer: But how many of them were Jewish as you are?
Strouss: Oh no, no, no. We had Jewish …
Interviewer: after you were, you know, after you brought …
Strouss: Well no more than they came to Gallery. They weren’t Jewish. A lot of Gallery Players people were not Jewish.
Interviewer: Oh no, I understand that. But you had talked about there not being a place for Jews, initially.
Strouss: Well see, that was prior. That’s when Bea Roth and that group, Resler and the whole group decided that they were going to have, and I wasn’t around for that.
Strouss: You have to interview an older person.
Interviewer: Okay, okay.
Strouss: No, I was not here but then, Bea was one of my close friends when I got established here and became a member of the Jewish Center. What was I saying?
Interviewer: Well my question though was how did Gallery Players change and did it have many Jewish actors and actresses …
Strouss: Oh yes.
Interviewer: besides yourself?
Strouss: Oh yes, oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. There were a lot and I think, you know, Harold when he came, he wasn’t there at the beginning.
Strouss: You know. I can’t remember what year I came and met him. But I know he had been here for a few years before.
Interviewer: Can you describe your working relationship with Harold?
Strouss: Oh we had a great camaraderie and respect for each other and he was, I mean, for me, he was a teacher, he was a professional, he was a mentor. He read, when I came into this I was not well. I really had kind of, not a breakdown, but I came into a new environment. I had moved here from Youngstown and I was very young and had three little children and I, you know, I didn’t know which end was up. So I had, but my career shoved it aside. I did a little work in Youngstown. In fact I created a theater for children because I was kind of bored when I first got married so I started a children’s theater in my home which was a large house in Youngstown. And I mean theater has always been such a major part of my life. But my, I think I would go so far as to say that he was probably the greatest influence I had. I mean I adored these other people but Harold, he wasn’t, he said it the way it was, he was kind but very stern and respectful and very …
Interviewer: That’s okay.
Strouss: Yeah, demanding …
Interviewer: Well that means that he cared a lot about quality.
Strouss: Yes and he also was a teacher.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Strouss: And sometimes he annoyed the hell out of me. Oh my God, when he was directing a show, with the Notes. That’s all we talked about was Harold’s Notes. But that’s how I got, what I became.
Interviewer: You learned from Harold’s notes?
Strouss: No, no. I did pages of notes. I always had to have somebody taking notes for me. I mean I, that’s why I say, he was a wonderful teacher, a wonderful director, a wonderful coach and helped me through those very bad times so I really have a lot to be thankful for in having a friend like Harold.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well now Gallery Players needs to keep Harold’s tradition and it’s wonderful that it has named the stage after him so perhaps you will be able to direct a play.
Strouss: Well … . I don’t know about that. But my philosophy is and I think he would agree, it’s time to move on. We have to move on. We have to figure out who we are, what we want, where we’re going, who our audiences are, what is our mission, which is probably Number One. And I think that we have to sit back and take a good look at ourselves. We’ve arrived at that point. We’ve had sixty years of wonderful, wonderful theater and a great relationship, all of us that have been connected with the theater and I for one am very proud to have been connected to it and I feel like I said, it’s time to sort of take a good look at where we are and where we’re going.
Interviewer: Well thank you for being willing to share all this past history of the Gallery Players. And I think on that note of looking to the future, we can conclude unless there is something else that you would like to add and make sure that we have in this interview, because it is an important history, an important snapshot …
Strouss: Uh huh.
Interviewer: of one part of the history of Gallery Players.
Strouss: Right, uh huh. Okay. Thank you.
Interviewer: Well thank you so much Lil and this concludes our interview today and we also very much appreciate your giving to the Historical Society some of the memorabilia that you collected over the years. That is a valuable resource for us. Thank you for that and for your time.
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