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An Autobiography: Chapter 36, Ten Little Indians

Writing about our first theatre production on Roosevelt Island reminds me of our productions amongst the grandeur of the Rockies during our short stay in Montrose when the Elvis currency orders took most of my time. But you couldn’t keep Georgianna away from theatre, and folks at The Magic Circle Players theatre group soon learned she was in town!          

The Magic Circle Players had been struggling, and Georgianna gave them the shot in the arm they needed, especially with her beautiful production of Melodies of Broadway, which was presented in May 1978. This musical revue was a concept by Georgianna, where she featured highlights from 19 favorite Broadway musicals. Our daughter Tracy was the choreographer.

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Georgianna was fortunate to have Sharon Clark, a wonderful pianist who was fantastic at auditions; she put everyone at ease. She sat at the piano, her legs crossed, and changed keys at a moment’s notice. We never had another pianist like her util we moved to Nashville and found fabulous Debbie Wilson, who became Tennessee Players’ pianist and Music Director.        

For Melodies of Broadway, Georgianna received the “Monty Award” for Best Director. Here is Georgianna’s audition notice:

The Montrose Community Theater Presents


So you want to be an actor? Where does it all begin?

It begins with yourself. With a desire to create, to give and to become something more than yourself.

The famous theatres of the world present to us the excitement and fantasies of great plays, with the accompaniment of lights, music, costumes and the talents of fine actors.

As an audience, we are transported beyond our own egos into other lives and times. We escape, each one alone yet all a part of an experience shared.

The famous theatres of the world are peopled by actors who have learned their craft in the theatrical arena. First at school, then drama school, regional theatres, then hopefully, the most professional, famous theatres of the world.

What then? Why, back to the community theatres of course! Back to the schools and study groups. But never backwards!

What greater satisfaction can a professional receive than to know that the love and knowledge of an art can be passed on and on again.

Community Theatre is a “Magic Circle.” It is a group of paidless, sometime nameless, dedicated people who are filled with a desire to create and present something more than themselves.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, we are proud to present to you, and we are proud to welcome you to become a part of “THE MAGIC CIRCLE.”

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Emilio Tafoya wrote in the Montrose Daily Press, 

 March 24, 1978:

“Magic Circle Auditions Nostalgic”

Beauty, talent and humor were liberally sprinkled throughout the three hours of auditions. …More than 30 acts were presented, consisting of everything from dramatic movement to jazz dancing to singing to guitar playing. There was even a ventriloquist act. The 80 some persons in the audience were treated to a concert as good as can be seen in the area at any given time. …When one group appeared a little nervous, director Georgianna Moore told them, “We are here for only one thing, to become a part of something big and beautiful, and because we think we have something to give.” And give they did! ... The beauty portion of the evening was not only in the music, but also with some pretty young girls in leotards.

When Georgianna was auditioning for Ten Little Indians on Roosevelt Island, I am sure all the would-be actors would have loved to have read her Montrose audition notice. When the first announcement was made about the Roosevelt Island Players and their upcoming production everyone was talking about the “new” Broadway.

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Georgianna auditioning for Ten Little Indians. 

We found new friends through the auditions, including two young men, Fred Poplaski and Bob Antonelli, who shared an apartment. Fred did outrageous things; he was always “on.” We four went to a restaurant in Manhattan one time, and he introduced himself to the waiter as the “food critic for The New York Times.” He kept up the disguise beautifully, and you can imagine the service we got!

Lila and Ludy, a couple a little older than us, often came to the Chapel Plaza after dinner and yelled out to us beneath our window, “Come and walk!” We had pleasant walks along the river, talking about Roosevelt Island history.

Another couple we spent much time with was George and Helen Roht. What a fantastic background Helen had. She had a great spirit of adventure and a flair for drama. She and Georgianna were two of a kind.

Helen spoke French fluently and joined the war effort in 1941, and in London she worked for the U.S. Government, broadcasting war-related information to France. She collaborated with the French resistance, and after the war moved to France. She came back to America and then worked in Mexico with literacy programs and enjoyed the Bohemian life. In 1946, she joined the newly formed United Nations as a translator, until her retirement in the 1990s. Through her UN post, she traveled all over the world with her husband. She wrote plays about aging, which were performed on Roosevelt Island and in senior centers. She was a marvel of graceful aging.

Tony and Ann Brienza, professional ballroom dancers, became friends with whom I have always kept in touch. We worked with them on some events in the Senior Center, where their beautiful dancing was highlighted. One production was called the Family Show, and Tony did a Tango called “Suspense,” with another fine dancer, Ann Cavillo. In that show, Heather was featured in a ballet to the songs of John Denver.

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Tony and Ann Brienza 

We started attending the Sunday morning protestant service at the Chapel, and we became very close friends with the Rev. Oliver T. Chapin, Episcopalian minister, missionary, hospital chaplain, and leading historian of Roosevelt Island. The Chapins, with their two daughters, Joy and Margaret, lived in an apartment complex across the street. Joy played the violin, and I took her to some shows in Manhattan. For an open house event at the Blackwell House, Georgianna made a beautiful period dress for Margaret, and she proudly sat on the porch and welcomed visitors. Years later, she visited us in Colorado.

We became very close friends with the Chapins, and when Georgianna heard about his work as hospital chaplain at the Coler Hospital, on the north end of the Island, she volunteered to help him. He said they needed help desperately in the psychiatric wards, but that it took a special kind of person to work with these unfortunate people. Georgianna was willing and ready for the challenge, and Oliver said he would give her a try. She worked there often during our stay on Roosevelt Island.

Here are a few words about the cast from the program of Ten Little Indians: 

Donna Landay (Emily Brent): co-founder of Roosevelt Island Players. She appeared professionally in The Crucible in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and received an excellent review. Her husband works for CBS.

Fred Poplaski (Fred Naracott): “Acting is part of my profession - housewares buyer for a New Jersey department store,” He looks forward to his first Tony Award.

George Roht (General Mackenzie): Got “into show business” with Warner Brothers – in the accounting department.

Al Pickett (Sir Lawrence Wargrave): A chief clerk in the Manhattan Supreme Court Crime Division. He says, “I find acting both fascinating and exhausting.”

Robert Antonelli (Dr. Armstrong): Has worked as a law librarian and is now with a brokerage house. He is an excellent cook.

Bruce Stephens (Philip Lombard): He was recently married in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, the first wedding there in nearly 100 years.

Pat Harrison (Vera Claythorne): She received rave reviews for her fine portrayal in “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Anthony Brienza ((Rogers): On the staff of the YWCA (53rd and Lexington) where he teaches social dancing. He is a retired lieutenant from the New York City Police Department.

Merilyne Lampert (Mrs. Rogers): She is an educator with three degrees and nine years experience. At age 8, she elected dramatics and tap dancing in lieu of music lessons.

Joe Cina (William Blore): He has been in community theatre and acting in college and looks forward to being in more Roosevelt Island productions.

Gordon Graham (The Voice): Anchorman for NBC Radio’s “News and Information Services.” He majored in broadcasting at Ohio University.

Steve Kasloff (Anthony Marston): 23 years old, works for Young and Rubicam as a writer and has written commercials for Jello, Eastern Airlines, and Liptons. His dream is to direct films.

Prompter and Wardrobe Mistress: Rochelle Michelle

While we were in rehearsal, I bought Georgianna a “Director Chair” in Manhattan. Her name – Georgianna – was in white letters on the front canvas, and “Director” was on the back. What a surprise that was at the next rehearsal. She said, ”Now I am a bonafide director!”

There was a young man, a patient at the hospital, who came to every rehearsal in his wheelchair. He watched every move Georgianna made and was greatly interested in seeing how a play came together. We learned from one of the nurses that he was heavily into drugs when he was found lying in the gutter in Brooklyn. He had no home and had been at the hospital for several months. He was very polite and liked by everyone. He became Georgianna’s mascot, and if he wasn’t there when we went to the auditorium, Georgianna asked about him. “His presence made my work so much more important,” Georgianna said.

Don’t Miss the next chapter: Operation Sail 1976