An Autobiography: Chapter 39, Easter Prelude

Author Photo
By Thurston Moore | Nov 2, 2012

City Hospital Board OKs Plan to Cut Deficit

That was the headline in the New York Daily News, January 13, 1977, with a photo on each side of the article. On the left was a photo of Georgianna, bundled up against the cold, carrying a picket sign, and on the right a photo of Dr. John Holloman, Jr., President of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. The meeting was attended by more than 500 demonstrators, some in wheelchairs. Many, like Georgianna, had come to protest the closing of Coler Hospital on Roosevelt Island, where Georgianna was a volunteer.

You Can’t Take It With You opened at the Goldwater auditorium on January 28th, and when the curtain opened at each of the three performances, there was a round of applause for the set! I had gotten photos of the set of the original Broadway production from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library, one of the largest and most comprehensive archives devoted to the theatrical arts.   

There were 19 members in the cast, including our daughter, Heather, and nine who had been in Ten LittleIndians. Here are a few words about the new cast members from the printed program:

Georgia Kennedy (Panelope Sycamore): A former singer with the Ray Charles Singers and was with the Perry Como Show for four years. She has appeared in many Off-Broadway and Broadway choruses.

Heather Moore (Essie)

Rochelle J. Mitchell (Rheba):In many theater productions. Winner of the “Actress of the Year Award” in 1972 for her portrayal of “Mama” in A RaisinIn the Sun.

Dan Sheehy (Paul Sycamore): He was the recipient of the Vincent Minnelli Award for Creative Writing and the Bill Cosby Award for Television Writing.

Fred Poplaski (Mr. De Pinna)

Steve Kasloff (Ed)

Al Pickett (Donald)

Anthony Brienza (Martin Vanderhof)

Christy Davey* (Alice): Has appeared in numerous plays and musicals. Plans to go to Los Angeles to pursue a film career. Besides acting and singing, this talented young lady plays the guitar and piano, writes songs and dances.

* Christine Davey and her husband became good friends, and she and Heather were like sisters. Christy visited us in Connecticut in 1980 and was Heather’s Maid of Honor at her wedding. And in 1981, I stayed with them at their apartment in Los Angles when I was on a business trip. Christy drove me to the Hollywood Wax Museum, an account for my “Personality® Dollar Bills,” and we spent a very enjoyable day together. Later we got word that she was in a car crash on the freeway, and she died shortly after. She was only in her twenties.

Heather and Christine Davey.

George Roht (Henderson)

Robert Antonelli (Tony Kirby)

Murray Cantor (Boris Kolenkhov): He teaches at Columbia and practices in Manhattan. Has appeared in Off-Broadway productions.

Pat Harrison (Gay Wellington)

Charles Berland (Mr. Kirby): Danced with a leading company and for the past 25 years was Executive Director of a vacation facility for older adults.

Donna Landay (Mrs. Kirby)

Joe Cina (G-Man)

Sam Rodriguez (G-Man): Born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. For 20 years has maintained displays in Grand Central Terminal.

Evangelo Dascal (G-Man): Works as an architectural designer for Bagel Nosh restaurants.

Mendy McLean (Olga Katrina): She has appeared in several Off-Broadway plays. When she managed Terrestris Greenhouses, she was known as the “Plant Doctor,” accepting office as well as house calls.

Our son, Marc Byron Moore, is a fine nature photographer, who lives in Colorado. The Community Room of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd is used for many events, including art showings. Marc sent us a few dozen of his prints, and we created an impressive gallery display. The show was up for several days and attracted many people who praised his work.

Marc Byron Moore

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, and I had planned to visit his birthplace while we were in New York. George’s brother, Ira, was born in December 1896, and about a year later, the Gershwin family moved to 242 Snedicker Avenue in Brooklyn, where they rented a two-story frame house for $15 per month. George was born in that house on September 26, 1898. The name on his birth certificate was Jacob Gershwine.

George Gershwin’s Birthplace.

“Gershwine” was apparently a misspelling, but “Jacob” was correct and official. As was the case with his brother Ira, the parents gave them another name, and they chose to call Jacob George. When George began writing songs, he changed his last name to Gershwin, and other members of the family followed suit.

I went to Brooklyn and found the house where George was born. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t think I would find a house almost completely in ruins. I did resurrect a small piece of lath from a wall. I was saddened with the realization that there was at one time a plaque on the remains of a front wall facing the street designating the birthplace of America’s most popular composer. Where is that plaque?

As soon as You Can’t Take It With You closed, we started work on a very ambitious play, with a cast of 70, to be presented in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd: Easter Prelude. The performance was magnificent, but while working on the set in the Chapel, I had an accident that was painful, and at the same time laughable, that this happened in a chapel.

I was sitting on the floor of the chapel, forcing some pieces together, and all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain in my rear end. I put my hand inside my pants and it came out bloody. I couldn’t tell what had happened, but I knew it needed attention. Georgianna was not at home, and I thought of the Coler Hospital and Reverend Chapin. The hospital was quite a distance, and the walk was difficult. I knew the hospital was not a general hospital that admitted patients, so I asked for Reverend Chapin. I told him what happened, that I had a “bloody rear end,” and he couldn’t help but laugh, too. As a favor to him, a doctor and nurse took me to a room, and after examining me, the doctor told me that I had a splinter that had to come out. Through the “operation,” I felt like the splinter must be inches long, but actually it was only about a half inch. I really gave my all for that production.

Two performances of the Easter Prelude were presented on Easter weekend. We re-created the story of the “Last Supper” and the “Crucifixion.” The beautiful production moved many people to tears, including a Bishop that came from Manhattan. And when a special performance was given at the hospital, one elderly patient cried and said, “Now I can die because I have seen Jesus.” Our “Jesus” was so convincing that many people felt that way.

The “Last Supper” was re-created from Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, and at one point the “disciples” froze in da Vinci’s exact positioning. The Roosevelt Island Chorale, along with talented musicians, provided a beautiful and dramatic background to the story.

Re-creation of da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

A triumphant procession, including the Disciples, children and dancers coming down the aisle, and the choir singing “Hosanna” set the stage for the five scenes that followed. Our two principle dances were Heather and Barbara Deyerle, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette. The sound of drums echoed from the walls surrounding the audience, and I don’t believe any happening more moving was ever presented in that historic chapel.

Scene I – The Last Supper (Jesus and the Disciples)

Chorale: “Draw Us In the Spirits Tether” and “Let Us Break Bread”

Scene II – Agony in Gethsemane (Jesus, Peter,James, John and Judas.)

Instrumental: “Ave Maria”

Scene III – The Trial (Jesus, Pilate, Queen andSolders.)

Viola sounds and cries from chorus

Scene IV – The Crucifixion (Jesus, Thieves,Soldiers, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and dancers.)

Solo: “Blessed Jesus” and Chorale: “Tis Finished”

Scene V – The Ascension ( Jesus and 11 Disciples)

Chorale: “In Paradisium”

Louis Carbonetti portrayed Jesus, and most people who saw his performance couldn’t help but see him as “Jesus” after that. For the ascension, he walked up the steps to the chancel, raised his arms to Heaven, and the spotlight slowly dimmed as it went from him standing there to the ceiling and faded out to darkness. It gave an amazing effect. The house lights were kept darkened as applause crescendoed through the chapel. When the lights came on for the audience to exit, Jesus was gone.

Everyone also agreed that the applause was for Georgianna’s marvelous direction and the fabulous cast she had assembled. With that production she took her place as one of New York’s finest directors. The following letter is indicative of the praise our production received:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Moore,

You are to be congratulated on your most recent production of “Easter Prelude.” Your conception was simple, straight-forward, and vivid. You made an excellent choice of participants in your production, including dancers, musicians (instrumental, chorale and children’s choir), and tableaux. Your lighting schemes were imaginative, perceptive and very attractive.

Finally, personal observations tell me that your production was well received in the community because it was warmly discussed in terms of glowing accolades.

Best of luck in your future productions, and may success follow you ever forward!!!


James J. Graves

President, Roosevelt Island Development Corporation

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