Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Susan Blake (June 18, 1953-Oct. 2, 2007)

Susan Blake in our lives, 2005-07
by Leonard & Helene (Williams) Lehrman


Susan Blake first phoned us Mar. 28, 2005, following a Janet Coleman interview on WBAI with Leonard Lehrman. She asked if she could bring flyers for New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty to our Blitzstein/Bernstein concert, including excerpts from SACCO AND VANZETTI, at the Long Beach Library Apr. 3. After clearing it with the library, we said: "Sure." She later went out to dinner with us, Long Beach composer Jay Gach and his wife Ellen (with whom Susan had gone to college) and WBAI producer Bill Propp (who turned out to be a relative of a relative of Leonard's).

That month, Susan joined the Oceanside Chorale, which Leonard conducted, 2003-05, and soloed along with Dorothy Martin in the "Ohio" duet from WONDERFUL TOWN in their June 4 concert of Bernstein & Blitzstein. The video, shot by Helene, is a precious souvenir. On Aug. 11, Susan co-starred with Helene & Leonard in excerpts from THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS, Leonard's & Sydney Ross Singer's musical revue on the link between bras and breast cancer, at the Northeast Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY.
On Aug. 28 she co-produced, with Brian O'Haire, "The Bush Vacation Ruination Celebration: Long Island Support for Cindy Sheehan Benefit Concert" at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Helene premiered Leonard's "Threescore Years Ago," written for the occasion.
On Nov. 1 she attended a performance of two short works of Leonard's presented by Vox Novus at Collective Unconscious in Manhattan, where she met John & Estela Eaton, whom she invited to read at PeaceSmiths. She would attend numerous performances with Leonard in the future, including those of New Music New York, Composers Concordance, and John Eaton's opera at Symphony Space. With Leonard, Helene, and other friends, she also attended Shakespeare in the Park productions of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (where she handed out anti-war leaflets) and MOTHER COURAGE (for which she & Leonard braved torrential rains, waiting on line for hours for tickets).
On Nov. 2 she attended Leonard's Blitzstein Piano Recital at the Bryant Library, where she was photographed among members of his family. Later that month she became a regular at family Thanksgiving dinners, and Seders in the spring.


In Jan. 2006 Susan joined the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus

and performed with them, under Leonard's direction, with Helene as soloist, in a program honoring Mozart, Dr. King, Lincoln, Hale Smith, and Elie Siegmeister: Jan. 15 at Long Beach Public Library,

and again on Feb. 26 (postponed from Feb. 12 due to the snowstorm that day) at Great Neck House. There is a fine recording by Jeffrey Latocke of the latter, which includes photos from the former. In between those two concerts, on Feb. 17, Susan hosted a book party at PeaceSmiths for Leonard's "Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography" --Leonard & Helene performed their "Blitzstein Cabaret" (videotaped by Bob Goldberg).
On May 19, Susan co-produced and co-starred with Leonard, Helene & Cary Bair in THE BOOBY TRAP at PeaceSmiths, as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week. The night before she also participated in an on-the-air discussion with Leonard, Helene & Bill Propp over WBAI. The production was telecast on Woodbury area cable TV Oct. 12 & 19.
On June 19, Susan participated in and spoke at the annual meeting (at the Brecht Forum) of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case, of which Leonard & Richard Corey became Co-Directors.

On Oct. 22, she came all the way from Amityville--on public transportation--to Canarsie to hear Leonard's & Helene's Yiddish program at Temple Emanuel.
And on Nov. 12, she produced a birthday program (complete with cake) honoring the birthday of composer Joel Mandelbaum, whose "The Causes Are Waiting for You" she performed as an encore. The program was telecast the following Jan. 18 & 25.


Jan. 21 she attended "Songs of Love & War" presented by Leonard & Helene, together with tenor Gregory Mercer, at the Jericho Library, and videotaped by Bob Goldberg. Then she ran the slide projector and portrayed the interpreter in the Russian scene of Leonard's & Karen Ruoff Kramer's E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman, starring Helene, Mar. 9 at the Puffin Room in Manhattan, Mar. 11 at Great Neck House,

Mar. 16 at PeaceSmiths (videotaped by Bob Goldberg, telecast June 1 & 8), Mar. 25 at Long Beach Library (videotaped by Bob Goldberg), Apr. 29 at Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, and May 1 at The Living Theatre in Manhattan (the best of the performances--videotaped by Bill Castleman). May 6 she reprised "The Causes Are Waiting for You" at a Queens College program honoring the centenary of the late Jewish Currents Editor Morris U. Schappes.

She also participated in a similar program at NYU May 10. (Both were videotaped by Carol Jochnowitz.)

June 13, again at NYU's Tamiment Library, she again participated in the annual meeting of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case.

Meanwhile, THE BOOBY TRAP continued to grow, to its present size of 17 numbers. Photographed in rehearsal Apr. 14 at Cindy & Michael Rosenbaum's house in Goldens Bridge (where she died Oct 2),

Susan co-produced and performed in the work four more times:
May 19, again as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week at Islip United Methodist Church (videotaped by Bob Goldberg; audio excerpts broadcast on WBAI Oct. 5 after midnight); Aug. 10, again as part of the Eastern Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY, along with excerpts from the musical BAJOUR (in which she was hysterically funny) and Samuel Barber's "Sure on this shining night"--she also gave two workshops on alternative cancer treatments and support groups Aug. 11; Aug. 12, as part of NY Green Fest on the Ithaca Commons; and Aug. 25 at the Custer Institute in Southold. (The July 5 photo is from a rehearsal there.)

All these performances were videotaped. The Moravia one, videotaped by Stephen Van Eck, came out especially well. But the Ithaca one, shot by Craig Seeman, is also very valuable, as it includes Susan's best performance ever of Joel Mandelbaum's "Causes," as well as an eloquent speech she gave on the difficulties of getting the medical establishment to accept alternative treatments. Photographs taken at the beach on Fire Island included July 1 publicity shots for NY Green Fest,

and the July 21 celebration of Cary Bair's birthday. (The previous Aug. 20, Susan had organized a similar birthday suit party & cake on the beach for Leonard's birthday.)

The day after the Southold performance, Helene & Susan toured the North Fork: Helene took our final photos of Susan, by the water.

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