By: Carolyn Boiarsky, CW’63
When I first arrived in Chicago 20 years ago, I attended several excellent events sponsored by the Chicago Penn Alumni Club, including a lecture at the Oriental Institute by one of the directors of Penn’s Museum. However, over the past decade few events were of interest to me, so last May when the Chicago Alumni Board issued an open invitation to attend its next Board meeting and help with programming, I took them up on their offer.
The result is that a new interest group has been established—The Sages, those of us who graduated in the 50’s, 60, and 70’s. And the Board is now in the process of planning the kinds of programs that are of interest to our generation. Thanks to the encouragement and support of outgoing Club President Michal Clements and some great marketing support from Laura Foltman and the Alumni Relations Office, our first program, “An Evening with Shakespeare” on November 6 was a great success.
Serendipitously Penn’s Shakespearean scholar Zachary Lesser had been invited to Chicago to make a presentation at the city’s Humanities Festival on the weekend of November 9. He agreed to come several days early to present a lecture for us prior to watching a performance of King Lear at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Luck continued to flow our way for finding a venue. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre graciously provided us with a space for the lecture in their scenic lobby overlooking Lake Michigan and the giant Ferris Wheel. With the sun setting over the Lake rather than the quad outside College Hall as a backdrop to our lecturer, we studied various versions of some of the passages of Lear from two of the quartos. Our homework: to determine which of the quartos Barbara Gaines, the Director, had used for the final lines of the play. The lines in one quarto are spoken by the Earl of Kent, in the other by Edgar and sometimes a director splits the lines between the Earl and Edgar. Summoning those critical analytical skills that we acquired during our years at Penn, we watched intently as the final lines played out. To our amazement–and amusement–Gaines had split the closing lines three ways-the Earl, Edgar and the Duke of Albany.
Between the lecture and the performance, we had dinner at Riva on the Pier, our discussions ranging from Shakespeare to our classes at Penn to suggestions for the next Sage event. While most of us were Sages, we ranged from the class of ’63 to the class of ‘93. Some of us were single, like Esther Hershenhorn ’67, others came with spouses or partners, like Larry Feis, ’80 and his wife Brenda. Among the more recent grads in attendance were Liane Jackson, ‘93, who was recently profiled in the Penn Club of Chicago online alumni newsletter, and her mother and Maureen Buchholz, MBA, ‘92. As we Sages reminisced, the younger members gained some insights into Penn’s history: they had never known there was a separate College for Women or the Pennsylvania News.
And then the performance. The story was made more meaningful by the lecture, and Larry Yando as Lear was incredible. I’ve seen him in other plays, Prospero in “Tempest,” a quite different character from Lear, and he seems to simply become the character.
The evening was fascinating, educational, enjoyable. And the group warm and friendly. I read recently in The Wall Street Journal that those of us who have reached the point of being a Sage are more apt to look for friendships that are meaningful. Penn was a meaningful experience for all of us. It is good to be able to once again find meaningful experiences through that institution.