Tales from the 'Dale: Scarsdale Storytellers Tell All
- Around Town
- Published on Wednesday, 12 April 2017 07:48
- Joanne Wallenstein
I love listening to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR and sometimes find myself sitting outside in the car waiting to hear the end of these funny and often heart wrenching stories. Moth storytellers bare their most intimate secrets and share their embarrassing moments with thousands of listeners who they've never met. It's highly entertaining and often mind blowing.
That's why I was so excited when I found out that Scarsdale would have its own version of the story slam. Presented by the Scarsdale Adult School and hosted by former Scarsdale resident and StorySLAM champ Sandi Marx, "Tales From the "Dale And Beyond" promised to be a lot more fun than the usual gatherings I cover on weeknights, and the performance did not disappoint.
Each of the performers for the April 5th event at the Heathcote Auditorium was selected by Sandi Marx with Ann Sacher and Leesa Suzman, co-chairs of the Scarsdale Adult School Board of Trustees. They managed to attract some first rate talent, not surprising since most of the performers either grew up in Scarsdale or work or live here now.
Sandi Marx, served as host and storyteller and opened the night with a tale called "Race to Nowhere" about her early days in Scarsdale when she found herself outside her comfort zone in the pool of a local country club. Though she was trying to impress her small twins by participating in a race, it ultimately became evident that she didn't know how to swim!
Marx was followed by SHS English teacher Denise Del Balzo. It was easy to see why she's a favorite among students and parents. In a story called, "When a Stranger Calls," she recounted her experience during a kidnapping that rocked New York in 1993. At the time, she was dating her future husband whose mother's boyfriend went missing. It was later determined that he had been kidnapped and buried alive next to the West Side Highway. The New York Times called it a "bizarre case with flashes of Edgar Allan Poe," and Del Balzo's expertly delivered rendition of the family's wait for his return was one of the highlights of the night.
High school buddies Lori Weitzner and David Handelman made the return trip to Scarsdale to let us in on what happened way back when. It turns out that Lori was an associate editor of the yearbook when David was the editor. When it came time for the end of year dinner, rather than inviting Weitzner to the celebration, he told her that she had to cook the dinner. Outraged, Weitzner and her friend came up with a plan to set things right. In this riotous tale of revenge, the girls cooked up a special lasagna laced with dog food for Handelman ... but in a strange turn of events, Handelman's two younger brothers became the unknowing victims and eat the purloined pasta.
Somehow Weitzner and Handelman survived that scuffle and to become lifelong friends. In his performance, "You Can Go Home Again," Handelman described the summer after his graduation from Harvard. Unable to figure out how to pursue his dream to be a writer, he retreated to his room at home in Scarsdale, and much to his parents dismay, took a job at Ramsey's Farm. Now a successful television producer and writer, he looked back to the time when he had to explain to his parent's friends why he was bagging tomatoes at a farm stand.
I was instantly won over by Victoria Assa, who was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Rego Park, Queens at the age of six. Anxious to appear American like her classmates, she was mortified by the appearance and customs of her parents and grandmother, who would pick her up at school with a chicken cutlet in her hand. Assa was determined to learn to speak English and dress like a New Yorker. Though she tried to escape her past, when she met the man who was to become her husband, it turned out that he had emigrated from Cuba. Victoria and her beau worried what their two sets of parents would have in common. But lo and behold, the in-laws met and realized they all knew the same communist song, but in different languages. Assa ended by saying, "We are all immigrants. Our unique stories don't tear us apart – they bring us together."
The performers also included a father-daughter team – radio personality Jimmy Fink from the Peak with his daughter Lucie Fink, a video producer at Refinery29. Together they shared a story of what can happen when social media goes wrong. While appearing as a guest on the Today Show at NBC Lucie met Matt Lauer, and when he offered to take her to lunch to offer some career advice, Lucie was so excited that she tweeted out the news to her followers. Her tweet was picked up by the National Inquirer, who gave it a salacious spin. After Lucie ended up on the cover of the tabloid her story spiraled out of control. The brave duo explained what happened and how they repaired the damage.
Another member of the SHS faculty, Rashid Silvera took the stage, saying he "was raised by a fellowship of raconteurs." He told a story of his own evolutions saying, "You do not find the right people until you become the right person." He took us back to wild times at Studio 54 when Silvera was moonlighting as a GQ model. Only in his first year of teaching at SHS, he wasn't quite sure what the parents would think of his second career. He decided to test the waters when he was given a handful of VIP tickets to Studio 54 – which he called the "Tabernacle of Temptation." On open school night, while other teachers were conferring with parents about student's performance, he scoped out the crowd and distributed the free tickets to parents he thought might venture downtown. When the big night arrived, he was thrilled to find the parents "partying their heads off" on the dance floor. He was so happy to find the right people in Scarsdale, where he has stayed for three decades.
There were more great stories from Fran Scheffler-Siegel, June C. Sambol and Polish emigree, actress, writer and Moth GrandSLAM winner Danusia Trevino. The show was recorded and can be viewed on Scarsdale Public Television (Cablevision Channel 76 and Verizon Fios 42.
Hats off to Sacher, Suzman, Marx and the Scarsdale Adult School for producing great entertainment in the 'Dale. Let's hope it becomes an annual event.