|click on picture to enlarge|
"Backstage at the Theater (Waiting for a Cue)", Mikhail Zwibak, pen and india ink, c.1935 8"x10"
|"Development Team", Renee Kahn, India Ink wash, c.2000, 8"x10"|
The memoir issue came up again a few days ago when my daughter asked me to write down what I remembered about my Uncle Mischa, an opera singer who ended up composing music for the Yiddish stage. It seems the Museum of the City of New York has a large Yiddish theater archive and was looking for memoirs of people who were around in its heyday, the nineteen twenties and thirties. Since he died when I was twelve, I didn’t have a lot to offer, but I did as I was told and wrote down the little I remembered. Unfortunately, she was correct when she said it would come back to me; it did, and more than I bargained for. This was a really dreadful time in my life, one that I had put behind me for good reason. Within a year of Mischa’s sudden death, two of my mother’s remaining brothers died and she collapsed, physically and mentally. I became her “caretaker” (at twelve) and remained so for the rest of her life. What saved me was going off to the High School of Music & Art where I discovered the “high” of being an artist, a joy I still live with today.
|"Planning Board Meeting, Renee Kahn, pen and India Ink, 2005, 8"x10"|
Now, since this is an “art” blog, let me tell you about Uncle Mischa the Artist. It seemed that he constantly sketched the theater life around him, both when he was with the Chicago Opera Company and when he came to New York to be involved with the Yiddish stage. He did hundreds of satirical drawings of backstage which my relatives threw out after he died. There is only one left and the amazing thing is that it looks just like my work. Everyone who sees it asks me if I did it. I sit at endless meetings and sketch. Is it possible to inherit a line or a satiric outlook? I’m sure someone, someday will discover the gene for it.