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Paulanne Simmons

Symphony Space Celebrates 30th Birthday

Something special happened at Symphony Space on January 10. And for those of us present, the evening was unforgettable. On that Thursday night, Symphony Space celebrated its 30th birthday with a display of talent that was truly remarkable: actors, singers, musicians, essayists, humorists and writers, all paying tribute to an institution they love and value.

The event had something for everyone: from the traditional Gershwin standard "Our Love Is Here to Stay," sung by Andrea Marcovicci to Isaiah Berlin's rewrite of Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse's classic "Bill" now titled "It's My Turn Bill," and sung by Ivy Austin as Hillary Clinton.

There was also a generous sprinkling of Symphony Space's deservedly acclaimed Selected Shorts: John Shea reading Heinrich Boll's "The Laughter," Kathleen Chalfant reding Ron Wallace's "Worry," Rene Auberjonois reading Allen Woodman's "Wallet.
Dana Ivey reading Michael Augustin's "The Handbag," and David Strathairn reading Tim O'Brien's "Stockings."

In a series of "News Flashes," various notables recounted the history of Symphony Space's founding and survival, from January 9th, when the old movie theater was opened for its first of many free twelve-hour music marathons, "Wall to Wall Bach," to its transformation into a neighborhood and national institution. A space where the spoken word, song, music, dance and cinema are given equal respect and freedom.

The intermission included a complimentary glass of champagne for everyone in the audience and a long-winded but much appreciated toast offered by co-founders Allan Miller and Isaiah Sheffer.

The evening concluded with the entire cast onstage fervently singing "There's a Space for Us," Isaiah Berlin's version of Bernstein's "West Side Story" classic "Somewhere."

No doubt everyone in the audience had their special moments. For the woman next to me it was Estelle Parsons' rendition of Shakespeare's Sonnet number 116, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds…" which she called "the high point of my first marriage." For me it was a tossup between Marian Seldes interpreting my very favorite poem, Dylan Thomas's "In My Craft or Sullen Art" and Theodore Bikel singing "If I Were a Rich Man" in Yiddish.

Happy Birthday Symphony Space. May you live and be well forever.

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