Rochelle Slovin, 73, has recently returned to the stage. She is a part of the successful new play, Debutante, an experimental comedy that tells the story of a group of restless young heiresses coming of age in the throes of a devastating financial crisis. Slovin plays the grandmother of one of the girls, an aging debutante herself, who longs for a bygone era. The play is now showing at the Upper West Side’s Bernie Wohl Center through May 10th. The Center is committed to bringing theater to its Upper West Side community. Through her involvement in the project, Slovin is continuing her life-long commitment to arts outreach across mediums.
Slovin is well-known as the Founding Director of Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, which she led for 30 years, from 1981 until 2011. The mission of the Museum is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media by presenting exhibitions, film screenings, and educational programs in addition to collecting and preserving moving-image related artifacts.
“I was wild about the theater from my earliest memories,” Slovin said. In the late 1940s, she performed at the Henry Street Playhouse. Slovin recalls that it was only twenty-five cents to see a show and called it a “wonderful, wonderful time.” She had the opportunity to work with such greats as Alwyn Nicolais whom she called a “pioneering choreographer and theatre artist.” In the 1960’s, Slovin regularly appeared in plays at LaMama and many other Off-Off-Broadway stages. These deep theatrical roots have inspired her to reignite her successful acting career. Calling her return to the stage “very humbling and deeply satisfying,” she added,“I am starting at the beginning.”
Slovin called Debutante “very charming.” Although this “loving and delicate play” is also very funny. The piece addresses “the struggle of the central characters to break free of the surprising power that tradition has over their lives.”
It is clear that Slovin is enjoying the artistic challenge of being onstage again. “I enjoy being a colleague of the young people I am working with,” she said. “It is both interesting and satisfying.”
Slovin played a pivotal role in the development of Museum of the Moving Image and remains enormously dedicated. She praised the teamwork necessary to move the project forward. The inspiration for the Museum emerged from an effort by elected officials, and the film and television labor unions and guilds to save the historic Astoria Studios. Creating and leading the Museum of the Moving Image took “time, energy and love,” for a project that was truly 24/7. Prior to her involvement with the Museum, she was the director of the CETA Artists Project which provided more than 300 artists with a living wage. It was the largest government-supported artist employment program since the WPA. When asked what makes someone an artist Slovin would always reply, “You do it every day.”
We asked Slovin what was the single most difficult aspect of the transition from being the director of a prominent museum to being an actress again. She said that her work at Museum of the Moving Image was geared to providing programs for the public and focusing on the development of her staff; as she said, “It was all about others.” With her return to acting, Slovin has the well-deserved opportunity to enjoy her own art; “Now, it’s about me – and that can be very scary.”
Through May 10, 2014
Bernie Wohl Center
Goddard Riverside Community Center
647 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10025
212-799-9400, ext 205