Betty Aberlin

I got my precious Equity card in 1954 in Sandhog, a folk-opera, which played a theatre at 12th Street and Second Avenue (now a multiplex) in New York City. It was five blocks away from Manhattan General (now a condominium: The Rutherford) where I was born. A "Red-by-Association" ("Commie Show Opens at Phoenix!"), I joined an extraordinary multi-ethnic interracial cast and became a member of Equity. I've been "just an [Off]- Broadway Baby, walkin' off my tired feet" — the Equity lounge was and is still the place to rest, to check the casting notices and to see us in all our glory, from the juveniles to the elder-lings. It's the catbird seat for perspective. From rehearsals in the old Yiddish theatres on Houston Street, to straw-hat and national touring and bus and truck companies of shows like West Side Story, Stop The World - I Want To Get Off and The Mad Show, to Broadway, Cafe Crown and the original companies of I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road, Yours, Anne & Alice in Concert, through the all-night sessions as organizer for “Save The Theaters” — from the 6 a.m. cattle calls to the "next!" of the audition rooms — it has been a gift to have my Equity card as an emblem of the work.

A Stephen Sondheim song so funny I had to sing it ("The Boy From...") led me to Pittsburgh, PA, where I first talked to a striped tiger named Daniel, beginning a 33-year-long skein of make-believe as Lady Aberlin, niece of King Friday XIII, on PBS' Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Despite the waxwork-museum revivals (however enhanced by shining talents), and the Disney extravaganzas, the cast-by-TV gimmickry, the neon ad-biz sight-pollution of the formerly classic Great White Way, despite the gentrification of 42nd Street, the constancy of change and the price of a ticket, Equity survives. The communion between player and audience in the cavernous theatres and the jewel boxes alike is unbroken. See you at the next open call!