I learned a lot about Shakespeare at Bona’s. But another part of my university education took place at rehearsals and backstage at the Garret Theater with Dr. Stephen Gray-Lewis.
I have vivid memories of those times. Times of working hard, playing hard and stretching myself both physically and emotionally. Of feeling comfortable in my own skin. Lifelong friendships were formed learning lines and learning to negotiate relationships. Some you would come to love, and some, not so much.
A master class in my education happened at ‘The Dr’s” table. At the end of each production he would host a cast dinner party at his home. For the sake of disclosure, the dining hall food was nothing to write home about. Remember writing home?
After the first semester’s production I looked forward to the dinner for, well, the food. Eating in someone’s home having been away from home for several months felt like an occasion. And it felt great to “be in a professor’s house.” Did they live like other people? Would his home be terribly sophisticated (As I saw him?) or casual and bohemian? It was a reflection of him — warm, sophisticated, elegant and comfortable.
At that first party I remained focused on the food until we sat at the table. And sat. And relaxed. And talked. We talked about theater and books and campus gossip. And food. He listened to us and respected what we had to say. Imagine that as a college freshman.
Eventually, a group of us would come in the afternoon and help prepare the food. We’d sing and dance in the kitchen reliving moments from the latest production. He taught us how to cook, but really taught us about sharing — sharing our thoughts, aspirations, complaints, ourselves.
I learned that from him and in my home I hope our guests feel so embraced at the table. That it is a place to gather and share more than food.
When he passed away, my dear friends Leigh and Ed. Simone (current SBU faculty members) gave me his red paella pan. I never use it without thinking of him and reciting Shakespeare’s verse: “Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.” I think he’d like that.
Patricia Ryan Lampl graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a degree in English Literature. Ms. Lampl is an author and has published four children’s books. Her book, MY BLANKIE, was voted one of the best of the year by Nick Jr. Magazine. She has written for Huffington Post, Newsday, Self Magazine, Nick Jr. Magazine and Adoption Today. She is the co-author of LOVE FOR GROWN-UPS: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying For Life When You’ve Already Got a Life – a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to meet Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. Ms. Lampl is an accomplished television producer. She headed production supervision for Sesame Workshop and produced “Cookie Monster’s Best Bites,” “Big Bird Sings” and “Big Bag” for the Cartoon Network. She co-produced HBO’s Emmy nominated series “What Matters” and has worked with A&E, Great Performances, The Miss Universe Pageant and VH-1. Currently, as essay she wrote has been included in the anthology CARRIED IN OUR HEARTS published by Penguin.
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