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Patricia Klekovic - Group Discussion No. 07 [July 3, 1985] [Larry Long, Dolores Lipinski, Orrin Kayan, and Patricia Klekovic]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0600
Run Time
0h 19m 51s
Date Produced
July 3 1985
NOTE: This interview [the group discussion] was conducted as an informal conversation. Consequently, instead of the usual Q (Interviewer) and A (Interviewee) format, questions and statements are identified by the initials of the participants: L (Larry Long); D (Dolores Lipinski); O (Orrin Kayan); and P (Patricia Klekovic). [Group discussion starts at 06:36.]

Four of the original "Ruth Page Chicago Opera Ballet dancers" informally reminisce about their years with Ruth Page, touring with her company and amusing anecdotes from their appearances in the ballets at the Chicago Lyric Opera.
Q: What was your relationship, Pat, with Tom Fisher? What did you think of him?
A: What did I think of Mr. Fisher. Well, at first he was like -- as I first came into the company -- he was always like the god that came in after Ruth created her ballet and put the okay on it. Like, whether it was good enough or bad enough. And he was always kind of a scary figure at that point. But after I started working with Ruth and meeting him more as a human being than just that person that came in to give his "okay" -- you know, if we were doing well enough . . . . He was a very warm person. A few times when I worked with Miss Page in Hubbard Woods he would -- after we were through rehearsing -- he would read to us at the end of the day and things like that. I mean, he was very, very nice and very warm. He was also very . . . he was tough! If he didn't like what you were doing and he thought it was wrong, that was it. I mean . . . and his word was like "it." But he would never say anything about the ballets in front of the company. But if he thought that what you were doing didn't look good, he would let you know. And if he didn't think you were working hard enough . . . when you were, you know, working with her . . . if he didn't think it was coming out right, he would tell you. But . . .
Q: Did he every say anything to you . . . I mean, are there some instances you can remember?
A: No. He never said anything to me about not . . . . He was the one that said I was the "Carmen of the Legs," and he didn't really think that I was going to be able to do it because he thought of me as this sweet, young, innocent thing, too. And when I got his okay, that made me feel really good, because I knew once he said it then Ruth would accept me too. [Laughs]
Q: How do you think the loss of Tom . . . what changes have you seen in Ruth since Tom's death?
A: Well, I think . . . I really think he kind of . . . that she probably would have had a company a lot longer if it hadn't been for his dying . . . . She was the creator, and he was the one that did all of the stuff underneath, you know, made it possible. And she didn't have to worry about it, and she didn't have to worry about someone else cheating her out of this and that, and I mean, he was there handling everything, so she was left to the creation, which was wonderful. After that, I think she had to start learning how to do all that for herself. And I think in a creative person, it takes its toll. Because you suddenly have to go into things that to you really don't seem to matter. Because you want to do what you were born to do. And those menial things that were taken care of before, you know, just aren't anymore. And I know that if she had wanted to have that second company and he had been around, she would have had it. And it would have gone, because he was behind her to help her.
Q: Can you imagine Ruth Page being anything else but a dancer?
A: She could have been an actress. She would have probably been one of the way out . . . someone like Angela Lansbury that could do anything -- you know: dance, sing . . . . I think the ballet world was lucky to get her, that she didn't go into another field, that she decided to just drop into this one through her dance. Well, through her dance because she was introduced to dance first and loved it. She's a real . . . fun woman. Even now, she's fun. I wish she could still create things, but I know she's given up because she said that when she can't show . . . she doesn't have the heart to do it anymore. But sometimes I think if she would really get some of us that know her, and she really wanted to do something new, we could still help her along with some of those things. Because we learned to know . . . almost to know what she was thinking at times, without her to actually . . . being able to show us exactly what she wanted, you know. The souls kind of come together, and you get to understand someone when you work with them that closely.
Q: Thank you.

[Group discussion with Larry Long, Dolores Lipinski, Orrin Kayan, and Patricia Klekovic starts at 06:36.]

L: Charles -- wasn't his name Charles something . . .
P: The one that rubbed your feet?
O: Ohhhhh!
D: He rubbed your feet?
O: We won't go into that one. [Laughter]
D: This man paid us off -- our paychecks off -- in fifty half-dollars, I mean . . .
L: Silver dollars.
D: . . . Silver dollars, a paycheck! Well, it made holes in your pockets of your clothes. You couldn't carry it in your purse. So, we all had to go to banks and get all this money changed so that we could . . .
O: Carry it around.
D: . . . carry it around. And he thought he was doing us a big favor by doing this.
O: Why? Were we in Las Vegas or something?
D: I don't know, we were getting close . . .
L: . . . the price of silver was supposed to be . . .
O: Oh, that was it.
L: . . . and it was supposed to be very good to be paid in silver.
O: It was Charles.
L: Don't you remember? His name is Charles something -- I can't remember. We had so many -- actually we didn't have so many . . . there were only three that I remember.
O: The time at the Opera House when poor Ruth fell into the orchestra pit. She had a terrible habit of instead of going around, she would try to crawl over the pit on a little -- there was a little piece of molding that she would walk across. And one day, that molding broke, and down she went, and she ended up landing over the orchestra railing and broke her ribs. And I'll never forget, Ken Johnson, who was her assistant at the time, said, "Oh my God!" And we jumped down and were trying to get her out of there. And Ken said, "Take ten," to give us our break, and Ruth said, "No! Don't!" [Laughter]
D: We remember how it sounded because all of the stands were up for the orchestra.
O: Yeah.
D: Do you remember? So, when she hit, you just heard all that clanking of that. And you heard her moan, "Ooooh." And you thought, oh, God, I don't want to look. She's probably in a thousand pieces.
L: Actually funny things happened -- a lot of funny things happened . . . . Do you remember the time we were rehearsing at the Studebaker Theatre before tour.
D: And the man died?
L: And the man, the bass player, dropped dead of a heart attack in the pit. Do you remember that?
P: Probably, yeah.
L: And we didn't have to stop.
D: We didn't stop?
L: Well, we did stop . . .
D: About three seconds.
L: Well, we finally had to stop. But Ruth made it a lunch break so we wouldn't lose time. So while they cleared the orchestra pit of the dead body, we could take lunch. I remember that. Do you remember that? [Laughter]
O: Yeah.
D: Oh, I do remember that.
L: I remember those wonderful years. Do you remember the year we were first doing one of the Carmens. This was a wonderful . . .
D: Oh, Barbara? The Barbara story. Oh, God, yes.
L: Do you remember those platforms -- this was in the Remisoff Carmen. And they had the arches that were on the platforms. And the platforms were on wheels so that they could be rolled on and off for the different scenes.
D: And somebody had to stop them.
L: And we'd been . . . she'd been doing that shawl dance for the corps de ballet for a long time. Do you remember that? And they had . . . the girls didn't just quite get it right. And they rehearsed and rehearsed, and Barbara started . . . her entrance would be next as Carmen. [She went] rushing onto that platform and taking a pose on pointe. Then, she started out waiting, and she was all up in the chest and eager to go, and her face was alive, and she was kind of chewing nails over in the corner, just waiting for her entrance. And it almost came to her entrance and Miss Page said, "No, wait a minute. Girls, do that again. Do that again." And so, they did it over and over again and before you knew it, there was Barbara Steele . . . . Each time she'd get a little bit more slumped down. And finally she's sitting over in the corner, like, you know, she's never going to get on. And then all of a sudden Ruth said, "Go on, go on, we're going right on!" Barbara tears to the center, takes her pose on the platform -- the platform's on wheels . . . [it] rolled out from under [her]. She fell on her rear end . . . flat. And then Miss Page said, "Oh, all right. Take lunch." So that was all she did. That was my first year in the company. I'll never remember that . . . I'll never forget that.
D: I don't think Barbara fell on her rump. I think she fell forward.
L: No, because she went like that [indicates] on the platform.
O: Well, do you remember Mr. Long, when you did the walkovers?
L: Ahhh, yes, I do remember that.
O: He . . . she . . . Ruth loved working with Larry because he could do acrobatics. And she just thought that was so marvelous. And so she set this whole combination of acrobatics: front-overs and walk-overs and back-overs and flips and I don't know what . . . .
D: Round-offs.
O: And he was flipping around the stage and going and going and everybody went, "Larry!" And he just flipped off stage and landed upside down over a chair.
D: Chairs! They were a whole row of chairs . . .
O: The whole row of chairs, right.
D: . . . and they folded.
O: Speaking of moans, "Ohhhh!"
D: I . . . we thought he had . . . and he was hanging over these chairs and nobody moved to do a thing. We just looked at him . . .
O: Everybody was horrified.
D: . . . and we thought, oh, he's broken his ribs, and his knees must be broken, because the chair folded and everything. And he wasn't even hurt! He just knocked the wind out of himself. But we all watched him just fly into those chairs and moaning.
O: Can we tell the one about when Larry was doing Don Q with Janet Sassoon.
D: You better not.
L: Oh, yes, well we have to tell that . . . .
O: That's a funny one -- it's a funny story. They . . . he . . . Larry was doing Don Q pas de deux and there's a lift . . . .
L: Be careful how you say this.
O: . . . there's a lift where the girl jumps to his shoulder. And his . . . however they managed it. Her costume hooked onto his jacket, and when he put her down, they were attached. Him with his face in the clouds, and she wouldn't stop moving to let them untangle. She was running around and he was just under there running around.
D: So, he was bent over in half, like his head was attached to the seat of her costume.
L: Well, actually it was like my head had disappeared . . . completely. I do remember that.
O: I loved it.
L: It was awful. I also remember Dolores . . . the first time . . .
D: Oh, don't you tell that!
L: . . . That was the first time I'd ever done Don Q . . .
D: Oh, we have to tell mine.
L: . . . the other . . . all you other people, and boys and guys in the company, had done it. But I'd never done him before. And I was doing it with Janet, who was a guest with the company. And that was something. And I remember Dolores . . . this happened just before the performance . . . and I remember Dolores sitting . . . . You had . . . you must have been Madame Popoff because you had this feather in your hair and you had a kind of Chinese robe . . .
D: Yeah, we had all bought Chinese kimonos . . . .
L: . . . and you were sitting in the wings. You looked like some kind of . . .
D: Madame.
L: . . . lady in New Orleans . . . with this great feather like that and this great flowered Chinese robe, doubled over with laughter. Just completely . . . completely at wit's end.
D: Well, do you remember . . .
L: And then I had to do the pas de deux knowing you were there laughing.
O: Nobody tried to . . . .
D: Do you remember the time that we were doing Carmen and I changed my . . . I changed into the wrong costume . . .
L: Oh, and that effected Orrin.
D: . . . Wait a minute! That was so wonderful. I went into a . . . I found like a . . . oh, what do you call it when people keep their cleaning equipment . . .
L: Cleaning closet.
D: Cleaning closet. To do a fast change. And I had . . . it was the first time I was doing it, and I had misjudged the change and I . . . shouldn't have changed my costume. And I ran in this room and they had . . . there was a lady in there helping me change. And we changed into the wrong costume. And I came out and I heard the music and realized I had changed into the wrong dress and ran back in the room to make the change. And I was really sweaty and the costume wouldn't move on my arms and it had sleeves, so we were having real trouble getting me in and out of it. In the meantime, no one knew where I was changing and out on stage they kept playing the same theme over and over again. And . . .
O: And it was supposed to be a pas de deux with the two of us.
D: And people would leave the stage. I mean . . . and he was doing Escamillo.
O: And I was doing . . . I did the longest solo in the world.
D: And he kept departing. Don José kept departing. Everybody was looking for me, and I was in this closet trying to get in and out of these dresses.
L: It was funny because when she first. . . when she came back . . . when she finally got back  . . .
D: None of the costume was done.
L: . . . her costume was undone. And when she got back on stage, both of the boys, Escamillo and Don José, were both gone looking for her. So then she came on . . .
D: And my hair was supposed to be up and it was all down. And finally Orrin came back out and he grabbed me and I went, "Don't turn me! Don't turn me! We've got to back off, I'm all undone!" But I remember Neal was so furious because he kept playing that same theme music.
L: It was that drum roll, remember? [Imitates drum] It was the longest drum roll in the history of theatre, I'm sure. It was wonderful. Do you remember when Effie used to walk across between the scenery in Merry Widow. She would come to pack things up.
O: Effie was Ruth's maid.
L: Oh, yes. A wonderful, wonderful . . . .
D: Oh, but the best story about Effie was when she came on tour with us and she missed the bus in the morning and took a taxi and followed us in a cab.
O: Two hundred miles.
L: Two hundred miles! Not only that, but she and the cab driver stopped in the same city for lunch that the company stopped in for lunch. So the bus was over here having lunch, and [she] and her cab driver were over here having lunch and then instead of getting to the bus, the bus left, and she got back in the cab and went the rest of the way in the cab. It was wonderful.
O: Ruth almost killed her. [Laughter]
D: She was such a sweet, old lady. She used to . . . when we first started . . . when we were really young and we used to come after school to rehearse with Miss Page . . . . Of course, Miss Page didn't realize that young kids needed something to eat when they came out of school. And Page didn't realize that. So, Effie would think of that and she would go, "Psssst! Come here. I've got cookies in here. I've got an apple in here." And she would feed us. So, we all loved her tremendously.
L: Except when she made rutabaga mold. Oooh!
D: Yeah. Nobody liked that.
L: They didn't. . . nobody liked rutabaga mold. And that was a big one of Effie's.
D: So, when Effie came on tour, she was really an old lady and she couldn't carry all those heavy costumes, so we would all help her. When we'd see her carrying a load of costumes, we'd grab it out of her arms. But she'd walk into the sets of the ballets and she appeared in Merry Widow many times carrying costumes.
L: Carrying costumes . . . .
D: We had a stage hand who did that too. We had a stage hand . . . our stage hands, for a long time, came from Denver. And there was one man who was called "Engine Joe." And he wore one of those black hats with a feather stuck in it, and he always picked a pas de deux to make an appearance carrying something. And he wouldn't realize he wasn't behind the curtain, but in-between. And he would walk out during some pas de deux and you'd be dancing something dramatic or romantic and you'd hear the audience laugh. Sure enough. You'd turn your head and there he was truckin' through there carrying something with that feather in his hat.
A real character.
O: Didn't you ever make any boo-boos . . . ?
P: Me? No. The funniest thing was when I almost killed you for laughing at me when I whipped my beautiful costume right across my face and went off the stage in Fledermaus. You know, when you have the long . . . the negligee. The peignoir. And I went off and I went to put it around my neck and it went over my head. And this fool was laughing at me. I was ready to kill him! [Laughter]
D: Do you remember in Bullets when you guys used to come through the window, and the set always fell when you came through the window. Every time they made an entrance through the window . . . the scenery . . . the set came with him.
O: Don't you remember Masked Ball at the Opera?
D: Oh, that was the best.
O: We had a cue -- when the tenor got killed, we were all supposed to unmask. Whip off these masks. We were wearing these stupid wigs.
D: And they were wearing Prince Valiant wigs.
O: And the tenor got it and we all went "pfitt" [indicates] and I went like this and my wig just went "whoop" [indicates] right around my face. And I ended up looking straight at Dolores . . . . I luckily had my back to the audience.
D: He shoved me to face the audience.
O: And I looked at her and she went, "Ohhhhh!"
D: And he pushed me to face the audience, so I was the one that was laughing, of course, and caught heck.
L: Do you remember us doing stock, Patricia? Now, I'm kind of short and Patricia is kind of tall. Do you remember this? We were doing that lift in Tom Sawyer. We were supposed to be grand jeté. That theatre was very big in stock and we were supposed to do a grand jeté with me carrying Patricia clear across that stage, you know, at arms' length. And I couldn't get her . . . I could get her up there, but I couldn't keep her up there. So, we got to this way of doing it. Do you remember that? I'd do a grand jeté like that and run under her and put my head under her rump and then sit her right on my head and carry her across with her legs open. Do you remember that? She didn't make any boo-boos, but she had to suffer with a lot of them, didn't you?
D: Well, how come it didn't hurt? Because do you remember the time we did it by accident? We were kidding around.
O: No, that was no accident. She wanted to do that.
D: We went assemblé and he was supposed to lift me. But I wound up taking my legs in second and I wound up on his head.
O: Ruth asked us for that.
D: She asked us?
O: That was in Fledermaus, yeah. And . . . you could just . . . how she said, "Now pick her up, instead of putting her on your shoulder, put her so that she's sitting on your head."
D: Well, it was like falling off of a bicycle. You know, did you ever ride a bicycle?
O: And I picked her up and I went [imitates sound] . . .
D: And his neck went [imitates sound] . . .
O: . . . And my neck went down like this and she just was like "Ohhh!"
D: . . . And I hurt . . . those two bones that you've got, you know, in the rear end there. Do you remember the time . . .
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)