At one o’clock sharp, a lipstick red door opens, and an apron clad woman not quite at the end of her seventh inning stretch sings out: “Ding-a-ling-a-ling ——”
And thus we invite you to enter the gracious home of Patricia and Donald Freed. Her offerings are gustatory; his are literary and political. (This is a simplification: Like all great men, and Donald is an authentic “great man” — there is a woman in the background who contributes much more to his repute than is acknowledged. Her stated role of presenting the weekly Saturday lunch in this Seminar scenario defines “understatement”.)
Heeding their cue, the ascending group immediately move around the bountiful buffet; then, prodded by Donald, those assembled drift into what obviously must be acknowledged as their “own” seats. As certain as the call for “places, please”, and as predictable as any long running play, the afternoon begins.
Plates are gradually relinquished to hear Donald’s “announcements”; these can cover news of the group’s ten day, summer sojourn in Europe, to the evening’s restaurant choice. (A post Seminar dinner is always a choice for the “regulars” who accept.) Somehow he floats into free-association: current political crisis merge with those portrayed by Shakespeare and Euripides. Passages from Faulkner merge with those of Freud, and the news of the day somehow joins that of the Rialto in a seamless, always sensible song.
“Throughout these recitations of memoir, screenplay, novel, short story, musical and dramatic stage creations, teaching moments abound and spill into the room. “
Hands are asked for, and raised, as readers of the day volunteer their treasure; and then the creative process truly begins. There is only one rule: students read their work; Donald reacts, rather inter-acts. Throughout these recitations of memoir, screenplay, novel, short story, musical and dramatic stage creations, teaching moments abound and spill into the room. The diversity of work is staggering; and from week to week, year in and year out, the Master never gets confused; always remembers to the word his previous discussion of the creative event being offered.
As the afternoon moves on, there is one short break for more sustenance, perhaps a sweet, then the sharp ring of a bell from Donald announces a no-nonsense insistence on the resumption of work in progress.
Somewhere between four and four-thirty, Patricia removes her apron and never ceases to marvel at how much laughter, spontaneous applause as well as long stretches of deep, abiding silence emerge from that room where all her “guests” live out their creed of creativity. But by then, all she will wonder out loud is what to prepare for next week’s lunch.