Librarian Steps In As Actress
By Muriel Smith
MANALAPAN – Donna Mansfield takes it seriously when she says “The Show must go on!” So seriously, in fact, that the Programming Coordinator at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters did the only thing she could think of to do when she learned a one act play scheduled to go on stage at the headquarters library had to be cancelled because one of the five actors had to drop out. With scant weeks to go before the event Mansfield had been promoting throughout Monmouth County with great zeal was scheduled, and not wanting to spend as much zeal in announcing its cancellation, Mansfield volunteered to step in and do the job!
Mansfield…who is not an actress and has absolutely no experience on stage….pulled it off beautifully last week when she portrayed Nora in Sisters-in-Pain, a charming comedy written by Myra Danon of Jamesburg. Danon also played a role in this, the first comedy she has written on her own, though she did co-author one other play since she retired as an elementary school teacher in Harlem.
Mansfield, who has been with the Library system since 2005, has worked in circulation, reference, and was a branch manager at the Colts Neck branch before she was named programming coordinator five years ago. She has an undergraduate degree in anthropology and masters degrees in Technical and Scientific Communications and Library and Information Science, both from Drexel University. But she has never appeared on stage until now.
Sisters-in-Pain opened to a standing room only audience at the library Thursday. The play told, with great comedy that brought continuous laughter and applause from the crowd, the trials Nora, an impatient, self-centered bossy wife, was facing with forced life style changes brought about by the retirement of her long-suffering husband Paul, enjoyably played by Bob Landman. Nora shares her woes and intolerance with friends Sunny, played by Danon, and Melanie, portrayed by Diane Altman. The trio share stories of the disasters that struck their hearts and the swift actions they took to ease the pain of having their long time husbands around all day every day, with Sunny, the best-natured senior of the three, adding her woes of being submissive and silent to her husband’s wishes.
The set is simple enough for this 45 minute long laughter filled comedy; signs stuck in gallon milk jugs announced where the refrigerator and pantry were and where the actions took place in the minds of the women; auditorium chairs with a blanket tossed across made up the couch on which the women commiserated over their stories.
“This was such a fun, simple, thoroughly enjoyable play to have at the library,” Freeholder Lillian Burry, liaison to the Library Commission said, “a local very talented retired teacher had a wonderful idea for a funny story, one that apparently struck a note with a lot of long-married people, and four other actors joined in the fun.” A fifth actor, Friedel Buxbaum served as narrator, and the writer’s husband, Felix Danon, did the artwork and design for the setting.
Commission Chairperson Renee Swartz said the comedy, which has also been presented at senior citizen special meetings, shows how the programs the library schedules are diversified and attract visitors from every aspect of the community it serves. “We had this short comedy on stage last week, next month we have Alelita Mateus & Trio in a concert featuring jazz, a documentary and The Cats of Mirikitani, an award winning film in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival that tells the story of an octogenarian who survived internment camps, Hiroshima and homelessness by creating art. We also will Tim McLoone and The Shirleys on stage at the end of the month, and so much more. And that’s only part of the schedule!”
Danon’s husband of 53 years attended the play, acknowledging he was the scapegoat and conceding that life at home is far more marvelous than his writer wife portrayed on stage. A retired executive with an import/export company, and retired after 35 years on the job, Danon said the couple stays happy, enjoys each other’s company, and spends all their spare time together.
As will all library programs, there is no admission fee and it is not necessary to be a library member to attend. Further information on programming at all of the 13 branches of the library is available at www.monmouthcountylib.org.