John Szostek’s Remembrance

I met Anne in 1972 in Chicago. I performed at Otto’s Beer House and Garden Club on North Halstead St. in their outdoor venue. The name of our theatre company was “Geoffrey Buckley’s Commedia dell’ Arte Gelosi Company.” We performed commedia dell’ Arte scenarios. We were Ken Raabe, Jack Phend, Julie Phend, Jane Raabe, Gail Wahlenfeld, myself, and Geoffrey Buckley, England’s foremost mime and Pierrot. That night we performed, “The Household of Pantalone,” and “Pierrot and Mr. Fox.” In the audience one evening was Anne Rudolph and her husband, Howard Bartfield. After the show, Anne approached me and said she enjoyed my acting performance as Pantalone, but as a mover, I was a fraud. She said I needed foundation work. She invited me to come to take classes with her and that classes would always be free. She also said I should come to see her at her home, that she had something for me. 

Intrigued by the fraud statement, I went to her class. She had a studio in the Uptown Hull House Theatre on Beacon St. It was built especially for her. Her classes were mostly floor work and her students a mix of older non-performers and a few professional movers. The work was simple, slow and conscious, and challenging. Her work was very different from any movement class I had every taken. I could feel the deep imbalances in my body resolving themselves. Slowly, over time, I felt more integrated, whole, and free.

I took her up on her offer to visit her at home. We talked about her work and her regrets that she did not have time to write a book about her method. She then gave me a box. Inside were a black velour theatre curtain and an old Fresnel theatre light. She said, “Start a theatre.” Years later I did start a theatre, Piccolo Theatre, in Evanston, IL. The lighting instrument and curtain I donated to Lifeline Theatre. Piccolo Theatre had all new equipment.

Shortly after, I got a teaching position at Governor’s State U. and moved to Homewood, IL. Two years later, I moved to New York City to pursue theatre and Tai Chi studies. Anne’s work served me well, but due to tragic circumstances, I moved back to Chicago. During a street performance at the Custer Fair in Evanston, IL, I fell from a 10′ ladder and injured my back and neck. After a while of suffering through various therapies with little result, I remembered Anne’s work and how, she said, that she embarked on her corrective work by fixing broken dancers. I went back to class with Anne. She offered me private sessions, and I took her up on it. She told me that I would never be able to do the kinds of big, energetic, expressive movements I liked to do but that I should focus on small delicate movements. It was a hard reality to accept. In time I was able to recover a good portion of my lost capacity thanks to Anne’s work and Tai Chi. Thanks to Anne I was able to have a second career in theatre.

One day after class, she asked if I would give her a ride home. In the car she told me her husband, Howard, had died. She seemed dispirited, sad, and a bit lost, something I had never seen in her. I told her that I moved back to Chicago because I had been in a couple relationship with Arlene Rothlein in New York City and that she was a dancer and actress and that we performed together. I told Anne we were together for nine months when Arlene died suddenly at age thirty-six. Anne’s sadness seemed to melt away. She said nine months was so short a time, and she was grateful for having so many years with Howard. Her energy changed, a kind of resolve to live life fully. She was Anne again.

She gave me permission to teach her work. For that I am grateful. To pass on Anne’s work is so satisfying for teacher and student. This website is part of my commitment to preserving her significant body of work.

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