One hot summer evening in Harvard Square, I ran into Jillian Singer, a Lexington High School alum, class of 1993, and an old friend. Curly hair flying, Singer said a breathless hello. She smiled and apologized for having to keep things brief; she was rushing to rehearsal.
Singer is Assistant Director of the American Repertory Theater's production of the musical "Cabaret." The show, which opened Aug. 31, will run through Oct. 29 at the Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge.
Many of the cast and crew, Singer pointed out, have Lexington roots. Behind the scenes, long-time LHS drama teacher Steven Bogart directs the show; Nicholas Vargelis, LHS class of 1998, designs the lighting; and Chelsea Parrish, LHS class of 2008, interns for the stage manager.
On stage, well-known musician Amanda Palmer, LHS class of 1994, plays emcee; Claire Davis, LHS class of 1995, plays Fraulein Kost; and Matt Wood, LHS class of 2001, plays Clifford Bradshaw.
"To look around the room and see so many Lexington faces from a large span of Lexington High School history was amazing," said Singer.
I can understand Singer's enthusiasm. This summer, as I conducted interviews for this column, I, too, felt in awe of the people I encountered. They changed my perception of the town where I grew up. Now I understand Lexington not only plays host to large green spaces and friendly drivers, but also has a vibrant artistic scene. The locals I met became, for me, the faces of passion, perseverance and fearlessness.
Writer and Lexington resident Helen Epstein encouraged me to examine what she called the "truth" behind writing. As a child, Epstein said, she "never really trusted" novels and was always looking for the tangibility behind characters like F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby."
Keeping her search for truth in mind, it isn't surprising Epstein found the beginnings of her writing career in non-fiction. At age 20, she witnessed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Publishing her account of the invasion in a local paper, Epstein kicked off her journalistic career. Today, she has also published the memoirs Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From and the biography Joe Papp: An American Life.
Similarly to Epstein, Kevin Choi, LHS class of 2010, believes in the power of personal truth. Choi is the genius behind the short film "Marco," which stole first prize in the Lexington High School Film Festival this May.
"If you want to hear the real reason behind Marco," Choi said, "I suppose it came out of my inner sense of solitude or loneliness – we all know what that feels like –and writing a story that is personal inevitably makes you really attached to it. In the end, all you can do is be honest to yourself."
The Reiner family of Lexington is all about the love. United by a fondness for music, David Reiner and Cindy Eid, with sons Andy Eid-Reiner and Eric Eid-Reiner and family friends John Robinson and Paul Harty, play in the Reiner Family Band. The Band performs oldtime music, bluegrass music, Celtic music and swing music in venues all around Massachusetts.
Eric Eid-Reiner said the band rarely holds formal rehearsals unless it's about to play a gig.
"There's a lot of playing just for the fun of it, when we're together," explained Eid-Reiner. "We're rehearsing whether we need to or not."
It takes a healthy dose of courage to make art. Sandra DiMartino, LHS drama teacher, recently became a published author. The writer of The Firelink Chronicles met me at Starbucks in late July. She told me, "Ten years ago, I would have told you I wasn't a writer. It was because I'd never tried."
After facing rejections from multiple publishers, DiMartino decided to self-publish. You can now find the book on Amazon.com and at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other local bookstores.
"For me, it's not about making money," DiMartino said. "It's about bringing the story to completion."
As a college graduate living in New York City's International House, LHS alum Nicole Rodriguez bravely attempted belly dancing. Since then, she's participated in New York City's Public Urban Ritual Experiment – with some of the best belly dancers in New York – and showcased her talents in Cambridge at the Middle East and Basha Cafe, as well as the Athenian Corner in Lowell.
The multi-talented Rodriguez has also composed a book of about 6,500 dog names and is currently working on a collection of short stories about 10 years of dating in New York.
Lexington artists draw inspiration from an impressive diversity of sources. At the time Jennifer Goldfinger, children's book illustrator, was drawing illustrations for Linda Hayward's The King's Chorus – about a rooster who considers himself king of the barnyard – she lived near the town's Busa Farm. The roosters' crowing every morning helped her imagine what Hayward's story might look like.
Successful fashion designer Nirva Derbekyan looks beyond the traffic of Lexington Center, where her studio is located, to faraway places of exotic color and pattern; she riffles through issues of National Geographic Magazine for design ideas.
The stories I've heard and the lessons I've learned this summer have added a great deal of richness to my life. I'm indebted to Lexington and the locals who set aside time to chat with a young reporter. As I take off for my junior year in college, abroad in England, I'll remember my hometown, and look forward to my return.
Listen to live music at Lexington Center's Nourish restaurant on Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m; and Concerts in the Park by the Hastings Park Bandstand on Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m. The Bedford Street Starbucks will host an "Acoustic Showcase" on Sept. 25 at 6 p.m.
Try out for the Master Singers of Lexington at the First Parish Church through Sept. 29. For more information, contact the Master Singers by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 781-863-8245.
The National Heritage Museum has much to offer over the next couple of months. Running until Oct. 17, the musuem offers "Treasured Lands: the 58 U.S. National Parks in Focus," an exhibit of photographs by Quang-Tuan Luong. "The Art of the Movie Theater," an exhibit of photographs by Stefanie Klavens, runs through Oct. 31. World-jazz ensemble Natraj will perform with Indian classical dancer Jayshree Bala Rajamani at the Museum on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.
Cary Hall is proving a popular venue for concerts. The Lexington Symphony will present Beethoven's Fifth at Cary Hall on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. The Yamaha 2010 National Junior Original Concert is being held at Cary Hall on Sunday, Oct. 10. The Lexington Symphony will return to play Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m.
The Donald J. Gillespie Memorial Concert will be held at Lexington High School on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. The Autumn Fine Arts & Crafts Festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lexington Visitors Center.