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Delores White Baker (1929-2012) speaks about her childhood in the West End in Louisville and her experiences living in New York and other southern states where she became increasingly aware of the prejudice around her. The focus of the interview is on Baker's experience of the intersection of the arts--particularly dance and theater--and race in the Louisville community. Baker was active with the West End Community Council, which focused on open housing, school integration, health and welfare, and the arts and helped shape the West End after a certain amount of white flight from that area. Baker's focus was on the arts. She started ballet and dance classes for children and organized drama and theater productions. She was director of the city-wide Arts and Talent Festival that took place annually in Chickasaw Park and highlighted local talents in the visual arts, music, dance, theater, etc. She was also involved with the Genesis Arts organization that provided classes for disadvantaged children in the community and the Pigeon Roost Theater players, a black West End based theater group focusing on poetry, music, and drama. Baker emphasizes the importance of exposing children to culture, her thoughts on the state of the Black community in Louisville, the anti-racism movement, and her relationships with local churches.
Geraldine Snyder Lenzi was born just after WWII in Pennsylvania but moved when eight to her father’s hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, after her mother’s death. After her father died five years later, she was raised by two older sisters and a brother-in-law, mostly attending public school. She graduated from Durrett High School in 1965 after reluctantly moving from her beloved, racially integrated West End neighborhood. An art major at Murray State University, she became a recognized soft-sculptor doing large-scale fabric-based art pieces. Despite her shyness, Geraldine loved literature, sewing, writing lyrics and tunes—though she didn’t read music, and slowly grew to relish stage performance. Ms. Lenzi recalls, after moving to Miami with her husband Paul where he worked for the Players Repertory Theater before the couple joined The Flee Circus, a troupe that used fable-like stories to entertain and teach school children. (Geraldine warmly recalls spontaneous performances in Biscayne Park before appreciative audiences.) She and Paul returned to Louisville where they worked for Louisville Children’s Theatre (later Stage One), developing performances and a WAVE-TV Saturday show for pre-school children, and then joined Paul in 1976 to form Blue Apple Players. For decades at Blue Apple, Geraldine created both the tune and lyrics for original fast-paced musicals for children and youth on cutting-edge topics such as teen suicide, child sex abuse, anti-violence, and teen pregnancy, while remaining an integral part of the performing company and serving when needed as road manager and costumer.
Paul Lenzi was born in New Jersey but moved at eleven to Grassy Key, Florida where his parents managed a restaurant that had been started by his maternal grandparents. He was graduated from high school in 1966 on Marathon Key where he played in a dance band but had limited exposure to the performing arts. While enrolled at Miami-Dade Community College, he performed at Pirates World before studying Theater at Florida State University. Returning to Miami, he worked in public relations at the Coconut Grove Playhouse—performing on the side in a production at the Southeast Florida Shakespeare Festival-- before joining Doug Ramey’s Shakespeare in the Park in Louisville, Kentucky that included tours to small towns across the state. Along with his new wife, Louisvillian Geraldine Ann Snyder, the couple then moved to Miami where Geraldine unhappily for a time sewed convertible automobile tops and Paul worked in public relations at the Miami Philharmonic. Paul joined the new Players Repertory Theater, south Florida’s first equity house, where as box office manager he was invited to perform in some productions. Finally, both Paul and Geraldine were invited to be part of a new high-energy troupe called The Flee Circus, that performed high-quality children’s theater especially for schools. When that company ran into financial problems, Paul and Geraldine returned to Louisville where they were hired by the Louisville Children’s Theater (now State One) to develop new musical programming for pre-schoolers while Paul ultimately became executive director. Feeling squelched, in 1976, the couple broke away to form the Blue Apple Players continuing for a time a weekly children’s program on WAVE-TV. Blue Apple, for the first decade, operated on a “for profit” business model, performing locally and regionally for children sometimes in large halls or occasionally developing a didactic performance for a corporation. After becoming a non-profit, the theater company focused exclusively on creating musicals on cutting-edge social topics for Kentucky school groups. Mr. Lenzi closes the interview with a discussion of Blue Apple’s merger in 2015 with the Walden Theatre to form the Commonwealth Theatre.