(Left to right) New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond emceed a storytelling performance by Orchard Cove residents and employees Elaine Baizman, Anita Brause, Susan Tovsky, Penny Kohn, Jay Ball, Elanah Traub, Aysha Salam, and Serena Seligman.

Orchard Cove storytellers take the stage

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Orchard Cove storytellers take the stage

(Left to right) New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond emceed a storytelling performance by Orchard Cove residents and employees Elaine Baizman, Anita Brause, Susan Tovsky, Penny Kohn, Jay Ball, Elanah Traub, Aysha Salam, and Serena Seligman.

What do an MIT class ring, baseball, and Chongqing, China have in common? They were among the subjects discussed in a recent six-word memoir storytelling event at Orchard Cove, Hebrew SeniorLife’s continuing care retirement community in Canton.

Coached by New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond and award-winning actor Jared Troilo, the storytellers shared a brief window into their lives with a crowd of more than 100 people.

Orchard Cove resident Penny Kohn, originally from Brookline, was excited about the opportunity to tell her tale in a new format.

“I love stories. I’m a short-story writer, and I’ve published several stories, but written stories are different from oral stories,” Kohn said. “This was a chance to get up there to tell mine.”

Her story, “When the dreaded phone call came,” was about her mother. With doctors saying her mother’s death was imminent, Kohn was encouraged by her siblings to take any articles of clothing she wanted from her mother’s closet. Her mother survived, and six months later, Kohn received a dreaded phone call asking about the location of a red blouse she had taken.

Each tale began with a six-word synopsis like “Handling for a Honda in Hyannis” or “A run-in with the law.” Orchard Cove resident Jay Ball’s story, titled “Damn, we just broke the mold,” was about his lost MIT class ring and how his sons worked with a jeweler to recreate it.

“I’ve never met a stage or a microphone I didn’t like. I’m a born showoff,” said Ball, a former resident of Natick. “I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. At 89, you tend to have a lot of stories.”

The storytellers credited their performances in part to the lessons learned from workshops with Almond and Troilo.

“I decided to do this because of Jared. I thought he was so wonderful when I saw him perform,” said Orchard Cove resident and native New Yorker Anita Brause, whose story began with “Serendipity from Chongqing, China to Canton.” “At one time, I thought I would love to be in theater, but never pursued that. I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to teach me something about getting up on stage.”

Resident Elaine Baizman, a former Sharon Public Schools teacher, had not heard of the six-word memoir concept before but was intrigued by it. Learning from Troilo and Almond and working with other residents to craft and act out stories was a delight, she said.

“We were very supportive of one another, and we got to know other people who we wouldn’t normally get to see,” Baizman said.

Baizman’s story, “I don’t play with mean people, ” relates a valuable lesson she learned from her father after she didn’t let a boy named Buddy join their neighborhood baseball game.

Others to share their six-word memoirs included residents Serena Seligman and Elanah Traub, as well as Orchard Cove Resident Program Manager Susan Tovsky and Resident Program Coordinator Aysha Salam. Θ

To learn more about Orchard Cove, visit orchard-cove.org

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