‘Essie Finkelstein’ entertains at the Library on Friday



The Shelter Island Library is proud to launch “Essie Finkelstein, Monologues for an Actress” by Island resident, Leah Friedman, who will read excerpts from the book at Friday Night Dialogues on August 15 at 7 p.m.

The 49 monologues tell the life story of “an ordinary, yet extraordinary Jewish girl” from her mother’s womb to her 97th year on the boardwalk of Coney Island. Many deal with Essie’s relationship with her mother, while others center on her marriage to Billy Shapiro and her daughter Gladys. “The fun part,” Ms. Friedman said, “was creating those relationships,” stressing they are nothing like the ones she enjoys with her own husband, artist Victor Friedman, or their daughter, Susan Schrott. “I was quite proud of myself that I was able to do this.”

While Ms. Friedman calls this book a “gift to myself on turning 80,” she also admits that she has been writing it — in some form or another — her whole life. Some of the monologues were extracted from the 10 plays she has written such as “Club Soda,” “Another Bride, Another Groom” and “Before She Was Born,” to name just a few. Others are drawn from her own life experiences and those of her friends. There’s sorrow and laughter, joy and pain, in the everyday world of her Essie Finkelstein.

In addition to her plays and this “debut” book, the prolific and indefatigable Ms. Friedman is also a visual artist. All of the artwork in “Essie,” including the wonderful and whimsical cover, is her own.

Leah and Victor Friedman have lived on Shelter Island since 1961, raising their three children, first in rental cottages and then in the home they built on Strawberry Lane.

Her relationship with the library is a long one as well. She ran a summer poetry and art workshop for children when Peggy Dickerson was head librarian; researched and wrote much of her Master of Fine Arts thesis there; and currently volunteers for the “2Rs4Fun!” mentoring program. She stops off at the library on her frequent long walks to rest, grab some water and “schmooz with the patient and friendly staff.”

So join Essie and Leah for a “schmooz” and lots of laughs. Friday Night Dialogues are free, although donations are appreciated.

Coming up: August 22, Dryden G. Liddle, author of “Emperor Augustus,” and then “Red Hot Patriot,” the one-woman show with Jenifer Corwin Maxson on August 29.