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The Doyenne: Dorothy Silver 


"I've been letting myself grow old for years," Dorothy Silver says. "I'm very confident in my age. Also, it helps me be competitive in getting many stage and film roles, since so many older actresses try to take years off their age."

Silver, the grande dame of Cleveland theater at 86, is nothing if not confident. From her movie roles in The Shawshank Redemption and Promised Land to her local stage appearances over many decades, Silver has defined the essence of talent and grace.

Of course, Silver was often paired in many people's minds with her husband of 65 years, Reuben, who passed away last year. They were "ReubenandDorothy" long before other celebrities began using playful uni-names for their bonded status. As Dorothy says, "We grew together over all those years. He was so supportive of my work, as I was his. I'm very grateful for the time we had together."

They were both pillars at the Karamu House and at Cleveland State University, directing and acting in countless productions there and elsewhere. "My first love is theater," says Silver, "because that's where you actually act. If you act on film, you're in trouble. Everything has to be done in miniature." Her favorite stage role is Claire Zachanassian in The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, a part she created at CSU in 1991 (it was helmed by another Cleveland theater icon, director Joe Garry). And she also enjoyed playing opera diva Maria Callas in Master Class at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood.

Even though Reuben isn't here in the flesh, he's still with her. "I feel strongly that he's around me. He's often leaving the room or calling me. And I have discussions with him. Of course I know how he thinks, after all those years, so the discussions are really quite productive."

Even now, Dorothy is continuing to work on stage and in film. She will be playing Goody Nurse in The Crucible during the Cleveland Play House's 100th anniversary season, in October of this year. And she is slated to star in The Revisionist at Dobama Theatre next April.

As Dorothy notes, "I'm glad I'm still here, and so glad this is such an extraordinary city. It's essentially a blue-collar town where top-flight arts institutions such as the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Karamu House and the Cleveland Play House have endured and thrived for 100 years, or close to it. I think that's remarkable!"

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