By Charles Innis
After directing her swan song “Clybourne Park” for six productions throughout November, Theater Arts Department Chair Gloria Weinstock is leaving City College.
This same veteran instructor has once acted alongside high-profile actors like Danny Glover and has opened for musicians like Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Santana in an Afro-Haitian dance group at The Fillmore.
Her retirement comes after almost 40 years of directing and instructing for the Theater Arts Department.
Yet despite her years of activity, she does not plan on being idle in her retirement.
After some brief rest and relaxation, Weinstock aims to travel the globe and re-immerse herself in the world of theater.
“My plan is to go back into professional theater and really listen to the universe,” she said.
Although she’s departing to pursue her own acting, one cannot conclude that she hasn’t had a fair share of experience in theatre already.
Since birth Weinstock’s had her hands in a myriad of artistic and theatrical endeavors, starting with her upbringing in an artist community in North Rochelle, N.Y.
Many acclaimed thespians and artists were raising families there during Weinstock’s childhood, including Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, the former being an original cast member of the 1959’s Broadway production “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Both Dee and Davis mentored Weinstock with acting at a young age.
The three of them, along with other actors including Sidney Poitier, were founding members of the Theater Arts Company of Westchester.
“We would tour through Westchester County doing plays,” Weinstock said. “So by the time I was 15 I had been up and down Westchester county acting with this company.”
Years down the line, she found herself moving to San Francisco at a time when a whirlwind of artists and musicians were migrating across the country to the historic Haight-Ashbury streets.
She joined an Afro-Haitian dance group called The Kwanditos and danced opening shows for now-legendary musicians at The Fillmore.
But Weinstock’s history with City College begins in 1972 when she began taking classes in journalism, art and theatre for her own personal fulfillment.
Eventually she was picked by the chair of the African American Studies Department to teach a black theater class. As years went on, she continued teaching and became the Theater Arts Department chair in 2003.
Weinstock has directed dozens of plays with City College and her pupils often come back to act in her productions years after taking classes with her.
Lukas Hoag has acted in Weinstock’s productions for over four semesters.
“She treats her craft like a child and at times becomes defensive for it if she feels its being treated improperly, not given its due respect,” he said, regarding her instructing.
Hoag is part of the ensemble cast in “Clybourne Park,” Weinstock’s final production with City College.
Weinstock has expressed her admiration for the Tony Award-winning play since its Broadway debut in 2012 and is proud to direct it now in the context of San Francisco today.
“The students, San Francisco, everyone here understands the issue,” she said.
Said issues in “Clybourne Park” revolve around racism, gentrification, confrontation and grief.
The play’s two acts take place in 1959 and 2009 respectively, and both involve the conflict of a family moving into a neighborhood inhabited mostly by a different racial group.
What Weinstock appreciates about it is not its topical subject, but its universally applicable themes.
“It’s about human frailties. It’s about human beings. It’s about you and me and how our proclivities take over sometimes and how we respond to internal pain,” she said. “It’s about human beings and those are the plays that last forever.”
Although “Clybourne Park” marks the end of her time with City College, Weinstock said she still considers it a home and believes the college will surmount its current accreditation battle.
“I know who my colleague are, I know how smart they are and I know that they are dedicated to the students,” Weinstock said. “And they are going to do everything they can to make sure that City College students continue to benefit from what we’ve had and we’ve been getting all these years.”