Helaine Kushner, '53 (BardCorps)


Helaine Kushner, '53 (BardCorps)


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Interviewee Role


Significant Quote

"The only thing I knew was the Orient Theater...When I went into the Fisher [Performing Art Center] I thought of this: we did some great work...I'm sure it's lovely for theater majors to have that beautiful theater but it's not the theater; it was the teachers. We produced some wonderful plays and work."


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Class Year


Academic Program



Helene Tieger '85


Helaine graduated in 1953, when Bard was a very different place than it is today. She recalls being drawn to the campus for its rural qualities, and to Bard's progressive approach to education. Helaine remembers the years before and after the Zabriskie family donated the Blithewood estate in 1951, and she describes numerous theater productions including one, performed in Blithewood, in which she played the lead. Other performances were held in Orient Theater, a plain wooden building constructed in the 1860s.

Helaine remembers being one of four students in Elisabeth Hirsch's Philosophy of Religion class; the learning benefits of small class sizes; the positives and negatives of going to a college without any distribution requirements; being unable to get any studying done while sitting on the Blithewood lawn overlooking the Hudson River; her group of close friends at Bard; working as a waitress in the faculty dining room for fifty cents an hour; her post-Bard acting work; and finally, leaving the theater to become a kindergarden teacher. Helaine insists: "Kindergarden is the last period before sophistication."

On pranks: "We had been drinking down at Mike's...we took the sign from the President's office and we put it on a latrine down the road, and we took that sign and put it on the President's office!"

She concludes with a story that she believes characterizes Bard. During his class on costume design, Larry Wismer shouted at a student unfairly. When Helaine defended him, Larry began to yell at her. Helaine was shocked and ran to her South Hall room in tears. Minutes later, Larry knocked on her door to apologize. Helaine wonders whether these kinds of things happen at other schools.


Blithewood, Zabriskie Estate, Larry Wismer, Faith "Tommy" Lillian, Grace "Johnny" Walton, Blithewood Carriage House, Orient Theater, Peter Stone, Sherman Yellen, William Butler Yeats, 'Words on a Window Pane', 'The Silver Cord, ' Larry Hagman, Jazz, Dixieland, Skip Strong, Whitney Bolton, Darius Thieme, Robert Lane, Francis "Frankie" Morris, Felix Hirsch, Elisabeth Hirsch, Robert Koblitz, Heinrich Bluecher, Hannah Arendt, President James Case, Clair Leonard, Lloyd Oppenheim, South Hall, Yerma, Federico García Lorca, Silver Cord, Sidney Howard


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Helaine Kushner, '53 (BardCorps)