Rosaria Baldizzi has some very special guests coming to her apartment next Wednesday night – Tenement Museum visitors! November 6th is Live at the Tenement, where visitors, playing the role of journalists, will meet and interview costumed interpreters portraying three former residents of 97 Orchard Street; Maria McKenna playing Bridget Moore, Jeffrey Marsh as Harris Levine, and Kathleen Fletcher portraying Rosaria Baldizzi.
To help Kathleen rehearse, I assumed the role of Rosaria’s neighbor, Rose, and we sat down for a friendly chat. Here’s what happened:
Rose Bonofiglio: Rosaria, did you hear about the journalists coming to the building tomorrow?
Rosaria Baldizzi: Of course I did – they’re coming to our apartment!
Rose: Here? Goodness! How on earth are you going to get ready for that?
Rosaria: First I’ll open all the windows to bring some fresh air into the apartment. Then I’ll be sure to cover the entire kitchen with Bon Ami so I can scrub out any trace of a mess. After that I’ll use the steel wool to shine all of my pots.
A scene from the Baldizzi family kitchen
Rose: Well, you better scrub everything! Journalists are so nosy… at least that’s what I’ve read in the newspaper. What do you think they’re going to want to know?
Rosaria: I’m not sure what they’d want to know about me or living here, but if they want to talk about the Washboard Weepers that play on WHOM radio station I’ll be able to talk all day! I just hope they’re not as nosy as the inspectors, if any of the reporters try to dig around in my drawers or look into my closet then I’d worry. There’s more I’d be willing to tell them, as long as they know how to keep things off the record.
Rose: Will you tell them everything we have to deal with here? About the rats and the apartment size and the dangerous streets?
Rosaria: Oh my heart still stops when I remember my little Johnny breaking his leg after being hit by a car last year. It isn’t all bad though, I’ll also tell them about our church, St. Teresa’s, being so close and providing great spiritual support; about how nice it is to have other children in the building to play with our young ones; and, of course, I’ll tell them about how much I love Santo Roosevelt!
Rosaria Baldizzi in the 1930's. Her family remembers that she was scrupulously clean, eventually earning the nickname "Shine 'em up Sadie"
Rose: Maybe you’ll mention your wonderful neighbors too!
Rosaria: You would like that, Rose!
Rose: Credit where credit is due, my friend. We all stick together in the building and in the neighborhood, and we take care of each other! What does Adolfo think of it?
Rosaria: When he first heard there would be reporters coming here to interview us, he said, “Only in America!”
Rose: You’ll charm them all, I’m sure. But for the photos, make sure to show them your good side!
Rosaria: As if I had a bad side!
– Posted Lib Tietjen, who wrote the part of Rose Bonofiglio. Kathleen Fletcher wrote for Rosaria Baldizzi, and will be playing her during Live at the Tenement.