Johnston residents got to enjoy “Dinner at the White House” last Wednesday – all without leaving their town. “Dinner at the White House” was a one-person play performed by Judy Bernstein at the Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library.
A near full-house, that included pre-teens to senior citizens, took in the opening act of “Between the Covers,” which is the title attached to Mohr’s association with the Collaborative Summer Reading Program (CSLP) across Rhode Island. Last week’s performance kick-started the summer program, supported by The Friends of Mohr Library.
“This was a really good performance,” said Reference Librarian Lori DeCesare.
Bernstein portrayed James Bernard West, also known as J.B., the chief usher at the White House from 1957 to 1969. Bernstein took the audience back to days when Jackie Kennedy was the nation’s first lady, sharing many of West’s experiences.
Bernstein, who was dressed in a black tie tuxedo, did her performance in the upstairs level of Mohr Library. She set up an elegant looking dinner table, and another table with two china coffee cups and saucers and a bronze bell that people used to call West and other White House staffers.
“I was impressed with every phase of Judy Bernstein’s presentation,” DeCesare said. “The audience was really attentive and she also reached the children who attended. It was interesting ... those children were only in the third and fourth grades.”
The presentation was open to the deaf and hard of hearing, thanks to sign language translation by Stacey Anter, the librarian at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. Anter will give Basic Sign Language classes on July 18, 25, Aug. 1 and 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
“That was a great presentation; I liked it,” Anter said.
Mohr Associate Director Grayce Moorehead felt Bernstein’s one-woman play would be a good way to generate interest in the Collaborative Summer Reading Program.
“We thought this would be the perfect way to kick-start the program and it’s nice that it coincides with the Fourth of July,” she said.
The Friends of Mohr board member Helen Antonizio couldn’t help but take in some of the presentation, pulling herself away from her duties of setting up a refreshments table in the next room.
“From what I was able to see, the audience seemed really interested in everything Judy Bernstein had to say,” she said.
All of the food served last week was “baked from scratch according to the original recipes,” according to DeCesare.
Maria Arsenault, Moorhead and Mohr’s bookkeeper Janet Mancini were responsible for the spread. They researched recipes featured in some presidential cookbooks that are available at Johnston’s only public library. They baked Obama’s Orange Yogurt Cakes, Teddy Roosevelt’s Cowboy Cookies and Rich Man’s Shortbread, Barbara Bush’s desserts and Betty Ford’s Blueberry Banana Bread.
For information on Mohr Library or the summer programs, call 231-4980.