Photo By Paul Vasiliades
Story By Randy Gross – email@example.com
Lights up. A YOUNG MAN enters the stage, begins to sing the following lyrics from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Mattinata,” only in Italian.
“Put on your white dress too,
and open the door to your minstrel!
Where you are not, sunlight is missing;
where you are, love dawns.”
RALPH BELLINI, described as an eighty-year-old man who is “vigorous and full of life,” enters, is tempted to speak to the young man, but instead sits down on a park bench. Little does Ralph know, he’ll soon be meeting 75-year-old CAROL REYNOLDS who, as the play title hints, will become Ralph’s final romance.
That opening scene from Joe DiPietro’s “The Last Romance,” a heart-warming comedy about the transformative power of love, was reenacted by Jay and Nancy Krevsky in 2013, at a time, ironically, they were the exact ages of characters Ralph and Carol. Though having appeared on stage, separately, in more than 120 shows in a career spanning more than six decades, it’s the only time the couple has ever acted together.
With hindsight, and the permission of the author, it might be more accurate to retitle the play “The Only Romance.” Keeping in mind that the Krevskys have been married nearly as long as their involvement with theatre, it becomes clear that their enduring romance hasn’t just been with each other, but also with the stage – and, moreover, the entire Harrisburg community. It is for those reasons, and also because the entire Harrisburg community has loved Jay and Nancy back (as supported by the glowing quotes that follow this article) that the Krevskys have been selected as this month’s Influencers.
Greasepaint in their blood
Nancy Conway may have not done any acting as a child, but her father, Tim (of no relation to the late comedian with the same name) was an instrumental force in the early development of Harrisburg Community Theatre, the forerunner to Theatre Harrisburg. Even so, many of her earliest childhood memories revolve around the stage, including a humorous one involving her father.
“When I was 4 years old, I would go to rehearsals with my dad. And, he had a scene with Lavinia Buckwalter, who was our prima donna at that time,” she recalls with a grin. “And he kissed her, on stage, and I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘I’m gonna tell my mommy!’”
Jay Krevsky, on the other hand, grew up in Allentown and was already taking on stage roles as a teenager. “I did shows at the Jewish Community Center, and I just found it to be great fun,” he says. “And I did a couple of plays in high school, which I enjoyed very much.” One of his early memories is of actor Billy Sands, who came to Allentown as a guest director in those days and directed Jay in a play. “If you ever watch the ‘Bilko’ show [which was part of ‘The Phil Silvers Show’],” he reminisces, “he was one of Bilko’s guys.”
Nancy developed a love for theater at an early age but was too shy to perform on stage herself. As an adult, in the late 1950’s, she enrolled at the Harrisburg Institute of Medical Arts for a two-year program that would eventually land her a job as a lab technician at Harrisburg Hospital.
By this time, Jay already had a college degree himself, but was floundering. “I didn’t know what I was going to do … I was a biology major at Muhlenberg, and I got out of the Army, uncertain about what to do, and somebody said, ‘why don’t you try teaching?’”
The lives of the lab technician and aspiring teacher – both theatre enthusiasts – were about to intersect.
Fate. Destiny. No matter how you describe it, the stars and planets must have been aligning for both Jay and Nancy in 1958, the year when Jay moved to Harrisburg.
“Timing is everything,” Jay recalls, “I went to Susquehanna Township, a week before school started, the third week of August, and their one Biology teacher retired the day before I got there. So, they hired me on the spot, and said ‘you better go get certified.’” It would be the start of a long career for Jay, as both a teacher and administrator at William Penn High School, and a principal at the city’s one-time Arts Magnet School.
By September of that same year, Jay was already being lured back to the theatre – and ultimately, into Nancy’s arms.
“Some guy that I was friendly with when I came here said ‘why don’t you look up Harrisburg Community Theater?’ And I did, and I went to their opening show, which was ‘The King and I,’ and I was blown away by the quality of production,” says Jay. “And the next show was called ‘The Happiest Millionaire,’ and they had a role in there, and I auditioned, and I got a part, and I made all kinds of new friends, and it was wonderful.”
That chance casting in “The Happiest Millionaire” would also lead to a chance introduction to Nancy. Jay elaborates: “Every night after rehearsal, everybody would go to Abe’s Tavern at Third and Seneca. Hang out and have beers, snacks, whatever. And not only the cast and crew, but theater hanger-onners. You know, people who loved the theater. And one night I was there, and I was sitting next to Nancy’s father – I didn’t know who he was, except that he was a good guy named Tim – and I happened to mention to no one in general that I needed a date for opening night. And somebody at the table said ‘Tim, why don’t you tell him about Nancy?’ And Tim took out Nancy’s picture, and she was very attractive, and I called her, and we went out. We went to the closing night party, and then we started dating, dated for two years, during which time she got cast as Anne Frank in her first audition ever. We got married in June of ’60.”
Adds Nancy, “we had a great time … we were at the theater all the time, including after hours. We just loved it! A wonderful courtship!”
After the Anne Frank role, Nancy’s “acting bug” would end up rivaling the size of Jay’s passion for theatre. Says Jay, “Nancy’s had, in my opinion, all the great roles in women’s theater. She played Daisy in ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ She played Maggie in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ She played Stella in ‘Streetcar.’ I mean, the list is endless.”
He continues, “And, over the years, I was lucky to get so many great men’s roles. I did Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof” – at York Little Theatre in the early 70’s. And Sancho in ‘Man of La Mancha.’ And I did Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man.’”
Though neither of the Krevskys have ever had the desire to take their talents to bigger stages in New York City, Jay likes to lay claim to having performed in the Big Apple. “I’ve sung on Broadway,” he muses. “8th Avenue and 57th Street. There’s a little bar there called Don’t Tell Momma. I was there with my daughter, a jam-packed little bar with a piano where you can get up and sing, and Mona and I went up there and I sang ‘If I Were a Rich Man.’ When I finished, I sat down, the audience gave me a nice response, and some guy comes by my table and says ‘if you can do it, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get my music, I live right up the street. I’ll be right back.” That mystery singer turned out to be Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The importance of theatre
The importance of local theatre and the importance of the Krevskys to the local theatrical community are pretty much synonymous.
“It’s very important to keep a community looking at itself,” says Nancy. “For me, I think the importance of live theatre is that it reflects society.”
Adds Jay, “I’m a strong believer in the Arts in general. And the fact that people can appreciate the arts in every form, it’s such a blessing to society.”
Jay and Nancy’s combined 120-plus stage roles not only have contributed to the local fabric of Harrisburg’s stage community, but they are the very thread that has stitched together the quilt. Countless actors, directors, dramaturgs, and stage managers – everyone in local theatre who has followed in their stead – have benefitted from the Krevskys dedication to the craft of, as Nancy puts it, “seeing something that is going on at the same time and having a chance to look at it through a different perspective.” And they continue to be involved, spearheading such fundraising initiatives as Theatre Harrisburg’s Angel Campaign, with Jay actually hand-signing the marketing letters.
With children and grandchildren who have also connected themselves with the theatre, including their son, Solomon, who currently sits on the Theatre Harrisburg board of directors, the Krevsky family is now a 4th generation stage family – so it should come as no surprise that Jay and Nancy share the same hope and vision for their beloved theatre’s future.
“It’s been 97 years, and we want it to continue,” beams Nancy. “That would be a wonderful legacy.”
“There are very few theatres that are older than Harrisburg Community Theatre,” adds Jay. “And we want to see its survival, we want to see it continue thriving.”
Stop by the Jay & Nancy Krevsky Production Center of Theatre Harrisburg some afternoon or evening and witness for yourself just how well things are thriving. While you’re there, you very well may hear that young man again from “The Last Romance” repeating his refrain about what can still best be classified as an only romance …
“Where you are not, sunlight is missing;
where you are, love dawns.”
Praise for Jay & Nancy …
“For years, my late husband, Jay Miffoluf, was very active in the Central Pennsylvania theater community. Ironically, there were many occasions when people would mistake him for Jay Krevsky and vice versa even though they looked nothing alike. Yet my Jay and I could think of no greater compliment than being called ‘Jay Krevsky.’ Jay and Nancy are stellar human beings. They have been the heart and soul of theater in Harrisburg, giving of themselves both on stage and behind the scenes and making sure that theater thrives in the area.” — Lori M. Myers, author/playwright
“I’ve known Nancy and Jay Krevsky through Theatre Harrisburg for many years. They have had a tremendously positive impact on the community’s cultural life, and are well respected, admired, and held in deep affection by all who have met them.” — Carrie Wissler-Thomas, President, Art Association of Harrisburg
“I have known at least three generations of the Krevsky family, and they are true pillars of the Harrisburg community. In the world of local theater, Jay and Nancy top the list! As talented performers, as tireless volunteers, and as generous benefactors, they warrant a standing ovation from everyone who knows them!” — David J. Morrison, Executive Director, Historic Harrisburg Association
“My first show at Theatre Harrisburg – when it was still HCT – was Guys and Dolls. I was cast as a member of the Salvation Army Band and Jay Krevsky was playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson. I was new in town and a stranger to everyone in the cast. Jay made sure I felt welcome and included right from the very first day. Over and over again, he and Nancy made sure my husband Ed and I were included as part of the Central PA theater community. The two of them are a terrific couple and such assets to the community.” — Marjorie Bicknell, Playwright
“Jay and Nancy are two of the most genuine, kind-hearted people you could ever meet – they are treasures who enrich the fabric of our communities. Their contributions to the performance arts arena, and the community as a whole, cannot be overstated. Salt of the earth people with servant hearts, Jay and Nancy lead by actions and example, not boasting.” — Mike Pries, Chad Saylor, and George P. Hartwick, III, Dauphin County Commissioners
“When I was a student at The Harrisburg Arts Magnet school, I recall Jay Krevsky – the principal at the time – walking the halls and offering support to each student. He knew students by name and made them feel welcomed – as though they belonged. Throughout my adult life the same warm reception is what I received while finding my voice as a playwright. Mr. Krevsky – as well as his wonderful wife Nancy – are an integral part of the local regional theater scene. I am absolutely thrilled to have my play Pieces premiere at the Krevsky Center next year! It is my full-circle moment.” — Paul Hood, Playwright/Author/Actor
“Jay and Nancy are pillars of the Harrisburg arts community. They are generous and gracious and brilliant. My favorite Jay memory – aside from all his wonderful performances of ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ – was a party at the Hilton years ago. The birthday celebration turned into a fantastic sing-along around the piano. There’s nothing quite like singing through the score of ‘1776’ with Jay Krevsky.” — Stuart Landon, Producing Artistic Director, Open Stage Harrisburg
“Just say ‘Jay and Nancy’ and everyone will know it’s the Krevskys! They are Harrisburg-area theater royalty and beloved members of the Jewish Community. Jay and Nancy’s hearts are as big as their talents, which is why their influence is felt in the best of all possible ways and why they are held in such high regard.” — Mike Greenwald, Senior Advisor, WITF-FM
“Jay and Nancy Krevsky are the living, breathing Mom and Dad of Harrisburg Theatre; nothing less. They have been fixtures at Theater Harrisburg for over half a century, and their performing space on Hurlock Street is very rightly named after them. I speak from a different perspective, however. I’m the Artistic Director of Gamut Classic Theatre in Harrisburg, now celebrating nearly 3 decades in our lovely city. It would have been easy for Jay and Nancy, as scions of Theater Harrisburg, to have regarded myself and my wife (and co-founder) Melissa Nicholson as rivals in such a small community. But they welcomed us unconditionally. And, in many cases, joined in our endeavors.” — Clark Nicholson, Founding Artistic Director, Gamut Classic Theatre
To find out more about Theatre Harrisburg’s 2022-2023 Season (their 97th!) or to donate to their Angel Campaign, visit theatreharrisburg.com.