A Remembrance and Appreciation of Joe Green

by Lynn on February 5, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

Dr. Joseph Green was a gravely-voiced, formidable man of the theatre among many other things. He was the founding Chair of the Theatre Department of York University, where I, as a student, first met him in the first year of that program, in the Faculty of Fine Arts. I was taking the History, Theory and Criticism of Theatre component. Dr. Green was one of my professors. I was older than most of the students—I had to work for a year to raise my marks to get admitted—and while everyone called him “Joe”, I just couldn’t. I guess it was old-fashioned of me in that he was the Chair of the department and being that ‘familiar’ seemed wrong. So I compromised and called him “Doc.” I think he liked that. He called me Lynnie.

He was the best professor I ever had. He was the only professor who regularly said he learned from his students. He said there were no right or wrong answers in theatre, just well reasoned, supported opinion. He was not only my professor, he was also my mentor of sorts: an advisor, a support who encouraged with kindness and suggestion. His door was always open and he was always eager to listen. I wrote reviews for the University newspaper and I recall referencing some sticky moments on department business with him. He handled the questions with courtesy, understanding of both sides of the issues and respect. Formality was not his style. If I offered a Tootsie Pop he would immediately take off the wrapper and put the sucker in his mouth and carry on the discussion.

I loved my time at York–in great part because of Joe Green. I treated my graduation with solemnity and seriousness. I even wore a dress to the ceremony. I never wear them but made an exception for this great day in my life. I was graduating with the students in my college. We were a smallish group and we all knew each other. We had to arrange ourselves into alphabetical order. We could not do it. We were newly minted Honours BA students; we had read a book or two all the way through; we wrote essays that made sense in many cases but we just did not seem to be able to arrange ourselves in alphabetical order with any kind of ease. After several tries we finally managed to do it. That put everything in perspective for me. Reverence was good on such an occasion, but so was irreverence.

When we went up on the stage to get our diplomas, we each handed a slip of paper with our full name on it to (Doc) Joe Green who would read it out as we crossed over to the other side of the stage to be given our diploma by the Dean. I gave Doc my slip of paper. And a Tootsie Pop. As I crossed the stage he read out in that booming, authoritative voice of his, “Lynn Rose Tootsie Pop Slotkin.”

The whole place burst with laughter, none louder than me. I loved him.

I’d see Doc over the years at the theatre. We kept in touch. We both had sight issues and would commiserate over them. He lost the sight in his left eye years before to an instant virus. It left his eye totally white. He would wear glasses with the left pane tinted so you wouldn’t see the eye. He eventually just wore regular glasses showing that dramatic white eye. I lost the sight in my right eye about nine years ago through bad luck and medical incompetence. I was able to hide my unsightly eye with a cosmetic contact lens that looks like an eye. I asked why he didn’t get one. He said his eyeball was too sensitive to wear it. We both remarked how lucky we were to have another good eye.

In late December, I was stunned to read a Facebook posting from a friend that Doc was dying of cancer, that was spreading. He was staying in a hospice close to me, waiting for the inevitable. There had been a lovely interview on Metro Morning with him and how he said he had a great life and was now ready to leave. He vowed to live until his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife Rhoda, which was in a few days, and he did.

I immediately wrote him a note telling him how much he meant to me, what a support he was, how he was so encouraging. And I enclosed a Tootsie Pop. I delivered it to the hospice. What a quiet, calm, warm place. The young woman who took the package was kind and assured me he would get it. Damned if there wasn’t the sweetest e-mail from Doc when I got home, saying how good it was to hear from me and how touched he was to get my note. I envisioned he wrote it while sucking on that lollipop.

Joe Green died Friday, Feb 3, 2017.

Love you, Doc, and thanks.


Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Marc Green February 14, 2017 at 11:53 am

Dear Lynn;
This is a beautiful piece. It warms my heart to hear yet another story of my fathers positive influence, and the joy, humour, inspiration, and love of life he shared with so many people he came in contact with. I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience with him, and that you wrote with such warmth and love for him in this article.
I miss him dearly, and your writing reminds me of how much. Thank you so much for this.