My eyes are still on the floor as Cole strolls into the lobby of the
"I kvell!" she said, as we turned a corner into the theater -- striking for the emptiness of its velvety seats, and the echo from the soaring ceiling.
"Kvell," Cole repeated. "That's Yiddish. I beam with pride at this. Like a mother seeing her child."
The theater was more like a grandparent -- 75 years old, and failing -- in 1994, when Cole, 67, bought it for
With the can-do attitude of the flight attendant she once was, and the skill with numbers and business she mastered in the tech world, Cole made the
"It's a community organization and asset," she insisted. "Not my dilettante project."
While not a dilettante,
She married, divorced, traveled the country on the back of a motorcycle, then got a front seat for the computer revolution, first with Tymshare, then Apple and then
She took French lessons in
And while Cole transferred ownership of the theater to the
She was recently honored at the
"There are things I'd like to do with it that aren't romantic," she said of the money, tilting her head back in her seat. "Change the bulbs in the ceiling. Change the front curtain."
Maybe something with the walls, she said, looking from side to side.
"If you mar a wall, you can't just paint," she said. "You have to call in a restorer."
In addition, Cole just finished the first of a three-year term as a Tony Award nominator. She is one of 33 artists, designers, producers and actors who see every show on
A month ago, Cole and her fellow nominators started filling out their ballots at 4:30 in the afternoon and didn't finish until
The next day, the nominations were announced. Cole heard them with everyone else.
She is a theater fan of the highest order -- out a couple of nights a week anyway. But as a nominator, well,
"You have to pay attention in a different way," she said of her new role, "to notice what shouldn't be noticed. The kind of things you only notice when they're bad, like sound design."
The minute she gets home, she makes notes in a spread sheet.
"It is a different way to see theater," she said. "There have been shows I've gone back to, just to see it as an audience member."
She wasn't much of a theater person before she came to
The only experience she had with performing was playing the oboe in high-school bands and a chamber orchestra. But that ended when she was 25.
New friends encouraged her to subscribe to
"I love the business of theater," she said. "And I love the creative. The actors, the music."
The trick, she said, is not letting the numbers "kill the joy," she said. "You have to know that it's a package deal."
Some of her fellow
"I think the arts are the great communicators," she said. "There are things you can do through the arts that you can't do any other way. Ever notice how you don't have to teach kids to sing and dance?"
"In the arts, you learn teamwork, collaboration, attention to detail," she said. "Even physics. The final output is so emotionally satisfying."
Cole splits her time between a place on
She sits on the Lincoln Center Theater Board, and in that capacity oversaw the construction of the
"I brought it in on time and on budget," Cole said, not so much bragging, but pointing out that it can be done.
"It's good that the city evolves, that it's not being bonsai-ed," Cole said. "What makes
"It's great fun, and it puts me in touch with people," Cole said. "I love their stories. Some of them are Holocaust survivors, or people who I don't know how are managing in
"I haven't had so much fun in forever," she said. "I want to have some solitude, to try to stay useful and have fun.
"I was in really stressful situations, and it's time to lay that down and not live my life around accomplishment and achievement. So much of myself needed to play roles, and now I get to find out who I am.
"It's not like you're a static being. Sometimes you surprise yourself."
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