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RTC Second Act

Loving the next stage of life

New York Teacher
Mature couple in costume

UFT retiree Harvey Widell and his wife, Fredrica, take a break at a rehearsal for his production of “My Fair Lady.”

Ask Harvey Widell, age 87, about retiring and he asks, “Why?”

But he is retired, after a fashion. Widell retired after 32 years as an English teacher in the gifted program at JHS 240 in Brooklyn and moved to Florida in 1999. “But now,” he said, “I’m more active than I ever was.”

For the past 20 years, Widell has been performing in and directing two traveling theater troupes — Way Off-Broadway Players and Theater Voices — in the Fort Lauderdale area, with performances in 55 communities.

Widell is currently in rehearsal for “South Pacific,” taking on the lead role made famous by Ezio Pinza. Last year he played Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” and the year before that he was Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Widell said he got the hang of performing and directing in Long Island community theater groups while he was still teaching.

A review in the Sun Sentinel, a Fort Lauderdale daily newspaper, said his Way-Off Broadway Players “had the audience in stitches as they performed skits for 45 minutes on a variety of topics.” The performance was declared “top drawer” by a fan who said, “I’ve seen them many times and they’re very enjoyable.”

The Players include seven men and 10 women who have delighted audiences in more than 200 productions in the past 13 years. The actors use no props or scenery and rely on scripts.

“It’s not that we’re unable to memorize, but we do 14 different programs with six parts to each,” Widell explained. “Each player would have to memorize 42 different roles. That’s asking a bit much.”

What people most want to see are musicals, Widell says, so he schedules one musical production a year.

The UFT retiree is also a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a freelance writer who has had some 60 articles published, mainly in music and theater magazines.

When Widell and his wife moved south, Widell said, “I was looking forward to fishing and tennis.” Instead he got hooked on his love for the theater and was soon involved touring with the two acting companies.

“Come on down,” he said, “I’ll sing ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ for you!”

Are you a UFT retiree who has gone on to an interesting second career? Email us at