Naomi Greenberg-Slovin, researcher and playwright, dies at 92

Naomi Greenberg-Slovin, who found a home as a researcher and playwright at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre after an eclectic career as a concert cellist, psychologist and translator, died Wednesday in Towson of pancreatic cancer.

She was 92 and had worked until June.


Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin's death at the Edenwald retirement community came less than a year after that of her sister, Vivienne Shub, a celebrated Baltimore actress whose career would intertwine with Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin's at Everyman in their 80s and 90s.

It was to rejoin her sister in their hometown that Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin returned to Baltimore in 2003, two years after the death of her husband in the Netherlands. Ms. Shub was an established star at Everyman, and Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin accepted a job with the company as a researcher, program writer and adviser on authentic staging — a position known as dramaturg.


Vinny Lancisi, founder and artistic director of Everyman, said he jumped at the opportunity to enlist her skills.

"Her expertise as a writer and researcher were, bar none, the best I'd seen in a long, long time and her passion for the theater was incredible," Mr. Lancisi said. "Her gifts to Everyman were extraordinary."

Her son Jon Greenberg of Washington said she quickly came to love the work.

"She adored good writing. She would read these plays and call me up and she would say, 'You can't believe how well this is written,'" Mr. Greenberg said.

The former Naomi Slovin was born in Baltimore and as a young girl fell in love with the cello. She attended Forest Park High School and went on to the Peabody Institute, where her studies were interrupted by the U.S. entry into World War II.

She enlisted in the women's Naval Reserve, known as the WAVES, and was assigned to Washington's Anacostia section, where she helped to produce scores for naval training films. Mr. Greenberg said his mother recalled that on one occasion the actor Gene Kelly came by the office and danced on her desk.

After the war, she met J. Mayo Greenberg, a graduate student of astrophysics at the Johns Hopkins University. They married in 1947 and soon moved to upstate New York, where he taught at a university and she performed as a cellist with such companies as the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

In the early 1970s, Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin finished her undergraduate studies at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and decided she wanted to become a psychologist — an interest honed by her father's struggles with depression. She obtained a master's degree in psychology in 1973 from the State University of New York in Albany but the next year her husband took a job at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin spent almost 30 years there, practicing psychology and translating scientific papers from Dutch into English.

After her husband died in 2001, and with her four children raised, Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin decided to move to Baltimore to live with her recently widowed sister.

After a few years of writing programs for Everyman, Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin became a first-time playwright at 83 in 2006. She wrote a one-woman play for her sister called "The Cone Sister," in which Shub played Etta Cone, who along with her sister Claribel amassed the Cone Collection of European art that would become known as the "crown jewel" of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"Not only did we extend it, we brought it back," Mr. Lancisi said. "She hit a nerve with our audience that they couldn't get enough of it."

The sisters would repeat their success in 2008 in Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin's one-woman retrospective of Shub's life called "Viva La Vivienne," performed at Everyman when the actress was 90.

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Tom Hall, music director at the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, said that during his work with Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin he came to appreciate the remarkable bond between the two "inseparable" sisters. He recalls meeting the two aged women as they took long walks through Druid Hill Park, supporting each other.


"It's burned in my memories as some of the great moments of serendipity and beauty I've experienced," Mr. Hall said.

Marc Steiner, the WEAA-FM radio host and a friend of the sisters, said he once told them over a glass of wine that he couldn't tell at first whether they were sisters or lovers.

"They laughed. They howled. They said we might be both, you never know," he said.

In addition to Mr. Greenberg, Mrs. Greenberg-Slovin is survived by another son, Josh Greenberg of Albany; two daughters, Winnie Freeman of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Shelly Greenberg of The Hague in the Netherlands, and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette St.