“I have so many things I want to do in this third act of my life,” says Victoria Rauch Lichterman, assistant professor of humanities at New York City College of Technology (City Tech). A veteran professional actress, published writer, teacher and articulate advocate for the advancement of women and minorities, Lichterman, who is in her late sixties, has a full playbill planned for the upcoming year.
For starters, she will be a featured speaker at “Remarkable Women,” a Women’s History Month event taking place at City Tech on Thursday, March 27, from 2:30 to 4 p.m., in the Atrium Amphitheater, 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The title of her talk is “Notes on Growing Olderly.”
“My focus is on ageism and the negative effects it has on those who are confronting old age,” she says. “I’d like to see as great a change in opportunities and expectations for senior citizens as I have seen for younger women in my lifetime. I feel very concerned about the scarcity of visible role models and accurate media images of women aging, specifically models of accomplishment and productivity.”
Too modest to see herself as a role model, Lichterman certainly dispels stereotypes of what is possible. She was 62 when City Tech hired her to teach speech and theatre as a full-time ‘junior’ faculty member. Recently, at 68, she earned tenure.
“I grew up in an era when women’s lack of career opportunities perpetuated low expectations for them,” she says. “A 35-year battle for women’s rights has taken us far beyond my wildest dreams. In some cases we’ve gone too far, and the ‘supermom syndrome’ is a serious problem. But it’s a better ‘class’ of problem than those my generation fought so hard to overcome.”
Though she began acting at age 16 in school productions, Lichterman remembers, “To say that you wanted to be an actress in the 1950s in Athens, Ohio, was laughable.” Nevertheless, she earned a bachelor’s in fine arts degree at Ohio University and master’s of fine arts degree in acting at Yale School of Drama.
After three years at Yale Repertory Theater, she landed roles in New York City on stage, in television and in film. She also performed in regional theatres. In the late 1970s, Lichterman took a break from teaching speech and theatre at Brooklyn College — where she was the youngest and only female faculty member on the departmental curriculum committee — to play a running part in the CBS-TV soap opera “Search For Tomorrow.”
“No one was more surprised than I to find myself making a living as an actor,” she says. “I’ve played just under 100 roles, the most recent one last year, when I performed the role of Melissa Gardner in a reading of A.J. Gurney’s play, Love Letters, at City Tech.” She still performs occasionally, especially with Theatre by the Blind, the Manhattan-based professional company of blind, disabled and sighted actors.
At City Tech, Lichterman has taught courses in effective speaking, voice and diction, introduction to the theatre, drama workshop and group discussion. The College’s unusually diverse student population has provided the impetus for her continuing efforts to help develop a new course in intercultural communication.
“I feel strongly that as the world grows smaller, it isn’t enough just to accept cultural difference,” she says. “We need to find common ground with other cultures in order to prevent backsliding. An intercultural communication course will encourage genuine respect, understanding and, often, true pleasure in relating to those of other backgrounds.”
Lichterman has presented papers and lectures on intercultural communication, representing City Tech last year at the Eastern Communication Association Conference, where she spoke on “Addressing Intercultural Communication Issues When ‘Difference’ is the Norm: Group Discussion Techniques for a Highly Diverse Student Population” and conducted a two-hour intensive “Teachers For Whom English is a Second Language.”
On February 21, she led a workshop, “Conversations on Student-Teacher Communication in the Classroom,” for City Tech faculty and students, sponsored by the Liberal Arts and Sciences Club. “I would like to encourage a support system for faculty members who come to City Tech from other cultures,” she says. “I’m sure that if I taught in another language in a different country, I would need support in order to thrive.”
Her other activities include writing a screen treatment dealing with the racially divided world of the 1940s, supported by a second consecutive Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York (PSC-CUNY) grant. With the working title “No for an Answer,” it is a comical look at radio actors who subvert stereotypes over the airwaves. Lichterman has also received a publishing fellowship from CUNY to develop an educational script dramatizing the eight stages of genocide.
She has also researched and spoken on the subject of “Racial Ventriloquism,” a social science term for white writers creating dialogue for blacks. “For example, on the soap opera, ‘The Young and the Restless,’ white thinking and language are expressed by black actors,” she explains. In the same vein, she recently reviewed Mel Watkins’ book, Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry for The Journal of Popular Culture.
Lichterman has been married for 41 years to Marvin Lichterman, also a professional actor. They recently adopted “Chappy,” a rescue dog. “Chappy has rescued us from any thought of a sedentary lifestyle,” Lichterman says. “Just out of puppyhood, he keeps us busy trying to find where he has hidden our belongings!”
Even with the teaching, writing, researching, acting and other activities Lichterman already has in motion, she keeps generating more ideas — probably enough for an Act IV. Stay tuned.
The largest public college of technology in New York State, City Tech enrolls more than 13,500 students in 57 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs in 21st century technologies and related fields. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, City Tech is at the MetroTech Center academic and commercial complex, convenient to public transportation.