The way we were – and are

Women in Theater’s ‘Our Town’ res­onates with us to­day

The Jerusalem Post - - ARTS ENTERTAINMENT - • By HARRY BRAUN

For years, the Women in theater group has been pro­duc­ing mu­si­cal plays that res­onate with its all-fe­male au­di­ences. now, WIt’s ac­tiv­i­ties are taking a de­ci­sively dra­matic turn, as they present thorn­ton Wilder’s pulitzer prize-win­ning drama Our Town at the­aters through­out Is­rael.

Our Town rep­re­sents a com­ing-ofage mo­ment for the grow­ing women’s theater com­mu­nity in Is­rael. un­like other english-lan­guage stage pro­duc­tions pre­sented by all-fe­male re­li­gious troupes in re­cent years, Our Town does not fo­cus on jewish or even fem­i­nine themes. In­stead, with this show, WIt is stak­ing its claim to the wider play­ing field, as­sert­ing its readi­ness to bring a clas­sic work of dra­matic lit­er­a­ture to life and ex­plore its univer­sal themes.

the ac­tion of Our Town is played out in the fic­tional vil­lage of Grover’s Cor­ners, new hamp­shire. Con­sid­ered wildly rad­i­cal when it de­buted 80 years ago, the play uses pan­tomimed ac­tion, leaps in chronol­ogy and other un­tra­di­tional stage tech­niques on a nearly bare stage. but the show’s lack of scenery only adds to emo­tional im­pact, as the au­di­ence is chal­lenged to con­sider the per­sonal, mile­stone mo­ments – in­clud­ing love, mar­riage, and ul­ti­mately death – that link us to hu­mankind’s past and fu­ture, across the generations.

In its re­cent broad­way re­vival, the town’s Stage man­ager – a role orig­i­nally writ­ten for a man, per­formed by such lu­mi­nar­ies as henry Fonda and paul new­man – was en­trusted to the well-known stage and film ac­tress he­len hunt. In the cur­rent WIt pro­duc­tion, the Stage man­ager is played by ac­tress and singer-song­writer Sandy Cash.

“as a per­form­ing song­writer, I de­vel­oped a per­sonal style that in­volves lots of talk­ing di­rectly to the au­di­ence,” Cash told In Jerusalem. “as the Stage man­ager – a role that might be called the “ham­let” of amer­i­can drama be­cause of its long mono­logues – I also com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with peo­ple in the theater. I’m in­side the ac­tion and out­side of it at the same time, en­cour­ag­ing the au­di­ence to see them­selves as part of the univer­sal drama taking place on stage.”

In par­al­lel to its artis­tic objectives, WIt has an ed­u­ca­tional mis­sion: founded in 2008, and es­tab­lished as a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2014, the troupe presents a cus­tom­ized “cur­ricu­lum” for each pro­duc­tion, fa­mil­iar­iz­ing the par­tic­i­pants with each play’s themes and com­par­ing them to wider trends in world his­tory and jewish life. as WIt’s per­form­ers range widely in age and ex­pe­ri­ence – the youngest “ci­ti­zen” of Our Town is just 10 years old, and the old­est is 78 – this ap­proach helps the en­tire cast bet­ter un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the worlds they in­habit on stage.

“one of the things that drew me to direct this play is the fact that, as im­mi­grants to Is­rael, we all live in an ‘our town,’” says di­rec­tor pnina Fred­man-Schechter, who, be­fore mak­ing aliyah, taught act­ing and drama at nyu, and worked off-broad­way. “on one level or an­other, we’ve cho­sen to live in com­mu­ni­ties where we look out for one an­other, know each other’s busi­ness and com­mem­o­rate life’s mile­stones to­gether. Wilder’s

Our Town is our towns, too.

Fred­man-Schechter notes the play’s time­less mes­sage about trea­sur­ing life be­fore it’s all gone.

“the idea that we get caught up with dis­trac­tions and lose sight of what mat­ters most is cer­tainly as rel­e­vant to­day as when the play was writ­ten. per­haps even more so.”

ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer ta­mar Krant­man Weiss says, “be­cause it is per­formed with­out props, Our Town

gives phys­i­cal ex­pres­sion to the idea that ‘things’ aren’t as sig­nif­i­cant as we some­times think.”

man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and cos­tume de­signer ni­noska ravid adds: “the play is ex­cep­tional be­cause it grabs us, chal­lenges us and pro­vides a les­son in the spir­i­tual prac­tice of never taking any­thing for granted.”

Per­for­mances are in English. For women and girls of all ages.

• Thurs­day, November 15 at 8 p.m. – Jerusalem, Hirsch Theater, 6 Eliyahu

Shama Street

• Mon­day, November 26 at 8 p.m. – Modi’in, Ei­nan Theater, Azrieli Mall, top floor (op­po­site the cin­ema)

• Wed­nes­day, November 28 at 8 p.m. – Ra’anana, Yad Le­banim, 147 Ahuza

Street

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.

wom­eninthe­ater.com

(Dalia Weiss)

THE STAGE MAN­AGER, played by Sandy Cash (third from right), looks on at a re­hearsal as the towns­peo­ple of Grover’s Cor­ners throw rice at a wed­ding.

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