‘Our Town’

Women in Theater’s new show of old drama still res­onates

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - – H.B.

the scene at the olim Cen­ter – a com­mu­nity cen­ter for new im­mi­grants in mac­cabim-reut – was one of happy pan­de­mo­nium re­cently, as re­hearsals for three dif­fer­ent all-fe­male stage pro­duc­tions pro­ceeded si­mul­ta­ne­ously in three sep­a­rate class­rooms. pre­sid­ing over it all with aplomb was pnina Fred­man-Schechter, a vet­eran di­rec­tor and ed­u­ca­tor who along with ta­mar Krant­man-Weiss helped found Women in theater (WIt), a per­for­mance troupe that has been ex­pand­ing cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties for Is­rael’s “an­glo” com­mu­nity for 10 years.

“act­ing, like life, is not about talk­ing; it’s about do­ing – de­ter­min­ing your char­ac­ter’s ob­jec­tive, and then find­ing the myr­iad ways to at­tain that ob­jec­tive in every on-stage in­ter­ac­tion,” says Fred­man-Schechter. al­ways pas­sion­ate about theater, Fred­man-Schechter be­gan di­rect­ing at the age of 14. prior to mak­ing aliyah in 2000, she stud­ied and later taught act­ing and drama at new york univer­sity.

Fred­man-Schechter con­fesses that she was an extremely shy child.

“I didn’t open my mouth at school un­til my fourth grade teacher, mrs. Fis­cher, pushed me to star on­stage. mrs. Fis­cher saw what I was ca­pa­ble of and helped me re­al­ize it. that ex­pe­ri­ence changed my per­spec­tive on ev­ery­thing.” She adds, “a long time ago, I de­ter­mined that my core ob­jec­tive in life is to bring out the po­ten­tial of the peo­ple around me. that’s what I try to do with my fam­ily, with my clients, and with ev­ery­one who par­tic­i­pates in my shows.”

Fred­man-Schechter teaches in­ter­view skills with the goal of help­ing clients feel com­fort­able ex­press­ing their “best selves.” She is also a well-known theater ed­u­ca­tor in her home town of beit Shemesh. di­rect­ing shows in an af­ter-school frame­work for ele­men­tary school girls, she pro­duces a mu­si­cal each year, with the pro­ceeds of the per­for­mances go­ing to a lo­cal chil­dren’s li­brary.

her work with WIt con­tin­ues to evolve. In 2014, to­gether with ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Krant­man-Weiss and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor ni­noska ravid, and Fred­man-Schechter es­tab­lished WIt as a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. the WIt team has built a dif­fer­ent type of all-fe­male com­mu­nity, com­pris­ing in­di­vid­u­als rang­ing from first-time per­form­ers to sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als who, for re­li­gious rea­sons, pre­fer to per­form for women-only au­di­ences.

WIt’s cur­rent pro­jects in­clude a re­vival of an orig­i­nal mu­si­cal, Raquela, which was writ­ten by Fred­man-Schechter with mu­sic com­posed by WIt co­founder Krant­man-Weiss. First per­formed in jan­uary 2015, Raquela is based on the true-life story of ninth-gen­er­a­tion jerusalemite raquela levy-pry­wes, a nurse-mid­wife who helped de­liver ba­bies of holo­caust sur­vivors in the atlit and Cyprus de­ten­tion camps, where jewish refugees were held af­ter World War II. Raquela’s story par­al­lels the story of the birth of the State of Is­rael, some­thing that Fred­man-Schechter built into her script through the use of a split-stage tech­nique that al­lows the au­di­ence to watch events un­fold­ing in the de­ten­tion camps, post­war europe, and pre-state Is­rael si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

First per­formed with a cast of more than 50 women and girls, Raquela was re­cently per­formed in an abridged ver­sion for vis­it­ing mem­bers of hadas­sah In­ter­na­tional, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that, then as now, sup­ported hadas­sah hospi­tal, where raquela orig­i­nally worked. this per­for­mance took place not far from the orig­i­nal atlit camp, now a na­tional his­tor­i­cal park.

un­der Fred­man-Schechter’s di­rec­tion, WIt is work­ing on two ad­di­tional shows. In march, WIt will pre­miere a mu­si­cal called Stages,

which uses pop­u­lar broad­way tunes to con­struct an orig­i­nal nar­ra­tive about friend­ship through­out the stages in wom­ens’ lives. ad­di­tion­ally, in a show open­ing on november 15 in jerusalem – with ad­di­tional per­for­mances in modi’in and ra’anana – WIt will present thorn­ton Wilder’s pulitzer prize-win­ning drama, Our Town.

She re­veals: “I’ve al­ways wanted to direct Our Town be­cause it mag­i­cally trans­forms the au­di­ence so that when they leave the theater they are in­spired to no­tice life’s beauty, ap­pre­ci­ate their re­la­tion­ships and hug their loved ones just a lit­tle bit longer and tighter.”

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