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