Monday, November 15, 2010

Creativity in the face of challenge

Raise Your Spirits Theatre is a community theater group in Gush Etzion founded by Sharon Katz and Toby Klein Greenwald. The group puts on shows which involve many women in the planning, production and performance. Any profits are channeled toward helping victims of terror, families in need, emergency medical equipment and other needs.                                                                                   
"In 2001, amidst an atmosphere of grief and terror,a group of women in Gush Etzion joined together to the raise spirits of their community and all of Israel. Rather than succumb to the depression caused by daily terror attacks, they decided to start a project that would give them a positive outlet and something wonderful to look forward to. They decided to put on a show. The rest, as they say, is history. (from their website)"
Orthodox Jewish women don't have a lot outlets for their creativity if they are talented in the performing arts. But in the last generation there have been some serious efforts to encourage more opportunities. Emunah Teachers College in Jerusalem has a drama department and Orot Israel College in Elkana has a dance department. The graduates of these programs have been working in girls schools around the country setting up classes and in some cases departments where the girls of the religious Zionist community can learn, practice and perform.
The Raise Your Spirits group is different. This group is a group of everywomen or at least a nice cross-section of ages and interests. Some families even had three generations participating.
The book of Judges שופטים is the story of the early years after the Jews entered the Land of Israel and is about their struggle to conquer and rule the land. After Joshua's time there was a lack of central leadership and ups and downs regarding faith and unity among the people of Israel. Many see parallels to our situation today.
The Song of Devora is an upbeat story of charismatic leadership, faith and inspiration. The writers Toby Klein Greenwald and Yael Valier reach out and ignite our imaginations and the music by Mitch Clyman makes you want to get up and dance. Speaking of dance Sara Orenstein is an honors graduate of the Orot Israel dance and education program and did a fantastic job.
The performance is a patchwork of scenes which set the background to the story and then introduce each character center stage all leading to the great confrontation. The performers, some have professional training but most are just regular folks, carry this off beautifully. All through the show, besides performing admirably they show us that they are not just individual performers but a cohesive unit and most of all they seem to be having a really good time.
After all the finales we were asked to stand for Hatikvah and Ani Ma'amin. The auditorium at the community center in Gush Etzion became a very intimate place as the dozens of players and production helpers who were on stage face the scores of women in the audience and sang together. In those moments you could feel the unity and faith that is the common denominator for all of us there. It was very very special and I hope to see more of these moments.


Batya said...

We're trying to organzie a group from the Mateh Binyamin area for the Dec. 19 performance. Please spread the word.

Toby Klein Greenwald said...

Thank you Risa! We hope women will come from all over the world to see it!
Toby Klein Greenwald

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