Metroplex clergy collaborate for ‘Talley’s Folly’
Photo: Courtesy Cantor Paul Dorman
Rabbi Adam Roffman (Matt Friedman), Cheyenne Tharp (Sally Talley), Hanna Kolasinska (stage manager), Professor Richard Allen rehearse “Talley’s Folly.”

By Michael Sudhalter

Two former off-Broadway actors and an ex-soap-opera lead writer walk into synagogue.

There’s no punchline — far from it.

Cantor Paul Dorman, Rabbi Adam Roffman and TCU Film, Television and Media Professor Richard Allen have found much fulfillment in their current roles. But the trio won’t pass up the chance to dabble in the theatrics of their former professions.

“I’ve lived in Fort Worth for 31 years and this is a special time for the Jewish community in the Metroplex (because) we have people with the background, experiences and talent of Paul and Adam,” Allen said.

Thus, they have decided to collaborate on a stage reading of “Talley’s Folly,” a 1980 Lanford Wilson play that explores the romance between a Jewish man and Protestant woman.

The stage reading will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 4050 South Hulen St. in Fort Worth. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served starting at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for students. It is a collaboration between CAS and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County.

Cantor Paul Dorman

The proceeds will go toward a CAS Arts Fund in honor of Ted Herman, a CAS member who passed away at age 17 in 2016. The fund will help make future arts projects possible at CAS.

Dorman, who moved to Fort Worth from Los Angeles last summer to become CAS’ cantor, “thought about bringing theater to synagogue.”

“I wanted to do a group of play readings that were somehow connected to Judaism that showed diversity, acceptance and understanding,” said Dorman, who will produce this edition of “Talley’s Folly.”

Allen’s wife, Cantor Sheri Allen, is the co-founder of a synagogue in Fort Worth, Makom Shelanu Congregation.

Dorman and Allen had worked in similar circles in New York and Los Angeles but never met during their time in the entertainment world.

“I called Richard and said ‘I think I have a project for you’ and he was really excited about it,” Dorman said. “Richard asked me what play I wanted to direct. I told him I already hit a home run by getting him to agree to direct it. I said, ‘You can pick.’”

Allen chose “Talley’s Folly,” which originally starred Judd Hirsch as Matt Friedman and Trish Hawkins as Sally Talley. The play is set in rural southern Missouri in the mid-1940s.

Allen and Dorman had the perfect actor in mind to play Friedman: Shearith Israel Rabbi Adam Roffman, who performed a one-man show, “Songs The Rabbi Shouldn’t Sing” last fall in Dallas.

Allen introduced Dorman and Roffman at the latter’s one man show, which Allen produced.

Roffman agreed to do the stage reading and he became fascinated with Friedman’s character, especially his relevance in today’s world where antisemitism has grown exponentially since Oct. 7.

“Matt is struggling with his place in the world and thought he could put his past behind him,” Roffman said. “He’s living this life in America and hoping (antisemitism) is something he doesn’t have to think about. He learns you can’t be in a relationship and hide a central part of who you are.”

As he does with all of his characters, Roffman jumped head-first into learning everything about Friedman.

“I’m finding the individual beats and the emotional punctuation marks of the character,” Roffman said. “He’s a very wordy character who says a lot — sometimes, very quickly.”

Roffman will be performing on the western side of the Metroplex for the first time since he performed his first one-man show there in 2017.

“Adam has a following and we’ll have people coming in from Dallas,” Allen said. “It’s like bringing a guest star from out of town. I’m so excited to work with him again. This is the kind of story that will resonate with people.”

Playing opposite Allen will be Cheyenne Tharp, a TCU student who will play Sally Talley.

Other characters will be discussed to the point that the audience will know a great deal about them. But they’ll never be shown.

Dorman eventually hopes to have plays at CAS once the situation presents itself.

He said there’s something special about stage readings, too.

“A lot is going on, on stage, and you’re trying to follow what’s happening,” Dorman said. “You can really hear the playwright’s words.”

Allen agreed, saying it will bring people’s minds back to a bygone generation when radio dialogue left much to the imagination.

“When done right, stage readings create an experience,” Allen said. “You’re watching the actors, but you’re also bringing your imagination into play.”

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