Bringing talent back to the community
By Shari Goldstein Stern
As stages went dark this past spring and summer, theater lovers still had plenty of experiences to enjoy, from online performances to in-person camps and virtual workshops.
Immigrant’s story: Theatre Three
Theatre Three rolled in “The Immigrant” in June, an inventive, livestreaming play by Mark Harelik, directed by Jeffrey Schmidt, the organization’s artistic director.
A true story based on a family of Russian Jews who enter the U.S. via the Port of Galveston, it takes place in the small town in which the family settled, Hamilton, Texas.
How this strictly Orthodox, traditional family assimilates as the only Jews in the tiny Christian town is the broad theme of the story. It’s a story of how people from drastically different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs can find common ground and form lifelong relationships. Based on the life of the playwright’s grandfather, Haskell Harelik, this play, with a storyline that addresses negative attitudes toward immigrants and Jews, resonates deeply today.
Carrollton’s Benjamin Stegmair, an SMU theater student, played Haskell Harelik, a young man who grows over decades with precision, authenticity and believability.
The actor credits Randy Pearlman, well-known local actor and cantorial soloist at Adat Chaverim and Temple Emanu-El, who was cultural adviser for the show. “I knew some pronunciation because my father immigrated here from Munich. But Randy’s tutelage was irreplaceable in helping me with Yiddish and ‘Old World’ gestures,” Stegmair said.
Pearlman said, “Since we were working on Zoom, all that was especially challenging. We were never in a room together.” He continued, “The two things I did for the cast were to transpose the Yiddish and Hebrew into easy to read English transliteration, similar to what they do in prayer books.”
Pearlman asked Krista Scott, who worked with the cast on accent, to record the Yiddish slowly so that the inflection and pronunciation could be heard clearly. “I think the combination of the two created the fluidity and realism that was needed,” he said.
Despite the unconventional performance mode, Stegmair said, he was grateful for the opportunity. “Even though working with green screens and Zoom is not the preferred method to present theater, it’s the one we have now and if it supports theater when the virus stands in our way, thank heaven we have this way.”
Nurturing talent: College Audition Preparation Weekend
Lauren Magee, a high school senior at Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, was pleased about the chance to improve her skills at virtual auditions through the College Audition Preparation Weekend, directed by Tracy Jordan.
“My goal was to get a feel for this new virtual audition process and to network with the heads of the musical theater programs,” Magee said.
Magee, whose family has long been affiliated with Beth-El Congregation of Fort Worth, plans to pursue a musical theater degree at a college with a strong film and TV department, and to minor in business. The workshop gave her access to schools she had not been familiar with before.
The workshop included 72 students and representatives of 14 colleges. Students were divided into small groups.
The event was organized by Jordan, the workshop’s executive director, who has worked in the industry for more than 35 years. As former executive director of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ (DSM) High School Musical Theatre Awards, he built the second largest program of its kind in the country, spotlighting young, talented, performers in public and private schools across North Texas.
Jordan also served DSM as director of production and operations and as a facility and general manager for Majestic Theater.
“Not only was I thrilled to show my audition material to the program directors and getting their feedback, I had a blast. I learned a lot, made some great connections, and made many new friends,” Magee added.
Camp during COVID-19: Aaron Family JCC
Alise Robinson, performing arts director at the JCC, has created two performing arts programs over the past seven years: the Jewish Performing Arts Program (JPAS) for school-aged children ages 7 to 18 and JPAS, Jr. for younger children, ages 3 to 6.
This summer Robinson conducted two summer performing arts camps in person, following COVID-19 safety guidelines. Starquest and Starpower Theater Camps have earned high praise from parents and grandparents every year.
In addition to summer camps, the two programs have classes and workshops year-round.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, Robinson coaches young performers to “rise up to personal greatness.”
She says it’s important to instill self-worth at a young age. “We focus on attributes like critical thinking and mindfulness. We help them build a level of confidence that empowers their dreams and potential.”
Tickling the ivories: Vogel Alcove
Last week the virtual curtain went up on Vogel Alcove for An Evening with Martyn Lucas, aka World Piano Man. Lucas played the lead in “Phantom of the Opera” in London and sang at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. The pianist has achieved the World Piano Man moniker for his breadth of work, which includes a repertoire of 650 vocals. He performed in the voices of 14 singers including Pavarotti, Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and Louis Armstrong.
Making music: Dallas Summer Musicals
The organization’s livestream concert event earlier this month, “Christopher Jackson: Live from the West Side,” raised money to support the organization’s mission to deliver the spirit of Broadway to North Texas. Jackson is a Grammy and Emmy-award winning songwriter/composer known for his role as George Washington in the original cast of “Hamilton.”
Doing their part: Dallas Theater Center
The Dallas Theater Center is offering free Virtual Production Classes about behind-the-scenes processes. First up: mask-making in the costume department. The organization donated approximately than 2,100 masks throughout the Dallas Fort Worth area.
“Not knowing how long the pandemic might last, we created a how-to video. Mask-making is one small way we can contribute to a safer environment,” says costume director Michael Wild. Future videos including costuming, makeup and hair are also planned. “This offers students an opportunity to ask questions about the designing and building process necessary to bring a play to the stage,” Wild said. The free videos are available for students of all ages and skill level at dallastheatercenter.org/production-classroom/.
Ghost stories and more: Theatre Three
In October, the organization will offer a live-streamed show by The Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. “The Bippy Bobby Boo Show: 2020 Call in Special” will be available Oct. 23 to Nov. 3; it recalls the “ghosts” of Theater Three performances past.
And be on the lookout for a production to replace the previously scheduled “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Theatre Three has commissioned four local playwrights — Jonathan Norton, Blake Hackler, Nicole Neely and The Drama Club — to contribute short pieces to be produced virtually in one jam-packed program. Streaming access codes are only $15 and are available for purchase, along with show times and more information, at Theatre3Dallas.com or by calling the box office, 214-871-3300.