Friday, November 24, 2017

Intersecting Circles 1 & 2

I will probably write many blogs that will be called intersecting circles. Isn't that the way life is? We don't just sit at our desk and do our work, baste chicken and cut up potatoes, or attend dance class and twirl with abandon.
Working at our desk, we answer the phone to find that our friend lost her keys and needs a lift. With the chicken in our hands, we look down to see the worrying kid with homework trouble. As we pirouette across the dance floor, we get an emergency call from the babysitter.
Different circles of our lives intersect with other circles - work, home, culture, fun.
So, today while writing one show, rehearsals are underway for another. In my world, they're even often at the same location.
This morning, after a Rhythm and Romp dance rehearsal for DAMES of the DANCE 10 - LEGACY, I was back to work on rewrites of my new musical production "HIDDEN - The Secret Jews of Spain" with my co-author Avital Macales. We reviewed dialogue and hummed each tune as it popped up in the script, but the strains of Indian music kept mixing in with our Spanish songs. Interesting blend, but not exactly right for either production.

The toasty-warm kitchen smelled like Ashkenazi Shabbat as Avital and I traveled back in time to seventeenth-century Madrid to further explore our hero's dilemma. The living room was freezing, but Bollywood co-choreographers Bati Katz and Shifra A-C Penkower were sweating as they seemed to be in an intense workout of the upbeat high-energy jumping and bouncing that characterize Bollywood dance.
This is the first year that Bollywood will be part of DAMES, but this year's theme of Legacy makes the style perfect for our show. A legacy of the Jewish people and a dream have been to welcome our brethren from the four corners of the earth. Many Indian Jews, Bnei Menashe, have made their way to nearby Kiryat Arba with the help of the Shavei Israel organization. We also hope they'll make their way to our stage.
So, our circles collided and filled the house with creativity.


A perfect morning.

Monday, November 20, 2017

50s, 60s and 70


I spent the most amazing morning in a Gush Etzion sound studio. Thanks to a music mix, I got to mix with a super creative group of women whose ages spanned three decades. A writer and a soloist in their 50s, (me) a producer in her 60s and a project manager who turns 70. But age had no influence on the excitement and originality that we brought all together to that sound room.

Jocelyn Reisman Odenheimer, 53, is the energetic and ingenious choreographer of the DAMES of the DANCE troupe The Saturday Night Dancers. This year, DAMES’ mega-dance spectacular will be celebrating its tenth year of dancing for charity. It brings together about 100 women from varied backgrounds, ages and communities who donate their time and their talents to the needy and needy projects.
The Saturday Night Dancers strut their stuff in 60s and 70s dancing. Jocelyn thought the SNDers deserved a special song to mark DAMES’ decade anniversary, and she wrote a parody on Y-M-C-A by the Village People. It’s called, of course, D-A-M-E-S and it’s g-r-e-a-t.

Marci Wiesel, 50, is a renowned paper cut artist, reflexologist, naturopath medical student, and a super-shiny stage personality and singer. Marci wowed audiences on stage in Gush Etzion in the title roles of JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and NOAH! Ride the Wave! for the Raise Your Spirits theater company. When Marci recorded her solos, we felt her dazzle through the microphone.

I’m up next, Sharon Katz, 62, founder and producer of DAMES and founder of Raise Your Spirits. The women wanted me to pop by the studio to participate in all the excitement and fun, and get a preview of our great new song. Wow, I feel privileged that I did.

Cheryl Mandel, soon to be 70, started the SNDers 10 years ago for the first DAMES. She still consults on choreography, dances with the group and handles its organizational tasks. Cheryl thoroughly project-managed this recording, booking the studio and organizing the talent.
Teamed up in the studio, we rocked, we danced, we changed a line here and there, and we thrilled to DAMES of the DANCE’s new anthem!! I wish I could play it for you. It’s still in the works.
Thanks to Cheryl, Jocelyn, Marci and the other wonderful women who participated, Judith Epstein, Yael Simckes and Alona Cole. I can’t stop humming your song.
BTW, if you’d like the most beautiful of paper cuts, look no further then www.papercutjudaica.com, 052-811-9400, marci@papercutjudaica.com.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On Stage after 70

Just about every little girl prances in front of the mirror and imagines herself a star, enjoying the applause from her adoring audience. Razzle dazzle, thank you and you and you! Yet, I wonder how many little girls imagined themselves still on stage at 70 years old?
Forget 70. What about 90?

Sylvia Dombey is a feisty 91-year-old who made Aliya from Hendon, England, five years ago, because she didn’t want to paint her house and pull up her rugs. Really. Sylvia had performed for 20 years in England with her late husband for all kinds of organizations. They raised nearly 20,000 pounds for charity doing shows about the lives of famous performers, like Judy Garland, Rogers and Hammerstein, and the greatest of all Sophie Tucker.
“Sophie Tucker!” Sylvia declared, “People don’t even know who I’m talking about.”
Actually, I know exactly who she was talking about, because my grandfather, o’h, raised us on Sophie’s classic, “Some of these daysssssss. Ya gonna miss me, honey.”
Sylvia developed a love of performing at a young age. On Sunday visits to her grandparents, her grandfather used to ask her to “put on the alta kreckers”, the old record albums. “They used to crackle, you know!”
Upon Aliya, Sylvia performed her shows in Jerusalem’s AACI - Americans and Canadians in Israel. Then at 89, she retired from the stage, and today is busy with weekly programs at AACI, Hadassah book club and her grandchildren who live in Greater Jerusalem.
Sylvia proved that she’s still got it when she sang some of her classics over the phone to me. I couldn’t help but sing along.
Ruth as Nimrod on his throne.
Photo by www.imagesthroughtime.com.
Ruth Sager, 71.5, began on stage as a three-and-a-half-year-old ballerina. Toe dancing (ouch) at eight years old pushed her to other performing pursuits. “I didn’t realize as a young person, how much [performing] was part of my identity.”
Over the years she's done radio, cable TV, voice-overs, plus music and dance therapy workshops. There always seemed to be a performing opportunity – in Melbourne, Australia, Papua, New Guinea, Boston, Mass., and here in Israel where Ruth and her husband Mike moved in 1993.
She launched her Israeli acting career with a 48-hour-combustion play project with Rafi Poch, and her theater engine has been running ever since. Ruth’s speaking voice is simply unique. Last year in addition to her other on-stage characters, Ruth narrated the title song in Jerusalem's re-imagined  COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Avraham and Sara (which I co-created and co-produced with the amazing Avital Macales for The Women’s Performance Community of Jerusalem 2016 production with OU Israel). Nothing slows this girl down. Following on STARS’ heels, she started learning Improv with Debbie Hirsch, appeared in AACI’s Chana Senesh and in a recent Torah Live film.
Always expanding her horizons and ready to perform, Ruth said, “I think since 70, life has been really interesting for my husband and myself. We have a creative life. I feel in some ways that I’m only beginning.”

Netta, right in the center of the fun.
Netta deVriend, 71, was not a star struck youth yearning for the footlights. That didn’t keep her from joining the choir of JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2001 for the Raise Your Spirits theater company (which I founded because of the terror around us). “I saw the energy, the achdut (unity) and the beauty of it [despite the terror] going on. With the little ones and the big ones, everyone gave chizuk (strength) to each other, during that stage of our lives, having suffered quite a few losses [due to the terror] on the road, and it made me feel part of the community.”
Once Netta took her place on stage, she never left. She is one of the few performers who has appeared in every Raise Your Spirits production since JOSEPH.
Netta, who lived in Holland and Australia before her Aliya, said that not only does she not feel like 71 - 71 was her old elementary school teacher who wore grey dresses and kept her hair in a bun - she thinks she’s a better performer today than 16 years ago. “I don’t perform for money. I do it to make others happy, and because of the energy of the group. It’s something you don’t see anywhere else.”
Bakol, left, in a scene from THE LOST LIGHT.
Bakol Gellar. Bakol. With a name that congers up smoky-throated Lauren Bacall, of course, she’s got to be an actress. The performing bug bit Bakol at age five. She went to arts camp, and wanted to go to theatre school. She started a Jewish theater in Bloomington, Indiana (who would believe there were Jews in Indiana) and performed in America in Chaim’s Lovesong, playing the part of a Holocaust survivor who visited Israel and convinced her husband to make Aliya.
After Bakol made Aliya in 2009, the first thing she did was get a job doing dramatic readings of Shai Agnon stories in the Agnon House on holidays…then a play for Eli Kaplan Wildman at the Agnon House and Beit Avichai, several things for JEST (Jerusalem English Speaking Theater, which is no longer around), an historical re-enactment in honor of Hadassah’s 100th Anniversary, living museum characters at the Israel Museum, plus shows at the AACI, like A Little Night Music, the Yom HaShoa production Remember My Name, Avenue Q, an indie film, plus several episodes of Torah Live productions (on which I serve as production manager). She even filmed a TV pilot recently.
In her 70th year, Bakol’s still got the bug. She said, “If someone woke me up at 2 AM and said, ‘I have a part for you’, I would jump out of bed and do it. An actor acts and I hope I’ll be doing it until I literally can’t.”
Cheryl in DAMES. Photo by www.imagesthroughtime.com.
Cheryl Mandel is a go-go dancer. Okay, she’s not still a go-go- dancer, but her teenage go-go dance personality has never left her, even now as she turns 70. If you watched the weekly teen dance shows in Canada more than 50 years ago, you’d find Cheryl monkeying around. She’s still at it every Saturday night, as she ponies, twists and shimmies with women half her age. In fact, she leads the women across the dance floor half the time.
While she didn’t dance as a young mother, she returned to the stage in her 50s, when she cracked up audiences as a hairy Ishmaelite in Raise Your Spirits’ JOSEPH. She continued dancing while she croaked her way into her audiences’ hearts as a raven in the RYS productions NOAH! Ride the Wave! and then as a cackling slave in RUTH & NAOMI in the Fields of Bethlehem. It was during ESTHER and the Secrets in the King’s Court that Cheryl showed everyone what a powerful figure she was off stage, as well. Toward the end of the show's run, Cheryl's son, Daniel, HY”D, was killed in an IDF military operation. Since then she has devoted her life to doing good works to honor her son’s memory.
Cheryl took on a new challenge at age 60, when she created a dance-autobiography for DAMES of the DANCE (which I founded in 2007), and then expanded it to a movie autobiography. For the past 10 years, Cheryl has lit up the DAMES stage with her fantastically popular dance-theater numbers and kept her fellow dancers energized with her fun personality and wacky laugh. Cheryl said, “I love working with others in developing the idea, the choreography, the costumes and music, and then putting it together.  It’s a very big creative challenge.”
Cheryl has taken on three more challenges this year. She’s teaching a dance class for bereaved women through the One Family organization and feels “it’s one of the most significant things I’ve ever done.” She’s organizing a group of women for the adventure of a lifetime to India. And she’s now giving workshops called, THE DANCE OF COPING. For a fun time, call Cheryl, mandelcheryl@gmail.com. 😜, or you can contact her for an inspirational speaker, a wise woman and a role model.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Advice to the Younger Me and Me Now


This great clip features older women giving advice to their younger selves and young women in general. You know what? It's good advice at any age. "Spend more time BEING, not doing."

Watch the clip here: https://youtu.be/ltVPj6-5xpo

Thursday, November 2, 2017

One from Column A


My home is pretty organized (I mean, I am not so organized, but the way my home runs is organized). I take care of all the fun and people things - organizing Shabbat weekends with the kids, planning vacations, chatting with neighbors at the door, folding family laundry a week after it comes out of the dryer. I am sure I do more things in my home. I mean, I think I do.
Really, there must be more domestic stuff in my Column, which is Column B on our home spreadsheet. Think. But the truth is that I'm not home all that much. Between meetings, events, making movies, producing shows, rehearsing for the next project, I don't clock a lot of home time.

Column A
My husband is in charge of Column A. Column A consists of all the vital foundational things - paying the bills, going to the post office, interacting with government offices, going through the mail, knowing everyone's ID numbers, coordinating workmen for whatever needs work 😊, taking the car into the shop, filing important papers, charity for the mendicants at the door.
My husband is a perfect Column A guy. (He should live and be well until 120.) I don't want to take any pleasures away from him, but one day I'm planning to ask where the bank is, and how you pay the electric bill. Just stam (for the heck of it), because women should know everything.
Now, please don't jump to conclusions. My lack of involvement in Column A has nothing to do with male domination or lack of women's empowerment. I was just never interested in any of those Column A things.

Intersecting Columns
Today that changed. On my way back from Rechovot, my tire felt very flat. "Hmm, Izzy had better take care of that," I thought. Then I realized that I wouldn't make it home to him with a flat tire. So, I drove into the gas station and asked the guy behind the counter to please fill my tires.
His answer left me speechless. "We don't do that here."
"What, you have no air?"
"Yes, we have air. You fill it yourself."
Suddenly I heard a dissonant chord pound on a piano. I should fill a tire? That's totally Column A.
Besides, how do you do that? Of course, I had seen folks put air in their tires before, but I couldn't figure out a) how the air came out of that metal nozzle and b) how the air did not come out of the tire if you took the cap off.
A big thank you to my son Micha, who gave me instructions over the phone on How to Fill a Tire 101. It worked perfectly. I was so excited,  I put air in all my tires. Then I took a selfie!
This has changed my life.
I decided that next, I'm going to find out what interesting things I can do at the post office and how to pay the electric bill. I always tell young women, "Be independent. Know everything!" I've decided to begin learning some Column B stuff too.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

TODAY, 500 Years Ago

When you work on a project that is dear to your heart, often you eat, sleep, live it. That's what's happening right now with my latest project, "HIDDEN - The Secret Jews of Spain", that I've co-created with +Avital Macales. I can't talk enough about Spain, the Golden Age and the Inquisition. Today, The Jewish Press posted an article I wrote about the day that began the Spanish Inquisition. TODAY - November 1, 1478.

November 1, 1478 – Launching the Spanish Inquisition

 Mazel tov. Not.
The marriage of Ferdinand of Castile and Isabella of Aragon in 1469 united the major Spanish kingdoms and provinces, and now on-paper created a Country! Spain!  Yet, regional differences, social discord, and strife still boiled over from the years of war and division. The monarchs searched for a solution to the intense violence overrunning the new country, and came up with a strategy that has succeeded in every century in every country throughout history - a crusade (in this instance, with a small “c”) against a common enemy, the Jew, or in Spain of 1479, the conversos/marranos or “New Christians”.
Ferdinand and Isabella pleaded with Pope Sixtus IV to help them strengthen Spain and fight those who imperiled the entire kingdom – the dangerous false Christians who surely held Judaism in their hearts.
Recognizing the strength of Jewish faith, Pope Sixtus IV agreed to help eradicate any of its remnants (the “pintele yid”) along with the conversos or “New Christians” in whom even the faintest embers still glowed.

The Edict that Began the Inquisition
On November 1, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued the papal bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus. He declared, “We are aware that in different cities in your kingdoms of Spain many of those who were regenerated by the sacred baptismal waters of their own free will have returned secretly to the observance of the laws and customs of the Jewish [faith]…because of the crimes of these men and the tolerance of the Holy See towards them civil war, murder, and innumerable ills afflict your kingdoms.”
To eliminate this menace, the Pope gave Ferdinand and Isabella the permission to establish the authority of the Spanish Inquisition, first in Castile. Aragon soon followed. The Inquisition would unite the nation with one common religion, Christianity, and with a common purpose, eradicating hidden Jews and Judaism within its borders. An added benefit: conversos accused by the Inquisition had their property and wealth automatically confiscated.
The Pope’s edict launched the Spanish Inquisition and authorized Ferdinand and Isabella to appoint inquisitors to investigate converts who were suspected of Judaizing, and to bring them and their accomplices to justice.
According to Professor Benzion Netanyahu’s The Origins of the Inquisition, between tens of thousands to as many as 600,000 Jews had converted by force or voluntarily in Spain by the period of the Inquisition. Whichever number is correct, Spain had found a common enemy that could be focused upon for quite a while (about 400 years), plus a substantial source of income to fund its continued wars, its adventures, and expeditions.
The papal bull led to a royal decree two years later that reaffirmed the Inquisition’s role to search out and punish converts from Judaism who secretly kept Jewish beliefs in their heart.
And in 1483 the plan came to fruition with the appointment of one the cruelest, most malevolent men in history, Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada (may he burn in hell).
The Inquisition was underway.



Yes, This STAGE of Life

My birthday's coming up this weekend. "Happy birthday." "Thanks."
At 62, I guess I should start researching community center classes in painting, or perhaps take up knitting while watching the soaps.
Truthfully, I haven't watched TV in more than 20 years, and I don't know if there are still soap operas on daytime television. But I imagine that as long as scandal and sorrow exist, soaps will continue onward as strongly as ever.

At this Stage of My Life
At this stage of my life, I've chosen a different path. Continue onward with my dreams and passions, for as long as G-d allows. (Please G-d, allow for many years to come.)
I don't particularly want to go to China, backpack along the Amazon or bungee jump from some bridge. I want to create.
I spent the majority of my first 57 years as a journalist for newspapers, weeklies, magazines and all sorts of publications in the United States and then in Israel. Although I gave up deadline journalism, I continue to write whenever the spirit swooshes me (like now), and I especially continue to write in new media.

Create

Over the past four-and-a-half years, I've been on teams that create movies - Shooteast, brilliant filmmakers who "turn the unimaginable into reality through live-action, visual effects, and animation"; and Torah Live, which educates today's Jewish youth in eternal values through the cinematic language of tomorrow. I'm a production manager (logistics-r-us).
Over the past 16 years, I've created four theater/performance companies and have gratefully performed on stage in three of them (one is for teens).
I've (co)created four musical productions and right now I've just completed my fifth, which will hopefully take the stage in November 2018.
I also make my own clips when I can. I'd like to make more. [Here's my latest.]

The Spanish Inquisition
Outside the Alhambra Palace in Granada
With each new musical, I become completely absorbed in the topic. My newest show with co-author/co-composer +Avital Macales is called "HIDDEN - The Secret Jews of Spain".
Our HIDDEN research has led us to read many books on the Golden Age of Spain and the Inquisition, actually visit Andalusia, and speak to as many people as we can about Spain, hidden Jews, conversos, and lost traditions, etc.
You can see more about this project on facebook, here.


Come with me
I'd like to share this STAGE of my life, whether I'm physically on stage in Jerusalem (or working to get there), on a movie set, juggling grandmotherhood and work, trying to catch my dreams while remembering I can't run as fast as I used to.
You don't have to be middle-aged to read this blog. You don't have to love theater. You don't have to be Jewish. You just have to be a fun person, and if you're not, I'll try to make you into one. 
Stick with me to see how a soon-to-be senior navigates a young world.

Intersecting Circles 1 & 2

I will probably write many blogs that will be called intersecting circles. Isn't that the way life is? We don't just sit at our desk...