Ten Years of Theater and Community

By Michael Kelberg | Issue Date: March 2011

Scene from the December 2010 Hanukkah play. Photo: Dan CaligorAbout three years ago popcorn was finally banned from the family carnival prior to the Purim show. It had become just too difficult for Roma and our beloved maintenance crew to keep digging out all those kernels embedded in carpet. I mean, seriously; after the stampede of 500+ members, non-members, kids, parents, families, relatives, the cast, the Rabbis and Ari, their families, the office staff, Roma’s guys Dmitry and Solomon (who love the show), celebrities, agents, managers, you name, it was just too much! They couldn’t handle it anymore. So, now you can only enjoy cotton candy sticks or blended fruit smoothies from our friendly neighborhood parent, Carolyn Desch, as she twists and shakes for you alongside the hired staff.

From its early days in 2000 when the cast tree was around 30 for Rabbi Anne’s “Harry Potter,” we’ve seen it grow to as many as 70 (now, that’s a lot of kids on stage) and level out at about 50+ regularly. If you have been fortunate enough to hang around on occasion you have seen some interesting sights.

Whether it is a parody for Purim or now an original show for Hanukkah, you can be sure to see Mira Rivera handing out glue sticks to anyone willing to work on sets while she choreographs a dance, Jerry Korman orchestrating the high notes, and me usually being louder than necessary. Jonathan Dershowitz, our legendary former stage manager and now collegian, who still asks about the show regularly, has passed his responsibilities to former Purim cast member Felicia Kuhreich, whose pal Arielle Korman is always there to help set up lunch with her on Sundays.

Scene from the December 2010 Hanukkah play. Photo: Max OrensteinSarah Sternklar can be heard asking if anyone needs anything on any given rehearsal morning; and Gary Langer shows up with some unique combination of cardboard, tape, and wood that somehow he created into a newsstand, just a week prior to the show. Roma can be expected to call me a half dozen times before a Sunday rehearsal, if only for clarification, and Aaron Priven can pretty much do anything with ease at anytime including the lights and the band. Oh, and there’s his dad now, Ari: yelling from the catwalks, asking if the lights are in focus on stage. And who can forget Emily and Ivy and the office tree, sending emails, making copies, meeting, face painting, double checking things, etc., all in preparation for the big shows!

So, whether it is the kids auditioning and rehearsing, the parents schlepping, Arlene needing 88th Street for a wedding, our members attending to cheer on the show, the office staff buzzing about, and of course our Rabbis addressing the masses on the big day, pretty much everyone you know has a hand involved.

It’s quite difficult to calculate the friendships that have been made, the impact that the show has had on any number of people, or how many popcorn kernels have been dug out of the carpet. But every season we get the old crew back, some new crew, those that return to help on the production end, or some who move on to their next venture. Regardless, the Purim and now Hanukkah wheel spins round and round for anyone who’s willing to jump on it. All this under the umbrella of the shul and our Judaism. If “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to put on a show. BJ should be proud.

Michael Kelberg, a BJ member since 1996, directed the Purim Play for ten years and the Hanukkah Play in 2010. He owns Blueye Productions, a multimedia company. Michael, his wife Becky, daughter Lila, and beloved dog, Lacey, live in South Jersey.