Blue Mountains Posts
Ruby Productions Presents Yentl
DIRECTED BY ANTHONY BROWN
For the first time on an Australian stage!
Yentl is a play by Leah Napolin and Isaac Bashevis Singer. A period play set in 1873. Based on Singer's short story "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," it centers on a young girl who defies tradition by discussing and debating Jewish law and theology with her rabbi father. When he dies, she cuts her hair, dresses as a man, and sets out to find a yeshiva where she can continue to study Talmud and live secretly as a male named Anshel. When her study partner Avigdor discovers the truth, Yentl's assertions that she is "neither one sex nor the other" and has "the soul of a man in the body of a woman" suggest the character is questioning their gender identity, especially when she opts to remain living as Anshel for the rest of her life.
The journey for me to finally be able to stage this production started in 1983 when I first saw the film, starring Barbra Streisand. I adored it. At the time, I was a regular visiting Sydney studying acting and I used to get a thrill just walking in the performing arts bookshop looking at all styles of plays I would love to do someday.
I remember seeing the script of "Yentl" and bought it instantly.
I kept it this long and only decided to take on this incredibly difficult play in 2019. I felt ready. I have now been doing theatre for nearly 40 years. I own a production company in Penrith called Ruby Productions which has turned 10 years old this past January.
The script I have isn't a musical. I have never directed a musical, so I feel confident.
It took me a long time just to obtain the rights because I could not find who they belonged to. Once I got them, I was over the moon. I was about to audition when Covid hit. I was gutted.
So, when we re opened in October last year, the first thing I did was organise another audition date. I can honestly say, how incredibly lucky I feel and grateful that I have the cast I have for this production. They work so hard and well together. We are having a ball! They are all equally passionate about this as I am.
The most challenging thing so far directing "Yentl" is certainly the Jewish faith and knowing the customs. I remember just trying to work out what the character list was an extremely hard thing to do because the script conflicts with the cast listed. Then on top of that, the Jewish names are so different from my English style that I am used to.
So, currently we are about a month and half away from opening here in Penrith. Costumes are being created by Milunka Holland who is sewing madly. Tonight, we are ready to run the entire show for the first time without holding scripts.
We are taking the show to the Hellenic Theatre in Marrickville and possibly to Melbourne. A feat I have never experienced with Ruby Productions till now. I hope we can do it.
What drives me is the story. The character of "Yentl". I was raised with three sisters and my mother only which meant, I was exposed to what women feel, what they go through in life, so I have always been understanding as an adult and sympathetic to women’s equality.
Some countries still have women with little or no rights compared to a man. It saddens me but also encourages me to do "Yentl" well. Theatre is a form of technique to help individuals change how they think. Sometimes when you see a play done on stage, you see and feel something that had not occurred to you.
I know this is going to be a spectacular show. Something that will be remembered for quite some time.
May 8th, 15th, 22nd at 7pm and 22nd at 2pm
$30 for adults and $25 concession, $40 at the door.
“YENTL” will be performed at John Lees Centre,15 Evan Street; Penrith.
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