BY JANET MANDELSTAM
The women behind the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington’s new production say the play was “communally chosen.”
“We were looking for a show that had good parts for women and fit the theater’s mission,” says Diane Kondrat, one of three actresses in Out of Our Fathers’ House, which opens October 24 at Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP).
The play is based on the lives of six real-life 19th-century women. Their stories are told in a series of monologues. “They are about finding one’s identity,” says the director, Darrell Ann Stone. “All of us can remember the struggle of women to find their identity. We have a responsibility to keep the message going.”
Although only one of the six women portrayed in the play—writer and journalist Elizabeth Gertrude Stern—was Jewish, the play fits the theater’s mission of producing works that not only reflect the Jewish experience but also “focus on universal issues of the human condition that speak to a general population,” says Audrey Heller, the theater’s cofounder and artistic director.
Since its beginning in 2005, the Jewish Theatre “has grown beyond what we had hoped,” says Heller. “We weren’t sure it would fly because there is just a small Jewish community in Bloomington.” Over the years, the theater has developed an audience that extends well beyond that community. It presents two plays a season in BPP’s 90-seat theater, casts Equity actors, and is now a nonprofit organization with a board of directors.
Most of the plays are by Jewish authors and have “themes that in some way highlight the Jewish experience,” Heller says.
Out of Our Fathers’ House, which is based on Eve Merriam’s book Growing Up Female in America, will have four performances this October. The other actresses in the play are Martha Jacobs and Gail Bray. The women they portray include labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
For Kondrat, a highly acclaimed Bloomington actor, this will be one of her final appearances here before she moves to the Pacific Northwest next year. For more information about the play and how to purchase tickets, visit the Jewish Theatre’s website.
In the spring, the Jewish Theatre will present Old Wicked Songs, the story of two Jewish men: an old teacher and a young pianist.