“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers (and sisters)”

By Barry R. Shapiro / Special to the BJV

It all started innocently enough, as great adventures sometimes do.

“Ever wonder what it’s like to be an actor?” read the teaser in the Congregation Ahavath Sholom newsletter. If so, it continued, join us on Sunday, April 7, 2019 when actor, director, playwright and Temple member, Linda Josephs, will peel back the curtain, so to speak.

Why not, thought I? I’ve always been interested in acting but have never done any since my role in “Convenient Modern Times,” a student written play at PS 233 in Brooklyn when I was in the sixth grade.

So, I joined about a dozen other intrepid souls that sunny day to sit with Linda Josephs and take some tentative, awkward, very self-conscious steps into the world of the “actor.”

Over the ensuing year and a half, our group of twelve slowly whittled itself down to three: Ellen Axelrod, Barbara Janoff, and me. Understandably, some people found the classes simply not for them. Others said they found it too challenging. Some simply didn’t have the time.

And what have we three survivors accomplished during that time?

Well, so much more than we could have ever anticipated.

We met at least once and sometimes twice a week in the pre-COVID world and by Zoom after. We learned how fiendishly hard the craft of acting is. We tested and stretched our ability to memorize our lines. We learned how to create and develop a character, both physically and emotionally. We struggled with and overcame our inhibitions and fears. We took ourselves places we had not been before and places where, sometimes, we really didn’t want to go. We learned how to let our movements and how we speak develop organically. We took joy in watching our work develop and, without exaggeration, perhaps even more joy in watching the growth of our fellow actors with whom we now enjoy a personal and special bond. We played such diverse roles as Shylock, a Catholic priest, a schoolteacher/astronaut and even a desperate woman holding on to a phone booth in New Mexico. We learned to listen to and learn from each other. We also learned how to listen to and learn from Linda’s seemingly constant prodding and criticism without being defensive (at least most of the time). And we really laughed a lot and, despite all the hard work, had so much fun it was almost illegal.

A word about our remarkable director and friend, Linda.

We are unanimous that what has made all of this hard work so worthwhile and, candidly, transformative, has been Linda’s treatment of us as professionals and her tireless efforts to help us develop our skills as fledgling actors. Words like “relentless,” “demanding,” “uncompromising,” and “creative,” seem to fit. The more she has asked, the more we have wanted to give. The more she has said, “Good. Good. Now try it this way,” the more we have smiled, taken a deep breath, and tried to deliver our lines in the seemingly endless variations she has devised. Linda has worked so hard, with such constant good humor, and her expectations of us are so high, that none of us wants to let her down or fail to put everything we have into our work. I know that all of us are beyond grateful to her for her dedication and confidence in us. It is no wonder that our classes are consistently among the best hours of our week.

So, why not join us as we make our virtual “stage” debut on September 6  at 2:00 p.m.?

We hope that you’ll be impressed by what you see and the quite diverse roles we’ve developed over the past year and a half.

And maybe, when we start our next class sometime in the fall (we hope), you’ll be tempted to join our intrepid band of brothers and sisters. We promise to welcome you with open arms (socially distant, of course, if still necessary).

Congregation Ahavath Sholom and The CAS Theatre Group will stage vignettes from “Hold Me,” by Jules Feiffer and monologues from “Zara Spook and Other Lures,” by Joan Ackermann, “Defying Gravity,” by Jane Anderson, “The Merchant of Venice,” by William Shakespeare, and “Doubt,” by John Patrick Shanley. Tune in on the CAS website (www.ahavathsholom.org)  Sunday, September 6, at 2 p.m.