Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ESTHER in Haifa

Tomorrow night the cast of Raise Your Spirits' "ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court" is getting together for a traditional cast party.
Well, maybe it won't be so traditional. We'll have the popcorn and pasta, but the entertainment will be unique. We're hoping to show clips of the performance of ESTHER by a girls' high school in Haifa.
The school licensed ESTHER (from its owners, Bible-Arts Productions) and decided to perform it in Hebrew. The opportunity to see ESTHER in Hebrew was too good to pass up, so one of my co-lyricists Toby Klein Greenwald, as well as our star, Avital Macales (who plays ESTHER) and lyrics translator Michal Yechieli traveled by train to Haifa for the event.
Haifa was like old Israel from a 1950s movie. It had an old movie-set feel. The terrain was ultra-hilly like San Francisco, and the view of the ocean was everywhere. And of course, if we were already there, we stopped off at the beach to pick up some sea shells (so we could say truthfully, we went to the beach in Haifa :) ).
We got off the train right next to an old storefront that declared it sold Camels cigarettes. I didn't even know they still sold Camels.
Time stood still here. Even the "extras" in the street were "period" folks.

We went to the Haifa's Bahai Gardens, which were closing. We looked down at the beautiful layered garden paths, chatted with fellow tourists, and even got to wish mazel tov to a bride and groom. Her sleeve was falling off, so I made her stop so that I could fix it. (A bride has to look her best, you know.)
We traveled to the theater, which held about 500. It was filled with mothers and sisters. We went backstage and met the cast from Ulpana Amit. The girls were so enthusiastic about our visit, they sang and danced back stage. I asked to meet my Haifa counterpart, Haman, and we posed for a photo together.
Avital met Haifa's ESTHER and they even sang, "Give me the courage!!" Avital sang it in English, while Haifa's star sang it in Hebrew - MAGIC!!
The show was adorable - just what you'd expect from a high school music with all the enthusiasm and good cheer there could be. And since the girls learned our show from watching our own ESTHER DVD, some of their characters' actions and expressions exactly mirrored our own.

It was just so strange watching someone playing me. I'm sure Avital felt the same.
The most memorable part of the evening was ESTHER's finale, "The Return." On stage together, we sing, "They'll come down from the mountains, they'll come from the skies...." Etc. etc. It is a song about the ingathering of the Jewish people from the four corners of the world.
In Gush Etzion, Raise Your Spirits sings the song in English and in Hebrew.
In Haifa, the girls sang "The Return" in Hebrew, Amharic (there are many Ethiopian students there) and in Sign Language. As soon as the music for the finale begin, the audience began applauding wildly. And when the girls sang in Amharic, they went wild. When they sang in sign language, I don't think there was one dry eye in the house. In fact, I think I probably cried my way through the entire production.
It's a strange, yet fabulous feeling to see a show you have written performed by an outside theater company. At first, it felt odd to hear ESTHER in Hebrew, but then it felt great.
I was beaming with pride, as I know Toby was. We just wished our third co-lyricist Arlene Chertoff had been with us, as well as our composer Rivka Epstein Hatten. That would have made it perfect.

I'm so looking forward to other schools performing ESTHER in Hebrew, English, or maybe even Amharic. You never know.

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