Wednesday, January 26, 2005

How Can One Be Frum and an Actress? An enigma...

Many people have asked about the title of this blog, and how it could be possible that the words "frum" and "actress" can go in the same sentence. I'm apparantly considered an enigma in the blog world (An enigma? What a terrible thing to call her!), which is highly amusing to me...I answered with the short list a while back, but here's the long one. I don't plan to do this again, so PAY ATTENTION (Constant Vigilence!!) .

Let's start: A long, long time ago, in the days of my youth, I was in my first play. In truth I can't recall, but I think it was in 4th grade or thereabouts. I loved it. I loved the stage, I loved the attention, I loved the audience. And I was good. So, I continued dancing through life, thinking that I had finally found my calling, often cast as the main part (the most memorable one, for me, included running through an auditorium, frantically asking audience members to "Help me, help me!" and thoughroughly confusing them.., but then again, I'm good at confusing people ;) )

When I reached the age of bas mitzva, I had a masquerade for my keeping with the theme of my life. Sometime in high school (probably during one of our productions-I never got along with the director), I realized that I would not be able to dream big dreams, but instead would have to spend the rest of my life dancing in [her] room, totally stifled. Then, through a random series of Hashgacha Pratis, I met an actress/singer who is now Shomer Torah U'Mitzvos, who introduced me to a director in LA (America's Most Wanted, some theatre) who hired me as a counselor for her performing arts camp for frum girls. (So anyone who's ever met me will now know that this is my blog...cause acting inevitably comes up in my conversations).

It was interesting-there were a lot of girls with talent, and each of the instructors at the camp had more impressive (theatre) credentials than the next. The one that had the most impact on me was the voice and dialogue coach (that's where I learned my Cockney accent that's been complimented by Brits..), who was in West Side Story and Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway, and was cast in Rent. Oh, she turned down the part in Rent-on Broadway. Why? Because she was starting to be shomer Shabbos at the time. Her love of Judaism was so amazing and clear, and listening to her talk, I understood that I wasn't missing too much (if anything) by not being in secular showbiz. We produced an incredible show (in Hollywood, I might add), but it was inspiring and beautiful, and the message was powerful.

Theatre has a very great power. It sucks you in (kinda like blogging), and grabs you, making you part of the story that's onstage. Perhaps that's part of the reason that it was forbidden to go to it throughout the ages. Performing in theatre includes an incredible high, (which probably has a lot to do with ego). Anything that has tremendous potential for bad also has tremendous potential for good. I think that theatre is like that. Over the course of two summers, I saw girls gain self-esteem, self-respect, and in general have a good time! I heard audience membars leaving a show discussing its message and virtues.

One thing I learned from the music of Julia Blum: When G-d gives you a gift, you are obligated to use it. Use it to bring goodness into this world, and honor to the One who gave it to you. People are not given talents to stifle them. Contrary to popular belief, Judaism is not about stifling. So I'm trying to combine the two. As some of you may have figured out (or know already), I live on the East Coast of the US. I am trying to set up the same kind of camp that I had the chance to attend for people on this side of the continent. But FRUM comes before ACTRESS. Actress has to fit into frumkeit, because frumkeit is The Most Important-in this world and the next. What we do while we're here should be enjoyable, and we should make the most of what we have been given. I am attempting to do that. In my own small ways..

Note: The italics have nothing to do with emphasis. They're a private joke with myself...and maybe a few (one) other(s).


Zman Biur said...

I never questioned whether it was possible to be a frum actress. I just found it amusing that you aspire to be a historian! Talk about anti-climactic!

TRW said...

They can meld together beautifully! After all, history has some great material for plays...fact is waaaaaay more exciting than fiction-simply because it's real! ;)

T. "B." M. said...

Wow, TRW. You have amazing strength and tznius. I assume the camp you worked at was Kol Neshama (I'm very familiar with Los Angeles--a ton of friends there), the videos of which I am in the process of ordering (all of them! of course). I did not grow up religous, and I suppose now I am, but I never had a dream like yours that had to be subordinated to Torah.

You really have your priorities straight, and I admire you very much for that, as that is not an easy thing, especially in a situation like yours.

Your dreams now, of starting an equivalent camp on the east coast, is beautiful. Frum girls have a great great need for kosher outlets. If you can give them that, you have done an amazing service to Klal Yisroel. You are helping to keep the minds of bnos Yisroel, who will someday IY"H be the mothers of the next generation, straight, strong, clean, and beautiful.

I told over something wonderful I read about tznius in my blog here:
I'm sure I didn't say it over very well, but I think because the message of chizuk was so great that it carried through anyway.

I look forward to reading your blog often, IY"H.

I mamash cannot express in words what a service you will G-d willing do for Klal Yisroel when your dream is realized, IY"H. Hatzlochah Raboh in all your endeavors.

TRW said...

Hmmm...T.B.M-Lemme know when you get the videos-I'm so curious what you'll think! ;)
And could you give me hints about the friends? Send regards to them from the counselor that did the two years before the movie program ;)

T. "B." M. said...

"And could you give me hints about the friends?"
Hmmm is right. Give me a hint about what kind of hint you want and I'll do my best.

TRW said...

Something about the part that they played in the performance...and the year maybe?

David said...

Re: Gentlemen's Agreement.
I've seen that film. It was a rather admirable attempt at showing anti-Semitism in the 1940s - that was a pretty rare thing, as Jewish film executives didn't like to call attention to the topic.

About the movie itself: It always struck me as a bit problematic that the only way to expose anti-Semitism in the movie is by having a non-Jew experience it. The screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. once said, and I'm paraphrasing, that the moral of the film is you should be nice to Jews because they could turn out to be Christian.

Roogs said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Lately, I've been feeling wuite stifled. I have this trmendous sedire to act and sing , as I did throughout high school and now in my single, post high school years, I rarely get the oppportunity. So often, I a complimented by my voice, and told that it isextremely inspiring. I feel, like Julia blum put it so beautifully. "If g-d gave me a gift I am obligated to use it!" I feel like I could touch people , Thank Hashem, yet, it is so frustrating, because I don't know hot to go about getting out there, and doing something with tit! ANy suggetsions? Lately, I've been dreaming abou tputting on a performance with someone like Julia Blum...

TRW said...

Roogs: I'll tell you what Julia told me. "If you feel the need, clearly there are other girls who have this same desire! Start something that will be an outlet - for you and for other girls!"

When she told me that, at first, I didn't feel like I ever could do such a thing - it's a huge responsibility! But I can - and you can! Right now, it's not an immediate thing for me because I'm busy with school, but it's certainly a long-term goal - I've started to write a play, and I've recruited people to be my lyricists/songwriters.

The other thing is that depending on where you are, there are some options. I've been told that there are a lot of opportunities in, say, New York, for things like that, but also in smaller cities - Baltimore used to have something called the P'tach play, which was a pretty professional show, put on by local women for women to raise money. Find out what's going on in your community, and get involved.

One thing I've learned is that no show is too small, or Bais Yaakovy, or not good enough. Start with the small stuff, and you'll move up.

And always..."dream big dreams."

B. said...

I want to be an actress whilst keeping Shabbos, but almost everyone has told me it will be impossible. I've heard of people who have managed it, but they seem to be the exception. As you said, we are supposed to use the talent we were given, but as yet I haven't had much opportunity, since I started keeping Shabbos at a young age. Any suggestions?

Regarding your italics, 'for good' is a song in Wicked the musical; any connection?

TRW said...

B. -

No, not if you want to go into general, secular, performing. I know someone who was on Broadway, and turned down a role in Rent because she wanted to be Shomer Shabbos.

There are now Shomer Shabbos performance companies, though!

And yes, "for good" is an absolutely beautiful song from Wicked. There is definitely a connection. Can you identify the rest?