Saturday, December 27, 2014

Where are you from, Part II - or - Jewish Geography, anyone?

Remember when you went away to college, and your new neighbors in the dorm asked "Where are you from?"?   That was easy - you named your home town, and that was it.  I'm from Evanston, Illinois; here's a photo from my home town:

Ask me again why I moved to the Negev

Then you came to Israel, and when people asked "Where are you from?", you were an "American" [apologies to the Canadians, and the Mexicans, since we say American when we mean from the United States].

My [former] country tis of thee

Once you finally found LOGON and started coming to rehearsals, "Where are you from?" would again be more local - Ashkelon, Omer, Beer Sheva, the University [which is an entity separate from Beer Sheva, it would seem], Arad, a kibbutz, kishkeveldt......

Was going to post a map of Israel, but didn't want to get political, 
so here's a kitten 

HOWEVER - now we come to rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof, and suddenly "Where are you from?" take on a whole new meaning -- where did your grandparents come from, or their grandparents - where is your family FROM?  This is about my 17th LOGON show, give or take an extravaganza or two, and never do i remember overhearing so many conversations about "back in the shtetle .....".  

So, dear readers, where are you FROM?  One of my grandparents came from Motele, same as Chaim Weitzman's family. My cousins claim that there was a strong strain of "genius" in Motele, but it sure as heck missed my family. 

 Photo credit:  Jeff Kronenberg

 Also Motele
Photo credit:

Another grandparent came from Mariempoler, somewhere between Minsk and Pinsk.  From there, we have two souvenirs. One is a joke, based on the fact that the town was in a border area often disputed by Poland and Russia:  One guy says, "I hear we've been conquered by Poland again", and the other replies "Thank goodness, enough of those Russian winters".   The other remnant of our roots there:  a certain melody interspersed between the chorus and verses of "Ki Lo Naeh", sung in four part harmony around the table at every family Seder.  Ay yai yai yai yai yai yai yai yai ayyyyyyy.  That's it, all that's left.......

Anyone else from one of these places?  Maybe we're related!  Feel free to write where you are from in the comments section below - who knows, we could end up finding long lost connections.  And don't try to tell me that you're from Kasrilivke, enough of your narishkeit!!!

PS - for performance and ticket information for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF:


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So, where are you from?

There is something very, very special about being in the cast of Fiddler on the Roof.  You could already see it in the first rehearsals of the fall, with a cast that is twice the size of last year's show. 

You can feel it in the intensity of the discussions about how certain scenes "should" be staged - many of us (at least those over 40!) have strong feelings about what does and doesn't belong in a scene of preparing for Shabbat, lighting the candles, or celebrating a wedding.  And this time it isn't intellectual, or theoretical, or artistic - it's visceral, meaning you feel it in your kishkes.... this is how it SHOULD be.  We know. We know.  We saw it in our grandparents, and heard about it in the family stories told around the Passover table, and remember it from the old men who always came to the morning minyan at the shul.  

Being in this show does something to my awareness, my consciousness.  In Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago, went into a McDonald's (please don't tell anyone) and ordered an Egg McMuffin*.  Bit into it and was transported  back 35 years and 6,150 miles.... a taste of "the old country".  Then started thinking about what that means, "the old country".  And how my relatives must have felt, all those years ago, when they landed in the Goldineh Medinah - and left behind, forever, "the old country".  What tastes, what smells, what images would have reminded them of what they left behind?  How did it feel to them?  Did they grow nostalgic, and long for "home", or were they glad to be out of there, and never looked back? That entire generation is gone now, and we didn't ask them when we had a chance, at least not in my family.  Even more astounding, i never thought about it all these years - until here we are, standing in the cold with our bundles and our babies, singing goodby to Anatevka, sweet little village little town of mine.

Another story:  a couple of weekends ago, we all got up in the middle of the night and went out to Kibbutz Urim to film a video clip promo for the show.  We found a spot in the kibbutz with trees and a wooden shed in the background, and spent several hours shooting the clip.

There was one elderly gentleman who came out on his balcony when the music started, and spent most of the morning smoking a cigarette and watching us from above. He later told someone that when he looked out the window, and saw us all standing there in our costumes, he felt as though he had been transported back to his childhood.... the memories came flooding back.

And this, then, is what's so special for so many of us about being in this show.  We've been ancient Romans (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), and flappers (Singin in the Rain), and soldiers (South Pacific), and cowboys (Oklahoma!) and Siamese princesses (King & I) and silverware (Beauty & The Beast) -- but in this show we're our own history.  This show is about us, who we are and where we came from.  This is about leaving a place you thought was yours, but wasn't, not really - and in that sense, it's about Jews from everywhere, and from all times.  Minsk or Pinsk, Aleppo or Cairo, Kundahar or Ethiopia, New York or New South Wales.... we are all from somewhere else.  Somewhere along the line, our relatives left somewhere.  And if they had not ...........

It is an honor and a privilege to be in this show, especially here in Israel. Home at last. Please come to see it, and be a part of it.  Please bring your children and your grandchildren. Tell them, "This is about us, when we went forth out of there".

* RELAX!  There is no meat, let alone ham, in an Israeli MacMuffin!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset; swiftly fly the days...... seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.....

LOGON first presented Fiddler on the Roof in 1996.  In fact, that was when i joined the group: my daughter Yael was cast as Bielke, the youngest and smallest of Tevye's five daughters.  I didn't really know much about LOGON at the time, but if i was going to drive her back and forth to rehearsals anyway, why not join the chorus, and .... but that's another story. 

Yael shared the role of little Bielke with Dahlia Landzbaum, who was herself the daughter of fellow cast member Dov. Over the years the Landzbaums have also contributed wife Iris and daughter Leora, while son Rafi has played in the orchestra; a regular musical dynasty that family... but that's another story.

Now, 19 years later...... Dahlia is married and a mother.  My daughter is about 5' 8" tall and.... well, here's a recent picture of her:  

Little Bielke.  And yes, that's her bike.

Arnie Gross played Sasha, the "Russian" who stands up on a table and sings the ringing solo which launches the frenetic dance scene in "To Life" (To life, to life, l'chaim.....).  At the time, his granddaughter Shavit Baruch wasn't even old enough to come see the show. This year Shavit will not only be dancing and singing with the chorus, she has a choice cameo role (which will not be divulged here!).  We have additional multi-generational families active in LOGON as well, but that's another story.

We grew up too.  Our musical director that year was a young fresh-off-the-plane immigrant named Michael Leinwand; he barely spoke a word of Hebrew but was an expert in Eastern European Jewish music.  We meet up now once a year, when he presides in Ashkelon over a huge festival of Yiddish music which brings together choral groups from all over Israel. 

We grew as a company, also:  in 1996, we "imported" the Holit dance troupe from Beer Sheva high school Makif Vav to dance for us; now, as for the past many years, we do our own dancing. For better or for worse......

How we often look to our poor choreographer.......

In 1996, Alan Cohen played Perchik the student and won the heart of Tevye's second daughter;  this year he will be the "old widower" Lazar-Wolf the butcher. Yours truly sang and danced in the chorus as a "daughter"; this year i'll be portraying the fossilized old widow Yente the Matchmaker.  Quite a change, right? Of course right!  

Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset; swiftly fly the years...... one season following another, laden with happiness and tears......

Many of the participants in our first Fiddler are no longer with us.  Some left Beer Sheva (i still miss you, Phyllis and Harvey Narrol!!), some left Israel - our Hodel, Estelle Kunoff, to become a professional cantor (cantress?) in the States - and some left us completely.  Kinneret Lichtenstein/Laor, assistant to the director. Margo Tepper-Shotz, who did the programme as well as sing with the chorus. Marcus Myerowitz, our brilliant Lazar-Wolf.  The incomparable Paul Hare.  All gone, may their memories be for a blessing, and they are all missed very much.

On the other hand (that's another quote from the show, folks) - there is not a little continuity from that first show.  I'm counting 14 returning cast members, and we also have some of the same support and professional staff:  Melanie Lombard still with us on costumes, David Waldmann still with us on the musical side (he did the playbacks back then; this year he'll be doing them as well as filling the roles of musical director and conductor), Annie Molcho on makeup and the stalwart Cyril Simkins as our translation techie.  

If you'd like to see some pictures from the 1996 production, hop over to   and go to LOGON Shows & Cast Lists.  If you want to see some previews of the 2015 production - WATCH THIS SPACE!  Surprises may be in store......  but that's another story.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Welcome, or welcome back, to Stage Whispers - unofficial blog of the Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON to our friends and fans).  Greetings from beautiful downtown Beer Sheva.

When last we met, LOGON was right in the middle of touring the country with "Man of La Mancha".   Then came Passover, and then whooooooosh it was the end of August and whoopsy daisy here we go again, the LOGON season has begun.   

We're already through the workshops, through those first music rehearsals, and even through the auditions.  Roles have been assigned and we've even started to block out the first scene.  Suddenly it hits me:  in about four and a half months, the curtain goes up on our first performance and THERE'S SO MUCH TO DO!!!!

Is it time to panic yet?

If you've never been involved in something like LOGON, it's going to be hard to imagine what the next few months will be like for us.  Learning the lines, the action on stage, the dancing - that's the easy part.  There are sets to be built, costumes to be designed and sewn, a backdrop to be painted, posters and tee-shirts to be printed, ticket sales to arrange, rehearsals to be scheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled again because Shmulik's mother in law is having a party for her 57th birthday.....  

And this year we are hoping for a considerably larger orchestra than last year.

Not pictured: the LOGON pit orchestra
(photo credit:
Now, it may seem simple to you. You may ask, aren't there professional staff to take care of all these things?  Well, I'll tell you:  no, actually, not really!  We have our musical director, our stage director, our choreographer and our costume designer, but aside from that, LOGON is a do-it-yourself operation from top to bottom.  Nobody's gonna do it for us if we don't do it ourselves!!!

That do-it-yourself spirit

SO, here we go again.  Why, you may ask, do we do this - year after year after year?  Suffer through the agony of auditions, rehearse endlessly, put our lives and our families on "hold" while we break our backs shlepping scenery and props and each other halfway around the country to put on a show - and remember, we pay for the privilege, even if we only help out backstage!!!!!!!   -- and then do it again, for about 35 years now?  Well, THAT I can tell you in one word:

It's a TRADITION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, that's three words.

And because we love it.

And by now you have probably guessed that this year LOGON will be performing - for the first time in 19 years - FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

Welcome to Anatevka!!!!  Watch this blog for frequent updates and insights and anecdotes and the unfolding of the tale - as LOGON presents, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF!  

And awayyyyyy we go........

PS:  If you'd like to know more about LOGON, you're welcome to go back and read the posts from last year.  Also:  you can find photos of previous shows on the LOGON Facebook page: or on our website:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


It's 2:30 am, and here I sit: traces of make up on my face, a whiff of hairspray in my ponytail, my aching feet propped up on the desk.  But there's no way to even think about going to bed until i share the experiences of this night with you, my loyal blog readers.

Tonight we did our 6th show, three more to go; this one was in Ra'anana.  The performance was sold out, and the energy of a full house helped push us to our best show yet.  When the final curtain closed, a fellow cast member turned to me and whispered - "the show sailed tonight".  And so it did.  

The before-curtain experiences weren't exactly auspicious - Ra'anana celebrated Purim today, and our bus got tied up in traffic.  Then we discovered that we were quite close to the theater - but it was on the opposite side of multiple police barricades!  One of our veteran members (thank you, Bob) hopped off the bus and managed to sweet talk the cops into letting us through.  We arrived to find enough dressing room space for about one third of the cast; we crowded in together like passengers on the Sunday morning bus, glad that this show requires virtually no off-stage costume changes.  Then we found out that due to technical difficulties, this show would not have a cat.  Wahhhhh!  (confused?  see the blog post from March 1)  Then we discovered that our flautist was stuck on a train!!  We didn't know it at the time, but she wouldn't arrive until 20 minutes into the first act.  But you all know what we say:  the show must go on.  And so it did.


And what a show it was!  We could hear the audience laughing out loud at the funny bits, we could hear warm applause for the songs, we could hear the hush and the stillness at the dramatic peaks. 

Dramatic peaks: not like this

 We did not hear, but were told afterwards, that the audience hummed and sang along with the most popular songs.  In the end, we heard the sweetest sound of all: cheers, and shouts, and calls of bravo, waves of applause as chorus members and each principal player come out to take a bow.  What a night!  "I don't want to leave here, ever" wailed one of our new members, as the curtain finally closed.  "It's ok, sweetie" someone consoled her. "On Thursday we'll be in Haifa, and wait til you see the show we put on for THEM!!!"  

Haifa is usually our very best audience, and they usually bring out the best in us in return.  Which is not to say that we don't LOVE performing in our home theater, that performing in the Jerusalem Theater isn't a thrilling experience, or that we don't appreciate every person in every audience in every venue.  But Haifa......  Even in the old days, before Highway Six cut hours off of our travel time, we looked forward to that trip, knowing the reception that awaited us.

And Haifa is really really NORTH, compared to Beer Sheva

We'll see you Thursday, Haifa!  Nesher theater, 8 pm.  For ticket information:  Click here . We promise an unforgettable show.  And we won't forget the cat, or the flautist.  Nothing but the best for our northern-most audience!!!  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Coming soon, to a theater [or a theatre] near you


From the beginning, this blog - like the play itself - has been about transformation.  On Thursday night, at the Culture Hall in Beer Sheva, the transformations became complete.

This is how our set looked during rehearsals, in the big auditorium at the Psychiatric Hospital:

This is how our set looked on Thursday night:

We were transformed:  

                                        Brett and Tiffany:
became Don Quixote and Dulcinea:

The cast, orchestra and audience were transported back in space and time to the dungeons of the Inquisition, circa 1600.  

Characters transform.  Cervantes, the author, becomes a befuddled old man who then morphs into Don Quixote, knight errant.  An anonymous female prisoner becomes the tart Aldonza who then morphs into the Lady Dulcinea.  The Governor's brutal bodyguard becomes a kindly innkeeper. A shaving basin becomes a magic helmet.  Even the music transforms: a gentle love seranade transforms into the anthym which accompanies a brutal molestation.  The dungeon itself transforms from a dark place of horror and fear to a place of courage, hope, and respect for both self and others.  

The response from the opening night audience left no room for doubt; this is a show that should not be missed.  Come join us for a magical evening.  Come and help us dream the impossible dream.  Perhaps you too will be transformed.  

Information on when we will be performing, and where, as well as contact information to buy tickets:

PS:  if you've been following this blog, you'll be expecting at least one cat.  Here's one more picture for you.  Meow!

PPS  Thanks to Patrice Perez for most of these photos

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's The Final Countdown

Good grief, has it really been two months since the last post?!?  How time flies when you're having fun....

Rehearsals are now taking place four nights per week, and they are most often running late - we're finishing closer to midnight than to 11 pm.  Even more than that, the play is now in our heads basically all of the time.  Last night, a friend noticed me in the supermarket parking lot because she suddenly heard someone humming "What does he want of me" [that's a song from the show, of course].  Giving birth to a show is not unlike giving birth, period: the long gestation period, that huge final effort at the end, the lack of sleep .......


At this point, the show is STILL a work in progress.  At Monday's rehearsal, we deconstructed and reconstructed elements and scenes that still were not quite "working". 

Ya'akov? Keshet?  I could use some help here.....

The very last nips and tucks are being taken on the costumes (not, presumably, on the actors). The last nuances of emphasis and phrasing are being polished in the singing. The orchestra has joined us and we are starting to hear how the show is really going to sound - playback, live instruments, choral and solo singing all have to come together just so.  

I'd probably be more nervous if i wasn't so exhausted.  I'm getting my dialogue right - but never ALL of it right in the same rehearsal.  I'm very creative; each time, I forget something else.  Or say the right thing, but at the wrong time.  And every so often we'll still have one of those terrifying moments when nobody seems to know who is supposed to say the next line. 

Tonight we will have another full run (beginning to end performance) complete with costumes and orchestra.  After that, we'll have another few chances to get it right before - GASP! - we open the show ONE WEEK FROM TODAY!!!!! 

Even when everything is down pat and polished to a high shine, things can, and do, go wrong. There was the time all of the orchestra's music was forgotten on the bus.  There was the time a piece of scenery started rolling slowly down the sloped stage, gathering speed as it hurtled towards the orchestra pit. There was the time our Conductor bumped into the CD player in the middle of a dance, and suddenly the music was completely out of synch with the dancers. There was the time a microphone wasn't switched off as the actor left the stage, and the audience was treated to loud whispered curses floating out into the ether. In rehearsals, if not in shows, people have had pieces of their costume fall off (.... and First Place goes to Debby, who lost a skirt once and pair of pants another time). Best of all, maybe, was the time the curtain opened and because of the smoke machine we were using on stage, the fire alarms went off in the theater.  ["What do we do now?"  "Shut up and keep singing!"].  

You never know what's going to happen, but one thing we do know is that if you want to be a part of the action, NOW is the time to buy your tickets!!!!!!

LOGON's performance of "Man of La Mancha", coming soon to a theater near you!

"To Dream the Impossible Dream........."

For information on ordering tickets, see our website: