Passions, meanings, messages and importance are discussion points offered by cast members of Saltpillar Theater’s newest offering, My name Is Asher Lev.

Saltpillar Theatre has been bringing theatre to the Jewish community, and beyond, since 1986 and are proud to present the Australian premiere season of this stage play adaption by Aaron Posner, based on the best selling novel by American author and rabbi Chaim Potok.

This beautiful play follows the journey of a young orthodox Jewish boy and how his need to create art is at odds with his parents and the world he is being brought up in.

The director and cast are passionate about the work they are sharing:

Charles Slucki (Director)
The greatest challenge presented to us with “My Name is Asher Lev” was to present it in a way that is honest to the script adapted by Aaron Posner from the magnificent book by Chaim Potok .

Potok wrote about core conflicts between people and powerful forces like family, religion, and society. There tend to be no villains in his stories, and very little fancy or pyrotechnic writing. His stories are filled with people doing their best to live their lives in keeping with their own deeply held beliefs and convictions. But sometimes, when those beliefs and conviction are in conflict within a community or a family, or even within one’s self, it can be very tricky. That is where Potok located most of his work.

He explored big, hard questions in honest, intelligent and insightful ways.

Asher Lev’s story makes great theatre. Asher is a compelling character in a nearly impossible situation. Torn between an irresistible passion for creating art, and a family and community that finds that art, foolishness at best, and evil at worst, he must attempt to strike nearly impossible balances and reconcile nearly irreconcilable differences. And while this plays out in a very Jewish world, clearly these kinds of conflicts are not restricted to just the world of Hasidic Jews and genius level artists. Most of us can relate to core conflicts with our own families and communities. And core conflicts make for compelling, powerful theatre.

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We hope that our audiences will be taken on a journey where they will be asked to think deeply about issues in their own lives, and receive insights into a world they may know little about. Theatre can be an invaluable window into other times, other places and other people. What we often come to understand is that these “others” are not so different as we might have imagined. Hopefully this play will provide some access to these worlds, and though them, to learning more about our own complex humanity.

Joe Tigel (Asher Lev – Narrator age 50)
This play means a lot to me because it echoes the struggle of people that are questioning where they came from, how that frames their life, the type of person they see themselves becoming and how they relate to others and that’s a universal challenge.

I’m passionate because the depth of Potok’s writing gives you an insight into the tortured mind and that whole question of values and guilt (and Jews have plenty of that).

The play is set in a rapidly assimilating society, given that its set in America, and this is a theme throughout Potok’s work, it is so relevant to a Jew who has moved into a democratic and free society, where a Jew has a lot of opportunities and choice.

I want the audience to take the following away from the play; First and foremost never judge a book by its cover, secondly that I’d love the audience to reflect on where they see their responsibility as Jews and to emerging generations.

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Gideon Cohen (Asher Lev – Ages 12 to 21)
I’m passionate about performing, having just finished VCE I know what it is like to try and balance your artistic interests with what everyone else expects of you, and this is the main struggle for Asher.

The experience of the play has been amazing to work with experienced adults in the industry as I have only ever acted in high school productions it is a new experience and one I am very excited about.

Palmer Manny Rosenberg (Asher Lev – Ages 6 to 10)
I reckon it will help in the future working with people that aren’t your age. It is a great experience, every experience is good experience each experience makes you smarter and better at what you do.

I think the moral of the play is to follow your dreams and make sure you don’t give up and even if your defying something if it is what your heart wants then stick with it. Even through the bad times.

866efb_a23c0698a0fe4878815faf6a72917e0f.jpg_srb_p_914_609_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srbHenry Nusbaum (Jacob Kahn)
The play offers a picture of the Jewish conflict that embodies the tradition, spirituality of religiosity and the dimension, pragmatism of secularism. The part I play of the seller of the secular pleasures allows me to draw on my own experiences and life. The play echoes this juxtaposition that many people have. I hope the audience will have an open mind and enjoy the contrasts of character, beliefs and images. Maybe the audience will be able to see beyond their own worlds and be accepting of the complexity of life and its various representations.

Leon Garfinkel (Rebbe)
The play has woken me up to the need for humans to have art as part of their culture, it is an intrinsic part of the human spirit to have art. The conflict is clear between art and religion and this play has given me a lot of food for thought about the conflict.

I want the audience to take away that family is important but real honesty with oneself is above all.

This play is important to the world it is an age old conflict a three way conflict between family art and religion. It’s a universal thing.

Daniel Fox (Aryeh Lev)
Being in the play is an incredible honour to be able to, firstly, be a part of Saltpillar that I have been watching for many years. But also to be in this play is an incredible buzz. Im a proud jew and for me being in a jewish play and trying to bring some honesty to a very difficult relationship, its beautiful, I don’t know… it means a lot to me to be a part of this play because I believe in the story, I can relate to the story as a son and a father being part of the religious community, the story brings a lot of joy and pain to a Jew. The emphasis that I want to make is that I really love the story it is a real honour to be part of this group of amazing actors.

Michelle Gray (Rivka Lev and Anna Schaeffer)
{Palmer Manny Rosenberg is Michelle Grays Son both in the play and in life}

866efb_e00f9d2b6f8944dbb17933f5af6e1083.jpg_srb_p_914_609_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srbThis play is a chance for me to re- enter the theatre as well as involve myself in our community.
It’s also an opportunity for me to introduce my youngest son to the theatre and enjoy sharing the experience of connecting with him and watching him express himself as an actor – which is his passion and perhaps his future.

I want the Jewish community to open it’s heart and collective mind to the concept of embracing Jewish Theatre warts and all and supporting the few productions that amateur Jewish theatre in Melbourne offers.

My Name Is Asher Lev
April 25 – May 10
http://www.saltpillar.org.au/about/

Director: Charles Slucki

Asher Lev: Joe Tigel
Asher Lev (Child): Palmer Manny Rosenberg
Asher Lev (Teen): Gideon Cohen
Aryeh Lev: Daniel Fox
Rivkeh Lev: Michelle Gray
Yitzchok Lev: Leon Chapman
The Rebbe: Leon Garfinkel
Jacob Kahn: Henry Nausbaum
Anna Schaeffer: Michelle Gray
Rachel: Amanda Rotberg

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