On Sunday, June 16th, 28 performers took the stage at the Wilmette Center for the Arts in Orot on Stage’s 8th Annual Production for Women, entitled “Breaking Free.” Founded by Mashi Polstein and Tsiona Adler, the showcase dates back to 2011, and was originally housed by Chicago Torah Network’s Spa Day for the Soul. Named for the studio where the performers once rehearsed, Orot on Stage stuck as the production’s official title. Each performance has centered on a unique theme, and the original pieces––composed and directed by the performers––explore the infinite aspects of that theme. This year, “Breaking Free” included stepping outside of our self-imposed limitations, letting go of the boxes in which we place our family members, and escaping the ever-present technology that continually clamors for our attention. The show highlights dance, song, drama, spoken word, even martial arts––each year’s cast determining the composition based on their individual talents and passions.
Five-time performer Chava Rosenbaum said, “being a part of this show means accessing part of my creativity that normally remains dormant the rest of the year. It’s a chance to show other women that they can be creative and frum, and it’s a space where I can be me in a way I can’t be me anywhere else.” Similar sentiments came from Julie Weiss who remarked, “Orot on Stage is so important because it allows so many of us an opportunity to share talents that might otherwise go unseen or unexpressed.”
This year’s production was co-directed by Alisa Ungar-Sargon and Mandy Hakimi. Ungar-Sargon, the sister of the show’s co-founder, Tsiona Adler, has participated in all eight performances. She notes that, “eight years ago, the show was a footnote to a larger event. Now it’s the main event. Because of the women who volunteer their time and creativity year after year, the show has grown in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And we couldn’t be prouder.” Four-time performer and two-time director, Hakimi, spoke of the unifying quality of the show. “It brings together women who might never have met––they go to different shuls, they live in different parts of town, some are fresh out of seminary, some are proud bubbies, but all of them get to present a piece of their essence. It isn’t about what you do for a living or whose mommy you are, it’s about using your G-d given talents to say something to the world.”
As a celebration of these gifts Hashem has given to the Jewish women of Chicagoland to uplift, comfort, inspire, and make one another laugh, Orot on Stage delights audience members. “It was such a thrill to be surprised by each beautifully coordinated piece; to be immersed in a world of pure creativity, encompassing such a powerful theme that relates to women of all ages and backgrounds. For me, it was an hour of true self-care!” remarked Clara Chaya Epstein.
For the past two years, the proceeds from the performance have benefited a new chesed initiative in our community called The Family Fund. Founded and directed by Mandy Hakimi, it was established to provide monetary gifts to Jewish mothers in Chicagoland who do not qualify for paid leave from their employers. The fund’s goal is to provide support for families who need it now and help realize a federal paid leave policy in the future. When asked to direct the show for the first time two years ago, Hakimi was in the initial stages of creating The Family Fund. “The chance to combine my involvement in the Orot on Stage production with my passion for The Family Fund was a no-brainer. It has proven an excellent platform for spreading the word about and raising funds for such an important cause.”
Interested in performing in next year’s Orot on Stage production? Email [email protected] to be added to the mailing list. To learn more about The Family Fund, visit familyfundchicago.org.