HT: A Pickle Review & Audrey Heller Fund Announcement

by Connie Shakalis

Is it management? Or a certain philosophy about choosing scripts and actors? (I know Corey Hollinger, technical assistant and and stage manager, routinely adds polish.) If your missed JTB’s recent one-woman play, Deborah Yarchun’s “A Pickle,” I’m sorry. I don’t remember seeing a production at Jewish Theatre of Bloomington that wasn’t really, really good.

Yarchun wrote a play about a big jar of salty pickles. A play that had me waking up the next morning thinking about Kosher dills, but also about having grown up in Indianapolis, where the multi-swimming-pooled Riviera Club did not offer memberships to Jewish people or Blacks but, begrudgingly, did to a tiny pod of Catholics. Most of the other swimmers were white and Protestant.

I recognize a play’s impact by how I feel the next day. It’s noon, and I’m still thinking about Doris Rubenstein, whose kitchen-made, recipe-handed-down-from-generations pickles got disqualified at the 2000 Minnesota State Fair. The brined cucumbers sat unseen by fair goers in the out-of-view “Rejected Foods” pile. Just as my best friend, Susie, in Indy couldn’t join the “Rivy” because of her dad’s Jewishness, Doris’ pickles were receiving judgment from the wrong people. The judges weren’t mean; they just had never seen, tasted or known about what defines a Kosher pickle.

Playwright Yarchun and actress Annabel Armour have each won numerous theater awards, and the two were a match.

At the play’s end, we heard this: “Announcing the Audrey Heller Jewish Theatre of Bloomington fund.” As much as no one wants to think that Audrey Heller, the theater’s co-founder and current producing artistic director, might someday retire — no! — the fund has been set up to help pay the salary of an eventual new artistic director.

 

In an unprecedented event, a generous theater lover is matching every single donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000, according to Cassie Hakken, the theater’s managing director. The Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County manages the fund.

JBT is Indiana’s only Jewish theater and is one of the best ones in the country, although one needn’t be Jewish to participate.

In fact, “A Pickle” actress, Armour, mentioned precisely that when she was cast in the huge role — of a Jewish woman. “I’m not Jewish,” Armour told management.

“That is perfectly fine,” Heller responded, which she explained during the May 22 “A Pickle” talkback.

Heller co-founded the theater in 2005, starting with a few staged readings. Now JTB produces two full-length quality plays per year. The plays they select involve people and events important to Jewish life or to universal human themes.

Donations to the new-artistic-director fund may be made in a variety of ways. For more information, contact Deb Allmayer, the theater’s treasurer, or go to jewishtheatrebloomington.com.