Tag Archives: kids

Tikkun Olam this June

This month I have the pleasure to be working on a special little show called, Save a Child’s Heart, that is being presented by the Harmony Theatre Company & School in Minneapolis. It is written by Laura Burroughs, Elena Khalitov, and Matt Saxe. Khalitov is also the founder of the company while Saxe directed the piece.

An original play based on true stories from an Israeli humanitarian organization that provides free life-saving heart surgery for children worldwide.

But what exactly is Save a Child’s Heart; both the organization and the play?

Our story follows a seven year old girl named Maria who suffers from a congenital heart disease known as VSD. In layman’s terms it means she has a “hole in her heart”, which is a surprisingly common ailment of newborns and young children. Fortunately, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) specializes in curing just this problem and have been doing so since 1995. The best part, however, is that the non-profit hospital reaches out to underdeveloped nations and strives to help all children regardless of their ethnic or religious background. Yes, this even includes all the Arab neighbors of Israel. There is no discrimination and in the play we see young Maria makes friends with a Palestinian girl suffering the same illness.

SACH.png

As for myself, I get to play the young volunteer who looks after the kids in the children’s home and imparts my knowledge of “Tikkun Olam”, a central tenet of the Jewish faith that means “to fix the world”. It’s a philosophy I was unaware of before joining the production, and holds that all humans ought to continually strive to make the world a better place. Whether that’s volunteering at a place like SACH or simply picking up garbage on the street, we all must do our best to restore the world to God’s original perfection.

It’s a high bar and as we know, humans ain’t perfect. Nonetheless, in times of stress and trouble why shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a higher standard? We all belong to the same earth, after all, so despite our surface differences we really are one human race. Save a Child’s Heart drives home this idea through the lens of children and hopefully the adults in the room can follow suit.

Save a Child’s Heart plays:
June 21 @ 7 pm (University of Minnesota)
June 24 @ 4 pm (University of Minnesota)
September 6 @ 7 pm (Wellstone Center)

And features:
Vincent Hannam
Hannah Shteyman
Dinah Hunegs
Chana Lyubeznik
Alice Khalitov
Esther Khalitov
Jeffry Nordin
Christine Nordin
Sarah Cumes
Liz Swabey-Keith
Ellen Apel
Matt Saxe
and
Tigger, the Orange Tabby as Tikki, the Cat

 

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Of Mice and Kids

Running right now at Park Square Theatre is Of Mice and Men, and it’s a show you can catch on the weekends or if you’re bold enough, every weekday morning with dozens of high schoolers!

Yep, Of Mice and Men plays just about every morning between now and mid-December to students who get to enjoy a field trip to the theatre. If you’re not familiar with Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, you should know that it’s kind of something they’ve earned as a reputation over the years. Steinbeck’s classic has been produced every-other-year in this fashion for at least a decade now. When I tell friends that I’m in it, they say, “Oh, I remember seeing that when I was a kid!” (For the record, I’m 26).

It seems darn near everyone takes the trip to Park Square and enjoys the show! Which I think is amazing, for so many thousands of people to share such an experience in the Twin Cities and throughout the region. I mean, the evening schedule is wonderful but I get such a unique joy from performing my role for teenagers who may never make a habit of watching theatre. I feel that’s a common sentiment among actors, but I really do take a pride in it and that’s thanks to my own field trip to see a play back in middle school.

Of Mice and Men
The cast of Of Mice and Men. Directed by Annie Enneking.  

I can’t even remember what the production company, but I remember taking a field trip in eighth grade to see a production of The Tell Tale Heart (and The Monkey’s Paw) at the Tupperware Center in my home town of Kissimmee, Florida. It was certainly a touring company of some sort, maybe even a high school production, but I remember superb production quality and the thrill of watching a man slowly lose his mind over the incessant beating of the heart under the floorboards. I wasn’t even an actor then! At that point in my life, theatre as nowhere near the forefront of my mind. It’s only now, looking back, that I can recognize it as a formative experience in my life’s chosen path.

Who knows if these students will think about this show after they get back on the bus, and back to class. I hope they do, not just for the sake of being exposed to the arts, but because the themes in Of Mice and Men are so poignant and relevant. The idea that people can only live for so long in an oppressive society. That sometimes you need action in order to make your life a better place. Surface-wise, there’s not too much hope being offered in this play, but just scratch that surface and you’ll find a wealth of courage and resolution.

This is what I hope to share with these kids.