In recent years, the performing arts department at Ramah Wisconsin has grown exponentially. We have been blessed to have so many talented performers on staff who have been excited to share their talents with the camp community. An exciting addition to the performing arts here has been the Northwoods Ramah Theatre Company, a group of actors who spend a two-week residency at camp to create and perform original pieces of Jewish theatre. The group includes veteran staff member and Performing Arts Director Jonathan Ross (aka JAR) and veteran camper and staff member Jeremy Frankenthal, as well as visiting artists Annie Levy, Shawn Shafner, and Franny Silverman.
This year the group created an interactive theatre experience based on Shakespeare's sonnets. Campers saw the performance, which occurred outside around the creative arts complex, during their morning classes. The performance started with an introduction by Amelia Bassano, an Italian Jewish contemporary of Shakespeare, who it is now believed may have written some of the works attributed to Shakespeare. She asked the audience to listen to a selection of the sonnets with new ears, being open to the idea that someone else might have written them, that thinking about them in new contexts might give them new meaning. Several staff members then performed the sonnets in different ways in order to highlight new meanings.
The Company's main performance took place on Sunday night. This year, instead of creating a play, camp commissioned a play for the Company to perform. The play, My Name is Sharon, written by playwright, Daniel John Kelley, dealt with Shakepeare's work The Merchant of Venice, specifically with the character of Shylock. The whole play takes place during detention, in which one student tries to convince her teacher that Shylock can be read in a different way, a way that might not be so anti-Semitic. Ultimately, Shylock is still not redeemed, but the student is insistent that the play must still be read, that eventually, maybe the reading can change. A question-and-answer session followed the performance and one of the main themes that came away from the show is that texts are ever-changing based on the times and who is reading them.
During the two-week residency the actors had open rehearsals, so campers and staff could come and watch at any point during the day. It was a great way for our community to be able to see professional actors at work, and to be able to see the rehearsal process. Thank you to the Northwoods Ramah Theatre Company!