Saturday, August 02, 2003

Goodbye to Halle Theatre (Jewish Community Center)


I made my local community theatre debut at the Jewish Community Center’s theatre. It was located in a store front on Lee Road and was headed by the noted former New York theatrical actor and director, Mark Feder. I was featured in ‘OUR TOWN’ and ‘COLD WIND AND THE WARM’ in that inviting setting. Later, after the theatre moved to the “brand new” JCC on Mayfield Road, I continued my theatrical career there. Joseph Buloff, of TV’s “The Untouchables” and Broadway fame, came to Cleveland to direct ‘THE FIFTH SEASON ‘ which playwright Betty Fields had written for him to star in on Broadway. A year later he returned and I had a major role in the first not-on-Broadway production of ‘THE WALL,‘ the story of Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was a privilege to work with this great man. I learned much of my directing skills from him. Skills which I later shared with students at several local junior and senior high schools, Lorain County Community College, and casts at numerous community theatres.

It was, therefore, with much sadness that I learned that JCC’s Halle Theatre was going on sabbatical. The announced plan is to revive the program next year. The skepticism in the theatrical and lay community is running high. Activities put on hold often stay on hold forever. It will be a genuine shame if this community permanently loses the JCC theatre program. It is the only venue for plays specifically written about or by Jews.

With the great amount of funds donated by Jewish philanthropists in this town, it is a shame that someone has not stepped forward to save this treasure. Yes, lots of “little” guys have offered donations. It will, however, take some big giver to provide the needed funds to underwrite the program. Arts programs, in general, can’t be supported by ticket sales and small contributors. It takes major donors, whether it be a person, a city, a corporation, or a non-profit organization to float the funds to support the project.

I can only trust that Enid Baum Rosenberg, one of my former Beachwood students who benefitted from my JCC training, will lead the Board of JCC to find some way to breathe life back into this needed theatre program.