Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Note from the Authors of COUNT THE STARS

Every show has a Playbill that features photos of the show, production and cast lists. The Raise Your Spirits Playbill also includes a note from the authors, in order to explain the background, behind the show. This note was written by the authors and composers of COUNT THE STARS, Avital Macales and myself.
The Jewish people took center stage in humanity when Avraham and Sara stepped into the spotlight, journeying throughout the Middle East, spreading their message of faith in One G-d and a world based on goodness. The story of Avraham and Sara is epic! Av Hamon Goyim, father of many nations. What an honor and responsibility to bring the journey of Avraham and Sara lovingly, respectfully and entertainingly to the stage.
Well-known to the majority of mankind!! After all, Avraham is
Avraham’s ten trials are legendary stories upon which we have all been raised. But what stories do we tell? What do we omit? If we recounted all of Avraham’s ten trials, we’d be in the theater for a full day! Of course, we could order pizza and sandwiches to hold us over, but a better idea was to tell the account of our forefather in a more reasonable length.
First, we decided to leave out the midrashim and myriad of interpretations, and go with pshat, the straight story from the Torah. B”H, over the past year, we learned from a dozen sources and felt that we had really entered into the camp of Avraham and Sara. Our hearts became attached to them, just like the souls they had made in Charan. We studied the chapters of Lech Lecha and Vayeira with classic and modern sources, including Rashi, Me’am Lo’ez, Abarbanel, Rav Yosef B. Soloveich, Rabbi Abraham Trugman and more. We listened to shiurim from Torah institutions around the world.
In the end, we decided to tell the stories of Avraham and Sara, mainly as we read them in the Chumash, with a few exceptions. We began COUNT THE STARS with an introduction to Avraham, a man unafraid to stand up against the world, profess his belief in One Loving G-d, and decry the world of idol worship. We didn’t break the the idols, as the Midrash says young Avram did, but we broke today’s idols, as you’ll see in our version of “Mesopotamian Idol”.
We wrote our script to give as many people parts as possible. Actually, many of our performers play several parts. In fact, the COUNT THE STARS legend goes that we have 300 different costumes on stage. Wow! In order to give more teenagers a way to participate, we followed Me’am Lo’ez on Bereishit 16:8-14, who says, “The word ‘angel’ is repeated four times in this account, indicating that four different angels addressed Hagar.” That led us to four teen angels, or as another interpretation said - messengers.
There were some stories that we left out – so don’t worry, you won’t be here until midnight. We only hinted at the tragic story of Sodom and its aftermath with Lot. We didn’t reenact the complex war between the four kings and the five kings. And we didn’t delve into the fact that Hagar was pregnant, miscarried and then became pregnant again when she returned home, after running away from Sarai her mistress.
When Sara was taken to Avimelech’s palace, we scratched our heads whether to call her the daughter of Avraham’s brother or daughter of his father. The Torah says “father”, because Terach was Sara’s grandfather, but we almost changed our wording to “brother”, so as not to confuse the audience. Well, don’t be confused, just reread Bereishit 20:12.
We also wondered how to present Hashem’s words throughout the show. G-d speaks quite a lot to Avraham! Obviously, no person can symbolize Hashem. So, instead, we gave innocent little children the task of being the Voices of G-d’s Angels.
As we wrote COUNT THE STARS, some of the songs sang themselves to us. Suddenly, we had lyrics AND melodies. We feel blessed that we were able to create the music for this show, B”H, and we are grateful to Amit Ben Atar for taking our melodies and arranging them into what we hope are memorable songs that you will sing long after you leave the theatre.
This show would not have been possible without the support of our families and the devotion of our cast, our producers Noa Choritz and Sharon Katz, our music director Gayle Berman, our choreographer Sara Orenstein, the rest of our production staff and the Raise Your Spirits amutah. We’d like to specially recognize Toby Klein Greenwald, our director, who put in endless hours of caring, meeting with us, and bringing our vision to the stage. This production has been a joint effort of love.
Our gratitude to all of you. We hope you enjoy COUNT THE STARS. We’d like to bless you with the blessings of Avraham, “You shall be a blessing…[and] to your offspring, [G-d] will give this land.” (Bereishit 12: 2, 7) 
And if you ever need inspiration, remember to “look up high toward the Heavens”.

Sharon Katz Avital Macales

Photos by Bati Katz.