July 16, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 16, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

SAR High School Launches Bamah, Virtual Theater Festival

On Sunday, January 31, Bamah: United Through Theater Education will mount its first ever production, “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon: A Stay-At-Home Play,” by Don Zolidis, on YouTube Premiere. Founded and directed by Dorit Katzenelenbogen and Rabbi Kenneth Birnbaum of SAR High School, Bamah is a groundbreaking virtual drama festival created for participating Jewish day schools across the U.S.

COVID-19 has posed unprecedented challenges for schools and the theater community at large, and theater educators have been searching for inventive ways to provide students with safe yet collaborative, joyful and artistically meaningful experiences. Rather than struggling to fit a regular production model into an online format, SAR resolved to capitalize on the opportunities the current pandemic provides to experiment and to connect in innovative ways. From that positive mindset, the novel idea for a multi-school virtual theater festival was born.

Spanning not just the geographical spectrum but the denominational one as well, teachers and students from SAR High School in Riverdale, Golda Och Academy in West Orange, Yeshivah of Flatbush High School in Brooklyn, San Diego Jewish Academy and Milken Community School in Los Angeles have collaborated to generate a full-scale digital production. Each participating school utilized its own creative and technological strengths to produce their unique segment of the larger whole. Schools recruited traditional and non-traditional performing arts students alike, allowing for a range of fresh artistic expression while simultaneously necessitating all contributors to work toward a unified final performance.

In the months leading up to the production, a national theatrical community took shape as, in addition to rehearsals and meetings within their individual institutions, all participating students partook in a series of Zoom workshops led by industry professionals. Due in part to generous funding by the Jewish Education Project, Bamah was thrilled to provide students with once in a lifetime access to costume and set designers, directors, stage managers, video editors and performers who are fixtures of the Broadway, TV and film worlds. Students also had the opportunity to hear from playwright Don Zolidis who shared unique insights into the play they were in the process of putting together. Under normal circumstances, such prominent artists would have been unavailable. However, with their own projects on hold due to the pandemic, these incredible professionals were delighted to meet with interested students in order to share their knowledge and experiences. As one freshman student said, “It feels really special to receive advice and feedback from the top of the top.”

Throughout their Bamah experience, students connected with others from different Jewish denominations, cultures and backgrounds, and they integrated valuable lessons imparted at the online workshops into their rehearsal processes. Despite their differences, Jewish day schools across the country were united by their love of theater and worked to create something beautiful, while being enriched and inspired in the process. SAR conceived of Bamah to help fill the tremendous void left by an inability to meet, rehearse and perform in the schools and theaters. In doing so, this groundbreaking theatrical educational experience turned an unforeseen global challenge into something memorable and unique for the community, created a network of like-minded Jewish day school students, and pushed the boundaries of what we are capable of in the digital theater space.

Bamah’s performance of “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” will be streaming live at bamah.sarhighschool.org on January 31, at at 8:00 p.m. Grab some popcorn and your favorite beverage and enjoy the show.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles