The Observer: The Student Newspaper of Yeshiva University
by Alisa Ungar-Sargon
On Sunday, February 3, Stern College for Women screened “A Light for Greytowers,” a production about a Jewish girl struggling to keep her faith, to two audiences at the Schottenstein Cultural Center. SCW senior Rivka Siegel starred in the all-women’s feature-length film.
The matter of women’s modesty in the Orthodox Jewish world, for better or for worse, has always been a major factor in decision-making, event arranging, or career building. While many Orthodox women have an affinity for the performing arts, this factor has been the end word on any sort of professional or continued interest. The issue has never been a lack of interest-simply, a lack of opportunity. A performer needs an audience. With half the population ruled out due to their being male, the need for a performing arts community amongst Jewish women has been long overlooked.
The doors, however, have slowly been opening to the possibility of an established expertise in the performing arts, with centers springing up in locations from Israel to Los Angeles.
“A Light for Greytowers,” a Kol Neshama musical directed by Robin Garbose, is based on the novel of the same name and tells the story of a young Jewish girl whose faith is challenged in a dark, suffocating orphanage. Siegel plays the Russian mother searching for the daughter that was taken away from her.
“I like emotional roles that you can sink your teeth into,” said Siegel in an interview with The Observer. A 21-year-old art major native to Los Angeles, she had been part of the inspiration behind the summer program first created by Garbose. Upon being presented with the film just after graduating high school, Siegel initially declined; Garbose, however, convinced her to do it. “Robin pushed me and I found out things about myself that I didn’t know that I could do,” she explained.
The filming itself took only 20 days, after rehearsing the songs and choreography for a month. The scenes were done out of order, sometimes requiring umpteen takes. “In the reunion scene they chose for the movie I’m all red after 10 takes,” Siegel laughed.
Everything was done professionally, from the crew to the makeup. The sets were all in Los Angeles, with an old Chabad house as the orphanage. Though Siegel’s character does have a husband in the film, they never actually appear in the same scene together.
“I definitely would much rather be in movies than in plays,” Rivka confirmed with certainty. “A movie is there, it’s permanent. A play is more fleeting. I’m so happy that I don’t have to perform and still can affect people.”