By Lynn Venhaus

Whether you have a family that always puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional or is going through a temporary rough patch, you will find something relatable in Lila Rose Kaplan’s crowd-pleasing comedy-drama “We All Fall Down.”

Nowhere is an extended family’s quirkiness more apparent that at a holiday gathering, and this setting is a Passover seder with the Jewish but non-practicing Steins coming together.
 
The territory navigated is both familiar and foreign. When the playwright’s wit, director Rebekah Scallet’s finesse, and the cast’s crisp comic timing percolate on all cylinders, it’s splendid.

Yet, there is a busyness that comes across as somewhat annoying. The seven characters are all pre-occupied, with the parents and two grown adult children overstuffed with personality peculiarities, and the three guests underdeveloped. Perhaps some trimming would have made it feel less congested.

While the resolution is heartfelt, it doesn’t feel as genuine or as earned as it could be, for the relationships are complicated, and the revelations feel rushed.

As we all know, often when people try too hard to make a celebration joyful, it fails to meet expectations because of uncooperative moving parts.

Add befuddlement as to why this festival is happening now when it’s never been a big deal, which adds a layer – and everyone is in various degrees of a tizzy.

While psychologist and family therapist mom Linda (Mindy Shaw), history professor dad (Alan Knoll), yoga instructor daughter Ariel (Hailey Medrano), feminist activist-educator daughter Sammi (Bridgette Bassa), sarcastic aunt Nan (Jenni Ryan), a sweet but sensitive friend Bev (Bethany Barr) and an efficient assistant Ester (Taijha Silas) are preparing for this specific meal with their own ‘to-do’ lists, wackiness ensues, and universal truths give way.

Mindy Shaw, Hailey Medrano. Photo by Jon GItchoff.

In Judaism, Passover commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, sparing the first-born of the Israelites on the eve of the Exodus. There are specific rituals handed down through generations, and Kaplan deftly explains traditions to those of us not in the know.

Those of other faiths can identify with their own heritage’s touchstones while the evergreen themes of people growing older, and children growing up strike chords.

The ensemble meshes well, conveying all the stress, resentments and aggravations that a holiday represents, but also their unique family dynamic and relationships. As in real life, a delicate balance between mothers, fathers, daughters and sisters is always shifting.

Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Knoll, whose performances are always lived in and first-rate, has shaded Saul with convincing layers, coming across at first as good-natured but concealing a troubled soul.

His memory is fading, and he’s confused, disconnected, and not understanding what’s happening, although he’s trying to cling tight to his routines.

His patterns are being interrupted by all the hubbub, and glimpses of what’s happening begin to be noticed by the others when they start paying attention. Most everyone is in their own little bubble and must eventually find the compassion they need at this moment. Frustrated, he won’t admit or can’t come to terms with his cognitive decline.

Alan Knoll, Bridgette Bassa, with Jenni Ryan in background. Photo by Jon Gitchoff.

Those who’ve witnessed a loved one lose parts of themselves through Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can recognize the symptoms that Kaplan astutely presents.

A flustered, frantic melodramatic wife and mother, Linda is played as a demanding perfectionist with nervous energy by the lissome and facile Mindy Shaw.  

This bossy control freak and bestselling author has a hidden agenda that keeps everyone guessing as to why she’s going to all this trouble. She’s a little kooky dressing up in costumes and flitting about.

Her two daughters, with secrets of their own, are focused on their problems and not why their dad may have retired early, why he’s drinking so much, or why mom’s making the signature dishes for what an old neighbor describes as “Jewish Easter.”

As adult daughters, Bassa and Medrano affect a realistic sibling rivalry and dissatisfaction with their current paths. Intelligent and limber performers, Bassa and Medrano bounce off each other like women with a history, and their rhythm is naturalistic.

There is an undercurrent of tension that may be connected to their mother’s book “Mothering Difficult Children”,” which is a hoot.” (What a great title!).

Ryan plays Saul’s outspoken sister, Aunt Nan, a part that seems straight out of sitcom land, as does Barr’s Bev, an empty nester who once lived across the street.

Silas has a nice turn as Linda’s graduate assistant who is tasked with singing “The Four Questions,” and does so beautifully.

Taijha Silas as Ester. Photo by Jon Gitchoff.

The two-story suburban home setting designed by Andrea Ball is a marvel of functionality and comfort. The kitchen is stocked with all the necessary ingredients and tools to make Kugel and matzo balls, and the girls’ childhood bedroom becomes an oasis (as does a bathroom).

The technical design work is as admirable as ever, with Michael Sullivan’s lighting design and Michelle Friedman Siler’s costume design both stellar components. Cecille “Cece” Entz’ prop work is noteworthy — an appealing mix of years of clutter.

Ellie Schwetye’s sound design is always significant, and this time her mix tape choices are interesting — especially the specific “War of 1812 Overture” that’s in the script.

Kaplan crafted this play with heart. Originally produced in 2020 in Boston, this presentation is the regional premiere in St. Louis. She has a flair for tackling issues from a woman’s point of view, which is refreshing. However, the tone shifts several times, which happens when the material is both a comedy and a drama.

Scallet, also the artistic director, has helmed this show in a light-hearted way, even though the theme is heavy – parents must be taken care of even when you can’t take care of yourself

She and the playwright met years ago when Scallet was directing Kaplan’s play “Catching Flight,” which was part of a new play development program, and became friends.

The main takeaway is that traditions should be appreciated and familial love is the foundation of life. Whatever our families are going through, we can lean on each other for comfort and strength. All families deal with loss, lose their way, and re-emerge with new customs, yet never forgetting those who have passed.

Memories are made, and passed on through generations — simple yet profound.

Alan Knoll, Jenni Ryan. Photo by Jon Gitchoff.

The New Jewish Theatre presents “We All Fall Down” from May 30 to June 16 at the JCCA’s Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis. The play is 95 minutes without an intermission. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8.p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Individual tickets are $27- $58. Tickets are available by phone at 314.442.3283 or online at newjewishtheatre.org.

Special Note: Scallet will host two additional talkbacks with show audiences on Saturday, June 14 following the 4 p.m. performance, and on Thursday, June 6, following the 7:30 p.m. performance.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff.

By Lynn Venhaus

Rebekah Scallet was eager for new horizons when she moved to St. Louis in 2020. However, a public health emergency upended her plans, and while she waited out a global pandemic in her new home, thinking about a future with no live theatre was terrifying. However, turns out that forced time off was a partial silver lining.

“I had left my former full-time position as Artistic Director for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre and moved to St. Louis with my family and without a new job to go to. But in a way, this was the best thing possible for me. I was forced to slow down and admit to myself that I was burned out. I needed a reset and time with my family.  And my family needed me for all the virtual school,” she said.

“So, I am grateful for the forced time off, and when the opportunity arose to get back into full time theatre work, I was ready and able to come back with a better perspective on work life balance,” she said.

When named the Artistic Director at the New Jewish Theatre in 2022, she hit the ground running and is now eager to start working on New Jewish Theatre’s 26th year.

Prior to taking over at the J, she worked as a freelance director and teacher, including at the Sargent Conservatory at Webster University where she directed “The Learned Ladies.”

But now, back into full-time theatre work, she is grateful for a fresh perspective. She’s very proud of the efforts that made the 2023 memorable, her first full season, and is gearing up for the 2024 season.

For NJT in 2022, she produced “The Bee Play” after taking the reins previously held by Eddie Coffield. This October, she made her directorial debut at NJT, helming a triumphant “The Immigrant” in October, which had been previously done in 1999 and 2011. Timely, with new insights, the production introduced the story to a new generation.

The final production of 2023, “Into the Woods” has been a passion project, and finally achieving the vision she and director Robert Quinlan had has been a satisfying end to this season.

The show is running from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17, with performances Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Dec. 17 is sold-out. Link for tickets: https://www.showpass.com/into-the-woods-njt/

Scallet brought years of theater experience to NJT through her previous work as the Producing Artistic Director at the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, which is a professional equity summer theatre festival part of the University of Central Arkansas. During that time, she produced 32 plays and musicals and directed eight productions.

Scallet worked as the Producing Artistic Director at the University of Central Arkansas, where she also taught two to four courses per year and directed the theatre program every other year for the Department of Film, Theatre and Creative Writing.

She also spent 10 years in Chicago working as a director, dramaturg, artistic administrator and teaching artist.

As a child, she remembers visiting St. Louis and her grandparents many years ago, and saw her grandmother perform in a Yiddish play at the J.

“The J itself has also meant a lot to my family. Though I only moved to the area a couple of years ago, my family has deep St. Louis roots, and I have fond childhood memories of seeing my grandmother perform on stage here. The building and the theatre itself have changed a lot since then, but this is truly a full-circle moment for me, and I am excited to walk in my grandmother’s footsteps as I create and share stories with this community,” she said in the press release announcing her new position.

In St. Louis, Rebekah has become involved in Jewish organizations. She served on the L’Chaim Gala Planning Committee, which is the Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and is a member of the National Council for Jewish Women St. Louis. In Arkansas, she was involved with the Jewish Federation of Arkansas where she served as a Board of Trustee from 2012-2018 and served as Chair of the Events Division, including overseeing the 2019 Jewish Food and Cultural Festival.

She and her husband, Joe Stafford, have two sons, ages 8 and 11, and live in Brentwood, Mo.

Scallet, center, directing.

Take Ten Questions and Answers with Rebekah Scallet

1. What is special about your latest project?

“Into the Woods” is a musical that I’ve always loved, and one that I’ve been dying to produce for several years now.  It was in the line-up for my cancelled summer 2020 season with Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, and I’m so thrilled I get to finally produce now with New Jewish Theatre. And I’m even more thrilled that Robert Quinlan is directing, who had been originally slated to direct my 2020 version. 

2. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?

Is it too cliched to say it chose me?  I have been involved in the theatre since I was little, and a director since before I knew there was such a job.

My mom likes to tell the story of watching me perform in my 4th Grade Thanksgiving play (that I also wrote). In addition to doing my own part, I was also moving the other kids around and making sure they were all standing in the right spot and doing the right thing at the right time.

As I got older and had the opportunity to work on more professional productions, I realized how powerful a tool the arts can be.  In addition to just loving the work, I love the way theatre can unite a community, create empathy, encourage conversation, and open new ideas.   

3. How would your friends describe you?

Warm and outgoing. A good listener. Diplomatic. And they’d probably mention my distinctive laugh. My actors always tell me they know when I’m in the audience because of my laugh. 

4. How do you like to spend your spare time?

What is that, exactly?  I am the mother of two boys aged 8 and 11, so my spare time is mostly spent at soccer games, piano lessons, and PTO meetings. But I also enjoy cooking, reading, and spending time walking outdoors. 

5. What is your current obsession?

I’ve been working my way through reading Tana French’s “Dublin Murder Squad” book series. They are all so good and so well written, plus I love the Irish dialect. It’s even more fun in audio book form.  

6. What would people be surprised to find out about you?

I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Chelsea Clinton played on my softball team.  

7. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?

Putting my hand on the Western Wall in Jerusalem when I was 16 years old. Knowing that I was touching stones that had stood in that spot for thousands of years, and that countless other Jews before me had touched those same stones and prayed as I prayed was so visceral and spiritual. I felt connected to my Jewish heritage in a way I never had before. 


8. Who do you admire most?

My father, of blessed memory.  He died young from cancer, when I was only 28, but he absolutely made the most of the years he had.  He was a scientist with a very sharp and curious mind, and he also loved the arts and exposed me and my siblings to every artistic and literary experience possible when we were growing up. He was always true to himself and invested just as much time into his role as father as in his career. I strive to do the same with my family. 

9. What is at the top of your bucket list?

I want to travel to South America – Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador. There is so much rich history and culture in all of these places. I’d love to have the opportunity to explore there. 

10. How were you affected by the pandemic years, and anything you would like to share about what got you through and any lesson learned during the isolation periods? Any reflections on how the arts were affected? And what it means to move forward?

As a theatre artist it was wretched – having to cancel a season of work that so much effort and creative energy had already been put into was awful.  And then to stare into a future with no live theatre until who knows when was terrifying.

As it happened, at the same time, I also left my former full-time position as Artistic Director for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre and moved to St. Louis with my family and without a new job to go to. But in a way, this was the best thing possible for me. I was forced to slow down and admit to myself that I was burned out. I needed a reset and time with my family.  And my family needed me for all the virtual school!

So, I am grateful for the forced time off, and when the opportunity arose to get back into full time theatre work, I was ready and able to come back with a better perspective on work life balance.

But I am also dismayed by the way the pandemic has decimated theatre in the U.S. Every day you hear about more theatres being forced to close and audience members not returning.  It’s disheartening, but it’s also an opportunity to look at our art and see how we can maintain our roles as meaningful and vital parts of our communities. The numbers are telling us that we can’t just do what we’ve always done, which means there’s a tremendous opportunity for ingenuity in the industry. 

11. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?

I love to go for walks in Forest Park and wander around through the trails. Especially in summer when there are so many wildflowers in bloom everywhere – it’s magical. 

12. What’s next?

For New Jewish Theatre, we finish our 2023 season with “Into the Woods,” and start 2024 with Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”  For me personally, I’m directing “We All Fall Down,” a regional premiere by Lila Rose Kaplan for NJT.  It will open at the end of May.  

Scallet, teaching.

More About Rebekah Faye Scallet

Age: 45

Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin

Current location: Brentwood, Missouri

Family: Married to Joe Stafford with 2 sons, ages 8 and 11

Education: I have a B.A. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University, and an M.F.A. in Directing from Illinois State University

Day job: Artistic Director for New Jewish Theatre

First job: Babysitting

First play you were involved in or made: But the first play was “The Hobbit” at the Arkansas Children’s Theatre – I was 12 and I ran the sound board. 

Favorite jobs/roles/plays or work in your medium? I have directed Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” three times and worked on six different productions in various capacities. I have loved each one and would direct it again in a heartbeat. It’s an incredible play. 

Dream job/opportunity:  I’d love to direct Tom Stoppard’s new play “Leopoldstadt”– it’s epic and powerful 

Awards/Honors/Achievements: Received the Arkansas Arts Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship for Directing

Favorite quote/words to live by: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts”

A song that makes you happy: “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” by Simon & Garfunkel

The New Jewish Theatre is pleased to announce its 2024 season, which is also its 26th season of producing professional plays and musicals at the J. The season celebrates some of the New Jewish Theatre’s most beloved playwrights while also bringing new works to St. Louis audiences with two regional premieres.

The season will kick off on March 21, 2024, with the great Arthur Miller’s searing classic All My Sons, one of the most iconic dramas of the 20th century. Miller won the very first Tony Award ever given for Best Author (now known as Best Play) for the premiere in 1947. 

Following this great American play, we’re excited to bring a new work to our NJT audience. We will present the regional premiere of We All Fall Down by Lila Rose Kaplan, opening May 30, 2024. Directed by Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet, the play tells the story of one family’s attempt to come together for a Passover dinner with hilarious and heartbreaking results. 

Next up will be Red by John Logan, opening July 25, 2024. Another Tony Award winner for Best Play in 2010, it is an introspective look at abstract expressionist painter (and Latvian-born Jewish immigrant) Mark Rothko at the height of his fame. As he takes on his largest commission to date, he also takes on a new assistant who challenges his work and ideals.

Next is another regional premiere: Trayf by Lindsay Joelle, opening September 12, 2024. It is the story of two young men excited to drive their first Chabad “Mitzvah Tank” around 1990s New York City and perform good deeds, but find their lives irrevocably changed by exposure to the secular world.

Geffen Playhouse graphic, 2022.

And for that dose of holiday romance, NJT will present a romantic musical comedy by Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary, and Michael Weiner called First Date, opening November 21, 2024. When blind date newbie Aaron is set up with serial-dater Casey, a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a hilarious high-stakes dinner.

“This is my first time putting together the New Jewish Theatre season, and I couldn’t be more excited about the plays we have in store for 2024.  It’s a wonderful mix of classic and new work, comedies and dramas, and even a musical rom-com. Representing Jewish playwrights, values, and historical figures, the season’s plays each ask how we stay true to ourselves in an ever – evolving and challenging world,” says Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet.

The shows will premiere at The J’s Wool Studio Theatre (2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis). Season subscriptions go on sale on November 30, 2023, and single tickets will be available for purchase on February 1, 2024. Tickets are available by phone 314-442-3283 or online at newjewishtheatre.org.

ABOUT THE NEW JEWISH THEATRE:

The New Jewish Theatre is dedicated to exploring Jewish themes and celebrating Jewish writers while examining the full range of the human experience. We present universal work through a Jewish lens, using our productions to enrich lives, promote inclusivity, and build community.

Cover photo by Mark Rothko taken by his wife, Kate Rothko, in 1961. Photo of one of his “Red” abstract paintings. Getty Images.

The New Jewish Theatre welcomes the community to celebrate its 25th season of telling universal stories through the lens of the Jewish experience. On September 10, 2023, from 4:30-6 pm, the public is invited to join New Jewish Theatre leaders and actors at the Carl & Helene Mirowitz Performing Arts Center in Creve Coeur to celebrate, reminisce, and raise money for the future of live theatre at the Jewish Community Center.

Emceed by long-time New Jewish Theatre performer Will Bonfiglio, the event will feature a retrospective video and performances from some of the New Jewish Theatre’s favorite past productions starring their original actors. Following the shows, participants will have the opportunity to socialize with the stars, including notable figures like Johanna Elkana from “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sharon Hunter and Tim Schall from “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” Jennifer Theby Quinn from “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” and many others! The evening will close with the 2024 season line-up announcement from Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet.

The New Jewish Theatre was officially founded in 1997 by Kathleen Sitzer. Originally hired to be the Theatre Coordinator, overseeing a community theatre called “The Shalom Players,” Sitzer had the idea to establish a professional theatre company at the J. She increased the company’s focus on Jewish themes, stories, and authors, and put a greater emphasis on new and thought-provoking work. Thus the “New Jewish Theatre,” was born.

That first year there were three performances: “A Body of Water” by Jenna Zark, “Another Antigone” by AR Gurney, and “Jest A Second” by James Sherman. Through the years, the theatre grew to a five-play season and developed a reputation as one of the best small professional theatres in St. Louis evidenced by its 142 nominations and 30 wins from the St. Louis Theatre Circle Awards.

Intimate Apparel, Fully Committed, Brighton Beach Memoirs

Some notable productions through the years include:

  • “Way to Heaven” (2012) by Juan Mayorga, directed by Doug Finlayson, featuring then 11-year-old Elizabeth Teeter, who recently appeared in “Beetlejuice” on Broadway.
  • “Old Jews Telling Jokes” (2014) by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, directed by Eddie Coffield. This was one of NJT’s biggest hits – non-stop laughs from start to finish!
  • “District Merchants” (2019) by Aaron Posner, directed by Jacqueline Thompson. This reimagining of “The Merchant of Venice” was nominated for five St. Louis Theatre Circle awards, winning three.

Tickets to the 25th Anniversary Celebration start at $72 for individuals or $360 for a group of six. Ticket price includes heavy appetizers, cake, and beverages, which will be served before the performances. Individuals can buy tickets or donate at give.jccstl.org/NJT25 or learn more about the New Jewish Theatre at newjewishtheatre.org.

The New Jewish Theatre will perform Gloria: A Life at the Wool Studio Theatre from June 1 to June 18. Written by acclaimed playwright Emily Mann, with guidance and participation from Gloria Steinem herself, Gloria: A Life explores the iconic feminist’s legacy. Decades after Gloria Steinem began raising her voice for equality and championing the voices of others, her vision is as urgent as ever. This play embodies Steinem’s philosophy that conversation is a catalyst for change as it celebrates one of the most inspiring women of our time.

Sharon Hunter, the director, says she is honored to lead the production. “As our country continues to struggle with painful questions about race relations, reproductive rights and gender equality, Gloria’s leadership continues to inspire many to take up this quest for freedom,” Hunter said. “My hope is that our production will encourage men and women to rally their collective voices and carry on her work.”

In a unique and interactive take, Act II of this play is actually a “talking circle.” After telling Gloria’s story in Act I, the actors will begin a discussion. At several performances, a local “Guest Responder” will launch the talking circle by sharing their own story of breaking barriers or simply responding to the play. This gives an opportunity for the audience to learn from each other, as, according to Gloria this “is the way we discover we’re not crazy and we’re not alone.”

The New Jewish Theatre’s cast and crew will consist entirely of women. Led by director Hunter, this team includes Fallon Podrazik (Scenic Design), Michele Friedman Siler (Costume), Denisse Chavez (Lighting Design), Amanda Werre (Sound Design) and Katie Orr (Props).

Kirsten De Broux, returning to the New Jewish Theatre stage after appearing in 2022’s Laughter of the 23rd Floor, will lead as Gloria Steinem. She is joined by an ensemble of six actors:  Kayla Ailee Bush, Sarah Gene Dowling, Chrissie Watkins, Lizi Watt, Summer Baer (Brighton Beach Memoirs, 2019), and Carmen Cecilia Retzer. They play a wide variety of roles, including fellow activists and icons Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Bella Abzug, Wilma Mankiller, and many more.

“I am thrilled to bring an all-female cast and creative team together for Gloria: A Life,” says Artistic Director of the New Jewish Theatre, Rebekah Scallet. “This play celebrates pioneering women fighting for equality in the workplace, the home, and the political arena, as well as to have control over their own bodies. The world of theatre is still very much male-dominated, especially in the fields of scenic, lighting, and sound design, so it’s wonderful to have this amazing group of talented women collaborating to tell this important story.”

Don’t miss Gloria: A Life at the J’s Wool Studio Theatre (2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146), running June 1 to June 18. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Individual tickets are $27- $58. Tickets are available by phone at 314.442.3283 or online at newjewishtheatre.org.

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ABOUT THE NEW JEWISH THEATRE:

The New Jewish Theatre is dedicated to exploring Jewish themes and celebrating Jewish writers while examining the full range of the human experience. We present universal work through a Jewish lens, using our productions to enrich lives, promote inclusivity, and build community.

New Jewish Theatre Announces 2023 Season – Celebrating 25 Years!

The New Jewish Theatre is pleased to announce its 2023 season, which is also its 25th season of producing professional plays and musicals at the J. The season celebrates some of the New Jewish Theatre’s most beloved playwrights, productions and actors, while also bringing new works to St. Louis audiences.  

The season will kick off on January 19, 2023, with Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound. The third play in Simon’s “Brighton Beach Trilogy” picks up with the Jerome family nine years after the events of Brighton Beach Memoirs, which New Jewish Theatre produced to great acclaim in 2019.

Next, is the heart-wrenching and hilarious one-person play Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe. It will feature NJT favorite Will Bonfiglio and is an immersive, interactive and imaginative journey following one man as he works to cheer his depressed mother by listing every brilliant thing in existence.

Will Bonfiglio in his award-winning performance “Fully Committed” at NJT December 2019

In June, NJT will present the regional premiere of Gloria: A Life by Emily Mann. This is both a play and a conversation. The first act takes you on a journey through feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s life, and the second invites audiences to share their own stories.

Following Gloria, the season will feature a classic story of culture clashes and kindness by showcasing Mark Harelik’s The Immigrant, which will be the first play to be directed by NJT’s new Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet. The play tells the story of a Russian Jewish immigrant who struggles to create a new home for himself in a tiny Texas town in the 1900s while forging unlikely but lifelong friendships with its residents.

The season will conclude in December 2023 with the musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, about an unsuspecting young plant store clerk who accidentally unleashes a man-eating monster. Written by the dynamite duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (the team behind the Disney classics Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid), Little Shop of Horrors is full of toe-tapping musical numbers and fun.

“There is something for everyone to enjoy in New Jewish Theatre’s 2023 season,” says Scallet. “From the oh-so-familiar funny family squabbles of Broadway Bound to the stirring story of one of the most important women of our time, to a delightfully wicked musical theatre favorite. My thanks to my predecessor Eddie Coffield who largely assembled this season before his departure in August – I am thrilled with the productions he chose to celebrate Jewish authors and themes.”  

The shows will premiere at The J’s Wool Studio Theatre (2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis). Season subscriptions go on sale on November 1 and single tickets will be available for purchase on December 1. Tickets are available by phone 314-442-3283 or online at newjewishtheatre.org.

The J (St. Louis Community Center) is excited to welcome Rebekah Scallet as the New Jewish Theatre’s new artistic director. Scallet is excited to begin her New Jewish Theatre (NJT) career by producing the world-premiere of The Bee Play this September. Scallet replaces previous artistic director Edward Coffield.

Scallet brings years of theater experience to NJT through her previous work as the Producing Artistic Director at the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, a professional equity summer theatre festival part of the University of Central Arkansas. During that time, she produced 32 plays and musicals and directed eight productions. She also oversaw the creation of Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s all-virtual “Revisiting Shakespeare,” an online festival celebrating and investigating Shakespeare and his work’s role and relevance today.

“I am thrilled to be joining the amazing team at the New Jewish Theatre and the J. I believe theater is a vital tool in growing and strengthening communities, something the New Jewish Theatre has an incredible track record of doing through their work,” Scallet said.

Scallet moved to St. Louis two years ago and has been working as a freelance director and teacher, most recently with the Sargent Conservatory at Webster University where she directed The Learned Ladies. remembers visiting St. Louis and her grandparents many years ago as a child and remembers seeing her grandmother perform in a Yiddish play at the J.

“The J itself has also meant a lot to my family. Though I only moved to the area a couple of years ago, my family has deep St. Louis roots, and I have fond childhood memories of seeing my grandmother perform on stage here. The building and the theatre itself have changed a lot since then, but this is truly a full-circle moment for me, and I am excited to walk in my grandmother’s footsteps as I create and share stories with this community,” said Scallet.

Rebeka Scallet. Photo by Caroline Holt.

During her time at Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, she was responsible for more than doubling theatre’s audience size, expanding their performance season, founding the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s Artistic Collective and establishing a hugely successful educational touring program. Her production of Twelfth Night for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre won her the Arkansas Art Council’s Individual Artist Award.

Additionally, Scallet worked as the Producing Artistic Director at the University of Central Arkansas, where she also taught two to four courses per year and directed the theatre program every other year for the Department of Film, Theatre and Creative Writing. She also spent 10 years in Chicago working as a director, dramaturg, artistic administrator and teaching artist.

Scallet received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Arts and English and American Literature from Brandeis University in 2000. In 2009, she completed her Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Illinois State University.

Rebekah is involved in many community-led Jewish organizations. In St. Louis, she served on the L’Chaim Gala Planning Committee, which is the Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and is a member of the National Council for Jewish Women St. Louis. In Arkansas, she was involved with the Jewish Federation of Arkansas where she served as a Board of Trustee from 2012-2018 and served as Chair of the Events Division, including overseeing the 2019 Jewish Food and Cultural Festival.

EDWARD COFFIELD HEADED TO OHIO

From the former artistic director on Aug. 2, posted on the New Jewish Theatre Facebook page:

“Today is my last day as Artistic Director of the New Jewish Theatre. I have accepted an offer to join the faculty and staff at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, as Production Manager and to lead their Stage Management Program.

I’ve been so lucky to have worked with NJT for 20 years. I directed my first production, Crossing Delaney, in 2002, and became artistic director in 2018. I have watched the theatre grow and survive the pandemic when other theatres simply disappeared. The truth is not one individual can ever define the theatre’s success or resilience.

Eddie Coffield

I am honored to have served the theatre well and to be a part of its story. I have lived in St. Louis for 34 years, and I have made friends and colleagues that have meant a great deal to me along the way. I had the chance to create a lot of theatre in this community. I am thankful for the friends and colleagues that have been a part of my journey that has changed me for the better.

I leave behind an incredible theatre and a great theatre community. I hope you will all continue to support NJT – Please take care of NJT for me – it’s important to our community!

-Eddie Coffield


ABOUT THE J:

The J is an interactive, multi-generational gathering place that offers a variety of programs and services to both the St. Louis Jewish community, and the community at large. The Jewish Community Center provides educational, cultural, social, Jewish identity-building and recreational programming and offers two, state-of-the art fitness facilities, all designed to promote physical and spiritual growth. Everyone is welcome at the J.

For more information, visit jccstl.org

Montage of New Jewish Theatre Productions