Theatre Ariel was founded in 1990. Artistic Director Deborah Baer Mozes created Theatre Ariel in response to a gap in the cultural mosaic of Philadelphia – the lack of a Jewish theatre.
Since the beginnings of the 18th century, Philadelphia has had a vital theatre history, which included Jewish theater. Richard Cumberland’s The Jew had its American debut in Philadelphia in the 1830. In the early 1900’s Philadelphia was a vibrant center of Yiddish theatre, with the names of Molly Picon (a native Philadelphian), Jacob Adler and all the greats of that era glittering on the marquees’ of Philadelphia theatres. With the diminishing light of Yiddish theatre, Jewish theatre lay dormant in Philadelphia. In the 1970’s and 80’s when cities (i.e. New York, Rochester, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Arizona, and Detroit) across the continent began to see the rise of contemporary Jewish theatres, the city of brotherly love did not follow - until the birth of Theatre Ariel.
In its twenty-four years, Theatre Ariel has made an impact locally, nationally and internationally as a theatre committed to the development of new Jewish plays and emerging Jewish playwrights. Drawing on her years of experience working in the vibrant regional theatre community of Canada and Greater Philadelphia, Deborah brought to Theatre Ariel a vision of theatre as a voice for the expression of ones identity, and a commitment to the development of ones region’s artists. With the establishment of Theatre Ariel the Jewish voice is now part of the multi ethnic performing arts tapestry of Philadelphia.
New Play Development and Productions
Since its inaugural season in 1991, Theatre Ariel has displayed its commitment to regional and world premieres of new Jewish plays and artists. Theatre Ariel, an artistic home for many playwrights and actors, has commissioned and produced 62 new works.
Theatre Ariel developed the FIRST ten minute play festival dedicated to the Jewish experience. Among the three festivals, Theatre Ariel commissioned and produced thirty ten-minute plays, ten of which were published by Dramatic Publishing Company. The publication of Voices from Ariel: Ten Minute Plays Reflecting the Jewish Experience represents Theatre Ariel’s ongoing commitment to our writers; making our writer’s work available to professional theaters, community theaters, and educational institutions worldwide. Theatre Ariel’s ten-minute plays have seen professional and educational productions in Israel, New York, Arizona, Denver and Atlanta. In Salt Lake City, Utah a Mormon high school produced four of our pieces winning several statewide dramatic competitions. The success of Theatre Ariel has been the model for other Jewish ten-minute play festival in the United States, Canada and Israel.
Theatre Ariel's musical Aleph Bet Bop was produced by the American Hebrew Academy in North Carolina, Albert Einstein Academy (Wilmington, DE) and Germantown Jewish Center (PA).
Theatre Loves Conversation (TLC)
Theatre Ariel’s commitment to new play development gave rise to an annual reading series of new works. Many of the works Theatre Ariel nurtured under TLC were added to Theatre Ariel’s touring repertoire while others have been produced by professional theatres in LA, Arizona and Jerusalem
Since Theatre Ariel’s inception, we have been committed to reaching out to the community and making theatre accessible to all.
In 1992, Theatre Ariel commissioned its first outreach program OLD TALES/NEW SPARKS, an interactive story theatre production adapted from classic folk legends and Yiddish folktales, OLD TALES, seen by over 10,000 children, parents and grandparents throughout the Delaware Valley, gave these stories a very contemporary spin.
In 1994, Theatre Ariel created ARIELPROV, an improv troupe. ARIELPROV uses improvisation and socio-drama to explore Jewish Identity, Jewish History and Moral Education. ARIELPROV has great success working with middle and high school students (and their parents) in school and synagogue settings. ARIELPROV has a particular focus on issues of values and ethics. ARIELPROV has been used by community organizations for leadership training conferences.
The Theatre Ariel Touring repertoire includes performances, for adult audiences, of either short programs of ten-minute plays revolving around a theme (such as Women in Judaism, Ritual and Life, Jewish Identity and Contemporary Midrash), theatrical readings of Israeli and Jewish Literary works and full-length plays. All performances are followed by a discussion thus breaking down the wall between artist and audience creating an atmosphere or empowerment and belonging.
Since 1990 over 100,000 children, teens and adults have seen our work. Theatre Ariel has performed from Boston to Washington, DC and west to Harrisburg, Pa. Theatre Ariel brings new works of Jewish content to traditional and nontraditional performance venues, schools, synagogues, community centers, galleries, coffee houses, bookstores, churches, conferences and museums.
With the National Museum of American Jewish History
For many seasons, Theatre Ariel brought its touring productions and staged readings to the National Museum of American Jewish History. In 1999, Theatre Ariel and NMAJH established a unique partnership with the creation of a site installation performance in the museum’s gallery. A MUSE in the MUSEum: Journeys in American Jewish History is an interactive performance in which the museum becomes the set, and the museum’s artifacts become the props for a theatrical journey through time and place. In addition to performances for hundred of school groups A MUSE played for the citywide events such as Welcome America and the National Republican Convention. In 2004, A MUSE became a touring production to celebrate the 350th anniversary of American Jewish History.
In 2000, these two partners created a successful new work, HEART and HISTORY, which played alongside the museum’s 2001 exhibit A SOLDIERS STORY, Jewish soldiers during World War Two.
With Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS)
In 2003 the Jewish Children and Family Services of Greater Philadelphia commissioned Theatre Ariel to create an interactive performance exploring the challenges faced by interfaith families. 2 BECOME 1 has been part of Theatre Ariel’s touring repertoire since its initial commissioned performance. In 2008, JCFS commissioned a new ARIELPROV piece honoring the stories of women living with and surviving Breast Cancer.
In the spring of 2007 Theatre Ariel returned to producing Mainstage work with the culmination of a two-year oral history arts project, A COMMUNITY REMEMBERS. This two-year oral history project, based at the Klein Branch Jewish Community Center, collected the stories of Jewish Northeast Philadelphia. Drawn from 700 pages of oral history interview transcripts, Playwright Julianne Theodoropolos wrote BACK TO THE BOULEVARD. Directed by Aaron Oster, BACK TO THE BOULEVARD was a great success bringing over 400 audience members to the Polansky Theatre.
In 2009, Theatre Ariel performed a run of 10 IMAGININGS OF SARAH AND HAGAR at Theatre Three in Manhattan (NYC) for Theatre of Ideas’ International Jewish Theatre Festival. We remounted 10 for the Bucks County Jewish Theatre Festival we produced in partnership with the Bristol Riverside Theatre.
In 1800’s Eastern Europe, Jewish parlors became salons where reading plays aloud was a newly fashionable way to spend an evening. In spring 2012, Theatre Ariel revived this Jewish Tradition with SALON ARIEL evenings of play readings and conversation in the intimate setting of a beautiful home. This fall will be the third year of producing SALON ARIEL as a performance series; expanded to two Salon weekends.
AHAVA/LOVE a Cabaret conceived by Deborah Baer Mozes, an evening of love songs drawn from the canon of the American musical theatre. The cabaret will look at Love with a Jewish lens, love between husband and wife (partners), parent and child, people and God interwoven between songs will be quotes on love from Jewish texts, thinkers and artists.
WALK THE DARK STREETS by Deborah Baer Mozes, an adaptation of A FROST IN THE NIGHT and WALK THE DARK STREETS, is the story of a German Jewish family and the rise of the Third Reich with a focus on the issue of “silence” allowing hatred to consume a nation and a world. WALK THE DARK STREETS was been presented as a script-in-hand reading for Kristalnacht and Yom HaShoah in the 2010-2011 season
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Theatre Ariel will
• Produce a Main Season of both world and regional premieres
• Present the work of performing artists from around the world
• Create an internship program to train future Jewish theatre artists
• Create an ongoing play development lab for professional playwrights
• Create an ongoing Jewish Teen Playwrights program and festival.
• Create and perform works for family audiences.
• Find a home for rehearsals, performances and to offer community classes and workshops