Bonding Through the Arts

Being a student in a brand new school there were certainly many unknowns. Walking through the hallways on the first day of school, I overheard my peers in conversation:  “Are you going to try out for the team?,” “Does she give a lot of homework?,” “Where is the teacher’s office?.” While these were all questions that were of interest to me, there was one question that I was in desperate search of an answer to: “When are tryouts for the SAR High School musical?

One night after basketball practice early in my freshman year, I stumbled on rehearsal and was invited to join. Since our class made up the entirety of SAR High School at the time, there was still an open role in the play. With SAR’s challenge to ‘move beyond your comfortable limits’ ringing in my ears, I took a seat and read for the part. It was immediately clear I had not just stumbled upon play practice, but a newfound passion. Behind the school’s trademark patient support, a committed director in Marius Zilberstein, and a welcoming student body, we were empowered and encouraged to not only put on the High School’s first play, but to shape and establish the Drama Society at SAR.

I look at Drama as a microcosm of my SAR experience, and the foundation for my personal realization of the school’s profound mission statement: It’s not just what you learn. It’s who you become.
— Rami Levi HS '07

Coming from the elementary school, I had a plethora of experience behind me, at least enough to land a cameo role in the High School production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Once I was casted as Bielke, one of Tevya’s youngest daughters, it was time to get to work. Practices took place in various areas of the school, as there was not yet a theatre or designated drama area. As the play neared opening night, the cast spent more and more hours with each other, night after night, bonding over our frustrations of how many more times we would have to practice “Tradition” while snacking on vending machine treats. Rabbi Kenneth Birnbaum, musical director, and Marius Zilberstein, former drama director, taught us, encouraged us, and laughed with us. They heard us singing from our high and low notes, and through our cracking, tired voices, as we played our various parts. One of us eventually even landed the part of Rabbi Birnbaum’s sister-in-law – who knew?

The play was going to take place on the ever so quiet, dark and empty, sixth floor, a space designated for a future senior class just a few years down the road. A small stage was assembled and hundreds of chairs were set up. The space became alive on opening night. That space, which is now a floor for learning students, would be remembered as the place of the first High School production.

The memories I have from being in the High School musicals are so special. The ability of our talented drama staff, Rabbi Kenneth Birnbaum and Marius, to improvise and build something from nothing was truly unique and innovative. And while I always had a passion for the arts, what I cherished the most about my time in the plays was the feeling of community and bonding I had with my fellow cast members and staff.

SAR introduced me to the possibility of being in a musical. From my first one there, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” I knew I found my calling! That stage gave me a piece of my heart I didn’t know was missing.

Every production opened my world into a much larger one where my voice was heard and appreciated, inspiring the younger students. I am deeply grateful that I found a way to find my passion in SAR’s environment.
— Sarah Schleifer AC '12