Not Un-Orthodox, Just Un-Usual: Interview with Orthodox Jewish Performer
Robyn Shrater Seemann, Artistic Director of Artists Circle, loves the arts! Her all women’s winter production is around the corner, and the excitement is buzzing. Singing, music, dancing and comedy will all be on the menu, and she loves being able to provide a platform for performance by and for women. That's right - all women! Why is this unique concept so important? Robyn is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community, and so with certain religious customs, her group is able to adhere to Jewish “Halachic” – religious law, while still giving opportunity to female expression. Customarily, men in these communities do not watch women sing or dance for “Tzniut” - modesty reasons. Often, this leaves women unable to show their talents to a larger, more main-stream and mixed audience, but Robyn is passionate about creative arts, and started her company to promote this passion for others. As another Jewish artist that adheres to religious practices, this really hit home for me. I corresponded with Robyn about her organization’s beginnings and more. I wanted to know what she thought was the most important aspect about her group. “We create opportunity and break down barriers so that female performing artists can be true to both their religious beliefs and artistic expression”, she explained. These women don’t have to choose – she had met so many talented individuals, who, due to their religious beliefs, lacked a professional venue for performance. And it is not just the mixed-gendered concept that was an issue - there was “Shabbat” – Sabbath observance. As an artist, it is very challenging to find a stage or group that doesn’t hold performances on Fridays or Saturdays.
Robyn decided to be the change, creating representation for females in the community by carving a viable path of self-expression. Even as just one person, she is making large waves in the pool. Like a role model of hers, Juliette Gordon Low, who was 52 years old when she founded the Girl Scouts over 100 years ago, Robyn is inspired by the fact that you're never too old to start something new or make a difference. Now, Artists Circle is one of the few all-female performing arts companies. And there’s more to celebrate: “We value art and are able to pay our performers. We work to empower women, so in addition to our performers and audience all identifying as female, our tech and production staff are as well.” Quite a feat! December 20th, Artists Circle will have another great virtual production. Tickets are on sale now at www.artists-circle.com. “Grab those bunny slippers and enjoy an evening in” reads the flyer. (The author of this article is honored to have a part in the show!) Robyn, as well as Gillian Lelchuk (the group’s stage manager) and the whole team are excited and looking forward to the show. Their dedication has them working long hours in preparation for the annual showcase, but they know they will soon reap the rewards. The goals is to have a great time, uplift the audience and to help them feel connected. Afterwards, there is more in the horizon. “I would love to put together workshops and master classes so performers can continue to grow their skills. We can continue to build a community of artists and a community that supports artists." A bold but worthy endeavor. But, as Herzl famously said: If you will it, it is no dream.
To connect with Robyn, Gillian and the Artists Circle, email ArtistsCirclePresents@gmail.com.