Theatre Ariel Goes Digital With Best Play Vote

Susan Moses and Marissa Barnathan perform a dramatic reading of Belfast Kind. | Photo provided

For probably the first time in the history of theater, at this particular performance, you’ll be encouraged to use your cellphone during the show.

Theatre Ariel has paired with the Jewish Plays Project for its upcoming salons, partnered with the Philadelphia Jewish Playwriting Contest, the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks (PhilaLandmarks) and Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

Audience members will vote for what they believe is the best performance based on the 20-minute excerpts from the three Jewish plays performed: Belfast Kind, a story of Jewish life in Ireland during the troubles in the late 20th century; Estelle Singerman, a surrealist play with a Chagall-like magical realism about an elderly woman searching for someone to say kaddish for her when she dies; and How To Conquer America: A Mostly True History of Yogurt, a Mad Men-esque telling of advertising between Europe and America.

Viewers will vote via their cellphones in a live poll, à la American Idol or Dancing with the Stars — or a paper ballot upon request — for the most compelling Jewish play. A Philadelphia winner will then go on to compete in the Jewish Plays Project against seven other cities.

The overall winning play will be workshopped in Jewish Plays Project’s summer festival.

“All three I’m very excited about,” said Deborah Baer Mozes, Theatre Ariel founder and artistic director, “and they’re very, very different.”

She said each competing city picked from a group of submitted scripts, and she ultimately selected these three for the performances.

It’s a different salon than Theatre Ariel has done in the past: “This is going to be the first time where as the director of theater, I’m telling my audience, ‘You need to come and bring your cellphones,’” Mozes encouraged enthusiastically.

Hosted in private homes along the Main Line, performances will take place Feb. 10 and 11.

One salon will also be shown at Powel House in Society Hill for Philly Theatre Week on Feb. 8. Mozes hopes the Center City mansion gives more people the opportunity to see the short shows.

“I feel like it’s going to capture the energy of salons from days gone by but with totally a contemporary feel to it,” she added of the historic house.

The contest was a natural fit for Theatre Ariel, which has a commitment to new Jewish plays and playwrights alongside an eager and consistent audience.

“I just felt it would be fun to do something a little different,” she said. “I’m always looking to find other interesting ways of presenting Jewish theater.”

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