Hanukkah Lights to Bring Families Together Both On and Off the Stage

Cast members pictured left to right are: Kristian Grizzell as Lori Martin, Mindy Agranoff as Katie Martin, Norma Whitmyre as Tammy Pearl, Orel De La Mota as Judah Macabee, and Bobby Belair as Isaac Pearl

Cast members pictured left to right are: Kristian Grizzell as Lori Martin, Mindy Agranoff as Katie Martin, Norma Whitmyre as Tammy Pearl, Orel De La Mota as Judah Macabee, and Bobby Belair as Isaac Pearl.

It’s the darkest time of year, but Gallery Players promises to bring audiences light with Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky, the December children’s play. The play begins when a young boy puts a menorah in his bedroom window, and a brick is thrown through it. Based on true events that took place in Billings, Montana in 1993, the play shows how one community came together and created light from darkness.

Buffy Sedlachek wrote this uplifting play which will be performed December 8-16, 2012, in the JCC’s Roth-Resler Theater. With performances scheduled through the duration of Hanukkah, Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky embodies the holiday season of giving and togetherness with its remarkable story of a community coming together to fight hate. The play shines a light on a real problem and shows a community not divided by difference, but united by it.

Jocelyn Wiebe, in directing her first show at Gallery Players, said the play will engage audiences of all ages and faiths and open the door for families to discuss religious intolerance, “In this play, there are Jewish and Christian characters alike who share their fear and outrage about the hatred rearing its ugly head in their town. The conversations that begin in the play are conversations that can carry on among the audience members after they leave the theater.”

Jared Saltman, JCC Cultural Arts Director and producer of the play, talked about how the play takes on dark subject matter in a light and positive way. “This will be a good show for the whole family. If your kids ask you about this, it gives you a first step into explaining what it means to be different and what it means to be Jewish.” The play is appropriate for children ages 4 and older, yet compelling enough for adults to come see, as well, said Saltman. “There’s kind of something for everyone in this show.”

Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky is not only family-friendly fare, it is also a family affair. Generations will be represented on stage this year. Father and son duo Brian and Bobby Belair star in the play, with Bobby in the lead role as Isaac Pearl. Husband and wife team Norma and Walt Whitmyre are also in the cast, with Norma starring as Bobby’s mother, Tammy Pearl. Sisters Gillian and Shayna Herszage are featured in the cast’s ensemble. Mindy Agranoff stars as Isaac’s friend, Katie Martin, and Kristian Grizzell as Katie’s mother, Lori, with Orel De La Mota playing Judah Maccabee.

Norma and Walt Whitmyre are both Gallery Players committee members as well as stars of the play. They enjoy performing together on stage. “Acting together on stage offers us an opportunity to play other people in situations we might not normally find ourselves. We learn more about each other this way. Being in the same production also allows us to spend our evenings together during rehearsals and enjoy the accomplishment and satisfaction of the performances. We can share these experiences together during and after the production.” For the Whitmyres, the play is especially relevant and was chosen by the committee because of its critical message of tolerance, a message for all ages and religions. “The story of an entire community coming together to overcome targeted hatred toward Judaism is a powerful life lesson,” they said.

Showtimes for Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky are Saturdays, December 8 and 15, at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, December 9 and 16, at 2:30 p.m.; and Thursday, December 13, at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are $15 for JCC members, $20 for nonmembers. $13 for senior members, $18 for senior nonmembers, $10 for children or students, and $10 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 614-231-2731 or by visiting www.jccgalleryplayers.org.