The Wanna Be A Star competition of the Professional Women’s Theater is having their 2008 Gala this Thursday, June 19, featuring performances by this year’s competition winners. The all-women’s event is an opportunity for Jewish women in Israel to sing, dance and perform in an all-women’s environment.
This week’s end-of-the-year concert will feature Shuly Natan, a world-famous Israeli singer with a striking golden voice. Natan began her career as a teenager in 1967 when she was chosen by songwriter Naomi Shemer to sing the newly composed Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim Shev Zahav). Shuly Natan’s performance became a national hit and several weeks later when the Six Day War began, the song became an anthem. Natan and Shemer spent the next several decades as singer/songwriter partners. After a break to raise her family, Natan has returned to performing. Her appearance at the Wanna Be A Star competition is a proud occasion for the grassroots organization.
Annie Orenstein co-founded the Professional Women’s Theater three years ago. She talked to Israel National News about the competition and it’s nature as an all-women’s event.
"A lot of these women have performed before mixed crowds in the past," said Orenstein.
Some of the women had serious recording contracts and gave them up when they became religious. Orenstein comments, “When they decided to commit to a Torah lifestyle, they decided they didn’t want to perform in front of men any longer. But they didn’t want to compromise their values and forget their dream of being on stage. We give these women an opportunity to express themselves. Otherwise there would be girls that get to a certain crossroads and have to decide between their passion for the arts and performance and their passion for Torah and Judaism. We don’t want them to have to choose between the two. It’s celebrating the woman’s ability to express themselves.”
Most of the competition is singing, but there have also been rappers, dancers and some surprises. “Last year we had a woman in her 80s who did a jazzy tap dance for us. In our first year of competition one of our finalists was an opera singer who studied around the world," Orenstein related.
Participants perform in Hebrew, English or other languages. “Whatever touches them, whatever comes from their heart, they can perform in it. Through performance, it enters the audience. It seeps through, no matter what language.”
Orenstein feels the event is also a way for Jewish women from different communities to meet each other: "It’s a way to bridge gaps between religious and secular. We have Americans, Canadians, British and Israeli meeting each other. We have people visiting, or studying for the year, coming. We have women from Jerusalem, Modiin, Beit Shemesh, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and other places."
One of the goals of the organization is to create venues for the finalists to perform and get paid for it. “We want to help them get parnassa [livelihood]. We don’t believe these women should only go on stage for tzedaka [charity] or for free. The finalists get paid at our competitions. It says a lot of empowering them, it's really exciting to give them work and be able to pay them for it."
The Wanna Be A Star 2008 Gala will be held this coming Thursday, June 19, at 8:00 p.m. at Heichal Shlomo on King George Avenue in Jerusalem. A pre-show boutique starts at 6:00 p.m. The cost is 35 NIS students, 55 NIS regular, 100 NIS donors. Group rates are available, and refreshments will be sold. For more information visit www.professionalwomenstheater.com.