More than sixteen years ago, Myra Gutterman had a creative new idea. She had decided to record and transcribe the experiences of balaniot (mikvah attendants) and of women who use the mikvah (ritual bath), to be performed as a show for women. She called it "The Mikva Monologues".
Myra worked on it together with Toby Klein Greenwald who became the Director and Co/Producer, through the years, on and off, as they were both busy with other projects. Finally, they decided the time had come, and met intensively to finish the script. But a line that Myra suggested one day made them say, “That sounds like a lyric!” They looked at each other, and at that moment morphed it from The Mikva Monologues to Mikva the Musical, Music and Monologues from the Deep, which includes songs, and original monologues and dialogues.
As they auditioned and head-hunted actresses and singers, they realized this would be one of the most meaningful theater projects of their life. They knew it would be something extraordinary. And that defined it all the way. Myra says, “It did take a while from original idea to stage.... but I'm grateful it did.” Everything about it – the subject matter, the cast, the women in the audience who react and share their own stories afterward – is rich and moving, inspirational and funny, and sometimes heart-wrenching. Every woman who has ever been to mikva has a story. They also include a yoetzet halacha (female halachic advisor on mikva issues) in our post-show discussion. In the course of the writing and rehearsing, they consulted with rebbetzins, balaniot and kalla teachers. They perform the show as open-book salon theater. We see the mikva through the eyes of self-conscious brides (some with comical experiences), a new mother, a convert, and women who have experienced challenges, such as hydrophobia, anxiety, and more. This year, in Beit Shemesh, for the first time, they premiered a true story about a non-Orthodox couple from Tel Aviv, who had struggled ten years with infertility, visited the Chabad House of Katmandu, and the famous Rebbetzin Hani Lifshitz took the woman to the top of a mountain to toivel in a frozen lake. A totally inspiring story.
We hear the stories of Michele Thaler, a woman who became paralyzed from the waist down from an epidural, yet maintains a wonderful attitude to life (she is the only one who tells her own stories on stage, with both drama and humor), of Rabbanit Shani Taragin, who discovers her breast cancer while dunking at a lake, and of a woman who dares a dip in the cold ocean while on a romantic vacation. Naturally, we also have a new story, about COVID. The Mikva cast includes Adina Feldman, she's the music director, an internationally recognized singer and choreographer, who also contributed significantly to the staging, and has provided most of the new songs for this second time around. The musicians include women from the legendary Tofa’ah band, led by acclaimed drummer Yona Saslow Yakobovitz, the first women-to-women performing troupe in the world.