YCDS: My Claim to Fame

By: Shneur Levy  |  April 14, 2024

By Shneur Levy, Opinions Editor

When I was younger, it always seemed like I took a back seat when it came to theater. I would go to nursing homes with my father and my siblings and we would method act while my father would tell the Purim and Chanukah stories. It was there that I was introduced to the wonderful world of theater, and I did this for several years until I grew out of it. Or so I thought.

My acting journey got put on hold before it could ever begin, and I was never able to get any role in a middle school production because our director left the school the year before, so we were no longer able to do plays. This was a huge blow for me. I really liked having him as a teacher and felt saddened by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to make up for all that I had lost in 6th grade. Being able to perform onstage was starting to become an important part of my life. Having that opportunity taken away from me felt as though a part of my identity was taken away from me too.  

To make matters worse, I had to watch as my older sister got lead roles at her school. How do you compare to your sister who played Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda in Matilda? While I was very proud of her for her roles, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself that I wouldn’t get the thrill of being in a play. It’s quite exhilarating to rehearse for many nights and see all your hard work come to fruition on stage. I never got that experience, and that left a hole inside me that I was desperate to fill.

Luckily, my fortunes would start to turn at YU. In The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui last year, I played Young Dogsborough, the Judge, and a vegetable dealer. Each were not necessarily major roles in and of themselves, but they served as a strong foundation to build upon before soaring to new heights.

Having gotten this opportunity to finally perform on stage again, I began to feel full. When I took up those roles, not only did I finally have the opportunity to step into the life of a character, but I was also finally stepping into a part of myself that had been missing for so long. 

I finally got to feel what it was like to be on stage and confront some of the stage anxiety that I had growing up. The spotlight was no longer a void in my life, but rather, an opportunity I was grateful to finally have the chance to experience. Towards the end of rehearsals, Rami Levin asked me if I wanted to be his Vice President the following year. His belief in me and my ability to help him lead this extraordinary team of creators helped ignite a spark inside me. Having the chance to fully delve into the inner workings of a show helped me form an even greater love of the arts. Some would say we were even the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson of coordinating.

This year, YCDS had quite the successful audition and callbacks for our spring play. I had the privilege of auditioning with YCDS President Rami Levin. In a way, auditions are less about the actors, but rather, their chemistry with the people that they auditioned with. While acting, when one builds off those around them, their experiences onstage transform from individual ones into a communal bond, a shared understanding between actors with similar experiences and struggles. 

At callbacks, I read the same role with Steven Galitzer, and lo and behold we both got parts in the play. When I first saw the cast list, I saw I only had one role whereas everyone else had three. My initial reaction was “Oh, the director is probably giving me an insignificant role so that I don’t need to show up every night. What I didn’t realize is that in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. John Watson is the lead role appearing in 36 of the 38 scenes. In order to be able to actually take on the role I needed to give up going to fencing practices to be at rehearsals every night Monday-Thursday. For me, this was choosing between Nectar and Honey. Once getting the lead part in the play came to light, however, the choice was clear. I did not hesitate in prioritizing the play. 

It has been quite the journey this semester starting from our first read-through. I may not have showed up to all of my classes, but I have yet to miss a rehearsal. At times, I have felt that I am useless in a class. What does it matter if I show up or not? But in rehearsal? If I wasn’t at a rehearsal, there would not be much for the team to accomplish without me. Just like you can’t put on a successful play without lights, you can’t put on this play without the cast. In theater, every single person is crucial to overall production. It is quite a special feeling to be a part of a community where everyone is dependent on one another. We all recognize that, and, at the end of the day, we will all be there to support each other no matter what. 

While not in rehearsals, Zev Granik, Kiki Arochas, and I would run lines in Kiki’s room, and boy did we have fun. I have found myself often dying of laughter both onstage and in Kiki’s room. It is in moments like these where I have come to truly recognize the bond formed between the cast members of a show. Perhaps it is not formed in the spotlight, but rather, behind the scenes. 

I feel that the cast has grown especially close over this short period of time, and we are only growing closer. There can be times when we each get overwhelmed, but who else to rely on than the people who understand what you’re going through? We all have our own quirks and personalities, but put them all together for long enough, and you’ll start to see a group of people with an even greater bond. 

We will be putting on a matinee on Sunday, April 14 starting at 3 PM and night showings starting 7 PM the 15-18 at Schottenstein Theater. As Vice President of Yeshiva College Dramatic Society, but also as Dr. Watson, I implore everyone to come and watch as we purposefully and not so purposefully make fools of ourselves.