For strictly observant women, being Orthodox can often mean putting a kibosh on artistic aspirations. Halachic prohibitions against singing and dancing in front of men means that many women who enjoy those art forms find they have little opportunity to perform.
Enter Margy Horowitz, a Los Angeles-based piano teacher from Chicago who'd heard about all-women's productions in her hometown from a friend. Intrigued, she started envisioning an all-women's production for Los Angeles with women not only just in the cast, but also in the audience.
"There are a lot of opportunities for religious high school girls to perform [in school-sponsored, women's-only musicals], but for older women who have graduated from high school and want to perform, they have no outlets," Horowitz said. "And plenty of them have so much talent."
With support from Rabbi Steven Weil at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Horowitz teamed up with Linda Freedman, a Beth Jacob congregant who sings in the choir at nearby Congregation Magen David. The two decided to put on a production of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical "The Mikado," with proceeds going to charity.
"The Mikado" is a raucous tale of the prodigal son of a Japanese emperor who runs away from his father's court to escape marriage, pretends he is a poor musician and falls in love with a young geisha.
"We chose the play because it is in the public domain," Horowitz said. "It has also got great music and comedy."
She said she wanted a musical that was not as obscure as many of the productions done in girls' high schools: "I didn't think it needed to have a Jewish theme, even though it was for the Jewish community."
After posting audition flyers throughout Los Angeles and the Valley, the two found their cast of 21. All the women in the play are observant to some degree, and they represent most of the Jewish neighborhoods in greater Los Angeles, including Fairfax, Pico, North Hollywood, Marina del Rey and even Yorba Linda.
"We were so happy to give these women the opportunity to perform," Horowitz said. "Even if we are not successful, I would still feel that we did something great."
The all-women's production of "The Mikado" will be performed at Beverly Hills High School's Salter Theater, 241 Moreno Drive, on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets, call (310) 726-9333.