August 26, 2010 | 7:13 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On August 16th, I boarded a plane along with 24 other cast members of Beit T’Shuvah’s original musical Freedom Song, heading to Minneapolis for a single performance. I have been the Freedom Song Coordinator for the past 2 years and have helped plan performances all over the country. I have also been a cast member and played several different roles in the play. This twin city tour was very meaningful to me because it was the last one that I was responsible for coordinating. I have decided that it is time for me to move on from Beit T’Shuvah and to try something new, and this will be my last week there.
Freedom Song has two separate storylines playing out simultaneously that do not interact directly, yet are deeply connected by their parallel themes. On one side of the stage, the viewers see a family celebrating Passover, and on the other side, the actors stage a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. The way that these two stories are related is the correlation between the exodus from slavery in Egypt and the exodus from the slavery of the addictions that oppress people who are addicts and alcoholics. The cast is composed of current residents and alumni of Beit T’Shuvah. As new residents and members of the community take on different roles, the script changes, as people are encouraged to incorporate parts of their own stories.
This last show, I was the most honest that I have ever been with an audience about what my core issue that led me to be in recovery is. It was one of the bravest moments of my life. On the side of the stage where the family is celebrating Passover, the actors begin talking about the four questions. The focus then comes back to the side of the stage where the people in recovery are to speak. I stand up, and say, “I have a question… How am I supposed to spend the rest of my life being truthful and showing people the real me? I act like a chameleon, constantly changing who I am because I’m so afraid that people will stop loving me because I’m gay. In the end I feel lost, unbearably empty, and all alone… just me and my different masks.” I was able to stand up with pride and speak this line in front of 800 people in the audience of the Sabes JCC. What struck me was how I had been so fearful of being open, yet the words flowed smoothly and profoundly. My lines came naturally because I have come to understand and respect my own my struggles. When I first became part of the cast of Freedom Song, I was having a really hard time remembering the lines that I had written based on my own story. Rabbi Mark Borovitz said that it was because I hadn’t really faced this core issue, and he was right. That last performance, my lines flowed absolutely smoothly because I have done tremendous amounts of work to get to know myself and work everyday to be the best person I can be. That evening in Minneapolis brought me one step closer to freedom because I allowed myself to be vulnerable and allowed myself to be seen.
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