by Kelly Jemal Massry
Celebrating 40 Years with Brick by Brick: An Original New Play of the Sephardic Community Center
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On June 22nd at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre, the Sephardic Community Center will unveil Brick by Brick, an original new play commemorating its 40th anniversary. Just as in its 1988 performance, Generations, and its 1991 performance, Celebrations, hundreds of theater-loving community members will take to the stage in a collaboration that highlights just how central the Center has been to the unification of our community.
The development of this production was a dream of current Center president Ricky Novick, who vividly remembers the performances put on in decades past, and how much joy they brought to all who were in attendance. His first order of business, upon becoming President of the Center in January, was to re-enact a community-wide play, where actors of all ages could help portray the story of the Center –from its necessary beginnings to its progression through the decades. Old-timers will remember the community’s worrisome state of affairs during the 1970s, when street crime, club-hopping, intermarriage and relocation were rampant. It wasn’t until 1982, when Morris Bailey and other devoted community members envisioned the Center, that those who’d been so dangerously aimless began to feel anchored in Brooklyn. The forthcoming play, Brick by Brick, pays tribute to those who built the Center, while emphasizing just how important and beneficial its establishment was.
Created by Marshall Mizrahi, directed by Yeeshai Gross, with music by Brad Alexander, and book and lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, Brick by Brick features nine original songs and a fresh and affecting storyline. “It was an honor to be asked by the Center to write our community’s story,” says Marshall Mizrahi. “I wanted to create something that highlights how lucky we are to have a Center for our children to gather safely in, while paying homage to the visionaries that built it.”Jill and Brad are a depth of endless talent with great experience in musical theater, having written Broadway shows, as well as acted in them, they are bringing an unparalleled level of quality to this new script. Yeeshai is no stranger to the community, having directed and produced hundreds of shows, he went to a career on Broadway. The team is rounded out by Assistant Director Eric Smith, musical director Andrea Yohe, and the center’s very own Sonja Cabasso as associate producer.
Brick by Brick is the story of a a new family who has just moved to our community.Transplanted from L.A., where the husband/father has been doing business for 10 years, this family, though Syrian, feels very out of place. Having not grown up in the community, the kids don’t know any of our SY lingo and are struggling to fit into our Sephardic culture. And so, through the use of flashbacks, cast members begin to tell this family about the Center. By learning about how it first began and how much it enriched the lives of those who participated in its programs, this family comes to see how the Center might be the saving grace in their effort to belong. They can lean upon the Center as the unifying force that will strengthen their connection to their Sephardic roots and help them build a true and lasting home among the Syrian Jews of Brooklyn. Int his way, an intriguing parallel is revealed as the play unfolds:Just as the Center is being built brick by brick through the lens of the past, the sense of hope and possibility this family feels is becoming renewed in the present –and all because of the institution that’s always given us a place to call our own –the Sephardic Community Center.
“Brick by Brick plays homage to the Center’s previous two original plays–Generations and Celebrations–while creating a new storyline that isn’t just historical but is something beautiful,” says show creator Marshall Mizrahi. “The Center is a centralized entity that’s not about religion or politics, but just about being together.” From the basketball games, to the widows’ support group, to the sensory gym, there is so much going on for people of all ages and circumstances at the Center. The goal of Brick by Brick is to showcase the richness of opportunity available at the Center, by presenting its array of amenities to one fictional family, surrounded by hundreds of supporting cast members who represent the best theatrical talent in our community.The debut of Brick by Brick is expected to be magnificent, rivaling the grandest performances on Broadway. The Sephardic Community Center cordially invites you and your family to enjoy the show on June 22nd! For more information and to purchase tickets, click here or go to SCCLive.org/BrickbyBrick.