Philly's Arden Continues Potok Exploration, Opening Asher Lev Jan. 14

News   Philly's Arden Continues Potok Exploration, Opening Asher Lev Jan. 14 Arden Theatre Company's world premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev, directed and adapted by Aaron Posner, drawing on the novel by Chaim Potok, opens Jan. 14 after previews from Jan. 8 at the Philadelphia troupe's Arcadia Stage.
My Name Is Asher Lev star Karl Miller
My Name Is Asher Lev star Karl Miller Photo by Mark Garvin

Karl Miller plays the title character, and Adam Heller and Gabra Zackman are featured as the rest of the play's population. The production continues to March 15.

This is the first play commissioned by the Arden to receive its world premiere on the company's stage, but it's not Arden's first brush with Bronx-born novelist Potok. In 1999 the Arden presented Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok's co-adaptation of Potok's classic novel "The Chosen." Posner, in consultation with Adena Potok, now introduces this world premiere based on Potok's novel, "My Name is Asher Lev."

According to Arden notes, "My Name is Asher Lev tells the story of a young Hassidic artist torn between his observant Jewish community and his need to create. His artistic genius threatens his relationship with his parents and community and weighs heavily on his conscience. The play chronicles young Asher's coming of age as a boy and an artist amid his turbulent relationship with his father. A secular Jewish artist who becomes Asher's mentor warns him that art and Judaism are equally strong traditions and one cannot commit to both simultaneously. Ultimately, Asher must choose between them."

Miller most recently collaborated with Posner by playing Leland Stamper in Posner's adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion at Portland Center Stage.

Heller (Arden's Caroline, or Change, Off-Broadway's Make Me a Song, Old Globe's Dancing in the Dark) and Zackman (a veteran of Hartford Stage, Florida Studio Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival) play all the other characters in the story — parents, teachers, mentors and friends.

Karl Miller and Gabra Zackman
photo by Mark Garvin

Director-adaptor Posner is one of the co-founders of Arden Theatre Company and currently the artistic director of Two River Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. *

Posner said in production notes, "I have wanted to stage My Name Is Asher Lev for almost a decade, and it has had a long and unique gestation process. I am thrilled to finally be bringing it to fruition at the Arden. In 20 years as a professional adaptor and director, the adaptation I did with Chaim of his novel 'The Chosen' has been a significant highlight of my career. I respond deeply to stories and worlds Chaim weaves so beautifully in his novels, and I am pleased and proud to be able to bring another one to a new audience in a new form."

Terrence J. Nolen, producing artistic director at the Arden, stated, "The Arden's mission is to tell great stories by great storytellers and, for the past 20 years, literary adaptations have been a cornerstone of our work. Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok's adaptation of The Chosen is certainly one of the most successful adaptations in our history. Not only was this play embraced by our audiences here in Philadelphia, but The Chosen has received acclaimed productions at theatres across the country and internationally. In 2005, when we launched the Arden's commissioning program for new plays and musicals, it seemed fitting that one of our first commissions be to Aaron to adapt Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev. This is a truly great story, and Chaim and Aaron are masterful storytellers. We are thrilled to return to the world of Chaim Potok and to welcome Aaron back to the Arden."

*

Potok (1929–2002) was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland. He was raised in an Orthodox household and later found a home in Conservative Judaism. In 1959 Potok and his young family first settled in Philadelphia where he was scholar in residence at Har Zion Temple and pursued a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include "The Chosen," "The Promise," "My Name is Asher Lev" and "The Gift of Asher Lev," plus plays and children's literature in addition to non-fiction and short stories.

The creative team includes Dan Conway (set designer), Thom Weaver (lighting designer), Alison Roberts (costume designer), James Sugg (sound designer), Alec Ferrell (stage manager), Adrienne Mackey (assistant director), Michele Volansky (dramaturg) and Adena Potok (artistic consultant).

My Name is Asher Lev is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. This funding program "provides selected Theatre Communications Group (TCG) member theatres with financial resources for increased rehearsal time with the full production team onsite at the theatre."

Arden's home is at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City Philadelphia.

For more information visit www.ardentheatre.org.

Adam Heller and Karl Miller in <i>My Name Is Asher Lev</i>
Adam Heller and Karl Miller in My Name Is Asher Lev Photo by Mark Garvin
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