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She's Staging Israel as a Balancing Act

April 27, 2006 By:
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"Out of Sight" actress Sarah Felder has her eye on Israel.
"Out of Sight" - out of … mensch?

It's the complete opposite as Sara Felder proves on stage where her one-woman show of a thousand feminine angles angles for the truth.

Being a woman, after all, is a juggling act, so is it really any surprise that "Out of Sight" is out of the ordinary as she juggles God, Israel and her nearly blind mother at the Painted Bride Art Center, at 230 Vine St. in Philadelphia, April 28 and April 29?

Disentangling herself from the vines of vicissitudes is some accomplishment, after all. "I actually do a piece, playing Mickey Katz' version of 'Hava Negillah' on a cassette player as I'm juggling two balls," says Felder, a San Francisco treat now taking up residence in Philadelphia.

The female version of the Flying Karamazov Brothers? More like a female Doestoevski, if he could have juggled a bowling ball and a kugel while refereeing the brothers' brouhahas.

With a yen for Yiddish and a queer quiet riot of attitude, this Jewish juggler has managed to balance her act with her life, finding that frisky Frisco was the perfect site for anyone's uphill battle to be taken seriously as a gay person; it was a city where lesbian is more as she showed in her act, schticking it to bias while upping the ante on bisexuality in "June Bride."

Long on a honeymoon with audiences straight, gay - and jugglers - she now brings it all home with this solo piece ("Showcase" just heard from the Puppets Union; shadow puppets figure into this play, too) that speaks 1,000 feelings.

Israel is real important a player, too, in Felder's current work, in which she and her Mom battle on opposite sides of the … fence. "Young Jews - of which I was one once - are uncomfortable talking about Israel now."

But the Green Zone has evolved into a Comfort Zone for her. Why now? "Because now is the time when I could do it," she notes of "finding one's voice."

"That's something that should have happened a long time ago."

Is that your mother calling you, Sara? In a way, it was a calling to inculcate her own mother's feelings about Israel into the show. "I want to tell the story of Jewish women," she says, "of mothers and daughter who love each other yet can't see each other."

It matters that the two don't see oy to oy on Israel - or much else, for that matter, as the mother in the play is blind.

Is this a homecoming of facts for the actress who came out long ago? "Why get hung up on what's factual," she kibitzes.

Fact is, "the play rests on truths, but I changed facts to create my own truth."

Truth is this to thee and that to me? It's not because she's keen on Keats but kinetically concerned with the real world that she chose this conceit. "For the daughter in the play - who came to age after the '67 war - Israel was a mythic and heroic place. Then came the Lebanon war and the intifadas, and the daughter confronts an Israel that is a military force with power over another people."

As for the mother's concepts - color her a bright blue and white, uncritical in what her daughter considers critical times. "Who better than a juggler to tackle this show?" she muses.

A mother's work is never done, and right now, Felder's mom plays the off-stage part of stage mother, hosting her daughter. "I'm in her apartment right now," says Felder in dialogue with her scripted if unseen co-star in a play "that's deepened our [mutual] experience."

And how does Mom feel about her moment in the spotlight?

Oh, says Felder, she's been there before. She had a part to play, too, in "June Bride": Here comes the Mother!

"She felt I didn't present her authentically there, though," says the daughter.

Actor's Equity, complaint on line one? "But then she realized her character had all the funny lines."

The line forms now for those who carp that there are no regional productions about the "Muddled East" to be taken seriously.

Take it as seriously as you want, says Felder, but remember: "It's a comedy."

Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away from the point of contention, this actress is in a league all her own: Felder's home life is a juggernaut of Judaism on stage and off; her partner is in the six-year program at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote. That relationship and a young son ground Felder when the stage's shifting sands sweep her away into desert storms of controversy.

What she would really like after "Out of Sight" is on the stage is "to bring 'June Bride' to the area, too."

Always a bridegroom, never a "Bride": That will have to wait a while since "Out of Site" will be on the road this summer - to Israel.

An extraordinary step for a play that outs Israel center stage under the hot lights? Of course not, feels Felder. After all, what she does more than anything is deal with that delicate balance that even Albee would find disabling.

"I juggle tradition," says this amazing Jewish three-ring circus all rolled into one.

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