Tom Weinberger had been straightening teeth for more than three decades as a Jerusalem orthodontist...Next week, one week shy of his 70th birthday, Weinberger will appear in the English-language Encore Educational Theatre Company's production of "My Fair Lady" - the popular musical based on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" - at Jerusalem's Hirsch Theatre..."My Fair Lady" will be performed in English with Hebrew subtitles.
...There are 50 fellow cast members like him, each with a distinct backstory - from teenage students, Jerusalem housewives and silver-haired grandmothers, to international attorneys and a former archaeologist-turned-hospital-administrator. And not one among them is a professional actor.
"We're not a professional company," notes Robert Binder, co-founder and artistic director of the not-for-profit group, created in 2006. "We are a community theater. But we work to professional standards."
...Some 2,500 people are expected to attend the seven performances of "My Fair Lady." About half of the group's annual budget of NIS 600,000 is covered by ticket sales, according to Yaacov Fisher, director of development, who is looking to foundations and private donors for support.
Auditions for the theater's two productions each year draw as many as 100 people, according to Binder, and about 50 make the final cut. "Occasionally we have some who are not exactly stage-worthy, but we try to put them to work in another capacity," he says. "Most of the people who come have ability, and we have been blessed with many talents."
Miri Fraenkel, an 18-year-old immigrant from London who plays the role of Eliza Doolittle, is considering a career in drama or music. She is performing her national service as a tour guide at Jerusalem's Menachem Begin Heritage Center. "Encore has given me a chance I would not have had in London as an Orthodox Jewish actor," she says.