Some quarter of a million abandoned orphaned children were sent by train to new homes in the US Midwest and West during the turn of the century. Susan Lieberman's family-oriented musical drama Prairie Lights imagines what might have happened to a couple of Jewish orphans on one of those trains.
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This show is JEST's (Jerusalem English Speaking Theater) latest production, which opens Wednesday. Rose and Benjamin Ginsburg are sent West on an orphan train just before Hanukka in 1905. They end up in the small town of Wellspring, Nebraska, where the local doctor persuades Abe and Sophie Birnbaum, the town's only Jews, to take in the two kids. What should be a perfect match goes awry. The fiercely religious children can't understand the Birnbaums' assimilated ways in which Hanukka and all the other Jewish holidays and customs are ignored. But the older and younger pairs soon find themselves united in the face of an outside threat.
Sophie will be played by popular local folksinger Sandy Cash. The role of Benjamin is played by her son, Jacob Lipski. Much of the rest of the cast - both children and adults - have performed in the past for JEST, which is now in its 21st season. The play is directed by Dianne Herman, whose previous works for JEST include Annie and Tom Sawyer.
JEST's six performances of Prairie Lights take place Wednesday (January 17) at 8 p.m; January 18 and 23 at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and January 25 at 8 p.m., all at the Hirsch Theatre, Beit Shmuel. Admission is NIS 70 for adults and NIS 55 for kids. To reserve, call (02) 642-0908.