New York, Nu York: On the Set

 This past weekend there was quite a bit of excitement at my synagogue, the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, New York. It involved a bar mitzvah, but it was not the typical bar mitzvah. It was a faux bar mitzvah!
EMJC played host to a film crew and cast for a film in production called "Abe," It is a coming of age movie about a boy whose mom is Jewish and dad is Muslim. It stars a child actor from the hit Netfllix  TV show "Stranger Things." And our synagogue was rented out for one day, a Sunday, for a few scenes-- a bar mitzvah ceremony and the party scenes.
Congregants were invited to be background extras, and after debating whether or not to join, I decided to take a chance and spend much of my Sunday at shul, dressed up smartly for a fake bar mitzvah. 
I brought a few different outfits, shoved neatly into a knapsack, and I parked my bicycle on the street because the film production trucks took up a lot of room on the avenue. I went upstairs to a room usually called the Fersko Room (for a Dr. Fersko I did not know) but temporarily called the Holding Pen. In the Holding Pen I showed my clothes to a crew member who selected what was appropriate and then I dressed in the women's room. I stowed my other clothes in a narrow storage room only known to congregants in the know.
I sat with dozens of other adults and children who hoped to be in the film, and I only recognized a few other congregants. (One is a man who only comes to shul on the High Holidays, and he almost always falls asleep and snores. But he was wide awake for this film opportunity.) Finally crew members spoke to us all about a few general rules of the set, and then had us stand up so we could be checked for wardrobe. 
Then we walked downstairs one flight to the Regency Room, where a dtay earlier we had Shabbat kiddush. Now the room was decorated for a kid's bar mitzvah party and it looked realistic. I was grouped in a far corner to start, but then given the directive to walk across to the bar, drink goblet in hand (it was filled with pomegranate juice, not wine) and fake-shake hands with other extras. One of them was the older son of our cantor. He got to walk with two other kids and "act like you've known each other for years!" according to an assistant director.
We went through at least eight takes of this scene and it was fun, mildly amusing (especially when we all got to cheer "Mazel tov!" to the bar mitzvah boy named "David Gold,") but also tiring. I realized that as an actor, even just a background extra, I had to summon up energy and spirit over and over again. Also there was a male background actor who quite frankly gave me the creeps, and he tried to bear-hug me but after maneuvering away from him three times, he got the message that I was not going to put up with him.
But overall it was fun. I spoke with a few of the other extras who told me about how they got involved with part-time acting work. And although I would roll my eyes upon hearing "Back to one!" (back to your original positions) over and over again, it was a unique learning experience for me.
We filmed three scenes in this room. In the most intriguing scene, the boy star dances to Madonna's "Vogue." And I was one of the people right behind him, bopping my head to the music. 
Then we all got to eat lunch-- catered kosher deli food from my favorite local deli, Jay & Lloyd's! That was a definite treat. I dined on pea soup, half a corned beef sandwich and half a brisket sandwich. Shortly after that I decided to call it a day and not stay several hours longer for the actual fake-bar mitzvah ceremony in our sanctuary. But it was fun to be an actress for a day. I will write about the film when it eventually is released, so stay tuned!