Woman of La Mancha

New arrival Tiffany Chow shines in the ultimately healing role of Aldonza, Don Quixote’s dream girl.

Don Quixote (photo credit: AVITAL COHEN)
Don Quixote
(photo credit: AVITAL COHEN)
The number of acting troupes that put on E n g l i s h - l a n g u a g e productions here appears to be constantly on the up and up, with the likes of Jerusalem-based Encore!, JEST and J-Town Playhouse, while Tel Aviv Community Theater (TACT) keeps the Anglo thespian flag flying high and proud at the western end of Route 1.
But Beersheba-based Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), which has been around since 1981, is the only English-language group that proffers its productions to audiences all over the country. It also earmarks a percentage of its takings for various charitable organizations, such as ESRA, the Forgotten People Fund and for children at risk, as well as generating the wherewithal for music scholarships in Jerusalem.
LOGON is in the middle of a nationwide tour with a new production of Man of La Mancha, based on the book by Dale Wasserman, with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh.
It is adapted from Wasserman’s non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which in turn was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s 17thcentury masterpiece Don Quixote. It tells the story of the “mad” knight Don Quixote, as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the authorities of the Spanish Inquisition.
The LOGON version is directed by Yaacov Amsalem and produced by Alan Cohen and Mike Berlin, with David Waldmann overseeing the musical side of the proceedings. The current run of Man of La Mancha kicked off on February 27 and, thus far, has entertained audiences in Beersheba, Givatayim and Netanya, with further shows lined up for Modi’in, Jerusalem, Ra’anana and Nesher, with the closing performances taking place at the same venue as the curtain-raiser, Heichal Hatarbut in Beersheba on March 26 and 27.
One of the stars of the LOGON production is in fact an “import.”
Tiffany Chow, 25, is a second-year medical student at Ben-Gurion University and joined the theater company soon after arriving from California 18 months ago. “I started with LOGON pretty much when I got to Israel,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do something outside the medical school, to keep me a real human being. I did a lot of theater growing up, and also at college, so I looked on the Internet and I found this group and decided to audition for them.”
It was a natural fit. “They really welcomed me into the LOGON family.
It was such a blessing,” notes Chow.
The LOGON chiefs certainly did not have any qualms about Chow’s acting and singing credentials, they had taken on a seasoned professional.
“The other day I counted the number of musical theater shows I’d been in, and it was over 40,” Chow continues, adding that her entry into the world of theater was as much a matter of therapy as anything else. “I was in the third grade and I was very shy, so my parents put me in theater to open me up. It took me a couple of years to overcome my shyness, but now I am the least shy person you meet. I am very friendly and very open.”
JUDGING BY the demands of the role Chow plays in this production, that of Aldonza, a lady of the night, she really has come a long way, both as a person and as an actor. Her character comes in from some pretty rough treatment in Man of La Mancha. “This is probably the most emotionally challenging role I’ve ever played, so both in my singing and acting, it has pushed me to new levels,” she says. “My character gets abused in a lot of different ways, even sexually. I am connecting with and portraying a type of character that I have never had to do before.”
Hearing about the rough stuff is something of a surprise in the LOGON context. Generally speaking, English-language theater outfits tend to put on family-oriented light entertainment, and are strictly devoid of down-and-dirty elements. But Chow says that everything is handled as tastefully as possible, and that she finds the role very rewarding, too. “It is a very straining thing to play, but it is also very cathartic,” she declares.
“My character actually gets raped in one scene but, thing is, that with LOGON it is a very conservative show and a very family-oriented group, so everything is portrayed very well and very modestly, although she [Aldonza] gets kind of thrown around and taken off stage with her skirt half-on.”
But fear not, Chow comes through the ordeal unscathed. “My so-called attackers are really very gentle with me, and I am normally more worried I am going to hurt them than the other way round. Most of them have either had hip replacements, or some kind of major surgery or are 20 or 30 years my senior,” she laughs.
“They are very careful with me, and my director has always been very attentive and [ensures] that I am OK with everything that is going on.”
We also get to hear about how Aldonza ended up on the downmarket side of life. “She comes back and sings a song about her past, and how she was abandoned by her parents and by all the men in her life,” Chow explains, adding that she does not quite manage to put her feelings to one side and play the role like a consummate, unfeeling professional.
“When I sing the song I am usually on the verge of tears,” she says although, happily, we witness the character’s deliverance from a life of abuse.
“She gets healed at the end, which is always wonderful.”
For tickets and more information: www.misterticket.co.il, (08) 973-7333 and 052-747-2151 (Modi’in); (02) 561- 7317 and (02) 581-2859 (Jerusalem); (09) 741-4169 and 050-520-1865 (Ra’anana); and (04) 823-6031 and 054-646-1688 (Nesher).