Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins | Artnukkah 2022

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🕎 HAPPY FIRST NIGHT OF HANUKKAH! 🕎

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Two years ago, I started Artmas 2020 with a play. What a strange year that was! Strangeness aside, I was so happy to experience theater in the comfort of my home. I want to do it again so I’m starting Artnukkah 2022 with a play. Have you ever heard of the award-winning children’s book “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman? Here’s the synopsis:

On the first night of Hanukkah, a weary traveler named Hershel of Ostropol eagerly approaches a village, where plenty of latkes and merriment should warm him. But when he arrives not a single candle is lit. A band of frightful goblins has taken over the synagogue, and the villagers cannot celebrate at all! Hershel vows to help them. But can one man alone stand up to the goblins, save Hanukkah, and live to tell the tale? – Synopsis from Amazon

Last week while researching Jewish art & artists for Artnukkah, I came across a musical adaptation that’s free to watch in-person & over the internet. It was created by Strawdog Theatre Company & is currently running at The Edge Off Broadway in Chicago, Illinois, through January 1st. I reserved my streaming ticket for Friday evening & received a YouTube link one hour before showtime. I tuned in ten minutes early to find the cast interacting with the in-person & virtual audience. The seating is right up against the small stage; there are even a few seats on either side of the stage. There is one backdrop, a village, & the set is a hodge-podge of furniture & trunks that fit onto a rolling cart & move across the stage at one point in the show. The trunks store everything needed for onstage costume & prop changes. There are six actors playing fifteen characters: the 6-person troupe known as the Ovals of Ostropol, the innkeeper, at least seven goblins, & the goblin king. Additionally, everyone plays an instrument & sings. I felt like I was watching a group of friends play dress up which put a huge smile on my face.

⚠️ SHOW SPOILERS BEGINNING ⚠️

The pre-show audience interaction transitions seamlessly into the show, the Ovals of Ostropol interacting with their audience as they do night after night as a traveling troupe of entertainers. The lineup of original songs starts with an educational tune about the game of dreidel. We then follow the troupe to a new city which is dark & shows no signs of Hanukkah celebration. Troupe leader Hershel tells a story about his grandfather Hershel of Ostropol in exchange for food & shelter, also hoping to restore holiday spirit. During the story, the audience is encouraged to participate as Hershel lights the menorah. Hearing the audience sing the blessings, especially the kids, brought tears to my eyes. Definitely my favorite moment! After Hershel finishes the story, there are two more songs to close the show, the latter teaching the audience how to cook latkes. I was horrified to hear the “Lat-Kee” pronunciation, but one actor pronounced it “Lat-Kuh” so I’ll let it slide.

⚠️ SHOW SPOILERS ENDING ⚠️

Some moments were a bit awkward, specifically the silent pauses & transitions into & out of songs, and the overall tone is on the juvenile side of the spectrum. However, take those negatives with a grain of salt because the production is based on a children’s book & meant to be family-friendly. When a child yelled out something during a non-participatory moment, the actors handled it like pros because the show is set up to work with that dynamic. I watched a grown man happily dance along to the latke song; if he can let loose & have fun, so can you. It’s only an hour & completely free so embrace it, all of it.

Strawdog Theatre has spent five years recreating “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, & I would highly recommend this show as a new holiday tradition for people of all ages, especially children. They will learn so much about Hanukkah in one hour! The process from start to finish is super easy. Once you “purchase” your tickets through the Strawdog website, a link is emailed to you one hour before showtime. The YouTube stream will play on any laptop or mobile device; you can also use your YouTube history to play it on a smart TV. I watched the show by myself, but depending on the size of your group, I would recommend giving a fair donation to support the work going into the production. It’s free for you but not for them! The play is in Chicago so plan accordingly; I live in California so the 7pm show was 5pm in my time zone. In terms of content & scariness, the goblins are puppets made up of ordinary-looking props such as a hat, shovel, washboard, etc. The goblin king speaks in a booming voice, which is just five actors speaking in unison, & his head is a skull sitting atop a large piece of cloth covering the actors. Add in dim lighting, & that’s as scary as it gets.

Please spread the Hanukkah love & support this production! Let Strawdog Theatre Company know that we appreciate their efforts to make theater accessible to everybody. 💙

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Upcoming Shows:

December 23rd – 7pm CST – Streaming Tickets Available 🖥

December 24th – 1pm CST – Streaming Tickets Available 🖥

December 30th – 7pm CST – Streaming Tickets Available 🖥

December 31st – 1pm & 4pm CST – Streaming Tickets Available 🖥

January 1st – 1pm & 4pm CST – Theater & Streaming Tickets Available 🍿 🖥

*Note: You can sign up for the theater waitlist, & they will notify you one hour before showtime if tickets become available.

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Author: Eric Kimmel | Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman

Adapted by Mike Dailey | Director: Hannah Todd

Music & Lyrics by Jacob Combs | Music Direction by Ricky Harris

Strawdog Theatre Company | The Edge Off Broadway

CAST:

Amy Gorelow as Al | Edward Patterson as Gavi

Jordan Zelvin as Hershel | Kat Zheng as Sammy

Melanie Vitaterna as Max | Nick Pardo as Leor

Understudies: JT Nagle (Leor), Juliana Liscio (Hershel), Krissy Castellese (Max), Ksa Curry (Sammy), Matt Keeley (Al), & Sarah Franzel (Gavi)

CREW:

Amanda Crockett, Choreographer | Anna Vu, Assistant Stage Manager

Caitlin McLeod, Puppet & Scenic Designer | Catherine Miller, Cultural Consultant

Conchita Avitia, Lighting Designer | Daniel Etti-Williams, Sound Designer

Donna Marie Gary, Production Manager | Jordan Large, Technical Director

Karissa Murrell Myers, Casting Director | Kyle Hamman, Streaming Technician

Lily Anna Berman, Assistant Director | Oswald Avile, Stage Manager

Paul Cook, Lead Electrician | Rain Foiles, Costume Designer

Rocio Cabrera, Puppet & Props Designer | Stephanie Díaz, Puppetry Consultant

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– Lauren Michele ♥️ 

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