Make us your home page
Instagram

'My Name Is Asher Lev' to open at American Stage

Chris Crawford, center, plays the title character in My Name Is Asher Lev. Georgina McKee and Brian Webb Russell play all the other roles.

American Stage

Chris Crawford, center, plays the title character in My Name Is Asher Lev. Georgina McKee and Brian Webb Russell play all the other roles.

"It's poetic that a show about art takes place on a stage full of empty canvases," Chris Crawford says. "I think nothing would be as strong as what the audience creates in their minds."

Crawford plays the title role in American Stage's production of My Name Is Asher Lev, opening Friday. It's based on Chaim Potok's semi-autobiographical 1972 novel about a young man whose passion to express himself as a painter puts him at odds with his Hasidic Jewish family and community.

Aaron Posner's stage adaptation of the novel, still running off Broadway, won the 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award for playwriting. Posner streamlined the novel's complex plot and large cast for the play. "He's chosen to focus solely on Asher Lev," says T. Scott Wooten, the play's director.

Indeed, Crawford is the only cast member who plays a single character. Georgina McKee and Brian Webb Russell play all the other characters, including Asher's parents, his artistic mentor, a rabbi and a painter's model. "In a way they have a harder job," Crawford says. "They have to create all these different characters.

"It says something about the play, though, that the same actors play all these characters, because they sort of merge into parental figures for him."

Wooten says that despite the play's setting in post-World War II Brooklyn, it tells a universal story. "Even though this is an Orthodox Jewish family, if you grew up in any religious household you can understand it."

Crawford notes that the playwright describes it as a story about "when who you are is in direct conflict with your background."

My Name Is Asher Lev is a memory play, and much of it is narrative, with Asher sometimes entering scenes from the past, at other times describing them from the outside. That requires Crawford to play him at various ages, from 6 years old to mid 20s.

Crawford says that in Posner's notes on the play, "He says you should shy away from playing those (younger) ages, because it's hard for an audience to believe a 6-year-old being played by a 20-something. I try to conjure up that energy that a 6-year-old has."

Posner's notes also declare that Asher's paintings should never be shown, but left to the imagination. Still, preparation for the play involved plenty of art research. "T. Scott has printed off all these paintings, some mentioned in the play, some not, and hung them all over the rehearsal hall," Crawford says. "It's very interesting to be immersed in that."

The play also called for immersion in the history of Orthodox Judaism. "How do you research a religion that has existed for thousands of years and understand it by opening night?" Crawford says. "Well, you can't. But that's what actors do: We're trying to find someone else's life."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at cbancroft@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8435.

If you go

My Name Is Asher Lev previews at 8 p.m. tonight and opens at 8 p.m. Friday at American Stage, 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. Brief nudity. Runs through Aug. 25. Tickets $29-$59, americanstage.org or (727) 823-7529.

If you go

My Name Is Asher Lev previews at 8 p.m. tonight and opens at 8 p.m. Friday at American Stage, 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. Brief nudity. Runs through Aug. 25. Tickets $29-$59, www.americanstage.org/ or (727) 823-7529.

'My Name Is Asher Lev' to open at American Stage 07/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 5:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  2. At 'American Idol' auditions in Orlando, there are life lessons in line

    Music & Concerts

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — From her spot across the lawn, Sasha Orihuela studies her son.

    Jeremy Joshua Dorsey reacts after past American Idol contestants walk by ahead of his audition at the Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017. 

Hundreds of people showed up for the first auditions for ABC's reboot of 'American Idol'. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  3. Beach Drive mural is a first for St. Pete's swanky waterfront street

    Blogs

    Mural mania in St. Petersburg is spreading east.

    This mural in progress is on the side of the Smith & Associates building on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.
  4. Is that it? Hardly. Katrina of the Waves still walking on sunshine

    Blogs

    Appearing on both Retro Futura and The '80s Cruise is Katrina Leskanich, who we know better as Katrina of Katrina & the Waves. When thinking about Katrina & the Waves hopefully …

  5. Enjoy the felines, ancient ruins at Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome

    Travel

    ROME

    We had to be in the right spot. The GPS said so.

    The Area Sacra at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is the site of ancient ruins and the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. More than 140 cats call this area home. Some live in the indoor shelter.