Family ties that bind


— Although this is one of the 1,000 plays that Rusty DeLucia has directed in her acting/directing career, this play has deeper meaning. It has significance. It has roots.

"This helps me round out whatever I was looking for," DeLucia said of her ethnic connection with the play.

DeLucia is the director of the Steamboat Community Players third production of the year, "A Shayna Maidel" (A Pretty Girl), a Barbara Lebow play, that opened Thursday.

After a short-lived scene of the birth of Mordechai Weiss in 1876, the play jumps to the future when Weiss' Jewish family reunites after being separated for15 years. The scene is New York in 1946, just after the closure of World War II.

Weiss and his youngest daughter, Rose, leave Poland for America in the late 1920s, abandoning his wife and oldest daughter. The two women are shuffled off to a concentration camp where the wife dies and the daughter survives, only to find her family in New York.

When we meet the aggressive family, the oldest daughter has found her family in New York.

The family must fight its own battles of mending the wounds and managing the shocks of a new culture.

"It's a play about the communication difficulty in a family, especially after the cultural shock," DeLucia said. "It's the reunification of blood relatives after trauma."

Although DeLucia confirmed that the play does not touch on the Holocaust, it gives the audience a sense of the family dynamics with dream sequences and flashbacks that bring us in and out of reality.

"It is rather a story about the struggle of three strong-willed and stubborn people to overcome angers, resentments and cultural differences and become a family," said Nina Rogers, actor and president of the company's board of directors.

This strong Jewish family found its strength through survival, and recognizes its own stubbornness. This tenacious family goes through conflict and "baggage" but the play itself has a light-hearted overtone.

With experience at Perry-Mansfield Performing Art School and Camp and a degree in English and theatre, DeLucia said her personal attachment to the subject of the play sold her on the script.

DeLucia said her father had many deceased relatives that she always held a curiosity for knowing. This was a chance for her to examine the thoughts and feelings of an ethnic group whose history she holds, but one she never completely understood.

"It's nice to get to this point in my life when I'm allowed to choose my own," DeLucia said of the script.

The Yiddish-peppered script spiked DeLucia's fever of stress until the Jewish community aided in the annunciation of many the Yiddish words.

"I didn't want to offend the Jewish community, so I put an ad in the paper. I had people coming in saying, 'You could talk to my mother in Minnesota' or 'I have a friend who has a friend that speaks Yiddish,'" DeLucia said of all the gracious assistance. "I hope to see them all at the show."

And for regulars of the Seventh Street Playhouse, "A Shayna Maidel" will start one-half hour earlier than usual. The doors now open at 7 p.m. and the play starts at 7:30 p.m.

DeLucia said this particular play is long and intense the earlier it starts, the better.

No one will be allowed in after the play has begun.

With at least four major productions a year, interspersed with minor productions, about 20-25 consistent actors make up the Steamboat Community Players. Because the nonprofit organization "is a labor of love," not all are available to audition for each production because of other priorities, Rogers said.

With veteran and novice actors, DeLucia said this cast has melded their personalities to become a family of their own more coherent than the one they portray.

"I have nothing but praise. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with them, even though they may not have thoroughly enjoyed working with me," DeLucia said of her overwhelming persistence that can take over some times.


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