[Next Fall] Everything happens for a reason.

….I will always believe in that.….Especially after these last 3 weeks.

HI MY DEAREST READERS! I am finally back (sort of) to tell why I went missing for almost a whole 3 weeks.

The play “Next Fall” that I wasn’t supposed to work–but ended up working–ended today, Sunday 6/16. I am actually home BEFORE 11p/midnight for the first time in 3 weeks. What an exhausting (in a good way) and intense show this was, but the most memorable and overall spiritually the best of all the many shows I’ve worked in the last 3 years. I’m going to try my best to recount my steps. I wrote down notes at the beginning but then life took over and haven’t written anything since.

In the beginning, the Universe works out in mysterious ways….

Ever since BNC ended last year in March, I was asked by the same director if I was going to work his next show. (No, I was doing too much at that time.) He left for a while, then I took a break, then he came back, and I was still gone… but I was available to help with auditions. He asked again, and no was still the answer, because I was organizing the SOAs, and rehearsals coincided with the performances. Well, guess what? It just so happens that the Universe threw a wrench into the whole plan and I ended up ASMing “Next Fall” with him after all, and it was okay that I miss SOAs first week’s readings.

The first week of three: Since I joined very late to the game, the first week was spent trying to gather/study notes, watch the play and figure out all my responsibilities. That first week’s weekend we moved the set to the CH. The second week we went into “hell week” where we practiced all week until Wednesday and had 6 performances in 5 days. (After the first performance, our director made some major changes to the order of the play, and it ended up working out for the better.) The third week was our final week, with the first 3 days we usually have off, I was at the other location in rehearsals for the SOAs.

In case you’re wondering…. “Next Fall” is an lgbtq-related play that talks a lot about religion and the couple’s relationship in line with that over 5 years. (I found two good synopsis online: synopsis and synopsis2). We had a pretty big ad in the local Jewish paper here, too. This was also the very first play we’ve put on for Pride, and probably in this area… so cheers to a lot of firsts we’re doing! So very proud of my group for doing this.

So, let’s get Jewish, maybe? There’s a lot of Jewish-related lines and moments in this play. Part of the play takes place in a Jewish hospital. One of the characters is Jewish. We had screens in the back of wall for each scene: in the church scene, we had a beautiful Star of David showing. We also had a few kippahs as props… and today as we were loading everything up to take it back to our home, our prez said, “what are we going to do with all of these? Someone needs to write a Jewish play!” ON IT!

The moment I’ve been waiting for a really long time.

So, here I am in the middle of working a semi-religious play with so much depth straight into the Universe, and on that Friday of the 2nd week, the first week of performances, I get a text message from my Rabbi and also another classmate…. with the question of “do you want to do your conversion next week?”

UH YES! YES! YES! YES!

“Well, when?”

“You guys pick the date. I’ll be there.”

June 12th.

Now, when I’m this deeply involved in a play (especially one at this intensity), I go severely missing. You don’t hear from me or see me until it’s over. I even dropped off the face of the social media planet. So that is what happened. However, I was seeing: work, Next Fall and SOA family… and those were the only folks I was talking to, ONLY because I saw them daily.

I was at work when I got those text messages. When they texted me back the date, I started crying so hard. The guys at work turned around and stared. I could barely get out the words that I was going to have my conversion ceremony the following week. They were super supportive and started singing Hava Nagila. (Side note: they haven’t stopped singing this yet.)

Something else that happened: I took a look at the date, June 12th, and I felt something about that date. Something inside told me to look it up. I did. It was Anne Frank’s 90th birthday. HOLY SMOKES. Was I really going to be converted on Anne Frank’s Birthday? Was that some sort of sign? I found out about the Holocaust from reading her diary, it had always had an impact on me, and I felt such a connection with her. Even today, I feel the need to help keep the Holocaust stories alive. I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the date, her birthday, and my connection with writing and the Holocaust. Not only that, but I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before… my birthday was her very last diary entry and my parent’s anniversary was the date that they went into hiding. That’s some spooky meant to be stuff right there, don’t you think?!

Also, my classmate was texting me “You have to find a Hebrew name!” I’m texting the Rabbi saying, “WHAT? I HAVE TO FIND A HEBREW NAME?” Then he’s like, “Don’t worry, we’ll find one together. Let’s talk.” Soooooo… I ended up going through the entire Jewish baby name dictionary and since there’s NOT a name for “GLITTER” … I chose Ahava. It means love. I love too much sometimes, I do think love is the best gift in the world, and I always write “love always, Karen Maeby” on almost everything… sooo.. in retrospect, my Hebrew name has practically been there the whole time, just in English. So that’s how I picked my name.

On Friday: I left work for NF performance and I told a few people there… and that turned into telling more than I liked to, but I just couldn’t hold it inside. It was too much of exciting news, but I also didn’t want to jinx it.

That same weekend was Shavuot, so I brought cheesecake, and we ate it during our second Saturday show’s intermission. I left a note there of why I had brought it, and they really appreciated it, and started asking me questions about my journey.

Sunday was NF performance, then Monday & Tuesday I was in rehearsal for SOAs.

Wednesday 6/12 was the big day.

I get to CBI, and there my Rabbi was… filling out papers with my Hebrew name, Ahava. Let me tell you something, it wasn’t even close to being time to immerse in the water yet, and I was already tearing up with just seeing my name on the papers. Soon after, my classmate arrived, and then we went before the Beit Din (separately, of course) and asked questions. Then it was time to go to nature’s mikvah out in Ft Desoto.

It was time. I was already emotional as I got into the water, had a little bit of an almost panic attack (considering I can’t swim) but I made it to the water being reasonably high. We dunked 3 times each. Spent a moment collecting ourselves in the water. (I have something written out from what I felt in those maybe less than 10 minutes in the water, but it’s almost too personal for me to put on here. I’m not sure if I’m ready to share that part of my soul yet.) Then we walked back to shore to do our prayers.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t believe it.

I still can’t believe it as I am writing this out a few days later.

I am still so emotional over my chance at becoming Jewish, and becoming Jewish a few weeks earlier than planned. I am just over the moon. (Side note: I was in painting mode last year around June. I remember painting a bunch of “love” pictures with rainbows and saying to myself “I wish I had a June birthday”…and in my Jewish life, I do now.)

After we left Ft Desoto, we left to eat at Meze119. (This was already planned by my classmate, otherwise, I would’ve been at my third home in a heartbeat. That’s where I felt my celebration should’ve been…but I digress….)

I went to rehearsal that evening, and everyone congratulated me.

On Thursday, I was back at the other place for Next Fall’s final week of performances… and everyone was giving me hugs and congratulating me and just so much support. They even gave me a card with “Ahava” on it … and I cried. Yep. Buckets. I cry so much when I see my Jewish name. It has more meaning to me than my real name or the second half of my stage name that I came up with. It’s just… crazy. It’s like my heart is taken to another planet or something when I see “Ahava” and they’re talking about me.

Over the rest of the week of performances, there were still many more congrats and etc. We had our cast party in between both of our shows on Saturday 6/15 (wow, what a long day that was, maybe 14 hours or something). We had Chinese food, so much wine, cake. They gave us backstage people gifts or cards like they always do… my card’s envelope had “Karen / Ahava” and I didn’t even want to open it because I was very emotional from just seeing… Ahava once again.

AT THE CAST PARTY….. I did a thing. I had notecards of about 15 different questions to ask the cast about the play. Since we were a group that was already discussing some points in depth, I decided to make it a game, and I was not disappointed. I am just so happy I got to do this! I’ve waited 3 years and a ton of plays to do something like this! The questions are kind of spoilers so I can’t write them here, but basically, there’s a whole lot of philosophical thoughts, metaphors and the like where everything ties in together for the whole story and I wanted to hear everyone’s answers.

My favorite line of the whole thing is the most poetic, one of the characters says something along the lines of, “….my body may not be fat, but my soul is….”

I get that. So very much do I get that! And, just a few words… can speak volumes.

What an emotional rollercoaster these last 3 weeks have been. I cannot believe that I was working a play that discussed religion–one I wasn’t really supposed to even be working–during Pride month (also while working the SOAs–my favorite show) and close to celebrating 3 years with my theatre group….and becoming Jewish. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am so speechless. Theatre. Writing. And Jewishness…. THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS….!!!!!!!

Fun Facts … about working Next Fall:

-This was my first time working a show with this many scene changes, getting to practically be a part of the play (even while being backstage) AND we even got to take a bow like the rest of the cast!

-This was the first time we ever played loud music in the greenroom as everyones getting ready. Usually, everyone wants silence.

-This is the first time we did shots of Cinnamon Whiskey. Three.. nights..in a .. row… now I’m addicted!

-This is the first play of 3 years worth of plays that I was able to sit down and have a true discussion with the cast about the depth of the play.

-We have a new backstage person, and she is wonderful. She’s practically my new backstage bfffff, and we connected since day one. I really hope I get to work with her again. Even if not, we’ve got plans to hang out in the future.

-On the set bookcases they had a Jewish book that I have at home. My eyes lit up when I saw that. They later added a book about Harvey Milk… and I actually got to take that home with me! Yay!

I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting…. but this has practically been my last 3 weeks. It has been the best last 3 weeks I’ve had in such a long time.

Now that I’m Jewish….I really need to start helping change the world a little bit more than what I had been before. (I have to be a mensch not a grinch!) I have plans, and ideas… but mostly, I need to start where I’m passionate at and that’s writing… and like my director wrote back to me in an email: trust yourself and keep writing.

I need to listen to him.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.