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Jewish Women's Theatre Will Commemorate The Life Of Actress Abby Freeman With New Program and Performance

Jewish Women's Theatre Will Commemorate The Life Of Actress Abby Freeman With New Program and Performance

Jewish Women's Theatre (JWT) will honor one of its first employees and most talented actors by naming its Artists-in-Residence Program after Abby Freeman, who passed away from breast cancer in 2014 at age 37.

The newly-named program, created by JWT and Freeman's parents, Jack and Isabel Freeman, will commemorate Abby's luminous and all-too-short life, as well as her significant contributions during the earliest days of JWT. A reception celebrating the Abby Freeman Artists-in-Residence Program and introducing the Artists-in-Residence will be held following the 2:00 p.m. performance of Living After, on Sunday, October 27 at 3:30 p.m. The reception is free.

Living After is a moving, funny and poignant collection of stories that illuminate what it is like to live with and after cancer. It will be performed twice during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, on Saturday, October 26 at 8:00 p.m. as well as on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. It stars Monica Piper, comedienne and Emmy Award-winner; AJ Meijer of the New York Stage; Jasmine Curry, producer/actress; and Rosie Moss of The Connors.

Both performances of Living After will be held at The Braid, JWT's art and performance space in Santa Monica. Tickets are $35 pre-sale and $45 at the door and are available at www.jewishwomenstheatre.org. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Sharsheret, a non-profit organization that supports young Jewish women and their families with breast cancer or a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Abby Freeman Artists-in-Residence are actors, writers, directors, songwriters and visual artists. Currently, JWT has 30 artists-in-residence who regularly share their talents with JWT patrons. "Each creative talent who holds this title shows up time and time again, gives their all, delights our audiences with their skill and creativity and is an integral part of the JWT community," said JWT's artistic director Ronda Spinak. "It is only fitting to name our Artists-in-Residence Program after someone who personified JWT's commitment to the telling of Jewish stories on stage and to the nurturing of Jewish artistic talent."

"Abby Freeman was one of JWT's first "Jill-of-all-Trades," said Spinak. "First as a volunteer/intern, helping me in all ways, then as a valued employee and actor, she helped craft the "look" of JWT by creating systems that are still used today, offering sage advice and shining her special light on every project."

Abby graced the JWT stage many times, but is most remembered for her performances in JWT's Stories from the Fringe, where she originated the role of the "Young Rabbi." She brought the true stories of historic women rabbis to life. Her fellow cast and crew members loved working with her and enjoyed her generosity of spirit and many gifts.

Bari Hochwald-Cagnola, artistic director of The Global Theatre Project and an Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence at JWT who worked with Abby in Stories from the Fringe, said, "Abby was light. When we worked together, I was always filled with happiness to be near her--to watch her as she performed and to see her simple and pure connection with the audience."

"Working with Abby was pure joy, adds Kate Zentall, JWT veteran actress who worked closely with Abby on Stories from the Fringe, and another Abby Freeman Artist-In-Residence. "Her light and loveliness were nearly blinding, and she brought a freshness to her work that never failed to surprise me."

In addition to Abby's parents Jack and Elizabeth, other members of the Freeman family have been generously involved with JWT. The collaboration began when Abby's sister Cynthia Freeman was JWT's project coordinator when JWT was a project of Community Partners, a fiscal sponsor that nurtures non-profits. Brother Dan designed JWT's first website. "Working with JWT is truly a family affair and a pleasurable one, too." Spinak notes.

In a tribute to her beloved sister, Cynthia writes, "How you spend your days is how you spend your life...How you spend your life is how you live your death..." By all accounts, Abby's life was filled with empathy and joy. "She brought out your best self."

Eve Brandstein, JWT's Director of Stories from The Fringe, Saffron & Rosewater, and Not That Jewish agrees. "Abby was a talented, deeply sincere artist who I loved directing and knowing as a friend. She helped shape Stories from the Fringe and brought it to life with her performance."

Fellow employee Susie Yuré, now JWT's director of community outreach said, "I looked forward to collaborating with Abby. She was charming and her smile would always fill a room. Abby brought her grace to the stage, elevating a performance. She was light-hearted and I can still "hear" her laughter and "feel" her warmth."

Freeman graduated from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She performed in several off-Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil and two Bregenz Opera Festivals in Austria. In addition to her work at JWT, she was the co-founder of AIRRealistic, one of the world's premiere aerial theatre ensembles. She married aerial designer Merlin Larsen in 2006 and had two children.

Bring your best self to Living After to The Braid, JWT's art and performance space, 2912 Colorado Ave., #102, Santa Monice 90404 on Saturday, October 26 at 8 p.m. or Sunday, October 27 at 2 p.m. The 2 p.m. performance will be followed by a reception at 3:30 p.m. in honor of Abby Freeman and the new Abby Freeman Artists-in-Residence. Among those being named and honored: Monica Piper (comedienne/writer and Emmy Award-winner ), Cindy Chupack (writer-Sex in the City and Modern Family), Judy Carter (writer, motivational speaker, podcaster), Melanie Chartoff (Rugrats as Didi Pickles), AJ Meijer (Off Broadway-Heathers: the Musical) and others! Tickets for the show are $35 presale or $45 at the door, and can be purchased at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

JWT, which has been voted one of the "Best Live Theatres on the Westside" three years in a row by The Argonaut, stages and displays traditional and contemporary works and educational programming that provide a forum for the development, performance and showcasing of Jewish artistic talent. Now celebrating its 12th year, JWT's salon theatre of original dramatic shows, each written to a specific theme, displays the diverse and eclectic community of writers, artists and creators who celebrate Jewish life, one story at a time. Learn more about JWT at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.


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