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New Artistic Director Jesse Bernstein to Take The Helm At Theatre Ariel

Bernstein comes to his leadership position with over thirty years of professional experience in theatre, film and television.

New Artistic Director Jesse Bernstein to Take The Helm At Theatre Ariel

Theatre Ariel, Philadelphia's only professional theatre committed to telling stories about the Jewish experience, will begin its 32nd season this fall under new leadership. In July, Founding Artistic Director, Deborah Baer Mozes,, will transition out of her role and actor, writer, director and producer, Jesse Bernstein, will become the company's new Artistic Director.

Baer Mozes' move coincided with her decision to make aliyah to the State of Israel, where she has long wanted to live and work. Her impact on the local Jewish and theatre communities will go on, however, as will the company she founded and helmed for over three decades. Under her guidance, Theatre Ariel presented more than 2,500 performances, over 300 artists employed, and 350,000 audience members entertained. "Now, I can go forth," says Baer Mozes, "knowing that Theatre Ariel is in the skillful, wise, and gifted hands of Artistic Director Jesse Bernstein."

Bernstein comes to his leadership position with over thirty years of professional experience in theatre, film and television. He is a native of Montgomery County, PA and has worked locally with Montgomery Theatre Project, the Arden Theatre Company, Walnut Street Theatre, Act II Playhouse, Drexel and Rutgers-Camden universities, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights.

"The first thing I ever wanted to be was a rabbi," Bernstein says. "Then I discovered theatre. Becoming the artistic director of a Jewish theatre company seems like the perfect melding of my two passions."

Bernstein and Baer Mozes first collaborated together in 2018 when Theate Ariel hosted the Alliance for Jewish Theatre's annual conference. After discussing conference details, Baer Mozes asked Bernstein what else he was working on. From that conversation sprang Theare Ariel's premiere of Bernstein's solo show, Ethics of the Fathers (aka The Gangster and Grandpa). Bernstein has since created two more solo pieces for the company. Since then, he has also performed and directed for the company and in 2021 became its Associate Artistic Director.

Regarding the importance of Jewish theatre, Bernstein points to a recent Pew study that noted over 50% of Jewish Americans state they relate to their Judaism through arts and culture. "Theatre Ariel is poised to make a real impact on both the Jewish and cultural communities of Philadelphia," he says. "We want to appeal to Jews of all affiliations and practices. My ideal Theatre Ariel audience has a man wearing a yarmulke sitting next to a secular, interfaith couple, both of them enjoying one of our Salons."

Along with new artistic leadership, Theatre Ariel is about to embark on a new five-year strategic plan. While the company intends to maintain its current signature offering of Salon Ariel - theatrical readings in intimate settings - it will also look to offer new programming, engage a wider audience, collaborate with local organizations, and create unique ways for Jewish and non-Jewish audience members to engage.

"I am honored to have worked closely with, and learned from, Deborah," says Theatre Ariel Board Co-President Marci Wilf. "Deborah's talent, creativity and years of dedication to Theatre Ariel and its mission have been an outstanding gift to Philadelphia's Jewish and theatre-going communities."

"I believe today, even more than 31 years ago when I founded Theatre Ariel, that Jewish theatre has a vital role to play in today's America," Baer Mozes states. "I can't wait to see where Jesse Bernstein takes Theatre Ariel in the coming years. "


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