Innovocative Theatre's A SHAYNA MAIDEL Opens In January At Stageworks Theatre

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Surviving World War II tests a family's resilience in Innovocative Theatre's gripping drama A SHAYNA MAIDEL

Season-opening script "a tribute to the sustaining power of family"--New York Times

In a small apartment on the east side of New York City, two all but total strangers are solemnly figuring out what can still connect them. They are sisters, Rose and Lusia, and this would be an unremarkable family reunion except for two facts. When Rose was four, she and her father, Mordechai, got out of Poland before the Holocaust swept through Eastern Europe. Lusia and her mother were not so fortunate.

Now, almost twenty years later in the spring of 1946, Lusia's just arrived in New York. She has to stay with a sister who has no memories of her, and come to terms with a distant father who was forced to leave her behind.

Actor Kristina Kourkoulos, who portrays the "American" sister, comments on the stress her character (Rose) undergoes after the sudden appearance of her long-lost sister. "It turns her whole world upside down; she suddenly, and all too quickly, has to stitch those two worlds together, which up to now she's kept separated."

The challenges facing a family ripped asunder by the Second World War are stark in the opening sections of Innovocative Theatre's season-opening production of A Shayna Maidel. But playwright Barbara Lebow probes the deep resilience of her characters in a work that New York Times critic Mel Gussow called "a tribute to the sustaining power of family and to [human] indomitability."

Director Staci Sabarsky explains, "The story is told through Lusia's eyes in a series of flashbacks as well as flash-forwards: so in reality, the play takes place in the past, present and possible future." Kayla Witoshynsky, who plays Lusia, adds that her character "is searching for her present self within the past...even within a complete change of surroundings."

Assistant director Harrison Baxley acknowledges the difficulties in staging such a work: "So many people have fallen in love with this beautiful, poignant play since it was first produced in 1984. A lot of people know this play, and they care about this story a lot. We hope to give Lebow's script the justice it deserves so that people are able to love it, and have it be accessible to those who haven't seen it before."

"At its core, A Shayna Maidel is the story of two sisters and a family trying to reconnect," says Sabarsky. "I think many people can identify with this situation; families can find themselves estranged for a number of reasons. But I find it encouraging that healing is still possible, even after all they've been through. It gives us all hope."

After his remarkable work in Innovocative's production of The Hundred Dresses, Larry Corwin returns in A Shayna Maidel as patriarch Mordechai Weiss. Witoshynsky, who was seen last month in Hat Trick Theatre's production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, and Kourkoulos, an Integrated PR and advertising major at USF, play daughters Lusia Weiss Pechenik and Rose Weiss. Michele McCarty, Sunshine Hughes and Thomas Brown round out the cast. Founding producing artistic director Staci Sabarsky directs.

Innovocative Theatre's 2020 season builds on productions over the past three years that have garnered accolades from the region's critics, the respect of professional arts organizations, and ever-increasing levels of community support. Its production of Columbinus in January 2019 surpassed all previous company attendance records-and its subsequent August staging of The Hundred Dresses topped those records in turn!

Innovocative's tradition of creating space for meaningful dialogue between audiences, cast and regional experts will continue with post-performance talkbacks after Sunday matinee performances on January 12 and 19.

Innovocative Theatre is grateful for the Gobioff Foundation's generous support of its 2020 season. This production of A Shayna Maidel is sponsored by Lenny's Restaurant, Clearwater. We're also proud to have the support of the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation.

Stageworks Theatre, Tampa's longest-running professional theater company, will host Innovocative's fourth season at its Channel District venue on Kennedy Boulevard.

Innovocative Theatre's 2019 season continues with Rebecca Gilman's drama Boy Gets Girl, July 30 - August 9, 2020.

Innovocative Theatre's production of A Shayna Maidel runs Friday, January 10 through Sunday, January 19 at Stageworks Theatre, at 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., West Building #151, Tampa. Tickets are $30 general admission and $25 discount for seniors, active and retired military and students, available at For more information, go to

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