With Signature Passion, Margy Horowitz Ushers in the JWRC Season
Devorah Talia Gordon
Once a year in L.A., “ladies’ night (or day) out” takes on a whole new meaning. Thanks to Margy Horowitz – co-founder, producer, and director of the Jewish Women’s Repertory Company (JWRC) – local women and girls can attend a Broadway show, one that typically sells-out its three performances.
“When I started out, over a decade ago, I was told it [an all-female production] would never go in L.A.,” says Horowitz. “People said L.A. was too diverse.”
But Horowitz, a native Chicagoan who has been playing piano since age six, was determined to create a kosher performance venue for Jewish women. The classically-trained pianist had been involved with theater production since her Bais Yaakov days, and was inspired by a friend’s creation of such a theatre company back home.
Then Horowitz heard Rabbi Weil, of Beth Jacob, speak about the newly founded Aleinu Family Services, and the scourge of abuse that gets swept under the rug in the Jewish community. “I said to myself, ‘How can I help?’ I am going to do a musical and donate the money to Aleinu. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Thus in 2005, JWRC was born. In those pre-Hillygram days, Horowitz and her co-founder Linda Freedman advertised the auditions for its first show, The Mikado, on lamp posts in Pico. About 25 women showed up. Although Horowitz and Freedman started JWRC because it sounded like “a fun thing to do,” as the women were auditioning, Horowitz realized it was much more than that: they were providing women with the opportunity to use talents that would otherwise be left dormant. In addition, Margy relished the opportunity to bring women together, of all ages and backgrounds, from Pico, Hancock Park, the Valley – even as far out as Yorba Linda.
Although there are exceptions (such as this year’s play The Secret Garden in which a young girl plays the lead) parts are aimed for post-high school women, who have few performance opportunities. The diverse cast has consisted of non-Jews (an African-American woman was in two shows), Bais Yaakov mothers, mothers from Pressman Academy (a Conservative school), and anywhere in-between.
“Everyone loves the camaraderie,” Horowitz explains, and the differences don’t matter since, she quips, “The goal is not to lecture or be judgmental, unless you miss a note! Anyone is welcome as long as she is female.”
The JWRC, which Margy calls, “her baby,” started up on a shoe-string budget (of the Horowitzes’ own money). They originally performed at Beverly Hills High, used virtually no scenery, and did everything as minimally as possible. “But we sold out,” Margy says, with the overflow sitting in the aisles. “I never in a million years could have expected it would become a phenomenon in the community, when it was just me wanting to have a good time.”
Prior to rehearsals, Margy spends months “cleaning up” the script where necessary. “We try to make it as kosher as possible. Nobody complains to me, and there are for sure women who won’t come – but you always get that. I do it for the women who are receptive.” She also spends countless hours working on stage direction, composing the harmonies, planning the sets, designing the playbill and more.
When asked if it is hard for her to delegate, Horowitz responds with a resounding, “Yes! I want it to be perfect… if something goes wrong, it’s out of my control, but over the years I have gotten better.” Margy now works with co-producer Sharona Motkin, as well as using a costumer, but still puts in more than full-time hours, with no pay, on her labor of love.
The JWRC has grown increasingly professional, including the use of Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, and therefore a bigger budget has been vital. The cast brings in playbill ads, there are some community donors, and a “cabaret night” each spring, featuring JWRC singers accompanied by Margy on piano. Each production costs about $50,000; Horowitz donates almost all of the profit to “The Family Violence Project” division of Jewish Family Service (formerly Aleinu), save what’s needed to start up next year’s show. “What I am most proud of is,” says Horowitz, “is that I’ve given about $45,000 over the years.”
What’s next for this talented individual? “We’ll see how long I can keep this up,” Margy says lightly, though the hours on the show, in addition to her regular piano teaching, do take a toll on her family. But as long as she has good talent, and a show that she can “live with for a year,” the show will go on.