Community, Couples, Family

Keeping It in the Family: Couples Edition 1: Couples on the English Language Theater Scene

A Fine Romance–4 Notable Couples in the English Language Theater Scene

Elinor and Aryeh Kaufman

Although Elinor and Aryeh Kaufman are closely identified with the English language theater community in Jerusalem, they did not meet in a theatrical context. The future couple became acquainted with each other while volunteering for Magen Dovid Adom. Elinor was visiting from her home in Montreal, and Aryeh, who was born in Israel, was completing his sherut leumi. The couple tried intercontinental dating for a while when Elinor went back to Canada, and they were married in 2006.

Elinor has acted, sang, danced and directed countless shows, including three productions of West Side Story, two productions of Blood Brothers and many others. When she met Aryeh, both shared an interest in music, and Aryeh quickly caught the theater bug. Currently, Aryeh is involved in the production of Encore’s Pirates of Penzance and Elinor is performing in In the Heights by Starcatcher. Early in his theatrical career, Aryeh found that he had a particular interest in the technical side of shows and pursued training in lighting and sound. This led to a number of jobs designing tech for performances around Jerusalem, particularly at the AACI, where Aryeh was the main technical designer for J-Town Playhouse shows.

Aryeh and Elinor’s two children, ages 7 and 20 months, are growing up in the theater. When Elinor was assistant director for West Side Story, she went into labor, and the baby attended rehearsal ten days later. The arrival of children meant balancing life at home, full-time jobs and demanding rehearsal and performance schedules. Thankfully, the Kaufman’s hospitality and reputation of having a home that is open to the theater community has inspired fellow theater people to return the favor and offer to volunteer babysitting services.

Concerning the many meals, hours and parties Jerusalem theater people have enjoyed in the Kaufman’s home, Elinor said, “We are both interested in hosting. Theater has made hosting a focal point in our lives because people know both of us.”

“We also didn’t want to disappear like a lot of people do, you know, the first year you get married and have kids, “ Aryeh added. The Kaufman’s certainly demonstrate that you can have a rich creative life after marriage and kids.

Jenn and Ricky Fleischer

Jenn and Ricky are one of the several couples who met through Elinor and Aryeh Kaufman, who run what is known as a second home for many Anglo theater people. Jenn met Elinor and Aryeh through Beit Hillel’s 2007 production of Blood Brothers, while Ricky met them through Israel Musical’s 2009 production of 1776 and Beit Hillel’s 2010 production of Beauty and the Beast. When Jenn returned to Israel for seminary in 2014, she met Ricky at a Shabbat meal at the Kaufmans. Jenn recalls Elinor suggesting that the two would make a good match. At first, Jenn confesses, she didn’t see the potential connection, but when the two rehearsed Second Star from the Left, they found themselves clicking quite well. After they started dating,  they would text each other across the crowded rehearsal room. The couple were married by the time they performed in The Sound of Music together and have performed together in a number of productions since then, including Annie and Singing in the Rain.

The couple enjoy their shared time onstage and don’t feel that concerned about the risks of auditioning together. “We’re very okay with being ensemble people. I do it for the community. I don’t worry that I’m not going to get cast and he is, or vice versa.” In fact, Jenn recalls Ricky was in one of her favorite shows, Rent, when she was not able to audition because she spent the year in London.

Like most theater couples, finding the art/life balance can be tricky. “Try to find a balance between your life and theater life. Sometimes,” Ricky adds, “It’s harder than you think.”

Jenn agreed, “It’s important to find something you both like outside of theater. It solidifies the relationship.”

C.B and Dena Davies

C.B. and Dena Davies met at Encore’s HMS Pinafore in 2012 when Dena was busy making up the actors backstage.. Dena recalls someone sitting C.B. down in her chair, and saying, “You’re cute, he’s cute. You two need to meet.” This volunteer matchmaker didn’t realize that Dena was already dating someone, but she admits the first relationship wasn’t going well and was in its last phase. The future couple began hanging out and went to the bris of Elinor and Aryeh Kaufman’s son together. When Dena’s other relationship ended, C.B. and Dena began dating until he went to NY to pursue an acting career.

After three years of not seeing each other, C.B. returned to Israel for a visit, and a mutual friend of theirs told Dena he was in town. C.B. ended up joining the cast of a show Dena was assistant directing, and decided to lengthen his visit until the show was over. After many conversations, the couple decided to start dating again and that he would move back to Israel. Having met in the theater, and since they were both very involved in the community, C.B. felt it would be best to propose to Dena onstage.   

The couple have been involved in many shows together, but not always in an acting context. Dena often does makeup and costume design and has served as assistant director when her husband was in the cast. Most recently, the couple appeared onstage together in Singing in the Rain and Cinderella and performed in a concert in Modiin.

Dena and C.B. do admit that their busy theater life does leave less time together than they would otherwise have. “One night a week we can sit down together for dinner. But we try to make adjustments, like having dinner before rehearsal,” says C.B. “But that’s the way it goes with a theater couple,” Dena added.

Shani Wahrman and Alon Aviv

Shani Wahrman and Alon Aviv met 11 years ago in Israel Musicals production of The Music Man. Shani had the lead as Marian the Librarian and Alon was the bass part of the barbershop quartet. Both Shani and Alon admit that the chemistry wasn’t apparent at first, but Alon was sufficiently impressed with Shani’s singing ability that he and the other members of the barbershop quartet invited her to perform with them. The future couple struck up a conversation at a performance and the sparks began.

As the connection deepened, so did the number of performances they participated in together, including Beauty and the Beast, The King and I, Guys and Dolls and A Chorus Line. Shani admitted she received comments like, “You two should start dating,” when they actually were meeting frequently. Last summer, Shani and Alon were married. The most recent Hillel production of West Side Story featured Shani and Alon onstage as Maria and Tony, star-crossed, tragic lovers, and offstage, as husband and wife. Alon said he was happy to be Shani’s romantic interest onstage, and added it isn’t always easy to see a partner in a romantic relationship with someone else onstage, even if it is only in the world of the play.

“We are fairly synchronized in what shows we like to do,” Shani said, Generally, “We audition together. However, there are sometimes challenges if the auditions don’t go as expected.”

“Before the audition process you have to be prepared for any outcome,”says Alon. “For example, if one gets in the ensemble and the other gets a part. You can be happy for yourself and disappointed for the other person, and it isn’t always easy.” Still, Shani and Alon see working on a show as a great way of spending time together, and the chemistry was apparent in West Side Story.

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