From The Mouths Of Babes brings SA’s Jewish heritage to the stage

Fresh off the stage at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, From the mouths of babes showcases three extraordinarily talented women on the Baxter Stage who are able to educate, entertain and inspire audiences with their unique insights into what it means to be Jewish and South African in today’s world.

Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, Sivan Raphaely and Na’ami Gottlieb-Lieberman are all talented actors and singers who workshopped and created this production with director Malcolm Purkey. The reviews have been nothing short of outstanding.

We caught up with Sharon just before she boarded a plane to begin the Cape Town run.

Baxter Blog: How did the idea for this show come about?
Sharon Spiegel-Wagner: Sivan & I were getting tired of trying to fit a fixed concept of an English White South African identity. We felt that even though our roots may not necessarily be South African, we have lived a uniquely South African life & have been raised in this beautiful country in our own ways. Our Ashkenazi backgrounds may not represent a majority of South Africans but as women who were raised in South Africa, we contributed to South African life, society & sense of community.

We wanted to be ourselves- white Jewish English-speaking South African girls.

So we met up one day with Malcolm Purkey & said that we wanted to be authentic & portray this on stage. We wanted to give our lives and our stories a voice. A couple of meetings and workshops later with the addition of our third musketeer (Naami), and here we are!

BB: Is the show strictly for Jewish audiences or is there something in it for everyone?
SW: It’s for everyone! Initially we were afraid it would alienate other cultures since we are talking about our uniquely South African Jewish lives, but no!

Other cultures and groups have not only embraced us so warmly but have also commented on the universality of our cultural quirks.

In fact, we have made the piece inviting and accessible. Most of all, it’s honest and true and has a great sense of humanity-which brings people closer together.

BB: Do you think the Jewish experience in South Africa is under-reported? I imagine a lot of people don’t know this history.
SW: I think many of the smaller subcultures in South Africa are under-reported. I worry that communities stay isolated because of this & isolation breeds loneliness. I think it would be a great move towards living in a holistic society that one hears and takes interest in other cultures and the issues they face. We are so busy with politics that we forget to learn about one another, listen to each other & find out how we got to South Africa & what we bring to this nation.

BB: What kind of reaction to the work have you had?
SW: We have had great responses. For some, it’s not their cup of tea but that’s a matter of taste. You can’t like everything you see but on the whole it’s been mostly positive & embracing.

BB: Is it all traditional music or do you sing some contemporary as well?
SW: We sing traditional songs in different languages-Russian, Yiddish & Hebrew and the songs range from traditional to modern.

BB: What can audiences expect when they come to “From the Mouths of Babes”?
SW: They can expect a fun night out filled with laughter, beautiful music & pathos.

From the mouths of babes opens at the Baxter Theatre Centre on the 5th of December and runs until the 5th of January.

Click here for the Computicket link and price details.