Art–whether it be dancing, painting, drawing, film–creates a space for self-examination, helping us to envision possible futures, and better versions of ourselves. And the Jewish month of Elul is traditionally an opportunity for introspection before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Recognizing the power of art to be transformative, Lilith is highlighting Black Jewish women artists in this time leading up to and through Elul. On Lilith’s platforms you’ll have a chance to experience, share, and celebrate their work.
You can also participate by letting us know (at info@Lilith.org) Black Jewish women creators we should include!
This week Lilith is featuring Rebecca S’manga Frank (@smanga_yahart on Instagram).
Rebecca S’manga Frank is an actor, writer and director based in New York. She is passionate about the development of new works, particularly in Theatre Arts.
Rebecca started performing in the Oakland Bay Area as a jazz singer with an improvisational ensemble out of Mills College. She found herself in a new play by Marcus Gardley in Berkeley, Ca, and has been on stages and in processes ever since. Most recently she performed as Manke in Paula Vogel’s Yiddish, musical “Indecent” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This year she did a couple of spots on Television including a guest-starring role on FOX’s Prodigal Son. She’s worked at the Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival, Berkeley Rep, California Shakespeare Company, New York Theatre Workshop, Red Bull Theatre, Sundance Theatre Lab in Morocco, and with many other theatres in and out of New York.
This summer she was slated to perform in a world premiere at Lincoln Center’s new play space, LCT3. After Covid hit, she and her theatre company began creating and translating new work onto Zoom. Society Theatre Co is a New York based ensemble that works in the joint-stock method.
As a director, Rebecca returned to Oakland in 2018 to direct a six-person “Romeo and Juliet” in a church in Downtown Oakland, partnering with local artists and designers.
As a writer, she’s interested in themes of memory, identity, and spiritual progress.
This summer Rebecca was commissioned by Hillel Metro Chicago to update the traditional psalm said during Elul, Psalm 27, to write “A Psalm for Racial Justice.”
Rebecca contributes writing and speaks on panels as an intersectional force for equity and inclusion, and is an advocate for Black Lives.
What is the comfort food you’re making during the pandemic?
About 3 weeks into the pandemic a little old Jewish Orange was born (on my Instagram). She loves soup (lots of soup), Fish, and other Jewish foods. I think I’ve experienced most of the comfort food I’ve made during this time through her. And I guess she’s comfort too.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sang to myself and to two Jewish composer friends today. I am creating music to go with a poem/prayer which opens the play “The Dybuk.” I’m adapting the text by S. Ansky through a Black Jewish lense for a project I’m doing as a New Jewish Culture Fellow with Brooklyn Jews. After reading the original text, I found myself searching for a melody which sounded both like a prayer from Synagogue and the haunting soul of Nina Simone.
What is the world calling you to be/do in this moment?
The world is calling me to write. It’s also calling me to try new things and when I get scared, to surrender and try again. I’ve been called to love, deeply and presently, to trust myself, and to be nomadic, for now. Goodbye New York apartment!