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9/11-inspired play pleads for tolerance

A Gulfport resident's musical - a love story about a Jewish woman and a Muslim man - will play at the Hickman Theatre.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published March 8, 2005


GULFPORT - Like many artists, Gil Perlroth felt compelled to create a body of work in response to the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

While the events of that day and its aftermath were steeped in hate and prejudice, Perlroth wanted to make his own small effort to encourage tolerance. The result is Dancing With You, a play that will be performed for three weeks, beginning March 17, at the Catherine Hickman Theatre, 5501 27th Ave. S.

A musical, it is set in New York City and is the love story of a Jewish widow and a Muslim man. They meet by chance on a park bench after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"After 9/11, I was affected like everybody else," said Perlroth, 76. "And then I began to notice a real buildup of prejudice against Muslims in this country."

At the same time he thought of other groups that had endured discrimination, particularly Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II; Jews who were rounded up, taken to concentration camps and killed by the Nazi regime; and blacks who were enslaved and fought for their civil rights.

Dancing With You is "a plea for tolerance," said Perlroth, who is Jewish.

"Some people would call it a propaganda play and, in a way, it is," he said.

"The story is about a middle-age couple, in their 50s. They are two lonely people. They meet objections in both families."

Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El, who also is vice president of the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis, and Askia Muhammad Aquil, a St. Petersburg imam, or Muslim prayer leader, issued a joint statement endorsing the work.

"Too many adherents of our faiths have had firsthand experiences of disrespect and enmity born of ignorance and close-mindedness," they said.

"We salute the exhortation of this production, which gives voice to the possibility that relationships based on love and trust can succeed, even when loved ones are conflicted because of their own lack of tolerance."

Perlroth, who has had more than 20 musicals produced, decided to take the interreligious theme only so far. The Gulfport resident said he decided to make his main characters - played by local residents Judy Peterson and Barry Fergus-Jones - middle aged to avoid the complications that would come from bringing up children in a two-faith family.

"They are older people and they are just looking for love and companionship in their later years," he said.

IF YOU GO

Dancing With You by Gil Perlroth, opening March 17, Catherine Hickman Theatre, 5501 27th Ave. S, Gulfport. Show times are at 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, and 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10. Call (727) 322-0316.

[Last modified March 8, 2005, 18:16:02]


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