An Exclusive Interview with the Star of My Name is Asher Lev: Drew Pannebecker
Last weekend, My Name is Asher Lev opened here at Bluff City Theater. Audience members have been leaving night after night with nothing but wonderful things to say. I sat down with the star of the production, Drew Pannebecker, to talk about his role and his contributions to the production.
Drew is a native of the St. Louis Area and holds his MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International in Blue Lake, CA. He appeared in Wonderland, The Violet Hour, the Shakespeare Festival Educational Tour, and Equus (Best Regional Actor Nomination) and is relocating to Minneapolis shortly after this show to begin work with the Minneapolis Fringe Festival.
Drew plays the title character, Asher Lev, in the show. My first question right out of the gate was, as you can imagine, Who is Asher Lev?
“Asher is a young man, caught between two different worlds. One being the one he was born into (Hasidic Judaism) and the other being the one he wants for himself (Art). He’s caught trying to reconcile and balance these two pieces of himself without letting one overtake the other.”, says Drew.
If you aren’t already familiar with the book by Chaim Potok, it’s the story of a young Hasidic Jewish artist named Asher Lev who loves to paint and draw but is conflicted when he is told by his parents that his art isn’t true to his religion. With great success in his art, Asher learns to continue to pursue painting, while remaining true to his faith, even though it isn’t necessarily “true” to the people around him.
When asked about his experience in becoming this character, Drew says he hasn’t had too many challenges:
“The play echoes my own life. I relate to a lot of the experiences that Asher Lev has in this story.”, he says. “I was never born into a very strict tradition or had a very strict father like Asher, however, I know my father was eager to have a son who would play sports. I remember playing catch in the back yard with my father and he was really excited about it and I was not.”
In this show, Drew’s character breaks the fourth wall and has an ongoing conversation with the audience throughout the show.
“The audience seems to be really engaged. Most times in shows, you have a character who gives an aside to the audience or a monologue facing the audience, but not to the audience. With this specific script, and this specific venue, I don’t have the luxury of talking to the audience- I am talking to a person. It’s really vulnerable to make eye contact with audience members and to ask them questions from onstage. I find it incredibly valuable to be in such a conversational space that is elevating the audience to feel engaged.”
Not only does this show have an incredible story, an enriched conversational story teller, but also a extremely relevant storyline.
“The thing about this story is that it isn’t about a Jewish painter in Brooklyn. It’s only told through the lens of a Jewish painter. It’s really a story about a young person finding out what he’s responsible for, how much he owes his heritage, and how much he owes his passion and art.”
You do not want to miss this triumphant story! Tickets are still available for our last weekend of performances. With shows Thursday-Saturday left, you have plenty of options of to choose from. Tickets are $26 for Adults and $15 for Students. Book your tickets online at www.eventshannibal.com or call the Box Office at (573)-719-3226.