Gabe Green started singing before he turned 1, first chinned a violin at 4, and now, at the ripe age of 11, his repertoire also boasts tap dancing, ballet, and acting. A veteran of numerous productions at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades and other Bergen County theater groups, Gabe’s resumÃ© now includes playing a resident of the Czech ghetto-concentration camp Theresienstadt (also known as Terezin).
Founded by the Nazis during the Holocaust, Theresienstadt held a disproportionate number of European Jewry’s foremost artists and academics. In February, Gabe will play the part of a young boy in Terezin in a new off-Broadway drama called “Signs of Life.” The show enjoyed a two-week run in Washington state in 2007 and has been retooled and recast for its New York inception, scheduled to run through the end of March.
“Signs of Life” is Gabe’s self-described “big break,” although for someone with so much adolescent stage experience, it seems like just another milestone for a budding young talent. Originally interested in singing and dancing, Gabe started acting about two years ago, when he studied at Hackensack’s Garage Theatre Group.
“It’s so much fun just to be on the stage and play another part and figure out what that person is thinking,” said Gabe, who spoke to The Jewish Standard during a break in rehearsals for “Signs of Life.” “Some people get a kick out of skateboarding; I get a kick out of being on stage.”
Those avid skateboarders include his twin brother Mikah, with whom Gabe will share a bar mitzvah ceremony in just more than a year at Cong. B’nai Israel in Emerson. Gabe and Mikah’s mother, Judy Samuels, serves on the board at the shul.
“Our temple is going on a trip to see [‘Signs of Life’],” said Samuels, a research scientist who added that she and her husband David, a writer, “knew nothing about the theater” before Gabe took an interest in the industry.
“It’s really important that we find different ways to expose lots of people continually to what happened during the Holocaust,” said Samuels. “It’s certainly taught Gabe about more of the real life issues that people faced. It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another to act in the middle of it.”
“Signs of Life,” composed by Joel Derfner, tells the story of those held captive in Theresienstadt. In 1944, the Nazis famously “cleaned up” Theresienstadt and allowed the Red Cross to visit, hoping to dispel the rumors that the Third Reich was subjecting Jews to subhuman living conditions and executions.
Gabe’s character is the only child in the play, which has important ramifications. First, the entire cast – minus Gabe – starts rehearsing five days a week at 10 a.m. at the Amas Theater studios in Greenwich Village (the production will be put on at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre in Lincoln Square). Gabe doesn’t get there until 3:30 in the afternoon, after a full day at The Spring School in Tenafly. He is there, however, for the full-day rehearsals on Sundays.
In addition, being the only person his age in the cast was a bit intimidating at first, he said, especially since all the work he’s done up to this point was in community theater. “Signs of Life” is his first foray into off-Broadway, as well.
“At first I was pretty scared, but now I’m getting used to seeing these people every day and now we’re a whole big family, which is what every cast wants to [be],” said Gabe.
The rehearsal schedule doesn’t allow much downtime, but Judy Samuels said that Gabe actually has more free time than he’s accustomed to. She noted that before joining “Signs of Life” he had “voice lessons once a week, he had private violin lessons, he also played in an orchestra, and he had tap dance lessons. So he’s less busy now.”
Gabe spends some of that downtime using the computer, hanging out with friends, and playing Nintendo Wii. And when he can, he meditates on how to make “Signs of Life” that much more poignant.
“This is a really deep play, so I have a lot of what I call ‘actor’s homework’ – figuring out what your lines mean and the subtext and whatnot,” said Gabe.
“So whenever I’m not doing my homework”- for school, that is -“I’m thinking about the play.”
For more information about “Signs of Life,” visit www.terezinmusical.com.