Behind the Gates

Behind the Gates

By Wendy Graf

Directed by Karla Hartley

May 1 – 26, 2013

Thu. – Sat. 8pm, Sun. 4pm

Tickets: $28

Shimberg Playhouse, Straz Center for the Performing Arts

Behind the Gates is sponsored in part by The Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation.

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Creative Loafing Best of the Bay

What It's About

The eastern US Premiere!

In a parent’s worst nightmare, a troubled American teen vanishes into the mysterious world of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox haredi community while on a summer trip to Israel, cutting off all communication with her desperate mother and father.

In Graf’s gripping mystery, 17-year old Bethany (Danielle Calderone) disappears while on a school trip to Israel. As her parents (Caroline Jett and Pete Clapsis) feverishly search throughout Jerusalem for their daughter, they find themselves lost in an alien world where ancient and modern collide, conflicting cultures and politics clash, and extreme orthodoxies and passionate feelings of nationalism try to coexist while growing more volatile with each passing day.

“My play asks questions about orthodoxy, whether it be Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical or Jewish,” Graf explains. “This is a story we’re reading in the news everyday. Religious fundamentalism provides a sense of community and identity along with a relief of absolutes that can prove powerfully attractive to young people.”

Back in the States, Bethany had turned to sex, drugs, and ditching school to try to fill her terrible longing for acceptance and identity, so she is ripe and suggestive when the zealous and charismatic Rabbi Meir (Owen Robertson) approaches her one afternoon in Jerusalem. To her parents’ bewilderment and horror, Bethany becomes completely absorbed into the world of the haredim, changing her name, adopting a new identity, and ultimately disappearing. Her parents’ search for her becomes a search for themselves.

Caroline Jett and Danielle Calderone in Jobsite's Behind the Gates. (Photo by Brian Smallheer.)
Caroline Jett in Jobsite's Behind the Gates. (Photo by Brian Smallheer.)

Graf addresses important issues in religious extremism and oppression of women in these communities; but ultimately, Behind the Gates is about the emotional journey of a family. Their ever-increasing panic as they hunt for their daughter is highlighted by the clash of languages, a cacophony of sound that permeates the play. In the end, the mother’s search for her daughter becomes a spiritual and cultural odyssey of self-discovery.

In early readings, Behind the Gates came under attack from members of the American Jewish community who feared it would stir anti-Semitism with its unvarnished portrayal of the ultra-orthodox haredi culture. Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel Congregation notes, “The play asks questions, but isn’t Jewish tradition based on questions? The beauty of Wendy’s work is that she presents both sides, then asks the audience to open up a dialogue and think.”

Wendy Graf began writing Behind the Gates in 2008, following a trip to Israel. The first act, under the title Bethany/Bakol, was a winner in the Denise Ragan Wiesenmeyer One Act Play Festival and was presented at L.A’s Attic Theatre. The full length version has been developed and presented in staged readings at Theatre West, Theater 40, Ensemble Studio Theater-LA’s Winterfest 2009, and Blank Theater Company, and the world premiere was presented by Hatikvah Productions and The Group at Strasberg.

The Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation

Behind the Gates is made possible by the generous support of the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation, who host a private opening night performance on May 2, and who are assisting in the facilitation of community dialogue through talkbacks inclusive of scholars and clergy after certain performances that focus on issues explored in the play such as women’s roles in conservative religion, fundamentalism, and oppression.


We host another talkback after the May 19 performance to take place at roughly 6pm. You may attend this event even if you see the show on a different day; just present your ticket at the door for entry.

Passionate ... powerful ... What ultimately resonates is the fierce hunger of an adoptee searching for her true home. – Los Angeles Times.


Cast & Crew

  • Karla Hartley – Director
  • Matthew Ray – Stage Manager


  • Petrus Antonius* – Ami
  • Nicu Brouillette – Russian/Arab Man/Armed Guard
  • Danielle Calderone – Bethany
  • Pete Clapsis – Jerry
  • Frank Jakes – Donald
  • Caroline Jett – Susan
  • Isabel Natera – Shirona/Arab Woman
  • Owen Robertson – Hassid, Rabbi Meir

* Member of Actors’ Equity Association

Patron Reviews

My wife and I agree that “Behind the Gates” is one of our favorite things you have done. We always think the performers are amazing … Thanks again for the amazing shows and your amazing staff. – John G.

My partner and I saw the show last night and loved it! Beautiful performances! Another great production, Jobsite! – Joanna Koulianos

Another good and thought provoking production at the Jobsite Theater – Patrizia LaTrecchia

The Saturday evening performance was excellent. Thank you for presenting such delicate subject matter so respectfully. – Yvette Robittaille

Go see Jobsite Theater’s Behind the Gates! My goodness – lovely cast and direction. I will see again before it closes on May 26th. – Spencer Meyers

It’s been a week since I saw Behind the Gates and I’m still thinking about it. Very provocative play, and the message is broader than it first appears to be, so glad you took this on. – Susan O.

Thanks @jobsitetheater! Behind the Gates was capitivating. I may need to write a paper.

a fantastic production…one of the most absorbing, powerful plays in recent years… – David S.

It was amazing. – Suzanne Guillet

As others have mentioned, it handles some very sensitive topics with dignity and grace. The visceral (and audible!) responses of the audience during many scenes is a testimony to the remarkable job this cast did in telling this story. Congratulations on another job well done! – Lisa Hoover McGreevy

Great show! Thank you Karla, cast and crew. If you love moving, thought-provoking, relevant theater you need to see BEHIND THE GATES! – Elizabeth Fendrick

Engaging, powerful and raw, Behind the Gates is one of those pieces that shouts “this is why theater is so important.” I can’t emphasize how enlightening the content in the piece is. Brilliant performances, especially from Petrus Antonius and Caroline Jett. Everyone should see this.

Wow! Just wow. Behind the Gates brought up a whole lot of issues about religion and relationships, Alvin Jenkins and I talked about it all the way home and for an hour after that. – Clare Ward-Jenkins

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