Roth JCC relaunches Theater at the J


Kerry and Amanda Giese

The Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando in Maitland announces the launch of a new main stage theater company called the Theater at the J. The company's premiere production will be the classic musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," which will run April 30-May 10.

Though there is a new name and leadership, theater has been a mainstay at The Roth Family JCC for decades, operating its Center Players theater company since 1980, before going on hiatus in 2012.

The professional husband-wife team of Kerry and Amanda Giese will lead Theater at the J.

Kerry Giese, the managing director, has directed and appeared Off-Broadway, taught acting in New York, and appeared for three years on a daytime drama on ABC. Amanda Hudson Giese has a long career on the stage and as a voice and theater teacher.

The Gieses bring over 60 years of combined professional theater experience to the J. They met on stage in the Golden Horseshoe Saloon at Disneyland in California, appearing as the lead performers in the long-running hit show, the "Golden Horseshoe Jamboree." Since then, Amanda has headlined as a singer in Hollywood and Las Vegas, performed both as an actress and singer throughout Orlando, and taught voice and acting to students all across America. Kerry came to Orlando from Los Angeles to perform at Universal Studios Orlando and went on to direct shows there and was part of the Grand Opening of Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and CityWalk. Amanda has been director of the Camp J Theater Camp at the JCC for the past two years. Kerry wrote and directed numerous productions around Orlando, including two shows at the 2014 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Their plans include hosting a resident company with guest stars and artists-in-residence.

"Theater at the J will add numerous timeless classics and current theatrical offerings to the Orlando area theater scene, both musicals and non-musicals," Kerry said. "The theater company will be made up of a wonderful mix of members of the JCC and many locally and nationally recognized professional artists. Actors, directors, and designers will work hand-in-hand with artists who can claim credits from Broadway, Off-Broadway, television, and major motion pictures. Production quality will be equal to what a Broadway theatergoer can expect."

One of the more exciting programs at the Theater at the J will be a collaborative apprenticeship program with Penguin Point Productions and James Brendlinger, creative mastermind of the Lake Howell High School Theater Program. Teens at the JCC and students in the Lake Howell High School theater program will get the opportunity to apprentice for all main stage shows and get to learn from nationally recognized artists.

"I am looking forward to bringing the Jewish community and friends of The Roth Family JCC back to the center through our new phenomenal theater program," said Robby Etzkin, JCC assistant executive director. "Our cultural arts programming has slowly been expanding over the last few years with Hebrew classes, ballroom dancing, and Jewish canvas art and wine classes. And now, after a few years without, we are ready to re-launch our biggest and most proud cultural program, Theater at the J, thanks to our new staff and the help of Harriet Weiss."

Weiss held the role of the Gieses for 20 years, as the JCC staff producer for the Center Players. "Plays like 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,' 'Fiddler on the Roof,' 'Cabaret,' 'Yentel,' 'Funny Girl,' 'Music Man' and so many others brought out audiences that filled our Harriett and Hymen Lake Cultural Center Auditorium," Weiss said. "I am excited to be part of 'the new Center Players' and hope to help re-create the excitement. Being part of the Center Players is a wonderful way to form friendships and create community awareness of the theater arts."

The inaugural show, "Fiddler on the Roof," with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and a book by Joseph Steinis, is a classic tale of prerevolutionary Russia and a Jewish peasant who contends with marrying off three of his daughters while growing anti-Semitic sentiment threatens his village. The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theater run in history to surpass 3,000 performances.

Public auditions will be held on March 5 and March 7. There will be priority auditions on March 2 and 4 for JCC members, readers of the Heritage Florida Jewish News, and past participants in theater programs at the JCC.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Kerry Giese at


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