How this show came to be
By Myra Gutterman
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a swimmer. I have been teaching and coaching since I was nine years old.
What you don't know is that three different women in my life gave me "death bed" requests.
Dr Lillian Billington was a patient of my father's. She was the first woman to become head of department in the California University system. Since she had no family, we became her family. She had severe emphysema. Her breathing was a sound you'll never forget. She would panic when my father would take a vacation….so she started vacationing wherever we would go. When my brother went off to college she would call him and they'd schmooze for hours on the phone. She helped two of my cousins get into teaching certificate programs. She was ecstatic that my brother's first job out of college was teaching English composition at a private school. When I was a sophomore in college she would call me too. She also would on occasion send flowers. She desperately wanted me to graduate early so she could also get me into graduate school in education. Education was her life's business and she made sure we all understood that. I did. However, I wasn't sure at the time that education was my path.
Margurite Gollancz was my mother's first cousin. We met for the first time when I did my college junior semester abroad in London. We connected immediately as if we had known each other all our lives. I usually went to her home in Surrey for Sunday Supper. She then traveled to California to visit the family -- my grandmother (her aunt), my mother and myself. She thought I had a keen business mind and should only go into business. I had once toyed with the thought of Arts Administration; but I wasn't ready for graduate school.
I met Barbara Myerhoff when I was volunteering at a L.A. senior center, conducting Shabbat services. After her research into the elderly Jews of Venice, CA ("Number Our Day" both the book and documentary) she decided to widen the scope and do research on all the Jews in the Pico/Robertson area of L.A. It was an eclectic group (rich/poor, young/old, Chasidic/orthodox/reform/non-religious, gay/straight). Whenever she spoke to you, you felt as if you were the only person she cared to speak with. It was an amazing talent. We usually discussed Jewish philosophy, history, ritual and halacha. We met often and became good friends. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer. This book and documentary was to be her last….and she knew it. She wanted me to pursue a "professional" Jewish livelihood. The day of her funeral was the day I heard I was going to study at Machon Pardes for the year. She would have been so pleased to know.
In America I worked in theatres in the box office and back stage (stage managing dance concerts). On the side I would train kids for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. And on occasion I would teach swimming.
When I moved to Israel I continued to do bookkeeping (as well as internal auditing) and even ran the back office for a company that did corporate hedging. On the side I would still train those who wanted to learn to layn (Torah, Haftorah, Megilla). I started teaching swimming much more, and especially to those with educational, physical, and emotional special needs.
So how could I combine everything that includes Jewish education, business, theatre, and swimming? Simple. Mikva the Musical! It originally was The Mikva Monologues but over time Toby Klein Greenwald and I morphed into a combination of stories and parodied songs.
I hope I have honored these great women's wishes. May their memories be for a blessing.