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Our Plays and Our History

How Many Bushels Am I Worth? -- created by Bena Shklyanoy and Kevin Olson

In 1967, at the end of the Six-Day War, the Iron Curtain opened for Soviet Jews. Families made agonizing decisions on whether to stay or go. With the help of many organizations and the dedication of the Save Soviet Jewry effort, thousands immigrated to the United States in the first wave in the 1970s. The Shklyanoys — a grandmother, mother, father and their daughters (ages 18 months and 8 years) — were in that first group. This play tells the story of their emigration out of the Soviet Union in 1976 and the circumstances that led to their decision to grab their children and run. 

     "A touching and enlightening docudrama. The tragic dynamics of the narrative are soothed with much humour, related   by two young adults often with chagrin, irony and relief with the knowledge that they and their relations are now enjoying the       freedom and abundance of American life. The playwright is Bena Shklyanoy, relating her family story with co-author Kevin       Olson. who also directs, give their narrative energetic pacing and an "at home," conversational feel making it easy to               relate to the characters"

           -- Rev. James Michael DeLuzio

     "For years, I've been waiting for the captivating immigration stories of Soviet Jews to be brought to the stage or screen.           This excerpt from history needs to be heard and documented. Ire, hilarity, love, culture, and life lessons, all found in                 How Many Bushels Am I Worth?."

           -- Sofia Jouravel, Jewish United Fund of Chicago, Russian Jewish Division

     "Full of power and emotion as they revealed what day-to-day life was like and what the perils were of trying to leave the           Soviet Union. I felt the trepidation and ultimate exuberance in the journey of escape"

           -- Vlad Shmunis, Chairman & CEO, RingCentral  

           Full Production: Piven Theatre, Evanston, IL, August 2018

           Full Production: AS220 95  Empire, Providence, RI and Mark O'Donnell Theater, Brooklyn, NY, January 2020

And Then What? -- created by Bena Shklyanoy and Kevin Olson

The play is presented as Readers Theatre and tells the life stories of Bena Shklyanoy’s ancestors and their influence on Bena. It places their stories in the context of the tumultuous sweep of Pre-Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet history.

     “FirstHand Theatrical, under Olson's direction, fashioned a jewel in ‘And Then What?’ and this production                                    captivates from the moment the first lines are spoken.”

           -- Broadway World Rhode Island, Full review

         Full Production:  AS220, Providence RI, July 2017

         Full Production: Piven Theatre, Evanston, IL, August 2018


Interrupting The Sermon by Dr. Wayne C. Olson and Kevin Olson

This gentle play chronicles the evolution in Dr. Olson's 50-year career as a minister using his memoirs, his poems

and his last sermon. Baptizing an AIDS patient, an anti-nuke rally and rock music all influence profound changes

in his ministry, spanning years spent in Woodstock, NY, New York City and rural Vermont among other places.

     "Uses stories, poems, and a sermon to explore  how we've lost religion as we’ve re-created it...This play was

     as perfect a blending of theatre and theology as I have yet to see."

                       -- Alpha Omega Arts, Full review

           First Reading:  Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, March 2011 

           Second Reading:  Bradford United Church of Christ, Bradford, VT, March 2012

           Full Production:  AS 220, Providence, RI, September 2014

           Full Production:  Indy Fringe Festival, Indianapolis, IN August 2015

Lifepoems in Motion --  created by Lilly Cataldi and Kevin Olson

Lifepoems in Motion is a dance performance piece with original percussion by Michael Goldberg. Using poems written by members of Kevin’s family, the performance presents family oral history through poetry, movement and percussion.

           Full Production:  Providence Fringe Festival produced by The Wilbury Group, July 2016


This is My Story: Mayses, 1938 -1948 created by Kevin Olson

Mayses is Yiddish for incredible stories. Influenced by first-hand accounts, the play presents glimpses of the lives of 12 Jews whose lives were shaped in part by their different yet somehow interconnected experiences of those years. None of these stories are set in concentration camps. Rather, they speak of and reflect on other encounters from those years that continue to impact the lives of both Jews and non-Jews today.


           First Reading:  Artists Exchange, Cranston, RI, March, 2013

           Full Production:  Produced by University of Rhode Island Arts and Culture, Providence, RI April 2016

Interrupting The Sermon

                      Indy Fringe

 Lifepoems in Motion

                 PVD Fringe


              This Is My Story: Mayses, 1938-1948                                                  Artists' Exchange                                         


                                    And Then What?                                              AS220 95  Empire Black Box


Kevin holds a M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in Speech and Theatre from SUNY Oneonta. He received a Twin Cities Drama Critics Circle KUDOS Award for his production of Brian Friel’s “Translations” at University of Minnesota Theatre. He has directed many productions over the years in many settings. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island and the New England Institute of Technology. Previously he taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and at the University of Michigan campus in Flint. He teaches courses in Communications, Public Speaking, Theatre, Film and Popular Culture.

                                    Interrupting The Sermon                                              AS220 95 Empire Black Box

Company of And Then What?

AS220 95 Empire Black Box

Lifepoems in Motion

                PVD Fringe

                                    This Is My Story

URI Feinstein Campus Arts & Culture                                                 

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