Palm Beach resident Frannie Sheridan tells a tale of secrecy of being born a Catholic, but with a Jewish background.
By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald
Frannie Sheridan was born into a family with a secret.
After being victims of violence, her parents didn’t disclose their Jewish heritage to their family and converted to Catholicism.
Sheridan shares her story in Confessions of a Jewish Shiksa…Dancing on Hitler’s Grave! produced by Maria Banda-Rodaz and John Rodaz playing at Area Stage Theater, 1560 S. Dixie Hwy, Coral Gables. Sheridan is the only actor in the play, juggling 18 different roles during the 70-minute show.
It really is a story about pride and identity that crosses culture, said Sheridan, who has written and acted in film and television.
Her parents, Bernie and Liesel Sigal escaped the Holocaust and fled to Canada, where they were brutally attacked and left for dead by anti-Semites. It was then that their family hid their Jewish heritage even from their children and converted to Catholicism.
Sheridan, who spent numerous years in the comedy scene, first disclosed her family’s story in her earlier play The Waltonsteins. She first learned of her Jewish heritage at the dinner table when she was 9 years old, when her father brought up the topic.
However, her father met the play with discomfort, she said. Regardless, she felt it was time to tell her tale to the public.
Both her parents have passed away.
“I had not told the truth about my identity that I was Jewish in a show,” said Sheridan, who lives in Palm Beach County. “I had done it comically but there was something that needed to bubble up and celebrate life.”
The play debuted in Boca Raton last year and has been produced in other South Florida theaters. It took her about five years to write the play.
Although she was raised as a Catholic, Sheridan added that she wasn’t too religious. Currently, she is a member of Temple Emanuel of Palm Beach.
Play director Shari Upbin said Sheridan tells her life story from the start.
“You will see an actress from the beginning grown up as she is today telling the story as a little girl and then going into the development of her family acting each member of her family,” said Upbin.
In the play, Sheridan, who wears a black sports jacket and an oversized tie, doesn’t change costumes, but changes personalities. She performs as her father, sister, mother, a rabbi, a priest and other characters. In her family, she has six siblings. There is original music and slides on a projector screen. At the end of the play, she answers questions from the audience. There are also a couple references made in Yiddish, but play-goers are given a glossary to decipher the language.
The play is emotional, Upbin said.
“You laugh and cry,” she said. “It has a little bit of everything.”
Although the play tells is about a Jewish family, Sheridan says the story is directed to all nationalities.
“It is a story about all of us being comfortable in our own skin and how we are accepted,” said Sheridan, who was born in Canada.