In-home theater is back

Leah Walton and Brittany Onukwugha perform in a Theatre Ariel Salon. Photo by Emilie Krause.
Leah Walton and Brittany Onukwugha perform in a Theatre Ariel Salon. Photo by Emilie Krause.

Theatre Ariel’s new season will include a return to its signature model of in-home Salon performances for its 2023-24 run.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Theatre Ariel was a regular guest in homes all around the Philadelphia area, before it was forced to produce an entire season and a half online.

2022-23 was a hybrid season in public venues, but now Theatre Ariel is ready to get back to its roots and once again return to homes for one performance of each of its upcoming Salons.

“Our in-home Salon performances were intimate, unique experiences that many in our audience told us they were missing and ready to return to,” said East Passyunk resident Jesse Bernstein, who is the artistic director at Theatre Ariel. 

Bernstein is referring to the 2023-24 season as the year of “lost and found.” 

“In addition to ‘finding’ ourselves back in the settings we lost because of COVID, we’re also rediscovering some ‘lost’ plays that haven’t been revived in a while, while also presenting a new find or two,” Bernstein said. 

Lost and found is also a theme in the plays themselves. Bernstein describes them as “all dealing with loss somehow of the things we’ve worked for, of independence, of a sense of self, of loved ones. But they all are also about the things we find in place of what was lost, a new perspective, a new purpose, a new relationship.”

Theatre Ariel’s season kicks off with acclaimed playwright and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Robin Baitz’s classic The Substance of Fire, which is set to run at a venue to be announced on Oct. 14, at a private home on Oct. 15, and at the Kaiserman Jewish Community Center in Wynnewood on Oct. 22.

The drama focuses on two key moments in the life of Holocaust survivor turned successful entrepreneur and bon vivant Isaac Geldhart.

The second offering from Theatre Ariel is a relatively new play, originally developed by Rattlestick Theatre Company in New York City. The Gett: One Woman’s Creation Myth, by Liba Vaynberg, is described as “a funny, painful, swirling exploration of love, Judaism, mysticism and awkward intimacy.” Vaynberg was also a resident of South Philly and met Bernstein through the South Philly Shtiebel.

Her play follows the character Ida from the moment of her divorce through her journey post-marriage, framed against the six days of Creation. The play will have four shows, including Nov. 11 at a venue to be announced; Nov. 12 at a private home in Bala Cynwyd; Nov. 18 at Old City Jewish Arts Center, Philadelphia; and Nov. 19 at Folkshul in Chestnut Hill.

The third Salon of the season is a play called What’s Wrong With This Picture, by established playwright and Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies. This black comedy focuses on grief and loss by a family who have just finished sitting shiva when a very unexpected visitor shows up at their door. Show dates are March 9 at a venue to be determined; March 10 at a private home; and March 16 and 17 at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. A fourth show, slated for May 18 and 19, has yet to be announced. 

“We’re in the process of ‘finding’ that last show,” said Bernstein. “We’re looking for something really unique to end the season.”  

In addition to private homes (addresses are released to ticket-buyers 48 hours before the show), Theatre Ariel’s audiences can enjoy performances at various venues, including the Kaiserman JCC, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Folkshul and The Old City Jewish Arts Center. The collaboration with these spaces is part of the theater’s ongoing commitment to partnering with Jewish institutions around the Greater Philadelphia area. The Salon Season will be complemented by other special events, community conversations and more.

Salon Season Membership Packages (starting at $180 and including perks along with a ticket) and single tickets ($36) can be purchased at Theatre Ariel’s website,, or via email at