Accolades for Apple Does Not Fall: Journeys of a Russian-Jewish Family from its two-week run, August 2018, at the Piven Theatre in Evanston, IL.

For years, I’ve been waiting for the captivating immigration stories of Soviet Jews to be brought to the stage or screen. The oppression that Bena’s family experienced and escaped in the 70s, as well as my family and peers’ families of the 80s largely goes unknown. This excerpt from history needs to be heard and documented. Ire, hilarity, love, culture, and life lessons, all in one play – How Many Bushels Am I Worth?”

– Sofia Jouravel, Board Member
Jewish United Fund of Chicago

Russian Jewish Division

Highly recommend both And Then What? and How Many Bushels Am I Worth?. Very different from each other and both very moving. Joel and I ran into someone we know in the audience who thought he knew a lot about the Soviet Jewry story but was shocked by how much he didn’t know. “My bad,” he said. I say: another reason to go.”

– Laurie Kramer, Former Cultural Arts Director
Jewish Community Center of St. Paul and Former Russian Resettlement Worker, JCC of Buffalo

These plays were 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  

How Many Bushels Am I Worth? brings home the cumulative injustices that compel a loving family to take that leap of faith to start over in an unknown new place. Bena Shklyanoy’s story, captured for the stage with sensitivity and humor by Kevin Olson, is one of hopes raised, dashed and raised again. Bena’s determination and tenacity in overcoming political and bureaucratic obstacles resonate as immigration continues to make headlines. So do the grace notes of compassionate helpers along the way.”

– Ann Silverberg, Audience Member

And Then What? is nothing less than a brief personal history of 20th century Russian Jewry told through the life stories of one family. To hear their stories, told with honesty tempered with kindness, is to be invited to join Bena’s loving family for an evening.  While at the same time, allowing those of us who trace their roots to Russia, to learn what our ancestors had to endure before settling in the United States.”

– Bruce Dien, Audience Member

We saw the Chicago production of How Many Bushels Am I Worth?.  The acting was terrific and the story was engaging.  The actors really made you feel the struggles the family went through and how difficult the decision was to emigrate.  My family got out a generation earlier but it really made me think
‘there but for you go I’.”

– Naomi Arnold, Audience Member

How Many Bushels Am I Worth? takes the audience on a journey through the post-WWII life of an ordinary Jewish girl and woman living in the Soviet Union. Told simply with only a narrator who moves the story along and Bena, the story’s protagonist, we watch a very young Bena grow into a wife and mother learning how to survive the complex culture of the Soviet Union as a Jew. The play portrays the people and events that influence the adult Bena and her family to decide to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to the United States. It is a moving piece of theater which not only entertains but also teaches about life in the Soviet Union and what it meant to be identified as a Jew there. The play celebrates the American policy that, in its simplest terms, traded wheat for Jews. How Many Bushels Am I Worth? deserves to be experienced by all cultures as at its core, it paints a moving portrait of what happens when oppression makes us forget who we are.”

– Karen Vaughan, Audience Member

The first thing that comes to mind is that all this happened during my lifetime.  Growing up in the 1940’s, I was protected from a lot of world events. For one thing, there was no TV on 24-7 that let everyone know what was happening on the “other side of the world”… I had heard of Hitler, Stalin and Russia, but really had no idea of what that meant.  During the 50’s, I was busy “growing up” and was more interested in getting through high school, college, and finding my life partner! I knew about the “bad” people in Russia, but not anywhere close to what the situation really was. So, after seeing this play, I became aware for the first time, how sheltered my life was and what difficult situations others were having.  I am so glad that you were able to bring this to me and I can now pray that we can learn from our mistakes and work towards making the whole world a better place.”

– Judy Millar, Audience Member

I attended, “And Then What?” written by Kevin Olson and I was blown away. This Play took the family stories of Bena Shklyanoy’s during the Soviet Era. As a writer, I was blown away by Mr. Olson’s skills of character development, and as a Jewish person of European descent I felt like these stories were my family’s stories. “And Then What?” is a show for people of all ages, and I know that it will spark many conversations with future audience members and their families as it did with mine.”

– Jeremy Drazner, Audience Member

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