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"Algemeiner" featured Dyson's alumna Lexi Rabadi in "A New Play Tells the Amazing Story of Hannah Senesh"

08/07/2019

"Algemeiner" featured Dyson's alumna Lexi Rabadi in "A New Play Tells the Amazing Story of Hannah Senesh"

For her Off-Broadway debut, Lexi Rabadi knew it wouldn’t be easy. She had to portray an iconic figure whom she’d never heard of, learn to speak in a Hungarian dialect, sing in Hebrew, have scenes where she played someone twice her age, and memorize lines for a one-woman show that would go on for 90 minutes.

No problem.

In Hannah Senesh: A Play With Music and Song at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan, Rabadi nails the role of a woman who comes to the decision that she must risk her life for the cause she believes in.

Written and directed by David Schechter and produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the play is based on the poems and diary of Senesh, who emigrated from Hungary to Palestine in 1939.

In 1944, after joining the British Army, she parachuted into Yugoslavia with the intent of helping partisans and Jews, and finding her mother. Despite learning that Hitler had occupied Hungary, she crossed the border, was caught, and was killed by a firing squad at the age of 23.

Rabadi, 25, said that “the only place where I felt myself putting pressure on the outcome of this process was just to tell her story, do it justice, and pass on the legacy in the right way.”

The Pace University graduate said she believes Senesh’s story should be taught in schools because of the heroic nature and courage of the real-life character.

“The most admirable quality is that she’s able to find herself in this world that seemingly has lost its mind, and the whole rest of the world is either hiding from fear or acting out of hate,” Rabadi said.

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"Playbill" featured Dyson College alumna Lexi Rabadi in "What Helps Lexi Rabadi Bring the Unknown Story of a World War II Hero to Life in Hannah Senesh"

08/01/2019

"Playbill" featured Dyson College alumna Lexi Rabadi in "What Helps Lexi Rabadi Bring the Unknown Story of a World War II Hero to Life in Hannah Senesh"

I feel that I’ve been handed this torch,” says Lexi Rabadi of her role in the current revival of Hannah Senesh, which runs through August 18. “I have the gift of passing it on every night to each and every audience member, should they choose to hold out their palm.”

Though Rabadi is young, a 2016 graduate of Pace University, this is the exactly the type of story she was searching to tell.

The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s production of Senesh’s life story begins at the end: with Senesh’s mother Catherine (also played by Rabadi) reflecting on her daughter’s death. As the play flashes back to Senesh at age 13, audiences learn that she left Hungary for Israel—leaving her mother behind—to escape the dangers of what would become the Holocaust. But when a friend told her about the British Army’s World War II mission to parachute into Yugoslavia to attempt to provide aid to Jewish communities, Senesh voluntarily joined the forces to go back to Hungary and rescue her mother.

Rabadi glides masterfully through the story, creating a fluidity in Senesh’s story from ages 13 to 23—never compromising the essence of Senesh herself.

This revival hits the stage more than 75 years after Senesh made the dangerous journey and 30 years after writer-director David Schechter and original Hannah Senesh, Lori Wilner, first premiered the show in 1984. Yet as Rabadi plays her, Senesh’s history remains poignant tale to this day.

“This story will be relevant as long as there are people in the world who connect with roots of otherness, minorities who are disparaged and downright oppressed,” says Rabadi.

As the story goes, Catherine was captured alongside her daughter by Hungarian officers as a tactic to get the young woman to speak, but the perseverant Senesh refused. “As someone who has a wonderful relationship with my own mother, the way that Hannah and Catherine do, nothing can prepare you for telling a story like this,” she says. “As I get to play Catherine for just those brief and seemingly fleeting moments [at the end], it gives me such a great deal of context to have just played her daughter for 90 minutes and really understand what she has gone through on that level.”

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"Broadway World" featured Pace University Performing Arts alumna Lexi Rabadi in "WW Interview: Pounding the Pavement with Positivity: A Conversation with Lexi Rabadi"

06/25/2018

"Broadway World" featured Pace University Performing Arts alumna Lexi Rabadi in "WW Interview: Pounding the Pavement with Positivity: A Conversation with Lexi Rabadi"

"As an actress I believe in pounding the pavement with positivity. One of my biggest things is knowing that I am a whole person with family, friends, and interests. Theatre is a passion and a life style, but it is one piece of the pie. My job is to make sure all the other pieces of the pie are just as delicious. So I keep a home for myself, surrounded by loved ones; yoga is a big thing for me in maintaining mental clarity and spiritual health, and I am a vegan because I feel that is a kinder way to eat. It may sound corny, but if you put out positive vibrations, they will come back to you."

One has only to spend a few minutes in the company of Lexi Rabadi to feel that energy and positivity! Rabadi is starring as Belle in Maine State Music Theatre's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast,which opens this week on the Pickard Theater stage. For Rabadi, this is a nostalgic return to Maine and to MSMT. " I consider myself an outdoorsy, active sort of person, so being in Maine with hiking and water views, I feel as if I've hit the jackpot! During college, I had worked for a few summers at Quisisana Resort in Lovell. It was a gig where you worked on the resort during the day and then performed at night. And then two years ago, I spent the summer at MSMT doing Evita, Fiddler in the Roof, and Mamma Mia! So it is lovely to come back to play Belle:"

And, indeed, the Disney heroine holds a very special significance for Rabadi. "I grew up, of course, watching the movie. Then playing Belle in the Fulton production in 2016 was not only my first professional leading role contract, but it also gave me my Equity card, and, on top of all that, I met the man of my dreams and fell in love!" Rabadi is referring to Matt Farcher, who played Che Guevara in Evita at MSMT and then the Beast opposite her Belle in the Fulton production. She recounts how during the Beauty and the Beast rehearsals in Lancaster, cast mates noticed the pair were actually falling for each other. "Our relationship seemed to be mirroring the characters we were playing, and Matt was even hesitant to tell me, just as the Beast is in the show. It has been amazing! We both are now New York City based and enjoying what we do and our lives together."

In addition to the confluence of all these wonderful occurrences, Beauty and the Beast allowed Rabadi to grow her relationship with director/choreographer Marc Robin. In her MSMT summer in 2016, she worked with Robin, as well as director/choreographers Gary John La Rosaand Mark Martino. "Each gave me something different," she recalls. Gary John [for whom she played Chava in Fiddler n the Roof] worked slowly, taking lots of time with the scene work, and he had a gorgeous final vision for the show. Mark Martino directed just the way you'd imagine for Mamma Mia! He was bright, bubbly, energetic, and he had me - and I don't consider myself a dancer first- dancing my face off!"

"And then there was Marc Robin," Rabadi continues. "When I was in Evita[which Robin also directed/choreographed] I was in the ensemble, something I love because it is such a beautiful, tribal community. But I was the 'ensemblest' of all, in the back row, part of a huge cast. Just after that Marc was auditioning his Beauty and the Beast, and I sent him a self-tape made right here [she indicates MSMT's small rehearsal room], though I was afraid it would get lost among all the other applicants. Well, somehow it didn't," she says in modest amazement. Since then, Rabadi says she has been blessed to have her relationship with Robin blossom and she credits the director with teaching her so much. "Marc Robin creates this sense of family in his cast in a way no one else does. He is such a guiding force. He leads with love, and he leads with light, and he is an absolute genius. We work fast. There is no toe dipping; we all jump in at the deep end. We had this production on its feet in five days, and now we are going back to fill in and nuance with the help of co-director Curt Dale Clark."

Raised in Albany, Rabadi recalls that she was a bit of an anomaly in her family. "My two older brothers were athletes, and my parents suddenly realized they had on their hands this crazy theatre girl. They were fantastic in supporting me completely and learning along the way with me. They saw I was gifted and wanted to do this, so they would drive me to auditions and make sure I got voice and dance training and after school programs. I did lots of community theatre along the way, and that's where I gained experience and learned repertoire." Rabadi chose PACE University for her BFA in musical theatre with a minor in arts management. "I wanted to live in Manhattan, and I got a warm, fuzzy feeling the minute on walked on campus. They really nurture the individual there. There are amazing teachers, and it is never a cookie cutter approach to learning, and you get a liberal arts education as well."

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