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Lifestyle/Community

A ‘shy’ Jewish girl makes good ‘big time’ in New York

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SUZANNE BELLING

She has blossomed in the theatrical environment of New York after a somewhat difficult school life, where she kept in the background to avoid being bullied.

“I was only in the chorus in high school productions – in Purim Spray (based on Hairspray) and was in the general cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said this now confident 22-year-old, speaking to the SA Jewish Report in a telephone interview from New York. “I was very insecure.”

Outside the school environment, she was invited in 2011 to an arts centre in New York and then worked for an international modelling and talent agency. By the following year she outdid herself in drama, dance and singing competitions, being granted a special ability, O1 artist visa to enable her to stay and work in the US for three years. She will then be eligible to apply for her green card.

A graduate of the New York Film Academy, Camilla presented her one-act play, followed by a one-act cabaret, entitled “A Philosophical Protest” at the West End Lounge in New York City in October this year.

The production focuses on social issues in society, including the battles of the LGQBT community, bullying – a subject with which she is familiar, religion, G-d, depression and love. And how everyone is connected.

Camilla has come into her own as an acknowledged playwright. “I have always been writing and been creative, but beforehand I had all the conversations in my head; I just never put it down.”

She was recently cast in a musical for community theatre projects and a stage production called “Radio Gaga”.

She supports herself as a brand ambassador and events co-ordinator in order to fund a film project which she submitted for the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals this year. The film was accepted at Cannes and she plays a supporting role.

“When I first came here, I worked in a coffee shop, which unlike in South Africa, is quite acceptable for college kids while they are studying in the US.”

In spite of some of her somewhat traumatic years at school, she is grateful for her Jewish education. “Lately, I have been back into my Judaism. One of my directors is Jewish and hosts us for the holidays. I live in Manhattan and while I no longer have Jewish relatives in the United States, I find my Jewish friends joining me.”

Camilla’s very supportive mother Rozanne Unterslak of Johannesburg, flew to the US to be present at the initial staging of her play. “She is my best friend, it meant a lot having her there – she always calms me.”

Camilla’s original play production has been accepted for the New York Winter Play Festival next January and she will also be performing in the play.

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