Playwright, performer, and yoga instructor, Amanda Erin Miller was at a point in her life, where she had defined herself as ‘lost,’ and went as far away as possible, namely an ashram in India, to find herself and seek spirituality and oneness, the actual essence of yoga. Such is the framework of her awe inspiring solo show, “The Jew in the Ashram,” recently performed at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. This petite, pretty actress opens her show with a stretch and a chant to set the mood and welcome her audience. Directed by Rachel Evans, this show has been presented in a variety of settings throughout New York, and now graces the stage of theatre in Los Angeles. At a crossroads between college and career, Amanda questioned what to expect from life, and in turn, what life expects from her, setting her in motion to explore meditation and yoga, and its worldwide appeal. And off she went… to an ashram in India, completely out of her comfort zone of her home in New York. This line speaks volumes: “Life is about change. We never see it coming.” Shutting off outside distractions and immersing herself in a whole new state of mind, she sits in a quiet space, with her yoga teacher and new friends, as the audience vicariously joins in. Amanda cleverly incorporates audience interaction, as she stretches and practices various yoga moves and salutations, inviting the audience to stand and join in. At show’s start, she recites the universal chant of Om,
(interestingly, the last two letters of shalom), sending positive, healing energy throughout the theatre. Her aura, dialogue, and movement reflect a ray of light and sunshine, radiating to all in her midst.
Even the simple and tangible act of peeling and eating a ripe, juicy orange satisfies both her physical and spiritual hunger, nourishing and quenching the audience’s need for self awareness, as well. It’s clear, from the start, that we’re all in this journey together. Amanda’s poignant journey, with her creative mix of drama and humor, comes to tell us the value of quieting one’s soul, unplugging. She has a unique, subtle yet visceral, vivid way of revealing her transformation, across the pond. The entire theatre space was transported to a venue of tranquility and serenity, replete with chants of mantras in the background. Perhaps, scented candles or aromatherapy would make it a multi-sensory extravaganza. Two very important and influential figures in Amanda’s formative years were her father and grandmother. She portrays her dad, donning a baseball cap, teaching her to believe in herself, while she portrays her grandmother, who perished in the Holocaust, uttering pearls of wisdom, while wrapped in a shawl. Amanda delicately brushes on the oft-taboo subject of death, in a trance of denial, stating, “it’s not something that will happen to my family, to anyone I know, or to me.”
Amanda leaves India, with a sense of gratitude, and the tools for a self actualized life, come what may. At show’s end, she wishes everyone ‘namaste,’ her smile aglow, her father’s and relatives’ spirits shining from the heavens above. Amanda’s one woman show succeeds in bringing in 2020 with a sense of purpose, inner peace, and potential. The rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, is indeed, breathtaking.