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Celebrity Student: Arye Fohrman


The first time I wandered into the Schottenstein Theatre, I observed Arye Fohrman, the stage manager of this semester’s YCDS musical, 1776.  He was lecturing the cast on proper gentlemanly conduct. He spoke, in his South African accent, about how to stand, speak, and act with a sense of sophistication.

Throughout rehearsals, Arye regularly has addressed his fellow cast members with the same confidence, energy, and comfort that he possessed that day. “However,” he confesses, “there was a point in my life that I had a fear of public speaking.”

Arye was born in the densely populated city of Johannesburg, where he attended high school at Yeshiva College (no relation to YU’s Yeshiva College).  It was during high school that he discovered two passions that continue to impact his life and involvement on campus: charity and theatre.

His interest in charity stems from his involvement in Selwyn Segal, a South African organization dedicated to providing education and clinical services to individuals who exhibit developmental delays.  His career in the theatre only came after overcoming his fear of public speaking.  While in high school, Arye never felt comfortable voicing his thoughts in front of groups, large or small. He forced himself to speak publicly by enrolling in Toastmasters International, an educational organization that teaches public speaking.

Arye did not follow the traditional path of spending a year in Israel. After a yearlong post-secondary program at the University of Potchefstroom in South Africa, he came to America for a two-month vacation. During that time, Arye heard about YU and was immediately drawn to the idea of attending a Jewish university in America. While awaiting his acceptance letter and subsequently the arrival of the 2008 fall semester, Arye lived in Brooklyn where he was employed by the Day Habilitation Program at HASC, which later led him to volunteer with Yachad.

When Arye finally arrived at YU, he realized that he knew only one person on campus, his South African roommate. He immediately sought a method for becoming active on campus that would facilitate his interest in charity work.  Arye believes that YU “galvanized my own wanting to be involved on campus, being that there are so many clubs and opportunities to get to be a part of.”

One club that captured Arye’s interest was Active Minds, a club that promotes mental health awareness on a number of college campuses. He explains that his involvement in the club drew from a personal experience. He says, “Having a history with mental illness and working on that, became an important part of my life. By seeing the changes in myself and the help that is out there and being able to learn from those experiences enabled me to be more sensitive. It is because of this that I saw the need to build awareness on campus.” Each semester, Arye became increasingly more immersed in Active Minds, from serving on the advisory board, to becoming treasurer, and finally, Co-President.

Now, in his senior year, Arye has spent much of this semester in the theatre preparing for the production of 1776. He is currently in his sixth semester with YCDS and has experienced all aspects of the theatre: he acted in Newsies, The Andersonville Trial and Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He was operations manager for two years, or as Arye calls it “The Jewish Mother.”

Despite the heavy responsibility that accompany being stage manager of 1776, Arye explains that “watching the actors and seeing their creativity and understanding the multifaceted elements that go into producing a play from the other side has enhanced my relationship with the theatre.” The play’s run is about 95 percent sold-out. This has not happened since Newsies. Arye believes that the success of a musical is based on whether the audience leaves the play humming one of the songs, a sure sign that the play stuck with the audience. And Arye hopes, 1776 “will be as powerful an experience for the audience as it was for everyone involved in the production.”

Since entering YU, Arye has become a major voice on campus. He understands that “being able to communicate effectively in front of an audience is an essential quality.” The effects of his ability to communicate have been witnessed on campus through his involvement in YCDS, Active Minds, HASC, and Yachad.

Arye put it simply: “I’m not the type of person that’s going to sit in the library for twelve hours, and of course studying and academics are important, but I need to get involved, which is why I need that extra element [outside the classroom].”