Ann Marie

There is a show about a young girl named Ann Marie, who can’t seem to find it in her heart to believe. Eventually, Ann Marie learns how to believe in herself. She teaches the audience the strength of positive thinking and reminds them about the ways that an optimistic and encouraging attitude can affect the whole world.

In 2019, Jen Greenwald played the main character, Anne Marie. Jen had always dreamed of being an actress, and throughout high school starred in many local shows. Jen is a talented actress, and her talent was discovered shortly after she graduated from college. She sailed on a cruise line for nine months around three countries, starring as Ann Marie an astonishing one hundred times!

On stage, she transports herself into a magical world, bringing the audience along with her. Off the stage, she is a daughter, sister, and young woman aspiring to get married and settle down in life. How does that transformation occur? What enables her to transition from her simple apartment in Manhattan to a magical cruise ship off the coast of Mexico as a completely different person named Ann Marie?

It’s quite simple. Aside from the years of hard work that she has put into her acting, the transformation happens when she fully commits to the script and follows the outlined skit in each part of the show. Her lines and the accompanying actions are the keys to becoming this delightful actor. On stage, she wholly portrays herself as this little girl even though, in real life, she is many years older.

Formal prayer combined with the age-old text of the siddur allows us to get on stage and “perform.” This is not to fool us into thinking that prayer is some kind of show, but to demonstrate how the formalities of prayer guide us to settle into a mindset and setting where it becomes more conducive to connecting with the Almighty. There is tremendous power in the specific details surrounding prayer; it is not merely the precisely written words of the siddur, authored by our Sages via ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration), that guide meaningful prayer, but the combination of understanding and appreciating those words along with the script and actions which can elevate prayer. Once we follow the script with a proper understanding of its meaning, we enter a place conducive to prayer.

Excerpted with permission from Rabbi Tenenbaum's new book, Three Steps Forward, from Mosaica Press.