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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Harbor Jewish Singles: 3
Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Play
Chef Richard’s: 6 p.m. (mingle and cocktails),
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Project Next Step: 8 p.m.
“Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911
W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
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Westwood Jewish Singles
7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads
a discussion on the topic, ” Is Romantic Love
Possible Over 45?” $10. R.S.V.P., (310)
West Valley JCC: 8-11 p.m.
Israeli folk dancing lessons and open dancing with
James Zimmer. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango
lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.).
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Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m.
Volleyball game followed by no-host dinner at a
local restaurant. End of Culver Boulevard, near
Court 15, Playa del Rey. ” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>
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Happy Minyan: 7 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat services. Downstairs at Beth Jacob, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 285-7777.
Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s):
Reservation deadline for Nov. 27 “Not-So-Speedy
game night in conjunction with
Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd,
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NOVEMBER 28, SUNDAY
more information, see story on Page 30.
J Networking: 7:30 p.m. Meet new people and
A Triangle of ‘Talking’
At one point in the Taper Forum play "The Talking Cure," Sigmund Freud warns the young Carl Gustav Jung not to needlessly stir up the enemies of psychoanalytic theory.
"One difficulty is that all in my circle are Jews," Freud explains.
"I don’t see what difference that makes," the non-Jewish Jung says.
Observes Freud, dryly, "That is a distinctly Protestant remark."
The Viennese Freud and the Swiss Jung, whose close relationship evolves from prophet and disciple to mutual competition and antagonism, are two sides of the triangle in Christopher Hampton’s drama.
Linking the two sides is Sabina Spielrein, a brilliantly neurotic young Russian Jew, whom we meet first as Jung’s patient, then his lover, later a patient of Freud and finally a doctor and psychoanalyst herself.
Spielrein was murdered by the Nazis in 1942, a fate she foresees in a brief flash forward during a love scene with Jung.
The triangular relationship is set in the decade between 1904 and 1913, when anti-Semitism was certainly rife in Europe, but that is a minor subtext of the play.
True to its title, "The Talking Cure" is heavy on dialogue, much of it weighty, but hardly boring.
The early evolution of psychiatry and psychoanalysis — which has had a profound impact on our thinking, perceptions and everyday vocabulary — is pretty gripping stuff, even for the layman or skeptic.
Add the intellectual infighting between two towering personalities and the sexual ardor of Spielrein, and one can accept the often lengthy and sometimes oversimplified expositions and the rather serious tone of the proceedings.
Fortunately, there is a brief appearance by one Otto Gross, a fascinating footnote in the history of psychoanalysis, who advocated, with equal conviction and flippancy, sex, drugs and
Director Gordon Davidson draws nuanced performances from actors Abby Brammell as Spielrein, Sam Robards as Jung, Harris Yulin as Freud, and Henri Lubatti as Gross.
Only toward the end are there prophetic hints of the fate awaiting the world 25 years later. Freud warns Spielrein, "Put not your trust in Aryans. We are Jews and Jews we will always be."
"The Talking Cure," in its American premiere, runs through May 23 at the Taper Forum. For ticket information, call (213) 628-2772.
Q & A With Jonathan Kirsch
New UJ ‘Tradition’ Starts
Tevye, Tzeitel, Golde and all the other memorable characters of "Fiddler on the Roof" graced the big screen at the University of Judaism (UJ) on Sunday, April 25, but it was the audience who stole the show.
Five-hundred people — some bold enough to come in costume — sang along with the memorable songs of "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and other classic "Fiddler" tunes. The UJ singalong event capitalizes on the popularity of participatory shows, such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding" and "Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral."
UJ staff passed out kitschy props highlighting key points in the film — ring pops for "Matchmaker" and boxes of gilded chocolate coins for "If I Were A Rich Man." When the sun set on Friday evening at Tevye’s house, the audience munched on mini challahs.
Participants, drawn into the excitement of the production, led performances of their own. During the graveyard scene of the film, Sandy Erkus, dressed as the ghostly Fruma Sarah, ran about the theater in her tattered wedding gown, reviving the role of Lazar Wolf’s dead wife. Erkus said she didn’t plan to steal the spotlight, but fellow audience members coaxed her to get up and play the part. "Me, being a ham and a half — wait that’s not kosher is it? — I went up," she recalled with a laugh.
At intermission, timed with the wedding of Motel and Tzeitel, Tevye’s oldest daughter, the UJ treated the audience to a mock wedding reception with sliced wedding cake, champagne and even a fiddler playing in the background.
Sandy Kanan, wearing a shawl over her head and a long cloak-like dress, enjoyed coming out and dressing up like Yente the Matchmaker.
"I love getting into it," said Kanan, who finds the program an entertaining lesson in Jewish tradition.
"This is so important; this is our culture; this is our heritage," she said. "There is a lot of truth in it."
The next "Fiddler" singalong has been set for March 20, 2005. A "Grease" singalong is also being planned. For more information, call the UJ’s Department of Continuing Education at (310) 440-1246.
Q & A With Jonathan Kirsch
Q & A With Jewtopia Creators Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson
“Are you interested in a 29-year-old Jewish girl?”
I’m standing in the foyer of the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood talking to Bryan Fogel, the co-writer/co-producer/co-star of “Jewtopia” — a play that parodies dating, JDating, interdating, rabbis, Passover seders, Purim, Chanukah bushes, bar mitzvahs, shofar blowing, other types of blowing, goyim, Asian fixations, synagogue memberships and, most of all, Jewish women and their overbearing mothers — when this overbearing Jewish mother shamelessly accosts Fogel outside his dressing room to peddle her daughter to him.
“I tried to bring her today, but she couldn’t come,” the gray-haired woman continues, describing her daughter, eventually extracting Fogel’s information from him (“It’s on the Playbill,” Fogel says).
The whole exchange was all the more surreal because we had just spent the past two hours watching a play in which she could have been one of the characters.
That seems to be the thing about “Jewtopia:” it skewers Jewish stereotypes, and still leaves most of the subjects of the satire laughing (like the aforementioned unfazed pushy mother).
The two-hour play tells the story of Adam Lipschitz (Sam Wolfson), a Jewish guy facing extraordinary parental pressure (normal for Jewish parents) to marry a Jewish woman, who meets up with an old friend, Chris O’Connell (Fogel), a Christian obsessed with meeting a Jewish woman. They strike a Faustian bargain: Sam will help Chris pass as Jewish if Chris helps Sam find a Jewish woman to marry.
When The Journal first saw “Jewtopia” on opening night last May, it was originally set for a six-week run. Nine sold-out months later and 40 minutes shorter, the play is about to hit its 150th performance. Fogel and Wolfson, together with Clear Channel Communications, are taking “Jewtopia” to Chicago in April and, if all goes well, they plan to open in Boston, Miami and New York within the next year.
The Jewish Journal: What do you think of this “Jewtopia” phenomenon?
Bryan Fogel: When we wrote “Jewtopia” we were hoping it was funny, that people would have our sense of humor and our sensibility — but statistically, [knowing] L.A., we were holding our breath — and we were prepared to be $80,000 in debt.
Before the opening weekend we did a marketing thing with JDate and The Jewish Federation and other singles groups, and from that point on it just took off. Once the [Los Angeles] Times review came out [last May] we sold 1,500 tickets. From that Friday on, we were sold out two months ahead of time. It was just totally bizarre.
JJ: How do you account for the popularity of the show?
Sam Wolfson: Who knows why people laugh at what? [At] our show last night one-third of the people were between 20-30, one-third were between 30-60 and one-third were between 60-80 years old. [Comedian] Jan Murray brought like 12 people with him. They laughed as much as the 20-years-olds.
There’s been this wild age crossover.
BF: There’s our generation, and my grandparents’ and parents’ generation, who stayed where they were born. There was never any issue that they weren’t going to marry a Jew; our generation is the first generation — and I think it’s similar for Christianity, too. I love being Jewish, but I think that our generation is the first generation that crossed that line between being a cultural versus a practicing Jew. I think that our generation has started to question all that.
SW: A perfect example of why people are going nuts for it: This woman, she must’ve been 70 or something, and she said, “My son married a Mongolian [a character in the play meets a Mongolian woman]. I can’t believe it! How did you come up with Mongolia? This is my life!”
BF: We had the founder of JDate, Alon Carmel [and he said], “This is my Mongolian wife — she’s Japanese, and this is my half-breed child.” My character Chris [is based on my sister’s husband] — he had the same military/hunting/fishing background; he converted, and he’s more Jewish than she’s ever been.
I think that what’s working — everything we’re doing is in really, really good fun. The whole show comes from a love of Judaism. I love being Jewish. We’ve taken some stereotypes and turned them on their head in a way that everyone can identify. What we’re doing is not spiteful, it’s not coming from any other place but this zany, irreverence for our culture. When the Buddist says at the seder, “We can stop suffering and reach enlightenment, and the grandfather asks, “Stop suffering?” it’s about a love for our culture, and I think that the audiences love it. We’re pleasing most of the people. There’s always one person who says this is offensive. But I think that people can say that we’re not making fun.
JJ: People either love it or hate it. What offends people? And does this bother you?
BF: In my opinion, 97 percent love it. That 2 or 3 percent who hate it, I think that’s a small percentage. It seems to be the older people, or observant, who think we take it too far, that it reinforces Jewish stereotypes.
SW: These jokes have been going on for 100 years and suddenly we’re responsible for perpetuating it?
BF: Jackie Mason, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, this self-deprecating humor is Jewish humor, so when I hear that they are offended, I think they would be offended by Jackie Mason, too.
SW: I do feel like if a lot of these jokes were done by those guys — if it was in “The Producers” they [audiences] wouldn’t think twice. It’s OK if it’s an established comedian, but not from two punks who haven’t done it before. Nobody likes everything. But the fact that people who don’t like it really don’t like it — I think that it means we’re doing something right.
JJ: Speaking of offensive, I thought the play was a bit misogynistic. (Are Jewish women really that bad?)
BF: I don’t think the play is misogynistic at all. There’s no gray area in the play — we just decided to make everything zany and over-the-top. Obviously in real life you don’t get peed on [as Sam does on one of his 150 JDates] but I don’t think that the stereotypes are directed at Jewish women…. Just overall craziness, rather than anything grounded in reality.
SW: Stereotypes are so ridiculous. We made a conscious decision never to make the Fran Drescher-type, “Friends” Janice-type. In terms of presenting the Jewish girl … when I’m on the phone [making dates with 150 Jewish women] I’m happy about it! I’m excited! I break down because I’m broke and haven’t had sex for six months…. We never wanted it to be “Jewish women are bad and evil.”
BF: It’s coming from the two guys that wrote it, and the single dating world. My mother is my best friend. There was nothing in our writing spiteful. Sam’s last three girlfriends have been Jewish.
JJ: Go Sam! Perhaps misogynistic is the wrong word. Perhaps it’s just uneven — skewering Jewish women and not Jewish men.
BF: We did write about Jewish men. He has the pressure of marrying a Jewish woman. These two guys have a lot of flaws. You couldn’t look at these guys and think they’re the ideal guy.
SW: No Jewish women were harmed when writing this play.
JJ: What is the message of this play? Is Adam’s statement at the end, that “we’re all people and we should all get along,” a statement in favor of intermarriage?
BF: It’s a reality, that last monologue, that for better or for worse, it’s more grounded in the real world. In the ideal world, I’d find a Jewish girl and you’d find a Jewish guy, but the importance has diminished because there hasn’t been the threat of persecution — that we have to stay together or we’ll die. If I could just find a Jewish girl that I was into, wouldn’t my life be easier. Well, that’s not as exciting.
SW: I’m sure it’s the same for everyone and every religion. It’s a part of the culture, I guess.
JJ: Has this gotten you more dates?
SW: Well, it hasn’t been bad. We have both met girls through the show.
JJ: Bryan, would you go out with that girl whose mother was peddling her the day I saw the show?
BF: I would certainly entertain the idea.
“Jewtopia” plays at 8 p.m. (Thursdays-Saturdays) and 3
L.A. Tour Staged With Heart, History
Peace No Joke To Comics
Clean Comedians, a comedy booking agency, has a "no-gross-out" policy: no gender-bashing, racist remarks, obscenity, sexually explicit material or swearing. A sixth prohibition — no divisive politics — graces its "Comedy for Peace" event, featuring a Jewish and a Palestinian comic at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica on Sunday, Aug. 3. The goal is to raise $10,000 to send Israeli and Arab youths to a conflict resolution camp run by the Seeds of Peace organization.
"We want to use comedy as a balm, not a weapon," Clean Comedians founder Adam Christing said. "If we do mention anything about the Middle East, it will be inviting, not controversial."
The Palestinian comic Nazareth — who had gigs canceled after Sept. 11 — will gently riff on how he avoids ethnic profiling.
"I wear a sombrero to the airport," he said. "When people ask me if I’m from the Middle East, I say, ‘No, señor."
Bob Alper — who’s previously performed with Arab American comic Ahmed Ahmed — will joke about himself as the only practicing rabbi doing stand-up, intentionally.
Nazareth and Alper recently teamed up after receiving calls from Christing, who said he was saddened by the unfunny news from Israel. Christing, a La Mirada-based Christian, wanted to do something to help: "I have three kids and I’d like them to know there’s hope for peace in this world," he said.
Nazareth and Alper agreed to perform together and soon discovered they had more in common than the Middle East conflict. Both keep their acts squeaky clean, in part, because of religious beliefs, and both are anomalies of sorts.
Nazareth, who mostly performs on the church circuit, said audience members are surprised to learn he is Palestinian and a born-again Christian.
Alper, one of the few Jews in his Vermont town, likes to joke that he once heard a voice in the wind: "If you build a deli, they will come."
While their "Comedy for Peace" material is apolitical, the performers’ message is not.
"The only other place you see a Jew and an Palestinian together is on split screens on CNN," Alper said.
7 p.m. 1707 Fourth St., Santa Monica. $69. For tickets call, (310) 205-3995.
O.C. Finds Itself in a State of ‘Jewtopia’
7 Days In Arts
This weekend, it’s “Northward, ho!” as North Hollywood’s NoHo Theatre District hosts the NoHo Theatre and Arts Festival. The two-day theater, performing and visual-arts fest features theater performances at 20 NoHo venues, music and dance acts on outdoor stages, arts workshops for kids and outdoor gallery areas. Two of the many theater performances worth checking out are “Cyma’s Story,” a play about a Russian Jewish immigrant, and “Grandmothers of the Universe,” a solo piece by Miri Hunter Haruach, an African American convert to Judaism.
11 a.m.-8 p.m., May 17 and 18. Free (festival events anddaytime performances). Lankershim Boulevard, between Chandler and Magnoliaboulevards, North Hollywood. (818) 623-7171.
Miri Hunter Haruach performs “Grandmothers of the Universe.” Photo by Veronica Puleo
Arrested artistic development was just one of the many ways Hitler’s totalitarian rule influenced German culture. Today, Dance Camera West/Los Angeles International Dance Film Festival focuses the lens more specifically with a screening of the documentary “Dance Under the Swastika.” The lives of prominent 20th century choreographers and dancers Mary Wigman, Harald Kreutzberg and Rudolf von Laban are examined through interviews of some of their contemporaries and clips from historical dance films. A panel discussion with dance scholars Susan Manning and Jennifer Fisher follows.7:30 p.m. $8 (general), $6 (students, Skirball and Dance Resource Center members). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8587.
Head back to NoHo tonight to enjoy a tale of college reunions and famous lesbian folksingers. Eclectic Company Theatre’s “A Weekend Near Madison” tells the story of David Rabinowitz and the complexities that arise when his college ex-girlfriend (the aforementioned folksinger) tells him that she and her life partner would like him to father their child.8 p.m. (Mondays), 7 p.m. (Sundays). Runs through June 16. $12-$15. 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. 818-508-3003
They’re getting the band back together! For the real Mashina reunion, you’ll have to book with El Al, as the defunct Israeli rock band comes together for four shows in Israel this summer. But for a variation that some would argue is even better, you can catch Yuval Banai and Shlomi Bracha at the Knitting Factory tonight. The three-guitar acoustic show (Nosshi Paz rounds out the group on guitar, as well) will be equal parts Mashina Unplugged and Yuval and Shlomi Unplugged as they perform songs by the group, as well as solo hits.8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. $45 (in advance), $50 (at the door). 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 463-0204.
The Workmen’s Circle explores subtler forms of Jewish activism in a new exhibit titled “Love as Activism: Beyond Egalitarianism in the Contemporary Ketubah.” It features original ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) that use alternative texts or nontraditional artwork to express couples’ unions. Accompanying the show is a series of programs, including two panel discussions, a ketubah design workshop and screening of the documentary “Naming Prairie.”9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Monday-Friday, but call ahead.) Runs through June 27. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.
Those of a certain generation will recall the term we cannot print, but which Erica Jong coined in her 1973 best-selling novel “Fear of Flying.” (Hint: it involves the word “zipless.”) But the prosaic writer has produced seven novels and at least four books of poetry since then. She discusses her latest novel, “Sappho’s Leap,” with writer Anne Taylor Fleming (“Marriage A Duet” and “Motherhood Deferred”) in another Writer’s Bloc conversation at the Skirball, tonight.7:30 p.m. $15. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 335-0917.
Voyeurs and ladies looking for a girls’ night out find common ground tonight in the form of a new play, “Dial-Logs.” Written by Jewish television producers Julie Heimler and Jill Asars, the story is told entirely through telephone conversations and centers on best friends who live on opposite coasts. With the help of good long-distance plans, the two women keep each other updated on the intimacies of their lives.8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday). Runs through May 31. $10. The Complex, Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 280-2660.Amy Turner, bottom,and Christina Venuti in “Dial-Logs.”
7 Days In Arts
7 Days In Arts
Here’s a real chochme for you. Head out to The Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club’s end-of-the-season concert this evening. Jacob Lewin’s readings of stories by Sholem Aleichem will make you long for the old country, the Yiddish musical program will have you all farklempt and a little nosh will make you glad you spent some time with landsleit.7:30 p.m. Free (members), $4 (guests). 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 275-8455.
You’ve gotta give it up for the man who gave us “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” Richard Rodgers wrote 40 Broadway musicals and more than 900 published songs in his lifetime. Come hear a “best of” sampling of his work at the University of Judaism’s “Richard Rodgers Centennial Concert and Celebration.” There’ll even be birthday cake following the show.The Writers Guild Theater. 3 p.m. $15. 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. For reservations, call (310) 335-0917.
James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner have made the seedy side of Los Angeles their business. Ellroy has authored many works about it including “The Cold Six Thousand” and “L.A. Confidential,” and Wagner’s novels include “I’m Losing You” and “I’ll Let You Go.” These two masters of L.A. noir have a sit-down on the subjects of corruption, politics and the dark side of our fine city courtesy of The Writers Bloc.
Reminding us that God speaks all languages, The Gerard Edery Ensemble recently released “Sing to the Eternal,” a compilation of spiritual Jewish songs and prayers from Morocco, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Spain and Portugal, sung in English, Hebrew, Ladino and Arabic. There are also original songs on the CD, composed by Edery and based on sacred texts.To order online or to hear samples, visit www.sefaradrecords.com.
“The Waverly Gallery” tells the story of a feisty Greenwich Village bohemian woman who develops Alzheimer’s disease, and the effect it has on her atheistic Jewish intellectual family. The play, written by Kenneth Lonergan, is in production at the Pasadena Playhouse under the direction of Bruno Kirby.Runs nightly except Mondays, through Aug. 11. Previews June 28-July 6. 8 p.m. (Tuesdays-Fridays), 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Saturdays), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sundays). $29.50/$34.50 (previews and weeknights), $44.50 (general, weekends). 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. For reservations, call (626) 356-7529.
Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah should have signified his passage into adulthood, but apparently that didn’t happen. Now ostensibly a grown man, he’s still struggling with being a grown-up. Unfortunately for him, his long-suffering, recently pregnant girlfriend isn’t putting up with it much longer. Hence the title of Neil Landau’s comedy/drama, “Johnny on the Spot,” Having just lost his insurance job, Johnny is visited by the dead policy holders of his past, present and future. They, along with Johnny’s girlfriend and Jewish mother, are gonna do their darndest to straighten him out.Runs through July 21. 7:30 p.m. $8 (general), $6 (members), $7 (seniors and students). Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. For more information, visitwww.egyptiantheatre.com.
Artist David Aronson began his sculpture entitled “Prophet II” long before the events of Sept. 11 deepened its impact and significance. Its physical size is larger than his sculptures tend to be, only adding to the piece’s affecting presence. “Prophet II” and another sculpture called “Singer II,” are on display at galerie yoramgil through July 21, as are his newest encaustic paintings.10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (Thursdays-Saturdays), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sundays), 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), closed Mondays. 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 275-8130.
Travel through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind….Your next stop, the “Twilight Zone” — the play, that is. Written by Rod Serling, the live stage production of two “Twilight Zone” episodes, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “The Odyssey of Flight 33” plays at El Portal Center’s Circle Theatre at 11 p.m.(Fridays and Saturdays), 2 p.m. (Sundays). The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. For reservations, call (323) 856-4200.
7 Days In The Arts
Code Name: Hero
Ben Donenberg says his Shakespeare productions are a lot like Reconstructionist Judaism — both give the past a vote, but not a veto.
As a Jew, Donenberg feels responsible to wrestle with traditional halacha and reconstruct it in a meaningful way. As the founder and producing artistic director of Shakespeare Festival/L.A., he works to understand the Bard’s plays in their original contexts and "reconstructs" them to make them meaningful and accessible to contemporary L.A. audiences.
This summer’s production of "The Comedy of Errors" is no different. In this fast-paced farce of mistaken identity involving two sets of twins, the Elizabethan-era mart is converted to its modern equivalent — the mall. The town of Ephesus, "a spooky, creepy, kind of seedy place that was filled with magicians and sorcerers," according to Donenberg, becomes Los Angeles on el Día de los Muertos (The Day Of The Dead). And a 16th century exorcism is updated with an original soul-stirring gospel medley by the Tim Peterson Singers.
With a commitment to social justice, Shakespeare Festival/L.A. strives to make its productions financially accessible. When Donenberg founded the organization in 1985, his outdoor performances in Pershing Square were free and some of the most enthusiastic audience members were homeless people.
This gave way to the "Food for Thought" policy where many performances are still free with a canned food donation. To date, the group has collected nearly $2 million in food contributions.
Donenberg points to other aspects of his "equal access" philosophy: 25 percent of his audiences earn less than $25,000, no actors are turned away from the audition process, all cast-members are paid and most productions are multicultural.
But there have been surprises. When "As You Like It" opened in 1989, Donenberg peered into the audience and was shocked to see Tom Hanks, Sally Fields and Randy Quaid.
"Rita [Wilson] came to an open call and we hired her. We didn’t know who she was," Donenberg said. "We wondered what are all these people doing here, and Rita said, ‘I’m married to Tom Hanks.’ This was before Tom was huge and Rita had her own acting career."
Since then, Wilson and Hanks have rallied support from Hollywood and organized an annual fundraiser — a celebrity reading of a Shakespeare play — to finance the free summer festival.
The group’s social justice bent has also inspired a theater-based employment and human relations program for young people living at the poverty line called "Will Power to Youth," which is co-sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice. Likewise, "Will Power to Schools" gives local teachers free training to teach Shakespeare in dynamic ways.
The expansion of both programs, along with Shakespeare Festival/L.A.’s professional productions, fits into Donenberg’s vision.
"One of [Mordechai] Kaplan’s tenets is that Judaism is an evolving civilization. I think the theater is an evolving art form," he said.
"The Comedy of Errors" will play outdoors July 5 – 22 in Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles (free with a canned food donation); and July 26-Aug. 5 in The South Coast Botanic Gardens, Palos Verdes Peninsula ($15 in advance. $18 at the door). For reservations, call (213) 481-2273 ext. 20.
War of Words
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