I am honored to join the Jewish Voice as the new Arts and Culture Editor. I welcome you to send me any news you might have regarding the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Philadelphia. If you have books to review, theatre productions, music, museum exhibits please feel free to contact me at [email protected].
I moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan four years ago to work at Temple University where I am an Assistant Professor in English. I teach creative writing in poetry and literature. I grew up in Long Island and always dreamed of moving to New York City, but to quote short story writer, Anne Beattie, "I became disenchanted with New York when I realized that I felt as if I had accomplished something when I picked up the laundry, and got the Times and a quart of milk." In Philadelphia, it's just easier to get things done — a walkable, beautiful city brimming with culture and art.
Obie Award-winning playwright, Yale theater professor, and founding member of the feminist theater group Split Britches, Deb Margolin, will perform the world premiere of her new play at the Kimmel Center between April 24 and April 26.
Margolin developed 8 Stops last December, as part of the Kimmel Center's inaugural 2013-2014 Theater Residence in SEI Innovation Studio. She was one of seven playwrights who worked with another Obie Award-winning playwright, Dael Orlandersmith.
The play is directed by Kimmel Center's artistic director, Jay Wahl. Margolin calls the play "a comedy concerning the grief of endless compassion."
In this solo work, Margolin examines compassion and how we can empathize with those who cannot speak for themselves. Margolin looks at the world through her son's eyes, and takes the audience on a journey through eight subway stops as she contemplates life in the suburbs, illness, sexuality and death.
Kate Czajkowski and Keith J. Conallen. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
The drama Don Juan Comes Home From Iraq now playing at the Wilma Theater tells the story of one Marine's return home from war and discovery that his lover is missing.
The play, written by Paula Vogel and directed by Blanka Zizka, is inspired by Don Juan Comes Back from the War, written in 1936 by Odon von Horvath. It is grounded in the experiences of recent veterans, who often return from Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S., where most of the population has little direct connection with war.
The play addresses post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as pervasive sexual assault on women in the military, but as these subjects are covered by the media, the play does not shed any new light on them. The surreal quality of the narrative, which jumps in time from colonial Philadelphia to the Iraq war, is more confusing than effective.
Left to right: Sarah Sanford, Mary Tuomanen and Katherine Powell. Photo by Mark Garvin.
The world premiere of a new translation of The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, playing at the Arden Theatre until April 20, is a vibrant, well-acted, well-directed production that should not be missed this season.
Chekhov's influential story about a family's unrealized aspirations was translated by Curt Columbus, and is directed by Terrence J. Nolen.
"Chekhov isn't easy — there's not a tried and true method to make his work speak to modern audiences," stated Nolen, Arden's producing artistic director. "But no other playwright speaks more eloquently to the essence of the human condition, and that challenge is irresistible to me as a director."
Through research, workshops, readings, and travel, the play is the culmination of a two-year exploration of the master storyteller's work that took the theater company from Moscow to Providence, Rhode Island to Philadelphia.
Gloria Steinem at "This Is What 80 Looks Like." Photo: Peter Handler.
— by Lisa Grunberger
I had the opportunity to interview feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem, who co-founded Ms. Magazine.
Steinem has been one of the most prominent spokeswomen for the women's liberation movement and has continued her activism until today. In 2005, she co-founded the Women's Media Center, which advocates to expand women's voices in the media, with feminist activist Robin Morgan and actress Jane Fonda.
Last week Steinem was in Philadelphia, at The Shalom Center in Congregation Mishkan Shalom, to speak with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who founded the Center, about social justice, equality and peace, at an event called "This Is What 80 Looks Like."
"4000 Miles," playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street, until Nov. 11. Post-show discussion with playwright Amy Herzog on Nov. 8.
"4000 Miles" by Amy Herzog, directed by Mary Robinson and playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre until November 11, is the theater version of easy-listening music.
While the performances by Beth Dixon (Vera) and Davy Raphaely (Leo) were outstanding, and the two-hour play goes by fast, it is not a conceptually or intellectually compelling evening at the theater. In both plot and dialogue, it is a traditional drama that does not take any risks, but delivers a familiar family story that is predictable, if heartwarming and poignant all the same.
Playwright Herzog tells the story of Leo, a young man in his 20s who arrives in his Grandmother Vera's New York City apartment one night at 3 a.m., after biking cross-country. Both characters are confronting death: Leo is silently grieving his best friend's death, and Vera, the last of a group of progressive octogenarians, finds herself confronting death regularly.
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters Through: May 19, 2013.
At: Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. Eighth St.
Information: 215-923-0210 or ComcastTIX.
— by Lisa Grunberger
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters has two weeks left of a long run at Society Hill Playhouse, and if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and "Screw the Gym, Pass the Lasagna," as the Calamari Sisters say and go to this fabulously entertaining show.
This campy, irreverent show stars Jay Falzone as Delphine Calamari, and Stephen Smith as his sister Carmela Calamari. Yes, this is a tour-de-force drag show, complete with audience participation, improvisation, risqué humor, song and dance, and real cooking. From sausage jokes to Jesus jokes, the Calamari Sisters strikes the right balance of campy irreverence and edginess — it's difficult not to laugh out loud, and laugh you will.
I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Childs, Artistic Director of 1812 Productions, Philadelphia's All Comedy Theatre Company, about her new comedy, which she wrote and directed, It's My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. It's My Party began in 2010 with two questions: how do women use comedy and how does the usage change as they age. Through collage, cabaret, and stand-up Childs investigates gender stereotypes that lock women into certain roles, such as the ditz, the vamp, and the old maid.
In some ways, the play responds to Christopher Hitchens' provocative comment in a Vanity Fair article years ago, claiming that women aren't funny. The first act of this compelling show had the audience laughing on the opening night last Wedensday. The all-woman ensemble includes comedic veterans of the Philadelphia theatre. The play incorporates original and devised music by the cast and the musical director Monica Stephenson, and features a set by 1812 Productions' designer Lance Kniskern.
Dianne Reeves in Concert at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
— by Robert Margolis
Whatever the season, when jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves comes to town to sing, she sings about her family and her childhood. Oyb zi volt gezungen vegn zey in Yiddish, if she sang about them in Yiddish (and if only she would sing a song or two in Yiddish!), she could call it: Haimish For The Holidays...
KD Lang, Tony Bennett, Jerry Seinfeld, and the Temptations
Philadelphia has a vibrant music, cultural, and arts scene and we are fortunate to have the Wilma Theatre, The Walnut, InterAct, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and avante garde companies like the Pig Iron. Broad Street is a culture maven's paradise.
Although I saw it over 48 hours ago, The Soap Myth, playing in New York City at the Black Box Theatre, through April 22, continues to haunt me. This is the theatre of witness at its best - provocative and morally ambiguous that raises more questions than it answers. Playwright Jeff Cohen and director of the National Jewish Theatre, Arnold Mittelman's The Soap Myth explores the claim that the Nazis made soap out of Jewish bodies.
Actress and playwright Najla Said is coming to Philadelphia to perform her one-woman show, Palestine, at the Interact Theatre as part of their Outside the Frame: Voice from the Other America series, March 27 - April 22. Voices from the Other America is a first-time, four-week theatre festival featuring presented works by leading nationally-known story-tellers, solo artists, and monologists, sharing their stories about identity in America.
In April 2010, Najla completed an eight-week sold-out Off-Broadway run of her solo show, Palestine. InterAct founder Seth Rozin says: She addresses the audience with a rare and refreshing blend of pride and self-deprecation, as she conveys the delicate balance between living a life of American privilege against the growing awareness of her identity as an Arab woman."
I had the chance to speak to Ms. Said from her Upper West Side home. In Palestine, Said explores her identity as a "Palestinian-Lebanese-American-Christian woman." She recounts how she shared bagels and lox with her best friend in Brooklyn on Sunday mornings and "was more likely to say 'oy vay' and 'I'm schvitzing' than any gentiles."
Ms.Said is the daughter of academic and public intellectual, Edward Said, who, according to Ms. Said, described himself, somewhat facetiously, as one of the "last Jewish intellectuals". "Part of the journey of writing Palestine, was to explore my Arab-American identity. I spent my childhood avoiding this part of myself."
"When people called me an Arab-American, I tried to embrace it, but I really didn't know what that is. It's been a journey to become more self-aware. I don't fit into this or that definition. I'm a little bit of all things."
If the bid for the Republican nomination has got you down, if spring time in February makes you wonder about global warming, if robo-calls during dinner time exasperate you, you might want to head to InterAct Theatre's lively production of Microcrisis, a new satire written by Michael Lew and directed by Seth Rozin. The play takes you from a Monaco casino to a Washington D.C racquetball court in a fast-paced 80 minute romp that follows characters through a corrupt microcredit investment scheme not unfamiliar to most Americans.
Christopher Durang's Why Torture is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them
New City Stage Company's 2011-2012 season began on December 10th at the Adrienne Theatre Main Stage with a Philadelphia premiere of Christopher Durang's satire Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, directed by Michael K. Brophy. The play is part of season called The Terror Within, a body of work that considers political and ethical questions posed a decade after 9/11. What does it mean to live in a world of terrorists?
Broadway veteran and four time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh will star as Momma Rose in the Julie Styne-Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical Gypsy at the Bristol Riverside Theatre December 6, 2011—January 15, 2012. I had the chance to interview Ms. Feldshuh about the upcoming show and her life as a performer.
Gypsy opens on December 8, which is a good omen, as Tovah noted it's the yahrzeit (anniversary) of Golda Meir's passing as well as the date of her own Bat Mitzvah. Tovah performed Golda's Balcony, the longest running one-woman show on Broadway, at the Bristol Riverside in 2010.
Tovah was not always called Tovah: "I was named after my Aunt Tilley who died in her 30s from tuberculosis. The Sue comes from my Great Grandmother." After she changed her name from Terry Sue to Tovah, her Hebrew name, and began her performance career Tovah said that "it changed the landscape of my life." She starred in Yentl on Broadway and in Golda's Balcony on Broadway, the longest running one-woman show. But interestingly, she has worked hard not to let her notable Jewish name typecast her: "I've played all kinds of roles from Diana Vreeland to judge Danielle Melnick in Law & Order and now, Rose in Gypsy. What's in a name? Everything."
Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with "the ultimate show business mother." Following the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage, the musical contains many popular standards, including
Irish Poet Micheal O'Siadhai's Response to the Shoah
West Chester University Poetry Conference is an international poetry conference that has been held annually since 1995 at West Chester University, Pennsylvania. It hosts various panel discussions and poetry craft workshops, which focus primarily on formal poetry and narrative poetry. The conference was founded in 1995 by West Chester professor Michael Peich and poet Dana Gioia with 85 poets and scholars in attendance.
On June 9th, Former poet Laureate Robert Pinsky was interviewed by Dana Gioia. Pinsky emphasized the visceral nature of poetry, stating, "like dancing or singing, I produce it even when reading silently - it's physical." Pinsky spoke of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing in Long Branch, New Jersey and how, despite the beauty of the cantorial singing, he grew bored sitting through three hours of praying on Shabbat. If we are to start with The Sounds of Poetry, the title of his 1998 prose collection, we need look no further than Irish poet Micheal O' Siadhail, whose 2002 poetry book, The Gossamer Wall, is composed of a sequence of poems about the Holocaust.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice will be giving away a fabulous commitment ceremony/wedding package and other prizes this month! For a chance to win, simply join our free mailing list or update your registration. You can register online at http://www.pjvoice.com/subscribe.htm or sign up in person at the Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s table at the Philadelphia Pride Parade this Sunday, June 12 from noon to 6pm on Penn’s Landing.
The grand prize is transferable, so even if you are not personally planning on tying the knot, this prize is a terrific present to celebrate the union of your friends.
Grand Prize: Commitment Ceremony Package ($9,000+ value) including:
Preparation Sessions Six free hour-long planning sessions with Rabbi Milgram for the couple (and wedding planners, musicians, garment, food and invitation designers, etc. if desired), in person or phone/Skype/webcam depending on availability. Rabbi Milgram will facilitate creation of custom-designed ritual, vows and contract of spiritual commitment to complement your legal documents. These sessions will include spiritual support for your relationship which can be an open non-religion-specific spirituality or Jewish.
Consolation Prizes: All subscribers who enter their complete address will be mailing an “I read the Philadelphia Jewish Voice” bumper sticker, so that you can show your support of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.
In playwright Seth Rozin's dramatic comedy, Two Jews Walk into a War, two middle-aged Afghani Jews exchange schtick and tsuris over their being the two last Jews of Kabul following the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001. The two men -- Ishaq and Zeblyan -- hate each other - but agree to work together to write a new torah in order to find a rabbi who will convert a couple of Afghan women to Judaism so the procreation of Jewish babies ma proceed. This is a delightful farce masterfully acted by Tom Teti and John Pietrowski, directed by James Glassman and currently playing at Interact Theatre (2030 Sansom Street).
What does yoga mean? It comes from the Sanskrit root yuj (pronounce it backwards!) which means to unite or yolk. "But when you crack an egg you break the yoke so it's really the opposite," said a little girl at the Children's Yoga class I was teaching at Limmud Philly 2011 held at the Gershman Y. This might be a tough crowd I thought, when a little boy chimed in: "Or maybe there's more than one meaning."
I've been teaching yoga for ten years, and "playing" yoga with children always returns me to the uninhibited imaginative world that unites the world of children and yoga.
Sunday was a rainy day in Philadelphia. All my classes begin with sun salutations so we turned to the window that faces Broad Street and we greeted the sun: "Good afternoon sun!" I explained how yoga teaches us to connect with the natural world. "Maybe if we really focus the sun will come out!" "That would be cool," one boy said.
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