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.
Philadelphia's first ever city-wide Jewish Music Festival, presented by The Gershman Y, opens on May 1! Spread out over nine days and five venues, the impressive lineup features local and internationally recognized musicians plus book readings and a participatory workshop.
Opening night features Saul Kaye and his take on the Jewish Blues with a soul food dinner, followed by radio legend Carol Miller reading from her new memoir the next night.
Cabaret superstar Michael Feinstein reads and performs from his new book and cd The Gershwins and Me on May 6 while local singer/songwriter Chana Rothman tears up World Café Live on May 8. Internationally recognized klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals (of Klezmatics fame) brings her Philadelphia premiere live score to the silent film The Yellow Ticket on May 9 for a spectacular closing night concert.
Individual tickets and all-access passes are available. Visit gershmany.org or call 215-545-4400.
At least there is the music, I tell myself. Despite all of Christianity's distortions and extreme misappropriations of Jewish concepts and traditions of mashiach ("messiah) — and we know with what often murderous consequences for Jews and Judaism, there is still (some of) the music inspired by the midrash. For, yes, Virginia, the 'Story of the Birth of Jesus' is a kind of midrash — certainly composed in midrashic style, its narrative components selected from the Torah and Nevi'im.
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...
The Philadelphia Orchestra's Chamber Music Series 2012-2013
— by Robert Margolis
When my mother was pregnant with me, on most days, if not every day, she played her LP of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, performed by Arthur Grumiaux and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. A genius work of classical music, and a genius performance, thus infused my pre-natal life, and, I am certain, prepared me to want the same constant company of great music in my life.
The Kenny Barron Trio in Concert at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
— by Robert Margolis
In the epic catalogue of jazz heroes whose home is Philadelphia are the fantastic names of musicians of singular greatness, who have given the world a vivifying and revivifying legacy of invention, of craft, and of, what poet Hayden Carruth called, "the joy and agony of Improvisation": John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Clifford Brown, Doc Cheatham, Stan Getz, Billy Holiday, Stanley Clarke, Sonny Fortune, Jaco Pastorius, The Brecker Brothers, Christian McBride, Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan, James Mtume, Sun Ra, and, and, and...
Among the only funny, theatrical moments in Stars of David, playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, happen on tv. And television 40 years ago. Archie Bunker stands the test of time with its original, cutting edge social satire. But Stars of David a new musical adaptation based on the book, Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish and directed by Gordon Greenberg, delivers plenty of cliché and little entertainment.
Conceived by Aaron Harnick, the musical takes Pogrebin's interviews with famous Jews like Gloria Steinem, Aaron Sorkin, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and transforms them into songs by composers and lyricists. Suffice it to say, I didn't hear anyone leaving the theatre after the 90 minute production, humming any songs. The cast, comprised of Nancy Balbirer, Alex Brightman, Joanna Glushak, Brad Oscar and Donna Vinnino, did its best to bring this banal material to life, but in the end it was the taped footage of All in the Family and Joan Rivers doing stand up that stole the show.
The rest of the Philadelphia Theatre Company's season looks far more promising with productions of The Mountaintop by Katori Hall and Seminar by Theresa Rebeck.
For tickets: visit the PTC Book Office at 480 Broad Street, call 215 985-0420 or purchase online.
The Wilma Theater opened its 2012-13 season with the enthralling second half of playwright Tony Kushner's Angels in America that deals with the Aids crisis and the Cold War. Directed by Blanka Zizka, the play is a tour-de-force of acting and staging.
We resume the epoch story of Prior Walter, (Aubrey Deeker) a gay man who lives in NYC and has been diagnosed with AIDS. His lover Louis, (Benjamin Pelteson) a left-wing ideologue, leaves him and begins an unlikely fling with a closeted Mormon lawyer, who works for Roy Cohen, (Stephen Novelli) the rightwing fixer and shady lawyer.
The music group The Sway Machine made its Philadelphia debut the evening of September 20, 2012, at the National Museum of American Jewish History, performing a cycle of songs titled "Hidden Melodies Revealed," which the group describes as "a secret celebration of Rosh HaShanah." For this Philadelphia performance, The Sway Machine was Jeremiah Lockwood (guitar, vocals, composition/storytelling), John Bollinger (drums), Stuart Bogie (tenor sax), Jordan McLean (trumpet), and Nikhil Yerawadekar (electric bass). Each of these musicians is a prolific performer and collaborator, with each other and with many another group. The group's 'sound', its ideal to which it is attuned and its traditional referential of origin, is a confluence and combination of various, call them, lineages of music: Klezmer, Jewish cantorial music (Jeremiah Lockwood is the grandson of cantor Jacob Konigsberg), the music of Mali guitarist, singer, and composer Ali Farka Toure, to name just these.
The Philadelphia Live Arts/Fringe Festival is in full swing, with hundreds of actors, clowns, edgy, post-modern artists, musicians and dancers from all over the world performing at live venues throughout the city's many performance spaces. The festival takes place from September 7-22. Thaddeus Phillips has been a fixture at the Live Arts Festival for years, bringing thoughtful, experimental theatre to Philadelphia with shows like WhaLE Optics (2011) and Flamingo/Winnegbao (2007). His new project, Red Eye to Havre de Grace is presented at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on multiple days through September 16.
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.
Who knows an old Jew who tells jokes? If you have missed out on your share of such jokes and need ninety minutes of engaging, earthy jokes then head to the Westside Theatre in New York City to see the Off-Broadway show, Old Jews Telling Jokes. The show began as a very popular web site where — you guessed it — old Jews tell jokes.
Prepare yourself, announces the Angel, in Tony Kushner's 1991 Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, playing at the Wilma Theatre through July 1st. Indeed, prepare yourself to witness a rare theatrical event, a contemporary classic play by an American-Jewish playwright who weaves together Mormons, Jews, the ghost of Emma Rosenberg, Roy Cohen, Ronald Reagan and African-American drag queens.
This inspired production is directed by Wilma's founding Artistic Director, Blanka Zizka, Zizka writes:
"The AIDS crisis of the 1980s provoked Tony Kushner to write a play of a scope and complexity that, I believe, we had not seen before, nor have we seen since, in this country." "The playwright gives the play the subtitle, 'A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,' and clearly points out his own sexual identity and establish the vantage point for his imagination. Through one of his characters (the Oldest Living Bolshevik in Perestroika) Kushner asks old but profoundly existential questions that reverberate throughout the whole play. . . . where do we come from? What are we doing? . . . the play engages these questions on personal, philosophical, political and cosmic levels."
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."
The play, directed by EgoPo's literary director, Brenna Geffers, and created by the talented ensemble of artists involved with the piece, retells the ancient myth of the golem for a modern audience. From its first mention in the Sanhedrin, a 2nd century companion piece to the Torah, to modern references in contemporary literature, like Cavalier and Clay, the golem story has been re-told and re-imagined in many mediums. EgoPo wanted to perform "a piece exploring the Golem" which is all about needing a protector in a dangerous world.
Leonard Gontarek's Spiritual Poetry at the Public Library
A week before both Passover, when we commemorate both freedom and slavery, remembering always, that as long as anyone is oppressed we are all still slaves in Egypt, I had the pleasure to begin the week at the Philadelphia Public Library Monday Poets Reading Series, now in its 16th year. Run for fifteen years by Michelle Belluomini, the new director of the series, Kay Wisniesskik, explained that "Philadelphia has a lot of creative people. This venture is special as we feature local poets who have published books and have often won prizes. We want to expose people to the excellence of the Philadelphia poetry scene."
The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium's motto is The IRC: We Bring Good Nothingness to Life. The IRC was founded in 2006 by Tina Brock to bring preserve and present classic and lesser-known works from a collection of authors whose plays share certain basic traits — a group loosely-defined as the "Theater of the Absurd" and includes authors Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Edward Albee among others. Their emphasis is on physical productions shared in an intimate setting that that impact audiences by exteriorizing existential anxiety.
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
The Wilma Theater begins its season with the United States Premiere of Our Class, written by Polish playwright Tadeusz Stobodzianek (translated by Ryan Craig) and directed by the Wilma's Artistic Director Blanka Zizka. Based on true events in the Polish village of Jedwabne and inspired in part by Princeton History Professor Jan T. Gross' controversial book Neighbors, Our Class chronicles the lives of ten classmates from their childhood in the 1920s to the beginning of the new millennium. While it is difficult not to be moved by the tragic subject matter, the play's overwrought writing, full of sensational and clichéd plotting, does not, finally, succeed in translating the events that happened in Poland into an artful, engaging evening of theatre.
All we get is the poetry of a Jewish fruit peddler and a heap of vanishing figs. — Baruch Spinoza
You will be greater than all of us, but not as a Jew. — Rabbi Mortera
Reminiscent of intellectual dramas like Copenhagen, New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 is an ambitious new drama by David Ives, known for his evenings of one act comedies called All in the Timing and Time Flies. Playing through November 6th at the Lantern Theater Company, this heady play directed by Lantern's Artistic Director Charles McMahon is based on true events in the life of the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza. This recent off-Broadway hit challenges traditional political and religious thinking with passion and wit.
The production's action takes place in the Amsterdam synagogue where the 23 year old stands trial for his revolutionary thoughts about God, nature and human life. Sam Henderson's Spinoza, donning a black leather bomber jacket, (costumes beautifully designed by Maggie Baker with lighting by Shon Causer) is arrogant but humble, witty and rakish. The favorite son of the rabbi's heir apparent, (played by David Bardeen) Spinoza refuses to remain silent about his revolutionary thoughts, and is accused by political leader and Calvinist Abraham van Valkenburgh ( played by Seth Reichgott) of heresy. The audience becomes part of this trial as we witness Spinoza refuse to silence his radical beliefs, denying the divine origin of the Torah which sits in the Ark of the Covenant, that provides the effective and sparsely designed backdrop for the action (designed by Nick Embree).
(More Than 2000 Shows, More than 10,00 artists and more than 250,000 audience members at the Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival. - promoted by Lisa Grunberger)
Live Arts Festival. Live. In a world of the virtual - walk down a city street like Philadelphia these days and you will not see the whites of people's eyes, but the tops of their heads, a world of television and film and staring at computer screens for hours-- the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival is balm. The Live Arts Festival is taking place right now, through September 17th at various venues throughout the city. I attended Canyon, Twelfth Night, and Namasya, an Indian dance performance this weekend and urge you to run, don't walk to at least one show this coming week. You will be infused with live art, in real time - raw, alive, unexpected, and vibrant.
Do you remember what happened a few years ago when a group of Moslems wanted to build a mosque &mdash well, it was not exactly a mosque; it was more like a Jewish Community Center with a gym and classrooms as well as a place of prayer — at Ground Zero — well, it was not exactly at Ground Center, but it was meant to be built a few blocks away? The country went berserk. How dare they desecrate the sacred ground on which Moslems killed several thousand people and destroyed one of America's iconic symbols? True, the Constitution provides freedom of religion for all, but so what? Does that justify this kind of an insult? Don't the feelings of the families of those that died on 9/11 have priority over the Constitution?
For weeks, insults flew back and forth, as zealots on both sides called each other names, and the politicians tried to stake out a position that would straddle the conflicting claims of the public with the principle of freedom of religion.
The issue seems to have calmed down, at least for a while, since the people who were planning to build this mosque-or center-or whatever they will end up calling it if they ever build it — turned out not to be able to raise the money for it-at least not yet-and as the media turned its attention to other matters.
Amy Waldman wrote most of this novel before this bruha took place, but it raises the same kind of questions; Are American born Moslems entitled to their civil rights, or are they all to be stereotyped as terrorists out to kill us? Do those who lost loved ones on 9/11 have special claims on the memorial which is being built there, or are professional architects and artists the only ones who are capable of making aesthetic decisions? Are Jews entitled to suspect Moslems, in view of the fact that they have been the special targets of violence by Moslems in many countries, or should Jews be the defenders of civil rights for Moslems, because their own place in this country depends upon civil rights?
These are some of the questions that Amy Waldman deals with in this novel. She gives no easy answers. Her characters are complex and ambivalent on these questions.
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.
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@example.com.
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.
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).
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