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June 5, 2009

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 5, 2009 By Eric Herschthal New York Jewish Week NEW YORK--When Ed- ward Einhorn began orga- nizing the program for the Festival of Jewish Theater and Ideas. which began at the end of May and runs through June 14. he had one simple rule: no Borscht Belt comedieS. Beyond that. he didn't have an underlying theme to connect his wide-ranging interests: hematology, I. B. Singer, psy- chology. Einstein. his family and God. But add some Israeli politics, and you pretty much cover the topics addressed in this year's festival. "What's the connection?" Einhorn asked, sitting at a cafg before a rehearsal for a play of his that will also be performed. "I'm not really sure I have an answer, pre- festival." but maybe it had something to do with the Talmud. he said. "Discussion and questioning is so impor- tant to Jewish heritage." That might have to suffice for an ambitious festival that refuses any one definition of what it means to be "Jewish theater." When a play by Howard Zinn that dramatizes the life of Emma Goldman. a feminist anarchist extradited from the U. S.. gets staged alongside one about a feud between Freud and his stu- dent Carl Jung; or when a group of Big Apple Circus clowns perform three Singer stories, using puppets, next Zipporah Chloe Hruby, daughter of Matt and Erica Hruby of Oviedo, Fla., will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah on Thursday, June 11. 2009, at Kibbutz Gezer in Israel. Zipporah is in the sixth grade at The Hebrew Day. School and a member of Congregation Ohev Sha- lom. Her hobbies include reading, spending time with friends, listening to music and playing with her sister. Sharing in the family's simcha in Israel will be Zip- porah's sister. Lila. Although her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins won't be in Israel. they will be with her in her heart. evy .6 Jake Levy Wilson, son of Nance and Louis Wilson of Lake Mary, Fla., will be called to the Torah as a1~ar mitzvah on Saturday, June 13. 2009 at Congregation Beth Am in Longwood, Fla. Jake is an A student at Millennium Middle School and enjoys bike riding, swimming and hanging out with friends. He also loves playing Monopoly, video games and music. His interests also include writing and painting. Jake is looking forward to traveling to Israel this sum- mer with his family and his extended Beth Am family. Sharing in the family's simcha will be Jake's sister, Ella: grandparents, Jan and Matt Wilson of Melbourne, Fla., and Judy and Larry Speizman of Boca Raton, Fla.; and other family and friends from around the country. Ryan Jacob Wortman, son of Ronni and Steve Wortman of Heathrow, Fla., will be called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah on Saturday, June 13, 2009 at Congregation Beth Am in Longwood, Fla. Ryan is an A student in the gifted program at Markham Woods Middle School, where he plays on the volleyball team. His hobbies and interests include football, basketball and music. He especially likes hanging out with his friends and family. Sharing in the family's simcha will be Ryan's brother, / dam; grandparents, Laurence and Rita Lee of Ormond Beach, Fla., and Diane and Donald Wortman of West Palm Beach, Fla.; and aunts, uncles and cousins from Florida and Massachusetts; and other family and friends from around the country. to a work by the prominent Israeli playwright Motti Le- rner. definitions are hard to come by. Still. Einhorn insists some bigger picture will emerge. That's what happened when his theater company, Untitled Theater Company #61. which is hosting the new festival. staged the Vaclav Havel Fes- tival three years ago: "Each play sort of built off each other and they were meshing," he said. "In the end. you had a portrait of something" freedom, revolution, steely resolve the tenets of the Velvet Revolution. he said. Einhorn has also staged festivals about neuroscience, Eugene Ionesco and a sort of guerrilla theater riff where people write, rehearse and perform plays in less than 24 hours. Like this new festival, Einhorn's play "Doctors Jane and Alexander" will combine many of these interests. The play is inspired by his mother's recollections of her father, the famous scientist Alexander S. Wiener, who discovered the Rh factor in blood. The discovery led to a new type of blood transfusion that prevented the deaths of innumerable infants. But it also created in Wiener's de- scendants a constant sense of failure, feeling as though they could never match @hat he had done. Edward's mother Jane earned her doctorate in psychology, but nevertheless always felt inferior. "It's really about how one's parents' and grandparents' achievements shape their children's expec- tations." he said. "It's about dealing with not achieving that success." In the play, Jane recounts her story to a fictionalized verslon of Einhorn. whose play is an explicit retelling of his own family tale. After his mother suffered from a recent stroke, Einhorn began recording interviews about her life, "It was hard for her to talk about the present, but the past was a way to connect," he said. Those in- terviews form the backbone of the play, with many of the lines taken directly from the transcribed recordings. The play also required Ein- horn to delve deeper into his grandfather's life, dredging through boxes of journals, memoirs, scores Wiener was an amateur composer, too and newspaper clip- pings written about him. In a recent visit to a rehearsal, ac- tors could be seen practicing an operetta interlude based on a comic strip written about Wiener. while musicians practiced the live music ar- ranged from his scores. "You find aways to use it," Einhorn said later, explaining how he managed to pull together all his archival material into a play. Stephen Ringold is another playwright and profession- al clown included in the festival. His performances of thiree I. B. Singer stories. "A Village of Fools." uses his own company The Grand Fal- loons, made up by several Big Apple Circus-trained clowns who will double as pup- peteers. (They'll be dressed in shtetl costumes, not as clowns.) Ringold said he had been working on his script for a few years, and had only staged it once previously, when Einhorn accepted his submission. Despi[e its comic antics, Ringold's trilogy is actually quite serious. "Zlateh the Goat" (the story is the title one in one of Singer's most popular children's books) tells the story of a destitute shtetl family whose father asks his son to kill his pet goat in order to feed the family. Warm weather has destroyed the father's furrier business, but after he orders his son to go to the goat's stable, a violent snowstorm leaves the boy stranded. The father thinks his child is dead, and that he's responsible for it. "It's near Tolstoy propor- tions," Ringold said. "That's the worst tragedy in the world not only the death of a child but the responsibility of that death." (Spoiler alert: The child actually survives by drink- ing the goat's milk, which also provides enough to feed the entire family. The goat lives, too.) What attracted Ringold to "Zlateh" (the book. pub- lished in 1966. is illustrated by Maurice Sendak) were paintings by Chaim Soutine. which he was looking at for an art exhibit his company was commissioned to stage a performance for. "Imme- diately, l thought, let's do some Singer fairy tales with a real Soutine sensibility." The earthen colors and elongated figures, a hallmark of Sou- tine's work, reminded him of the gothic undertones of Singer's stories, he said. And in the plays, the near-life-size puppets show an uncanny resemblance to Soutine's art. Though 75 plays were submitted [or the festival, and only 15 made the cut, puppet theater set to Singer stories might seem a more Tanya Khordoc Edward Einhorn is the director of the Festival of Jewish Theater and Ideas, running in New York until June 14. obvious choice than others. After all, selling tickets to a play about Freud might not be as easy. But that's what Henry Akona's play "Scenes from a Misunderstanding" is about; or, more specifically, Freud's disagreement with Carl Jung, a student of his who later became another leader in psychoanalytic thought. When asked if there might be some difficulty writing a play about heady ideas a question no doubt raised for all the festival's plays--Akona said not at all. "Freud was a tremendous character," he said. Plus, the dispute be- tween the two focus as much on Jung's sexual advances on another Freud student as it did on the differences between their interpretations of dreams. "People think, 'Freud, JunE, it's gonna be this dense intellectual play.' But it's not, it's funny," Akona said, though he conceded there were some challenges getting his actors to hit the right comic notes: "I compare it to a Viennese pastry; some- times it's very possible to have beautiful pastry taste like lead." (He assured theater- goers his play wouldn't.) Conspicuously absent from the festival are plays about the Holocaust. Only one of the 15 shows, Carolyn Dorf- man's "The Legacy Project: Echoes," deals with it', and even then, it's just one part in an evening of dance per- formances. Einhorn said it was not the result of any par- ticular bias, but that "there was nothing deep enough in the realm of thought" from what was submitted. While Jewish shows on New York's most high-profile stages sometimes seem domi- nated by the Holocaust "Irena's Vow" on Broadway,. "The Singing Forest" at The Public--the festival's choice of plays may actually provide a widerview of Jewish life today. "We didn't have a discus- sion about it." said David Chack, president of the As- sociation for Jewish Theatre, which is sponsoring the festi- val. when asked about the lack of Holocaust shows. "We just chose the best plays." he said. adding that all the plays seem to get at "what it means to be Jewish in a multicultural world." That's not to say the festival will shy away from controversy. When "Hard Love," by the noted Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, gets staged, audiences will get a tough look at the divide be- tween secular and Orthodox Israelis. Lerner wrote the play in Hebrew in 2001, and after recently translating it has been having it performed around the United States. Using a broken marriage as a metaphor for Israeli society, it focuses on a husband who loses faith and divorces his religious wife. When the play was per- formed in Israel in 2003, Lerner said he invited a group of Orthodox Jews to see it, but they refused. He said they took issue with a nude painting hanging in one set, and after he agreed to take it down, they wanted him to avoid having men and women touch each other. Though he makes his personal views clear "I'm atheist." he said, and he feels religion's flaw is "its claims to have so many certainties" he does not in- tend to demean the religious. "It's a call for the audience to try to create coexistence," he said, noting that in the play the couple must learn to share the same space, even if it's not in a marriage. The Festival of Jewish Theater and Ideas has per- formances scheduled for the- aters throughout New York City. For a complete list of shows, dates and prices visit, or call 212:352-3101. Reprinted with permission from the New York Jewish Week, Memorial Day Happy Hour The Jewish Pavilion celebrated Memorial Day with a Happy Hour at Savannah Court. Celebrating the holiday are hostess Carol Fenerman with resident Florence Liebling (top photo) and Jewish Pavilion Program Director Cathy SWerdlow with Marianne Byer.