Beyond Jacob’s Ladder

March 6-21, 2016

A modern retelling of an ancient story by 10 writers. These poignant stories are modern Midrashim on the Jacob passages from the Bible.


Curated, Adapted & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Eve Brandstein
Dramaturge & Adapted by Lisa Rosenbaum
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
San Francisco Producer Carol Kirsh
Associate Producers Barbara Koletsky, Susie Yuré, Rose Ziff & Patrick Conde

What The Hungarians Want
Written by Barbara Bottner.  Performed by Lauren Aboulafia, Will McFadden, and Monica Piper.

Sister, Sister
Written by G.M.  Performed by Roxana Rastegar.

Wrestling – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Suzanna Kaplan.  Performed by Lisa Ann Grant.

A Father’s Story
Written by Ian Wallach.  Performed by Will McFadden.

The Bad Jew — A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Annie Korzen.  Performed by Monica Piper.

Finding God
Written by Libby Schwartz.  Performed by Roxana Rastegar, Monica Piper & Ensemble.

Walmart Parking Lot – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Robin Uriel Russin.  Performed by Will McFadden.

God Was In This Place and I Did Not Know It – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Leslie Schwartz. Performed by Lauren Aboulafia, Roxana Rastegar and Will McFadden, and Monica Piper.

Dreaming of Jake — – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Rabbi Susan Nanus.  Performed by Lisa Ann Grant, Will McFadden and Lauren Aboulafia.

But, Who Will Love Me Now?  – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Monica Piper.

God is in This Place  – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Lyrics written by Sandy Sherman.  Music Written by Michele Brourman.  Vocals by Lisa Ann Grant.

 Bible Text — Vocals by Bill Rather


LAUREN ABOULAFIA (Actor) is thrilled to be a part of the Jewish Women’s Theatre, as her two loves are theatre and Jews. Lauren graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in theatre and studied at the British Drama Academy in London, where she played Rosalind in As You Like It, one of her favorite roles. Lauren has performed onstage at Interlochen and the Williamstown Theatre Festival; she has participated in comedy troupes at the Groundlings and UCB; and she performs stand up around town. She appeared on Mistresses and Mixology on ABC and was one of the leads in the indie comedy $50K and a Call Girl: A Love Story. She’ll be performing her solo show, Moving On Up, at JWT this year. 
BARBARA BOTTNER (Writer) writes for adults and kids. Some of her more than 40 books for children and teenagers have garnered national awards and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her award-winning animations appeared on The Electric Company and Sesame Street, and Jim Henson sang her lyrics. She’s also written for children’s television and full-length features and was staff on a prime-time sitcom. Her short stories appeared in Cosmopolitan, Playgirl; her essays, humor, and criticism in LAWEEKLY, The Miami Herald, and New York Times.  As an actress, she traveled through Europe with Ellen Stewart’s Café La Mama and worked with Sam Shepherd. She’s been teaching writing to a talented bunch of authors and just completed a young-adult novel, I See Thunder.
EVE BRANDSTEIN (Director) has made contributions to every facet of the entertainment industry from studio executive, producer, director, writer/creator, talent manager, and author. Eve also has a notable career as a casting director. Credits include the feature This is Spinal Tap , television credits include Diff’rent StrokesOne Day At A TimeFacts of Life, Who’s The Boss, Beastmaster and Total Recall. Among her television production credits, she produced and developed  E/R the Comedy Series, and produced and directed the series John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You.  Her recent return to theater directing credits are the long running hit production of Not That Jewish, the NY Off-Broadway 2 year hit of Shut Up Sit Down & Eat, NY and LA premieres of Revisiting Wildfire, the NY premiere of Voices Of Swords, Ronnie Spector’s Beyond The Beehive, Waiting For Jack – A Beat Poetry ReunionClaiming Allen Ginsberg, and Suzanne Wang’s Cracked Open. Eve has also directed the Jewish Women’s Theater shows Stories From the FringeSaffron and RosewaterHold Me, Heal Me, He Said, She Said, and Past & Present: Russian Jewish American Stories.  She continues to produce the bi-coastal spoken-word event Poetry In Motion since 1988.
MICHELE BROURMAN (Songwriter) is an award-winning singer/songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Michael Feinstein, Margaret Whiting, Dame Cleo Laine, and Olivia Newton-John, among others. She’s written and produced the songs for 18 animated features for Universal Studios, including the beloved Land Before Time series, writing for artists like Reba McIntyre, Michael York, Donny Osmond, Corbin Bleu, and a host of others. Her work has been featured in television and film and performed by countless cabaret artists, garnering numerous awards and critical acclaim. Her work for the theater includes the dance and incidental music for the original Broadway production of Working, the score for the musical Dangerous Beauty, produced at the Pasadena Playhouse, and the score for the off-Broadway show I Married Wyatt Earp.  She has been called “a consummate artist/composer … whose songs target the human condition with a simplicity, honesty, and directness which make them into contemporary classics.”
PATRICK CONDE (Associate Producer) the most recent JWT employee, came to LA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his BA in History and Communication Arts. Driven by his passion for filmmaking and will to work in the entertainment industry, he found solace in contributing to the success of The Braid, JWT’s newly created theater. Using his talents to cement JWT’s success on social media and spearheading the paperless initiative, Patrick’s radical ideas and willingness to innovate have taken JWT in a whole new direction.
LISA ANN GRANT (Actor) is thrilled to be a part of the Jewish Women’s Theater. Originally from New York City, Lisa appeared on Broadway as Eponine in Les MiserablesLeader of the Pack, DreamGirls, and Camelot. She appeared Off-Broadway with Robert Downey Jr. and Jane Krakowski in American Passion and Radio City Music Hall as a soloist. On television she has appeared on Comedy Central, Stacked, Charmed, ER, and Crossing Jordan, to name a few, as well as several commercials and voice-overs. Lisa has been in the studio recording original music with her singing partner, Lisa Winner.
SUZANNA KAPLAN (Writer) was born in Mexico City, to an American mother and Mexican father, and grew up speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. As an actress and dancer, she performed in some of Mexico’s famous Vaudeville stages, as well as acted in commercials and films and on the stage.  Suzanna moved to the US where she partnered with her best friend in a translation service and language school. Being young, they sold it as soon as it was making money and took off for Europe, eventually landing in Israel, which stretched out to 6 years, a husband, and a baby. Back in the US, Kaplan has been working in Hispanic advertising.
BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer/Stage Manager) has most recently worked on the production side of Jewish Women’s Theatre. Prior to that, for three seasons she was responsible for catering.  Now Barbara is thrilled to be moving into stage management for JWT at The Braid.  Barbara is also the owner of RSVP Party Planning, where as an experienced party planner she has produced many events, specializing in charitable organizations but with many corporate and private clients as well. Barbara was born in New York and moved to California for a career in marketing and promotions for Polygram Records and Elektra Atlantic Corp. She regularly volunteers at the Grossman Burn Center with her service dog, Rodney.
ANNIE KORZEN (Writer) is proud to be a Moth Mainstage storyteller.  She offers group classes and private coaching in storytelling. Annie was the recurring Doris Klompus on Seinfeld and has performed her solo shows Yenta Unplugged and The Yenta Cometh on three continents.  Her newest entertainment is a full evening of her stories called Tales from the Mouth: Comedies of Errors.  Annie is currently developing a solo show with Ronda Spinak for JWT.  She is the author of Bargain Junkie: Living the Good Life on the Cheap and has done humorous essays for NPR’s Morning Edition, The New York Times, LA Times, and many more. For additional info and videos, go to
JAMIE LEVINSON (Technical Director) graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2010. At Allegheny College he acted in two productions, The Cherry Orchard, where he played Yepikhodov, and Servant of Two Masters, where he played Florindo. During his primary education, he appeared in numerous talent shows.
G.M. (Writer) G.M. is a novice, wrestling in LA.
WILL MCFADDEN  (Actor) is a member of Theatre of Note, where he can be seen in the new play Phrazzled, opening April 15. He is also a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre LA and a graduate of Occidental College. He wrote and starred in the upcoming feature film Doubting Thomas. Other Notable Films: Tiger Orange, Takers, The Roommate, and Hollywood Homicide. Notable TV: Scorpion (CBS), Gang Related (FOX), Castle (ABC), and The Forgotten (ABC).
RABBI SUSAN NANUS (Writer) is a playwright, screenwriter, teacher, and director of adult programs at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where she creates, writes, and produces Jewish cultural programs, leads services, and teaches classes.  Susan is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and has had plays produced all over the country, including on and off Broadway. Sixteen of her television movies have been produced on network and cable television, which earned three Christopher Awards and the Writers Guild Award for Best Long-Form Screenplay. She is the proud mother of 21-year-old Lili.
MONICA PIPER (Writer/Performer) is an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and stand-up comic. She has written for the sit-coms Roseanne, Mad About You, and Veronica’s Closet and was head writer of the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats. She starred in her own Showtime Network comedy special, No, Monica, … Just You and was nominated by the American Comedy Awards as one of the top five female comedians in the country. Monica performs for Jewish organizations around the country and is proud to be an artist-in-residence with the acclaimed Jewish Women’s Theatre in Los Angeles.  Monica’s critically acclaimed one-woman play, Not That Jewish, ran to sell-out crowds for 14 months at The Braid in Santa Monica and was nominated by the LA Drama Critics Circle for Best Solo Performance.
ROXANA RASTEGAR (Actor) has a BA in comparative literature from the American University in Paris and an MA in theater arts from Cal State LA. Roxana began working as a professional photographer before joining the Avaz International Dance Company. As a member, she has performed at acclaimed venues such as the Japan American Theater, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and Royce Hall. Roxana has also done voice work in several original radio plays heard on KIRN in Los Angeles and worked for Persian satellite TV. She played lead roles in the plays The 99 Cent Family; Death, a Very Serious Comedy; and currently in Surprise Party, by Houshang Touzie. Roxana currently has a radio program on KIRN 670 AM.  She works as a producer, and her past productions include film, dance, plays, and concerts. 
BILL RATNER (Voiceover Artist) is one of America’s premier voiceover performers on movie trailers, documentaries, computer games, and cartoons. Bill’s spoken-word performances are featured on National Public Radio’s Good FoodThe Business, and KCRW’s Strangers. He is a nine-time winner of the Moth Story Slams and a two-time winner of the Best of the Hollywood Fringe Festival Extension Award for Spoken Word Performance. His personal essays and short stories have been published in The Missouri Review, The Baltimore Review, Hobo Pancakes,, Blue Lake Review, Spork Press, Niteblade, Papier Maché Press, and Wolfsinger Publications. He is the author of the book Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It from Familius Press and holds a masters in fine arts in creative writing from the University of California Riverside/Palm Desert.
ROBIN RUSSIN (Writer) is a professor in the Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production at the University of California, Riverside, where he helped create the MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. He has written, produced, and directed for film, TV, and the theater, including the box-office hit On Deadly Ground, America’s Most Wanted, and ABC’s Vital Signs. Robin is co-author of the books Screenplay: Writing the Picture and Naked Playwriting. His stories, articles, and reviews have been appeared in Script Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Connotation Press, Harvard MagazineThe Los Angeles Times, The American Oxonian, and Shofar, among others. A Rhodes Scholar, he has degrees from Harvard, Oxford, Rhode Island School of Design, and UCLA. His play, The Face in the Reeds recently premiered at the Ruskin Group Theatre, where he initiated and leads a workshop for emerging and established local playwrights. His one-hour pilot, Beloved, was bought by ABC and has been adapted as their new prime time series, Of Kings and Prophets.
LESLIE SCHWARTZ (Writer), whose career as a writer has spanned two decades, has been named Kalliope Magazine’s Woman Writer of the Year and won many awards for her fiction and community service as a writer, including three artist-in-residence grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the West Hollywood/Algonquin Award for Public Service in the Arts, and a California Council for the Humanities Fellowship. In addition to her two novels, Jumping the Green and Angels Crest, Schwartz has published short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews in various newspapers, magazines, and literary journals, including the Los Angeles Times, Poets & Writers, Teachers & Writers, Sonora Review, and the online journal Narratively Speaking.  A past president of the board of directors for PEN USA, Schwartz has worked collaboratively with that group in its many programs designed for at-risk youth and young writers.
LIBBY SCHWARTZ (Writer), a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, is also a Phi Beta Kappa who graduated cum laude from Hunter College, was international president of Delta Phi Epsilon, NYC director of the American Cancer Society Women’s Division for fundraising, and somehow found the time to teach high school English. She is currently writing her memoir.
SANDY SHERMAN (Songwriter) has an extensive portfolio of songs written for all ages and genres that have been featured in artist compilations, popular films, and TV series. Her children’s songs have been produced by Disney Records (including a gold record), Buena Vista Videos, LeapFrog Toys, Educational Insights Toys, Learning Curve Toys, Disney Channel, Shari Lewis, the Children’s Television Workshop, and Hal Leonard songbooks.  She is the lyricist and co-author of The Little Witch of Wichita, an award-winning family musical that has been performed throughout the United States, including the Geffen Playhouse. Her inspirational Chanukah song, “There’s Something About Those Candles,” has been performed by choir groups and cantors nationally and internationally and is on its way to becoming a holiday standard. Sandy is honored to co-write “God Is in This Place” with Michelle Brourman and to share it with JWT.
RONDA SPINAK (Producer) created and produces JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series, now in its eighth season. She has curated more than 24 original Jewish-themed salon shows for JWT, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. She graduated from Stanford University, and holds degrees from UCLA (MBA) and USC (Masters in professional writing). Ronda’s plays include Stories from the Fringe and festival-winner Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival and Dayton’s FutureFest. She has written for the Emmy Award-winning children’s show Rugrats and authored the critically acclaimed nonfiction book ProBodX: Proper Body Exercise (HarperCollins, publisher). Ronda is on the board of the Association for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She feels blessed to be working with the many talented and inspiring women who give so generously to Jewish Women’s Theatre.
IAN WALLACH (Writer) is a criminal defense and constitutional-rights attorney and legal commentator by day and occasional writer and Moth story-slam competitor by night. This, his first piece JWT has performed, is adapted from his first published essay, “A Father’s Story: Mourning the Baby We Never Had,” which originally appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, then was reprinted on, and then reprinted in the book The Longest Date, Life as a Wife (written by his wife, Cindy Chupack.
SUSIE YURÉ (Associate Producer) has volunteered for 30 years in non-profit organizations, in which she has held leadership roles in fundraising, event planning, facilities coordinating, programming, membership, marketing, and administration. Susie has produced musical theatre productions, classical concerts, and cabaret performances and has been intensely involved in the world of theatre for over 20 years. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. Her favorite role is as mom to her two talented (grown) children, who are both professional (and working) musicians.
ROSE ZIFF (Associate Producer) came out of retirement to work for JWT after working at UCLA Medical Center for 33 years, where she functioned as “den mother” to more than 1000 interns, residents, and clinical fellows at UCLA, the VA, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Centers, providing resources and support. Rose is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Lev Eisha, a Jewish women’s non-profit religious organization and spiritual community. Her hobbies include gardening, dog training and hosting a monthly book club.


Director Eve Brandstein giving final notes to Will McFadden pre-show

Artistic Director Ronda Spinak and Board Chair Janis Nelson distribute JWT gifts to bakers

Pre show buffet