Hear Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist
and writer of The Value of One Sonia Nazario on the JWT Podcast


Chutzpah & Salsa

May 15 – 24, 2016

Stories, poems and songs written by Latino Jews, reveal funny, poignant, and pivotal moments in their lives.



Adapted, Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Produced by Suzanna Kaplan
Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Dramaturge Lisa Rosenbaum
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
Associate Producers Barbara Koletsky, Susie Yuré, Rose Ziff

WELCOME – Ronda Spinak, JWT Artistic Director

Musical Summons of Cast
Violin by Marnina Wirtschafter. Performed by ensemble.

Our Table – Adapted from the blog Challa-peño
Written by Susan Schmidt.  Performed by Christopher Callen.

Yes, I Am
Written by Ivonne Saed.  Performed by Rachael Hip-Flores and Chris Triana (or Sean Topps).

Can’t Take the Mexi Out of the Jew – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Erika Sabel Flores.

Gotlib, Bombero – Adapted from Far from My Mother’s Home (Floricanto Press)
Written by Barbara Mujica.  Performed by Chris Triana (or Sean Topps), Christopher Callen, and Marnina Wirtschafter.

The Value of One
Written by Sonia Nazario.  Performed by Rachael Hip-Flores.

The Ferreteria in Caracas
Written by Deborah Benaim.  Performed by Marnina Wirtschafter.

Hablando el Mismo Idioma (Speaking the Same Language)
Written by Ariel Lipski. Performed by Chris Triana (or Sean Topps) and Marnina Wirtschafter.

Kind of an Orphan
Written by Ana Nogales.  Performed by Christopher Callen and Chris Triana (or Sean Topps).

The Convert
Written by Yosely Tannenbaum.  Performed by Rachael Hip-Flores.

Learning to Howl
Written by Deborah Silberstein Shkurovich. Performed by Erika Sabel Flores and Marnina Wirtschafter.

Written by Maureen Rubin as told by JoLynn Pineda Brock. Performed by Marnina Wirtschafter.

In the Absence of Love – Adapted from The House of Memory (The Feminist Press)
Written by Ruth Behar. Performed by Christopher Callen.


RUTH BEHAR (Writer) is a MacArthur Award-winning writer and cultural anthropologist known for her work about the search for home in our global era. Born in Havana, Cuba, she frequently visits and writes about her native country. She is the author of Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, and Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys and is editor of the pioneering anthology Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba, just reissued in a 20th-anniversary edition. Her personal documentary, Adio Kerida/Goodbye Dear Love: A Cuban Sephardic Journey, distributed by Women Make Movies, has been shown in festivals around the world. In Cuba she is known for her poetry, and her work is included in The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry. Her newest writing, Lucky Broken Girl, a coming-of-age novel for young readers, is forthcoming with Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint at Penguin/Random House.
DEBORAH BENAIM (Writer) was born in Caracas, Venezuela, but her background is Spanish, Moroccan, and Israeli. Chef Benaim’s food is as eclectic as her heritage, and together with her culinary training she has developed a unique cooking style. After receiving a BS in hospitality management from the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston, she landed a job at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills and has since worked in many acclaimed kitchens and now owns her own catering and events company. Chef Benaim has made several appearances on top cooking competitions, including NBC’s primetime hit Food Fighters. Due to her extensive travels and family background, she has refined the craft of fusing different cuisines and flavors in what can be called global cuisine—which she demonstrated at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, where she debuted the first-ever kosher Latin food truck, showcasing Venezuelan cuisine with Middle Eastern influence. Chef Benaim is now working on several projects, including a cookbook that explores her rich family history. Stay tuned.
CHRISTOPHER CALLEN (Actor) has starred in 12 shows on Broadway, playing Maria (Lend Me A Tenor), Martha (1776), Hodel (Fiddler on the Roof revival w/ Zero), Margot (The Desert Song), and Maggie (Over Here! w/ the Andrews Sisters). Television audiences will recognize her as Dr. Gail Dexter in One Life to Live, Ellie in The Young and the Restless, and in numerous episodic guest-star roles. Christopher has starred in more than 15 award-winning Independent movies in the last two years but is perhaps best known as the mouthy waitress in the classic film Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas opposite Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Torro. She is a recognized visual artist, writer, and member of Citizens Commission on Human Rights and Artists for Human Rights. Her foundation, peaceISpossible, is in formation.  For more go to christophercallen@nowcasting.com.
ERIKA SABEL FLORES (Actor/Writer) was born in Mexico City and trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York. She has appeared in multiple stage productions in London, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. She has also appeared in more than 30 independent films, worked regularly in Spanish soap operas, and is currently developing her own one-woman show and fine-tuning a feature film screenplay. Erika has traveled all over the world, has business and psychology degrees, and speaks a few languages. She loves writing, reading, cooking, hanging out with her dogs, and kvetching about politics, and she can cook gefilte fish from scratch. She is honored to be working with JWT and grateful to find a tribe within the tribe!
RACHAEL HIP-FLORES (Actor) is a recent NYC transplant. LA credits: Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, DJ Latinidad Workshop with Mark Valdez/Mixed Blood Theater, No Pressure – music video, Little Boots. Selected  NYC Theater: Salvage, Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest, Sans Merci, Hearts Like Fists, DEINDE (all with Flux Theatre Ensemble), Cymbeline (Imogen, Judith Shakespeare Company), readings at the Public and Cherry Lane Theaters, and with Sandra Oh, Harvey Fierstein, Kristen Johnston, Lee Tergesen, and Reed Birney. Selected webseries: Anyone But Me (Winner, Best Lead Actress: IAWTV, Streamy, Indie Soap Awards), Producing Juliet (Nominated: Best Lead/Supporting Actress – Rome Web Awards, Indie Series Awards, Best Ensemble – Indie Series Awards). Selected film/TV: Gossip Girl, Lucrecia (HBO NY Latino Film Festival, San Diego Latino Film Festival), The Sonnet Project: #112 (New York Shakespeare Exchange/Shakespeare’s Globe). For more information please visit www.rachaelhipflores.com or www.facebook.com/rachaelhipfloresofficial.
SUZANNA KAPLAN (Producer) 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 U.S. 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 U.S., Kaplan has been working in Hispanic advertising.
BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer) 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.
ARIEL LIPSKI (Writer), born and raised in Panama City, Panama, immigrated to the United States when he was 18, seeking a better life from a fickle political environment. He attended the University of Houston for a bachelors degree in business administration with an emphasis in management information systems and entrepreneurship. Shortly after graduation, he began working in IT consulting but realized his true passion was in e-commerce, which eventually led him to Los Angeles. He enjoys sport fishing as well as salsa dancing, being a professional taste tester for his chef girlfriend, and sushi blogging.
SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Director) began directing in college by staging musical theatre concert readings while co-teaching American Musical Comedy with Tom Lehrer at UC Santa Cruz. She went on to teach and direct at the renowned Stage Door Manor performing arts camp in upstate New York.  In Los Angeles, for Theatre West, Susan has directed selections from David Ives’ All in the Timing; the musicals Just Too Cool, book by Mary Garripoli, music by Phil Orem; and Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, book by Stephen Cole, music by Claibe Richardson; and Barbara Nell Beery’s play, The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro.  At the Falcon Theatre she directed Leap, by Arnold Margolin, Surviving Sex, by David Landsberg, and the hit comedy, The Psychic, by Sam Bobrick. Susan directed Happy Days, a New Musical, book by Garry Marshall, music/lyrics by Paul Williams, at Cabrillo Music Theatre.  She directed an extended-run production of Meryl Cohn’s comedy Reasons to Live at the Skylight Theatre.  In 2014, Susan began working as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts, Anaheim.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and now happily holds a position as JWT’s Producing Director.
BARBARA MUJICA (Writer), novelist, short story writer, and essayist is a professor of Spanish literature at Georgetown University. Her novel Frida was an international bestseller; Sister Teresa was adapted for the stage by the Actors’ Studio in Los Angeles, and I Am Venus won third-place in the Maryland Writers Association fiction competition. She has also won several prizes for her short fiction and has many scholarly works to her name.  She is the mother of a Marine, and also faculty adviser of the GU Student Veterans Association and co-chair of the Veterans Support Team. In 2015 she received a Presidential medal from Georgetown University for her work on behalf of veterans. A former president of the Association for Hispanic Classical Theater, she is also founder and editor of Comedia Performance, a journal devoted to early modern Spanish theater. At Georgetown, Mujica directs a theater group called El Retablo.
SONIA NAZARIO (Writer) is an award-winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems—hunger, drug addiction, and immigration—and have won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards. She is best known for “Enrique’s Journey,” her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. Published as a series in the Los Angeles Times, “Enrique’s Journey” won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003 and was turned into a national bestselling book by Random House. Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and Argentina, has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. A graduate of Williams College, she has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from UC Berkeley. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal and later joined the Los Angeles Times. She is now at work on her second book.
ANA NOGALES, Ph.D. (Writer) is an activist, author, and clinical psychologist. She is the founder and CEO of Nogales Psychological Counseling, Inc., and of the nonprofit Casa de la Familia, which she established for victims of abuse, including human trafficking. She is the author of four books: Latina Power: Using Your 7 Strengths to Say No to Abusive Relationships; Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful; Latina Power! Using the 7 Strengths You Already Have to Create the Success You Deserve; and Dr. Ana Nogales’ Book of Love, Sex and Relationships: A Guide for Latino; and two plays, Don’t Call Me Baby! and De Sabios y Locos. Featured regularly in the media, particularly on Univision and Telemundo, where she has hosted her own talk show, Dr. Nogales also wrote a weekly column for La Opinion (Los Angeles) for seventeen years and continues to write for mainstream periodicals and blogs.
MAUREEN RUBIN (Writer) wrote “Machatunum” from an interview with JOLYNN PINEDA BROCK.  Recently married, JoLynn Brock graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in business and has been working as a research analyst. Maureen Rubin has a B.S. in journalism from Boston University, an M.A. in public relations from USC, and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, DC. She has been a professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge, since 1984, has published scores of articles on media law and journalism ethics, and is a new board member of the Jewish Women’s Theatre.
IVONNE SAED (Writer), graphic designer, photographer, writer, and translator, has extensively explored the crossroads of the visual and the textual, both in her creative work and in teaching. She is the author of the novel Triple crónica de un nombre (Lectorum, 2003) and the nonfiction Sobre Paul Auster: Autoría, distopía y textualidad (Lectorum, 2009). She co-authored Literatura: imaginación, identidad y poder, Vampiros transmundanos y tan urbanos, and ¡Madres! Cuentos (y precauciones) de maternidad. Saed has also published book reviews, photos, and stories in such periodicals as Reforma and Crónica (Mexico), and Literal Magazine (U.S.). Her documentary Naïve premiered in 2011 as part of Object Stories, a Portland Art Museum project, and she produced Vida Sefaradí: A Century of Sephardic Life in Portland. Saed teaches at Marylhurst University and is a Delve guide for literary arts in Portland. Once a month she talks about literature in FA Radio’s “Letra Viva,” on KBOO.FM, Portland.
DEBORAH SILBERSTEIN SHKUROVICH (Writer) was born and raised in Mexico City. She graduated cum laude from the Universidad Iberoamericana with a BA in communications and obtained a MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, then worked as managing editor at a magazine about the food industry in Latin America. Raising three children, she worked as a freelance translator and recently obtained UCLA’s certification as a college counselor. She enjoys running and reading. Although Deborah moved to this country 20 years ago, she still dreams and counts in Spanish.
SUSAN SCHMIDT (Writer), a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger, video editor, mother, wife, cook, and sometime caterer, was born in Mexico City to a Hungarian mother and Brooklyn-born father. When she was eleven years old, her family moved to Los Angeles, where she married, raised five children, and resides today. She records unique recipes accompanied by narratives on her blog, mexicanjewish.com. Susan’s work has been covered on/in NPR, The New Yorker, and The Jewish Chronicle. With Chutzpah & Salsa, she is thrilled to count the stage as her newest platform.
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.
SEAN TOPPS (Actor) was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, and classically trained at the University of Windsor Fine Arts in Acting program. Sean created and starred in the critically acclaimed solo stage play What Be G*d Is Blessing and most recently appeared in the short film The Petulant – A Parody of The Revenant. A frequent performer at JWT, Sean has been seen in Past & Present: Russian Jewish American Stories; My Bad, My Good; and Hold Me, Heal Me. He is excited to pinch-hit for two performances of Chutzpah and Salsa.
CHRIS TRIANA (Actor), a native of Miami, received his BA in theater from the University of Miami and studied further under acclaimed acting teacher William Esper in New York City. He performed in various plays while living in New York, including the successful revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Den of Thieves, Camus’ Caligula, and Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now living in LA, he has appeared in Ben Affleck’s Argo and upcoming indie crime thriller Cage of Glory with Danny Trejo and Steven Bauer. As of September 2016, Chris can be seen in the upcoming comedic feature The Wedding Invitation.
YOSELY TANNENBAUM (Writer) was born in San Antonio de Los Baños, Cuba, where she lived with her parents and brother.  Life was predictable and simple with lots of relatives, neighbors and friends. Everyone knew each other and shared the same values and beliefs. When she was eight, she was forced to leave Cuba, and the long and difficult road of an immigrant began. Eventually, she reunited with her family and moved to Houston where she enjoys life with her husband and her two amazing sons. Yosely also runs her own business, setting, decorating and preparing houses about to go on the market. She is a known and much loved member of Houston’s Jewish community.
MARNINA WIRTSCHAFTER (Actor) is delighted to join Jewish Women’s Theatre to explore diverse origins and cultures. Raised on klezmer music in Berkeley, she began playing violin at age four because she didn’t want her brother doing anything she couldn’t. Classically trained, she branched out into other genres while at UCLA and as she traveled her ancestors’ Eastern European villages. UCLA theater credits include Fiddler on the Roof (Tzeitel), Spring Awakening (Anna), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Rosemary), The Drowsy Chaperone (Chaperone), Desire Under the Elms (Fiddler), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Meers), Vagina Monologues, 4.48 Psychosis. Bay Area credits include West Side Story (Anita), Parade (Lucille Frank), Les Miserables (Eponine), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Olive), A Chorus Line (Maggie), Into the Woods (Little Red Ridinghood). She wrote and performed live video sketch comedy with Company at UCLA’s 9,000-person Spring Sing. She is currently program coordinator at IKAR, a teacher at the Sholem Community, and a Jeremiah Fellow at Bend the Arc, learning to organize for racial and economic justice. Muchas gracias to Mama, Papa, Eli, Rafi, Brooke, and Grandma for inspiring me with your chutzpah.
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.