Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks

March 18-28, 2017

A Jewish immigrant story that is rarely told on stage. Until now.  The Sephardic legacy of family, community, and country, looking for home more than 500 years after the expulsion from Spain.

PRESS

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THE PROGRAM

Adapted & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Susan Morgenstern South Bay Producer Liz Altman
Bay Area Producer Carol Kirsh
Assistant Directed by Michelle Altman
Dramaturge Lisa Rosenbaum
Literary Manager Suzanna Kaplan
Assistant Producer Barbara Koletsky
Associate Producers Susie Yuré & Rose Ziff

Underwritten by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Ocho Kandelikas
Music and Lyrics by Flory Jagoda. Performed by AJ Meijer.

Ways to Recognize a ‘Sephardic Jew-ess’ – adapted from
The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature (Schocken Books, 2005). Written by Ruth Knafo Setton.
Performed by Lisa Cirincione & AJ Meijer.

Living Between the Question Marks #1
Written by Ruth Knafo Setton. Performed by Abbe Meryl Feder.

The Last Seder – adapted from The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature (Schocken Books, 2005).
Written by André Aciman. Performed by AJ Meijer.

Becoming American – adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak.
Written by Gladys Moreau. Performed by Wendy Colman Levin, AJ Meijer, & Abbe Meryl Feder.

Differences
Assembled from the internet. Performed by the ensemble.

A Sephardi Air – adapted from Traveling Heavy (Duke University Press, 2013).
Written by Ruth Behar. Performed by Abbe Meryl Feder & AJ Meijer.

Nameless Daughter – adapted from Sephardic-American Voices (Brandeis University Press, 1997).
Written by Ruth Behar. Performed by Lisa Cirincione.

Adio Querida
Traditional Ladino Song. Performed by Lisa Cirincione & AJ Meijer.

The Magic of Mimouna – adapted from Don’t Get Me Started (Jewish Journal Books, 2011).
Written by David Suissa. Performed by AJ Meijer.

Before
Written by Ruth Knafo Setton. Performed by Wendy Colman Levin & AJ Meijer.

Return to India
Written by Rahel Musleah. Performed by Lisa Cirincione, Wendy Colman Levin, & Abbe Meryl Feder.

Both Jewish and Arabic – adapted from Sephardic-American Voices (Brandeis University Press, 1997).
Written by Herb Hadad. Performed by AJ Meijer & Lisa Cirincione,

Knowing
Written by Lisa Klug. Performed by Abbe Meryl Feder.

My Cathartic Sephardic Song
Written by Betty Goldstein. Performed by Wendy Colman Levin & ensemble.

Temporarily Lost in Translation
Written by Lisa Klug. Performed by Lisa Cirincione.

Living Between the Question Marks #2
Written by Ruth Knafo Setton. Performed by the ensemble.

ARTIST BIOS

ANDRÉ ACIMAN (Writer) teaches comparative literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and is the director of both the Center for the Humanities and the Writers’ Institute. He is the author of Out of Egypt: A Memoir; False Papers; Alibis; and four novels: Call Me by Your Name, Eight White Nights, Harvard Square, and Enigma Variations. He is the coauthor and editor of Letters of Transit and of The Proust Project and the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. A contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books, he has also appeared in several volumes of Best American Essays. His forthcoming essay collection is entitled Homo Irrealis.

MICHELLE ALTMAN (Assistant Director) grew up in the South Bay, then moved to the Midwest, and graduated from Drake University with a BFA in theatre/acting with a concentration in directing. She then moved to Chicago to pursue her career in theatre before coming back to LA to work with JWT. Directing credits include The Chocolate AffairSure ThingA Smell of Burnt FeathersImmature (co-writer), When Angels WeptEverybody Needs a Good Night OutThe Titus Andronicus Project(co-writer/producer), Fishbowl: A Dramatic Improv. JWT credits include Fried Chicken & Latkes (Tech Director/Stage Manager), Temptation, Matzo Ball Diaries, and Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks (Assistant Director).  Thank you to all who support the arts community!

RUTH BEHAR (Writer) is the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellows “Genius” Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A traveler, storyteller, poet, educator, and public speaker, her books include The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village, 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. She is the editor of the pioneering anthology, Bridges to Cuba and co-editor of The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World. Her documentary, Adio Kerida/Goodbye Dear Love: A Cuban Sephardic Journey, distributed by Women Make Movies, has been shown in festivals around the world. Her poetry is included in many collections, among them The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Her debut novel for young readers, Lucky Broken Girl, the story of a Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl, is forthcoming with Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House in April, 2017. For more information, https://www.ruthbehar.com/.

LISA CIRINCIONE (Actor) was recently cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming project Distant Vision.  She currently stars in and produced the short film Porcupine, which made its World Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival and has now played at nine film festivals around the globe, including the Napa Valley Film Festival and The San Antonio Film Festival. Lisa recently shot an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! with NBA Legend, Mr. Ron Artest, and can be seen in national commercials including a spot for Sky Italia with Sandra Oh, and in the comedy web-series, Mrs. Gary, for which she won Best Supporting Actress at The Los Angeles Web Festival. Lisa received LA WEEKLY and LA Drama Critic’s Circle nominations for the role of Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at Pacific Resident Theatre.  Lisa is extremely proud to be an Artist in Residence with JWT and deeply thanks Ronda and the rest of the team for this continued opportunity to tell such powerful stories.

ABBE MERYL FEDER (Actor) hails from the fabulous city of New York. When not pursuing her craft, Abbe is the proud Producer of NEXT @ The Braid, a brand-new program of Jewish Women’s Theater, which invites the next generation of artists to share their voice. She also shares her love of style as a stylist for Stella & Dot. Her film and tv credits include Sex Ed (film), Brahmin Bulls (film), The Internet Date (film), Pushing Daisies (tv), CSI:NY (tv). Twitter and Instagram: @iAMFeder.

BETTY GOLDSTEIN (Writer) is well known in the storytelling circuit in Los Angeles and New York.  She is published in Reader’s Digest’s The Best Life Stories and in What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories.  Betty blogs on Huffington Post and is a Moth winner.  Her work has been produced by Jewish Women’s Theatre, and she performs her original ghost stories for KCRW’s annual Masquerade Ball and Ghosts of the Internet.

HERBERT HADAD (Writer) is an award-winning freelance writer, who has specialized on topics of family and the Middle East.  He is the author of Finding Immortality: The Making of One American Family, and is at work on a new collection of essays, some new, some published in The New York Times, including Both Jewish and Arabic. His essays have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, Parenting, Reader’s Digest, Poets & Writers and others. He worked as a reporter for The Times, New York Post, Boston Globe and Keene (N.H.) Sentinel. He also served in New York as a press officer for the U.S. Department of Justice and currently teaches at the Hudson Valley Writers Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY. He has won writing awards from the New York Press Club, Council or the Advancement and Support of Education, Folio magazine and others.  Hadad is married to the former Evelyn Meekins. They have three children and live in Pocantico Hills, New York.

LISA KLUG (Writer) is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, editor, and bestselling author of two humor books, Cool Jew and Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guides for Every Member of the Tribe (Andrews McMeel). A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Berkeley with a masters in journalism, her writing appears in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Variety, and Times of Israel, where she is an international senior correspondent and previously covered JWT productions. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a descendant of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, her love of Jewish culture dovetails with her passion for the arts–themes she is currently exploring in a memoir. A winner of the Jerusalem Poetry Slam, Lisa’s contribution to Matzo Ball Diaries is her Jewish American Love Poem, which is excerpted from Hot Mamalah. This is the first time her work has been adapted to a theatrical performance. Visit her online at www.lisaklug.com, on Twitter @lisaklug and at Facebook.com/LisaAlcalayKlug.

BARBARA KOLETSKY (Assistant Producer/Stage Manager) worked as a production associate and costumer for the last six months on the production of Not That Jewish in New York at New World Stages. For 16 months prior to that she participated in the Los Angeles production of Not That Jewish as an assistant producer/stage manager. She has been with Jewish Women’s Theatre for eight years, working in many capacities on the At-Homes Salon series as assistant producer, stage manager, and culinary arts maven. Barbara also served as president and principal designer for the special events company R.S.V.P. Barbara started her career in marketing and promotions at Polygram Records.

WENDY COLMAN LEVIN (Actor) majored in theater arts at Brandeis University, studied acting in London, and appeared in a variety of plays, daytime series, and television specials over the years. More recently, she performed in the staged reading of Ivy, about the life of activist Ivy Bottini. Wendy has a PhD in public health and is a member of the LA Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness. She is curator of the art exhibit Faces of Homelessness, currently on view in the Los Angeles mayor’s office at City Hall, and is co-editor of the documentary Struggle in Paradise, by Dr. Stuart Perlman. Wendy teaches public speaking skills to students and faculty at UCLA, and to individuals who have experienced homelessness.  She has enjoyed performing with Jewish Women’s Theatre in Los Angeles and New York City and is delighted to be doing so again.

AJ MEIJER (Actor) recently appeared as Elias Kattan in the season eight premier of NCIS:LA.  Prior to that, he made his New York theater debut in the original cast of the smash hit Heathers: The Musical. Film: Life Partners (with Adam Brody and Leighton Meester), Broken Horses (with Vincent D’Onfrio and Anton Yelchin). He co-founded Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble and was seen in their productions of The War Cycle (Ovation Award nomination). Regional: Lennie in Of Mice and Men at TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley; All About Gordon at the Ahmanson; Getty Center with the National Theatre of Greece; Tug of War at the Getty Villa. Graduate of the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television, where he currently teaches business and marketing to the third-year MFA actors. He also co-hosts the weekly industry-focused podcast “Inside Acting.” Learn more at www.insideacting.net  or www.ajmeijer.com.

GLADYS MOREAU (Writer) has often been described as a mini United Nations. Born in Egypt of French-speaking Italian parents, she moved to Italy and then to Chicago — all before reaching her teens. The Foreign Service was clearly her destiny, and she reached it by way of a master’s degree in international business from UCLA and a long career in export consulting and finance in Los Angeles. She also ran a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses increase their exports before joining the State Department. Full-time work provided its share of adventure in Tunisia, Honduras, Egypt’s Sinai desert (all of which experienced a revolution) and Washington, DC (peaceful). Since retiring, she has served in more than a dozen countries on a part-time basis. Now based in Los Angeles, she enjoys traveling (of course), painting, and her granddaughter.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Producing 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, Susan has directed several shows at Theatre West, including 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/Garry Marshall 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.  She co-authored and directed I’m Not Famous: A Musical Journey with Barbara Minkus, which had an extended 2017 run at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  Susan also works as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and most recently,  Annie Korzen: Famous Actress, at JWT’s performance and art space, The Braid.

RAHEL MUSLEAH (Writer), through the vivid prism of her family’s story, introduces audiences to the distinctive heritage of the Jews of India and Iraq. The seventh generation of a Calcutta family, she traces her roots to seventeenth‑century Baghdad. Rahel is an award-winning journalist, author, singer, speaker, and educator. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times and Hadassah magazine, among other publications, and her books and recordings preserve the songs and customs of her community. Rahel also leads tours of Jewish India informed by her rare and intimate knowledge of the community. Her next tours are scheduled for Nov. 2-16, 2017, and Feb. 8-22, 2018. Rahel lives in Port Washington, NY, and hopes to pass down the legacy of the Indian Jewish community to her two children, Shira and Shoshana.

RUTH KNAFO SETTON (Writer) Born in Morocco, Ruth Knafo Setton is the award-winning author of the novel The Road to Fez. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies. A professor of creative writing at Lehigh University and onboard Semester at Sea, she gives readings, workshops, and lectures, often exploring what it means to live and write between question marks. Currently working on a novel and a screenplay about a Moroccan-Jewish family, she can be reached at www.ruthknafosetton.com/ where she blogs about art, life, and travel.

RONDA SPINAK (Producer/JWT Artistic Director) created and produces JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series, now in its tenth season. She has curated more than 35 original Jewish-themed salon shows for JWT, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. Spinak developed and produced Not That Jewish at JWT’s The Braid, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, only stopping to move to off-Broadway, where the show ran for over 200 performances.  Spinak co-wrote Stories From the Fringe, putting the stories of women rabbis on stage for the first time. Since then, she and her team have interviewed on videotape, 150 national and international women rabbis, and in partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive have made many of the interviews available online at www. jwa.org. She’s the author of the critically acclaimed exercise book, ProBodX (HarperCollins), wrote for Rugrats, and her plays include Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival. Spinak graduated from Stanford University, completed her MBA at UCLA and her masters in writing at USC. She has served as a grant reviewer for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, is on the board of the Alliance 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. Find more information: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

DAVID SUISSA (Writer) is president of Tribe Media/Jewish Journal and is an award-winning columnist who writes about everything from the crazy world of politics to the even crazier subject of how Jews are making their way in a post-modern world of Twitter attention spans.

SUSIE YURÉ (JWT’s Director of Community Engagement/Associate Producer) has proudly worked with JWT for 7 years. She has volunteered 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. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. While at USC, she met her husband. Her favorite role is as mom to her two children and recently as a grandmother.

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.

GALLERY

Susie Yuré is ready to check in patrons.

Our bountiful dessert table includes Sephardi treats. “Kome Con Gana!”

Patrons view art exhibit before the show.

AJ Meijer starts off the show with “Ocho Kandelikas,” by Flory Jagoda.

 Lisa Cirincione, Wendy Colman Levin, and Abbe Meryl Feder are three sisters who “Return to India,” by Rahel Musleah.

“Adio Querida,” a traditional Ladino love song, performed by Lisa Cirincione and AJ Meijer.

Audience reaction.

Wendy Colman Levin and AJ Meijer in Ruth Knafo Setton’s “Before.”