Jews In America

True stories from 1780 to present of ordinary people wrestling with family and identity. A celebration of being Jewish and American!
October 28, 2018

THE PROGRAM

Adapted, Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Susan Morgenstern     Assistant Producer/Stage Manager Barbara Koletsky
Associate Producers Susie Yuré & Rose Ziff    Artistic Associate Daphna Shull

Preamble to the United States Constitution
Written by the Founding Fathers.  Performed by Ensemble.

Address to G. Washington, 1790, On the Occasion of His Visit to NewPort, RI
Written by Moses Seixas.  Performed by Lisa Cirincione and AJ Meijer.

A Letter from Washington to Hebrew Congregation, 1790
Written by George Washington.  Performed by Cliff Weissman.

Matron of Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, 1862
Written by Phoebie Pember.  Performed by Lisa Cirincione, Andrew Fromer, Shelly Goldstein, and Cliff Weissman

Letter to A Son, Leaving for America 1880
Written by Getty Bechmann.  Performed by Rena Strober and AJ Meijer.

The Ascendancy of Woman, 1917
Written by Rabbi Krauskopf.  Performed by Andrew Fromer and Ensemble.

Dear Loved Ones, 1944
Written by Lt. Frances Slanger.  Performed by Lisa Cirincione and Cliff Weissman.

What It Means to Be Jewish, 1950s
Written by Laura Geller.  Performed by Shelly Goldstein and Cliff Weissman.

How José Ignacio Maria de Jesús San Juan e Ynduráin Learned to Dance the Hora
Written by Barbara Mujica.  Performed by Rena Strober, AJ Meijer, Lisa Cirincione, and Shelly Goldstein.

Laughs, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Shelly Goldstein.

American Tune
Arrangement by Andrew Fromer.  Performed by Andrew Fromer, AJ Meijer, and Cliff Weissman

I, Citizen – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written by Susan Baskin.  Performed by Lisa Cirincione, Cliff Weissman, and Andrew Fromer.

America the Beautiful
Music by Samuel Ward, Lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates.  Performed by Ensemble.

ARTIST BIOS

SUSAN BASKIN (Writer) wrote the Academy Award–winning film Violet and has also written extensively for television and film. Her credits include Remington Steele, Dynasty, and numerous television movies. Her essays have been published in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, West, and Los Angeles Magazine.  Susan’s essay, “Out of Hiding,” was adapted and performed by Jewish Women’s Theatre in the show, “Crossing The Red Sea.”  Her piece “I, Citizen,” performed in Jews In America, was commissioned by Jewish Women’s Theatre.  Susan is currently working on a novel.

LISA CIRINCIONE (Actor) a proud JWT Artist-in-Residence, is thrilled to be working with this incredible team.  Lisa produced and stars in the short film Porcupine, which made its World Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival and has now played on screens around the globe. Lisa recently shot an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! with NBA Legend, Mr. Ron Artest, and can be seen in the comedy web-series, Mrs. Gary, for which she won Best Supporting Actress at The Los Angeles Web Festival. She received LA WEEKLY and LA Drama Critic’s Circle nominations for playing the role of Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at Pacific Resident Theatre. Lisa is a member of The Road Theatre Company and Pacific Resident Theatre and received her BFA in acting from the University of Southern California. Much love to her vibrant Sicilian Jewish family.  More at LisaCirincione.com.

ANDREW FROMER (Actor), a Los Angeles native, holds a BFA in theater (acting) from UC Santa Barbara. Recent theater credits include: Pledge (Sherman u/s), Bad Jews (Jonah), and JWT’s Arise My Friend, My Beautiful One and Go Forth.  Recent film credits include 5:03 (dir. Vicki Schairer) AMP Creative’s Highway to Havasu (dir. Jeff Janke) and Mockingbird Pictures’ The Sweet Life (dir. Rob Spera). TV/Digital Credits include Solve (Snapchat Discover) and Anger Management (FX).  In addition to being JWT’s Digital Director and this year’s NEXT @ The Braid Fellowship Coordinator, Andrew also edits, directs, and hosts his own podcast on the entertainment industry, SideKickBack Radio, which can be found at www.sidekickback.com.

RABBI LAURA GELLER (Writer), Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in 1976. She transformed Jewish life by bringing women out of the private sphere and into the center of religious and communal life.  Twice named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America, Rabbi Geller’s spirituality is infused with a focus on social justice.  She is a leader on an array of social issues both locally (notably in the areas of violence against women, Muslim-Jewish dialogue, and gun violence) and internationally (Women of the Wall in Israel).  She is a co-founder of ChaiVillageLA, the first faith-based village of active older adults seeking to find meaning, insight, resources and support as they age in place, and she was named by NextAvenue.org  in 2017 “an influencer in aging.” Along with her late husband RIchard Siegel, she co-authored the award winning book, Getting Good at Getting Older.

SHELLY GOLDSTEIN (Writer/Actor) has written for every genre of TV, film and stage. Her one-woman shows have played to sell-out crowds throughout the US and UK. She co-starred with Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave in the British film, The Riddle and with Vinnie Jones in the Irish film, Assault of Darkness. She has written or punched-up sitcoms, dramas, films, lyrics, documentaries, animation, award shows, jokes and special material for such artists as Steve Martin, Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anne Hathaway, LL Cool J, Jane Fonda, Garry Marshall, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Yoko Ono. She wrote the book for the disco musical, Last Dance, which work-shopped on Broadway and she directed the critically-acclaimed hit comedy The Vic & Paul Show in L.A. and Chicago. She is currently writing the new musical, Somebody Feels the Water and is the L.A. correspondent for London’s Good Vibes radio. She recently won the New York Times Caption Contest.

AJ MEIJER (Actor) is an artist-in-residence with JWT. Film: Laundromat (upcoming, directed by Steven Soderbergh), All About Nina (with Common and Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Life Partners (with Adam Brody and Leighton Meester), Broken Horses (with Vincent D’Onfrio and Anton Yelchin). TV: NCIS:LA, Hannah Montana. He is a member of the original cast of the off-Broadway smash hit musical Heathers and is featured on the cast recordingHe 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. AJ is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television. He also co-hosts the weekly industry-focused podcast “Inside Acting.” Learn more at www.insideacting.net.

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.

BARBARA MUJICA (Writer), novelist, short story writer, and essayist is a professor emerita of Spanish literature at Georgetown University. Her novels include the international bestseller Frida, Sister Teresa, and I Am Venus. She is author of three short story collections, Sanchez across the Street, Far from My Mother’s Home, and Imagining Iraq, published earlier this year. Her edited collection of women’s war-writing, Collateral Damage: Women Write about War, was published in March. Her new bio-novel on Dolores del Río, Mexico’s first international movie star, is scheduled for publication next year by HarperCollins. Mujica has won several prizes for her short fiction and has written many scholarly studies. She is the mother of a Marine, and was a veterans’ advocate at Georgetown until her retirement. In 2015 she received a Presidential medal from the University for her work on behalf of veterans.

LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Dramaturge/Writer/Programming Director of The Braid) is the author of the novel A Day of Small Beginnings (Little, Brown & Co. 2006). When not engaged with All Things JWT she works on her new novel about the destruction of ancient Indian mounds at Cahokia, Illinois, the Blacklist, America’s interstate highways, and oh yes, love.  Lisa lives in Pacific Palisades with her husband, Walt Lipsman. They have two daughters, Ariana and Maya.

DAPHNA SHULL (Artistic Associate) is a two-time NEXT Arts Council Fellow, literary manager, and writer, born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She received her bachelor’s degree in media production from Florida State University. After graduating in 2014, she headed west to pursue a career in screenwriting and the arts. Today Daphna works as a museum educator for the Zimmer Children’s Museum and recently joined the JWT staff. 

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.

RENA STROBER (Actor), a native New Yorker, began her career on Broadway and moved to LA in 2011 to continue working as an actor and singer. Her favorite theater credits include Les Miserables (Bwy), Fiddler on the Roof (National Tour with Topol), Zhivago (La Jolla Playhouse), When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish (directed by Jason Alexander), and her one-woman Off-Broadway shows Spaghetti & Matzo Balls! and Rena’s BRA Mitzvah. Since moving to LA Rena has guest-starred on VEEP, Shameless, Liv & Maddie, and Big Bang Theory and voiced hundreds of characters for Disney animation, Mattel, Nintendo, Sony, and more. Rena has sung the national anthem for the NY Mets, NY Friar’s Club, and for NASA launches at Cape Canaveral and at JPL. When she’s not working as an actor, Rena finds pure joy teaching voice at a music school for blind children. www.renastrober.com.

CLIFF WEISSMAN (Actor) is proud to be an artist-in-residence at JWT, where he has appeared in several salon shows, most notably The Matzo Ball Diaries. A longtime member of Off-Broadway’s prestigious Circle Rep Lab, Cliff created roles in many original plays, among them the late Joe Pintauro’s Raft of the Medusa. Most recently Cliff was honored to be cast in the Circle X Theatre’s world premiere of Hole in the Sky by award-winning playwright Octavio Solis. Other recent credits include Moliere’s The Imposter with New Guard Theatre and Out to Breakfast, directed by Walter Koenig (Star Trek) at Theatre of Note. TV/Film credits include NCIS, Criminal MindsHouse of Lies, 24, The Shield, CSI:NY, Beverly Hills 90210, and Don Juan DeMarco with the legendary Marlon Brando. Cliff will soon be seen in the feature film Tug of War, Hulu’s new horror series Into the Dark, and a holiday commercial for Home Depot.

RON WOLFSON (Writer) is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, where he has been on the faculty for forty years and president of the Kripke Institute.  He is the author of fourteen books on Jewish life, including Shabbat, Passover, Hanukkah, God’s To-Do List, The Seven Questions You’re Asked in Heaven, Relational Judaism, and his memoir, The Best Boy in the United States of America. Each book features stories illustrating the power of Jewish living to strengthen Jewish family life, personal spiritual growth, and institutional vitality.  Ron grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and today lives in Encino with his wife, Susie, travels the world as a popular scholar-in-residence and speaker, and eats frozen yogurt just about every day.

SUSIE YURÉ (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 (Special Projects Manager/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

Check in for our 11th Anniversary Gala

Poet Brian Sonia-Wallace creates poems for party goers

Where are we coming from? Braid artist Marilee Tolwin documents hometowns of our guests.

Artistic Director Ronda Spinak

Co-chairs of the Gala, Lynne Himelstein and Gail Israel

Big turnout for Gala watches show.

Appreciative audience

The show’s closing song – “America the Beautiful”