Mapping of the Mind

Mental illness is no laughing matter, but these stories and poems just might surprise you with their humor, heart, courage and hope.
January 18 – 30, 2020

PRESS

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THE PROGRAM

Material Adapted, Curated, & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Co-Produced by Laura Ornest
Dramaturg Lisa Rosenbaum
Literary Manager Suzanna Kaplan
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
San Francisco Bay Area Producer Carol Kirsh
Assistant Director Aysha Wax
Assistant Artistic Director Andrew Fromer
Associate Producers Rose Ziff, Susie Yuré
Artistic Associate Daphna Shull
Stage Manager Amanda Horowitz

MO’s Journal #1*
Written by Maury Ornest. Adapted by Ronda Spinak from Ornest’s journals. Performed by Josh T. Ryan. *Musical introduction, “Maury’s Theme” by Mike Himelstein & Michael Turner.

Mental Health: A Subject Taken Seriously
Written by Rory A. Cohen. Performed by Nicole Lipp and Kate Zentall.

The Queen of MORE
Written by Julie Chafets Grass [adapted from The Queen of MORE, Poems by her Sidekick, ©2018 Julie Chafets Grass. All rights reserved.] Performed by Nadège August.

Let My Son Be Free
Written by Marc Littman. Performed by Josh T. Ryan and Ensemble.

Sharon: A Love Story
Written By Robyn Goodman Mandelberg. Performed by Nicole Lipp.

Post-Partum Blues – A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre Written by Annie Korzen.
Performed by Kate Zentall.

Three Years of Atonement
Written by Emily Jaffe. Performed by Nadège August.

MO’s Journal #2*
Written by Maury Ornest. Adapted by Ronda Spinak from Ornest’s journals. Performed by Josh T. Ryan

Go Away
Lyrics by Leeav Sofer. Music adapted from Kandel’s Hora by Leeav Sofer, of the Mostly Kosher Band. Used by permission. Performed by Nicole Lipp.

Who Are We Really?
Written by Arva Rose. Performed by Nadège August and Josh T. Ryan.

A Beautiful Soul
Written by Ronda Spinak. Performed by Kate Zentall.

When Mom Tried to Stab Magnolia
Written by Rossi. Performed by Nicole Lipp and Ensemble.

MO’s Journal #3*
Written by Maury Ornest. Adapted by Ronda Spinak from Ornest’s journals. Performed by Josh T. Ryan.

Successful and Schizophrenic – The New York Times Sunday Opinion Section Written by Elyn Saks.
Performed by Kate Zentall and Ensemble.

MO’s Journal #4*
Written by Maury Ornest. Adapted by Ronda Spinak from Ornest’s journals. Performed by Josh T. Ryan.

LIZ ALTMAN (South Bay Producer) wrote “Almost a Sacrifice,” previously performed at the JWT salon Unknown Stories of Biblical Proportions. Other credits include song lyrics for activities at the University of Michigan and the Dallas Bar Follies; and co-directing, co-writing, and performing in the annual SMU law school follies. JWT: Advisory board member and South Bay producer. Professional: vice president of a real estate company. Hobbies: tennis, art, and travel. Special love to her muse, Louis.

NADÈGE AUGUST (Actor)

is proud to be an Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence of Jewish Women’s Theatre. An award-winning actress, she is the creator, writer, and lead of Bougie Dilemma, on Amazon, and hosts the “What the Fockery?” podcast, available on all major platforms. Stage (partial list): CVRep: Good People (Kate) Outstanding Supporting Actress from Desert Theatre League. Antaeus Theatre: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Emilie); Odyssey Theatre: Sunset Baby (Nina) NAACP Best Lead Actress nomination; Antaeus Theatre: Wedding Band (Mattie); Odyssey Theatre: Desire Under The Elms (Abbie Putnam) NAACP Best Supporting Female nomination; Lower Depth Theatre: Three Sisters After Chekhov (Jean). Television: Recurred on Alex, Inc (ABC). Guest Star: Key & Peele, Castle, Criminal Minds, Dexter, 1600 Penn, Happy Endings, Mr. Sunshine, The Mentalist, Make It or Break It, The Unit. Series Regular: SilverLake (Lead, pilot). Films & MOW include: Out of Time, Undercover Bridesmaid, Raven’s Touch, The Last Letter, The Brothers, Runt. An MFA graduate, Nadège is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and a member of the Television Academy. For more details, go to imdb.com/nadegeaugust. Follow her on social media @NadegeAugust for more exciting news.

RORY A. COHEN (Writer), a junior in high school, excels in academics and is involved in the theater program at her school as an actress and costume director. At the age of seven she was diagnosed with ADHD, which continues to be a lifelong struggle. In eighth grade, having always suffered from anxiety, she was officially diagnosed with both social anxiety disorder and situational depression as a result of rather unfortunate social circumstances. Rory’s aspiration is to become a psychologist, as she has a passion for helping others.

ANDREW FROMER (JWT Assistant Artistic Director), a Los Angeles native, grew up as an active member in the Jewish community through Stephen Wise Temple. He attended Windward School in Mar Vista, where his career as an actor began in the school plays and musicals. After completing his BFA in theater at UC Santa Barbara and an exciting year of living in Israel, Andrew returned to LA for acting and producing. His TV credits include Never Have I Ever (Netflix) and Anger Management (FX); feature film credits include Highway to Havasu (Billy/Producer) and The Sweet Life (Mike/Assistant to Production). Andrew also edits and directs and is excited to be coordinating this year’s iteration of NEXT @ The Braid, JWT’s Emerging Artists Fellowship. Find out more info at www.jewishwomenstheatre.org/next. Andrew also serves as Teen Engagement Coordinator and Communications Manager for congregation Or Ami in Calabasas.

JULIE CHAFETS GRASS (Writer) is an expressive artist and poet whose creative curiosity takes her on colorful adventures. She has six brightly painted mannequin feet walking across her kitchen ceiling and a gorilla suit hanging in her front closet. She keeps M&Ms and Tootsie Rolls in her nightstand but eats them only in the dark. Julie’s book of published poems and original art, The Queen of MORE: Poems by Her Sidekick, takes an intimate look at the magic and challenges of being the daughter of a loving, bipolar mother. She has also published poems in literary journals that include Northwest Review, PoemMemoirStory, 88, Hawaii’s Review, Eureka Literary Magazine, Plainsongs, and Fiftiness. She reads her poetry at salons, bookstores, and other venues throughout Los Angeles.

MIKE HIMELSTEIN (Composer) has had more than 500 songs recorded by artists ranging from the Temptations, Al Jarreau, Stray Cats, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Johnny Winter, and Joe Bonamassa to Julie Andrews, Mandy Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Martin Short, and William Shatner, among others. His songs have been featured in TV, films, and onstage in productions including Shrek (the Academy Award-winning movie and Broadway musical), Blades of Glory, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, The Sopranos, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Special Agent Oso, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, Jim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, and Splash & Bubbles. He has written several television theme songs and many songs for Disneyland Parks around the world. Mike is a three-time Emmy nominee, an Annie nominee, and the two-time winner of the Cynopsis Imagination Awards. He was a 2007 recipient of the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for his hit song God’s Gift to the World.

AMANDA HOROWITZ (Stage Manager) is a young adult who wants to spend her life organizing and creating new theater. She recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees in theater and math from The University of Alabama, where she stage managed and assistant stage managed eight shows in the theater department. She most recently directed a thirty-minute play as part of a new-works play festival in North Hollywood. She hopes someday to be able to run her own theater company dedicated to producing emerging theater and providing other young adults with their first paid opportunities in the arts. She is thankful to Jewish Women’s Theatre for providing her first step toward her professional career.

EMILY JAFFE (Writer) attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in religious studies. After graduation, she followed her childhood best friend, now husband, to Los Angeles. Over the past 20 years she has held a myriad of jobs— interior design assistant, public relations executive, cosmetics television spokesperson, television producer, writer, and graduate student in clinical psychology. But Emily’s most important job has been as a full-time mother to three children. She lives with her husband and kids in Sherman Oaks, belongs to both the IKAR and VBS communities, practices mindfulness meditation, and is currently writing her first novel.

CAROL KIRSH (SF Bay Producer) has worked, volunteered, and served on boards for a range of social services agencies since receiving her BA and MSW from the University of Michigan. She also spent eight years in Hong Kong working as an executive search consultant for Russell Reynolds and Norman Broadbent, two leading international search firms. Carol produces Jewish Women’s Theater in the Bay Area, where she hosted its first “at home” salon in San Francisco in 2012. A native Floridian with family roots in Alabama, Carol has continued the Diaspora, living much of her adult life outside of the continental United States, including Bali, Guam, and Hawaii.

ANNIE KORZEN (Writer) has performed her solo show, ANNIE KORZEN FAMOUS ACTRESS, at JWT’s The Braid in Santa Monica for five months. She is proud to be a Moth Mainstage storyteller and will soon start touring the country with a new Moth story. Annie was the recurring Doris Klompus on Seinfeld, and she has written humorous essays for NPR’s Morning Edition, The New York Times, LA Times, and many more. The author of Bargain Junkie, Living the Good Life on the Cheap, she offers private coaching in storytelling. For additional info and videos, go to Anniekorzen.com.

NICOLE LIPP (Actor) is an actor/director/photographer born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her BFA in acting from UC Santa Barbara, where she acted in and directed several theatrical productions. Notable credits include Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and Charlotte in These Shining Lives. Since returning to LA, Nicole switched from theater to on-camera work, acting in and directing several film and television projects, but she is thrilled to return to the stage with JWT. Off-camera, Nicole runs a social media marketing agency, AYF Media, where she creates Instagram content for brands. In all facets of her life, if she is creating, she is happy. Follow Nicole on Instagram @flowerhitstheBIGtime or visit her website www.theNicoleLipp.com to see more of her work. (

MARC LITTMAN (Writer) is a Los Angeles­–based writer and the father of William, who has autism. William inspired Marc to write the novel Eddie and Me on the Scrap Heap and recently a stage play based on that book. It’s about a heroic young boy with autism who positively transforms the lives of some very unusual and dysfunctional characters—family and friends—who are trying to fix Eddie because they think he’s broken. The story takes place in a special junkyard, a metaphor for Eddie’s life, but Eddie, like so many others with special needs, has great strength and talents to overcome his challenges. Marc’s son is just as resilient as Eddie. He volunteers to do speeches at local schools to promote acceptance of people with special needs and thwart bullying

ROBYN GOODMAN MANDELBERG (Writer) earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Alliant International University and has practiced psychotherapy with both children and parents. She is on the executive board of the Friends of the Semel Institute, a nonprofit organization to fund research in psychiatry at UCLA and to reduce the stigma of mental illness. She has been married for 16 years and has a 13-year-old-daughter. They live in Westwood with their beagle-mix, Calloway.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (JWT 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, as well as Annie Korzen: Famous Actress, at JWT’s performance and art space, The Braid.

LAURA ORNEST (Co-Producer) is an award-winning television and radio reporter and producer whose family’s experience with mental illness inspired her to join the board of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services some 20 years ago. She is a mental health advocate whose goal is to fight stigma and shine light and compassion on mental illnesses. A UCLA graduate, Laura launched her broadcasting career in Vancouver, Canada, moving on to host CBC Television’s 11pm nightly news sportscast in 1983, making her the first female TV sportscaster in Western Canada. Laura then produced shows for E! Television, CNN, and CBS in Los Angeles before returning to her first love, radio. As a local news reporter for KFWB and KNX1070, she earned several Golden Mikes and Associated Press awards. She subsequently became a correspondent for KUSC Classical Radio 91.5. Laura is married to architect Rick Leslie. They have a son, Harrison, and currently one dog.

MAURY ORNEST (Writer)’s many talents took him from the baseball diamond to the artist’s easel. Born in Vancouver, Canada, he was the youngest of four children of Harry and Ruth Ornest. Fun-loving, creative, and bright, Maury became a star player who attended college and played minor league baseball until injuries ended his career. When Maury was 23, he began working in the business office for his father, who had recently bought the St. Louis Blues hockey team and arena. Over the next few years, Maury began to experience paranoia and delusions and suffered a psychotic break that changed his life almost overnight. While searching desperately for effective treatment, he began to paint. Despite the isolation he experienced, he was an eternal optimist, which is evident in the joyous nature, wit, and vibrant colors of his paintings. Upon his death from heart disease, his family discovered some 1,400 paintings and journals in his Beverly Hills home studio and storage units.

ARVA ROSE (Writer) has been a member of Jewish Women’s Theater since its inception and believes deeply in JWT’s mission. In her previous life as Arva Holt, she performed at the American Stage Festival (Miracle Worker: Annie Sullivan, Streetcar: Stella, The Apple Tree: Passionaella, Front Page:  Molly Malloy); the Theater Company of Boston (Night Dispatcher:  Pamela); American Jewish Theater (Awake and Sing: Bessie Berger); the Hartman Theater (Streetcar: Eunice); Hudson Guild Theater (House of Blue Leaves: Bunny); Geva Theatre (Front Page: Molly Malloy); the Barrow Theater (Detective Story: Shoplifter). TV: Cheers, LA Law, Hill Street Blues, Nightcourt, Scarecrow and Mrs. KingHelltown, Inmates: A Love Stor, As the World Turns.  Locally, The Electric Lodge (Crossing Delancey: Bubbie) and the Edgemar Theater (Surviving Mama: Mama). 

LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Dramaturg) is the author of the novel A Day of Small Beginnings (Little, Brown & Co. 2006) and has just completed a new novel, Sacrificial Man, an intimate story of betrayal and archaeology from the fear-filled days of the 1950s blacklist. Lisa lives in Pacific Palisades with her husband, Walt Lipsman. They have two daughters.

ROSSI (AKA CHEF ROSSI) (Writer) has written for The Daily News, The New York Post, Time Out New York, and Mcsweeney’s. She writes the “Eat Me” column for Bust magazine, hosts a hit radio show on WOMR in Cape Cod called “Bite This,” has been featured on the Food Network and NPR, and is a popular blogger for The Huffington Post.  She is the owner and executive chef of The Raging Skillet, a cutting-edge catering company known for breaking all the rules. Rossi’s first memoir, The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi, was published in 2015 to rave reviews, then adapted for the stage in 2017, and has been touring the country ever since. Rossi recently completed her second memoir, Queen of the Jews. She has written two full-length plays, a bounty of short plays, and just completed her one-woman stage adaptation of Queen of the Jews.

JOSH T. RYAN (Actor), an associate artistic director at Raze The Space: International Theatre Collective, Josh is currently co-creating and acting in a Shakespearean trilogy slated to premiere in summer 2020. A thirty-year critically acclaimed theatre actor, director, and executive producer and the recipient of numerous awards, Josh is known for his unorthodox approach, unique mashup adaptations, and Showtimes’s Lock N Load and SpikeTV’s The Sales King. Some notable roles: Biff, Death of a Salesman; Alceste, Moliere’s The Misanthrope; Lear, King Lear. His direction has been praised in HuffPost, LA Times, and BroadwayWorld, to name a few. His second calling is protecting Jewish families from making critical financial decisions during vulnerable times as an advance property specialist for Mount Sinai Memorial Parks, Hollywood Hills, & Simi Valley. Josh is grateful for this first-time opportunity to support these wonderful Jewish artists and organization. (www.joshtryan.com)

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.

LEEAV SOFER (Songwriter) is recognized as one of Jewish Journal’s “30 under 30” most accomplished professionals in the LA’s Jewish diaspora, performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the Staples Center with the Rolling Stones. As Mostly Kosher bandleader, he has met critical acclaim at Disney parks and on national tours. Sofer is founder of The Urban Voices Project, a music outreach program for the homeless featured in the LA Times and on NPR, the Atlantic, and TED. Sofer is on the faculty and a keynote presenter for the Colburn School and LA County of Education social and emotional learning and community initiative programs. mostlykosher.com       urbanvoicesproject.org

RONDA SPINAK (Producer/JWT Artistic Director) created and produces JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series, now in its 10th 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, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, and ran Off-Broadway for more than 200 performances!  Spinak co-wrote Stories from the Fringe, putting the stories of women rabbis on stage for the first time.

Since then, 150 national and international women rabbis have been interviewed, and in partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive have made many of the interviews available online at www.jwa.org. Spinak wrote for Rugrats, and her plays include Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival. Spinak 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 inspiring women who give so generously to Jewish Women’s Theatre. www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.

AYSHA WAX (Assistant Director) a writer, director, and comedian, is fun, witty, and unintentionally the loudest person in the room. She loves creating stories that are festive and feminist. Her web series Wannabees, co-created by Marian Bruno, was sold to Fox Digital in 2014.  Aysha has also had her sketches featured on Buzzfeed, Funnyordie, Wifey TV, and WhoHaHa and has performed improv and sketch around Los Angeles at iO West, the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Westside Comedy Theater, the Pach Theater, and The Groundlings. Aysha also spent eight years teaching Hebrew school around Los Angeles, which inspired her one-woman show, Hebrew School Horror, which she toured around LA and NYC. She just completed her first short film, Grief Vigilantes, which she wrote and directed. When not creating things, Aysha moonlights as a dating consultant with her partner, Rebecca Leib. Their dating classes are known as “Feeling It” dating.  Aysha can help you level up dating wise while enjoying the process and maybe finding a partner. She’s here to make your life a little better and more fun!

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.

KATE ZENTALL (Actor) is proud to be an Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence at JWT, where she has appeared in something like 14 different shows. She has performed in many NYC venues, including the Public Theater, Guggenheim Museum, and Carnegie Hall. In LA, there’s been lots of Shakespeare, Irish plays, English comedies, and modern dramas, at the Taper and other companies around town, as well as movies and commercials plus a good deal of network TV, from series regular on Studio 5B to a recurring role on Hunter to guest spots on Cheers, Lou Grant, It’s a Living, Becker, LA Law, and many more. In recent years she has been a writer, communications manager, and editor—for magazines, books, blogs, websites, and JWT. As a new grandmother to baby Gracie, she reflects that all of the above take their place behind this awesome, blessed event.

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, visiting Providence St. Johns Health Center with her therapy dog, and hosting a monthly book club.

GALLERY

Art Talk before show

Kate Zentall looms as Mom, in “When Mom Tried to Stab Magnolia,” written by Rossi

Nicole Lipp

Nadège August delights Nicole Lipp

Nicole Lipp sings “Go Away,”  lyrics by Leeav Sofer

A daughter and her dad consider “Who Are We Really?” by Arva Rose

Josh T. Ryan as artist Maury Ornest in “MO Journal #4”

Nadège August deals with her demons in “Three Years of Atonement,” written by Emily Jaffe