The Matzo Ball Diaries

January 21 – February 26, 2017

This show reveals the secret stories of food and home. Laugh and cry and discover the power of food to nourish, heal or move us to action.




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

Challa — Adapted from Poems For My People (Euclid Press, 1986)
Written by Rose Taylor.  Performed by Kate Zentall.

Eat, Eat — Adapted from The Best Boy in the United States of America (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2015) Written by Ron Wolfson.  Performed by Cliff Weissman and Ensemble.

Iranian Tar-off
Written by Esther Amini.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson.

American Dream — Adapted from  Living the Gift of Time (2015)
Written by Albert Kallis.  Performed by Cliff Weissman, Kate Zentall and Emma Berdie Donson.

Written by Deirdre Hennings.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson and Kate Zentall.

The Tomato Omelet — Adapted from Cosmpolitian
Written by Barbara Bottner.  Performed by Kate Zentall and Cliff Weissman.

Food Glorious Food — A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Shelly Goldstein.

My Lekker Figure — Adapted from her novel in progress, The Tokoloshe
Written by Robyn Travis.  Adapted to the stage by Lisa Rosenbaum.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson.

Tasty Morsels — A compilation of short pieces, adapted by Ronda Spinak
Written by:  Sherry Mendelson, Steve Bluestein, Lynne Himelstein, Monique Barry, Arlene Schindler,
Allyson Himelstein, Liz Altman, Wendy Hammers.  Performed by the Ensemble.

It Was Mommie Lila’s Food That Kept Us Together
Written by Amy Flanzbaum.  Performed by Cliff Weissman.

Feathers and Hair — Adapted from The Flying Camel, Edited by Loolwa Khazzom (Seal Press, 2003) Written by Farideh Goldin.  Performed by Kate Zentall.

The Secret to Brisket
Written by Rene Moilanen. Performed by Shelly Goldstein, Emma Berdie Donson and Kate Zentall.

A Jewish American Love Poem — Adapted from Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for
Every Woman of the Tribe (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012)
Written by Lisa Alcalay Klug.  Performed by the Ensemble.


LIZ ALTMAN (Writer) 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; 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.

MICHELLE ALTMAN (Assistant Director/Tech Director/Stage Manager) graduated from Drake University with a BFA in Theatre/Acting in 2012. Since then she has been performing, writing, and directing in Chicago. Performance credits include Silent Night of the Living Dead, The Cherry Orchard (Charlotta) and Beast Women (Standup/performance art). Directing credits include The Chocolate Affair, Sure Thing, A Smell of Burnt Feathers, Immature (co-writer), When Angels Wept, Everybody Needs a Good Night Out, and The Titus Andronicus Project (co-writer). Thank you to all who support the arts community!

ESTHER AMINI (Writer) is an author and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her writings have appeared in Elle Magazine, Tablet, The Jewish Week, Barnard Magazine, Inscape Literary Magazine, and Lilith. Five of her stories have been performed in Los Angeles by Jewish Women’s Theatre. Two were staged at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in a show entitled Saffron and Rosewater.  She was recently awarded the Aspen Words – 2016 Emerging Writer Fellowship.  Ms. Amini lives in Manhattan and is on the faculty of the New York School for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.  She is currently writing a memoir about growing up first-generation American in an Iranian/Jewish home in Queens.  To stay updated, follow Esther Amini on Facebook.

MONIQUE BARRY (Writer) is a Chinese Jew who has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA. She was a recipient of the Barbara Streisand Fellowship for Comedy Writing.  Monique has blogged for The Huffington Post and written for O Magazine. She spends her time caring for her two young daughters, writing, and obsessing about trivial things like whether the salmon she bought at the market is really wild.

STEVE BLUESTEIN (Writer) Doing standup comedy for more than 30 years, Steve Bluestein has finally come into his own as a playwright, with several plays under his belt. He is a contributing writer to The Huffington Post,  the nationally syndicated comic strip Shoe, and a founding member of the Groundlings. He’s also penned two books, It’s So Hard to Type with a Gun in my Mouth, and 49-1/2 Shades of Blue…stein. 

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 and 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. Her newest book for children, Priscilla Gorilla, will be out in March 2017, and four more coming soon. Her forthcoming YA novel is From The Awful Girl, With Love. 2018.

EMMA BERDIE DONSON (Actor) grew up in Ossining, NY, and graduated with a BFA in acting (high honors) from the University of Michigan. Favorite roles include 9-year-old Edward and his mother Betty in Cloud Nine, Anna/Cecil in And Baby Makes Seven, and Amanda in For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, which she had the great pleasure to perform for Mr. Durang. Upcoming roles: Marley in The Last Room, of which she is also an executive producer, and a new adventure as a casting assistant. She has had the good fortune to work with Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope), Mark Cendrowski (Big Bang Theory), Gregory Doran (RSC), Charles Haid (Hill Street Blues, Breaking Bad), and Yuri Sardarov (Chicago Fire, Ides of March). She loves spending sunny days outside with her 4.5-year-old fox terrier rescue, Winnie. Thank you to the JWT for such a warm welcome!

AMY FLANZBAUM (Writer) Encouraged to start writing after hearing Libby Schwartz’s moving message (for us all to tell our “ordinary extraordinary” stories), she was further inspired to write by her life with her mother. Amy has enjoyed working in the healing arts for more than 20 years.

FARIDEH GOLDIN (Writer) Born in Shiraz, Iran, Farideh Goldin immigrated to the United Sates in 1975 in search of her imagined America. While she settled uneasily into American life, the political unrest in Iran intensified and in February of 1979, Farideh’s family was forced to flee Iran on the last El-Al flight to Tel Aviv. They arrived in Israel as refugees, having left everything behind.  Farideh’s memoir, Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile (January 2016), knits together her father’s story of dislocation and loss with her own experience as an Iranian Jew in a newly adopted home. The book is an intimate portrait of displacement and construction of identity, a story of family loyalty and cultural memory.  Farideh’s first memoir, Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman (2003) is based on Farideh’s struggle in balancing her opposing worlds in Iran: loyalty to her family, who obeyed strict social, cultural, and religious mores, and her western education that promoted individualism and self-reliance.  In her essays