The Blessing of a Broken Heart

February 11 – March 20, 2016

This one-woman show follows Sherri Mandell, a young American mother, who moves her family from Maryland to the wilderness of Israel in search of meaning and adventure. When a shocking tragedy hits her family, she embarks on a profound journey of discovery and spiritual transcendence.


Starring Lisa Robins
Director Todd Salovey
Assistant Director Ali Viterbi
Producer Ronda Spinak, JWT Artistic Director

Set Designer Giulio Perrone
Lighting Designer Kristin Swift Hayes
Costume Designer Mary Larsen
Sound and Projections Supervisor Tom Jones
Original Projection Design Mitch Perlitch

Associate producer/stage manager: Barbara Koletsky
Associate producers: Susie Yuré, Rose Ziff, Patrick Conde

Developed and originally produced by San Diego Repertory Theatre,
January 2008, Sam Woodhouse, Artistic Director;
Larry Alldredge, Managing Director


LISA ROBINS (Sherri) has been honored to have played the role of Sherri in The Blessing of a Broken Heart from its first public readings and subsequent run at the San Diego Rep, to libraries, schools, JCCs and theatres across the U.S. & Canada. After growing up “Jew-ish,” with no ritual whatsoever, yet always curious about what it meant, the “Jewish phase” of Lisa’s career began with Hairpieces (produced by the predecessor of JWT) in 2000, soon after her daughter, Renata, was born. Upon her return from a stint in NYC where she performed in 2 original plays back to back, Lisa won the lead in Cornerstone’s Center of the Star, written by Yehuda Hyman (who eventually recommended her for Blessing). She has since enjoyed a plethora of Jewish roles, leading her to joke about being typecast as the “New Jew.” Lisa was an atheist Jew in Center of the Star at the Greenway. In Cornerstone’s Long Bridge, directed by Bill Rausch at the Ford, she was a lesbian Jew. Michael Elias’ Catskill Sonata, directed by the late, great, Paul Mazursky at the Hudson and Matrix allowed her to be a socialist/bohemian Jew. Lisa’s been a proud member of the JWT community since the first Salon show held in Ronda Spinak’s living room, creating an abundance of wonderful characters all written by Jewish women. Other LA theatre includes Nora & Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore (d. Jenny Sullivan), at the Geffen, Tom Baum’s Shock Therapy (d.Jenny O’Hara), Hal Ackerman’s Testosterone (d.Michael Arabian), and most recently Gena Acosta’s Good in Bed (d.Asaad Kelada) at the Actors Studio where she is a lifetime member. Film & TV include The Rum Diary opposite Johnny Depp, Mildred Dean in James Dean, (d.Mark Rydell), Henry Jaglom’s Ovation, & many other films, guest stars, & commercials. She is currently performing the poems of Ricardo Quinones at various venues around LA.

Special thanks to Todd Salovey who allowed Lisa to help hone the script while giving her a Jewish education to enrich her character (and her life), Ronda Spinak for giving Blessing an LA home, all the previous kids and families involved with Blessing, and Rabbi Naomi Levy, who so generously gave Renata her education and bat mitzvah. Robbie, who taught her how to survive deep grief, Kitty, Rick & family for being here, and to Lisa’s most stellar work of art, Renata, who has taught her the deep riches of what it means to be a mother.

TODD SALOVEY (Director and Adapter) is currently in his 26th season as associate artistic director of San Diego Repertory Theatre. He has won an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award for The Blessing of a Broken Heart and has directed it at San Diego REP, Arizona Jewish Theatre, and two East Coast tours. Other favorite Jewish work at SD REP includes The Dybbuk, with original music by Yale Strom, and Yehuda Hymen’s mystical comedy with ecstatic dance, The Mad Dancers. His one-man adaptation The Dybbuk for Sam and Hannah’s Wedding, will premiere at SD REP this fall, starring Ron Campbell. He is a frequent collaborator with Culture Clash’s Herbert Siguenza, and their production of A Weekend with Pablo Picasso as been seen at the Alley Theatre, Denver Center, Arizona Theatre Co., LATC, SD REP, and Center Arts REP. Other SD REP productions include Outside Mullingar (currently at SD REP), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (also at LA’s Blank Theatre), Uncle Vanya, King Lear, Death of a Salesman, The Illusion, and Hamlet, which starred Jefferson Mays. He also adapted and directed A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing, based on the life and work of Pete Seeger. He is on the acting faculty of the University of California, San Diego. Salovey is also the founding artistic director of the Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, which commissions new work exploring Jewish traditions in contemporary forms. He is married to Diane Boomer and is the proud dad of Leah and Aryeh.
SHERRI MANDELL (Author of the Book) won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004 for her spiritual memoir, The Blessing of a Broken Heart (Toby Press, 2003). Translated into three languages, the book was adapted into a stage play, which opened at the San Diego Repertory Theater. Her latest book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press, 2016), details the spiritual stages of resilience. She and her husband, Seth, direct the Koby Mandell Foundation, founded in honor of her son who was murdered by terrorists in 2001 when he was 13 years old. The foundation runs Camp Koby and other programs in Israel for bereaved children and families. She has been profiled in The New York Times, and the work of the foundation has been reported on NBC, ABC, and CNN and in major newspapers. A certified pastoral counselor, she lectures about resilience and grief around the world. She is also the author of Writers of the 

Holocaust (Facts on File, 1999) and has written for numerous magazines and journals. She currently blogs at The Times of Israel. She received Moment Magazine’s prize for best short fiction in 2009 and a Simon Rockower prize for the personal essay in 2011. She and her husband are also the recipient of the ADL Partners in Peace Award, and she was one of Jewish Women International’s Women to Watch. She and her family live in Israel. Facebook: Sherri Mandell mandellsherri@twitter

RONDA SPINAK (Producer, JWT Artistic Director) 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. Her 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 (Harper Collins, publisher). She is on the board of the Association for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She graduated from Stanford University, and holds degrees from UCLA (MBA) and USC (Masters in professional writing). She feels blessed to be working with the many talented and inspiring women who give so generously to Jewish Women’s Theatre. She also wishes to thank ADR for his support.
GIULIO CESARE PERRONE (Set Designer) is also a playwright and stage director. Giulio co-founded the Inferno Theatre, of which he is the producing artistic director. Giulio began his career in his native Italy, where he directed and designed mainly for the theatre, then moved to the United States in 1995 and now has more than 200 theater and opera productions to his credit. Giulio received a 2000 Pew National Artists Residency grant for his adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost and received a 2002 Pew Theatre Communications Group grant for his adaptation of The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova. Giulio has worked for theaters and opera companies that include the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Festival Opera, Dell’Arte, Opera San Jose, California Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Works, Traveling Jewish Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, and the Alley.
KRISTIN SWIFT (Lighting Designer). Theatrical design credits include In the Time of the Butterflies, A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing (SD Rep), Platonov (La Jolla Playhouse), Cuatro Corridos (Touring Chamber Opera), Titus Andronicus, The Fantasy Project, The Dybbuk (UCSD), Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl (Fiddlehead Theatre), Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet (Shakespeare Now!). Kristin has also designed concerts for the San Diego Dance Theatre, Joanne Langione Dance Center, and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. She is currently a lighting designer for Thinkwell Group, where her recent projects include Stage 48: Script to Screen on the Warner Bros Studio Tour and the WB Fun Zone in Macau. BFA Theatre Design/Technology: Emerson College. MFA Theatre Design: University of California, San Diego.
MARY LARSEN (Costume Designer) holds an MFA in theater from the University of California, San Diego. Credits: for the San Diego Repertory Theatre: Zoot Suit, Hairspray. For New Village Arts: Stage Kiss, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Trip to Bountiful, Death of a Salesman, Summer and Smoke, Golden Boy. For the Old Globe: Hold Please: Lobby Hero. For the LaJolla Playhouse: A Feast of Fools. For the North Coast Repertory Theatre: Little Women. For Ion Theatre: The Lieutenant of Inishmore. For Intrepid Theatre: The Quality of Life. With Todd Salovey: The Blessing of a Broken Heart, A Hammer, a Bell and a Song to Sing, The Road to Mecca, The Dybbuk, and Krapp’s Last Tape. Mary is looking forward to Golda’s Balcony with Todd at New Village Arts in June 2016.

ALI VITERBI (Associate Director) is honored to work on this very special and important play. A recent graduate of Yale, Ali now lives in New York City and divides her time between her two greatest passions: acting and playwriting. Ali assistant-directed the Old Globe’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, dir. Mark Lamos, as well as the San Diego Rep’s The Who’s Tommy, dir. Sam Woodhouse. Her plays have had productions and workshops across the country, from New York to California, Georgia, Connecticut, and even Alaska. Ali has also been fortunate to play some of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines in New York City, including Desdemona and Cleopatra. Eight years ago, Ali played Sherri’s daughter in The Blessing of a Broken Heart at the San Diego Rep, and she is excited to once again work with Todd, Lisa, and the team in a different capacity.

TOM JONES (Sound and Projections Supervisor) is currently the audio/video supervisor for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. He was previously the sound supervisor and resident sound designer for the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Previous designs include those for the Wallis’s Inaugural Gala, Love Noel, Baseball Swing, and Trumpet of the Swan (the Wallis), as well as The Who’s Tommy, In the Heights, The Three Penny Opera, Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts festivals, The Road to Mecca, The Blessing of a Broken Heart workshop, and A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing (SD Rep).
BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer/Stage Manager) 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.
ZEMMER LENOIR (Lighting & Sound) graduated from Cal State Northridge in the fall of 2015 with a degree in liberal studies and a minor in humanities. His proficiency in dramaturgy garnered accolades and led him to his work with JWT and The Braid. He just finished a run on Not That Jewish, calling the show and working in technical support.
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.

The Blessing of a Broken Heart

June 6 – 8, 2011


Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed and Adapted by Todd Salovey
Material based on the book by Sherri Mandell
Co-Produced by Andrea Wagner
Associate Producer Susie Yuré

Welcome ~ Ronda Spinak, Producing Artistic Director JWT

Blessing ~ Rabbi Lynne A. Kern

The Blessing of a Broken Heart, starring Lisa Robins

Q & A Post Show


RABBI LYNNE A. KERN (Blessing) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, poet and writer whose work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies worldwide. She teaches classes for women in synagogues and is currently working on a Jewish Memoir. As a pulpit rabbi, she created innovative women’s programming focused on excavating the women’s voice in Torah, and the creation of ritual and spiritual writing. She is currently producing a documentary film about LA women rabbis and co-wrote the play, Stories From The Fringe: Women Rabbis, Revealed! She is also a Founding Board Member of the Jewish Women’s Theatre.
BRIAN LA ROSA (Stage Manager) has been working as a professional Actor, Director, Writer, Stage Manager and Production Coordinator in film, television and theatre since 1987. Brian was trained in classical and musical theatre at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He continued his theatrical education at The Second City and Upfront Comedy in Santa Monica, CA. His real expertise is as a Movement Artist, creating and choreographing unique creature performances for film and television, applying his skills in such films as Congo, The Country Bears and Where the Wild Things Are. Brian also has experience in all facets of production, including Casting, Art Department, Beauty & SFX Make-up, Choreography, Lighting and Sound Design. In 2001, he was the Executive Producer and Writer for the critically acclaimed Independent Short Film, Cross Breeding. In 2010 Brian won the Grand Prize in the Slamdance Film Festival, Horror Screenwriting Competition for his original feature, A Guilty Moon.
SHERRI MANDELL (Author) ‘s book of spiritual healing, The Blessing of a Broken Heart won a National Jewish book award in 2004. The book, which has been translated into 3 languages, has been adapted into a play which premiered at the San Diego Repertory Theater. Mandell also received a Woman to Watch Award from Jewish Women International in 2004 and was honored with the Washington chapter’s ADL Partners in Peace Award in 2005. She won Moment Magazine’s Karma prize for best short fiction in 2010 and received a Rockower award for journalism in 2011. She is co-president of The Koby Mandell Foundation, named after her son Koby who was murdered at the age of 13 by terrorists in Israel. The foundation creates, initiates and funds programs that promote healing for victims of terrorism and tragedy. The key program is Camp Koby, a healing camp for 400 bereaved Israeli children. She has spoken around the world on grief and bereavement and healing. She lives with her husband and children in Israel where she also teaches writing and works as a pastoral counselor.
CINDY PALEY (Singer) brings the joys of Jewish music to teachers, students and families through her many performances and recordings as well as her work as Music Educator at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino where she has served for thirty years. Cindy is also the cantorial soloist and musical soul for Lev Eisha and the VBS N’Shama Minyan which are both very joyous and spiritual women’s services.
LISA ROBINS (Actor, Blessings of a Broken Heart) understudied in the fall at the Geffen Playhouse in Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore, directed by Jenny Sullivan. She recently starred in the role of “Sherri Mandell” in The Blessing of a Broken Heart, based on Sherri’s acclaimed book, at the San Diego Rep and on tour. Robins was directed by Paul Mazursky, originating the role of Annie Rosen in The Catskill Sonata, written by Michael Elias. Other recent theatre outings include Tom Baum’s Shock Therapy directed by Jenny O’Hara, and Hal Ackerman’s wife, daughter, mother, girlfriend, and nurse in Hal’s play, Testosterone, directed by Michael Arabian. Lisa also starred in Fallujah at Theatre East, which garnered the an Ovation nomination for “best new play.” Robins’ work with the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles includes Long Bridge Over Deep Waters, at the Ford Amphitheatre, and Center of the Star by Yehuda Hyman at the Greenway. As member of the Actors’ Studio, she was directed by John Rubinstein in George Furth’s Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex & Sex. Robins will be seen opposite Johnny Depp in the upcoming film The Rum Diary and starred as Mildred Dean in the film James Dean directed by Mark Rydell. Thanks to Robins’ finest work of art, her 11-year-old daughter, Renata.
TODD SALOVEY (Writer) – is the director and playwright/adapter of The Blessing of a Broken Heart. Mr. Salovey in his 20th season as the San Diego REP’s Associate Artistic Director, and has directed many acclaimed REP shows including The Blessing of a Broken Heart, Brooklyn Boy, the world premiere of Yehuda Hyman’s The Mad Dancers, The Dybbuk, Hamlet starring Jefferson Mays, Uncle Vanya and Death of a Salesman starring Michael Genovese, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, King Lear, The Illusion, Uncle Vanya, The Road to Mecca, The Imaginary Invalid, and Three Hotels. He recently directed the LATC production of A Weekend with Pablo Picasso, which originated at San Diego REP, and went also to the Alley Theatre in Houston. He is on the acting faculty at the University of California, San Diego, and for 18 years, has been the artistic director of the Lipinsky Family