Sweet Tea and the Southern Jew (Live on Zoom)
What happens when the Old South meets an even older tradition? Stories come alive at the crossroads of cultures as Jews of the South embrace hospitality, challenge bigotry, and struggle with the temptations of pork!
January 10-31, 2022
The Old South Meets an Even Older Tradition
New York City Patch
Sweet Tea & the Southern Jew
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Material Adapted, Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak • Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Co-Produced by Carol Kirsch • Dramaturg Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum
Stage Manager Amanda Horowitz • Tech Assistance Talya Camaras/Shelby Pine
Assistant Artistic Director Andrew Fromer • Creative Associate Daphna Shull
Marketing & Communications David Chiu • Associate Producers Rose Ziff & Susie Yuré
Community Partnership Lead Jodi Marcus • Managing Director Sharon Landau
Our Good Friends the Essermans (First appeared on the Jewish Book Council Website.)
Written by Melissa Fay Greene. Performed by Roni Geva.
Written by Marla Mayer, Rabbi Denise Eger, and Samuel M. Johnston as adapted from interviews by Ronda Spinak.
Performed by the ensemble.
An Oklahoma Jew
Written by Lisa G. Jacobson. Performed by Heidi Mendez and Nathan Bock.
Southern Hospitality on the Turnpike
Written by Sophia Fischer. Performed by Roni Geva, Kimberly Green and Nathan Bock.
Second Grade (Published in “There’s Jews in Texas?” Poetica Magazine, 2011) Written by Debra L. Winegarten, of blessed memory.
Performed by Heidi Mendez.
Written by Andrea Kirsh and Martha Kramer as adapted from interviews by Ronda Spinak.
Also written by Sherri W. Morr. Performed by the ensemble.
The Relearning of a Southerner
Written by Anonymous. Adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak.
Performed by Nathan Bock.
Written by Suzy Stein & Fernando Perez. Performed by Roni Geva.
Written by William E. Israel. Adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak.
Performed by Nathan Bock.
The Seder Match
Written by Marissa Tiamfook Gee. Performed by Kimberly Green.
The Mother Lode
Written by Caroline Aaron. Performed by Heidi Mendez.
Maryland is in the South
Written by Izzy Salant. Performed by Nathan Bock.
My Dawlin New Orleans
Written by Rabbi Deborah Silver. Performed by Kimberly Green.
Q&A POST SHOW
CAROLINE AARON (Writer) is an actress, producer and writer best known for her performances in films like Mike Nichols’ Heartburn and Primary Colors as well as Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice, and Deconstructing Harry, and Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle. She also appeared in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Stanley Tucci’s Big Night. More recently, she appeared in 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street. She is also known for her work on television including guest roles on Wings, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Desperate Housewives, Transparent, Madam Secretary, and The Good Fight. Her Broadway roles include Woody Allen’s Relatively Speaking, I Hate Hamlet, Social Security and The Iceman Cometh starring Jason Robards. She is currently a regular on the critically acclaimed and Primetime Emmy Award winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017–present).
NATHAN BOCK (Actor) grew up in Denver, Colorado, and attended Denver School of the Arts before continuing his training at NYU’s Tisch School and graduating with a BFA in theater. In 2010, as associate artistic director, he helped launch Visionbox Studio, and collaborated in the production of two original works, My Two Sisters and The Othello Project, along with classes and showcases. He moved to L.A. in 2015 and has appeared in a number of film and tv projects. He is excited to be back on stage and thanks the producers and the rest of the cast. @nathanbockactor on social media. See clips of his work at nathanbockactor.com.
TALYA CAMRAS (Tech Assistance) graduated from California Lutheran University in 2019 with a BA in communication and a minor in technical theatre. Stage management credits include Family Matters, Crossing the Red Sea, The Rest is History, and True Colors with the Braid, She Kills Monsters, Measure for Measure, columbinus (KCACTF), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, The Devised Works Projects, The Abuelas, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Talya loves working with The Braid and is so thrilled to be a part of this team!
DAVID CHIU (Marketing & Communications Manager) is a West LA–based screenwriter whose alliance with The Braid began when one of his pieces was performed for a salon show. He went on to become a two-time NEXT at the Braid Emerging Artists fellow and finally joined this incredible story company as an employee. Television: LORE (Amazon Prime). The Braid: True Colors, Inside Our Time, For Goodness Sake (also Director), Who’s Hiding Now? and The Rest is History (also Director & Literary). Represented by the Gersh Agency and Authentic Talent & Literary. Member of the board of trustees at Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles; recipient of its 2019 Emerging Leader award. Environmental activist and volunteer on various electoral campaigns. Jew of Color, of Litvak and Cantonese heritage.
SOPHIA FISCHER (Writer) was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States when she was a child. She has been fortunate to live and make wonderful friends in three corners of the US: New York City and New Jersey; Florida; and California. A lifelong writer, Sophia started her career as a journalist, then branched into marketing, public relations, and grant writing. She works in higher education and city government marketing and is a freelance grant writer for the JDC, which helps Jews in need worldwide, including Holocaust survivors. A mom of four, Sophia and her husband love spending time outdoors with the family hiking, biking and quizzing each other on family trivia. She adores storytelling and is honored to have her writing in The Braid salon. She thanks you for attending and participating.
ANDREW FROMER (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, The Braid’s Emerging Artists Fellowship. Find out more info at the-braid.org/next.
MARISSA TIAMFOOK GEE (Writer) grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She has always been active in her Jewish community, from being on the board of the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) to the board of IKAR, her current spiritual home. Marissa is a personal trainer, running coach and owns a corporate wellness company, helping companies keep their employees fit and healthy. She is also a former lawyer, teacher, runner, coach, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast. She runs, climbs, and explores every mountain and hidden trail she can find. She has traveled the world, worked in Uganda (volunteering through American Jewish World Service), taught English in Asia, worked at the UN in Geneva, studied abroad in Jerusalem and Amsterdam, and backpacked through the Pacific Rim, Australia, and Europe. She now has a more conventional life (although no less active!) and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.
RONI GEVA (Actor) is honored to be included in this production. An actor, writer, and produc- er born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, and College Station, Texas, Roni spent much stage time in Chicago, where she was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for best supporting actress in a musical (Urinetown). Other theatre work includes The Clean House, Pride and Prejudice, Love Loss, and What I Wore, Grease, and others. Television/film work includes roles on Atypical, Bosch, This Is Us, Jane the Virgin, and Andi Mack, as well as co-creating the Emmy-nominated comedy CTRL ALT DELETE. Wanna know more? ronigeva.com.
KIMBERLY GREEN (Actor), an actress and dancer, was born in Seoul, Korea, and is a graduate of Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. Her most recent virtual stage productions include True Colors with The Braid, Piano in the Dark with the Group Repertory Theatre, Snowflake with the Road Theatre and 5 live virtual performances with Smartphone Theater: Woman No. 6, Sophie-Alexander-Lisboa, So that Happened, Finding the Way and Checkmate. Her notable past theater credits include It’s Just Sex, LA’s longest-running comedy, for which she won the 2017 Valley Theatre award for Best Featured Actress and was nominated at the 2018 NAACP Theatre Awards for Best Ensemble Cast. In 2017 she played Trina in B.L.A.C. Mail Productions’ seven-year anniversary show, Can God’s Love, which was nominated for Best Musical and Best Director for the 2019 NAACP Theatre Awards. Some of her TV and film credits include Lucifer (Fox), The Young and the Restless (CBS), and The Hot Chick, a Happy Madison Production. Kimberly is converting to Judaism through the Judaism by Choice Program. She is also a Barre instructor and the creator and owner of Barre Fit, an on-line, ballet fitness class, www.thebarrefit.com.
MELISSA FAY GREENE (Writer), an award-winning author of six books of nonfiction, was born in Macon, Georgia. She spent most of her childhood in Dayton, Ohio, and returned to Georgia in 1975, where she and her husband raised their nine children. A recent Guggenheim Fellow and inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, Melissa is a contributor to The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other periodicals, and is a two-time National Book Award finalist. Her work has been translated into 15 languages and has been honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the ACLU Civil Liberties Award, and the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award. Her first book, Praying for Sheetrock, was included on the list of 100 outstanding works of English-language journalism of the 20th century. Melissa is the Kirk Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Agnes Scott College and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism.
AMANDA HOROWITZ (Stage Manager) 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 The Braid for providing her first step toward her professional career.
WILLIAM E. ISRAEL (Writer) is a North Carolina native who grew up in in the furniture manufac- turing town of Lenoir, where his parents were in the retail ladies’ clothing business. He was the only Jewish student in his county’s school system. His limited religious education was from a bi-weekly religious school in nearby Hickory, conducted by a circuit rabbi from Charlotte. He is a Georgia Tech graduate and a retired engineering executive, residing in Florida since 1968.
He previously lived and worked in Chicago and Atlanta. Most of his working career was in the aerospace and defense industry. Bill and his wife Sally have one daughter, Sharon, who is an intellectual-property attorney in Houston, Texas, specializing in patent litigation. His interests in- clude genealogy and family history, theater, reading, writing, publishing, travel, dining, leadership roles in civic and religious organizations, and he is a collector (and player) of vintage ukuleles.
LISA G. JACOBSON (Writer), since retiring as a chief financial officer/CPA, has served on chari- table boards and actively participated in the Jewish community in Knoxville, TN. As president of Heska Amuna Women’s League, she spearheaded bringing The Braid’s off-Broadway production of Not That Jewish to Knoxville and continues to promote The Braid’s productions. She has a daughter and son-in-law who are a nurse and paramedic, respectively, in the Austin, Texas, area, where they are raising her three beautiful and brilliant grandchildren. Her other daughter and son-in-law live in Knoxville, with careers in clinical counseling and engineering. From her humble Oklahoma roots, Lisa has enjoyed traveling extensively both professionally and personally. In addition to further international travel, Lisa and her husband, Jeff, of 32 years plan to continue traveling across the US to attend a baseball game in every MLB stadium and to visit every presi- dential library.
CAROL KIRSH (Co-producer) is an advisory board member with The Braid and served as Bay Area producer, including hosting the first “at home” salon in San Francisco in 2012. She earned her MSW from the University of Michigan and worked with adolescents, older adults, and homeless families. She later lived in Hong Kong, where she was an executive search consultant for several major international search firms, followed by several years in Bali and Guam. A native Floridian with family roots in Alabama, Carol has continued the diaspora. She and her husband now split their time between Colorado and Hawaii when they aren’t visiting their four grand- daughters in Washington and California.
SHARON LANDAU (Braid Managing Director) brings to The Braid 20 years of non-profit leadership experience helping programs and organizations scale and thrive. As a non-profit director and consultant, she engaged multidisciplinary stakeholders to design, pilot, scale and evaluate innovative programs improving contraceptive access at local, state and national levels that became replicable models.° She launched Pharmacy Forward, the nation’s first leadership program for pharmacists in reproductive health. She previously worked in management consulting for Kaiser Permanente and as clinic manager for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. She holds a masters in Public Health from UCLA and is an alumna of CA Women’s Policy Institute and Center for Collaborative Planning’s Leadership Institute.
JODI MARCUS (Community Partnership Lead) first came to The Braid as a patron, and now helps bring people together to laugh, cry, and share in the human experience by booking Braid shows across the country. Prior to joining The Braid team, Jodi worked for 18 years in the non- profit sector as a fundraiser and consultant. In a younger iteration of her life, Jodi saw half of the world as a dancer. She’s now traded in her tap shoes for tapping on the computer, writing short stories, and working on a novel for tweens. Jodi holds a BA in communications, public relations from Cal State Fullerton and a MPA from Cal State Northridge.
HEIDI MENDEZ (Actor) is a bilingual actor/director/educator who has worked professionally in Madrid, Mexico City, Utah, Texas, and now California. Her favorite roles include Lady Bracknell, Prospero, and most recently Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. Some favorite shows as director/ choreographer include Cats, Working, Fiddler, and The Diary of Anne Frank. She is known as the Rapping Grandma to kids in juvie where she volunteered for two years, which led her to become founder/director of ACT RISK NO MORE, a nonprofit whose mission is to rescue troubled teens through theater. Heidi is married to Nick (a Mormon bishop) and is the mother of three boys, resulting in her being afraid of nothing. For fun, Heidi takes hip-hop classes and plays dress-up with her granddaughter. Education: BA in acting from BYU and MA in directing from Texas State, plus two Utah teaching certificates for theater and Spanish. Heidi is presently seen nationally on the Consumer Cellular dog park commercial.
SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Director/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. In Los Angeles, Susan has directed numerous shows, and has also worked as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts, working with Mickey, Minnie, and friends. She has directed many Braid salon shows, as well as Annie Korzen: Famous Actress, and Ovation Recommended, Sacred Resistance. Her position at The Braid has become the most meaningful, working with amazing actors, writers, and Braid leadership, while also informing and illuminating her Jewish life.
SHELBY PINE (Tech Assistance) is a junior double majoring in theatre stage management and film and television production at the University of Southern California. She has had such a fun and rewarding time assistant stage managing the Braid’s virtual productions and helping the organization prepare for the upcoming season. She has stage managed and project managed 7 different storytelling experiences in her time at USC thus far, and is currently developing a docu- mentary proposal about LGBTQ young adults.
LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Dramaturg) is the author of the novel A Day of Small Beginnings (Little, Brown & Co. 2006) and is currently completing a new novel, Sacrificial Man. She is a Braid writer and dramaturg and, with a small but mighty team, produces and hosts The Braid’s pod- casts and the Sunday with The Braid events. Most recently, Lisa wrote Stories from the Violins of Hope – a dramatic event with live music, presented by The Braid, Temple Isaiah, and the Jewish Symphony of Los Angeles.
IZZY SALANT (Writer) is a native Marylander who, after traveling up the East Coast to study theater and journalism at UMass Amherst, got tired of humidity, cold, and being allergic to going outside and relocated to Los Angeles, where he currently resides. His work has been featured
by Punctuate 4, Bema Productions, The Braid, Arena Civic Theater, Ghost Light Theater, and the UMass Amherst Department of Theater. He was a member of the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive Class of 2019 and was a two-time NEXT artist fellow at The Braid in Santa Monica. He is also a practicing magician.
DAPHNA SHULL (Creative Associate) is a six-time NEXT Arts Council Fellow, literary manager, writer, artist, producer, and photographer born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Daphna has been featured as a writer, songwriter, and visual artist in multiple Braid productions, and is very proud to be producing StoryNosh, The Braid’s new digital storytelling series. Along with working at The Braid, Daphna runs her own photography business, Happy Life Kids Photography. www.hap- pylifekidsphotography.com.
RABBI DEBORAH SILVER (Writer) is the rabbi at Shir Chadash in New Orleans. She is their first woman rabbi. Rabbi Silver was ordained in 2010 by the Ziegler School, AJU, Los Angeles, and her first post was as the assistant rabbi at Adat Ari El, North Hollywood, CA. Her interests other than theater include music, dance and yoga. Born in London, she worked there as a translator and editor, then as a litigator with Mishcon de Reya and as an assistant professor at BPP Law School prior to crossing the pond.
RONDA SPINAK (Producer/Artistic Director) created The Braid’s Salon Theatre Series and has since curated and produced more than 70 original Jewish-themed salon shows, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. Spinak developed and produced Ovation-recommended Not That Jewish, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, and then moved to a successful run off-Broadway. She also re-developed and produced Rain Pryor’s hit show Fried Chicken & Latkes and Vicki Juditz’s Ovation-recommended Sacred Resistance. In January 2021, Spinak developed and produced Stories from the Violins of Hope, which was shared in 30 countries by the United Nations Program on the Holocaust. Additionally, it was translated into Spanish and Portuguese and streamed to Latin America. In 2022, the film will be in the Greenwich International Film Festival. Spinak also 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 185 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. In 2022/23, an art exhibition, “Holy Sparks,” will feature 24 Jewish women artists — each has been paired with one pioneering woman rabbi to create a work of art based on the rabbi’s words and life. The exhibition will open in N