January 17 – February 1, 2016

This show examines the eternal conundrum of temptation through words and music, and looks at moments in life that are too tempting to resist, and the consequences of taking a bite out of various forbidden fruits.



Topanga Messenger


Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Assistant Director Michelle Altman
Dramaturge Lisa Rosenbaum
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
San Francisco Producer Carol Kirsh
Associate Producers Barbara Koletsky, Susie Yuré, Rose Ziff & Patrick Conde

WELCOME  — Ronda Spinak, Artistic Director of JWT


Written and performed by the Ensemble.

The Joy of Politics
Written by Joy Picus.  Performed by Kate Zentall.

Eating the Apple
Written by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat.  Performed by Bill Ratner.

The Story of Rescue – Published in The Longest Date – Life as a Wife (Penguin Books).
Written by Cindy Chupack.  Performed by Abbe Meryl Feder.

In My Father’s House
Written by David Masello.  Performed by Aaron Himelstein and Bill Ratner.

To Fill or Not to Fill
Written by Monique Barry. Performed by Kate Zentall and Ensemble.

The Binge
Written by Shawn Goodman.  Performed by Abbe Meryl Feder and Aaron Himelstein.

The Smoothest Way is Full of Stones – Adapted from How to Breathe Underwater (Alfred A. Knopf)
Written by Julie Orringer.  Performed by Kate Zentall, Matisse Rose, Abby Meryl Feder, Aaron Himelstein and Bill Ratner.

Tempted to Believe – in Memory of Abby Freeman
By Cynthia Freeman.  Performed by Matisse Rose.

Temptations Not Faced by My Great-Grandmother in Szumsk
Written by Susan Terris.  Performed by the Ensemble.


MICHELLE ALTMAN (Assistant Director) 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!
RABBI RACHEL BARENBLAT (Writer)  is the author of three book-length collections of poetry: 70 Faces: Torah Poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), and the forthcoming Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016), as well as several poetry chapbooks. A 2012 Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, she has blogged since 2003 as the Velveteen Rabbi. She was ordained by ALEPH (Alliance for Jewish Renewal) as a rabbi and spiritual director and holds a BA in religion from Williams College and an MFA in writing and literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She serves as co-chair of ALEPH with Rabbi David Evan Markus and is the spiritual leader of a small congregation in western Massachusetts.
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 wrote and designed the web show Pop-Up Libido. 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 and whether that bottle of water that’s been sitting in her car for a month is contaminated or still drinkable.
CINDY CHUPACK (Writer) has won two Emmys and three Golden Globes as a TV writer/producer whose credits include Modern Family, Sex and the City, and Everybody Loves Raymond.  She is the author of New York Times bestseller, The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays, and the original version of this story about her St. Bernard appears in her new comic memoir about marriage, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife, which is now available in paperback. For more about Cindy, visit cindychupack.com.
PATRICK CONDE (Associate Producer) the most recent JWT employee, came to LA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his BA in history and communication arts. Driven by his passion for filmmaking and will to work in the entertainment industry, he found solace in contributing to the success of The Braid, JWT’s newly created theater. Using his talents to cement JWT’s success on social media and spearheading the paperless initiative, Patrick’s radical ideas and willingness to innovate have taken JWT in a whole new direction.
ABBE MERYL FEDER (Actor) has been called “the greatest actress of her generation” by her grandmother. Hailing from the fabulous city of New York, her film credits include Sex Ed (opposite Haley Joel Osment) and Brahmin Bulls. Other credits include The Internet Date (film), Ed(tv), CSI:NY (tv), Pushing Daisies (tv), and Las Vegas (tv). When not pursuing her craft, Abbe is the Director of Operations at IKAR. Twitter and Instagram: @iAMFeder.
CYNTHIA FREEMAN (Writer) is a senior program director at Community Partners, where she helps people start and run nonprofit organizations. Previously, she spent seven years in the field of philanthropy, most recently at the New York Foundation, making grants to community organizing, advocacy, and start-up projects in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods. Freeman has served as a consultant to government and nonprofit organizations and started her career as a community organizer. She has served on the boards of Interfaith Funders, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and Jewish Jumpstart. She misses her sister.
SHAWN GOODMAN (Writer) is an investor and has co-authored self-help books, including The Seven Secrets of Slim People, and Selfish Women Give More Love.
AARON HIMELSTEIN (Actor) is thrilled to be making his JWT debut. LA theatre credits include Speech and Debate, Dickie and Babe: The Truth about Leopold and Loeb, Young Playwrights Festival (The Blank). Chicago Theatre Credits include Morning Star, Russian Transport, Frank Galati’s world-premiere adaptation of East of Eden (Steppenwolf Theatre), Watch on the Rhine (Eclipse), To Kill a Mockingbird, Our Town (Bog), One Touch of Venus (Light Opera works). Off-Broadway credits include The Dead Eye Boy (MCCDrama Desk Award nomination), Galileo (CSCwith F. Murray Abraham. Some of his TV credits include Joan of ArcadiaHouse, Las Vegas, Community, the first season of HBO’s Doll & Em, as well as the voice of Desna on Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra. Film credits include High Fidelity, Austin Powers in GoldmemberThe InformersAll the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Fast Food Nation, Losers Take All, Captain America the Winter Soldier and Avengers Age of Ultron.