The Accidental Activist

January 20-30, 2018

A moving and humorous show about people who act to right a wrong, help the helpless, or bring forth a smile where there was no hope.

PRESS

Observations Along the Road

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE HERE

THE PROGRAM

Adapted, Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak
Produced by Suzanna Kaplan
Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Dramaturge Lisa Rosenbaum
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
SF Bay Area Producer Carol Kirsh
Assistant Producer/Stage Manager Barbara Koletsky,
Associate Producers Susie Yuré and Rose Ziff
Artistic Associate Daphna Shull

WELCOME – Ronda Spinak, JWT Artistic Director

Try Not to Get Killed
Written by Linda Geffin.  Performed by Vicki Juditz.

Political Positions
Written by Alan Zweibel.  Performed by Robert Keller and Emma Berdie Donson.

Legacy
Written by Janet Madden.  Performed by Arva Rose.

Green New Day
Written by Vicki Juditz.  Performed by Vicki Juditz, Emma Berdie Donson, and Arva Rose.

Uncle Simon
Written by Arva Rose.  Performed by Arva Rose and Robert Keller.

Accidental Activism
  Worthy of Love written by Mary Mandie Davis.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson and Vicki Juditz.
Kindness Equals Activism written by Sherri W. Morr.  Performed by Arva Rose and Vicki Juditz.
Hunger to Serve written by Irv Cramer.  Performed by Robert Keller.

My Blessed Journey
Written by Elaine G.F. Hall.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson and ensemble.

Born and Born and Born and Born
Written by Rossi (AKA Chef Rossi).  Performed by Vicki Juditz, Emma Berdie Donson, and Arva Rose.

Comfort Station
Written by Darcy Heller Sternberg.  Performed by Emma Berdie Donson and Robert Keller.

The Chairs
Written by Libby Schwartz.  Performed by Arva Rose and ensemble.

I Am
Written by Rosanne Ziering.  Performed by ensemble.

ARTIST BIOS

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.

IRVING CRAMER (Writer)’s Eastern European family arrived in Los Angeles 121 years ago, never investing in property, and so he has always worked to sustain his family and community. His career in nonprofits has been immensely rewarding; in the 1970s and 1980s he worked on behalf of a then young Israel, arranging to ransom Jews from Eastern Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1985 he founded MAZON A Jewish Response to Hunger here in Los Angeles and ran that organization for fifteen years, raising money and funding anti-hunger efforts. After a short stint running a large foundation, Cramer now volunteers for such efforts as J Street and Death Penalty Focus, a statewide organization dedicated to abolishing the death penalty in California.

MARY MANDIE DAVIS (Writer), the founder of Worthy of Love, is devoted to helping children experiencing homelessness feel loved and appreciated. Worthy of Love is a social venture dedicated to sponsoring unforgettable birthday parties for kids who live on Skid Row and who would not otherwise have the opportunity to celebrate. The idea for the parties originated after Mary had a miscarriage and she and her husband decided to help improve other children’s lives rather than focus on their grief. They have held monthly celebrations since January 2013. Mary has also worked with the Los Angeles Poverty Department in the first arts program for homeless people in the city. The organization’s goal is to use theatre and other arts to improve the lives of people who live on Skid Row, raising awareness for the many issues that plague the community, such as gentrification and criminalization of poverty.

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 and Amanda in For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, which she had the great pleasure to perform for playwright Christopher Durang. Since moving to LA, Emma has begun a new journey as an independent film producer and casting assistant. She is currently producing her second feature film, Born That Way. She has had the good fortune to work with Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope), Mark Cendrowski (Big Bang Theory), Gregory Doran (RSC), and Charles Haid (Hill Street Blues, Breaking Bad). She loves spending sunny days outside with her 5.5-year-old fox terrier rescue, Winnie. She thoroughly enjoyed performing in JWT’s Matzo Ball Diaries last year. Thousand thanks to Susan and Ronda for the opportunity to work with JWT again! emmadonson.com.

LINDA GEFFIN (Writer) is a former chief of special prosecution unit and assistant district attorney. She filed and won lawsuits closing human trafficking locations; in what is believed to be a retribution hit, Linda was followed home and brutally assaulted. She has drawn national attention to trafficking through television appearances, a documentary, radio programs, and newspaper interviews. Among many honors, she is a recipient of Children at Risk’s Hero of the Month and of Blackwood Land Institute’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Social Justice. Linda currently divides her time driving with her two Dobermans from Houston to the Berkshires, where she delights in her daughter and two grandchildren. When she’s not driving she’s working on a book about her experiences.

ELAINE G.F. HALL “Coach E!” (Writer) is a pioneer in using inclusive theatre to engage individuals of all abilities. A top Hollywood acting coach, Elaine’s life changed dramatically when her son, adopted from a Russian orphanage, was diagnosed with autism. When traditional therapies did not work, Elaine developed a unique methodology to reach him.  She then founded The Miracle Project, an evidence-based theater and film program profiled in the Emmy-winning HBO film Autism: The Musical, based at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and now replicated nationally and internationally. Receiving numerous honors for her work, Elaine has been featured on CNN, CBS, Oprah Winfrey Network, in the LA Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Jewish Journal among others. Her memoir, Now I See the Moon, was selected by the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day. She lives in Santa Monica with her son, Neal Katz, and husband, Jeff Frymer. Elaine is honored to be part of Jewish Women’s Theatre and often refers to herself as an accidental activist.

VICKI JUDITZ (Actor/Writer) Best known in LA for her one-woman show Teshuvah, Return about her journey to Judaism, Vicki has performed her original stories at theaters and festivals across the country, including the National Storytelling Festival and the Aspen LAFF Festival.  Her story Boca aired on KCRW’s UnFictional and Swing Dancing was featured in an episode of The Moth Radio Hour.  On TV, she has played comic roles on Coach, Everybody Loves Raymond, and My Name is Earl. This coming year Vicki will be performing at the Sierra Storytelling Festival in Northern California and with Storytelling Arts of Indiana in Indianapolis.

SUZANNA KAPLAN (Writer/ Producer) was born in Mexico City and grew up speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. Following economic uncertainty, she moved to the US where she partnered with her best friend in a translation service and language school. They did well and being young, sold it as soon as they could and used the money to travel, eventually winding up in Israel. That trip stretched out to six years, a husband and a baby. Back in the US, Suzanna worked in Hispanic advertising and wrote for Spanish language TV. Her greatest pleasure these days is writing, producing and working with the wonderful women of JWT when not caring for the two most marvelous creatures known as grandchildren.

ROBERT KELLER (Actor) is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from frosty Toronto, Canada. He is an actor, comedian, and WASP-y Jew. He co-starred in the series finale of Beauty & the Beast (CW) and played lead character Ralphie in the award-winning web series Gay Nerds (www.gaynerds.tv), an official selection at the 2014 LAwebfest and winner of a 2013 Indie Series Award. His first short film as a writer/producer, The Job Interview, screened at Atlanta Shortsfest and the Burbank International Film Festival in 2016. His short mockumentary, What Is Comedy?, shot guerrilla-style at the 2015 Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, was an official selection at the 2016 TeaDance film festival in Greenville, NC. He is honored and excited to be making his début with Jewish Women’s Theater (and his parents are thrilled that he has finally met “some nice Jewish girls”). www.roberthkeller.com. Twitter: @TheRobertKeller.

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 8 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.

BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer) 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.

JANET MADDEN (Writer) earned her PhD in 19th-century literature from the National University of Ireland and has been a Fulbright scholar and three-time Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She received rabbinic ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion-California. A poet, essayist, and ritualist who has been widely published in the US and abroad, she serves as rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica and as visiting rabbi of the Oahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu). She and her husband share their home with a dog and two cats and their backyard with eight chickens.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (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, for Theatre West, Susan has directed selections from David Ives’ All in the Timing; the musicals Just Too Cool, book by Mary Garripoli, music by Phil Orem; and 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 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.  In 2014, Susan began working as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts, Anaheim.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and now happily holds a position as JWT’s Producing Director.

SHERRI W. MORR (Writer) has spent the majority of her career as a professional fundraiser.  In addition to the Jewish community she developed campaigns at Tufts University, The Baltimore Symphony, Oakwood School in LA and the Park School in Baltimore.  Her writing began with training scripts, memoirs and short stories; she has been published on EJewish Philanthropy with technical articles about fundraising, leadership relationships and why people give. In 2016 Sherri was married after being on her own for almost 20 years!  She wrote about it in an essay

ARVA ROSE (Actor/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 Story. As the World Turns.  Locally, The Electric Lodge (Crossing Delancey: Bubbie) and the Edgemar Theater (Surviving Mama: Mama)

LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Dramaturge/Programming Director of The Braid) 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.

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 the “Bite This” radio show on WOMR/ WFMR in Cape Cod, 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. In November 2015 Rossi’s first memoir, The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi, was published by the Feminist Press and then adapted for the stage by Jacques Lamarre, to open for a successful run last summer at the Theatre Works in Hartford, Connecticut. Rossi has also written the Raging Skillet screenplay and is completing her second memoir.

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.

LIBBY SCHWARTZ (Writer) Always enamored by the theatre, Libby made her debut starring in Goldilocks in kindergarten. Unfortunately, no talent scout was present.  Later, she realized she was chosen because she was the only blonde in her class.  However, through her long life, she has played many roles including mother of four:  Dan a retired professor, Alan an author, screenwriter and producer, Anne a retired draftswoman and Sandra, a professor in Chile.  She is also a grandmother and great-grandmother, Phi Beta graduate of Hunter College, volunteer with the Red Cross AWVC, international president of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, community activist, and director of the Women’s NYC division of the American Cancer Society for over 20 years. She’s writing her memoir, and under the auspices of JWT, wrote three produced stories, and a YouTube message for everyone to write their life stories thereby leaving a living legacy for their families.

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

DARCY HELLER STERNBERG (Writer) teaches public speaking at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (City University of New York). Her play Hearts Afire, based on her students, premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival 2015. That same year her play Bubbleheads premiered at the Theatre for the New City DreamUp Festival. Darcy’s first-person essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, The Litchfield County Times, Caregiver.comand 650: Where Writers ReadShe trained at the Guildford School of Acting in England, where she performed in a variety of fringe theatre, and has also appeared Off-Off Broadway and at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Darcy has taught at the University of Louisville, Indiana University Southeast, and Oregon State University. She received her BA from Northwestern University, an MA from Indiana University, and has also been a farmhand and waitress in France and a barmaid/short-order cook in England.

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.

ROSANNE ZIERING (Writer)  is a writer and active philanthropist supporting social, cultural and environmental causes and institutions. She currently serves on the boards of The Broad Stage, The Wolf Connection and Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Alarmed for our planet, she serves on the LA Leadership Council for the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). She earned a BS in Conservation of Natural Resources from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MPW (Masters of Professional Writing) from the University of Southern California.

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.

ALAN ZWEIBEL (Writer) is an original Saturday Night Live writer who the New York Times says has “earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture,” Alan has won multiple Emmy, Writers Guild of America, and TV Critics awards which include It’s Garry Shandling’s ShowMonk, PBS’s Great Performances, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Theatrical contributions include collaboration with Billy Crystal on the Tony award winning show 700 Sundays, Martin Short’s Broadway hit Fame Becomes Me, and Off-Broadway plays Happy, Comic Dialogue, Between Cars, Pine Cone Moment, and Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy, adapted from his best-selling book. Other books by Alan are the 2006 Thurber Prize winning novel The Other Shulman, the children’s book Our Tree Named Steve, North, a collection of short stories and essays entitled Clothing Optional, and the novel Lunatics co-written with Dave Barry. Alan was the co-writer of the screenplays for the films Dragnet, North, and The Story of Us.  He is currently an executive producer on Showtime’s documentary series Inside Comedy, is awaiting publication of a young adult novel titled Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain In My Ass (Hyperion), and is writing the book for a Broadway musical version of Field of Dreams.   But the production that Alan is most proud of is the family he co-produced with his wife Robin; their children Adam, Lindsay and Sari; and their grandchildren Zachary, Alexis, Jordan and Kylie.

GALLERY

Pre show art talk with artists contributing to “Speak Out” art exhibit

Susie Yuré at check in.

Writer Libby Schwartz before the show.

Cast members Emma Berdie Donson, Arva Rose, Vicki Juditz, Robert Keller

Vicki Juditz and Emma Berdie Donson are mother and daughter in Vicki’s “Green New Day.”

Robert Keller in Irv Cramer’s piece, “Hunger to Serve.”

Robert Keller and Emma Berdie Don