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Jewish Journal

Festival Explores Identity

by Naomi Pfefferman

October 4, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Actor-writer Doug Kaback never belonged to a synagogue while growing up in a non-Jewish area of Palos Verdes. He didn't receive any religious education or become a bar mitzvah.

The void set him "on a course of wandering," says Kaback, 39, who dabbled in Eastern religions, married a Catholic Honduran and created theater with Koreans, Native Americans and other groups. "But recently, my children have been approaching religious school age and I've become increasingly aware that my identity remains unfocused, unknown."

The result is his playlet, "Who is a Jew?" to be performed at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, one of 21 productions in the Cornerstone Theater's Festival of Faith running Oct. 18-Nov. 18. The piece revisits the turbulent year that Kaback courted his wife-to-be and agonized over whether or not he should wed a non-Jew.

Kaback will also teach a festival writing workshop, open to the public that will focus on Jewish diversity and culminate in a staged reading on Oct. 18. "The idea -- which is behind the entire festival -- is to explore how religion unites and divides us," he told The Journal.

It's a natural preoccupation for the Cornerstone, which began when 11 Harvard graduates -- including "Judging Amy" star Amy Brenneman -- piled into a big old blue van to create theater with diverse American communities in 1986.

The Festival of Faith will be housed in five L.A. venues, including a Buddhist temple, a Muslim school and at Temple Emanuel, where others shows include "The Holographic Universe or A Day in the Life of Heeb and Sahib" and "The Shabbos Kept Them" a story about women and Shabbat. Laypeople will help create the shows and perform alongside the professional actors. "We'll explore what it means to believe in one's faith and also to make room for people who believe differently," says Cornerstone co-founder Bill Rauch. "After the Sept. 11 tragedy, that's a crucial endeavor."

For information and to sign up for Kaback's workshop, call (213) 613-1740.

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