Like her protagonist Sophie Katz, Kyra Davis has skin the color of a "well-brewed latte." That's why she has spent a large portion of her life fielding comments about her ethnicity.
There was her supervisor at a clothing store, for example, who asked about her Star of David necklace, since how could Davis be Jewish when she looks black? Or all the times people have assumed she's Puerto Rican and lecture her on taking pride in one's heritage when they discover she can't speak Spanish.
"Occasionally, when people ask me where I'm from, I'll make up some country in Africa and act really offended if they say they never heard of it," Davis said.
When I go out of town, I often take a novel or two with me, knowing that a plane ride remains one of the few places to get serious reading done. Recently, I read two novels, Seth Greenland's "The Bones" (Bloomsbury) and Bruce Bauman's "And the Word Was" (Other Press), which made strong impressions about why, every so often, you need to get out of town. Both novels concern characters who believe their lives are at a dead end, and who leave their homes for experiences that, in the end, allow them to return to a life less examined but worth living.
Nicole Berger's empathy for demons began early in life."I'm always fascinated by the falling of a soul or the sensitive tender side of an evil character," she said. "When I saw 'The Exorcist,' I thought, 'Why is this demon so screwed up?'"
Confession: It's not Virginia Woolf I'm afraid of -- it's Cynthia Ozick. Even though she blurbed my last book (disclosure, disclosure) and once recommended me for a fellowship I didn't get (thanks for the memories, Mr. Guggenheim), still I'm afraid of her. She reminds me of Virginia Woolf, is why.
A brother announces to his sister that another sister has vanished, as "The First Desire" (Pantheon) opens. Nancy Reisman's highly-praised novel is unusual in many ways, from its premise to the quality of writing to its setting. She follows the lives of the Cohen family, from the Depression to the years following World War II, not on the Lower East Side or in Brooklyn, but in a stately neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y.
Sentence by sentence, this is an exquisite story of family. Reisman writes with assuredness and tenderness, as the story unfolds serially from five perspectives: three of the four Cohen sisters, the brother and their father's mistress.
Anne-Marie Baila Asner decided that she was going to reinvigorate Yiddish by writing and illustrating cute, brightly colored children's books that would help people develop an affinity for the language.
In a rehearsal room at the Odyssey Theatre, Colette Freedman propped her electric-blue high tops on a chair and good naturedly laughed at herself. "I'm truly flawed," the 30-ish actress-playwright said. "I am totally a hypocrite."
Well, not totally. While her "Deconstructing the Torah," an evening of one-acts, skewers part of herself, it mostly dissects conflicts faced by Freedman and other modern Jewish women.
One week after her 1998 wedding, New York actress Isabel Rose packed up her belongings and moved with her husband to London.
Greg Pritikin's film takes place in a sort of every-suburb America of tract houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages, and is utterly devoid of anything to place it in historical time.
When Alfred Uhry was growing up in a German Jewish family in Atlanta, he didn't know what a bagel was. The word, "klutz" was as foreign to him as Chinese.
Jonathan Wilson's new novel, "A Palestine Affair," opens, quite spectacularly as Mark Bloomberg, a painter, and his non-Jewish American wife, Joyce, having just made love in their new Jerusalem home, go outside to their garden. A softly moaning, bleeding man in Arab dress rushes toward Mark, hugs him, then crashes to the ground dead. The man is Jacob De Groot, a Dutch Jewish poet, and his murder radically alters the lives of nearly everyone in the novel.
To understand something of the success of "The Producers," it helps to understand something of its history. There is probably no person on the planet who doesn't know the story of how this sensation of a musical came to pass, but let me quickly recap: In the early '60s, Mel Brooks writes the book for the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical "All American." Their last musical "Bye Bye Birdie" was a hit. "All American" was not. Brooks wonders: What if it was intentional? From that germ of an idea, and a character Brooks worked for briefly after World War II, came the movie, "The Producers."
It may have been a silent film, but Paul Wegener made an international noise with "Der Golem." The 1920 German Expressionist classic -- screening April 21 at the Skirball Cultural Center -- remains a popular incarnation of the Golem.
When Lainie Kazan first read the screenplay of Nia Vardalos' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," now a frothy CBS sitcom, she could relate.
Vardalos said she based the characters on her large, "loud, always-eating Greek family that loves me to the point of suffocation." And Kazan, who plays her Greek mama, hails from a similarly boisterous ethnic clan.
When Marvel Comics founding father Stan Lee created Daredevil in 1964, he tagged his blind superhero: "Man Without Fear."
Iris Bahr is pretty, but you could watch her for the full span of her 54-minute one-woman production and still manage to miss that.Â
With the help of a masculine hairdo (she cut her hair for the show, and wears it slicked back) and some minimal wardrobe changes, Bahr morphs into no less than seven different characters, each with individual, and often hilarious, accents. The show is called "Planet America, or Are You Carrying Any Fruits of Vegetables?" and Bahr's characters bring differing perspectives to the themes of American isolationism, xenophobia and racism.
The issues are particularly timely, but for Bahr, who was recently nominated for an L.A. Weekly best solo performance award, they were also personal. She said she'd finished the first draft prior to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Growing up in Riverdale, N.Y., and Herzliya, Israel, she said, "I have the advantage of having lived in two very different cultures." It made her conscious of issues like terrorism and immigration long ago.
Like the know-it-all self-help guru in her neurotic comedy, "Amy's Orgasm," 28-year-old filmmaker Julie Davis had never had what you'd call an actual boyfriend back in 1998. But she liked to dish out relationship advice. "I had all these theories," says the effervescent writer-director, whose debut film, "I Love You, Don't Touch Me," featured a 25-year-old virgin holding out for Mr. Right. "Like, 'save yourself for the one,' and 'a woman doesn't need a man to feel complete.'"
Two garbage bags full of dead birds separate four Brooklyn buddies from their dreams in actor-playwright Matthew Klein's debut production, "The Common Man."
Vivien Straus grew up on a 660-acre kosher, organic dairy farm on the outskirts of a town of 50 in Marin County.
David Krumholtz has a theory about why he's played so many charming but zhlubby Jewish guys in film and on television.
Wendy Graf's new comedy "The Book of Esther" focuses on a central character named Mindy, who, like Queen Esther, bravely declares her Jewishness in the face of opposition. Unlike Esther, Mindy doesn't save the Jewish people, but confronts her ardently secular family and friends when she discovers her religion.
Tongue of a Bird," now playing at the Mark Taper Forum, is a confoundedly difficult play.