Barbara Heller likes to refer to herself as a “growing Jew.” The actress/singer has created a biographical show, “Finding Barb,” that traces her life from her dysfunctional family in Boca Raton, Fla., through her disappointing pursuit of an acting career in New York, to her indoctrination into Orthodox Judaism and, finally, to her present state of trying to balance her commitment to an observant life with her professional ambitions.
It’s an age-old, common dilemma faced by adult children of aging parents: What is the right thing to do when those parents begin to lose their faculties? That theme is at the heart of “Surviving Mama,” by playwright Sonia Levitin, which opens Oct. 12 at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica.
David Katz knew minutes into watching Bryan Fogel’s “Jewtopia,” a star-studded independent film adapted from the hit comedic play about interfaith dating, that it would anchor his Malibu International Film Festival. Unfortunately, Katz had his epiphany at 3 a.m.
If you take Israel out of the equation, there’s little in the Jewish world that gets people as riled up as the idea of intermarriage.
The latest production from Moriah Films, the Oscar-winning film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explores of the life and times of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism. Co-written and produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and directed by Richard Trank, the film features narration by Ben Kingsley and stars Christoph Waltz as the voice of Herzl.
The classic Los Angeles Theater at Broadway and Sixth Street is not much to look at from the outside -- situated alongside a host of busy retail shops, its sidewalk is lined with street vendors selling toys and trinkets. But upon entering the theater's French Baroque-style lobby, with its 50-foot ceiling, grand staircase, plush red carpet, detailed fresco paintings, ornate marble fountain and crystal chandeliers, one is immediately transported to a bygone era of opulent, glamorous movie palaces.
About a dozen years ago, actor Mike Burstyn auditioned in New York for the role of Al Jolson in the national touring company of the musical “Jolson.” While waiting for a decision, he flew home to Los Angeles and on landing at LAX decided to stop by the nearby Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary and visit the grave of the legendary jazz singer.
Some theater patrons prefer to switch off their brain cells and watch a light-hearted play, while others opt for strenuous mental exercise.
When Canter’s Deli first opened in Los Angeles, it was not at its now-famous location on Fairfax Avenue, but in Boyle Heights. And though Canter’s and most of the neighborhood’s Jews have long since deserted Boyle Heights, it was forever touched by the culture of the Jewish community that once called it home. Later waves of immigration brought Japanese, Latino and Russian immigrants to the area, giving Boyle Heights a unique and vibrant ethnic vibe.
Murray Schisgal’s comedy “LUV” is, as the alert reader might suspect, about love, even passionate love, but don’t expect any moon in June or till death do us part nonsense. Actually, “LUV” works best as an anti-love play, and, after seeing it, any starry-eyed boy or girl might opt for a celibate life of devotion, if only their parents would let them.
Jason Alexander immediately apologizes for his voice when he comes to the phone. He’s hoarse because he’s been yelling nonstop for his current role, Mel Edison, in the darkly comic “Prisoner of Second Avenue,” which is in the midst of a three-week run at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. The show closes May 15 .
It wasn’t the fact that stars like Andy Garcia and Calista Flockhart were walking the red carpet that had people buzzing on Jan. 29. It was where they did it — not Hollywood and not downtown. It was Northridge. As a pink sky turned purple, more than 1,400 people gathered at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) to celebrate the long-awaited opening of its Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC).
Bricks painted with swastikas and a firecracker were thrown through the window of the director of a Jewish theater in Poland. The attack on the home of Thomas Pietrasiewicz, director of the NN Theater in Lublin, took place late at night on Dec. 17. A bottle had been thrown at the house a month earlier but had been dismissed as a prank, the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported. The newspaper reported that the theater has been the victim of several anti-Semitic attacks in the past, including the painting of a Star of David on a gallows on the door, threatening letters and a container with a foul-smelling substance thrown in the building.
"Irena's Vow" is the story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a young Polish Catholic woman who took unimaginable risks and paid an unspeakable personal price to save the lives of 12 Jews by hiding them in the basement of the villa where she was virtually enslaved by a German major during World War II.
Israeli producer-director Uri Paster has four movie and theater projects planned this year
The play opens in the south Hebron hills in the West Bank with Tsahi, an off-duty Israel Defense Forces soldier, pointing his gun at Ismail, a Palestinian shepherd. Having just broken up with his settler girlfriend, Tsahi is lost and seeking a way back to the main road. Ismail, waiting for his girlfriend, is the only one who can help Tsahi find his way.
One day, when Leigh Silverman was 15 and the youngest student in a college summer drama program, her teacher pointedly asked her to stay after class.
"She said, 'Leigh, you shouldn't be an actress; you're terrible,'" Silverman, now 33, recalled with a laugh. "I was horrified. But then she said I had good insights about the plays, and that instead of acting I should be her assistant.
Always in the background lurks the threat of "Gentleman's Agreement," produced by Darryl Zanuck, the only non-Jewish studio chief, and starring Gregory Peck as a WASP who pretends to be a Jew.
The characters reveal their stories through a mixture of singing and dancing -- with some pantomime thrown in. Hamlisch said that from the beginning the creators felt that certain stories were best told through song, others through dance.
In 1909, an impoverished Jewish immigrant arrived in Hamilton, Texas, hawking 1-cent bananas from his pushcart.
Haskell Harelik had fled Russia to escape pogroms, docking not in Ellis Island but in Galveston, Texas, via a plan to route Eastern European Jews to the West. He spoke no English and was the first Jew the Hamilton residents had ever seen. But he found some friendly faces, and he stayed in that Baptist town, founding a dry goods store and raising three sons there.
Calendar Girls picks and clicks for April 12- 18
We think of Albert Einstein, and we conjure up the image of a frail, unkempt and absent-minded old man, but a visit to the Einstein archives at Caltech provides quite another picture.
The man who radically transformed our understanding of the universe was adored by women, at 23 fathered an illegitimate child and after marriage had a few side flings with other women.
"Showing Our Age" is a play about stories, and the fact that everyone has one. It's a project that I started more than 10 years ago, though not specifically as an idea for a play. I was a participant in a community outreach program in which we interviewed senior citizens, used their remarkable life stories to write monologues and then performed them for the seniors and their families. The simplicity of just the details of a life -- without sets or costumes -- created some of the most powerful theater I had ever been involved with. And I have been involved in theater for a very long time, as an actress, writer, director and teacher. I wanted more! I wanted to take this idea and expand it.
"Everything I write is a question of identity," Jonathan Tolins says over tea after a yoga class in Sherman Oaks. "What choices do you have? What roles do you take on?"
Calendar Girls picks and clicks for April 5-11
In an atmosphere of increasing British anti-Semitism and vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric in the left-wing press here, the play we're about to see, "An English Tragedy," couldn't be more timely. Written by South African Jewish playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"), it is the story of John Amery, son of a Cabinet minister, who along with the infamous Lord Haw Haw made propaganda radio broadcasts for the Nazis that were beamed to England.
Calendar Girls picks and clicks for March 22-28
Spring arts calender.
Picks and clicks for March 15-21
Critics have called the Long Beach Opera (LBO) "daring," "unconventional" and "innovative." While all those are accurate, another word that perhaps better describes the company is "playful."
The Actors' Gang, now in residence at the historic Ivy Substation in Culver City, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The substation, constructed in 1907 by the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad, looks more like a Spanish mission than an electric power facility, strangely appropriate for The Actors' Gang, which is both a theater troupe with a strong sense of mission and a longtime source of power plays and electric performances (and that's as far as I'm willing to stretch this metaphor).
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stymied generations of statesmen and commentators, so why not try a witty song-and-dance musical? Such was the thought of playwright Oren Safdie and composer-lyricist Ronnie Cohen, and the result of their collaboration is "West Bank, UK," which opens March 21 at the Malibu Stage Company.
Calendar Girls picks and kicks for March 8 -15
"The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick," is the latest addition to the ever-amusing genre of interactive theater, known in the business as "environmental theater." In such plays, the conventional fourth wall is broken as actors directly interact with members of the audience. Each character has a detailed background, either created on the spot or written prior to the performance. While the show is staged and scripted, about 30 percent to 40 percent is improvised, said playwright and director Amy Lord.
But as other venues closed in Beverly Hills (the Canon Theatre was demolished in 2005), Rabbi David Baron, Los Angeles' rabbi-impresario, saw an opportunity: "a home for my temple and also something much bigger," he says. "People hate shlepping to the Pantages in Hollywood or downtown to see Broadway-caliber shows.... I had a dream of being able to preserve, restore, maintain and revitalize this complex and this theater (Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills), and to make it a real community hub, a cultural, performing arts center for the entire area."
Calendar Girls picks and kicks for March 1 - 7
Calendar Girls picks, clicks and kicks for February 16 - 22
Senior and middle-aged Angelenos who grew up on the wonderfully satirical "Li'l Abner" comic strip can get their nostalgia fix as the denizens of Dogpatch USA cavort on the stage of UCLA's Freud Playhouse through Feb. 17.
Summary of upcoming cultural events of note. Theatre, photography, films and lectures!