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December 23, 1988 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT

All the
World's
a Jewish
Stage

MICHAEL ELKIN

Special to The Jewish News

udd Nelson, hot hip movie
star and teen idol (From
the Hip, The Breakfast
Club), could have gone
anywhere in the search for
his next new project. Instead, he chose
Temple.
This off-Broadway production at a
small, 99-seat theater, focusing on a
radical youngster's search for his
Judaic heritage, was a radical move
for a young actor rooted in
screenwork.
Radical — but not unorthodox in
the entertainment world. Melissa
Gilbert, who grew up in front of televi-
sion viewers' eyes as a resident of
"Little House on the Prairie," has
opted for new frontiers also, turning
away from more lucrative television
and screen work to star in A Shayna
Maidel.
Another off-Broadway play of
Jewish interest, Maidel featured
Gilbert as a young woman coming to
terms with her family's Holocaust
past.
Ava Haddad, for three years a star
of television's "One Life to Live," is
living her life these days as Gilbert's
replacement in the role of Rose.
These three sought-after young
Jewish actors are taking part in what
is developing as one of the hottest
trends on the American stage —
Jewish theater.
Eschewing more profitable parts,
Nelson, Gilbert, Haddad and many
others are profiting from a thriving
theater that is exploring varied
aspects of the American Jewish ex-

eil

I GOING PLACES

WEEK OF DEC. 23-29

SPECIAL EVENTS

HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
Joe Louis Arena, Wednesday,
admission. 567-6000.
GREAT LAKES
INVITATIONAL HOCKEY
TOURNAMENT
Joe Louis Arena, Thursday and
Dec. 30, admission. 567-6000.

COMEDY

COMEDY CASTLE
2593 Woodward, Berkley, Ibm
McGillen, today; Roger Behr,
Tuesday through Dec. 30,
admission. 542-9900.

Gordana Rashovich and Melissa Gilbert appear in Barbara Lebow's A Shayna Maidel at
New York's Westside Arts Theater.

One of the hottest trends in show
business is Jewish theater

perience: Holocaust survivors adap-
ting to a new homeland and old
memories; assimilation, Jewish self-
defense against the onslaught of
anti-Semitism.
Temple, for example, tackled the
seeming dichotomy of a young radical,
hellbent on changing society, attemp-
ting to preserve the traditions of his
Judaic heritage.
In their own attempt to preserve
their identity and secure a future for
themselves, more than 30 companies
have banded together to form the
Council of Jewish Theaters, coor-
dinatd by the National Foundation for
Jewish Culture.
"In the past 1 1/2 years, activity has
increased tremendously," says Andrea
Morgan, council administrator. "It is
a real phenomenon."
But is this a true harbinger, an in-
dication of a theater that can take
root and survive alongside more
secular theatrical styles? Or is this
merely a trend, a fleeting fancy for a
fickle theatergoing public?
Interviews with dozens of actors,
directors, playwrights, producers and
scholars associated with Jewish
theater reveal the consensus that a
trend has, indeed, developed over the
past few years.
Where that trend leads, however,
is cause for concern and argument on
the part of many observers. And
deciding who is responsible for the
direction of American Jewish theater
has many of those interviewed poin-
ting fingers in different directions.
While many praise a movement
that has drawn attention to Jewish

heritage, others rail against pro-
ducers and audiences reluctant to
risk provocative productions. Nearly
all question a continued future
without guaranteed subsidy.
lb some, the curtain is going up;
for others, it is about to come crashing
down. But there is no doubt among
those interviewed that American
Jewish theater is currently at a
critical stage.
"This trend has been a long time
coming," says Stanley Brechner,
longtime force in the movement and
artistic director of New York's
American Jewish Theatre, where
Temple was performed for a limited
run this spring.
"When I first started out, about
15 years ago," Brechner recalls,
"there was not a single professional
cultural endeavor that was specifical-
ly Jewish in this country."
In the intervening years, much
has changed. "These are different
times," says Braodway star and
Jewish performer Mike Burstyn.
"The stage reflects what many Jews
are going through today: a search for
significance in their lives, trying to
reach the truths of their experience,
to show their pride in what they are.
"Big-name Jewish performers are
keeping their real names, not chang-
ing them to sound less Jewish.
Among Jews, there is more of a need
to represent what they really are to
the world.
"And, in many ways," adds
Burstyn, "Jewish theater reflects just
that, showing Jews that self-pride can
be a beneficial thing while showing

THEATER

HILBERRY AND
BONSTELLE THEATERS
Wayne St. University, Detroit,
Romeo and Juliet, now through
Jan. 28; admission. 577-2972.
VAN DYKE HOTEL
31800 Van Dyke, Warren, dinner
theater, An Old-Fashioned
Holiday Revue, Saturday,
admission. 939-2860.
GREENFIELD VILLAGE
Dearborn, The Wizard of Oz, now
through Dec. 30, admission.
271-1620.
BIRMINGHAM THEATRE
211 S. Woodward, Birmingham,
Stepping Out Dec 30through
Feb. 5, admission. 644-3533.

MUSIC

DETROIT SYMPHONY
ORCHESTRA
Ford Auditorium, Nutcracker,
now through Dec 31, admission.
567-1400.

ART SHOWS

TROY ART GALLERY
755 W. Big Beaver, Troy,
"Holiday time at Troy Art
Gallery," with gifts of art
available, now through Jan. 7.
362-0112.
DETROIT INSTITUTE OF
ARTS
5200 Woodward, "Sixteenth
Century Tuscan drawings from
the. Uffizi" now through Jan. 8;
Andrew Wyeth: The Helga
Pictures, now through Jan. 22;
photographs by Frederick H.
Evans, now through Feb. 12;
`‘Ibrn Parish; Selected
Paintings;' now through Feb. 19
832-2730.

Continued on Page 70

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS 59

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