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December 27, 2002 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-27

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Arts J Entertainment

SCRIPT from page 55

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of the Latest

Leo's Coney Island



courtesy of Evelyn Orbach, now the
and Cynthia have three children:
artistic director of Jewish Ensemble
Gabriel, 23, a 2001 U M grad and
Theatre. Their first collaboration was a aspiring screenwriter who now lives in
half-hour drama about Chanukah.
Los Angeles; Devin, 19, currently at
"They were doing [the Chanukah
U-M; and Jake, 10.
play] at Channel 7 and syndicating [it]
Although the family is not affiliated
across the country," Burnstein says
with a synagogue, the Burnstein off-
about the drama dealing with the con-
spring attended the Jewish Parents
cept of tzedakah (charity).
Institute (Jake will be starting soon) at
- "It's about a lawyer — this is sort of
the Jewish Community Center in
the autobiographical part — and this
West Bloomfield.
guy doesn't really like practicing law.
He sees this guy every day
Writing And Teaching
outside of work begging for
Jim Burnstein:
money. He brings the guy
By the time Burnstein fin-
"For me, teaching ished his fourth draft of
home and the lawyer's wife is
at Michigan
horrified: 'Were not living in
Renaissance Man at the end
was a calculated of 1986, things were starting
the shtetl (Jewish village); you
way of saving to lo o k up..
don't bring people home!'"
my sani t y. "
Another entertaining —
He got an agent, sold a
and educational — experi-
play, Learn to Fall, in 1987,
ence came courtesy of Orbach's hus-
and saw it produced a year later at the
band, then-Temple Israel Cantor
Attic Theatre, starring Evelyn Orbach.
Harold Orbach.
The experience crystallized the focus
"Cantor Orbach hired me to do a
of his writing for him: He decided to
thing for a Jewish dental fraternity, for
throw himself wholeheartedly into
their big 50th-year celebration,"
screenwriting and forget other media.
Burnstein says. "It was a slide show
"I realized right then that if I want-
through the decades. The cantor would ed to be a professional writer, there
sing a song to go with every decade.
wasn't a choice anymore," he says. "I'd
"And then you'd show some dentist,
worked so hard on the play, and you
`Louie Shapiro invented ...' and the
just cannot support yourself as a writer
crowd would gO nuts every time a
[writing for the stage].
dentist came up with whatever break-
"I don't write musicals. It just wasn't
through. And it stunned me that that's
going to happen. And my style was
what they went crazy for.
much more suited to movies."
"I learned something there — that
Shortly after the release of
audiences identify with themselves.
Renaissance Man, Burnstein received a
When I think back to that dental
call from the University of Michigan
show, I get [the success of] My Big Fat film department.
Greek Wedding. People have that kind
He lunched with a group of profes-
of recognition."
sors and came onboard to initiate
Throughout the 1980s, Burnstein
what would become the school's
worked daily at writing, trying to
renowned undergraduate screenwriting
crack Hollywood.
He also cracked family life — he
He says he was never really nervous

in the Northwood Plaza
13 Mile & Woodward • Royal Oak , 789°

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