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March 08, 2012 - Image 104

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-03-08

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arts & entertainment

'The Divine Sarah'

Local actress channels Bernhardt in one-person musical.

Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer


hen Carol Dunitz of Ann Arbor
was growing up in northwest
Detroit and acting out some
deep feelings, her mother would recall
a famous stage star of the past and say,
"You're a little Sarah Bernhardt."
When Dunitz's own four daughters were
growing up in Ann Arbor and acting out
their deep feelings, Dunitz would make use
of the Bernhardt comment voiced by her
As it turns out, Dunitz has taken heed
of those messages and become a larger-
than-life Sarah Bernhardt, putting together
a one-person musical about the acclaimed
actress of the late 19th and early- 20th
Bernhardt on Broadway — with script,
score, performance and promotion by
Dunitz — will be presented at a number of
nearby venues. The tour approach picks up
on the way Bernhardt traveled Michigan in
the height of her career.
The Dunitz schedule, so far, runs into
June with stops at the First Presbyterian
Church of Royal Oak (Wednesday-Friday,
March 21-23), Hagopian World of Rugs
in Birmingham (Saturday, March 24),
Scarab Club in Detroit (Saturday-Sunday,
March 31-April 1) and the Old Troy Church
(Monday, June 18).
"This show, in addition to being enter-
taining, is educational on several levels:'
says Dunitz, portraying the iconic actress
in her 50s, age appropriate for the show's
`Audiences actually can learn about the
history of the time. Close to 60 famous


Nate Bloom


Special to the Jewish News

dm Film Notes
Aid Jessica Westfeldt, 42, is best known


for writing and starring in the com-
mas edy/dramas Kissing Jessica Stein and
M Ira and Abby. Both were about young
adults seeking true love. Westfeldt
moves up the age of her characters
in Friends with Kids, a film opening
Friday, March 9, about the toll hav-
ing kids has on the friendships of
30-something couples. She directed
this film as well as
writing and starring
in it as part of a cou-
ple that resolve to
have a child together
but continue to
date other people.
Also starring: Maya
Rudolph, 39, Kristen


March 8 • 2012

people known by Bernhardt are referenced
to recorded musical arrangements. "This
in the theater piece and identified in the
was a woman who believed that no mat-
ter what obstacle got in her way, she could
"It's a very intimate production with the
overcome it.
character of the actress talking as if each
"Sarah Bernhardt was tremendous at
member of the audience had become a
self-promotion, and although I haven't
close friend sitting in her drawing room."
been promoting myself throughout the
While most of Dunitz's career has been
world, I had a Metro Detroit boutique
in business communications and mar-
advertising agency, the Last Word.
keting, she made a decision to pursue a
"Bernhardt did all sorts of outrageous
lifelong dream by applying her skills to
things, and I have a YouTube video that I
the stage. Almost two years ago, she began
think is a true Sarah Bernhardt move. I
tackling Bernhardt on Broadway.
took one of the songs from the show and
"For a long time, I thought I would do
wrote new lyrics for the world of today. It's
a fictional show about a leading lady,"
very provocative:'
explains Dunitz, who
Dunitz says that a big
studied piano privately
difference between her and
and has been writing
the legendary performer
music since childhood.
has to do with family rela-
"One day, I had this
tionships. While Bernhardt
inspiration to write
was not raised in a loving
about Bernhardt. Once
home and did not get
I made my decision,
along with her son, Dunitz
I wanted to find out
recalls being raised with
everything about her.
loving parental attention
I did a comprehensive
and passing that along to
search of books in
her daughters.
English and French and
Dunitz, who gradu-
Sarah Bernhardt (circa 1844-
read them all. There were 1923), pictured in 1878
ated from University
lots of redundancies, but
Liggett School and the
I also found lots of nuggets.
University of Michigan, went on to Wayne
"I was doing all this while taking on
State University and earned a doctorate in
other projects. After finishing the reading, I speech communications and theater.
organized the material. I wrote the songs at
Although the emerging performer
different times."
left marketing to raise her children, she
As Dunitz learned about Bernhardt's
returned after a divorce, writing speeches
determination and perseverance, she saw
and creating advertising campaigns.
some parallels in her own personality.
There also were book projects, includ-
"The lead song in the show is (Quand
ing Louder Than Thunder, a parable about
Merne; which means 'Against All Odds,"
being a better communicator with an
explains Dunitz, whose lyrics are voiced
emphasis on listening.

Wiig and Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's real-
life romantic partner since 1997 and
the star of TV's Mad Men).
John Carter, also opening March
9, is a sci-fi film based on the 1912
stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Tarzan). The screenplay is co-written
by novelist Michael Chabon (The

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier
and Clay), 48. Carter is a former

Confederate officer who is mysteri-
ously transported to Mars, known
to its inhabitants as Barsoom. The
planet is dying for lack of oxygen and
water, and Carter
reluctantly steps in
to try and resolve
the inhabitants' con-
flicts and save it.
Taylor Kitsch (Friday
Night Lights) has the
title role, with Daryl
Sabara, 19, appearing

as a young Burroughs (who is sup-
posed to be Carter's real-life nephew
and chronicler).

Pushing Back

On Feb. 28, the Hollywood Reporter
reported that more than 75,000
people had already signed an online
petition protesting the Motion
Picture Association's decision to give
an "R" rating (due to language) to
the documentary Bully, the work of
documentarian Lee Hirsch, 39. His
film follows the lives of several fami-
lies from different
backgrounds who
have experienced a
tragedy as a result
of bullying.
Hirsch, himself
the victim of child-
hood bullying, was
briefly interviewed

Carol Dunitz as Sarah Bernhardt in

Bernhardt on Broadway

Dunitz, who was confirmed at Temple
Israel and whose daughters had their bat
mitzvah services at Temple Beth Emeth in
Ann Arbor, references Bernhardt's Jewish
background in her production.
"There's Yiddish in the show',' she says.
"Bernhardt's grandparents were Orthodox
Jews from the Netherlands, and there are
some facts underscoring that she was
Dunitz, who has had some inquiries
about taking her theater piece to New York,
is glad she ultimately has followed her cre-
ative instincts.
"I'm rather uninhibited, and this stage
experience has been very exciting for
me," she says, ready for a new direction in
theater. "My next character and I will have
very little in common." 0

Bernhardt on Broadway will be

staged at a number of locations
through June 18. For a complete list
of performance times and places,
go to www.BernhardtOnBroadway.
com . $25/$20 with groups of 10
or more. For tickets, go to www.
BrownPaperTickets.com . Group sales
arranged by calling (734) 864-3244.

by the Twin Cites Jewfolk website
last year. He said: "I'm Jewish....Yes,
I hope that this film is a catalyst for
social justice. Absolutely, for me, the
tikkun olam aspect of Judaism is not
a joke. It's the part I most connect
to. When I'm engaging in this sort of
work, I feel the most Jewish."
Prior to its official release date of
March 30, Bully will make its Michigan
debut at the Palladium 12 Theatre at
2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, as part of
the Uptown Film Festival (see Out &
About, The Big Screen, on the facing
page). After the film's debut, Defeat
the Label will host a panel discus-
sion featuring local students, parents,
school officials and more to educate
local audiences about the dangers of
bullying and effective ways to iden-
tify and respond to bullying when it
occurs. This panel is free and open to
the public. CI

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