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July 18, 2013 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-07-18

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

arts & entertainment

Community Jewel from page 45

"Whether we end in the black or
in the red varies from year to year,
but its always close."

- JET Artistic Director David Magidson

cessful," says August, a commercial real
estate attorney who volunteered for his
high school stage crew.
"Surviving was an accomplishment
when some theaters went down. People
have been reallocating finances to social
service organizations instead of the arts
because of the economy.
"I hope we can develop more youth
programs, such as The Diary of Anne
Frank, which are affordable for schools."
Last year, the Anne Frank production
was seen by almost 25,000 students, who
gained insight into the Holocaust. In
order to keep tickets at minimal prices,
JET raised $13,000 from donors.

Following Trends
David Chack is president of the
Association for Jewish Theatre, a now-
global community dedicated to helping
members produce plays "relevant to
Jewish life and values" that counts JET as
a member.
"Over the last few years, we have seen
at least four or five Jewish theaters close,
but more have started to replace them so
the number of about 30 Jewish theaters
remains pretty constant:' says Chack.
"Some of the more popular produc-
tions in the last couple of years have
been The Whipping Man, My Mother's
Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, The God
of Isaac and Women's Minyan. A lot of
the newer plays deal with intermarriage

and intercultural themes.
"There also are many performers
doing solo, narrative Jewish theater
pieces, such as Rebecca Joy Fletcher
with Cities of Light, Antonia Lasser with
The God Box and Belle Linda Halpern
with Cravings: Songs of Hunger and
Satisfaction."
JET reflects these trends. It has pre-
sented three of the four cast productions
listed by Chack and has included solo
shows in recent seasons.
For the 2013-2014 lineup, Tim Newell
will recall comedian Jack Benny in New
Year's Eve performances of Mr. Benny by
Mark Humphrey, and Halpern's show has
been slated for March 22.
Susan and Dr. Joel Seidman of
Bloomfield Hills do not describe them-
selves as observant, but they feel a strong
connection to the subjects addressed by
the non-musical JET productions and
have held season tickets for some 20
years.
"Our connection to Judaism is emo-
tional, and we feel that connection in
the plays presented by JET," says Susan
Seidman, a retired school social worker.
"We have taken our children to shows
and meet friends as they attend.
"While themes are related to Judaism,
they also are universal. I particularly
think of Photograph 51, which had to do
with issues faced by working women."

Pursuing The Provocative
Mary Lou Zieve, who has been a broad-
caster and appeared in JET productions,
has been active with the company since
it was founded. She worked closely with
Evelyn Orbach, artistic director emeritus,
who was at the helm for about 20 years
as JET stabilized with Equity status.
Zieve will be honored, along with
Doreen and the late David Hermelin, at
the fall fundraiser co-chaired by Gina
and Arthur Horwitz. The event will be
held Oct. 14 at Glen Oaks Country Club
in Farmington Hills.
"We want to bring provocative produc-
tions to JET, creating works that make
people think and question," Zieve says.
"We also want to give experiences that
let audiences get lost in something out-
side themselves, whether through drama
or comedy."
Zieve believes the JET board has
realistic expectations about engaging
younger people as regular members of
the audience, which generally tend to
include those over 55.
It is understood that work and family
commitments, as well as budgeting and
time constraints, make it hard to buy
season subscriptions for those in their
20s to early 50s.
The annual "Festival of New Plays"
invites audiences — at various times and
places — to express their reactions to
staged readings of emerging works.
Films, such as Joe Papp in Five Acts,
will be presented three times on March
19 to draw attention to theater icons
through the popular medium of cinema.
Suzanne Curtis, who has participated
in amateur productions for Hadassah
and Tam-O-Shanter Country Club in
West Bloomfield, has served on the com-
mittee that picks the plays.
Hundreds are read before the final
selections are made, and committee

members want to include projects to
attract those who cannot be in the audi-
ence for an entire season.
On an average, each audience consists
of half subscription patrons and half
individual ticket holders.
Elaine Sturman, former president of
the Greater Detroit Chapter of Hadassah,
is most proud of the productions that go
out to the schools, informing and enter-
taining the very young.
"I believe these plays that take stands,
whether about the Holocaust or bully-
ing, help children grow up responsibly:'
says Sturman, a longtime subscriber who
has brought her own children to see JET
productions.
"On a larger scale, I have especially
appreciated JET because it is professional
theater in my own neighborhood, and
it gives the community a say in what is
produced.
"What I have seen is relevant to my
life — about the way we live or should
live today."
Chack remains mindful of the continu-
ing impact of the Jewish stage.
"The longevity of Jewish theater today
is a testament to the ways not only
Jewish communities support the arts
and culture but also how valuable Jewish
ideas, culture and creativity are to the
world at large," he says.
"The creativity of the Jewish people is
at the core of Jewish survival, and theater
is one of the oldest art forms to which
the Jewish people have contributed,
going back to Jewish-Greek plays and
reaching through modern Jewish dilem-
mas:'

affection and perhaps love, the conjurer
Schaalman's arrival in New York threatens
to pull them apart.
It takes a skillful fabulist to successfully
mix together the realistic and the fantas-
tical, and Wecker casts a spell powerful
enough to keep us reading, if not always
believing, until the end. At times there
is a distracting overlay of 21st-century
sensibility in the interactions between
characters, and Ahmad's backstory from
the Arabian desert of a thousand years ago
feels drawn out. Most troubling, the plot
complications of the last third of the book
can begin to border on melodrama.
Still, while Wecker's portraits of Chava

and Ahmad could have fallen easily



For more information about JET
programming, call (248) 788-2900
or visit www.jettheatre.org .

Greenhorns from page 47

flask, dubs him "Ahmad" and employs
him as his assistant.
Even so, neither mentor can control
their proteges or ensure their safety, espe-
cially not at night — the hours when most
of the city snoozes cozily in bed but when
Chava and Ahmad, who have no need for
sleep, escape boredom by wandering the
streets. It is during these nighttime esca-
pades that they first encounter each other,
and before long they develop a mutual
fascination based on the odd affinities
they share as strange beings in a city of
strangers.
Their nocturnal forays through Central
Park, the Bowery, Brooklyn and other

48

July 18 • 2013

parts of New York provide the scenic back-
drop to conversations laced with philoso-
phy, ethics, even theology.
At times, these exchanges take on the
earnest sound of late-night college dormi-
tory discourses: How do you make sense
of the world? What is free will? Can nur-
ture reshape our nature? Is there a God?
Can you ever really know someone else?
What is the responsibility we owe to one
another?
But their conversations also serve as a
means of deepening each other's under-
standing of ethics, mentshlichkeit and
love. And even as the relationship between
the Golem and the Jinni grows into

into caricature, she has endowed them
with quirky, distinctive personalities
that engage us throughout. In the end,
these flaws within the magical weave do
not take away from the pleasures of the
design as a whole. In her debut novel,
Wecker has pulled off a trick as deft as
any Jinni.



Diane Cole, author of the memoir After Great

Pain: A New Life Emerges, writes for the

Wall Street Journal among other national

publications and is a faculty member of the

Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at

Temple Emanu-El in New York City.

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