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Articles & Theatre Reviews

Below you will find some of my articles and theatre reviews with the links to the websites where they were published. 
For the most recent theatre reviews, see the current news section.  
 
 
Changing the world, one play at a time: Israeli/Palestinian Play Festival at Philadelphia's Interact Theatre
 
Although Philadelphia is separated from Jerusalem by 9313 kilometers (or 5787 miles), in the city of Brotherly Love feelings still run high among Jewish-Americans on Israeli-Palestinian issues.  The Interact Theatre, under Artistic Director Seth Rozin, which aims to “change the world, one play at a time,” presented free staged readings of four plays and a panel discussion as part of the Israeli-Palestinian Theatre Festival, all centered around the world premiere of Larry Loebell’s House, Divided
 
While House, Divided received outstanding reviews and large audiences, many in the Philadelphia Jewish Community seem skeptical vis--vis Palestinian-Israeli dialogues.  However, no event brought in more people than the staged reading of My Name is Rachel Corrie, delivered with a wide range of feelings and a powerful sense of humanity by Philadelphia actress Julianna Zinkel.  Corrie , who acknowledged the suffering of Jewish people, also wrote, “The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic. [. . . .] but I think it’s important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state and Jewish people.” 

Corrie’s story found resonance during the panel discussion, which featured Rosie Greenberg, a young Jewish woman and daughter of a rabbi who went to Israel with Birthright, stayed with an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem for one month, and then lived with a Palestinian family for two months.  As a result of these experiences, she said she felt strengthened in her Jewish heritage; however, like Corrie, she identified with Palestinians and clearly distinguished between Israeli state policies and Jewish people who reach out and search for peaceful solutions. 

The reading and the panel prompted a great deal of discussion among panel members and the audience. To read my review on the All About Jewish Theatre website, click here.  To read the full text of my review, including an addendum with a letter from local peace activist Jean Haskell, click here.  The montage at left shows the juxtaposition of the Israeli and Palestinian flags (above), with Rachel Corrie (at bottom left in photo) and Julianna Zinkel (at bottom right).  
 
 
 
Jewish Titans Clashing in House, Divided:
Reviewing Larry Loebell's world premiere at Philadelphia's Interact Theatre
 
My grandfather, a military officer during WWI brought up his sons to believe in militarism as a kind of religion where Germany had to be defended against evil on a permanent basis.  One of his sons, my father, although critical of his father’s life, became a propaganda officer and foreign correspondent in Occupied France during WWII, where he vehemently supported the Third Reich.  My father had nothing but negative things to say about Jewish people whom he clearly did not know, let alone understand. 
 
Two years ago, I found his correspondence with my mother and wrote Metronome Ticking, a docudrama about the Third Reich and the Holocaust.  Sitting inside Philadelphia’s intimate Interact Theatre and witnessing the clashes of Jewish parents and their children in Israel and the United States, I was powerfully reminded of the struggles of ideologies among siblings, among fathers and sons in this world premiere of Larry Loebell’s House, Divided, a play about two brothers and their sons who are divided by faith, yet held loosely together by blood. 
 
I realized very quickly that this play goes way beyond a struggle among people of one ethnic or religious minority; rather, as House, Divided is the youngest successor to the old struggle of Titans that we know from Greek mythology, where the Titanic Elders—a race of powerful deities—ruled during the legendary Golden Age before being overthrown by a race of younger gods, the Olympians, a Greek borrowing from the Ancient Near East, which included (modern) Israel and Palestine.
 
To read the full text of this review, click hereTo view the article on the All About Jewish Theatre website, click here.  Click on the graphic at left to see a larger view.
 
 
 
Swan Song of six unemployed workers: Introducing the penultimate performance of the dance-filled musical The Full Monty
 
One of the benefits of serving on the Board of Directors of a theatre is that you can attend the rehearsals of upcoming productions, getting to see the development of a show before it hits the stage on opening night.  I did precisely that and saw director Tonda Hannum in action as she took six unlikely male strippers and molded them into shape, so much so that the audience roared with laughter and even ah-ed, oh-ed, and gasped during the most erotic moments of the show.  I have never seen that many women in the audience, several of whom were dancing in the aisles on opening night.  In the early 1980's, Tonda danced with Full Monty choreographer Ramon Galindo in the touring version of Bob Fosse's Tony-Award winning Dancin', which opened on Broadway in 1978 (click Tonda's name to see a TV interview she gave while on tour for Dancin', and click Ramon's name, which features the first of 3 videos of their 1981 rehearsal; click here for a recent photo of Tonda, second from left).  
 
The six actors play the roles of unemployed steel workers in Buffalo, NY, who, desperate for cash or a job, try to put on their own male revue.  While rehearsing, four of them try to survive the harangues of their wives and girlfriends, while the other two discover they are gay and fall in love with each other.  The women were led by the lively Georgie (Stacy Moscotti Smith) and the multi-talented Jeanette (Deborah Jean Templin), the funniest piano player I have ever seen on stage.  After many trials and tribulations, the six men put together a show that rocks the audience: Jerry (Timothy Quinlan), Dave (Jayson Elliott), Harold (Larry Daggett), Malcolm (Artie Sievers), Ethan (Matthew Hultgren), Horse (Rick Delancey).  This production brought in many good reviews, including this article from the very supportive News of Delaware County.  After the show, the male and female swans, Music Director Chris Ertelt and the band, friends, and supporters of the Media Theatre sailed to Brodeurs on State Street, a popular local restaurant and bar, for good company and a delicious midnight farewell.  
 
For the full text of this review, click hereClick on the graphic at left to see a larger view.
 
 
World premiere of A Night in the Old Marketplace, a Jewish “Danse Macabre”:
A multi-layered new folk opera based on I.L. Peretz’s Yiddish play Bei Nakht Oyfn Altn Mark(1906)
 
The folk opera A Night in the Old Marketplace had its world premiere at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater. Based on Isaac Leib Peretz’s Bei Nakht Oyfn Altn Mark, the play presents poetic images in a dream-like atmosphere where a multitude of different characters appear onstage.

According to Glen Berger, who wrote the book and lyrics for Marketplace, “Peretz’s original play is filled to brimming with moving, startling poetry, but is lacking in anything that could be called ‘plot’.” Not wanting to lose the poetry of the play, he and composer Frank London and director Alexandra Aron (who conceptualized the project), “married it to music, with many of Peretz’s original lines either directly incorporated into song or inspiring the songs.” 
 
For the full text of this article, click hereClick on the graphic at left to see a larger view.
 
 
Beauty and TERROR,
Seen Through the Kaleidoscope of Jewish Theatre:
International Aspects of the World Congress of Jewish Theatre in Vienna, Austria, March 2007

“To Jews and non-Jews in the audience, we must show not just a rosy picture, glossing over blemishes, but a picture as close and sometimes as painful to the truth as we can come.”  Theodore Bikel’s (Austria and USA) advice from his important keynote address represents one of the many powerful images in our constantly changing conference kaleidoscope where theatre people from around the globe contributed beautiful, thought-provoking, and sometimes even terrifying aspects of life, showing the strength and tremendous range of Jewish theatre worldwide.

Looking into our conference kaleidoscope from an international perspective, I vividly recall dramatic beads, pebbles, and shards of many different colors, impressions, and emotions that terrified, challenged, but also nurtured me.
 
For the full text of this article, click hereClick on the graphic at left to see a larger view.

It’s Never Too Late:
An Open Letter to future researchers, educators, and members of the theatre community
willing to unearth Jewish history, and from those documents create good theatre, such as
BACK TO THE BOULEVARD by Julianne (Bernstein) Theodoropulos

I would like to invite you to join me on an historical journey through different time periods.  Let’s start by traveling to the past, to Depression-era Northeast Philadelphia, and meet Jewish “settlers” who turned fields and farms into a thriving community, complete with homes, shops, including kosher stores, and restaurants, all centered around Temple Shalom, a world of much joy and hope, reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town--Philadelphia style. 

Now let’s travel into the present, into the heart of Back to the Boulevard, the docudrama that recently played to enthusiastic houses at the Polonsky Theatre.  In this play, we witness the lives of members of the Jewish Community, recreated on stage to show their experiences both then and now in their little Philly-style shtetl over the last 70 years. 
 
For the full text of this article, click here.
 
Click on the graphic at left to see a larger view.

THRILL ME: The Leopold and Loeb Story. 
Personal Connections to One of the Most Famous Legal Cases in US History 
 
He was Jewish, young, handsome, rich, and educated, with a higher IQ than most people anywhere in the US.  And yet, he failed, gave in to his obsession with Richard Loeb, his best friend and object of his admiration, and, together in 1924, they made legal history

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb lured Bobby Franks, a young kid in Chicago, into their car, stuffed a gag into his mouth, crashed a heavy chisel against his skull four times, and carried his naked, still-warm body into a culvert along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks.  They then held the head under water to make sure that he would no longer breathe, poured hydrochloric acid on his face to make an identification difficult, and wedged the body into a drain pipe, obscuring it with shrubbery and weeds.  After that, they went to a restaurant, sipped liquor, played cards at Leopold's home, and later, tried to bribe the victim's parents into paying a huge ransom for the return of their allegedly kidnapped fourteen-year-old son—all for the thrill of committing “the perfect crime." 

For the full text of this article, click here
 
Click on the graphic at left to see a larger view.

I AM A HORSE: A review of Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS,
 written from the perspective and in the language of a blinded horse

I am a horse.  One of five horses.  At the small stable at Mum Puppettheatre in Philadelphia.  Last Fall.  No, we were not puppets.  We were horses.  Real males.   Robert Smythe, the thoroughbred choreographer, showed us how to move.  We stretched our muscles.  Our strong thighs and legs.  We kicked the way only oppressed, boxed-in horses in small stables stir.  And strike.  And hit.  We hoofed with the energy of wild horses who were captured.  We were strong, naked stallions.  Unafraid of our physical, our masculine eroticism, all five of us: Sky Yeager, with Tim Cunningham, Robin Marcotte, Seth Reichgott, and Matthew Graham Smith.

We were at it.  Day after day.  Night after night.  We limbered up.  Long before the first members of the audience even walked into our space.  Our space.  Those visiting folks sat in stable boxes on both sides.  They stared at us the way we usually stare at humans before they try to ride us.  But this time, thanks to director William Roudebush, a Philadelphia theatre war horse, we rode our audiences into a dark world
 
For the full text of this article, click here.
 
Click on the graphic at left to see a larger view.