It’s a Life2019-04-21T15:40:29-07:00

It’s A Life

March 9-28, 2019

Stories that celebrate life while looking at the ironic, mystifying, and oftentimes unbelievably funny events surrounding death.

THE PROGRAM

Material Adapted, Curated, and Produced by Ronda Spinak
Directed by Susan Morgenstern & Shelly Goldstein
South Bay Producer Liz Altman • SF Bay Producer Carol Kirsh
Dramaturg Lisa Rosenbaum Literary Manager Suzanna Kaplan
Assistant Producer Barbara Koletsky Associate Producers Rose Ziff & Susie Yuré
Artistic Associate Daphna Shull Assistant Artistic Director Andrew Fromer

It’s A Life is dedicated to the memory of JWT’s beloved Board Member,
PENNY SPARK (June 30, 1956 – January 10, 2019)
who believed in JWT’s mission of sustaining Jewish stories and Jewish values

Welcome – JWT Artistic Director Ronda Spinak

The EEW Dance
Written by Suzanna Kaplan. Performed by Arva Rose.

Lost & Found
Written by Jared Vagy. Performed by Harris Shore.

My Zaydie
Written and performed by Arva Rose.

The Club
Written by Lizzie Shackney. Performed by Charlotte Evelyn Williams.

Last Mitzvah
Written by Lisa Rosenbaum. Performed by Charlotte Evelyn Williams, Arva Rose
and Lisa Robins.

Mr. Wonderful
Written by Judy Carter. Performed by Lisa Robins, Harris Shore, and
Charlotte Evelyn Williams.

Underwood
Written by Tajlei Levis. Performed by Arva Rose.

Still in the Game
Written by Eve Lederman. Performed by Harris Shore.

The Prayers of Other Hearts
Written by Laura Sheinkopf. Performed by Charlotte Evelyn Williams.

Feathers
Written by Olivia Goodkin. Performed by Lisa Robins.

The Suitcase
Written by Alan Duncan Ross. Performed by Harris Shore.

The Perfect Dive
Written by Susan Baskin. Performed by Lisa Robins.

Cyber Obit
Written by Ellen Switkes. Performed by Arva Rose and Ensemble.

Asking Around for You
Words and music by Mike Himelstein and Joe Bonamassa. Performed by
Charlotte Evelyn Williams.

ARTIST BIOS

LIZ ALTMAN (South Bay Producer) wrote “Almost a Sacrifice,” previously performed at the JWT salon Unknown Stories of Biblical Proportions. Other credits include song lyrics for activities at the University of Michigan and the Dallas Bar Follies; and co-directing, co-writing, and performing in the annual SMU law school follies. JWT: Advisory board member and South Bay producer. Professional: vice president of a real estate company. Hobbies: tennis, art, and travel. Special love to her muse, Louis.

JUDY CARTER (Writer) At an early age, Judy discovered that the messes in her life made great comedy material, leading her to a career working as a headlining standup comic performing with Jerry Seinfeld, Prince, and others. As an author, Judy doesn’t like to brag, but she did write the Bible. No joke, she’s the author of The Comedy Bible (Simon & Schuster), touted by Oprah Winfrey as the book that can show you how to be funnier. Judy’s new book, The Message of You (St. Martin’s Press), shows how to find your signature life story and use it to inspire others. Judy’s message of using humor as a transformational tool has made her a sought-after international keynote speaker for Fortune 500 companies and the Jewish Federation, as well as a regular contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal and CNN. Watch videos at judycarter.com

ANDREW FROMER (Assistant Artistic Director), a Los Angeles native, grew up as an active member in the Jewish community through Stephen Wise Temple. He attended Windward School in Mar Vista, where his acting career began in plays and musicals. After completing his BFA in theater at UC Santa Barbara, and an exciting year of living in Israel, Andrew took a dive into filmmaking and has since branched into production by helping prepare for distribution two
feature films he has acted in: AMP Creative’s Highway to Havasu (dir. Jeff Janke) and Mockingbird Pictures’ The Sweet Life (dir. Rob Spera). Andrew also edits, directs, and is very excited to be coordinating this year’s iteration of NEXT @ The Braid, JWT’s Emerging Artists Fellowship. Find out more info at www.jewishwomenstheatre.org/next.

SHELLY GOLDSTEIN (Director) has written for every genre of TV, film and stage. Her one-woman shows have played to sell-out crowds throughout the US and UK. She co-starred with Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave in the British film, The Riddle and with Vinnie Jones in the Irish film, Assault of Darkness. She has written or punched-up sitcoms, dramas, films, lyrics, documentaries, animation, award shows, jokes and special material for such artists as Stephen Colbert, Steve Martin, Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anne Hathaway, LL Cool J, Jane Fonda, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Yoko Ono. She wrote the book for the disco musical, Last Dance, which work-shopped on Broadway and she directed the critically-acclaimed hit comedy The Vic & Paul Show in L.A. and Chicago. She is currently writing the new musical, Somebody Feels the Water and is the L.A. correspondent for London’s Good Vibes radio. She recently won the New Yorker Caption Contest.

OLIVIA GOODKIN (Writer) contributed the short piece on finding feathers. In her professional life, Olivia is an employment law attorney who focuses exclusively on acting as the impartial investigator of employee complaints, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and other workplace issues. In her personal life, the subject of this JWT production is meaningful to her because of the loss of all of her immediate family members at early ages. Fortunately, Olivia has a wonderful husband, two sons, two daughters-in-law, and two young grandchildren in addition to fabulous friends, all of whom bring immense joy to Olivia’s life. (And one of Olivia’s sons plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. Go, Chiefs!)

MIKE HIMELSTEIN (Songwriter) has had more than 500 songs recorded by artists ranging from the Temptations, Al Jarreau, Stray Cats, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Johnny Winter, and Joe Bonamassa to Julie Andrews, Mandy Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Martin Short, and William Shatner, among others. His songs have been featured in TV, films, and onstage in productions including Shrek (the Academy Award-winning movie and Broadway musical), Blades of Glory, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, The Sopranos, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Special Agent Oso, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, Jim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, and Splash & Bubbles. He has written several television theme songs and many songs for Disneyland Parks around the world. Mike is a three-time Emmy nominee, an Annie nominee, and the two-time winner of the Cynopsis Imagination Awards. He was a 2007 recipient of the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for his hit song God’s Gift to the World.   

SUZANNA KAPLAN (Writer/ Producer) was born in Mexico City and grew up speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. Following economic uncertainty, she moved to the US where she partnered with her best friend in a translation service and language school. They did well and being young, sold it as soon as they could and used the money to travel, eventually winding up in Israel. That trip stretched out to six years, a husband and a baby. Back in the US, Suzanna worked in Hispanic advertising and wrote for Spanish language TV. Her greatest pleasure these days is writing, producing and working with the wonderful women of JWT when not caring for the two most marvelous creatures known as grandchildren.

CAROL KIRSH (SF Bay Producer) has worked, volunteered and served on boards for a range of social services agencies since receiving her BA and MSW from the University of Michigan.  She also spent 8 years in Hong Kong working as an executive search consultant for Russell Reynolds and Norman Broadbent, two leading international search firms. Carol produces Jewish Women’s Theater in the Bay Area, where she hosted its first “at home” salon in San Francisco in 2012. A native Floridian with family roots in Alabama, Carol has continued the diaspora, living much of her adult life outside of the continental United States, including Bali, Guam and Hawaii.

BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer) has most recently worked on the production side of Jewish Women’s Theatre. Prior to that, for three seasons she was responsible for catering.  Now Barbara is thrilled to be moving into stage management for JWT at The Braid.  Barbara is also the owner of RSVP Party Planning, where as an experienced party planner she has produced many events, specializing in charitable organizations but with many corporate and private clients as well. Barbara was born in New York and moved to California for a career in marketing and promotions for Polygram Records and Elektra Atlantic Corp. She regularly volunteers at the Grossman Burn Center with her service dog, Rodney.

EVE LEDERMAN (Writer) has told stories onstage in New York at the Players Club, the Bryant Park Reading Room, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times and her book, Letters from My Sister, was published by Skyhorse Publishing and Audible. Eve’s play, To Life, is a semi- finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Conference, a finalist for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education/Award of Excellence in Playwriting, and shortlisted for the 92nd St. Y Development Lab. Her play, Nothing but the Truth, was a finalist for the BBC’s International Playwriting Competition, the Urban Stages Development Program (NYC), Theatre Evolve New Works Festival (Chicago), and the Phoenix Theatre Festival of New American Theatre, among others. It will premiere in Canada with Post Productions in April 2019.

TAJLEI LEVIS (Writer) is a playwright and lyricist based in New York and Vermont. Her Jazz Age musical, Glimpses of the Moon, based on the novel by Edith Wharton, is published by Samuel French and has been produced across the US and in Brazil. Tajlei writes witty romantic literary musicals that include The Bootlegger & The Rabbi’s Daughter and A Time To Be Born, based on the novel by Dawn Powell. Her short plays have been produced in New York, Toronto, and London. Tajlei is also the writer and producer of Mystery in the Mountains, history-inspired immersive mystery events in Vermont. Tajlei is a graduate of Columbia College and NYU Law School. She has an MFA in creative writing and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Director) began directing in college by staging musical theatre concert readings while co-teaching American Musical Comedy with Tom Lehrer at UC Santa Cruz. She went on to teach and direct at the renowned Stage Door Manor performing arts camp in upstate New York.  In Los Angeles, for Theatre West, Susan has directed selections from David Ives’ All in the Timing; the musicals Just Too Cool, book by Mary Garripoli, music by Phil Orem; and Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, book by Stephen Cole, music by Claibe Richardson; and Barbara Nell Beery’s play, The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro.  At the Falcon Theatre she directed Leap, by Arnold Margolin, Surviving Sex, by David Landsberg, and the hit comedy, The Psychic, by Sam Bobrick. Susan directed Happy Days, a New Musical, book by Garry Marshall, music/lyrics by Paul Williams, at Cabrillo Music Theatre.  She directed an extended-run production of Meryl Cohn’s comedy Reasons to Live at the Skylight Theatre.  In 2014, Susan began working as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts, Anaheim.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and now happily holds a position as JWT’s Producing Director.

LISA ROBINS (Actor) has worked with JWT since its inception, appearing in an abundance of salons, most recently Stories from the Fringe. The Blessing of a Broken Heart, a one-woman show directed by Todd Salovey, garnished stellar reviews and a warm reception by our JWT community for its LA premier at the Braid. Other LA appearances include Love, Loss and What I Wore (Geffen), Catskill Sonata (dir. Paul Mazursky), Cornerstone’s Long Bridge (dir. Bill Rausch); and Yehuda Hyman’s Center of the Star. A lifetime member of the Actors Studio, Lisa worked with the late Martin Landau, Mark Rydell, and Asaad Kelada among others. Film/TV includes Rum Diary (opposite Johnny Depp); and James Dean (dir. Mark Rydell). Upcoming projects include her own solo show, Committed, and Blessing in Brooklyn. Lisa’s finest work of art is Renata, her daughter, who’s a freshman at Yale. Special thanks to Ronda, Susan, and all of her wonderful JWT colleagues.

ARVA ROSE (Actor/Writer) has been a member of Jewish Women’s Theater since its inception and believes deeply in JWT’s mission. In her previous life as Arva Holt, she performed at the American Stage Festival (Miracle Worker: Annie Sullivan, Streetcar: Stella, The Apple Tree: Passionaella, Front Page:  Molly Malloy); The Theater Company of Boston (Night Dispatcher:  Pamela); American Jewish Theater (Awake and Sing: Bessie Berger); The Hartman Theater (Streetcar: Eunice); Hudson Guild Theater (House of Blue Leaves: Bunny); Geva Theatre (Front Page: Molly Malloy); The Barrow Theater (Detective Story: Shoplifter). TV: Cheers, LA Law, Hill Street Blues, Nightcourt, Scarecrow and Mrs. KingHelltown. Inmates: A Love Story. As the World Turns.  Locally, The Electric Lodge (Crossing Delancey: Bubbie) and the Edgemar Theater (Surviving Mama: Mama)

LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Dramaturge/Programming Director of The Braid) is the author of the novel A Day of Small Beginnings (Little, Brown & Co. 2006) and has just completed a new novel, Sacrificial Man, an intimate story of betrayal and archaeology from the fear-filled days of the 1950s blacklist. Lisa lives in Pacific Palisades with her husband, Walt Lipsman. They have two daughters.

ALAN DUNCAN ROSS (Writer) is a writer, producer, and composer. He is currently working on a feature-length animated musical film, based on his original screenplay OZI. His producing partners are Leonardo DiCaprio, Rob Minkoff (Lion King) and Keith Chapman (Paw Patrol). The film’s choreographer is Mikhail Baryshnikov. He is executive producer of a new children’s animated series debuting this fall on Netflix. Ross is also the author of several books published by HarperCollins. He is a rabid fan of Jewish Women’s Theatre, even though he’s a guy. Tonight’s piece, ״Suitcase״is about his father who died this year, two weeks before his 100th birthday.

LIZZIE SHACKNEY (Writer) A Pittsburgh native, Lizzie is on a drawn-out road trip through the American South, and each stop has lasted anywhere from 2 months to (hopefully) several years. She is currently parked in Austin, TX, where she attempts to merge legal advocacy with data analytics, and she writes in coffee shops when she gets the chance. She loves long drives, good stories, political podcasts, and organized fun.

RABBI LAURA SHEINKOPF (Writer) is a teacher, writer, and editor who currently teaches Judaic studies at Liberal Jewish High School in Houston, Texas. A graduate of Columbia University, she was ordained and received her masters degree at Hebrew Union College, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She has authored numerous essays, as well as “Women on the Way Up” (Mindfullness Press, 2013). She lives in Houston with her husband and children.

HARRIS SHORE (Actor) has worked under most Equity and SAG-AFTRA contracts over a span of forty-six years. Broadway & off: Harry S. Truman in the musical The Buck Stops Here (AMAS Rep and tour); Earthlings (Princess); Rainbow Jones (Music Box); A Christmas Carol (Beacon). He co-created the singing group Four on the Town; created a dozen ridiculous characters in the comedy series Just for Laughs; and played Mr. Lippman in the comedy series Seinfeld. He appeared and most recently completed filming two Hallmark movies, The Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For (recurs in the movie franchise) and The Holiday Calendar, the latter released in the fall of 2018. LA Theatre: Medal of Honor Rag (Zephyr); My Lady Vaudeville (DRAMA-Logue Award, Best Actor in a Musical, Theatre East); Mates (LATC); Crossing Delancey (Actors Alley); Mausoleum (Theatre West). As a playwright: Killing Klaus. Harris is an ordained cantor. Hobby: restoring old houses.

RONDA SPINAK (Producer/JWT Artistic Director) created and produces JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series, now in its 10th season. She has curated more than 35 original Jewish-themed salon shows for JWT, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. Spinak developed and produced Not That Jewish, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, and ran Off-Broadway for more than 200 performances!  Spinak co-wrote Stories from the Fringe, putting the stories of women rabbis on stage for the first time.

Since then, 150 national and international women rabbis have been interviewed, and in partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive have made many of the interviews available online at www.jwa.org. Spinak wrote for Rugrats, and her plays include Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival. Spinak has served as a grant reviewer for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, is on the board of the Alliance for Jewish Theatres, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She feels blessed to be working with the many inspiring women who give so generously to Jewish Women’s Theatre. www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.

DAPHNA SHULL (Artistic Associate) is a two-time NEXT Arts Council Fellow, literary manager, and writer, born and raised in Tampa, Florida.  She received her bachelor’s degree in media production from Florida State University. After graduating in 2014, she headed west to pursue a career in screenwriting and the arts. Today, Daphna works as a

ELLEN SWITKES (Writer) has been writing personal stories for the stage and the page since 2004. She was producer/host of Cornucopia, a storytelling show for grownups which ran for 3 years at Actors Workout Studio in North Hollywood. Prior to her storytelling work, she was a talent coordinator for The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers and an associate producer for Entertainment Tonight.

JARED VAGY (Writer), a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in treating rock climbers, is on the teaching faculty at the University of Southern California in their renowned Doctor of Physical Therapy program. He is the author of the international Amazon best-seller Climb Injury-Free, has published more than a dozen articles on injury prevention, and lectures on the topic internationally. Jared is passionate about climbing and enjoys working with climbers of all ability levels, from novices to top professionals. With more than 15 years of climbing experience, he is an accomplished rock climber, ice climber, and alpinist and continues to explore the wonders and adventures that these pursuits afford.

CHARLOTTE EVELYN WILLIAMS (Actor) has been acting since the age of seven. Having a strong love for theatre, she pursued an arts degree and received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in acting at California State University, Fullerton. Since graduating, she has performed in several playhouses in Los Angeles, including the Ruskin, where she portrayed Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun (2016 Ovation recommended). She has worked as a costar on several TV shows: Unsolved (USA), Baskets (FX), and Preacher (AMC). She recently costarred in the original film Into the Dark, now streaming on Hulu. To keep up with Charlotte, check out her website at charlotteevelynwilliams.com.

SUSIE YURÉ (Associate Producer) has volunteered for 30 years in non-profit organizations, in which she has held leadership roles in fundraising, event planning, facilities coordinating, programming, membership, marketing, and administration. Susie has produced musical theatre productions, classical concerts, and cabaret performances and has been intensely involved in the world of theatre for over 20 years. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. Her favorite role is as mom to her two talented (grown) children, who are both professional (and working) musicians.
ROSE ZIFF (Associate Producer) came out of retirement to work for JWT after working at UCLA Medical Center for 33 years, where she functioned as “den mother” to more than 1000 interns, residents, and clinical fellows at UCLA, the VA, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Centers, providing resources and support. Rose is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Lev Eisha, a Jewish women’s non-profit religious organization and spiritual community. Her hobbies include gardening, dog training and hosting a monthly book club.

GALLERY

Arva Rose is on a mission to rescue newborns in Suzanna Kaplan’s “The EEW Dance”

Harris Shore climbs his last mountain in Jared Vagy’s “Lost & Found”

Charlotte Evelyn Williams is an unwilling member of  “The Club,” written by Lizzie Shackney

Charlotte Evelyn Williams, Lisa Robins and Harris Shore perform Judy Carter’s “Mr. Wonderful”

Lisa Robins connects with her father in Olivia Goodkins’ “Feathers”

Interactive exhibit

Gallery Director Marilee Tolwin and patrons admire piece by artist Sarah Reynolds

Cast with Artistic Director Ronda Spinak, Assistant Producer Barbara Koletsky and Director Susan Morgenstern

An appreciative audience

Q&A post show

Photos by Jan Burns