True Colors

Humorous, revealing and inspiring stories from Jews of Color exploring identity, community and being a Jew in modern times.
May 4 – May 21, 2019
Sept. 19 – 22, 2019

PRESS

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THE PROGRAM

Material Adapted, Curated, and Produced by Ronda Spinak
Produced by Eric Greene
Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Dramaturges Lisa Rosenbaum & Susan Baskin
Literary Manager Suzanna Kaplan
South Bay Producer Liz Altman
San Francisco/Bay Area Producer Carol Kirsh
Assistant Producer Barbara Koletsky
Associate Producers Rose Ziff & Susie Yuré
Artistic Associate Daphna Shull
Assistant Artistic Director Andrew Fromer

WELCOME – Ronda Spinak, JWT Artistic Director

The Color of Love Adapted from The Color of Love: A Memoir of a Mixed-Raced Jewish Girl, (Agate Publishing, Inc., 2019).
Written by Marra B. Gad. Performed by Brie Eley, Heidi Mendez, and Kimberly Green.

El Beso Adapted from Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in Between Journeys, (Duke University Press, 2013).
Written by Ruth Behar. Performed by Heidi Mendez.

True Colors
Used by permission of songwriter, Billy Steinberg. Performed by Katherine Washington.

Sabbath Peace
Written by Larry M. Sanders. Adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak. Performed by Joshua Silverstein, Brie Eley, Katherine Washington, and Heidi Mendez.

The Men in My Life
Written by Marissa Tiamfook Gee. Performed by Kimberly Green.

Beit Din
Written by M. A. Hosein. Performed by Brie Eley, Heidi Mendez, and Joshua Silverstein.

Eli, Eli
Written by Hannah Senesh. Music arranged by Marcos Cohen, a/k/a Mor D. Hai. Performed by Katherine Washington.

Both/And
Written by Maria Ramos-Chertok. Performed by Heidi Mendez.

No Joke
Written by David Chiu. Performed by Joshua Silverstein, Kimberly Green, Brie Eley, and Katherine Washington.

Hanukkah, Bakersfield Style
Written by Courtenay Edelhart. Performed by Katherine Washington.

Kimchi on the Seder Plate
Written by Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl. Adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak. Performed by Kimberly Green and Ensemble.

Special — A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Joshua Silverstein.

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.

SUSAN BASKIN (Dramaturg) wrote the Academy Award-winning film Violet and has written extensively for television and film. Her essays have been published in The Los Angeles Times Magazine and Los Angeles Magazine. “I, Citizen,” her last piece for Jewish Women’s Theatre, was commissioned for the 2018 Annual Fall Party. She is currently at work on a novel.

RUTH BEHAR (Writer) is the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellows “Genius” Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A traveler, storyteller, poet, educator, and public speaker, her books include The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village, Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba and Traveling Heavy: A Memoir In Between Journeys. She is the editor of the pioneering anthology, Bridges to Cuba and co-editor of The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World. Her documentary, Adio Kerida/Goodbye Dear Love: A Cuban Sephardic Journey, distributed by Women Make Movies, has been shown in festivals around the world. Her debut novel for young readers, Lucky Broken Girl, the coming-of-age story of a Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl, won the Pura Belpré Author Award from the American Library Association. Her bilingual poetry collection, Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé, is a new release with Swan Isle Press. For more information: http://www.ruthbehar.com/.

RABBI ANGELA WARNICK BUCHDAHL (Writer) joined Central Synagogue as senior cantor in 2006 and in 2014 was chosen by its congregation to lead them as senior rabbi. Born in Korea to a Jewish American father and a Korean Buddhist mother, Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as cantor or rabbi in North America. She has been nationally rec- ognized for her innovations in leading services, which draw large crowds both in the congre- gation’s main sanctuary and via live stream and cable broadcast to viewers in more than 100 countries. She has served as faculty for the Wexner Heritage Foundation and for the Union for Reform Judaism Kallot programs and has been featured in dozens of news outlets, including the Today Show, NPR, and PBS. Listed in 2012 by Newsweek as one of America’s 50 Most Influen- tial Rabbis, she serves on the boards of Auburn Theological Seminary, Avodah Jewish Service Corps, AJC, and UJA-Federation of NY.

DAVID CHIU (Writer) is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He and writing partner Patrick Wall wrote an episode for the Amazon Prime series LORE and recently sold a VR project to Dreamscape Immersive for development with Sam Raimi and Walter Parkes. Together, David and Patrick are represented by Authentic Talent & Literary Management. David is a member of Temple Isaiah, whose board of trustees he was nominated to this year. Through his work with the Temple Isaiah Green Team, he has personally advocated for environmental policy at City Hall and in Sacramento. A weekly attendee at his shul’s Torah study minyan as well as Shabbat services, he was honored to receive Temple Isaiah’s 2019 Emerging Leaders Award. Also a member of the Los Angeles Jews of Color group, David is thrilled to help celebrate the Jewish community’s diversity.

MARCOS COHEN, a/k/a MOR D. HAI (Songwriter) is an actor-singer and songwriter who was born in Uruguay and is currently living in Los Angeles. In 2008, he produced his first CD album in Latin Jewish music, Diaspora Sur, and since then has been presenting his contagious music across South and North America. Cohen started his artistic career as a playwright and director of musical theater. He has written the music and book of more than ten plays for children and adults, including Al Jolson, The Show Must Go On, Trapped at Tea Time, A Magic Book, Robotic Park, CooCoo Beat Show, and The Creation. His “Hay Que Cantar” was awarded best original song at the 2000 World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Since his Hollywood acting debut in the movie The Good Shepherd (Universal, 2006), directed by Robert De Niro, he has appeared in the TV shows Jane the Virgin, Dharma & Greg, Ally Mc Beal, Angeles, and Locked Up Abroad, to name a few.

COURTENAY EDELHART (Writer) is the biracial daughter of two social worker parents, one black and one an Ashkenazi Jew. She and her twin sister grew up in Chicago and Albuquerque. Courtenay majored in journalism at Northwestern University before embarking on a nearly three-decade-long career as a newspaper reporter. Now in her 50’s, she’s gone back to school and is working toward a credential to teach middle or high school English. She lives in Lancaster, California, with two adopted teenagers, a vicious little Chihuahua-terrier mix, and assorted dying houseplants.

BRIE ELEY (Actor) is a comedic actress/creator with dramatic tendencies. She trained at Marymount Manhattan College and the British American Drama Academy at Oxford University. Upon graduation, she apprenticed at Actors Theatre of Louisville before performing regionally at the Kennedy Center and across stages in New York. Done with the snow and tiny rooms, Brie made her way to LA for sunshine and closet space. Since arriving, she’s appeared in commercials and film/tv and was just on the “Staycation” episode of NBC’s Brooklyn 99. She continues to act onstage at spaces like Skylight Theater and A Noise Within while flexing her comedy chops at Comedy Central Stage, Second City, and The Pack. As a creator, her rom-com Blind Date Rules is now streaming on Amazon Prime, and her latest short, Acceptance, now lives on BET. Website: brieeley.com Instagram: @brieeley

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.

MARRA B. GAD (Writer) was born in New York and raised in Chicago. She is a writer and producer and now calls Los Angeles home. Ms. Gad is a proud graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a master’s degree in modern Jewish history from Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. Her memoir, The Color of Love – A Story of a Mixed Race Jewish Girl, will be published by Agate in November 2019.

MARISSA TIAMFOOK GEE (Writer) grew up in Brooklyn, NY, with an Ashkenazi Jewish New York mother and a half black, half Chinese Catholic father from Trinidad. She has always been active in the Jewish community, from being on the board of the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) to volunteering with IKAR, her current spiritual home. Marissa is a lawyer, teacher, runner, coach, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast. She runs, climbs, and explores every mountain and hidden trail she can find. She has traveled the world, worked in health care in Uganda (volunteering through American Jewish World Service), taught English in Asia, was a legal intern at the UN in Geneva, studied abroad in Jerusalem and Amsterdam, and backpacked through the Pacific Rim, Australia, and Europe. She now has a more conventional life (

ERIC GREENE (Producer) is a Los Angeles-based writer and civil rights activist. An associate director of communications at UCLA, Eric previously worked as senior policy advisor at the ACLU of Southern California and as Southern California regional director for the Progressive Jewish Alliance/Bend the Arc. He has also written or contributed to several books on race, the arts, and politics, and his first book, Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics and Popular Culture, was hailed by The Los Angeles Times as a “classic.” Eric studied religion at Wesleyan University and was a paralegal at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund before attending Stanford Law School, where he served as vice president of the Black Law Students Association and was a co-founder of the West Coast Conference on Progressive Lawyering. In addition to his efforts as an organizer in national and local Jews of Color communities, Eric has served as a consultant working with Jewish organizations on diversity and inclusion strategies.

KIMBERLY GREEN (Actor), an actress and dancer, was born in Seoul, Korea, and is graduating from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. Her theatre credits include It’s Just Sex, LA’s longest-running comedy, for which she won the 2017 Valley Theatre award for Best Featured Actress and was nominated at the 2018 NAACP Theatre Awards for Best Ensemble Cast. In 2017 she played Trina in B.L.A.C. Mail Productions’ seven-year anniversary show, Can God’s Love, which is nominated for Best Musical and Best Director for the 2019 NAACP Theatre Awards. Some of her TV and film credits include Lucifer (Fox), The Young and the Restless (CBS), and The Hot Chick, a Happy Madison Production. Kimberly is thrilled to be performing in her first JWT At-Home Salon Theatre and is converting to Judaism through the Judaism by Choice Program.

M. A. HOSEIN (Writer) is a third-year doctor-of-public-health candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. For fun, Monique enjoys her recent return to running and books in all forms—paper, audio—and is also a jazz vocalist. Monique and her endlessly supportive husband are the parents of a joyful, inquisitive, and fearless girl in the first grade.

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.

HEIDI MENDEZ (Actor) is a bilingual actor/director/educator who has worked professionally in Madrid, Mexico City, Utah, Texas, and now California. Her favorite roles include Lady Bracknell, Prospero, and most recently Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. Some favorite shows as director/choreographer include Cats, Working, Fiddler, and The Diary of Anne Frank. She is known as the Rapping Grandma to kids in juvie where she volunteered for two years which led her to be founder/director of ACT RISK NO MORE, a nonprofit whose mission is to rescue troubled teens through theater. Heidi is married to Nick (a Mormon bishop) and is the mother of three boys, resulting in her being afraid nothing. For fun, Heidi takes hip-hop classes and plays dress- up with her granddaughter. Education: BA in acting from BYU and MA in directing from Texas State, plus two Utah teaching certificates for theater and Spanish.

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.

MARIA RAMOS-CHERTOK (Writer) is a writer, workshop leader, and coach who facilitates the Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next. Her book, The Butterfly Series: Fifty-two Weeks of Inquiries for Transformation, was published in August 2018. She is finalizing her debut novel, Rosie’s Blues, inspired by the experience of her mother opening their family home in Hackensack, New Jersey, as a shelter for battered women and children. Maria’s manuscript won the 2018 Adult Fiction Mentorship prize from the Word for Diversity. She is a contributor to All the Women in My Family Sing: Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom (Feb. 2018), edited by Deborah Santana, and She’s Got This! Essays on Standing Strong and Moving On (Feb. 2019), a Write-on Mamas project. Since 2014, she’s cohosted women’s salons showcasing women-of-color artists. For more info, visit: www. mariaramoschertok.com.

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.

LARRY M. SANDERS (Writer) grew up in a small suburb of Detroit. He was raised by his mother, a single parent, and his grandmother “Big Ma,” a Choctaw Indian to whom he credits his love of learning and reading. He is a twice graduate of the University of Michigan and, before retiring in 2016, had a forty-year career in public service, providing planning and evaluation services to federal, state, and nonprofit social service agencies across the country. He converted to Judaism in 2011 on MLK Day after several years of studying Jewish history, culture, and thought. He lives in San Francisco with his best friend of 28 years, who also happens to be his husband. He spends his days reading, traveling, cooking, arranging flowers, and tending his orchids.

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

JOSHUA SILVERSTEIN (Writer/Actor) is an award-winning actor, comic, writer, beatboxer, and educator whose performances and productions throughout the country have prompted admiration from creative greats ranging from Norman Lear to Prince. For more than 20 years, Joshua has provided and facilitated theater, improvisation, and spoken-word workshops and in-school residencies designed to create a safe and open space for students of all ages to experience the freedom of creative expression. Joshua brings passion, play, and persuasion to make words, thinking, and expression infectiously fun. During the school year, Joshua serves as the cohost and co-producer of Emmy Award–winning Downbeat 720, a high school open-mic that has been a staple of Santa Monica for the last 16 years. Joshua also performs for The Late-Late Show with James Corden on the segment “Drop the Mic” and on the weekly stand-alone half- hour TNT series, Drop the Mic.

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.

KATHERINE WASHINGTON (Actor) is no stranger to the stage. A North Carolina native, she comes from a family of seasoned performers. Favorite credits include Recorded in Hollywood (Kirk Douglas Theatre), Bare: A Rock Musical (Los Angeles revival cast), The Wedding Singer (Tina Turner/Musical Theatre West), Tarzan (Kala, El Portal Theatre), Godspell (Judas/SoCal Tour w. Los Angeles Diocese), When Jazz Had the Blues (Trixie/Ovation and NAACP Theatre award winner), and Modjeska in the West Coast premiere of Thirteenth Point (Geffen Playhouse). She has provided backing vocals for Grammy Award–winning artists, singing with Macy Gray, Meatloaf’s Neverland Express, and Verdine White from Earth, Wind & Fire. Katherine also plays five musical instruments, the violin being her heart. An AMDA LA graduate, she’s thankful for any opportunity to put all her artistic gifts to use. “I finally found a home between the clicks of a metronome and the song.”

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.