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Theater Notebook: San Diego Rep’s Jewish fest honors four San Diego ‘Women of Valor’

Actor Sarah Price-Keating, right, portrays Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel in the "Women of Valor" video series.
Actor Sarah Price-Keating, right, portrays Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel, pictured at left with her late husband Andrew Israel, in San Diego Rep’s “Women of Valor” video series.
(Courtesy of San Diego Rep)

This week’s San Diego theater news

San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 28th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival reached its halfway point this week with the rollout of its four-part Women of Valor video series.

Launched 12 years ago, the annual tributes honor local Jewish women who are making a difference in their community. The name of the honor, “Women of Valor,” is drawn from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, verse 31: “A woman of valor, who shall find? She is more precious than pearls.”

This year’s honorees are Holocaust survivor Francheska Gelbart, Jewish Federation philanthropy senior director Jodie Graber, psychiatry professor and doctor Sonia Ancoli-Israel and Hot Pstromi singer Elizabeth Schwartz.

Rather than feature recorded interviews with the subjects, the “Women of Valor” recipients are honored with theatricalized short films. Each recipient was interviewed by the JFest team and their stories were written into dramatic monologues by Becca Myers, Sarah Price-Keating, Leah Salovey, Todd Salovey and Ali Viterbi. The scripts were performed on film by four local actresses: Rosina Reynolds played Gelbart, Rebecca Futterman played Graber, Price-Keating played Ancoli-Israel, and Lisa Robins played Schwartz.

One of the most moving films is about Ancoli-Israel, a renowned sleep researcher and retired professor from UC San Diego School of Medicine. Much of Ancoli-Israel’s research centered on how sleep loss can impact people battling dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But in 2012, she went from doctor to caregiver, when her husband, Dr. Andrew Israel, was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy, an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s that impacts the brain’s connection with vision. They were married 41 years before Israel passed away last October.

Price-Keating’s restrained but heartfelt performance as Ancoli-Israel is particularly touching. And Robins’ performance as Schwartz, who was raised by a single mom in a secular humanist home, is warm and earthy.

The videos, rolling out every few days since June 3, will all be posted San Diego Rep’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/sandiegorep/videos.

Devin Wade and Tina Machele Brown in OnStage Playhouse's "Sheepdog."
Devin Wade and Tina Machele Brown in OnStage Playhouse’s “Sheepdog.”
(Daren Scott)

OnStage first to return

OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista was the first San Diego County theater to return to indoor theatrical performances last weekend with Kevin Artigue’s racially charged two-character play “Sheepdog.” It’s about two police officers in love — one White and one Black — whose relationship is rocked when the White officer shoots a Black man while on duty.

During the opening night performance, illuminated candles onstage lit a stage curtain on fire. After two buckets of water were thrown on the flames, the show resumed without incident. The performances, which alternate between two pairs of fully vaccinated actors, were rehearsed in masks, but live performances are unmasked. For now, the theater is seating patrons at 50 percent capacity with spaces between parties. Audience members are required to wear masks indoors. These social distancing requirements will remain in place until at least June 15, when the state relaxes its COVID restrictions.

Tickets are $22 to $25. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through June 27. Visit onstageplayhouse.org.

Adam Lambert writing musical

Singer Adam Lambert, the San Diego-raised frontman for the rock band Queen who found fame on TV’s “American Idol,” has shared more details about his work on a new musical. Last year, he told a British interviewer that he’s working on a musical. Then, last week he expanded on the news.

On an Australian podcast, Lambert said he’s collaborating with a team of songwriters on a rock ‘n’ roll musical set in the 1970s that’s based on the life story of a real person. Lambert got his start in youth theater in San Diego and made his professional stage debut at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. Read more about Lambert at adamlambert.net.

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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