Theater Notebook: San Diego Rep unveils lineup for 29th annual Jewish arts festival
Events include new Jewish plays, a concert by Orthodox rapper Nissim Black, a chat with Joel Grey, and an in-person sing-along with Hershey Felder
San Diego Repertory Theatre has announced an ambitious lineup for its 29th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, which returns to mostly live performance after being presented online for the past two years of pandemic.
Festival artistic director Todd Salovey has planned 14 events — most live, but some online — that includes new plays, concerts, film, dance and interviews. It will also include the 13th annual Women of Valor honors and the 21st annual Klezmer Summit concert, which this year is dedicated to the people of Ukraine.
JFest events take place May 23 through July 19 and include live shows at the Rep’s Lyceum Theatre home space in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Jewish Academy in Carmel Valley and the Leichtag Foundation campus in Encinitas. Tickets are on sale at (619) 544-1000 or online at sdrep.org/jfest. Here’s the lineup:
“The Blessings of a Broken Heart”: Fest director Todd Salovey’s 2008 play, which has been produced around the world, was filmed in a new stage production in Jerusalem in March. The film will be presented online with a post-show discussion. Salovey based his award-winning script on the memoir of Sherri Mandell, whose 13-year-old son was murdered, along with a school friend, on a kibbutz near Jerusalem in 2001. The play is about Sherri working her way through her grief and rediscovering her Jewish faith. Streams at 7:30 p.m. May 23, then available for on-demand viewing until May 30. $15.
“A Ballad of Resilience”: Dutch singer Niki Jacobs and her ensemble will perform the Yiddish translation of “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” a collaboration between Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis, who was a survivor of the Nazis’ Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, and Mikis Theodorakis, the famous Greek composer banned for his activism against social injustice. The concert commemorates the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Nazi regime. 7:30 p.m. May 24. Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego. $18-$30.
“The Room Where It Happens”: The fourth-annual event celebrates the talents of San Diego Jewish Academy teen students in music, dance, theater and spoken word. 7 p.m. May 26. San Diego Jewish Academy, 11860 Carmel Creek Road, San Diego. $10.
“In Every Generation”: San Diego Rep co-presents the rolling world premiere of this play by longtime San Diegan Ali Viterbi. It was first presented as a play reading at JFest and has since gone on to win multiple awards, including the National Jewish Playwriting Contest and two Kennedy Center awards. It’s the time-traveling tale of members of the Levi-Katz family celebrating Passover again and again for millennia, from 1416 B.C.E. through 2050. Runs May 26 through June 19 at the Lyceum Theatre. $25 and up.
“The Dancing Room” (Selections): Choreographer Yehuda Hyman, whose solo show “The Mad Dancers” was performed at a past JFest, returns to present a free 20-minute excerpt of his latest work “The Dancing Room.” It’s a theatrical tale of his own life, from growing up the child of immigrant parents, his teen obsession with ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and his initiation into the world of Hasidic dance. After the performance, Hyman will answer audience questions. 6 p.m. May 29. Lyceum Theatre. Free. (no reservation required)
Nissim Black in Concert: This African American hip-hop artist, who turned away from his previous life as a gang member and gangsta rapper to embrace Orthodox Judaism, will perform a live concert. Black’s music pays tribute to his transformed life. His song “Mothaland Bounce” has garnered nearly 5 million views on YouTube. 7 p.m. May 30. Leichtag Commons, 441 Saxony Road, Encinitas. $18-$30. $50 ticket includes preshow with Black.
Klezmer Summit: “To Ukraine With Love”: Longtime event host Yale Strom and his band Hot Pstromi lead the 21st annual concert featuring Jewish, jazz and cross-cultural songs of hope. Featured performers include vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz, guitarist Fred Benedetti, bassist Gunnar Biggs and pianist Irving Flores. Special guests are San Diego jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and his trio performing jazz standards by Jewish composers, and Del Mar guitarist Peter Sprague. Also featured are several singers and musicians from Eastern Europe performing songs in tribute to Ukraine. 7:30 p.m. June 7. Lyceum Theatre, San Diego. $18-$25.
13th Annual Women of Valor: Presented in two locations, this event features local actors performing tributes in theater, song, music and visuals to six San Diego Jewish women who are jewels of the community. This year’s honorees are Phyllis Epstein, Ellen Fox, Rabbi Susan Freeman, Betzy Lynch, Perla Myers and Edith Palkowitz. 7:30 p.m. June 9, Lyceum Theatre, San Diego. 2 p.m. June 12, Leichtag Commons, Encinitas. $18-$25.
“The Art of ‘Shtisel’”: JFest director Salovey hosts a livestream conversation with actor Michael Aloni and co-creator-writer Ori Elon of Netflix’s Israeli series “Shtisel,” which follows the lives of several Israelis in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Streams at 12 p.m. June 18. $18.
“Joel Grey’s Favorite Plays”: In this streamed event, the Tony- and Oscar-winning Broadway and film actor shares with JFest director Salovey his perspective on three theater pieces he loves: the musicals “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Cabaret” and Paul Osborn’s 1938 play “On Borrowed Time.” Streams at 6 p.m. June 18. $18.
“Angelina Reaux sings love, liebe, l'amour: The Love Songs of Kurt Weill”: The American soprano star of opera, theater and cabaret will perform some of the famed Jewish composer’s songs in German, French and English, with accompaniment by pianist Scott Dunn. 7:30 p.m. June 23. 2 p.m. June 26. Lyceum Theatre. $36-$50.
The Whole Megillah: JFest presents its second annual festival of new Jewish plays in staged readings performed both live and online. This year’s scripts are Ali Viterbi’s “World to Come” at 7 p.m. June 14; Lisa Robins’ solo play “Committed” at 7 p.m. June 20; Ruth Geye’s “These and Those” at 6 p.m. June 22; and Linda Alper’s “Shanghai” at 6 p.m. June 26. Lyceum Theatre and online. Tickets are by suggested donation.
Hershey Felder’s Sing-Along: The popular San Diego Rep artist returns to live performance after two years of streaming filmed shows from his home in Florence, Italy, for this in-person fundraising concert for the Rep. Felder will perform songs by 20th century Jewish composers, including George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers and more. Event includes a wine-and-dessert reception. 7:30 p.m. June 11. Lyceum Theatre. $180 donation.
“Music in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice”: Felder presents the world premiere his latest musical movie, which he filmed on location in the still-vibrant post-war Jewish communities of Venice, Italy. Felder will narrate the film and talk about how music has reflected Jews’ changing roles in society. The film will feature performances by Israeli American cellist Amit Peled, Tony-nominated actor and singer Eleanor Reissa and the Italian quartet Klezmerata Fiorentina. Streaming July 12 through 19. $50 donation to benefit JFest.
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