As Watford Palace Theatre gets set to revive Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, JR’s arts editor Judi Herman spoke to the team behind the production. The powerful play details the reactions of a New York Jewish family to the news of Kristallnacht coming out of Germany in November 1938 – a horrific night that sees its 80th anniversary this year. Listen in as Charlotte Emerson and Michael Matus, who play the couple at the heart of the play, read an extract recorded especially for JR OutLoud. Plus hear from the production’s director, Richard Beecham, and actor Clara Francis, who tells the moving story of how her great-grandparents were caught up in the violence of Kristallnacht.
“Tears are the juice of our souls”, declares Blueberry the Clown, demonstrating how squeezing a blueberry produces a tear-like drop. He’s born Isaac Solomon Loew, son of a proud, observant Prussian-Jewish immigrant to America’s Deep South. His mother tells him that in Hebrew his name means ‘he who laughs’. It seems it’s this nominative determinism that begins his journey towards becoming a whiteface Pierrot, first in the circus then in vaudeville on Broadway. It’s 1932 and the Depression is kicking in when he meets us, his audience, in his dressing room, after what he confides will be his last ever show. Perhaps Blueberry himself has taken one too many kicks, for you sense the tension behind his rueful smile early on. Still, things are upbeat as he starts to share his life story – and his basket of blueberries – with his public.
Going to Limmud Festival is always a source of wonderment: 2,500 delegates of all ages – from under one year old to over 90 – met at Pendigo Lake in Birmingham for the third year. Hundreds of sessions were given by an international cast of presenters, covering all aspects of Jewishness, from torah texts to issues of being Jewish in the fluid world we now inhabit. There were lots of opportunities to join in, whether in Mizrachi dancing or – new to this year – peopling the everyday story of country folk that is The Archers with Jewish characters. There was a great deal of fun with Eddie Grundy!
Jewish kids at the After School Club founded/run by Meketa, the British charity led by Sybil Sheridan and Hila Bram, in Gondar.
Being in Ethiopia, after dreaming of visiting the country for years, was wonderful. Being there in the company of 20 loquacious Londoners of various Jewish persuasions was even better: a journey of constant dialogue and learning. With Rabbi Sybil Sheridan of West London Synagogue and Abye Tilahun Lakew of local Jacaranda Tours as our guides, we saw vast stretches of the country’s north.
The eight-day tour of Andalusia in November 2017 was my fourth trip with Jewish Renaissance in the past six years. As in the previous three, I felt immediately at ease with the other members of the group who were friendly and whose outlook I shared.
Like all JR tours Andalusia was a combination of Jewish sites and historic places of interest. We were fortunate to be joined on our first two days in Seville by Moises Hassan, an eminent scholar of Jewish-Spanish history, who gave us a crash course. He told us about the place of the Jews, whose expulsion or murder by the Inquisition at the end of the 14th century ended Jewish presence in Spain. Today there are only 100 Jews in Seville and none at all in Cordoba, two significant pre-Inquisition Jewish communities.
As Israel Zangwill’s play is revived for the first time in 80 years in the UK, by Bitter Pill Theatre at the Finborough Theatre, Judi Herman finds out about the visionary writer and activist. He coined this evocative description of inclusivity for the title of a play that influenced President Theodore Roosevelt at its premiere in 1908. Judi spoke to actor Peter Marinker about the play and his own inclusive background, complete with tales of rabbis and nuns! He plays Zangwill himself, as well as both the uncle and prospective father-in-law of Jewish composer David Quixano, escaped from a massacre in a pogrom to the melting pot that is New York City. First we hear an extract especially recorded for JR OutLoud by Marinker and actor Steffan Cenydd, who plays David, a man in love with a beautiful Russian Christian called Vera, much to the consternation of his Uncle Mendel (Marinker).
In 1975 when Chagall was 88, he illustrated an edition of Shakespeare’s magical play The Tempest, perhaps feeling an affinity with Prospero the magician and prince, who gives up his ‘rough magic’ at the play’s end. The first UK exhibition of this rare and limited portfolio is currently on view at the Ben Uri gallery. Curator Hanna Scolnicov, Professor emerita of Tel Aviv University (left in above photo), talks to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman (above right) about how Chagall came to illustrate the edition and takes listeners on an audio tour of the exhibition, stopping at her favourite images.
A Farewell to Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero runs until Sunday 11 February. Ben Uri Gallery, NW8 0RH. 020 7604 3991. www.benuri.org.uk
I won’t reveal why novelist Judith Burnley gives her moving debut play this intriguing title. To find out, you’ll have to get to know Otto and Lottie, he a Holocaust survivor and she an aristocratic German with her own story of devastating wartime trauma. Otto’s viola-playing days may be over, as he is also a stroke survivor, but he has the consolation of listening to Brahms on state-of-the-art speakers he designed himself!
Some fantastic shows are visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, plenty of which have a Jewish cultural interest. There are even a few that our Arts Editor Judi Herman has already reviewed from previous runs and spoken to creatives behind the productions in some cases, so we thought it’d be great to revisit those. Below you’ll find the listings info for Knock Knock, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, and Kafka and Son, as well as links to the theatre reviews and JR OutLoud podcasts.
Writer/performer Hadar Galron is the inspirational artistic director of the three-day-long International Shalom Festival taking place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this month. Its mission is to “build cultural bridges and celebrate coexistence and peace” by bringing artists from both the Israeli and Palestinian communities to share a dialogue with visitors to the festival. Here she tells Judi Herman more about the packed three days of the Festival – and how she plans to combat anti-Israel protesters like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) by shedding some real light in Edinburgh.
The International Shalom Festival runs Tuesday 8 – Thursday 10 August. Times vary. Donations on the door. Venue 340, Drummond Community High School, Edinburgh, EH7 4BS. www.shalomfestival.org