Theatre

In conversation: Peter Marinker

Peter Marinker discusses his heritage, acting and the revival of The Melting Pot

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As Israel Zangwill’s play is revived at Finborough Theatre for the first time in 80 years, 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). Image design by lococreative.com

The Melting Pot runs until Tuesday 19 December. 7.30pm (Sun-Tue), 2pm (Tue only). £18, £16 concs. Finborough Theatre, SW10 9ED. 0844 847 1652. www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

In conversation: Charles Dorfman

Charles Dorfman talks about acting in hit comedy Luv - seasonal fun to light up winter

When Harry is talked down from throwing himself off a Bridge by old school friend Milt, who luckily happens to be passing, his life takes a different direction as he finds love in this 1963 comedy from Murray Schisgal. He's the prominent New York Jewish writer responsible for Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing film comedy hit. Here Charles Dorfman talks to Judi Herman about finding LUV and playing Harry; his co-stars Nick Barber and Elsie Bennett; his collaboration with director Gary Condes; and Dorfman’s Buckland Theatre Company, resident company at Park Theatre’s studio space, Park 90.

Luv runs until Saturday 7 January. 7.45pm (Tue-Sat), 7pm (13 Dec only), 3.15pm (Thu & Sat). £14.50-£18. Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP. 020 7870 6876. www.parktheatre.co.uk

In conversation: Niv Petel

Israeli actor Niv Petel tells us about Knock Knock, his beautifully nuanced one-man show

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

Writer/performer Niv Petel’s one-man show Knock Knock is an explicit, heartbreaking account of the agony faced by bereaved parents of young Israeli soldiers killed during compulsory army service. The dreaded ‘knock knock’ at the door means a trained army therapist has come to tell you the worst. Petel spoke to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman on the stage of the Etcetera Theatre immediately after the show.

Knock Knock runs until Sunday 6 November, 7.30pm & 6.30pm, £8-£10, at Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High St, NW1 7BU; 020 7482 4857. www.etceteratheatre.com

Read our review of Knock Knock on the JR blog [link to blog]

In conversation: Alix Sobler

Playwright Alix Sobler discusses her new play The Great Divide

Luckygirl Photography

Luckygirl Photography

Playwright Alix Sobler talks to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman via Skype about her award-winning play The Great Divide, about the fight for equal pay and unionisation in American garment factories and about the resonance that The Great Divide has today. Inspired by true events, the play tells the story of a fire in a New York garment factory that killed 146 workers – mostly women and mostly Jewish immigrants.

The Great Divide runs Sunday 4 – Tuesday 20 September, 7.30pm & 2pm, £18, £16 concs, at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Rd, SW10 9ED. www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

In conversation: Paul Spera

As Shakespeare's Merchant finally arrives in Venice, we speak to actor Paul Spera

As the long-awaited date of the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Venice Ghetto itself arrives this week, in the last of our series of interviews with members of the company, JR's arts editor Judi Herman talks to French-American actor Paul Spera. Based in Paris, Spera plays Lorenzo, the Christian youth who elopes with Shylock's daughter, Jessica – and plenty of his money and jewels – thus goading the distraught father into seeking the revenge that leads to his demand for the famous pound of flesh from Antonio, the merchant of the title. Spera is interesting casting for the role of the Christian lad who steals away with the Jewish girl as he is half Jewish himself. And so we come full circle with this series of interviews with members of Compagnia de Colombari, for we began with Michelle Uranowitz aka Jessica herself. www.themerchantinvenice.org

In conversation: Frank London

Frank London talks to JR about composing for The Merchant in Venice at Venice Ghetto 500

In the next of our chats with members of the cast and creative team of the very first production of The Merchant of Venice to be staged in the Venice Ghetto itself, Judi Herman talks to Frank London, composer and musician. The Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer, founder of the Klezmatics and leader of bhangra/Yiddish group Sharabi (with Deep Singh), Shekhinah Big Band, and his Klezmer Brass Allstars is no stranger to large-scale collaborative projects, or of course to Jewish-themed work. Here he talks about the musicians who are working with him on this project and his inspirations for the music that will be heard in the Ghetto. www.themerchantinvenice.org

See Alexandra & Nikole Stoica, the twin violin virtuosos from Romania that Frank talks about, who will play in the production. Hear music by Salomone Rossi (his beautiful Kaddish – the mourner’s prayer), the 17th-century, Italian-Jewish composer, who was one the inspirations that Frank mentions.

In conversation: Jenni Lea-Jones

Jenni Lea-Jones talks to JR about her role in The Merchant in Venice at Venice Ghetto 500

Sian Trenberth Photography

Sian Trenberth Photography

In the next of our chats with members of the cast and creative team of the very first production of The Merchant of Venice to be staged in the Venice Ghetto itself, Judi Herman talks to Welsh actress Jenni Lea-Jones, who has relocated to Venice and is perhaps the most unusual of the five performers sharing the role of Shylock in the show they are calling The Merchant in Venice. Apologies for the quality of the line at the start of this conversation, which happily soon improves. www.themerchantinvenice.org

In conversation: Michelle Uranowitz

In light of Venice Ghetto 500, actor Michelle Uranowitz talks to JR about playing Shylock’s daughter as part of the anniversary celebrations

As the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Venice Ghetto kick off, excitement mounts over the first ever performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto itself (26-31 July). JR’s arts editor Judi Herman will be talking to various members of the cast and creative team in the coming weeks, but first spoke to American actor Michelle Uranowitz about playing Shylock’s rebellious daughter Jessica in Venice.

Visit www.themerchantinvenice.org for more info.

In conversation: Diane Samuels

Diane Samuels talks to Judi Herman about her play Poppy + George and her new oratorio Song of Dina

©Richard Lakos

©Richard Lakos

Liverpudlian playwright Diane Samuels talks to Judi Herman about identity and change from London’s East End 1919 to now. These themes feature in her play Poppy + George, about Northerner Poppy Wright, who is taken on at a tailoring workshop by the proprietor Smith, a Russian Jew with a Chinese past. It’s here that Poppy also meets Tommy the music hall artist and George the chauffeur, both changed by serving in the trenches. Diane also discusses her new project (at 21:49), Song of Dina, a multimedia oratorio with music by composer Maurice Chernick, based on the story of the Patriarch Jacob’s only daughter.

Poppy + George runs to Saturday 27 February, 7.30pm & 2.30pm, £12-£22.50, at Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Rd, WD17 1JZ; 01923 225671. www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk

Song of Dina plays on Wednesday 6 April, 7.45pm, FREE, at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989. www.jw3.org.uk

Read JR’s four-star review of Poppy + George [link to blog]

In conversation: Scott Frankel, Michael Korie and Doug Wright

Judi Herman speaks to the brains behind the musical retelling of the real-life riches to rags story, Grey Gardens

Courtesy of Scott Rylander

Courtesy of Scott Rylander

In the mid-1970s Albert and David Maysles – first-generation sons of Jewish immigrants to the US from Eastern Europe – made Grey Gardens, one of their most famous films. The documentary told the story of a mother and daughter from the highest echelons of US Society, Edith and Edie Bouvier Beale, who were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two Bouvier Beale women were discovered living as reclusive social outcasts in Grey Gardens, a dilapidated mansion overrun by cats that was so squalid the Health Department deemed it “unfit for human habitation”. Now another creative Jewish pair, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie, together with book writer Doug Wright, have brought their multi-award-winning musical based on the film to London. JR’s arts editor Judi Herman, who saw Thom Southerland’s European production starring Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell, was enchanted by this riches to rags story, as you’ll hear in her interview with the three writers.

Grey Gardens runs until Saturday 6 February, 7.30pm & 3pm, £25, £20 concs, at Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD; 020 7407 0234. www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Here, you can watch a clip of Jenna Russell singing Another Winter in a Summer Town from the musical.