Backstage Blog

Good Jew or Bad Jew?

Good Jew or Bad Jew? It’s a pretty good question and one that is not easy to answer. We asked our talented cast anyway and here is what they had to say. We asked a few other questions while we were at it!

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Danielle Frimer

Danielle Frimer

Are you a Good Jew or a Bad Jew? A medium Jew? Most of the Hebrew has left the ol’ noodle, and I only sporadically observe the holidays, but I like to think that some of the moral/ethical underpinnings of Judaism have made their way into my value system.

Who are your Jewish influences in the arts or theatre? To name a few…Deb Margolin, Tony Kushner, Tom Stoppard, Jill Soloway.

How does this family dynamic relate to your own life?  I relate to arguing as a way of expressing deep love, and to the familial grappling with questions of religious and cultural identity.

 

Josh Odsess-Rubin

Josh Odsess-Rubin

Josh Odsess-Rubin

Are you a Good Jew or Bad Jew? Definitely in a traditional sense am a “bad Jew” in that I almost never go to temple, I don’t fast when you should fast, or keep kosher or anything. But I like to think I’m an “okay Jew” in that I try to live my life by some key ideas like the golden rule, and Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of healing the world.

How does this family dynamic relate to your own life? I should remain vague to not get into trouble, but echoes of Bad Jews’ plot strongly reverberate on both sides of my family! Luckily, however, I get along very well with all my cousins, and personally have never had a crazy battle of wills like that between Daphna and Liam.

 

Katie Sapper

Katie Sapper

Katie Sapper

Are you a Good Jew or a Bad Jew?  I’m not Jewish but consider myself a “Good Jew” ally.

Who are your Jewish influences in the arts or theatre? I really admire the works of Tony Kushner. The dimension he brings to his characters are so grounded. I think he keeps such a fresh perspective and challenges his audiences. I’m also a big fan of Eve Ensler – her play Necessary Targets has a special place in my heart and I love her call to social justice.

How does this family dynamic relate to your own life?  Any family that deals with losing a loved one encounters those uncomfortable conversations about keepsakes and what tangible reminders are left behind can relate to this story, as well as anyone who’s ever been introduced to a significant other’s family and tries to make a good impression. That underlying tension and desire to be liked is very real.

Tom Zohar

Tom Zohar

Tom Zohar

Are you a Good Jew or Bad Jew? I don’t believe the distinction really exists. Technically some might say I’m a “Bad Jew” because I don’t keep kosher or observe the high holidays, I am not religious and I migrated away from the holy land when I was very young. But I am also a proponent of Jewish culture, I speak proudly on being a Jew and I am proud of my heritage. So who knows?

Who are your Jewish influences in the arts or theatre? Tony Kushner is a big influence, and his work always deals with themes of Jewish culture and heritage. Harvey Fierstein and “Torch Song Trilogy” made an impact on me as a gay Jew. And of course Fiddler on the Roof is a classic.

How does this family dynamic relate to your own life? There is a history of heated, loud and passionate people within my family and I can definitely see them reflected here. Jonah’s attempt to keep the peace while the others fight is something I can relate to within my own role in my family, especially following my parent’s divorce.

Good Jews runs now through Feb. 12, 2017. Buy tickets HERE.

Director Insight: Jennifer L. Nelson

Our August Wilson plays, Seven Guitars & King Hedley II, began rehearsal in this month.  Director Jennifer L. Nelson answered a few questions about August Wilson’s work and why these two plays performed in rep are so unique.  Performances begin September 28th, 2016!

Jennifer L. Nelson   Photo by Fern Seiden.

Jennifer L. Nelson
Photo by Fern Seiden

What draws you to August Wilson’s work and is there any specific way you will approach these plays? How do you feel these two works intersect and relate to each other?  Wilson exploded onto the scene bringing a fresh theatrical lens through which to view the portrayal os the African American experience. Particularly his portrayals of African American men provided a fresh 360 degree perspective on the inner lives of characters we may only have seen in lesser light. He gave us not only their humor and frustration but also the yearning, caring, humor and poetic pathos we might have only seen under lesser light—if at all. Because of the range of his characters, his plays expanded the range of audiences–particularly drawing more African Americans to the theatre, a feat which in itself was worthy of major note.

The two plays in the Cygnet rep are joined through a unique view of two generations of the same family. Although all but one of his plays take place in the same neighborhood, none of the others incorporate characters who have appeared in another play (though some are mentioned but not seen). It’s an exciting challenge to think of how to mine the context for familial continuity.

How do you feel about directing a Rep? What are the challenges & opportunities? I’ve not done a Rep like this before but the challenge is attractive and daunting. Somewhere I picked up this saying: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” I feel secure enough in my work up to now to look forward to stepping into a new-ish way of working. One reassuring factor is that Wilson’s métier provides enough structure and shape to provide a solid base.

What did you look for in actors?  I particularly looked for actors with enough readily available experience and versatility to be adept at changing roles. Much of my early career experience was in performing and teaching improvisational theatre so I will bring some of that into the rehearsal process to help everyone become comfortable with the process. The cast is not only talented and delightful to work with and I am confident they will be a joy for audiences to see!

Learn more about SEVEN GUITARS & KING HEDLEY II here. Then book your tickets!

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Season 14 Announced!

From classic musicals to shocking contemporary works, Season 2016-17 promises to be a true “Cygnet” Season

Every season must reflect the mission of the company and for the past 13 years, Artistic Director Sean Murray has crafted uniquely Cygnet seasons that reflect the commitment to “startle the soul, embrace diversity and ignite debate.” This year is no exception. The seven productions in Season 14 range from the traditional to the avant- garde and include two musical theatre classics, a two-show repertory by a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, the return of a holiday favorite and two contemporary works sure to shock and amaze.

“I’m really proud of the diversity and quality of this season,” says Murray. “Leave it to us to go from a stripper, to an ex-con, to one naughty little boy in just one season. That’s exciting. That’s Cygnet!”

SEASON XIV: 2016-2017
List of Plays

GYPSY
July 14th – Sept 4th
Music by Jule Styne and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Sean Murray
Choreography by David Brannen
Music Direction by Terry O’Donnell

Indomitable stage mother Rose chases vicarious success and stardom as she pushes her daughters through the vaudeville circuit. When Dainty June flees the act to elope, Rose vows to make introverted Louise into a star. Boasting one show-stopping song after another—like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You”—this classic musical was inspired by the memoirs of the legendary burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. Featuring Linda Libby as Mama Rose, Allison Spratt Pearce as Louise, Katie Whalley-Banville as Dainty June, and Manny Fernandes as Herbie.

“The quintessential American musical” – Hollywood Reporter

Gypsy cast members: Manny Fernandes, Allison Spratt-Pearce, Linda Libby, Katie Whalley-Banville

Gypsy cast members: Manny Fernandes, Allison Spratt-Pearce, Linda Libby, Katie Whalley-Banville

Repertory
SEVEN GUITARS
Sept 28th – Nov 6th
By August Wilson
San Diego Premiere

In the backyard of a Pittsburgh tenement in 1948, friends gather to mourn for a blues guitarist and singer who died just as his career was on the verge of taking off. The action that follows is a flashback to the busy week leading up to Floyd’s sudden and unnatural death. Seven Guitars is part bawdy comedy, part dark elegy and part mystery. This lyrical play is the sixth in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle which charts the African-American experience through each decade of the 20th century and is performed in rep with King Hedley II.

“Rich, music-drenched drama” – New York Times

Repertory
KING HEDLEY II
Sep. 29th
– Nov. 6th
By August Wilson
San Diego Premiere

King Hedley II shares the story of King –a man recently released from prison, attempting to rebuild his 
life amid changing times and a backdrop of the crime and drug struggles in the community he exists in. King dreams of a life 
of stability and self-reliance beyond incarceration, gangs and broken family. The play dares to ask what it takes to transcend 
the limitations of life and personal circumstance, and if pure will is enough to change a man’s destiny. King Hedley II is the eighth play in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that, decade by decade, examines African American life in the United States during the twentieth century.

“Mesmerizing…. Full of powerful images that convey the darkly comic dialogue between hope and hopelessness in African American life.” – N.Y. Daily News

A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Nov 22nd – Dec 24th
Adaptation & Lyrics by Sean Murray
Original Score by Billy Thompson
Directed by Sean Murray
Musical Direction by Patrick Marion

Cygnet Theatre invites you to start your own family tradition with one of ours. This season welcomes the return of the holiday classic adapted from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of hope and redemption. This re-imagined, fully staged production features original new music, creative stagecraft and puppetry, and live sound effects. Step into a Victorian Christmas card for a unique storytelling experience that is sure to delight the entire family!

“Critics Pick” in 2014 – San Diego Union Tribune

A Christmas Carol (2015)

A Christmas Carol (2015)

BAD JEWS
Jan 12th – Feb 12th
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by Rob Lutfy
San Diego Premiere

The night after their grandfather’s funeral, three cousins engage in a verbal battle royale over a family heirloom. In one corner is the unstoppable and self-assured force of “Super Jew” Daphna. In the other, the immovable and entitled object of her secular cousin Liam. And in the middle is Liam’s brother Jonah, trying to stay out of the fray. Bad Jews is a savage comedy about family, faith, and legacy.

“The funniest play of the year.”-The Washington Post
“Delectably savage humor” – The New York Times

ON THE 20TH CENTURY
March 9th – April 30th
San Diego Premiere
Book and Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Music by Cy Coleman
Directed by Sean Murray

Its nonstop laughs aboard the Twentieth Century, a luxury train traveling from Chicago to New York City. Luck, love and mischief collide when the bankrupt theater producer Oscar Jaffee embarks on a madcap mission to cajole glamorous Hollywood starlet Lily Garland into playing the lead in his new, non-existent epic drama. But is the train ride long enough to reignite the spark between these former lovers, create a play from scratch, and find the money to get it all the way to Broadway? Featuring Eileen Bowman as Lily Garland and Melinda Gilb as Letitia Primrose.

“Old-fashioned musical comedy magic”– USA Today
“The show is a nonstop delight.” – The New York Post

On the Twentieth Century cast members: Melinda Gilb & Eileen Bowmann

On the Twentieth Century cast members: Melinda Gilb & Eileen Bowmann

SHOCKHEADED PETER
May 18th – June 18th
West Coast Regional Premiere
Music by Adrian Huge, Martyn Jacques, Adrian Stout
Lyrics by Martyn Jacques
Book by Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffen
Based on Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann
Directed by Rob Lutfy

Fall into the world of Victorian Steam-punk nightmares as a manic music-box spins stories of naughty children and misguided parents. Silly and sinister, Shockheaded Peter dares us to ask what’s beneath the floorboards. Don’t miss the most damning tale ever told on stage!

“A vile and repulsive story told by reprehensible characters in a thoroughly degenerate fashion – Absolute Bliss” – David Bowie
“A wryly seedy cabaret-punk musical” -Variety

 Come join us for this wild ride! Tickets and new subscriptions will be available for purchase on March 1st.