In September 2011, the Jewish Community Center of Metrowest in West Orange embarked on the Jewish Plays Project, a multi-year program that aims to discover and encourage new Jewish voices in American theater.
In short order, the JPP received 175 new plays on a variety of themes. “There’s some Biblical retellings, some grappling with fertility, and new looks at sexuality, ethnic diversity, dating, terrorism, and a lot more,” says David Winitsky, a Maplewood resident and the director of the JPP. “That’s what Jewish life today is about. It’s family and history and the Bible, but it’s also everything else under the sun.”
Now, the project’s panel of judges—made up of 10 New York actors, writers, and directors, alongside a Community Panel of 30 Metrowest residents—have narrowed down the plays to three finalists. And they’re asking Baristaville to step in and pick a winner at a one-night live event.
On Saturday, March 24, 8pm, at the JCC Metrowest (760 Nortfield Ave., West Orange), excerpts from the top three plays will be performed in front of an audience—who will vote American Idol-style, via their cellphones, to pick the JPP’s winning play.
The trio of finalists are:
- A People, by Lauren Feldman: The playwright describes A People as “a mosaic play about the people you’re related to,” and combines vignettes, music, and monologues to hold up a mirror to 4,000 years of Jewish history, reminding the audience that we’re all descendants, who can choose to embrace our lineage, deny it, or wrestle with it.
- Six, by Zohar Tirosh-Polk: This play tells two stories, in dual timelines—one about Adi, an ex-pat Israeli who brings her American boyfriend Ben home to meet her family and see the land she loves; and the other a retelling of the history of the Six Day War, through Adi’s parents’ eyes, as they and their dedicated Socialist friends upend military history and set the ground for the modern state of Israel.
- The Wicked Son: A Passover Play, by Cecilia Copeland: A story that Copeland calls “immersion reality,” the play involves five very different siblings—including a wealthy divorcee, a young IDF solider engaged to a Palestinian woman, and a cross-dresser intent on leading the Seder as “Marlene Streisand”—who gather for the first Seder after their father’s death.
“We set out to create a contest that would really allow a wide range of voices into the dialogue about what we like to call 21st Century Jewish theater,” says Carol Berman, director of the Gaelen Center for the Arts at JCC Metrowest. “The good news is we found great plays—imaginative, funny, spiritual plays, plays with heart and brains and neshama (soul) and strong 21st Century Jewish voices.”
Tickets for the JPP Finals can be purchased for $18 at the JCC box office, online at boxofficetickets.com/jccmetrowest, or at 1.800.494.TIXS. The winner, as selected by the audience, will be presented to producers and theater companies at Manhattan’s 14th Street Y in June, with a goal of being produced by a U.S. theater company in 2013. For more information on the JPP and the plays being presented, visit jewishplaysproject.org.