The New Season is Rolling Out

Well, friends: It’s here. The 2008-09 season! 

We’re sending word to our subscribers first through an email blast. And then to our general listserve. Subscriber letters are going out in the mail and I speak with Jane Horwitz from The Post’s BACKSTAGE column tomorrow. It’s only taken 4 months to put this season together. The website will have the official blurbs. This blog will be, well, shall we say, chattier? Less official? More revealing? But always discreet enough to be kosher. No unofficial signings. No promises of Peter Ustinov only to discover Peter Ustinov is unavailable. We’re strictly (sort of, hopefully, totally) by the book at this Way Off-Broadway Joint down here in DC.

Did I say we’re thrilled?  We’re thrilled.  We’re privileged. We’re honored. To dream of a season and say yes to things we love. And then to be able to make it all come true. It’s a gift. Here it is then:

Announcing Theater J’s 2008-2009 Season
(And to subscribe, call (202) 777-3210 or visit

September 9-September 28, 2008

Sandra Bernhard\'s Without You I\'m Nothing
Subscribe and SAVE on pre-sale tickets to this amazing Pre-Season Special!

Official blurb: An electrifying fusion of satire, cabaret, and sizzling rock ‘n’ roll, Sandra’s diatribe on the state of modern culture still burns bright and smart. With her band, The Rebellious Jezebels, Sandra launches this brand-new version of the show that propelled her into the stratosphere 20 years ago. “Give the Dame her due, it’s invigorating to be in the presence of a True Original.” – The New York Times

Unofficially: Can you believe this? Are we pinching ourselves, or what? (I was gonna say “shitting” – I didn’t – Now I am – Why not?  Does this woman rock?)  How’d we get her?  Simple. Theater J Council member Jack Moskowitz has been telling me for the last decade that he’s Sandra’s uncle (his wife Faye, the wonderful writer and professor of English at GW is the real Michigan relative). Would we ever wanna use her for a benefit? Forget Benefit (I was gonna say “fuck benefit” – I didn’t – Now I will – F-k benefit!)  We got Sandra to open the season as a Special Limited Engagement Event – That’s right – she’s too hot for subscribers – too blue – too cool – well, for some. For most, she’ll be a scream; an awesome opportunity to catch this media giant up close, personal, fabulous and all ours for three full weeks. What could be better?  Buy them tickets now! It’s cheaper for subscribers by 10 bucks. And there’ll be late shows too. As they say on line “woo-hoo!”

October 22-November 30, 2008
Honey Brown Eyes
A World Premiere
By Stefanie Zadravec
Directed by Jessica Lefkow

Official blurb: Bosnia 1992. In two kitchens, two soldiers recover a little of what they’ve lost during the war. A Serbian paramilitary must face the consequences of his own brutality, while a Bosnian resistance fighter, crippled by the limits of his own courage,  seeks refuge with a kindred soul. Unlikely partnerships emerge in this play of horror, humanity, and stunning relevance.
Featuring Theater J Associate Artist in Residence, Alexander Strain

Unofficially:  We read this play back on March 21 in our Tea @ 2 series. Go read up on it. Awesome. Electrifying. Devastating. A major new talent, this Stefanie Zadravec. A local girl made good in the Big Apple. Second generation Slovenian. Her dad was a sports editor at The Washington Post for a decade and on staff for another 40 years. Her script is lean. The politics are mean. The plot is harrowing, hopeful, humane, and there’s even trace elements of heroism throughout this. I love it. But the big question: Will my daughter get to play the kid? Place your bets.

December 17, 2008 – January 11, 2009


Theodore Bikel as Sholom Alechiem

A World Premiere play with music
Written and performed by Theodore Bikel
Directed by Derek Goldman
Musical direction by Tamara Brooks

Official Blurb: This great theatrical legend returns to Theater J after his titanic roles in The Disputation and Shylock, to unveil the world premiere of this movingly delivered, beautifully sung show about the pioneering 19th Century author Sholom Aleichem. Told with warmth, humor and a rich catalogue of Yiddish music in a major event not to be missed.

Unofficially: How lucky are we to be able to call Theo and Tamara close personal friends? How lucky for Washington that they keep coming back? And what a privilege to be able to help develop a play that Theo’s been researching for the past two decades, gleaning nuggets about the life, the travels, the stories, and the family of the great Yiddish writer Sholom Rabinovich, who changed his name to the brand moniker we all know and love so well, Sholom Aleichem.  Theo’s in town right now for a residency at Georgetown University. We heard a reading of this tour de force on Friday afternoon, April 11. All in attendance knew we were seeing a historical event in the making; Theo playing Sholom Aleichem turning into one of Aleichem’s most fabled character’s, Tevye. And in the process of being both himself, the author, and the author’s creation, something of a perfect meta-theatrical storm emerged; a brilliant fusion of archetypes in this double biography; a story about a great 19th Century and a still ebullient 20th Century legend going strong in the 21st Century as well!  Have we whetted your appetite?  Do you have a hunger to know more about this literature?  About this literary persona?  About how and where Aleichem died?  So do I!  Let’s find out together.

January Thru March, 2009: “Voices From a Changing Middle East: A Festival”
with Performances, panels, and Peace Cafes

January 14-18, 2009
DAI (Enough)







Written and performed by Iris Bahr
Originally directed Off-Broadway by Will Pomerantz
LIMITED ENGAGEMENT: Season Extra Subscribe and SAVE on pre-sale tickets!

Official blurb: Fresh from its healded Off-Broadway run, the Israeli-American comic chameleon, Iris Bahr (of Curb Your Enthusiasm) leads us into the colorful world of a Tel Aviv café and the lives of eleven inhabitants from every strata of Israeli society only minutes before a terrible calamity.

Unofficially: Every so often, a show comes along and my phone starts ringing from people imploring to please produce one show, please produce this show, did you see it, isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it important that all of Washington see this, maybe then people would understand! This is that show! A play about Israel that enlightens and breaks the heart. And Iris Bahr is a performer to behold!

February 4-March 8, 2009
the accident
By Hillel Mitelpunkt
Directed by Sinai Peter
An English language premiere, translated by David Berkoff

Official Blurb: A fatal accident leaves a Chinese foreign worker dead and no one to accept responsibility. Two couples’ lives unravel, their indiscretions revealed, as a daughter discovers their hidden secret. From “Israel’s David Mamet,” a brilliant metaphor and biting look at the way we live. Featuring Pangs of the Messiah’s Michael Tolaydo.

Unofficially: We did a reading of this play for our January Tea @ 2 presentation. The first hit of the new play reading series. It’s like Patric Marber’s CLOSER meets Woody Allen’s CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. It’s sexy. It’s disturbing. It’s about Zionism. Without being about Zionism. It’s about morality. And still totally honest. And it’s Israel as it relates to the Far East, not just the West or its Middle East neighbors. And this production, best of all, features the Israeli creative and design team that made PANGS OF THE MESSIAH such an amazing experience. So scroll back in this blog and look up interviews with director Sinai Peter, and see the last set of designer Kinnereth Kisch, and the costumes of Dalia Penn, and the compositions of Hannah HaKohen. They’re all coming back, together with the brilliant playwright, Hillel Mitelpunkt. This is a major collaboration. And a very unique Israeli play.

March 14-29, 2009
The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv’s Production of
PLONTER (Tangle)

Co-written and directed by Yael Ronen

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT: Season Extras – Subscribe and SAVE on pre-sale tickets!

Official Blurb: Nine Israeli Arabs and Jews create a scathing, satirical tale of lives bound up in each other in the shadow of the security wall. A hit production from the heralded Israeli company that brought its acclaimed Hamlet to DC last year. “Israelis and Palestinians are given a shocking taste of each other’s lives” Read more

Unofficially: You can read all about my falling in love with this play two times over in the December, 2007 write ups from Tel Aviv during the IsraDrama Festival. We’re bringing over 20 Israelis – 9 actors, 9 crew and stage managers, the director and the Executive Head Honcho of the Cameri in what’s sure to be the most spectacular visiting production we’ve ever presented. 16 performances. Maybe 17. We’ll see. It’ll be extraordinary. You can find clips of this on Youtube. We’ll get some up shortly. Breathtaking theatricality.

April 16 – May 24, 2009

A World Premiere by Sam Forman
Directed by Shirley Serotsky

Official Blurb: Henry’s a hungry librettist with a great idea and the moxie to
pull it off. But complications ensue as he betrays his loved ones securing the rights to Woody Allen’s famous film. The closer he get to his dreams, the more havoc he wreaks. A hilarious comedy about skyscraper ambitions in a celebrity-driven town. Featuring Alexander Strain.

Unofficially: Sam’s hysterical. It’s laugh out loud funny. Wanna read the funniest exchange I’ve come across in years? Here it is:

Wait – would you act’ully wanna move to LA…? Like – you think you’d really be able to do that…?
I dunno. I mean – the weather’s great, right…? And ev’rybody’s, like, healthy and working out all the time…
Yeah – although – that’s also how they describe a lotta people who were living under Hitler…
Yeah but Hollywood’s, like, ninety percent Jewish.
So was Auschwitz. That doesn’t necessarily mean we shoulda’ gone there.

June 17 – July 19, 2009

by Anton Chekhov
adapted J by Ari Roth from a translation by Carol Rocamora
directed by John Vreeke

Official blurb: Youth is envied, challenged and mortally wounded in this tale by the great Russian master. Inspired by Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street, our own 16th Street provides the stage for a journey back to the Russian countryside in this tale of love and loss, with laughs and heartbreak. Featuring Alexander Strain with other major DC stars soon to be confirmed!

Unofficially: Did Chekhov speak with a Jewish soul? The play famously begins with the young playwright, Treplev making the case that the mandate of the theater must expand to embrace new forms and eternal, universal verities. Instead he is subsumed by his adoring, domineering mother. Her lover, the successful, miniaturist short story writer, Trigorin, owns or absconds with everything Treplev holds dear. And so he challenges his competitor to a duel. A Seagull is shot. And at Theater J, an adaptation is born as we bring our mission into dialogue with a masterpiece. See it how it all turns out!

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3 thoughts on “The New Season is Rolling Out

  1. Pingback: Theater J Announces its 2008-2009 Season « The Blog at 16th and Q

  2. Dear Ari,

    What should I tell my daughter about her chances of getting the child lead in Honey Brown Eyes when you are writing about your own daughter trying for the same role? How level is the playing field here? When will the roles be cast or have they already been announced?

  3. Dear “Mother of an Actress”

    Thanks for writing to our blog. My own daughter has never acted on a Theater J stage before and was pressed into last minute duty for our March 22 reading of HONEY BROWN EYES when the very experienced child actress we’d cast in the reading was unable to do it. My daughter auditioned for the part when we held our publicly announced auditions on May 12, but she did not make the cut, despite doing a good job. We saw over a dozen strong young actresses, most submitted by Linda Townsend Management, and we’ve made our offer though we are awaiting official agent confirmation. We’ll be announcing the cast later this summer. Fortunately, or unfortunately for my daughter, there is no nepotism at Theater J.
    Thanks for your interest

    ari roth

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