Something wonderful happened last night at the theater again. We played to our most overbooked Sold Out house of the season—the extra extra seats were to accommodate Secret Service personnel assigned to ensuring that Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her daughter Jane, could take in our performance safely and undisturbed. The protection helped Justice Ginsburg continue to read her legal briefs before the show and during intermission. The woman works everywhere she goes. But when the play began, she was right there and riveted and told me, at the end of intermission, that she was bowled over and devastated by the play, and deeply impressed with the acting. She made a point of requesting to be escorted backstage immediately after the performance so she could congratulate the actors. No pictures of her outside the dressing room are posted yet, but if and when we do receive from the actors, we’ll be sure to share!
But the real event of last night was the inaugurating of a brand new fund to support the arts at our Center. And so at a pre-show reception, we toasted the establishment of The Robert H. and Jane L. Weiner Cultural Arts Fund. The Weiners’ involvement with the DCJCC begins with the original JCC at 16th and Q. Robert Weiner, now an elegant but somewhat frail patriarch of 83, was the Executive Director of the JCC from 1958 through the move to Rockville in 1969 and then stayed Exec until he retired in 1993 — an ASTONISHING tenure! The DCJCC has worked with Bob and his family to honor that amazing legacy of leadership. The family has established the Robert H. and Jane L. Weiner Cultural Arts Fund, honoring Robert and his wife Jane (Z”L) and their commitment to informal Jewish education through culture and the arts. The fund will support programs of the Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts with specific Jewish content.
Saturday night’s performance of OUR CLASS marked the inauguration of the fund. With the Weiner’s support, the Fund is also a producing angel for OUR CLASS. We were happy to welcome Bob back to the Center as well as 19 members of the Weiner family who were also on hand to celebrate Bob’s legacy and Jane’s memory. Following the performance, we welcomed Bob’s granddaughter, Sara Bookin Weiner to the stage to help discuss the play’s impact and beauty in a short 20 minute discussion. Sara’s an MFA from American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA and currently a Fellow at Arts Emerson. She was terrifically insightful, generous in her praise, and properly relieved that such a heavy, intense, and frankly “brutal” play, should have been met with such moved elation by the audience, and especially her large family last night. Imagine if they’d have hated it!?
Well they didn’t. They loved it. And Bob loved it especially. And Bob was especially warm to me, both before and after the show, although he was equally warm to everyone else, of course, he made me feel very special in his encouraging praise for what we’d done at the theater, and that quality–that ability to make so many individuals feel very special and individually appreciated, is a huge gift and leadership quality worthy of emulation. I saw how much each grandchild loved and respected their grandfather last night. I saw how proud everyone was of Sara, who demonstrated that she was making good in this difficult profession that is the theater.
Perhaps the greatest compliment of the evening, however, came from a board member (more than just a board member, actually; a president of the board of trustees) of a major theater in DC. After seeing the show, deeply moved, and after receiving praise from me for the show that’s running in his shop, he said, “You’re right. But what we’re doing is entertainment. THIS IS THEATER!”
This stunning piece of theater comes to a close tonight after two more sold out performances (waiting list sign-up starts an hour before the 3 and 7:30 pm curtains). In between, a free post-show discussion on “War and Faith” with Dr. Piotr H. Kosicki, Associate Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Virginia, and Katherine Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where she leads the Center’s program on Religion and Global Development. All are welcome.