Support Theater J Artists All Around Town!

Although we may have closed our final show of the 2011 – 2012 season many of the artists who worked with us during the year are just gearing up for shows in both the Capital Fringe Festival and the Round House Theatre Over the Line Festival.  Here is a sampling of where you can find Theater J artists this summer.  (Note that is only includes artists who have joined us this past year. Many other artists involved have worked with Theater J in the past.) Hint: Theater J artists of the past season are in green.

Capital Fringe Festival

What is Fringe?  Fringe is an annual performing arts event in Washington, DC featuring more than 130 performances in a variety of venues around Washington, DC. The Capital Fringe Festival introduces risk-taking art and non-traditional performances including theater, dance, music, poetry, puppetry and more. In addition to the roster of performances, there is merriment to be had at the Fort Fringe under the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar, where fanatics can enjoy food, drinks, entertainment, and catch the latest buzz about all the Fringe performances. 

We Tiresias

By Stephen Spotswood (Theater J Dramaturg and playwright in our first Locally Grown Festival, 2012)
Directed by Matt Ripa
Featuring: Steve Beall, Melissa Hmelnicky, Chris Stinson

Since the beginning of Western drama, we thought that Oedipus was the most gods-cursed man in all of Thebes. We were wrong. A story of capricious gods, forbidden love, false prophets, true seers, ancient kings, bandit queens, switched genders, eyes plucked out in fistfuls, and a healthy dose of gallows humor. Is the future of mankind a comedy or a tragedy?

We Happy Few Productions presents Hamlet
By William Shakespeare
Choreographer: Casey Kaleba
Directed by Hannah Todd
Featuring: Chris Genebach, Sandy Bainum, Raven Bonniwell, Billy Finn, Gordon Adams, James Whalen (actor, The History of Invulnerability)

This darker, more violent, six-actor take on Hamlet asks: What if it’s all in Hamlet’s head? Hamlet is consumed by his thoughts; what if he truly can’t escape? The line between Hamlet’s fantasies and what’s really happening starts to blur…

City Artistic Partnerships presents My Princess Bride
Playwright: Joe Brack (actor, After the Fall)
Inspired by the novel and screenplay of William Goldman
Directed by Matty Griffiths
Featuring: Joe Brack

One man’s take on a classic tale “of true love and high adventure.” Once a novel (or was it?), then abridged (was it, really?), then a well loved movie. Witness fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes and miracles. 

 Faction of Fools Theatre Company presents 3rd Annual “Fool for All”: Tales of Marriage and Mozzarella
Choreographer: Ensemble
Directed by Tyler Herman, Paul Edward Hope, Toby Mulford, Rachel Spicknall, Lindsey Snyder, and Paul Reisman
Featuring: Ensemble (including Gwen Grastorf, Actor, Locally Grown Festival)

A cheesy take on romance from DC’s award–winning Commedia dell’Arte company. Over 40 of your favorite actors perform a sampler platter of inventive, original scenarios. Critics call Faction of Fools “witty and intelligent” with “awesome feats of physical comedy.” ASL interpretation at all shows.

Hysterical Blindness
By Justin Purvis and Chantal Martineau
Directed by Daniel Flint (actor, Locally Grown Festival) and          Chantal Martineau
Featuring: Justin Purvis

What if the curtain fell before the show was over? Diagnosed with a disease threatening blindness, one man shares the story of his love of, and search for, a life as a performer — before the lights go down forever.

Jesus le MOMO
By JR Foley
Directed by Adi Stein (Theater J Apprentice, actor in the upcoming BODY AWARENESS)
Featuring: Elizabeth Salamon, Tyler Budde, Rachel Viele, Sean Sidbury, Liz Kinder, Molly MacKenzie

It’s 1970, DC. A priest’s “wife” — at odds with her “husband” — the priest and communal housemates hold a prayer meeting, speaking in tongues. Dead, mad poet-playwright Antonin Artaud suddenly materializes, demanding they assist him in his resurrection — without God!

The Washington Rogues presents Mitzi’s Abortion
By Elizabeth Heffron
Directed by Ryan Taylor

Choreographer Becky Peters (Director of New Media and Community Outreach, Theater J)
Featuring: Elizabeth Richards Bailey, John C. Bailey, Kevin Boggs, Christian Campbell, Amy Couchoud, Natalie Cutcher, Louise Schlegel

Mitzi’s pregnant and ready to start a family. When tragedy strikes she’s left at the mercy of bureaucracy so absurd it could only be real. Elizabeth Heffron’s uproarious and magical comedy explores the collision of politics, religion, family and biology.

Over The Line Festival                        (@ Roundhouse Silver Spring)

What is the Over the Line Festival? Round House Theatre presents a curated festival of music, theatre, and dance. For 3 weeks during the Over the Line Festival, more than 10 companies (including some of RHT’s best friends) will perform nearly 50 times. There are shows for all audiences – from families who want to bring their children to a Saturday morning show to fans of cutting edge performances to late night cabaret goers. There’s something for every age and every interest.

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Hannah on Seven Jewish Children

Hello Theater J blog readers.
Ari invited me to post on here an email I shared with him yesterday. It took me all day to remember the password and login for the blog that I created. I feel so distant from Theater J up in New York but at the same time I feel so closely connected. With the performances of Seven Jewish Children and the discussions surrounding them I feel so proud of both Theater J and of Forum Theatre where I remain a company member. The email below was written to Jeffery Goldberg after reading his continued postings and anger towards the piece and Ari’s choice to produce it.

Hi Jeffery –

I feel compelled to write after reading your continued posts on the controversy surrounding Theater J’s production of Seven Jewish Children.

I have to say that I find your vehement attitude towards Caryl Churchill’s play wrong. I understand that it can ruffle feathers but when I hear you say blood libel and propaganda I have to say I don’t see it at all. I first read the play when it was being produced at the Royal Court. I was nervous reading it after hearing the reports of antisemitism. I should also say that I am in general a huge fan of Churchill’s work, and I was afraid that I would be disappointed and angry at one of my favorite writers (and I am disappointed that she has chosen to boycott Israeli theater). What I found instead stunned me but not for the reasons I had worried. I was extremely moved by the piece. The preciseness of language that she uses, the simplicity of structure and the openness of character hit me on a very profound level. In only 7 pages she was able to make me cry, and I consider that a great feat. Continue reading

Looking Forward

Hello, Shirley here. So after a work-week’s worth of training and technical’s, guidance and good-bye’s, Becky and I are attempting to fill the metaphorical shoes that Hannah leaves us. I think I speak for both of us when I say that “filling Hannah’s shoes” cannot be the goal of this transition. I don’t think it would be possible. And not only because they are probably ridiculously cool-purchased for $5 on ebay-much hipper than anything I could ever wear-shoes, but because they are HANNAH’S shoes. And she’s just too smart, and talented, and skilled, and perceptive, and engaged to try to “replace”. We carry onward, but we do so because of Hannah, not instead of Hannah.

And I am indeed excited to carry on the tradition of providing an additional voice to Ari’s here on the blog. Hopefully you’ll hear from all of us at one point or another. It’s an amazing group in this narrow little office, and I suspect that each and every one of the Theater J crew has a tidbit or two worth throwing out here.


To start with, I wanted to add some thoughts to my premiere blog post from last week. I realized too late that I’d neglected to answer what might be the most important question of all: what am I most excited about for next year? This is kind of a cop-out but I will say it–everything excites me about next year’s programming, indeed everything that I have read so far or read about.


The easy answer is ANNIE HALL, the play I am actually directing. It’s the one I’ll have the most hands-on role for, a world premiere at that, so a new birth of a new play from a voice new to us (writer Sam Forman). And this play? Funny, honest, hip, stylish, did I mention funny?, and startling art-imitating-life for me. Emerging artists struggling to find their distinctive voices while trying to find a way to live their lives. And be happy. Or at least stable. Or at least decently well-fed. Sam is a delight and the cast we’ve amassed so far are a stellar bunch.


As for the rest of the season, I’ve now had the chance to read three of the plays and to read about the remaining three. And I am struck by a connection between ANNIE HALL, HONEY BROWN EYES and SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS–three plays that couldn’t seem more different–and yet each reveal the powerful force that music can generate. In HONEY BROWN EYES we meet two men divided by heritage and politics such that it would make friendship (and perhaps even presence in the same room) impossible. What does provide a link? Music. A rock band. No longer active, but once? Once so good. Once nearly the best. And the Aleichem piece—a virtuoso story-teller telling fabulous stories from and about the master story-teller of them all–all punctuated with the songs of our fathers. Or our father’s father’s fathers.  More flashbacks: my junior year of high school I played Golda to my brother’s Tevye (and we actually wondered why we had trouble getting dates to the prom) so we had a chance to bring Aleichem’s wonderful stories of his lovable milkman and his family to life. Now to see and hear Theodore BIkel (the most frequent Tevye of them all!) do this piece feels wonderfully full circle for me.


Finally THE ACCIDENT. Not so much with the musical theme. But a play that is as immediate and disturbingly captivating as its eponymous event–a car accident on the side of the road. It’s one you may want to turn away from but I dare you to try.


Of the others, PLONTER (Tangle) is the one I am most curious about, as it is a piece coming to us from the Cameri Theater in Israel from an exciting young playwright and director that gives us what sounds to be a new and different (and funny!) look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This feels particularly meaningful after the discussion launched by American Theater, that Ari and others engaged in last year, debating how we should (or should not) address this conflict as theater-makers. I say we do. I say we are. I say–let’s keep trying.

Saying Goodbye to Theater J

Today is my last day at Theater J and this is my last blog entry, for the moment at least, who knows what the future holds in store. I thought I would just re-post for you the letter that I sent to my colleagues and the artists I have worked with.  The same sentiments in the letter holds true for the Theater J audience. I have loved working at Theater J and will hold all of my memories dear.

Dear All:


Tomorrow is my last day at Theater J.  Over the past five years I’ve been lucky to work with wonderful people, I mean all of you.  Theater J has become a second family to me and it’s hard to believe that in a couple of days I won’t be here anymore. It has been an extremely moving experience to pack up my desk, take postcards and mementos off my wall and start saying my goodbyes.  I’m excited for the future as I move up to New York to pursue a MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University, but it’s still hard to say goodbye.


I first came to Theater J the Spring of my senior year of college. I took a week off of school to come down to DC and volunteer at the International Jewish Theater Conference. I was at the time focusing on theater and Jewish history at Sarah Lawrence and was interested in finding a way to combine my interests.  Theater J was the perfect fit. I enjoyed the conference, the theater and the people that I met.  The week after graduating, I returned to Theater J and found a home and family as excited as I was about producing new, thought provoking works that touched on our experiences as American Jews.  I have loved interacting with the audience that came to our theater and made many wonderful friends within the DC theater community.  I am also constantly impressed and stimulated by the work being done in the center. This building, of which the theater is just a fraction, provides so much to the community and is really in my mind the pinnacle of what a Jewish organization should be: open, interested, creative, provoking and providing for all who pass through the doors. Aside from saying goodbye to the people I know that it’s going to be a  difficult transition to be no longer working in a Jewish environment.

I wish you all the very best and thank you for helping to make my time at Theater J so wonderful.

Hannah Hessel