Interview with Hayley Finn

Hayley, welcome back to Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company! After previously directing Handle with Care, Compulsion or the House Behind, Rose, The Last Word…, The Gospel According to Jerry, and Bad Jews, you’ve been away from directing at MJTC for a few years. What have you been up to?

It's been a busy few years both professionally and personally. I had a baby, I had the opportunity to write a play that was produced at Red Eye, and I directed some productions at other theaters, both locally and nationally. Most recently, I directed Nina Simone: Four Women in Philadelphia which was written by my dear friend and longtime collaborator Christina Ham. I’ve also been writing the new Chanukah play that Barbara commissioned!

What do you like about Significant Other that drew you back to MJTC to direct?

I had been looking for a project that would bring me back. Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company has been one of my artistic homes for many years. I loved working on Bad Jews and was excited when Barbara presented me with the opportunity to return to work on Significant Other. I love Josh Harmon's smart wit and engaging characters. I was interested in directing another one of his plays. I've also been able to be in touch with him about both Bad Jews and Significant Other, and value hearing his insights on his writing which I find enormously helpful as I head into rehearsals. I'm looking forward to directing the local premiere of this play and sharing it with MJTC audiences.

How would you compare this play to Bad Jews?

Josh has an incredible ability to write characters that are familiar and funny. He approaches comedy from a Chekhovean understanding that humor stems from the ordinary and painful moments in life that make us human -- the idiosyncrasies of behavior which is surprising but also familiar. Josh's expert understanding of craft enables the audiences to go on the ride of the play with ease.  In that way, this play is quite similar to Bad Jews. It differs from Bad Jews in its structure. Bad Jews focuses on one location and takes place in real-time; Significant Other plays with time, and lives in a heightened theatrical space. The play moves back and forth in time, and follows friends over the course of three weddings. It is a comedy with a very relatable character at the center of the story. His plight is familiar to many -- he is looking for his significant other, which can be a very painful and dynamic journey. It's also a play about friendship and how friendship evolves over time which can also be painful and joyful.

Reflections on "O my God!"

by Jo Holcomb, Dramaturg

And He said: "Go out and stand in the mountain before the Lord, Behold! the Lord passes, and a great and strong wind splitting mountains and shattering boulders before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake-not in the earthquake was the Lord.
After the earthquake fire, not in the fire was the Lord, and after the fire a still small voice.
And as Elijah heard, he wrapped his face in his mantle, and he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave, and behold a voice came to him and said: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

I Kings 19:11-13

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words,
by God himself.”

Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425), 1670

The doorbell rings and, when you open the door, G-d is standing, waiting to enter your home. What is she, he, they, it? What is the image construct of God that you have (or have not) built from childhood to the present? Has that image changed?

For thousands of years, human beings have tried to find and define G-d. Predictably, they chose the most powerful images in their experience. Earliest seekers worshiped the sun. Paleolithic and Neolithic ages in the middle and far east chose female images, honoring the life force of the feminine. Stories carried through generations by oral traditions. While not necessarily fiery balls of gaseous mass, the gods worshiped in most cultures were figures of absolute power. For the most part, the Hebrew people embraced the monotheistic Yahweh, the G-d of the mighty hand and the outstretched arm (Psalm 136:12). But Rachel still stole those household idols – old habits are hard to break!

Pascal and many modern theologians hold up the image of the “god-shaped hole” – better described as the puzzle piece that fits the hole in each of us that satisfies our longing for the divine.

 So, who is your G-d? O my God! invites us to think, to laugh and maybe …

Jo Holcomb, Dramaturg

Jo Holcomb, Dramaturg



Play Development of “O my God!”

How a Play Gets Developed

Jo Holcomb (Dramaturg) and Robert Dorfman (Director) at rehearsal.

Jo Holcomb (Dramaturg) and Robert Dorfman (Director) at rehearsal.

You may think that a play gets to an audience after a playwright writes a project and hands it over to a director and some actors. A little elbow grease later, there’s a finished product for opening night. But the reality of a play’s development leading up to a polished script involves translators, dramaturgs, and licensing. The story of how O my God! went from the hands of a celebrated Israeli playwright to St. Paul, Minnesota, starts with the playwright herself.

History of the Play

O my God! was originally written by Anat Gov in 2008 and premiered in Israel at the Cameri Theatre. Gov’s work in both theater and television was celebrated; her punched up humor was iconic in sitcoms and staged plays alike. In 2013, the play made its American premiere at Israeli Stage in Boston, MA. There, the script was translated from Hebrew into English by Anthony Berris & Margalit Rodgers. Soon after, a staged reading of the play toured across the United States.

With each production comes new hands, crafted a bit differently along the way. Jo Holcomb, the dramaturg for MJTC’s production, worked closely with the director, Robert Dorfman, to create a production highlighting the strengths and values of Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. This production of O my God! plays up Anat Gov’s in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament or Tanakh. And with the small intimate space of the MJTC theater, the special conversation between God and Ella commands everyone’s attention.

So, what’s a Dramaturg?


Dramaturgy plays is a critical role in the development of a play - but it’s a job that you won’t necessarily see at a career fair.


First off, it’s a pretty good Scrabble word. Secondly, a dramaturg is a person who researches, edits, and generally smooths over scripts. To start the work, a dramaturg may work directly with playwright if the play is new - or in other cases like this production, with the director. Editing begins by “going through the play line by line.” On the research side, Holcomb shared how she used this opportunity to revisit biblical translations in order to discover a new take on God, as played by James A. Williams. When quoting Exodus to your shrink, “I am who I am” is very different than the translation “I am who I will be.” In this way, Holcomb was able to discover through her dramaturgical research an avenue in which to give the actors more detail and nuance to play with - making this production as impactful as ever.

Come see the show!

Now that the play has been written, translated, licensed, purchased, and properly shaped by the creative cast and crew, it’s ready for you! Performances begin October 26th and run through November 17th. Be sure not to miss this unique experience at Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company that combines humor and depth along with humanity and the divine.

Learn more about the production here!



The Mikveh Monologues

The Mikveh Monologues On Stage

A dramatic reading of The Mikveh Monologues, produced by the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company (MJTC) in partnership with the Minnesota Community Mikveh Initiative, will run from August 21 - 25, 2019. This special project includes a fictional but inspiring account of the many approaches people take to the modern mikveh. Told through a series of contemporary monologues, The Mikveh Monologues powerfully pull back the curtain and share the depth of each character's spiritual and life journey.

What is a Mikveh?

The Mikveh Monologues Press Photo.jpg

To put it simply, the mikveh or mikvaot (plural) is a Jewish ritual bath - which is a very short definition for a complex spiritual ritual with over a 2000 year history. The practice of going to a mikveh involves detailed instructions for the time before, during, and after a person immerses themselves underwater three times. This cleansing ritual involves an exact step-by-step process; even the water itself has rules! Traditionally, the mikveh is used by Orthodox Jewish women and men, but now, Jewish leaders are challenging what the modern mikveh can offer to all Jewish people. Either by marking an important transition or moment in their life, the mikveh can be there for solitary healing, renewal, or reflection.

People who experience the mikveh are encouraged to take their time. The ritual is not something easily rushed; going through each step needed to prepare one’s body, the silent reflection while submerged underwater, and saying aloud each reading or prayer after submerging certainly takes time! So take your own time learning about mikveh; continue reading this blog, and join us for The Mikveh Monologues - open to everyone - for a special insight into this unique ritual with a complicated history.

The Need for Change

Venture into the literature about mikvaot and the library will respond with essays on gender, works on architecture, and books on reconciling secular life to ancient rituals. All of these pieces of academic work will discuss secrecy and shame. The most prevalent example of when someone would use a traditional mikveh is a woman at the end of her menstruation before she can resume sex with her husband. This has been the source of a lot of negative perceptions; the history of this ritual intertwines with a larger history of shame over women's bodies. In addition, bad personal experiences and warped expectations have led people to take their meditations elsewhere.

Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker of Mount Zion Temple and other community organizers see the need to change this. The Minnesota Mikveh Community Initiative is pushing for an openness to Jewish people who may have felt alienated from this ritual. As Spilker emphasized, “Any Jewish person can immerse in a mikveh, regardless of their level of observance, Jewish knowledge, or ability to speak Hebrew.”

Given the mikveh’s history in expectations of sexuality and the experience of secrecy, there is a contrast to this ritual being secluded and personal while also deeply rooted in community. Spilker separates the time one has in the mikveh pool from the time after one emerges into a circle of supportive friends, family, or clergy. But even that time alone can be less than solitary as mikveh guides are present (but not required). Spilker says that this duality - between personal discovery and community - is part of what makes the ritual beautiful.

A Special Discussion After Each Reading

Spilker, with the Minnesota Community Mikveh Initiative, is working in collaboration with MJTC to put on this series of discussions following each reading of The Mikveh Monologues. For her, this is a part of a conversation in the context of a national movement to reclaim and re-imagine the ancient ritual of mikveh.

The newness of this movement is partly the point. Building on top of tradition creates a wave of new awareness of the mikveh. It also opens up life’s moments of transition - like those of coming out or preparing for bar or bat mitzvahs. The ancient ritual is often used to acknowledge and bring significance to a important life event, transition, or circumstance. The words that seemed to sum it all up best for Spilker were those from Rav Abraham Isaac Kook who said, “May the old become new and the new become holy."

A Purpose for the Play & Discussion

Mikveh monologues - rehearsal.jpg

Do you have questions about the modern mikveh? Have you ever wondered about the role of a mikveh guide? When do people choose to experience the ritual, and why? Who is it for? Well, The Mikveh Monologues project is here to help answer all of that.

The Mikveh Monologues were written (so wonderfully by Anita Diamant and Janet Buchwald) to be approachable to any wary audience member - including those who know little about the mikveh, or those who are not Jewish. Characters in The Mikveh Monologues span across gender, age, and circumstance, and are specifically presented to challenge the previous conceptions of what a mikveh is thought to be. The mikveh is not just for women, and there is no need for secrecy or shame. Children, fathers, rabbis, brides, survivors, and guides are some of the voices you will hear in the piece. The monologues are the types of stories that can eulogize the bond between parent and child, but are also capable of clarifying the rules for belly button rings and acrylic nails.

The approach to these readings are to further the discussion on mikvaot and peel back the sigma along with the curtain. This push by the Minnesota Mikveh Community Initiative opens the door to new people and their needs in a more inclusive way. Spilker ultimately says that this special project is a way to introduce an “open community mikveh” which addresses both people’s misconceptions and questions while also raising their interest and imagination - and a journey in which we hope you will join us for.

Written by Lily Hart, Production Assistant & Intern, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company



Miriam Schwartz to Direct "The Mikveh Monologues" in her Directorial Debut

Miriam Schwartz

Miriam Schwartz

Katie: Miriam Schwartz, welcome back to MJTC. This marks your ninth production with us, but the first time as a director! How did you come to direct The Mikveh Monologues?

Miriam: Well, Barbara Brooks (MJTC Founder & Producing Artistic Director) approached me about the opportunity. I was initially apprehensive— I have been fortunate to work with so many amazing directors at MJTC and elsewhere, and the task of living up to them felt daunting! But I am so grateful to Barbara for continuing to encourage me to take on projects that feel out of my comfort zone. I read the piece several times, took a deep breath, and agreed to direct it!

Katie:  Wow - we’re so thrilled you’re on board! What are you looking forward to the most?

Miriam: I am most looking forward to diving into the text with my cast. The process of asking questions, making discoveries, and shaping specific moments that are unique to the pairing of a particular actor with a particular character. That's magic!

I love that this project is tied to a much larger project with a social mission and that we are moving beyond the walls of MJTC.
— Miriam Schwartz, on The Mikveh Monologues

Katie: It certainly is. Has being a director changed how you look at a script?

Miriam: Definitely! I think even as an actor, I often find myself trying to understand a piece—and my role in a piece— from a macro perspective, like a director. Now, I get to indulge in that tendency! I'm thinking about themes and dramatic structure. My pre-rehearsal research is much more in-depth. Rather than character arcs, I'm looking at the entire show's arc and will work with the actors through our rehearsals to discover their character(s) arcs and bring them to life. 

Katie: Yay! I can’t wait to see how you guide the story and characters. So tell me, what is wonderful, cool, or enjoyable about this project?

Miriam: I love that this project is tied to a much larger project with a social mission, and that we are moving beyond the walls of MJTC. I love that the stories are honest and rich, and the way they tie ancient ritual to the present moment through authentic, contemporary voices.

the stories are honest and rich, and the way they tie ancient ritual to the present moment through authentic, contemporary voices.
— Miriam Schwartz, on The Mikveh Monologues

Katie:  I myself knew nothing about the mikveh prior to the show, but after reading the script, I found it to deeply moving. I can’t imagine the level of beauty the cast will bring to it! I guess I’ll have to wait.

Miriam: I guess you will! I have a fantastic cast and I think working with them on this script is going to be so cool.

Katie: What’s it like being a director so far?

Miriam: We haven't started rehearsals yet, but it was fascinating to be on the other side of the table for the audition process. I think I may have been more nervous than I normally am for auditions where I'm doing the acting! I learned so much about the piece from what the actors brought into the room, and loved having the power to create an audition room experience like the one I would want to have.

Katie: Do you think you’ll direct again?

Miriam: We’ll see…

Katie: Anything else you’d like to share?

Miriam: Yes— my experience touring the mikveh while visiting Tzfat was profoundly moving. I am so excited to be exploring the tradition through this piece from the director's seat!

Katie: Thanks Miriam – I can’t wait to see your work.

Miriam: Thank you!

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Miriam Schwartz is a Seattle native and graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. She is thrilled to be marking her ninth production with Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. Previously she played Amber in Actually, Natasha in Natasha and the Coat, in the one-woman piece DAI (Enough), Alex in Church & State, Daphna in Bad Jews, Dr. Ruth in Becoming Dr. Ruth, Jessica in Jericho, and Ayelet in Handle With Care. Other recent theater credits include the Guthrie Theater, Walking Shadow Theatre Company, 7th House Theater, Workhaus Collective, and Theatre Forever.

For more information about The Mikveh Monologues, visit

For tickets and information, visit



Actress Kim Kivens and Director Jennie Ward Dive into a solo performance on women's health

What I Thought I Knew, by Alice Eve Cohen

Limited Run: August 18 - 30, 2018


Alice, an infertile Jewish woman in her 40s, discovers a hard lump in her abdomen. After months of tests, a doctor determines that she is pregnant. Through endless health and wellness appointments during her unplanned high-risk pregnancy, Alice shares her most intimate thoughts and fears as depression sinks in. Told with honesty and humor, this powerful, one-woman-show based on a true story poignantly reveals one woman’s journey through the American health care system. Experience this heartfelt play anchored in motherhood, marriage, and the cycle of life. Based on the book by Alice Eve Cohen that Oprah hailed as "Darkly hilarious... an unexpected bundle of joy."


What I Thought I Knew features Kim Kivens playing nearly 40 different characters in the course of 90 minutes. Kim was previously seen at MJTC in Church & State, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Natasha and the Coat, and was recognized by Lavender Magazine as a Best Supporting Actress for her role as Muriel in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Minneapolis Musical Theatre). Read more about the production and the artists here.


Actress Kim kivens

Actress Kim kivens

Kim, what is it like to play nearly 40 characters in the course of 90 minutes?

This is what drew me to this piece…It is a challenge, for sure, but so much fun. I love a good back story and to give these characters in the play that only show up once or have one line or two the same attention to those who are showing up throughout, is so important. It helps me to marry their physicality and voice.

This one-woman performance is based on a true events and the book of the same name. Due to these facts, how have you approached this play differently?

Knowing that you are putting up something on stage that actually happened can be daunting especially when it’s a story such as this. When I first read the play, I had a lot of jaw dropping moments. This story is, in so many ways, unbelievable. Which can create challenges to convey to the audience the reality of it. It’s raw and our main character, Alice, makes herself so very vulnerable and open. She invites the audience into her journey. Breaking that wall with the audience is difficult sometimes for an actor but for this play, the way we want to tell this story, it’s important.

As a mother yourself, what aspects of Alice’s journey do you find relatable? Foreign?

Well, we adopted our amazing daughter, Lily, from Russia in 1999, which is right around the time this story starts to take place. I could relate to Alice, heavily, being an adoptive parent and having my own past personal struggles with infertility. The foreign aspects for me, I have experienced being pregnant and the loss of pregnancy but I have never been in labor. Then there are some of the agonizing thoughts that go through her head throughout. I go back and forth on what I would do exactly if I were in her shoes. That’s something, after working on this piece, I can honestly say I am not sure I could ever have an answer for.

"I could relate to Alice, heavily, being an adoptive parent
and having my own past personal struggles with infertility." 

Director Jennie Ward

Director Jennie Ward

Jennie, as director, how do you make sense of all the changes in time, space, and character within this complex single narrative?

First, you just accept that we are operating outside of linear time and space. This play does not replicate reality. Then you define where we are: in this case, we are in the auditorium at Highland Recreation Center, with Kim Kivens and the particular and specific group of people who have come to hear this story. That may sound obvious, but it’s actually quite specific and defining. We will not sit in the dark and lose track of where we are, lose ourselves in the story. Instead, we remain aware that Kim is using her tools, skills, and immense spirit to bring to life another woman’s story. It could feel disorienting to be without the visual cues that a set and lights and props and costumes can give us – instead, we entrust ourselves to this human, to Kim, and agree to witness her journey through this story. As an audience, we have the opportunity to bring our whole selves, our experiences and memories and points of view, more actively to the story. We sit with our friends and family, we see their faces and they see ours.

Next, Kim and I are working intimately together to build a vocabulary of gesture, voice, and small objects that ground each moment of the story in a context. This play is about sitting in a room and listening to a story. It’s not ABOUT the many different characters and places visited in the story. It’s not ABOUT documenting and repeating characters and stories. It’s about conjuring a point of view, and witnessing this woman retelling her story. She has a need to tell this story – what is that need about? She has a goal, something she needs from the audience -what is it? Will I feel like I want to give it to her? Will it be something I am even able to give? Why is she using these particular objects to tell her story – what is specific and important about each of these objects, how do they help her tell the story? This kind of storytelling is not about finding out what happens next – we all know what HAPPENS – we’re here to understand Alice’s experience of what happened, how she makes sense (or doesn’t) of what happened, how “what happened” has shaped her and her understanding of the world. She’s not always a “reliable narrator” in the sense of objectively describing situations and characters – instead, she exposes her experience of situations and characters, she gives us the gift of seeing her story through her own lens.

"How do we make sense of the things that happen to us?"

Does Alice’s story transcend her very specific medical situation? What do you hope the audience will take away? 

Absolutely. It’s a story about how she carves agency out of situations that are out of her control. How do we claim choice in the face of overwhelming outside forces? How do we make sense of the things that happen to us? How do we build our life and self out of the things that happen to us? Alice is faced with an impossible situation, and she finds a way to choose her way forward, to actively decide her path. She fights fiercely to retain her ability, her right, to choose her path forward. She finds ways, through humor and imagination, to avoid falling victim to circumstance, to wrest agency from her impossible situation.

I was talking to my sister in law, who is a nurse, and about how the interesting thing about this story, for healthcare professionals, is not about the structural mess of our health care system – which we all battle every time we interact with the system, from inside or out – but about how providers and care coordinators can build a culture where all patients are encouraged to find their own sense of agency, regardless of circumstance or outcome. What are the health benefits of that agency? What are the negative impacts when choice is taken away, when others start to make choices for a patient? How can we build a heath care culture where the patient’s goals are our guide?

"this one is going to be special."

What are you most excited about? 
The real, living, changing, vibrant relationship that Kim will build with each and every audience. While live theater is never an exact replica of itself from performance to performance, this one is going to be special. Kim’s relationship with an audience is going to be so responsive (I promise, she’s not going to touch anybody, or make anyone else perform) that the experience of the story is going to depend as much on the specific humans in the audience as it does on the script. The audience is Kim’s scene partner.

To purchase tickets, click HERE or call (651) 647-4315.

For more information on ticket pricing and special rates, click HERE

For more details about the production, click HERE

Theater, Performing Arts, Updates
MJTC, Minnesota Theater, Twin Cities Theater, Jewish Events, Twin Cities, Women's Health Care, What I Thought I Knew, Alice Eve Cohen, Kim Kivens, Jennie Ward, Barbara Brooks, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Jewish Theater, Jewish Arts, MN Jewish Theatre, Unexpected Pregnancy, True Story


Audience Member Dick Schwartz Wins Writing Contest

In conjunction with MJTC's production of Collected Stories, audience members were prompted to share their own stories answering the question "How have your collected experiences shaped your identity?". The winner, Dick Schwartz, submitted a nonfiction piece surrounding a mosaic of little moments throughout his teaching career.
We are pleased to share his story with you now. Enjoy.

Dick Schwartz

Dick Schwartz

Peculiar, poignant and wonderfully spontaneous humorous moments shaped my identity as a teacher. Here are some:

In a remote Oregon town, my student, Rory, upon seeing my Star of David, exclaimed with innocent and well-meaning excitement: “Mr. Schwartz! I didn’t know you’re a Jewish! Merry Christmas!”

At the Kiwanis welcome luncheon for new teachers, a burly horse rancher eyeballed my Semitic features and long black hair and said, “Schwartz, huh? That’s yer name?” followed by: “ ’Bout time we have a Native American teachin’ in our school.” What? Huh? Never figured that one out, but it sure sounded like he meant well. It still does.

The father of Billy Gray stared me down for an entire school year.  On the last day of class he entered my classroom cradling a bundle wrapped in blood-soaked newspaper. “Here,” he said.  “For teaching my boy to read.”  I learned — after racing in terror to my principal with the bloody package — it was venison. Billy’s father had shot a deer for his family’s food and wanted to share it with me. He had no money to spare, but “Besides, venison was worth a whole lot more to him,” my principal explained.

There was Christopher, whose Mafia dad diligently attended every teacher-parent conference with two bodyguards.  He always asked if his son was respectful to his classmates and me and if he did all his homework.  In the end he hired a professional film crew to videotape commencement exercises and sent a commemorative copy to every graduate.

And there was my teaching gig at an Orthodox yeshiva in New York: One morning I saw several rabbis huddled in the corner of a hallway, presumably “davening.” Not daring to disturb their prayer, I walked unobtrusively past them but not so fast that I didn’t hear them chuckling. Later, one of the rabbis confided that they were “debriefing” about the previous day’s Howard Stern radio show.

Not long after that (having come from Oregon to New York City licensed to teach First Aid and CPR, as well as English), I asked my students to bring large dolls to class from their homes, since I could not secure CPR dummies from the local Red Cross. Melissa raised her hand and, in a matter-of-fact tone, informed me that she no longer owned dolls but instead would be happy to bring, on any day except Wednesday, her nanny.  (I thanked her but said no.)

About two years later, having moved on to another school, I received a phone call from Michael, who had been in Melissa’s CPR class. Michael’s father had recently suffered a heart attack at their shabbos dinner table. Michael wanted to tell me that he had performed CPR on his father and had resuscitated him just long enough to say, “I love you, Papa,” before his father died.

And here in Minneapolis, where I retired not long ago, there was Brad. Traditionally, we taught Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” at the end of each school year to our soon-to-be grads. Most got a kick out of reading the quite bawdy “The Miller’s Tale.” At one point in his tale, for reasons that you can investigate on your own, the Miller explains that “Nicholas anon leet flie a fart.” As we read this portion in proper Middle English (by the way, students can hardly believe the word “fart” existed in the 1300s), Brad let fly a tremendous (and well-timed) fart of his own, immediately eliciting a rousing standing ovation from his impressed and elated classmates.

And then there was Cameron, who enthusiastically volunteered to read Shakespeare’s sonnet 54 that offers the lovely sentiment, “O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem.” Cameron unintentionally but with passionate intonation, read it this way:  “Zero, how much more beauty beauteous seem.” His classmates chose to ignore his snafu and not correct the sincere young man.  Neither did I.

Or my students, bless their hearts, who recited Macbeth’s glorious “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy in their native Hebrew, Ukrainian, Chinese, French, Spanish and Ewe. More beautiful, heartfelt renditions were never heard.

In end, we become, if we’re lucky enough, those who we teach.

-Dick Schwartz

More audience stories and poems are on display on the back wall of the theater, and can be read before and after each performance of Collected Stories. 
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Dick Schwartz, MJTC, Writing Contest, Winner


Pulitzer Prize Winner Donald Margulies discusses the growing relevancy of Collected Stories.

Donald margulies, hermitage artists Retreat sarasota florida. photo by LINDA BROOKS. January 26 2018.

Donald margulies, hermitage artists Retreat sarasota florida. photo by LINDA BROOKS. January 26 2018.

DONALD MARGULIES: Greetings, Minnesota Jewish Theatre.

KATIE: Greetings, Mr. Margulies! And thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions on behalf of MJTC. We're thrilled to hear from you. Let's just jump right in, shall we? MJTC is producing Collected Stories this season, twenty-two years after the play was first produced. How might the play resonate with audiences in the context of today’s world? 

DONALD MARGULIES: I suspect that the themes explored in the play are just as resonant today as they were when it was first produced over twenty years ago, arguably even more so. Cultural appropriation, intellectual property, who has the right to tell certain certain stories and who doesn’t - all of these topics may be more part of our social discourse than they were in 1996. Set in the nineties, it even contains a then-current discussion of Woody Allen’s boundary issues which are very much back in the news. But at the heart of the play is the universal relationship between a mentor and her protégée, which I think reveals as much about the parent-child dynamic as it does the teacher-student.  

"The themes explored in the play are just as resonant today as they were when it was first produced.”

KATIE: One of the reasons our artistic director chose the play for production revolved around the question of who has the right to tell a story - specifically, if someone has the right to tell a story from another's culture. Where did this initial idea come from? Was there a personal experience that led to you writing Collected Stories?  

DONALD MARGULIES: At the play’s inception, I was already teaching. I had become intrigued by a controversy in the literary world that involved a young American novelist, David Leavitt, and his post-modern take on a chapter from the life of the English poet, Stephen Spender, an action the poet laureate viewed not as homage but as libel. At the same time, I had had my own private skirmish with one of my own heroes, Arthur Miller, over a play I wrote called The Loman Family Picnic.

KATIE: Wow. 

DONALD MARGULIES: The Leavitt-Spender case echoed my situation and I began to see the dramatic possibilities. Changing the gender of the players in order to gain perspective, and raising the stakes by putting them in an intense, personal relationship instead of one at a remove, created the foundation for what became Collected Stories, my meditation on what the literary critic Harold Bloom called "the anxiety of influence."

KATIE: I'm glad you decided to write women characters. It makes the play even more relevant in today's world. One last thing - I heard that you’re working on a new play. Any inside news you’d be willing to share?

DONALD MARGULIES: My new play, Long Lost, about the fraught relationship between estranged middle-aged brothers who took very different paths in life, will have its New York premiere in 2019.

KATIE: I can't wait to learn more about it! Thanks again for your time. (Check out this recent article with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.)

DONALD MARGULIES: Best of luck with the production! 

KATIE: Thank you!


Enter for a chance to win 2 tickets to Collected Stories

Now accepting creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry submissions less than 500 words. 

Writing Prompt: How have your collected experiences shaped your identity?

Deadline: Sunday, February 18, 2018 (by the end of the day). 

The winner will receive 2 free tickets to Collected Stories and an invitation to a special MJTC event. Their writing will be featured on the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company website and displayed at the Highland Park Community Center theater viewable before and after each performance of Collected Stories. Other submissions may be selected to go on display at the theater as well. 

Submit to: [email protected] with the subject line “SUBMISSION”. Please attach your writing in a separate file with your full name and contact information.  

For questions, contact Katie Howells at 651-647-4315 or [email protected]


Designer Chris Griffith Talks About Puppets

Chris Griffith (Z Puppets Rosenschnoz) returns to MJTC this holiday season with brand new puppets for a brand new production of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Chris won an Ivey Award for his puppet designs in MJTC 's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (2008). Read what Chris has to say about the art of puppetry! 

two-headed goblin in hershel and the hanukkah goblins (2017)

two-headed goblin in hershel and the hanukkah goblins (2017)

"For twenty five years, I have been exploring the art of puppetry. As a builder and designer, I revel in creating circus troupes out of ping pong balls, monkeys out of fur coats, and papier-mache crocodiles. As a performer, I delight in giving inanimate objects the illusion of life.

We all know the goblins aren't alive, for instance, but we (the performers and the audience) agree for a minute to believe that they are. The puppeteer's job is to create in her imagination an image of that goblin that is so real and complete that we all forget they are not alive. If that image is strong enough, an eerie thing begins to happen: we start to see things that aren't actually there. Our imaginations fill in what's missing, and this is where puppetry gets very exciting. Did we just see an eyebrow raise up in surprise? Did that puppet just blink? A minute ago, the goblin was crying, but now the same face appears to be laughing.

"The puppeteer's energy mixes with the energy of the audience

to create the illusion of life in the puppets."

Puppetry is a collaboration between the puppeteer's and the audience's imaginations. The puppeteer's energy mixes with the energy of the audience to create the illusion of life in the puppets. My favorite performances are the ones where the performer's imagination meets the audience's imagination at the edge of the stage, and they explode in a magical moment of the puppet springing to life. When this happens, everybody in the room feels it on a primal level, and suddenly, the room is filled with real goblins.

If this is your first experience watching puppets in action, get ready! You are about to enter a world where anything is possible if you can only imagine it. Have a wonderful and festive season of light. Happy Hanukkah!"

Chris Griffith.jpg

Chris Griffith (Puppet Design) is a co-founder and Creative Director of Z Puppets Rosenschnoz. Additionally, Chris is a Teaching Artist with the Children’s Theatre Company, a clown and juggler, and an arts education consultant. Previously, he was a co-founder of Galumph Interactive Theater, Education Coordinator for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, and editor of The Puppetry Cookbook. His work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Jim Henson Foundation, Puppeteers of America, Jerome Foundation. Chris received an Ivey Award for his puppet designs in MJTC’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (2009).

Performing Arts, Theater, Updates
Chris Griffith, MJTC, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Z Puppets Ronsenschnoz, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins


Set Designer Michael Hoover Discusses Inspiration

Michael Hoover returns to MJTC to design Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins after designing several previous MJTC productions (most recently, Via Dolorosa). Here's what he had to say about his inspiration behind the set design: 

"The production takes place in the fictional Russian town of Helmsbergville.  The playwright describes it as "a worn-out village, the kind of village in which the houses droop off of hillsides and the people droop through the streets."  In my research I discovered a painting by the Russian artist Antonov Nikolay (see below).  The painting is simply titled “In Village”, and it provided the initial inspiration for the set design. 

antonov nikolay "in village" 

Set design, hershel and the hanukkah goblins, michael Hoover.

Another aspect of the design is that I hoped to keep the set pieces from feeling too heavy or clunky.  I challenged myself to try to create a setting using only sticks of lath board cobbled together.  The design then evolved into a morph of the painting onto the compilation of sticks, resulting in a playfully abstract little setting in front of which our story can be told!" 

Michael Hoover square.jpg

Michael designs sets locally for many theaters, including Uncle Vanya, Choir Boy and Proud to Present at the Guthrie Theater, Ragtime and Gypsy at Theater Latte Da and Idiot’s Delight at Girl Friday. In addition to his freelance career as a scenic designer, Michael is on staff as the Lead Scenic Artist at the Guthrie Theater.


Theater, Performing Arts, Updates
Michael Hoover, Set Design, MJTC, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Jewish Theater, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Shari Aronson, Eric A. Kimmel


Robert Dorfman reflects on his Jewish Experience

KATIE: Robert, would you mind telling me a little about yourself? 

ROBERT I am a Jewish actor born and raised in New York City and spent most of my adult life living in New York and Southern California. I moved to the Twin Cities almost five years ago. I've performed in The Lion King and Social Security on Broadway, and locally, I've been in at least a dozen productions at Guthrie Theater.  

  Robert Dorfman in a solo performance of via dolorosa

  Robert Dorfman in a solo performance of via dolorosa

KATIE: Thank youI'm curious, has working on Via Dolorosa deepened your personal faith or enriched your Jewish experience? 

ROBERT: Here in the Midwest I feel my otherness--meeting Barbara Brooks and working with the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company on Via Dolorosa and We Are the Levinsons has greatly enhanced my sense of self as an artist and as a man of faith. In this theater, I get to commune with an audience and a group of artists that are interested in life affirming plays about the human experience and the Jewish experience. I greatly look forward to the dialogue that is sparked by Via Dolorosa.

KATIE: Me too! I am especially blown away by the narrative. There is so much rich content-- and very strong storytelling. How would you describe Via?  

ROBERTVia Dolorosa is written by David Hare, of course. He, himself, was the solo actor in the original iterations of this fine play. A poet and an intellectual, he touches on themes of politics and faith set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian condition. 

KATIE: I like that. Were there any particular elements of the play that you found challenging to work on?

ROBERT: Taking on this role for the MJTC production, I have been forced to question what I ever thought about the subject, whatever allegiances I may have for one side or the other, and have found a greater understanding and compassion for the lives of the Israeli and the Palestinian people who are putting themselves on the line everyday to protect their citizens and find a peaceable continuity to their own historical stories.

KATIE: Wow. I look forward to seeing all the work you've put into the show. Oh! And I almost forgot--how's working with director Raye Birk? 

ROBERT: I love working with Mr. Raye Birk. He is in every sense “a man of the theater”. A consummate actor himself, I feel very fortunate to have him help me shape this performance, [and] represent the great themes of the play in an honest and focused manner.

KATIE: Thank you, Robert. I'm so excited to see what the two of you created with this incredible script!

Via Dolorosa runs August 19th-27th. All are welcome to join in on the dialogue for our post-show Doorways Programs following the August 20th 1:00pm performance and August 24th 7:30 performance. 


Theater, Performing Arts, Updates
Robert Dorfman, Via Dolorosa, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company


On Stage: We Are the Levinsons

On Stage is a new audience development program that is sponsored by Springboard for the Arts. It brings local actors to college classrooms in an effort to involve a young and non-traditional audience with theater in the Twin Cities. MJTC's 2017 world premiere comedy, We Are the Levinsons, was featured in several classroom workshops, involving artists of the production, including playwright Wendy Kout and actress Alyssa DiVirgilio.

We Are the Levinsons runs through May 14, 2017. More information can be found HERE.

More information for On Stage can be found HERE

Theater, Performing Arts
University of Minnesota, On Stage, Bethel University, Concordia University, Roots Cafe, Hamline University, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Jewish Theater, We Are the Levinsons, Wendy Kout, Alyssa DiVirgilio


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Wendy Kout, Playwright

Wendy Kout has a vast array of credits, including stage, film, TV, and print. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles and has co-produced fundraisers for The Nation, People for the American Way, National Women’s Law Center and Acid Survivors Trust International.  She is based in Santa Barbara, California, Wendy considers home to be on the road with her beshert, Dennis Koenig.

You currently reside in Santa Barbara, CA.  Is this your hometown, or did you grow up elsewhere?

I was born in Chicago, and since then I have been a wandering Jew.  The world is my home.   My darling mate and favorite male writer, Dennis Koenig, and I try to spend at least a month at a time in a new place so we can live like locals and delve deeper into the culture and the people. Every destination has been rewarding and enriching.  However, it is most gratifying to go where I have family and friends.  I’m thrilled that many of them from around the country will be joining me in the Twin Cities for this world premiere.

Was there a defining moment when you thought or felt, “I want to be a writer!”

I was blessed with having the world’s most supportive parents and brother.  They saw this imaginative child, and encouraged me to express myself, and not just in writing.  My folks even hung my artwork on the wall as if it were the Louvre… and I am a terrible artist.  I didn’t have that “aha!” moment of wanting to be a writer.  Thanks to my family, I felt I was born a writer.  They honored my gift long before the world did.

Your works tend to be comedic in nature.  Is this your style of writing?

It’s more than my style – it’s who I am and how I see the world.   I was raised in a family where humor was as important as food on the table.  As I began to find my voice as a writer, the humor was already there.   So, the challenge has been the weaving of what is dramatic and tragic into my work.  We Are the Levinsons, like life, is laughter and tears.

How did Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company come to be producing We Are the Levinsons?

I have Ralph Meranto, Artistic Director of JCC CenterStage Theatre in Rochester, NY, to thank for that.  Ralph produced the world premiere of my first solo written play, Naked in Encino, and has been a champion and friend ever since.  When I completed my first draft of We Are the Levinsons, I sent it to Ralph for his feedback and then wrote the next draft – which had a private reading in Los Angeles, thanks to another champion and friend, Tony Abatemarco, Interim Artistic Director of Skylight Theatre Company.  That reading led to another, much closer, draft, which I sent back to Ralph.  Some writers call this "development hell".  For me, it was "development heaven".  I was finding my play with the guidance of very experienced and supportive theater artists.   On June 20, 2016, Ralph sent me an email.  His colleague, Barbara Brooks, the Artistic Director of Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, had written to him seeking a play to complete her upcoming season.  Ralph suggested she read We Are the Levinsons.  Barbara read the play, and that very day she expressed interest – that’s how fast things can happen!  (But usually don't.)   The development journey continued with Barbara's guidance.  She brought in dramaturg, Hayley Finn, to work with me, and Kurt Schweickhardt to direct; they have both brought clarity and contribution.  It takes a village to raise a child... and a new play.   Or, in the case of We Are the Levinsons, it takes a shtetl.   My gratitude to all who have brought my “child” home, and to my parents and brother, who encouraged this child to write... and laugh.

What was the inspiration or impetus for We Are the Levinsons?

The inspiration was my parents’ final chapter.  I had moved back to LA to be there and was there when they each took their last breath.   I knew even when living those three challenging years that someday I would write about it – and so did my parents.  An example from my mom:  “Ok, the bad news is I fell and broke my arm.  The good news is it’ll make a great story for you someday.” 

How did you develop the character of Grace, the transgender woman caregiver?

Everyone adored my father.  He was so kind, funny and generous, but he was a flawed mensch.  He was ironically a closet homophobe.  Never mean or hurtful to a soul, but Pop had his prejudices. After my mom died, his first caregiver was a Filipino gay man.   I watched the friendship that ultimately developed between them and how my father, in the final months, was growing.  The capacity for change, even as an elder in the face of death, was something I wanted to share.

What do you hope the MJTC, and future audiences, takes away from We Are the Levinsons?

When we come to any kind of art – we bring our own prism.   In theater, some may relate more to a particular character or resonate with a particular theme.   So future audience members will take away what they each individually experience.   But if there is anything I hope everyone feels after this play, it’s the celebration and preciousness of life… and laughter.

If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Veggie pizza and an excellent gin martini, straight up with three olives.  Recommendations for where I can get both in the Twin Cities are greatly appreciated, as is the opportunity to launch this new work at MJTC.

I would like the MJTC audience and supporters to understand how important it is, and how grateful I am, that Barbara took on a new play.  It is much safer to produce an established hit that everyone is excited to see.  To take on a new work is an act of courage and true patronage of the arts.   As a people we honor our past, but we also need our new stories told from our living writers.   



20s & 30s Night for The Whipping Man

Join Us for An Exclusive Event

One of the best things about going to the theater is meeting other theater lovers.  Even better when they're your peers! Join the MJTC 20s & 30s crowd for an evening of theater, drinks & apps, and camaraderie.

The evening is sure to be a hit, starting off with a fantastic show, followed by great discussions and mingling.  Make sure to get your tickets in advance, and we'll see ya there!  

When:          Thursday, February 9
                      Curtain Time: 7:30
Where:         Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company
                      Highland Park Community Center
                      1978 Ford Parkway in St. Paul
How Much: Tickets are $15
Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, February 2
Included: ticket for show, drink ticket, and appetizers

For more info about the show, head over to its page.
Can’t make the 20s & 30s event, but still want to see the show? 
Get tickets online.

See you at the Highland Grill after the show!
771 Cleveland Avenue S.



Q & A with Sally Wingert

You have been an actor on many stages throughout the Twin Cities and nationally. Most recently at MJTC, you performed as Marjorie Taub in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.  Now, you are on the other side of the fourth wall, as the Director; how does that appeal to you?

I had never intended to be a director; but, in the last few years I’ve found myself observing a rehearsal like a director.  I am hoping that having participated in rehearsals where the room felt like it was a place where true creativity can live that I can make that happen for us.  There is no happier place on earth than to be in a space where all of the artists are coming to it with their best selves, where they can be fragile, and foolish, and fulsome, and funny.  All of it.  And the best rehearsals processes let the artists do that.

What has been the most challenging aspect with the project thus far?

I hope I can be patient as a director, and that I can meet the actors through their process. 

And the most rewarding?

I sat in on auditions, and I was awestruck at how prepared the auditioners were – awestruck.  I was really humbled by that.  And then, meeting with designers and seeing how thoughtful they are about this process.  I just finished looking at Michael Hoover’s set. 

You had mentioned that there was a voice in your head leaning toward directing.  So, why this play?

Barbara Brooks asked me to read the script.  It is an astonishing story – the notion of Confederate Jews owning and raising slaves as Jews.

Barbara is a huge champion of a number of artists.  She has been profoundly supportive of me, as an actor, an artist, a woman in this [theater] business, as a neighbor, and as a friend.  And, between those two things – between the encouragement of Barbara and my thinking about directing for quite some time – I’m going to give it a go.

You were awarded a McKnight Fellowship in 2014 for Theatre Artists.  How do you feel this affected your career and your life?

First of all, it was a large financial support that allowed me to work on a project in a style that is not my “mother tongue”.  I was able to work with Transatlantic Love Affair – to dip my toe into their world – it was really fabulous.  Being awarded a McKnight Fellowship felt validating as an actor.  It reiterates that you are an Artist, and that you have something to offer the community.

Have you had any experiences – as an actor, director, or audience member – that were pivotal in your career or life?

Yes.  Years and years ago, I was in a production that was directed by Robert Woodruff, The Skin of our Teeth by Thorton Wilder, where I played Sabina.  His methodology, his style of rehearsal, was so different than anything I had ever been a part of that it took me out of myself in the best possible way.  It made me take chances early on while I was on the Guthrie stage, and it cracked that space for me – and cracked my feelings of not being good enough.  As a local actor, I came into it with a bit of an inferiority complex, and that experience cracked it open.  Garland Wright’s entire tenure at the Guthrie (1986-1995) propelled me into thinking of myself as an Artist, with a capital A.  Peter Rothstein directed me in Masterclass at Theatre Latté Da.  I also hold dear the reminder of Maria Callas’ mantra about the beauty of art and how we as artists are always trying to express the world, and all of its dimensions, through art.

For those of whom are beginning their career in theater, especially in the Twin Cities, what advice do you have for them?

You just need to remain curious.  You need to work really hard.  Figure out how to protect your fragile ego self and abandon it.  I think you need to go forward with a kind of fearlessness in the rehearsal room.  I think you need to listen more than you speak.  And, I think you need to watch and absorb. 

What’s next?  More Directing? Acting?

I’m doing Six Degrees of Separation as soon as The Whipping Man opens, as an actor, and I have acting work until May.  And then things are a little bit more open.

Is there anything else you’d like the audience to know?

I think that this is a remarkable play that combines both a rather searing look at post-Civil War and issues of slavery, and a rather heartbreaking look at family dynamics and the way that slavery has dismantled almost everything civil about society.  The legacy of slavery continues to live on, and it is beautifully articulated in The Whipping Man.  There is also a great deal of humor in the play as well, so it’s not just a rocket straight to depression. It’s pretty thrilling.

Q & A with Heidi Fellner

Heidi is a theater, film, television and commercial talent. She appears at MJTC for the first time as Katherine in Aunt Raini, opening October 29.

1) I learned you’re originally from South Dakota. How long have you been in the Twin Cities? What parts of your hometown do you miss as a transplant?
I've been living in the Twin Cities long enough to have put down roots and bought a house, but I suspect no matter how long I'll be here, the Black Hills will always feel like my real home.  The Twin Cities have been kind to me as an actor, so I do feel guilty about saying that. But I miss aspects of the western cowboy culture, the smell of pine and sage, and those old, old mountains. Whenever I'm able to get back, my shoulders relax and I breathe more deeply.  My old bedroom looks out onto Bear Butte (aka Mato Paha), and I miss that view. You know, I never felt particularly Western when I lived out there, and I never knew how much I'd miss it until I left. 

2) What has been your most memorable acting role and why?
There's a gig I have right now that I'm enjoying: CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training for police and corrections officers. We actors research various mental health issues, substance abuse symptoms, etc., then use our craft to help teach non-violent approaches to de-escalate a situation. It's all improvised, as we're reacting largely to what we're given by the officer, and I think it's made me a much more daring performer. I spent part of a recent training with one hand thrust straight up in the air, screaming, "I am a vessel!" As you can imagine, this was quite terrifying for the officer, but they got to practice talking me down and figuring out how to get my character into the squad car without the first thought being to use a taser or worse. From the feedback we've gotten, they've already used this training to save people in their communities. It's not glamorous work, but it is one of the rare opportunities I have to use my weird bag of tricks to do something real and helpful.

3) In Aunt Raini, you play Katherine, the fictionalized grand-niece of Leni Riefenstahl. Can you talk a little about your own family’s experience during the Holocaust? What is it like performing this character with whom you have an opposite family history?
My grandfather, his brother, and one cousin got out after the Austrian border closed, and it was quite touch and go for a while, trying to find safe places, food, and resources. Here and there they were helped by several organizations throughout France, until they were eventually sponsored by Rabbi Isaac Alcalay (a relative) to come to the United States. They lived with multiple families in a small Brooklyn apartment, sending all of their extra money to try to get everyone else out.  

My great-aunt and her husband were put on a train to Auschwitz, where he was gassed immediately, if memory serves, for his refusal to work for the Nazis. She was determined to stay alive, however, and through a combination of sheer will, luck and miracles, she survived until the camp was eventually liberated by the Russians. I was so fortunate to know my great-aunt, and to be able to spend time with her while she was alive. While many members of my family were understandably very angry about what had happened to them, she had really come to be at peace with herself, with her past, and with Germany. She did not blame the Germans for what happened to her, but instead would say that their ability to have such hatred for those they perceived to be "the other" was a very sad, but universal part of human nature.

I think many people would agree with the statement that the world would be better off if there were some way of just getting rid of the "bad" people, so only good people were left.  Simple, right?  But I agree with Anne Frank, that people are really good at heart, and it is their circumstances, the way they are taught, or perhaps our universal capacity to get caught up in quite dangerous, but simple-sounding, too-good-to-be-true promises that lead us to commit atrocities. I think it would be unfair to blame many (although not all) Germans for succumbing to it. They, too, were really good at heart. They just got caught up in believing a hideous myth about how to make everything better for their country. And I think instead of villainizing the Germans (which, in a way, applies the same kind of thinking they had about the Jews), we should learn a different lesson about how similar we all are, and how easily we can be seduced. 

4) Are there any lines from the play that you find really striking or any epiphanies you’ve had about the other characters?
Yes, there are lines from the play that I find very important for my character, but they're often small moments. Probably nothing that an audience would pick up on, or even find that interesting! When I take on a role, I usually try to take my character’s side, even when she's wrong, and only try to know what she knows. So while I am enjoying what the other cast is doing, I feel bad about withholding as much information as I do about Katherine.  But I want the others to misunderstand her sometimes, because I think that is natural and human. When I see these moments of confusion and hurt reflected in their eyes, it helps me feel Katherine's isolation and frustration at being perpetually misunderstood, and by those whom she loves most.  

5) This is your first show at MJTC. How is working with MJTC veteran Kurt Schweickhardt?
Kurt and I actually are very much aligned in how we approach things. We both feel that humans are flawed, that we don't always make sense, and we're full of contradictions. We also both use sensory experiences to kick start our creative journeys...with one key difference. I use music and imagery, in a solitary exploration. Kurt uses movement and touch, in a group. Now, remember that I grew up in a cowboy culture. One aspect of that culture is that casual touch just isn't done. My extended family also has a trait that finds casual touch from anyone we don't know very strange. As we kept moving in this direction of physical exploration in rehearsal, I started feeling more and more like an over-stimulated cat at a toddler's birthday party. Once I finally blurted out that I was hitting a wall and feeling more defensive instead of receptive, Kurt was very accommodating and kind about it. I am so grateful that Kurt was understanding, so I hope he doesn't mind my sharing this story. 

As we continue to work through this process, it's been very collaborative. I feel a great deal of freedom to explore moments with my character, which is always fun. And it's also been very interesting to work with a director who is so keen to explore early character work. I think we are making something we will be proud of.

It's raffle time once again!


For only $25, you can enter MJTC's annual raffle to win big while supporting the theater you love! This year's prizes are:

1st Prize: A personalized theater week-end in NYC for 2
includes flight, hotel, 1 Broadway & 1 off-Broadway show of the winner’s choosing
2nd Prize: A St. Paul Theater Night for 2

includes dinner, History Theater tickets and a hotel stay
3rd Prize: A $250 gift certificate for Continental Diamond
4th Prize: A season subscription for 2 to MJTC’s 2017-2018 season


To purchase your raffle tickets, call the box office:

Drawing will be held on November 20th, 2016 following the 1:00 p.m. performance of Aunt Raini. You do not need to be present to win. Must be 18 years of age or older to purchase a ticket or win prize. A maximum of 500 tickets will be sold.

Q & A with Hayley Finn

Hayley Finn is the Associate Artistic Director at the Playwrights’ Center. She has directed several shows at MJTC, most recently 2014's Ivey-award winning play Rose, and joins us this spring as director of Bad Jews.

As Associate Artistic Director at the Playwright’s Center, do you see themes emerging in the new work you encounter these days?
Playwrights write on a variety of topic and in myriad styles. Sometimes common themes emerge and they usually reflect the zeitgeist of the culture. I don't know of other plays that are tackling the themes in Bad Jews and in the way in which Joshua Harmon is doing here so I think this play is unique. 
At the read-through of Bad Jews, you said, “There’s a lot of antagonism [between characters] but there’s also a sense that this is a family that can do this.” Can you say more about that?
I think I was talking about the culture of this particular family. You get the sense from the text that this family is comfortable arguing. Arguing (in the classic sense of setting up arguments to prove a point) is something Liam and Daphna excel at. Their brains work quickly and they have facility with language and using language to prove their points. I also think that the culture of this family is that they say what they're thinking. They don't hold back.
I also liked when you said, “The Holocaust is looming in this play.” The idea of “looming” really struck me: looming confrontations, looming adulthood. Do other kinds of "looming" tensions stand out to you?
What's also looming in the play is the fate of Jewish culture and religion. All of the characters address this in the play, from very different perspectives. Some of the greatest moments of tension in the play arise from Daphna and Liam's opposite views on this topic. 
Daphna and Liam have a lot to get off their chests! As a director, how do you navigate the actors through their monologues?
It is a fun challenge to navigate the long monologues in the play. I work with the actors to tackle them from a couple of angles. The first is understanding what's being said, why it's being said and the logic between all the twists and turns that the characters are saying.  The second is a very technical approach. It involves understanding rhythm. Essentially we score the text.

Q & A with Warren C. Bowles

Warren C. Bowles has more than 40 years of experience as an actor, director, choreographer, and playwright at theaters across the country. He previously directed Jericho and Photograph 51 at MJTC and has joined us once more as director of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.

I know you recently finished a run at Park Square Theatre in My Children! My Africa! What challenges do you confront when “changing hats” from actor to director?
The sports analogy works here. It's like moving from player to coach. You must still do very detailed work in both cases but the breadth of your responsibilities is much wider as director.

Allergist’s Wife has a lot going on. What should people know about this show?
Firstly, if audience members saw or are aware of Charles Busch's original play written in 1999, be aware that Mr. Busch rewrote and updated that piece which gives us this current version. Secondly, if audience members are familiar with Mr. Busch's past work and aesthetic, i.e. Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and his camp style, don't come in with those expectations. Prompted by a generous offer from Lynn Meadow at the Manhattan Theatre Club he explores here a new, for him, direction in theatre.

So you don't see much of Busch's drag/campy aesthetic in  your vision for the production or for Marjorie? 
I certainly see no need to impose it and I think it would be an imposition.

What do you think is particularly Jewish about Allergist’s Wife and/or particularly universal?
Mr. Busch said that his vision for this tale comes from the fact that he was raised in a matriarchal family of intelligent, verbal, and funny women. Those are his roots, and, we cannot deny or not be influenced by our roots. That is essential to this play being universal. For this particular family, their Jewish roots are a big part of who they are now, what subsequent generations will be. That is what makes it particularly Jewish.

Is this Tale a cautionary tale or a fairy tale?
Great question. When the play opens be sure you ask audience members on their way out of the theatre.