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Next Generation Of Emerging Jewish Theater Pros Present Fresh, Original Zoom Show With Jewish Women's Theatre

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Next Generation Of Emerging Jewish Theater Pros Present Fresh, Original Zoom Show With Jewish Women's Theatre

The challenging task of choosing between right and wrong can lead not only to sleepless nights, it can also lead to great theater, as the NEXT generation of Jewish theater professionals discovered when creating For Goodness' Sake, their original, brand-new show for Jewish Women's Theatre (JWT).

The NEXT @ The Braid Emerging Artists Fellowship program is a career-training strategy that annually selects a new cohort of aspiring theater professionals to explore how to create meaningful shows from young-adult perspectives, under the guidance and mentorship of JWT's experienced staff.

Every year, NEXT fellows spend their first two meetings discussing the year's focus, based on what is going on in their lives. "The collaborative process to decide our theme is always such an exciting time in the NEXT Fellowship," says Daphna Shull, a NEXT alumna from the program's first year who now serves as JWT's administrative associate and the literary manager of this year's show.

"This year, the conversation gravitated around personal choices and the morality behind our decisions - the good, bad, right, wrong, and everything gray that lies in-between. The literary submissions that we received from our announcement were fascinating. The range and depth of stories made us realize how much this theme truly sparked something in people," Shull says.

The show premieres on Zoom July 19 at 11 a.m. and runs for three additional dates, July 23 at 7 p.m., July 25 at 8 p.m., and July 27 at 7 p.m. (all times Pacific). Tickets are available through JWT's website, www.jewishwomenstheatre.org. Tickets start at $18.

This year's traditional and experimental stories, music, and poetry will introduce viewers to a daughter who must figure out how she can handle being the best man at her father's wedding to a woman who is her nearly age, and to a social worker who must find out why a group of truant Russian children isn't attending school.

And there are sexy stories about the morality of whether "no" really means "no" and how "swiping right" on internet dating sites shouldn't be about trying to be what men want, but what women want instead. Jewish themes figure prominently in stories about how a cynic's visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem during a Birthright Israel trip had a totally unexpected impact, and how the television sitcom The Nanny taught the writer everything she needed to know about being Jewish.

There is a touching story about an agribusiness specialist training for the Peace Corps who realizes it's easier to carry big jugs of water up hills than to handle the devastation of the coronavirus here at home. And there are poignant stories about a deathbed insight into the value of soup, and how a life-threatening medical emergency can turn someone into a warrior.

The show's title, For Goodness' Sake, sums up the idea of examining the unexpected places where moral compasses can lead individuals to ethical dilemmas and intriguing resolutions. NEXT fellow, writer, and director David Chiu adds, "That phrase is also a reminder that Jewish tradition teaches every single one of us to constantly examine our actions, judging if they are truly done for the sake of goodness."

The NEXT @ The Braid Emerging Artist Fellowship and their production of For Goodness' Sake are made possible in part by the generous support of Gail Solo, of the Erwin Rautenberg Foundation, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, City of Santa Monica, and the Y & S Nazarian Initiative, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

This year, NEXT began with eight new fellows. Due to the drastic changes brought upon us by the COVID-19 outbreak, some have not been able to finish the program this year, but JWT fully intends on furthering their involvement in seasons to come. This year's fellows are Leenie Baker, David Chiu, Sophie Greenbaum, Amanda Horowitz, Rachel Minkoff, Sara True Rosenthal, Isaac "Izzy" Salant, and Charles "Chaz" Volk. Alums Ora Yashar and Daphna Shull serve as literary consultant, and literary manager, respectively.

The writers featured in For Goodness' Sake are Sophie Greenbaum, Shirl Kelemer, Lena Rudnick, Aysha Wax, Pattie Baker, Farah Rashdan, David Chiu, Allison Fradkin, Michael Himelstein, Romy Roshan, Ruth Yasharpour, and Lauren Aboulafia. The cast features AJ Meijer, Rosie Moss, Jasmine Curry, and Lauren Aboulafia.

Andrew Fromer, another NEXT alum who is now JWT's assistant artistic director, is excited by the new wave of young people coming to JWT shows: "It's been so amazing to witness NEXT help shift the demographics of JWT audiences as more and more young artists find out about our unique work."

Fromer also explains what audience members will gain after seeing the show. "We hope patrons get a feeling of acceptance or assurance that it's ok to not know the right answers or see a clear path to take. The main theme of For Goodness' Sake touches on expectations - how we put expectations on ourselves, how society puts them on us, and how we are always supposed to do what's 'good.' But who sets the definition of 'good'? Hopefully, through our show, audiences will feel empowered to be in control of what is good for them. That what you feel is good in your heart might just be the only thing that really matters."

Jewish Women's Theatre, voted one of the "Best Live Theatres on the Westside" three years in a row by The Argonaut, presents American Jewish stories, art, and other programming that highlights Jewish contributions to contemporary life. Now in its 13th season, JWT's salon theatre of original dramatic shows, each written to a specific theme, displays the diverse and eclectic community of writers, artists, and creators who celebrate Jewish life, one story at a time. Learn more about JWT at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.


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