The Arts

What Is It About Shylock?

In post-Madoff New York, two new productions of ‘Merchant of Venice’ (one starring Al Pacino) are on the boards this month.

06/08/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

If any theatrical character continues to haunt and fascinate us centuries after his debut upon the stage, it is Shylock, the frightening, agonized Jewish moneylender who demands to be repaid only with a pound of flesh. While Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” has always ranked among the most popular of the Bard’s plays in this country, Shylocks are popping up all over the city these days.

Al Pacino

A Guitarist’s Jewish Sparks

For Tim Sparks, it’s a long way from Southern Baptist North Carolina to Tzadik records.

06/08/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

It is a cliché to say that music can change someone’s view of the world. But in the case of guitarist Tim Sparks, it’s true.

Sparks, who will be performing at The Stone on June 14, grew up in North Carolina where he was “exposed to a lot of heavy-duty Southern Baptist culture,” he said in a telephone interview last week from his home in Minneapolis. “I’ve spent most of my life trying to work my way out of that.”

His passport to a wider worldview was his guitar.

Tim Sparks’ journey has taken him from the blues to classical to  the music of the Jewish diaspora.

Israel’s ‘Minority In A Minority’

Dor Guez’s video triptych examines the complicated identities of his Arab Christian family members.

06/01/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

If you don’t think that human identity is evanescent, multilayered, poly-vocal and downright confused, you probably won’t get “The Monayer Family,” a triptych of short videos by Dor Guez currently on display at the Jewish Museum.

Guez is a provocative, gifted artist who works in a variety of disciplines and media, focusing his attention on issues of multiculturalism, ethnicity and personal identity; appropriately, his own identity is as contested and complex as it is possible to imagine. The work, unsurprisingly, is the same.

The filmmaker’s grandfather, Jacob, in scenes from “The Monayer Family.”

Milt Gross' Cartoons Get Stage Treatment

06/01/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Before Matt Groening, before Art Spiegelman, before even Charles Schultz, there was Milt Gross. Gross was a pioneering early-20th-century American cartoonist, one whose comic strips, graphic novels, and animated films were all inflected with an immigrant Jewish accent and sensibility. Almost a century later, Gross’ parody of Jewish life in 1920s New York, “Nize Baby,” has been adapted to the stage by the Medicine Show Theatre, a company that is known for its experimental approach to classic works.

Small Figures Reveal Big Holocaust Story

‘Kamp’ recreates Auschwitz in miniature.

06/01/2010
Staff Writer

When the Nazis invaded Holland in May of 1940, Pauline Kalker’s grandfather, Joseph Emanuel, who was Jewish, went into hiding. He moved from house to house, evading the Nazis for several months. But soon he was caught. The Nazis tortured him for three days, hoping to get information about where other Jews were hiding, but he did not crack.

Ten Dutch artists built a near-exact model of Auschwitz, including its gas showers and ovens. Photos by Herman Helle

Changing Images Muddy Picture Of Zionism, Israel

For young American Jews, it’s a long way from ‘Exodus’ to the separation wall.

05/26/2010
Staff Writer

 In 1960, the film “Exodus” was nominated for three Academy Awards. Based on Leon Uris’ novel about the founding of Israel, it seems hard to believe that such a film, drenched in Jewish military heroism and suffused with Holocaust imagery and Arab aggression, could have such broad and unambiguous appeal. But it did. It not only won an Oscar, it also starred a Hollywood icon, Paul Newman, as the heroic Jewish fighter, and even made a commendable showing at Cannes.

But almost a half-century later, a very different film about Israel won an Oscar nomination. “Waltz With Bashir,” (2008) directed by the Israeli Ari Folman, put a spotlight on the massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps during the first Lebanon War.  

Two images of Israel, two generations: “Exodus” and “Waltz with Bashir.”

Living By His Wits: New Play Highlights Eastern European Folk Hero, Joker

05/25/2010

Call him the Robin Hood  of Eastern European Jewish culture.

Hershele Ostropolyer was an exuberant trickster who roamed the Ukrainian countryside at the turn of the 19th century, playing jokes on the rich to help the poor. The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre’s new production, “The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer,” stars Mike Burstyn as the legendary joker who always has another trick up his sleeve.

Jewish Songwriter Offers An Indie Take On Genesis

Wailing Wall’s Jesse Rifkin reimagines, and personalizes, the biblical story.

05/25/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Jesse Rifkin is remembering his childhood in Annapolis, Md. He began writing songs when he was 4. At that age, he loved the Beatles. He was already thinking of himself as a career musician.

“Sometimes you just know,” he says firmly.

It all came true; he has recorded an EP and two CDs with his Wailing Wall band, with the latter recordings being released through JDub Records. He will be launching his new album, “The Low Hanging Fruit,” with a gig in New York on June 4.

Songwriter Jesse Rifkin’s “Low-Hanging Fruit” CD bridges the Bible and the economic downturn.

Israeli Authors Lost In Translation as Few Hebrew-language Books Published in English

New subsidized publishing venture holds out hope for greater literary visibility here.

05/25/2010
Staff Writer

Last year, a scandal erupted in Israel over the winner of the Sapir Prize, the country’s top literary award. The honor went to a book by Alon Hilu, 39, one of the country’s most promising young writers. Titled “The House of Rajani,” it focused on the complex relationship between an early Zionist from Russia who, in 1895, immigrates to Jaffa and falls in love with the Arab woman whose land he hopes to acquire.

Pianist Judith Berkson: A Journey Across Genres

05/21/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

If genetics count for anything, Judith Berkson’s career choice was foreordained. Her father is a cantor, her mother a pianist and, with her two sisters and one brother, the entire family formed a band that entertained at synagogues and JCCs in the Chicago area as she was growing up.

Pianist-singer Judith Berkson moves easily between cantorial music, classical and cutting-edge jazz.
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