Today’s American Jewish community was created by the twists and turns of history. It was nourished by the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of a myriad of worldwide Jewish identities and experiences. Jewish Women’s Theatre (JWT) will celebrate today’s multicultural Jews in its new salon show “True Colors,” beginning May 4 at The Braid Theater, 2912 Colorado Ave., Ste. 102, in Santa Monica.
In “True Colors,” audiences will meet unforgettable characters who tell personal stories about how they see themselves and how others see them. Ironically, while many American Jews can reach consensus about a commitment to social justice for others, they do not always embrace diversity in their own community. This enlightening show will explore the impact of living as Jews of color when inclusion and equity are not always practiced in the Jewish community. “We are proud to spotlight the experiences of Jews of color,” said Ronda Spinak, JWT’s artistic director. “These are poignant and moving stories of questioning, of feeling like the outsider, of committing to Judaism…quintessential and universal Jewish stories.”
“True Colors” showcases the story of a daughter of a Jewish mother and a Black/Chinese father and how she was taught to embrace her diversity, and have confidence that the world would embrace it as well. The audience will learn of a young man of a Jewish and Chinese descent who has to make a painful decision: to call out a racist boss and forfeit a job for which he’s worked his whole life to get, or to stay quiet. Eric Greene, a writer and civil rights activist of African-American, Native American and European descent, who is a consultant and co-producer on “True Colors,” says, “The show is about resilience, self-respect, and celebrating the many colors and voices in our community.”
Susan Morgehsten, producing director with JWT, said the theatre trouple has always been inclusive and welcoming.
“We embrace every kind of diversity in our audience, our writers, and the actors on our stage,” Morgenstern explained. “All people face challenges and struggles, while striving to find the joy and meaning of our lives. The stories in ‘True Colors,’ ostensibly about Jews who feel ‘different,’ remind us how very much alike we are. It’s a great privilege to bring these stories to life at JWT.”
Actor Joshua Silverstein will perform his own story, “Special,” during the production. Actress Kimberly Green will take on a number of roles in the show. In addition, there is a story about the daughter of a Korean Buddhist mother and a White Jewish father who was challenged by classmates for wearing a Jewish star. “I’m just as Jewish as anyone and I’m gonna show you how Jewish I am,” she declared as a young girl and she fulfilled her declaration, becoming the senior rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue. On the other hand, a young African-American man loved being the only Jew of color in his community. It made him feel special and exotic. Invited to a Shabbat dinner for Jews of Color forced him to reconcile the joy of newfound community with the loss of presumed uniqueness.
Jews of color face new sets of challenges when they leave urban enclaves and settle in “White islands.“ A Black Jew’s visit to her synagogue taught her the love and acceptance of Bakersfield, Hanukah style. A Latina Jewish woman learns she doesn’t have to choose between culture or religion. She could be both/and instead of either/or. And a woman who was adopted from a White Jewish mother and African-American father experiences a complex mixture of love and disdain from her White Jewish family. Even at synagogue, fellow congregants could not believe she was Jewish, and often directed her to the kitchen thinking she was one of the help.
“True Colors” will premiere at The Braid, JWT’s performance and art space on May 4 and will travel to the Westside, the San Fernando Valley, the Fairfax District and the South Bay until May 16. Pre-sale tickets are $45, $50 at the door and available at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org. Performances include a dessert buffet plus Q and A with actors, writers and JWT’s production staff after the show.
For more details, call (310) 315-1400.