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Sarasota Jewish Theatre

Sarasota Jewish Theatre Announces its 2023-2024 Season

| Suncoast Post Staff |

Sarasota Jewish Theatre (SJT) is pleased to announce its 2023-2024 season. The season opens with a two-night-only special production of “Charting the Lost Continent” in October, which is followed by a one-night-only repeat of last season’s sold out musical, “Bashert – Some Things are Meant to Be,” in November. The season continues with three plays from January through May: “Fully Committed” by Becky Mode, “Better Late” by Larry Gelbart, and “The Immigrant” by Mark Harelik. The plays are presented at The Players Centre Studio 1130 at the Crossings at Siesta Key mall, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. To purchase tickets and subscriptions ($18-$93), visit ThePlayers.org or call 941-365-2494. For information, visit Sarasota Jewish Theatre.

Based on poetry by award-winning Sarasota poet Linda Albert, “Charting the Lost Continent,” presented October 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m., is an original and thought-provoking staged reading featuring heartwarming, lusty, poignant, and thoroughly human stories exploring the thoughts, feelings, and wit of people as they reflect on the seasons of life. India Marie Paul directs the cast of Jenny Aldrich, Alice Cotman, Victoria Flounders, Donna Gerdes, Aden Russel, and Pam Wiley. “Charting the Lost Continent” is supported in part by a teaching artist grant to Carole Kleinberg from The Johnson Singer Arts and Education Fund, a program of the Floyd C Johnson and Flo Singer Johnson Foundation.  

Carole Kleinberg, artistic director of Sarasota Jewish Theatre, said, “Because we sold out and turned away so many people for ‘Bashert – Some Things are Meant to Be’ last season, we are bringing back a slightly revised and enhanced production of it on November 11 at 7:30 p.m.” This one-woman musical, written and performed by Lynne Bernfield, directed by Sharon Ohrenstein with musical direction by Tom Pizzi, is about the surprising and even impossible events which occur in our lives: the ironic way two lovers meet, the implausible way a performer’s career gets started, and how, against all odds, a dream/wish comes true.

Becky Mode’s “Fully Committed” (January 31-February 4) is directed by Gus Kaikkonen and stars Kraig Swartz in an extraordinary acting tour de force playing 40 wildly diverse characters. This riotously funny play follows a day in the life of an out-of-work actor who mans the red-hot reservation line at Manhattan’s number-one restaurant. Coercion, threats, bribes, histrionics—a cast of desperate callers will stop at nothing in their zeal to land a prime reservation at the right table. 
Preview: January 31, 1:30 p.m.
Performances: January 31, February 1, 3 at 7:30 p.m.; February 2, 4 at 1:30 p.m.

Larry Gelbart’s “Better Late” (March 13-21), directed by Carolyn Michel, is a riff on a December-December-December romance that bristles with biting humor. Nora (Nellie O’Brien) and Lee (Don Walker) have been married for 20 years when Nora asks if they can take in her ex-husband, Julian (Lee Gundersheimer), for a few weeks while he is recovering from a recent stroke. Tension builds between the two men as Julian’s orchestrated relapses prolong his stay from weeks to months and family and relationship dynamics are tested. How long will Julian stay and how long will it take until Lee cracks? 
Preview: March 13, 1:30 p.m.
Performances: March 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21 at 7:30 p.m.; March 17 at 1:30 p.m.

Mark Harelik’s “The Immigrant” (May 1-12), directed by Gus Kaikkonen, is the heartwarming true story of a life fulfilled in the “Golden Land.” In rural central Texas, 1909, a young Russian-Jewish immigrant has sought refuge in the land of the free. He arrives in America through the port of Galveston and discovers a world of unknowns. The first miracle he encounters is a banana. He goes door to door selling this fruit, and eventually manages to buy a cart. Life changes when he pulls his banana cart into the village of Hamilton. Able to speak only Yiddish, alone amid a staunchly Christian community, he begs for shelter. Miracles continue to unfold over the next 30 year as religion meets religion, culture meets culture, and humanity triumphs over fear.
Preview: May 1, 1:30 p.m.
Performances: May 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11 at 7:30 p.m.; May 3, 5, 12 at 1:30 p.m.

Kleinberg continued, “We are thrilled with the audience response SJT is receiving and delighted to be spreading our wings in new directions. Not only are we presenting terrific mainstage plays with top notch actors and directors, we are also producing smaller ‘traveling’ plays which can be performed at organizations, condo communities, synagogues, and libraries in Sarasota and Manatee counties.” These plays include “The Bintel Briefs – Memories and Melodies,” “The Rest of the Story,” and “Charting the Lost Continent” after it completes its run at the theatre.    

The Bintel Briefs – Memories and Melodies,” a staged reading with music, brings to life the warm, humorous, and poignant letters from The Bintel Brief, a Yiddish advice column found in the Daily Forward newspaper that began just after the turn of the twentieth century. The letters, written by Jewish immigrants to the paper’s founding editor Abraham Cahan, tell the travails of life in the new world. Written and directed by Alice Cotman and fine-tuned by Carolyn Michel, it features David Meyersburg as Cahan. Yiddish music favorites performed by Rosalie Leon evoke the rich life of the “greenhorns” on the lower east side of New York City.

The Rest of the Story” is a one-act comedy featuring a very old Eve being interviewed by a journalist for a retrospective on her life. The interview takes place in the Garden of Eden Park, just across the river from the assisted living facility where Eve resides. When Lilith, an unwelcome visitor, intrudes, sparks fly, and Eve is forced to reveal a lifetime of resentments. This introspective play directed by Carole Kleinberg features Sue Bachman, Lynne Doyle, and Jamie Butram.

Kleinberg concluded, “The diversity in SJT audiences is proving my conviction that you don’t have to be Jewish to love Jewish theatre.”

For more information, visit SarasotaJewishTheatre.org. To purchase tickets to the performances at The Players Centre Studio 1130, visit The Players or call 941-365-2494. For information about the traveling plays, contact Sandra Musicante at malsandra@comcast.net.

Sarasota Jewish Theatre’s 2023-2024 season is supported in part by the Falk Weinberger Family Charitable Foundation; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee; National Bath; Suplee Shea Cramer & Miller, PA; and Zildjian Catering.

Photo from Jewish Theater Website

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