Plays on Jewish identity

See Josh Kornbluth perform at the Herberger Theater Center through Sunday

Valley audiences have two chances this month to explore issues of Jewish identity through the medium of performance art — as two plays take to Phoenix stages.

First, “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” presented by Actors Theatre through this Sunday at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

It’s a reflection by playwright and monologist Josh Kornbluth on a series of Andy Warhol prints that caused quite a stir when first exhibited in 1980.

The prints feature ten prominent Jews of the 20th century– including Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Louis Brandeis, George Gershwin, Golda Meir, Sarah Bernhardt, Sigmund Freud and the Marx brothers.

Kornbluth’s show is described as “an irreverent mix of autobiography, music, philosophy and improvisation.” It’s “a wide-ranging meditation on art and religion” that recounts, in non-liner fashion, how Kornbluth’s discovery of his own “Jewishness” was fueled by Warhol’s work.

Tickets for remaining performances are available for just $15, making this one of the best theater values in town. Perhaps Kornbluth’s musings will even inspire you to discover your own “artistness.”

See Michael Kary, Ben Tyler and Andrea Dovner perform with Arizona Jewish Theatre Company starting March 24 (Photo: Mark Gluckman)

Second, “My Name is Asher Lev” by the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presented March 24-April 3 at the John Paul Theatre on the campus of Phoenix College.

“My name is “Asher Lev,” by Aaron Posner, is based on a novel of the same name authored by Chaim Potok. It’s the story of a young Hassidic painter in New York City who’s torn between his observant Jewish community and his need to create.”

Themes include beauty, truth, ambition and tradition. Plus “difficult choices” — between “art and faith” as well as “passion and family.”

Both works consider what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be an artist — but by vastly different means. Seeing both, I think, presents a rare opportunity to explore the diversity and depth of modern-day storytelling.

– Lynn

Note: When you visit the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company website, be sure and check out information on their summer theater camps for youth. With any luck at all, Kornbluth will decide to do a summer camp for grown-ups.

Coming up: That’s absurd!

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