By Eva Trieger
What would you call an eclectic collection of musicians, artists, actors, directors, scripts, crafts and generous donors? Only one name is big enough to capture it all: The 22nd Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival. Festival Director Todd Salovey has curated, organized and directed the festivals since the first one in 1993, and each year it is bigger and better.
This year’s festival has the added advantage of new venues for the plethora of performers spanning San Diego and North County. With the added space, the number of attendees will undoubtedly swell to more than ever before. While much has changed and been enhanced since the festival’s inception, Salovey shared that some core principles have remained.
The festival seeks out artists who explore their Jewish identity through history, art and traditions. These are not just folks who have already become big names, but those who push at their own boundaries and cultivate their roots more deeply. The festival continues to create unique programs that have not been seen in other places, and provides a forum that launches these programs into new orbits. Salovey spoke of the cross influencing of cultures and themes, the interplay of perspectives and the resonance of similarities and overlapping ideals.
This 22nd Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival has a “most diverse line up,” he said. The festival’s audiences are Jewish and non-Jewish, and Salovey is excited to have the performers be a “light unto the nations” and share with others just what it is that makes us proud to be Jews. Through Flamenco guitar, sing-alongs, musical theater, staged readings, violin and klezmer, attendees will be able to share and delight in a broad spectrum of Jewish influenced themes, and the history of our rich and unique culture.
Did somebody say “Klezmer”? This festival is elated to again have the authenticity and august talent of Yale Strom. When I asked Salovey about first meeting Yale and under what circumstances that encounter took place, he shared the story with sincere awe and appreciation.
In 1993, Salovey, as the new Artistic Director of San Diego Rep wanted to offer his favorite play to San Diego audiences. “The Dybbuk” opened and related the story of Eastern European Jews and their plight to hold onto tradition while being swept up into Polish society. While they are not quite star-crossed lovers, Ansky’s characters are betrothed by their fathers’ design before they are even conceived. Though they are unaware of this, a supernatural force draws the lovers toward each other despite the fact that they live in different villages, and she is promised to another. The tone of the play and the dialogue are not exclusively Jewish, but with a musical score composed by such a genuine Klezmer musician, how could it not resonate with the Jewish/Polish experience of the shtetls in that part of the world? Salovey’s obvious respect and admiration for Strom’s craft came through, loud and clear.
Strom’s unique journey of self-discovery led him to many towns in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Roma communities. He began his sojourn in the 1980s and by the time he met Salovey, Strom was already considered one of the foremost ethnographers of his day, and a Klezmer musician extraordinaire. When the two finally met, a mutual admiration society was born, and all of San Diego is the richer for it! An added bonus, Elizabeth Schwartz, Strom’s wife, teams up with him on occasion, to share her incredible gifts of voice, languages, and intense emotion parlayed through body language and a charming delivery. Don’t miss “A Wandering Feast” where you will delight in Strom’s life soundtrack. The 14th Annual Klezmer Summit, featuring violinist Rachel Barton Pine, will also get a boost from Strom’s accompaniment.
Opening the program at the Lyceum on June 8 is a performance by the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir. An immensely talented group of thirty men who “love Jewish music” will perform under the direction of Ruth Weber, and will deliver several selections, including new offerings from their second CD, which will be for sale at the festival. The San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir wishes to promote Jewish culture and heritage through song. Their mission: “When King Saul was melancholy, he was cheered by the music of David, the shepherd. When King David wrote the Psalms he instructed a conductor to put them to music.” Their performance at the festival is not to be missed.
Another brilliant program, and one which I’ve had the consummate pleasure of seeing three times, is the San Diego REP’s offering of “Women of Valor.” This amazing tribute to our local women is always such a powerful and beautiful testament to how many incredible women live and operate among us, and how ignorant we are of what they do behind the scenes.
“So many women are doing incredible things very quietly,” Salovey said.
I don’t want to issue any spoiler alerts, so I’m hesitant to divulge this show’s line up, but in the past, we’ve had Holocaust survivors, the founder of the Ken Jewish Community, more than a handful of rebels, many huge philanthropists, and Jewish women from every single San Diego community who have tirelessly given of themselves to create a home and a homeland for others here and around the world.
One impressive and noteworthy facet of the 22nd Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival is its attention to tzedakah. We all love to pat ourselves on the back for making charitable gifts and for reaching out to those in need, but this festival really does it. By creating affordable ticket prices in addition to offering free events, this festival is donating proceeds to Chesed Home, San Diego Gmach, Torah High School, and Jewish Family Service’s Project SARAH. With this built in occasion to support such worthy local causes, it’s a win-win for everyone. Salovey told me that the San Diego REP has enjoyed such fabulous sponsors and that part of his goal has always been to “use the festival to give back to the community.” Now they are able to do so in a big way, and it far exceeds quid pro quo.
This publication, L’Chaim, proudly presents a reading of the brand new play, “Gridlock” read by theatre group Teatro Punto y Coma. Local actor and writer Salomon Maya has brought this dramatic world premiere to San Diego, featuring a star studded cast, including Yigal Adato, Lizette Galicot, AidaMasliah, Stephanie Frid and Zeji Ozeri. L’Chaim will host a post-show talk back, so that audiences can learn more about this fascinating play that features three strangers, a chance meeting, and fate. No one should miss out on this drama, interlaced with comedic surprises.
Another program on the docket speaks directly to our younger audiences and children ages 3-15 will enjoy a free concert, produced by Zeji Ozeri, co-sponsored by Tarbuton and Soille Hebrew Day School. Of this program, Salovey stated that it is critical to develop and involve the “next generation” of festival attendees and nurture their love of Jewish themes, while broadening their artistic appreciation.
Finally, two of the most exciting features of this year’s festival are Hershey Felder in “The Great American Songbook Sing-Along” and Mona Golabek’s “The Pianist of Willesden Lane.” I guarantee you do not want to hear about this from your friends. You want to be in the audience so you can make them envious if they missed it. Better yet, invite them to join you!
The good news: Hershey’s at the Balboa Theater, which has many more seats than the San Diego REP. The bad news: he’s performing for only one night, May 21. This audience sing-along will feature the works of Gershwin to Chopin and Beethoven to Bernstein. Felder takes special delight in showing audiences how “the Jewish experience influenced” the creation of these great American classics that we all know from “A Chorus Line,” “The Wizard of Oz” and of course, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Jews are naturally a gang of storytellers and music has always been our conduit for celebrating and sharing.
Felder directed and adapted Mona Golabek’s mother’s story for the stage in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” which returns to San Diego as part of the festival after critical acclaim in its presentation last fall at the REP. Through music, costume, setting and narration, we met Golabek’s mother, pianist Lisa Jura, and share in her emotionally-riveting life story. Mona, the writer, musician and actress plays her mother as she tells the story of her tumultuous adolescence in Vienna and London in the wake of World War II. If you missed this performance last year, take the second chance to see this wonderful work now.
The 22nd Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Arts Festival runs from May 21-July 26. Tickets are available at each of the venues and online. For more information, visit SDRep.org.
Eva Trieger is a freelance writer, avid hiker, enthusiastic theatergoer, and world traveler when time and money permit. She runs a private tutoring and coaching business in North County. She is an East Coast refugee and has become a naturalized Californian. Email her at email@example.com.
The 22nd Annual Lipinsky Family
San Diego Arts Festival SCHEDULE!
May 21-July 26
The Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival has been presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre for 22 years. The festival is a celebration of artistic expressions of Jewish history, traditions and ideas. The festival has brought together artists from 13 different countries, produced numerous world premieres, and presented work in seven languages.
Thursday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m.
at the Balboa Theatre
Hershey Felder’s “Great American Song Book Sing-Along”
Sunday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m.
in the Lyceum Space at San Diego REP
“A Wandering Feast”
Starring 2nd Avenue Klezmer Ensemble followed by reading of selections of a new play with music by Todd Salovey and Yale Strom
Wednesday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m.
at the Oceanside Museum of Art
Adam del Monte
*Saturday, June 6 at 8:45 p.m.
in the Lyceum Space at San Diego REP
“Gridlock” a staged reading by Teatro Punto y Coma
By Salomon Maya
Directed by Pepe Stepensky
Sunday, June 7 at 2:00 p.m.
at the AVO Playhouse
5th Annual Klezmer Summit North County
Starring The Divas of Klezmer plus MiraCosta College Jazz Collective playing works by Yale Strom with special guests Rachel Barton Pine and Yale Strom
Monday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m.
on the Lyceum Stage at San Diego REP
14th Annual Klezmer Summit: “L’Dor V’Dor”
(“From Generation to Generation”)
Starring Rachel Barton Pine with Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi, plus the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir
Thursday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.
in the Lyceum Space at San Diego REP
Sunday, June 14 at 2:00 p.m.
at the Encinitas Library
Women of Valor
By Todd Salovey, Leah Salovey, Ali Viterbi, Rebecca Myers, and Sarah Price Keating
Directed by Todd Salovey
Wednesday, July 8 – Sunday, July 26
on the Lyceum Stage at San Diego REP
Mona Golabek in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane”
Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder
Based on the book by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
Tickets are available at each of the venues and online. For more information, visit SDRep.org.