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‘The Psychic’ sees laughs in your future

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Jeffrey Cannata, Dana Green, ad Phil Proctor in 'The Psychic'

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

BURBANK, California–A writer with severe writer’s block posts a sign in the window of his basement apartment.  It announces that he will perform a psychic reading for $25.  And so begins Sam Bobrick’s delightfully farcical new comedy The Psychic, now having its world premiere at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank. 

Jeffrey Cannata is Adam Webster, the psychic, but he provides a hint of his ineptitude by writing his come-on sign in crayons and his business cards in pencil.  Further, everyone who enters his grungy living space immediately tells him what he needs to do to fix it up and make it livable.  (Including the suggestion that he “put in a skylight” in his basement apartment.) 

Oddly enough, though, he soon has a paying customer: a well-dressed young matron (Dana Green) who wants to confirm that her husband is cheating on her and find out what she should do about it.  After having offered to read her hand,  or her taro cards, or offering the prospect of a tall, handsome lover, Webster finally confesses that he is not a psychic at all.  But then, as she is leaving, he gets a vision that her husband is planning to murder her. 

From there the visits multiply: one from her enraged husband (Cyrus Alexander), another from the husband’s enraged mistress (Bridget Flanery), a third from the mistress’ gangster boyfriend, Johnny Bubbles (Richard Horvitz), and finally, from a politely didactic police inspector (Phil Proctor). 

And then the murders start.  And you begin to recognize that this is a farce as successive bodies are found in the trunks of abandoned cars parked at 72nd  and Broadway.  (You know it’s a farce because if you’ve ever been to New York you know that nobody could ever find a place to park at that chaotic intersection! Especially since it’s only eight blocks from Zabar’s…) 

By the second act you are sure there’s something peculiar going on: the well-dressed matron is living with the psychic and helping him with the plot of the book he has begun writing.   But she is still wearing the same outfit she was wearing six weeks ago, when she first came to visit him.  And the other characters keep coming and going, even though some of them are supposedly dead.  (One, who is said to have been shot in the back of the head, is proclaimed “an obvious suicide!” by Johnny Bubbles.) 

It’s an amusing plot with some g.o.l. (giggle-out-loud) dialogue, and the actors are obviously having fun with it.  Director Susan Morgenstern provides brisk pacing for the actors and makes the most of playwright Bobrick’s “murder mystery of sorts.”  Not a lot of creepy horror, but a lot of room for smirky drama and posturing, which this ensemble does so well.  Jeff McLaughlin has designed an appropriately tacky set, Joanie Coyote has provided the appropriate costumes, and Nick McCord and David Beaudry make the appropriate lighting changes and background sounds, respectively. 

As one of the characters notes in trying to solve the murders, “Common sense is a little too iffy.”  Very true.  Non-sense is much more practical—and a lot more fun.  So enjoy your visit with The Psychic

The Psychic will run Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 through April 18th at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, in Burbank.  Call (818) 955-8101 for tickets.

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Drama critic Citron is the Los Angeles bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World 

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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, April 2, 1954, Part III

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

 Compiled by Gail Umeham

Birdie Stodel B.B. Has Special Election
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 5

A special meeting of the S.D. Birdie Stodel Chapter 92 will be held the evening of Thursday, April 8th at 8 p.m.  Elections will be the first order of business.  The new slate is headed by Kay Kraus, President; Doris Borenstein, 1st Vice-Pres.; Fran Steffel, 2nd Vice-Pres.; Ann Rivers, 3rd Vice-Pres.; Jackie Lassman, Treas.; Jeanne Camiel, Rec. Sec.; Mitzie Ornstein, Corr. Sc.; Bernice Aved, Fin. Sec.; Thelma Weiss, Counselor.

The following are funning for Trustees:  Ann Addleson, Edith Bennett, Lillian Berwin, Eve Borner, Jennie Bloomfield, Betty Freedman, Bertha Friedman, Aida Most, Goldie Schusterman, Muriel Strauss, Millie Snyder, Leah Shapov, Minnie Witts.

Please attend—Trustees are the backbone of every organization.  Following the election, a social will take place, with buzz sessions for those who wish to participate.

Installation of Officers will be on Thursday, April 29th at luncheon at the El Cortez.  Doris Borenstein is chairman assisted by Cele Schwartz ad Ruth Aronoff.

City of Hope Sends Poems Already Yet?
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 5

Mother, daughters, mothers-in-law, and daughters-in-law:

Why don’t you make a date
And help us celebrate
Our Annual Mothers’ Day affair–
Lunch at the El Cortez
Thursday, May the 13th
We’d love to see you there!

Buzz:  Bessye Siegel, chairman, Atwater 4-7027; Ethel Berwin, president, Atwater 4-4806.
See you at the Meeting-social, Tuesday, April 20th, 1 o’clock, Beth Jacob Center—no lunch that day (Hol Hamo’ed Pesach).  Be our guest for refreshments.

Hebrew Home Guests Note Birthdays
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 5

Mrs. Ida Lasky and Mrs. Annette Saferstein will be honored at the Birthday Party given at the Hebrew Home for the Aged on April 10.  The birthday celebrants will wear corsages sent by Mrs. Alex Cohn.
Chairmen are Mrs. Isabelle Tennebaum and Mrs. Rosalie Sonnabaum.

Rummage Sale and Movie On Calendar
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 6

The City of Hope Junior Auxiliary will hold a rummage sale on April 9, at 2870 National Ave., from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Proceeds will go toward the new leukemia wing at the City of Hope Hospital at Duarte.  Co-chairmen are Mrs. Harold Reisman and Mrs. William Rudin.  For rummage pick-up cal HO-6-7236 ot At-1-5060.

The next meeting will be held on April; 13 at 8:15 p.m. atr the Landis St. Center, Highland and Landis Sts., at which time to nominating committee will present its slate.  Nominations from the floor will also be accepted. Following nominations a new cancer movie will be shown and a speaker will be in attendance to answer questions.

Jolly Sixteen Club To Mark 40 Years
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 6

Mrs. Robert Gordon says “Why guess about those delicious recipes your friends are making.  Just call any Jolly 16 member for a favorite recipe cook book.” Young homemakers will appreciate this addition to their kitchen library—a dandy gift item.

The March meeting was held at the home of Jule Klaskin.   Plans for a late summer fashion show are in the making.  Mary Kantor is chairman for the event.

This is the 40th year for the Jolly 16 Club.  Members are full of ideas to make the annual dinner dance an outstanding affair his year. Mrs. George Neumann has accepted chairmanship.

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“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.

Boston Jewish community forced to cancel plan for arts and cultural center

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Boston’s Jewish community has abandoned a US$ 80 million project for an arts and cultural center designed by the renowned New York architect Daniel Libeskind. The plan for the New Center for the Arts and Culture, announced in 2004, as well as other cultural projects slated for development on the newly created Rose Kennedy Greenway, was dropped due to a lack of funding in the current economic climate, according to Francine Achbar, the center’s executive director. “The business we were always in was gathering programs and offering cultural experiences seen from the Jewish perspective,” she said. New Center will continue to host its programs in venues throughout the city, she told the news agency JTA.

The New Center effort was launched originally in a collaboration between the Greater Boston Jewish Community Centers and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies to bring cultures together through the arts. The idea was based on research that showed that the arts, and Jewish arts and cultural programs, would attract many Jews who are not otherwise engaged in Jewish organizations.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Obama, Sarkozy want new Iran sanctions in place “within weeks”

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–After a meeting in Washington DC, US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy

Obama and Sarkozy

 have said they wanted tough new sanctions against Iran adopted at the United Nations within weeks. The leaders expressed optimism that China – a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council –  will agree on possible next steps.

Obama and Sarkozy presented a united front on Iran at a joint press conference at the White House, saying it was time to move ahead with sanctions. “My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring,” Obama said. He added: “A conflict in the Middle East, as a consequence of Iran’s actions, could have a huge destabilizing effect in terms of the world economy at a time when it is just coming out of a very deep recession.”

Sarkozy also said the time had come to adopt “stronger, tougher sanctions at the Security Council”.

Obama acknowledged that new sanctions were difficult to be agreed because Iran was “an oil producer, and there are a lot of countries around the world that, regardless of Iran’s offences, are thinking that their commercial interests are more important to them than these long-term geopolitical interests. We have to make sure that we are communicating very clearly that this is very important to the US.”

In Gatineau, Canada, the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight urged the international community to take “appropriate and strong steps” to show its resolve over the nuclear program. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran had repeatedly shown an unwillingness to fulfill its international obligations over the last 15 months. “That’s the basis on which I express my optimism that we are going to have a consensus reached in the Security Council,” she told reporters in Gatineau.

According to Western diplomats, China has agreed to discuss sanctions, offering the first sign that Beijing could eventually back a new round of UN measures against Tehran. In Beijing, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told the ‘Reuters’ news agency that Chinese President Hu Jintao would attend a summit on nuclear security in Washington later this month.

Meanwhile, ‘ABC News’ reported that an Iranian nuclear scientist had defected. Shahram Amiri has been resettled in the US and is helping the CIA try to block Iran’s nuclear program, according to the US broadcaster. Iran has accused the US of abducting him, but Washington has denied any knowledge of the scientist.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Obama wants Israel to halt building in east Jerusalem for four months

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–According to a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, US President Barack Obama has asked Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze construction in the eastern part of Jerusalem, beyond the 1967 Green Line, for a period of four months in order to renew peace talks with the Palestinians. Washington hopes such a deal could persuade Palestinians to accept direct negotiations rather than indirect talks, as had been planned, ‘Haaretz’ wrote, citing an unnamed Israeli political source. Netanyahu’s office made no official comment on the matter.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “What is required is firstly a freeze to settlement in Jerusalem and in the rest of the West Bank before a return to any negotiations, direct or indirect.”

Officials said Obama had asked Netanyahu during their meeting at the White House last week to introduce some goodwill gestures to help persuade Palestinians to renew peace negotiations, which were suspended in December 2008.

Last weekend, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the newspaper Ma’ariv that Washington’s main demand of Israel was “freezing construction in most of the Jewish neighborhoods,” listing four in east Jerusalem. He called the demand “completely unreasonable” and said it had not been accepted by any senior cabinet ministers.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

After anti-Semitic attacks on subway, Jews in Berlin alarmed

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Jewish leaders have expressed alarm over a rise in anti-Semitism in the German capital Berlin, following two violent incidents on the city’s public transport system. Late Saturday, two 23-year-old women and a 25-year-old man were beaten and insulted with anti-Semitic slurs on a subway train.

The Jewish Community of Berlin warned of an alarming rise in anti-Semitic violence by Arab and Turkish immigrants. “There’s an urgent need to fight the roots of anti-Semitism, especially coming from young Turks and Arabs, and to effectively counter it,” the community said in a statement. “That the violence from the immigrant community is being increasingly aimed at Jews or people they assume are Jews is alarming,” it added.

Police reported at the weekend that two women and a man were beaten, struck on the head with beer bottles and insulted by a gang of immigrants in an underground station.

Local media reports said the three were first asked if they were Jewish. The attack started after they said yes. Police said they were searching for the assailants. In a separate incident, a 61-year-old German was detained after shouting anti-Semitic slogans at two 10-year-old girls at a train station. He threatened to beat a 28-year-old man who tried to protect them with a beer bottle. He was detained and faces charges of inciting racial hatred and attempted bodily harm.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

The Devil’s Music Master, Part II

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos

David Amos

SAN DIEGO–This is the second of two parts in which I review and offer a few insightful quotes on the controversial life of conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, as documented in Sam Shirakawa’s book The Devil’s Music Master, published by Oxford University Press in 1992.

Another fascinating aspect to this book is a different overview of the Third Reich. No, not with the horrors, persecution, war, extermination and concentration camps, but the backstage manipulation of the Nazis to gain control of the arts which they considered most important. The propaganda machine was essential to Hitler, and as we know, he revered the great German composers, mainly Richard Wagner. A priority of the Third Reich and the war effort was to promote public morale through a very systematic and structured use of the arts to both showcase the greatness of German tradition and Nazi philosophy, and at the same time degrade and ridicule the so-called “degenerate arts and artists” including, of course, anything that was Jewish.

Back to Furtwangler, this book details and documents not only his troubled times when he chose to remain in Germany, but in as different and very disturbing way, the world’s reaction against him after the war, his “Denazification Hearings” before a tribunal in 1947 (of which he was totally cleared) and the attacks and distortions against him, mostly by the American press. The only two real accusations against him were that A) He remained in Germany, and B) There was guilt by association. As late as 1983 there have been articles which falsely have accused him of firing all the Jews in the Berlin Philharmonic, and selecting Jewish musicians to be sent to the concentration camps. Quite the contrary, he actually had Jews that were already relocated to the camps administratively removed from there and given exit visas.

What about Richard Strauss, the Nazi’s official composer? Shirikawa says, “At worst, Strauss was indifferent to the Nazis. He lived only for his royalties so that he could keep his henpecking wife Pauline happy. A professional musician in the modern sense, he energetically sought the best possible showcases for his works and appears to have no specific political inclinations. Strauss was willing to accept flattery from anyone who could keep him in the lifestyle to which he and Pauline had become accustomed”.

Only until recent years, the music of Richard Strauss has been played in public concerts in Israel.

My only personal contact with someone who was closely involved with Furtwangler during the early 1930’s was Gilbert Back, who was a violinist in the Berlin Philharmonic. I knew him during my college days at San Diego State University in the 1960’s. Mr. Back was the music department’s chamber music instructor, and brought to SDSU an enviable reputation of excellence in the performance of German and other European traditional music. He coached and taught many string players who are active in our San Diego area today. In my conversations with him, he always staunchly defended Furtwangler. There were many stories, including Furtwangler’s negotiations with the authorities as to who was a full Jew, one half, one quarter, one eight, married to a Jew, or even associated with Jews. At first, only the full Jews in the Philharmonic were no longer allowed to play, including its concertmaster, Szymon Goldberg and principal cello Nicolai Graudan. Furtwangler lost that round, but arranged exit visas for them, Mr. Back, and others. He received concessions from Goebbels as to the part-Jews and ones with Jewish spouses, but even these privileges were gradually removed. Gilbert Back completely supported and defended Furtwangler, both artistically and ethically.

Another intriguing player in this drama was Arturo Toscanini. The great Italian conductor, never shy to express his political views, loathed Hitler and Mussolini, was most outspoken against Facist doctrines, and vowed never to conduct in Nazi controlled countries. (Did you know that he was the conductor who led the first concert of the Palestine Orchestra in 1936, later to become the Israel Philharmonic? He was strongly motivated to help all the displaced musicians who had found refuge in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv).

Toscanini’s celebrated exchange of opinions with Furtwangler took place in Salzburg in 1937, while they were both conducting at the renowned yearly music festival. The encounter accidentally took place in the street. According to the recollection Furtwangler gave to his biographer Curt Riess, Toscanini approached him smiling and twirling his walking stick. “In the world of today”, said Toscanini, “it is impossible for a musician who conducts in an enslaved country to do so in a free country. If you conduct in Bayreuth, you should not conduct in Salzburg”. “I am the same man I was six months ago when you reproached me for not accepting your invitation to come to New York”, replied Furtwangler.

“Those were different times. Today, there is only either-or”.

“I should be quite willing to give up coming to Salzburg, if that meant your activities here would continue. Personally, I believe that for musicians, there are no enslaved and free countries. Human beings are free wherever Wagner and Beethoven are played, and if they are not free at first, they are freed while listening to these works. Music transports them to regions where the Gestapo can do them no harm”

Toscanini made no reply.

“If I conduct great music in a country which is, by chance, ruled by Hitler, must I therefore represent him? Does not great music, on the contrary, make me one of his antagonists? For is great music not utterly opposed to the soullessness of Nazism?”

The old man shook his head. “Everyone who conducts in the Third Reich is a Nazi!”

“By that”, replied Furtwangler, “you imply that art and music are merely propaganda, a false front, as it were, for any government which happens to be in power. If a Nazi government is in power, then, as a conductor, I am Nazi; under the Communists, I would be a Communist; under the Democrats, a Democrat. No, a thousand times, no! Music belongs to a different world, and it is above chance political events.”

Toscanini again shook his head. “I disagree.” He walked on. The conversation lasted only a few moments.

What is veritas, truth, or emet, we each must decide for ourselves. This is a subject that has so transfixed the world and influenced writings in all the disciplines. Even in another book which I have read and reviewed, The Maestro Myth, by Norman Lebrecht, which is a chronicle of the great conductors in history, so much of the writing is devoted to each conductor’s attitude and relation to the Third Reich and the Jewish connection, or lack of it. It is almost hypnotic in its obsession.

Let us end with a quote by Furtwangler himself: “Cultural policy is impossible. The only criterion for art is the truth to which art alone can produce.”

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and a guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world.