When Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgot take the stage of the Hollywood Bowl this evening for the latest stop on their Eternal Echoes tour, audience members who are not fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish or Aramaic will be able to follow the lyrics via English supertitles projected on giant screens located on both sides of the stage. This is all thanks to Hankus Netsky, the tour’s musical director and founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band of Boston (KCB).
Netsky spoke to The Arty Semite yesterday en route to his hotel from the airport in L.A. in a van packed with his KCB bandmates, who will join members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the concert.
Netsky spent two weeks perfecting the supertitles for the repertoire, which includes cantorial selections, as well as Yiddish art songs and tunes from the Yiddish theater.
“One of the first things I said when the Eternal Echoes tour began was that we have to have supertitles because it’s like opera and it’s got to be treated like opera,” Netsky told The Arty Semite. “I think super titles will contribute a lot to the audience’s appreciation of this material.”
The Jazz Rabbi has a new gig. Saxophonist Greg Wall, who spent three years making klezmer and jazz concerts a staple at an East Village congregation, has a new pulpit in Connecticut. On August 1 Wall began work at Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport and Norwalk. The shul, which has 65 families, is located in Westport and is described as a traditional Orthodox synagogue with a very diverse membership.
“They are excited about a rabbi that could bring arts into their community,” the 53-year-old rabbi told the Forward.
Wall’s official installation will take place Saturday, November 23 and while there may not be angels with trumpets heralding his arrival, Wall promises the evening will include a musical blast with performances by the Unity Orchestra, Later Prophets and possibly Jon Madoff’s Zion 80.
Wall learned that the Westport shul was looking for a rabbi from a regular at the Sixth Street Community Synagogue in the East Village who grew up in Westport. One of three finalists for the job invited to celebrate Shabbos with the congregation, Wall walked into shul and saw Ricky Orbach, founder of the Jewish arts group Joodayoh Inc., who helped Wall land his first pulpit at the Sixth Street synagogue.
Judith Malina will not go gentle into that good night. The fiery 86-year-old director of the Living Theatre is losing both her apartment and the Lower East Side home of the world renowned theater troupe she co-founded 66 years ago. Later this week Malina will move into an elder care facility in New Jersey, but she’s vowing to commute into Manhattan a few times a week and work with the company that has championed her unapologetic anarchist-utopian vision.
“We did some great plays and we managed to keep a company going all those years,” Malina told The Arty Semite. “And it’s still going.”
The Living Theatre’s performance space on Clinton Street will host one last performance February 27 at midnight. Earlier that evening the veteran Lower East Side performance artist Penny Arcade is doing a benefit to raise money for Malina’s car fare, so she can get into Manhattan and continue working with the company.
“If this was France or Japan or almost anywhere else in the world, Judith would be considered a national treasure and she’d be supported,” Arcade said. “I think people don’t realize that she is one of the main architects of the counterculture and of experimental theater in this country.”
A young Israeli grad student named Mishy holds up a cardboard sign that says “anywhere” as he hitchhikes out of Cambridge, England. He catches a ride with a Gypsy family bound for the ferry to France. In the vessel’s cafeteria Mishy meets a truck driver name Vladimir who agrees to take him to Spain. Only, when they start driving Vladimir neglects to make the turn into Belgium and informs Mishy, “No Spain, Ukraine.” At the Slovenian-Ukrainian border the two are arrested for smuggling counterfeit Barbie dolls. Sounds like it could be a story on the wildly popular public radio show “This American Life,” doesn’t it?
It’s not. But it may end up being told — and broadcast — on “Israel Story,” a new program on Israel’s Army Radio. The similarity to “This American Life” (TAL) is no accident. Mishy Harman, the guy bound for “anywhere,” is the driving force behind the new show. And he makes no secret of the fact that he’s a huge fan of Ira Glass and company.
Harman was hipped to TAL by another Israeli, Ro’ee Gilron, who attended Brandeis University. After graduate school, Harman completed a teaching stint at Harvard and commenced a 13,000-mile road trip around the United States with his dog Neomi. He and the pooch (a Hungarian hunting dog known as a Vizsla) took along 200 episodes of TAL that Gilron downloaded for them. Harman was blown away by the TAL collection.
“It became totally clear to me that this was going to be our next project,” he told The Arty Semite.
Those of you who are up on your 1960s counter-culture know that the Yippies were formed, for the most part, by a group of Jewish troublemakers from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Some of those mischievous Yidden are no longer with us: Abbie Hoffman committed suicide in 1989, Jerry Rubin got hit by a car in 1994 and Stew Albert died of cancer in 2006. But Bob Fass is alive and well and living on Staten Island. Nearly a half-century after starting his late night radio program on WBAI-FM, Fass is still on the air keeping the movement alive.
“Radio Unnameable” is the name of Fass’ free-wheeling live radio show and it’s also the title of a new feature length video documentary that tells its story. The night after Rosh Hashanah those who still have a bit of a freak flag flying will want to head over to Film Forum in Manhattan, where the doc begins a two-week run. On October 4 the film will open the Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film festival in Portland, Oregon (the Rose City screening is sponsored by KBOO, Portland’s version of WBAI). And just before Labor Day, Kino Lorber, Inc. announced that it had acquired North American distribution rights to the documentary, so the story of Fass and his free-form radio show will be screened in St. Louis, St. Paul and other cities in the coming months.
Full disclosure: this reporter began his radio career after being mesmerized by Fass on “Radio Unnameable” in the early 1970s. The tall Brooklyn-born broadcaster once attended a Seder at the Kalish loft where he screened a lengthy video of Abbie Hoffman making gefilte fish from scratch and TV footage of Bob Dylan performing at the Vatican. In Fass’s mind, this was totally appropriate Passover fare.
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