Community Reads

Looking for a different way to experience a play online?

Join Theater J for a fun, relaxed, and supportive reading of a topical play where you can play a part. Community Reads requires no acting experience – this is not a performance, but a chance to hear a play out loud and in community via Zoom.

All are welcome, even if you just want to listen.

All are invited – Community Reads is FREE – but reservations are required.

Community Reads 400x300
Victor Packer, Jacob Bleifer, and Rudolph Schildkraut in BRONX EXPRESS World Premiere, 1925

Bronx Express by Osip Dymov, adapted by Nahma Sandrow
Co-Presented with the EDCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 at 7:00pm (US & Can ET)

One of the most inventive and surprising plays in the Yiddish theater, Bronx Express tackles assimilation and the pursuit of the American dream within the Jewish immigrant community.  A working-class Jewish immigrant falls asleep on the subway and dreams about selling out to Big Business. In his dream he becomes a sporty millionaire on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, mixing with the celebrities he sees in the ads posted above his head: the Nestle’s Baby, the Smith Cough Drop Brothers, the Arrow Collar Man, Aunt Jemima, and a harem girl advertising Turkish tobacco. But is the American high life of “football and bathing suits, moving pictures and chewing gum, ice cream and a shoeshine every minute” worth sacrificing his happy life back in the Bronx? Bronx Express is an imaginative, whimsical fantasy with a Faustian twist.

The event is free and open to everyone. Every participant must register individually, including those in the same household.

Information on how to join, as well as access to a digital script, will be distributed to registrants in advance of the event.

We will assign roles at the start of the reading. Given the balance of genders in the play, some roles written as male may be assigned to participants who identify as another gender. If you prefer to not play a character outside of your gender identity, please let us know in the registration form.

A post-reading discussion on the themes of the play and how they resonate today will be led by Sonya Weisburd, Director of the Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

In lieu of charging admission, we ask you to support Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area. In partnership with faith communities, foundations, local, state, and federal partners and hosts of volunteers, this organization is proud to welcome thousands of refugees from around the world to the United States every year. Their goal is to help refugees gain self-sufficiency through resettlement and employment services. They support clients during this important transition by mobilizing community partners and offering a comprehensive range of services to newcomers including refugee assistance, employment training and immigration services throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Previous Community Reads

NATHAN THE WISE on Broadway, 1942

Nathan the Wise by G.E. Lessing, adapted by Michael Bloom 
Co-Presented with the EDCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.
In Association with Folger Theatre

Monday, April 5, 2021

In 12th century Jerusalem, Jews, Christians, and Muslims live beside one another in peace—or so they hope. As tensions rise, the ruling sultan asks the question: “Which religion is the one most beloved by G-d?” Lives, and the future of Jerusalem itself, are on the line as the brilliant Jewish merchant Nathan tries to find the answer. This 18th century Shakespearean play abounds with mistaken identities, foiled romances, and families and friendships across cultural and religious divides.

The event is free and open to everyone. Every participant must register individually, including those in the same household.

We will assign roles at the start of the reading. Given the balance of genders in the play, some roles written as male may be assigned to participants who identify as another gender. If you prefer to not play a character outside of your gender identity, please let us know in the registration form.

A post-reading discussion on the themes of the play and how they resonate with present-day efforts for interfaith cooperation will be led by Sonya Weisburd, Director of the Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

Information on how to join as well, as access to a digital script, will be distributed to registrants in advance of the event.

In lieu of charging admission, we ask you to support Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Named after Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, the Tanenbaum Center is a secular organization dedicated to fostering respect among those from different religious backgrounds. It was founded in 1992 by Tanenbaum’s widow, who wished to continue his work in promoting interfaith dialogue. Today, it offers training and resources to combat religious bias in schools, the workplace, and health care.

The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill
Co-Presented with the EDCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

First performed in Washington, DC in 1908 to great acclaim (President Theodore Roosevelt cheered on opening night), Israel Zangwill’s landmark play introduced a new idea of immigrants’ essential place in the US and popularized the phrase “the melting pot.” The play tells the story of David Quixano, a Russian Jewish émigré, endeavoring to write a symphony about his vision of an America free from ethnic divisions. Will he be able to achieve his dream, or will the effects of his own history of persecution, pogroms, and escape stand in the way?

This reading solicited donations for HIAS, which works around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. Guided by their Jewish values and history, HIAS brings more than 139 years of expertise to their work with refugees. Learn more at: https://www.hias.org/

The Melting Pot was performed as part Edlavitch DCJCC’s week of events celebrating HIAS’s Refugee Shabbat from March 2-6, 2021. Refugee Shabbat 2021 is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals in the United States and around the world to dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers.

Leah, The Forsaken by Augustin Daly

October 28, 2020

A rare chance to experience this thought-provoking melodramatic Jewish play written in 1862. When Leah leads three other Jews to safety outside a small Austrian town, will she find the solace she’s seeking? This classic drama about religious refugees resonates with the current world around us in powerful and surprising ways. Adapted by Augustin Daly from the work of German-Jewish playwright Salomon Hermann Rosenthal, Leah, the Forsaken is full of drama, wit, and biting social commentary.

This reading solicited donations for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that has, since 1913, fought to stop anti-Semitism. Today, its mission also includes fighting threats to democracy, including cyberhate, bullying, bias in schools and in the criminal justice system, terrorism, hate crimes, coercion of religious minorities, and contempt for anyone who is different. Learn more at www.adl.org.

Co-Presented with the EDCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

Gloria: A Life by Emily Mann

September 1, 2020

Recently featured on PBS Great Performances, Gloria: A Life chronicles Gloria Steinem’s decades-long fight for women’s equality and the activists—including Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Bella Abzug, and Wilma Mankiller—who guided her along the way. The script ends by inviting participants to share their personal reflections in a talking circle, a format Steinem and her contemporaries used in their advocacy.

This reading solicited donations for the Radical Monarchs, a California-based non-profit which creates “opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their identities and contribute radically to their communities.” More information here: https://radicalmonarchs.org/

Co-Presented with the EDCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.