Ruchie Freier, “Queen 93,” A True Woman of Valor

The new documentary, to be released this weekend, “Queen 93” is a trailblazing look at an otherwise closed community, namely the Hasidic community of Boro Park, Brooklyn. The filmmaker, director, producer and crew remained respectful throughout the filming of the community’s religious beliefs and practices. Sharing films through a Jewish lens is what makes the LA Jewish Film Festival so unique and special. The film opens this week at select Laemmle Theatres throughout the country and also soon on PBS.
In a Q&A following the screening I attended, director Paula Eiselt stated that it all started when she came across this story 6 years ago on the internet, about how the emergency organization Hatzolah banned women, and this amazing woman, Ruchie Freier (now a civic Judge in Brooklyn) was the leader of a group of Hasidic women, so defiant, who wouldn’t take no for an answer . The film would break the negative stereotypes of Hasidic women and be a sanctification to portray another side, capturing women in a most natural and multi dimensional way, shown in the house (cooking , cleaning , cutting their children’s hair ; as well as working as professionals in the outside world as doctors , lawyers, judges and even forming a women’s EMT force , called Ezrat Nashim (helping women). The film focuses on the true life story of Ruchie Freier, who organized this amazing group of dedicated women, and answered the very first emergency call (delivery of a baby )of Ezrat Nashim. She said “I won’t stop until we get our very first purple ambulance, to expand even further outside our community.” Can it happen here in LA?, asked one hopeful audience member . States Freier, “as long as you have a group of determined women, it can happen anywhere.” A new branch has started outside of Boro Park, Brooklyn, now in Stern College, Manhattan. Ruchie Freier’s daughter Leah says she has learned so much from her hardworking, ambitious, passionate mother, watching her and admiring her despite all odds and obstacles. “There’s always so much going on in our home, from parties, to meetings , to hard work, and to being filmed!” Despite hardships, come wonderful rewards. The filmmaking process itself had a lot of ups and downs to attain support (mirroring much of what the Ezrat Nashim organization faced!). It was a challenge to film in this insular community and the crew had to sometimes be almost ‘invisible‘ when doing the job. It’s a new thing for Boro Park, and people who’ve seen the trailer are quite excited. Of particular special note was the music by Laura Karpman, almost like the “Greek chorus and core of the film.” The woman’s voice singing Eshet Chayil (A woman of valor) at end of film was female vocalist Perl Wolfe, best known as founder and lead singer of Bulletproof Stockings, an all female Hasidic rock band in Crown Heights. Much like other films featuring women trailblazers (RGB, about Ruth Bader Ginsberg; and Seeing Allred, about Gloria Allred), this film is a work of genius about a remarkable woman of valor.

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Hershey Felder’s Majestic Portrayal of Beethoven @ The Wallis

Although completely stone deaf at the young age of 31, Ludwig Van Beethoven miraculously went on to compose some of his greatest symphonies, merely by keeping the oral word and melodies in his head. Hershey Felder, yet again, does a masterful job in bringing to life the treasured work of a universally beloved composer and genius. In the Q&A following the opening night performance, Felder entertained questions about this remarkable man and,how, despite his personal tragedies and obstacles, he left the world a better place, with a rich legacy. Felder astutely stated, “he didn’t self-edit or filter; rather he had an imagination unfettered.” When asked what his favorite piece was in the performance, Felder, so quick on his feet with an answer, replied, “the one I’m playing when I’m playing it!” It’s evident that Felder is 1000% ‘in the moment’ as he meticulously plays each piece. The show is a perfect example of theatrical storytelling, with each musical piece, almost a jigsaw puzzle piece, a concise telling of Beethoven’s childhood to adulthood story. For his ‘beloved sweetheart,” he wrote the exquisite music of the moonlight sonata, and forever will be remembered as “the immortal beloved.”
As Hershey Felder so eloquently expressed, “be it the Symohonies, the Concerti, The Chamber Music, or Piano Sonatas, they make their way into our ears (and hearts) and stay for good.” If one looks beyond the surface, we see that Beethoven lived most of his life in his own world,with a combination of fear, focus, and brilliance, yet saw and heard more than anyone else in his time, or generations to come. The process of recreating this gentle soul, one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived, was 22 years in the making for Felder. Explaining his research, Felder shared, “you learn what you can and can’t do onstage. Every piece leads to the next. You need to constantly know, study, discover, and keep on playing.” Felder never had any intention of revealing every detail of the famed musician’s life story, but rather a ‘theatrical impressionism,’ by choosing selected bits and pieces to “give an evocative idea of his character and how his music has influenced all of our lives.”

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Spread the Word “Rumors Have It”

Neil Simon is the quintessential New York comedic playwright, and his first ever farce, “Rumors” now graces the stage at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in the Noho Arts District. Neil Simon had the innate ability to combine pathos and humor, in everyday situations, resulting in his characters’ range of emotion and depth of feelings. The cast features the incredible talents of Todd Andrew Ball, Michele Bernath, Patrick Burke, Kent Butler, Fox Carney, Cheryl Crosland, Doug Haverty, LizAnne Kiegley, Hisatu Masuyama-Ball, Robert McCollum, and Debi Tinsley. The story seems far fetched, from the get go, as the opening scene is the 10th anniversary of Charley and Myra Brock. Yet, the hostess is missing; Charley’s hidden upstairs , bleeding from a gun wound, and the hired help are no where to be seen. The first guests arrive : Ken and Chris, who immediately begin weaving tall tales and assumptions on the mysterious circumstances and disappearances they observe. Next on scene are psychologist Ernie and wife, acclaimed TV chef, Cookie, who are eager to report the suspicious activities to local police. Lastly, politician Glen Cooper, and partner Cassie arrive, apparently in the midst of a domestic spat before the party. The fun of this farce is seeing firsthand how the characters stumble on their original stories, and how the plot slowly yet ever so surely unravels. What keeps everything together is the cohesive cast and their superb chemistry and performances. The set, costume design, and makeup are vintage/retro, a flashback to a more classic era, where men and women donned tuxes and evening gowns to dinner parties.
And the ‘rumors’ are true. Although the show has indeed been extended, it is soon coming to a close. So, be sure to get tickets. It’s well worth the scramble!

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“There’s Magic To Do…” and So Much More @ The Magic Castle

Magic Castle – 7001 Franklin Ave, Hollywood – Queen of Great Britain – Butler Duo Review

David Steiniger Esq​​
Eduardo Dos Santos
Restaurant Dinner & Magician Show Review
• As two British Butlers we have a passion for service and excellence. We both have a wealth of experience and educational background as Queens Butlers from the United Kingdom. Our careers have taken us to the famous Cunard Queen Mary 2 Ocean-liner working as Butlers in First class staterooms to setting up dinners in Buckingham Palace with the use of rulers for precision of measuring table set ups seamlessly. We both were delighted to be guests of “Brandon Scott” a Magician at the Magic Castle and Member of this exclusive and salubrious private members club located at 7001 Franklin Ave, Hollywood historically for 55 years.
• Our Dinner was booked for 6pm on Monday July 16. On arrival we entered through the open sesame library book case door into the Magic Castle which was a magnificent surprise entrance giving us a magical touch and feeling to the establishment. We were escorted to our table in the “Dante Room” which was beautifully decorated with a “Dante” magician theme which was very majestic with a super natural presence in the room to add to the magic of our evening. To start the evening, we ordered a decantered bottle of “The Velvet Devil Merlot 2015” from Mattawa in Washington State vented and bottled by “Charles Smith Wines” – the wine had an exuberant velvety finish with smooth, gentle acidity and velvet tannins and was an exceptional table house wine – giving us a grand introduction to the Magic Castle. We both ordered the 16OZ Ribeye Tomahawk steak – Bone in Special from the Mid-West with baked potato and butter, bacon bits, sour cream on the side as condiments as well as baton carrots and broccoli. The Tomahawk Bone in Steak was succulent, special and above all scrumptiously robust tender beef. We accompanied the steak with some French dijon mustard to give the steak that extra connoisseur edge and lift off!
• Before 8pm approached, we eagerly started to get prepared to move over from dinner in the Dante Room in a punctual manner to our first show in the Main Theatre called “The Palace of Mystery,” which featured two phenomenal comedic magicians called “Andrew Evans” and “Lindsay Benner,” who really shined with her three chapter sketch comprising of Chapter 1 “The Book of Love”, Chapter 2 “First Date” and Chapter 3 “Falling in Love”; she juggled illuminous red balls at night which was a grand finale to her final chapter sketch.
• After the first show we settled in to an after dinner digestive drink of two tawny ports as we were now warmed up for the next show at 9:15pm in the “Parlor of Prestidigitation” featuring “David Gerard” from “San Francisco” who reminded me of the lead singer of the “Talking Heads” – “David Byrne”! “David Gerard” had the same kind of zany but modern cool hipster version of stage presence of “David Byrne” which was not only a marvel to watch but ingenious!
• Our third show of the evening was at 10:15pm with “Arthur Trace” in the “Parlor of Prestidigitation” who was a very fun entertaining, playing card magician who invited my Butler associate “Eduardo Ramos Dos Santos” to appear on stage. “Arthur Trace” Managed to mysteriously put a ping pong ball into Eduardo’s hand after Eduardo in front of a live audience opened his hand and it appeared completely empty; once Eduardo closed his hands and then reopened his hand, a ping pong ball was suddenly physically in his hand! “Arthur Trace” really displayed his rare ability to create this on stage live illusion!
• Our final show for the evening was in the “Close Up Gallery” with “John Guastaferro” who was a playing card magician which rounded off the evening at 12:30am! The Magic Castle was a rare privilege to be a part of as a guest of a member Magician “Brandon Scott” and as a duo Butler team from London it gives us great pleasure to share our Butler A-List review with you as Tailors of the Butler trade profession!7439CF90-FCA9-4B76-8C7C-806AC915594AFE483A0F-14EF-4274-906B-8011D465164B3BD5FF42-2D98-417C-8AA3-914B7B21627D

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Barra Grant is Beautiful, inside and out… in “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter”

In an exquisite one woman show, Barra Grant pays homage to her mother, Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, and in so doing, recollects, reconciles, and redeems a most complex yet loving mother-daughter relationship. Theirs is a forever, unbreakable bond, as we, the audience discover, that despite their many differences, they have more in common than one would ever believe, all in the name of motherly love. “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter,” written and performed by Barra Grant, with Monica Piper, (as the cleverly construed offstage voice of Myerson), and directed by Eve Brandstein, is a two character solo show focusing on the intense, at times turbulent bond between the ‘infamous’ beauty queen and her daughter, who, at the end of the day, is ironically just like her: loving, passionate, humorous, strong-willed, and deeply opinionated. Barra Grant’s beautiful, insightful, autobiographical story brings to light onstage, that attention (or lack, thereof) is a form of love, with many consequences and repercussions. And if you pay the right kind of attention to the keen dialogue, as well as historic slideshow footage, absorbing all the riffs and tender moments in the soliloquies and duet phone conversations, the show’s message should be sure to resonate,connect, and captivate. It would be hard not to! Performed with daunting precision, Grant reflects on the melodrama of her youth, how her mother was/is ever present, fixated on molding her only daughter into a future version of herself. This show is a perfect venue for Barra Grant to assert and establish her own individuality, and pave the way for her ‘own place in the universe.’ As a daughter of an iconic woman, who was surely a ‘hard act to follow,’ we see in Grant, a woman, clearly in her own right, both a rebel and conformist; feisty yet fragile; awkward yet ambitious, overall a unique package of contradictory impulses.
Each line of dialogue is filled with lively wordplay, revealing this mother/daughter’s steadfast devotion to each other through thick and thin. Watching someone grow and evolve right in front of you, is indeed a beautiful, bittersweet process.

Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Sundays 3pm
Through August 12th
Broad Theatre
1310 11th St.

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Angst and Soul Comes Alive In “You In Mid Air”

“You In Mid Air” is a one woman show, recently premiering at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival. It’s a powerful tribute and elegy to Rebecca Schaeffer, the daughter of actress/writer Danna Schaeffer. Rebecca was killed in 1989, at the age of 22, by an obsessed fan, Robert Bardo. Rebecca, an up and coming aspiring actress, at the prime of her life, was expecting a script from Francis Ford Coppola, to be delivered to her door, for a role in Godfather III. At her door, unbeknownst to her, was the gunman who shot her once in the heart, killing her. The amazing, incredible thing about this show is that it is not only about the beautiful Rebecca, gone way too soon. The show is also focused on the living, with the profound message of how we must carry on and even thrive, despite tragic setbacks. Danna shares of her own journey as an actress and playwright and of her husband Benson, a child psychologist. The fervor, passion, and determination she employs when discussing the ‘cut throat’ C848BFD2-1E28-4F95-A3C7-B25B01EBD8CC.pngworld of entertainment, and the deep, internal probing of a writer leads us, the audience, to further understand and empathize with Danna. And yet, when we see her sing, dance, and act on stage, it’s almost as if we’re visualizing an older version of Rebecca, brought back to life, as it were, getting a glimpse of the future she was so sadly never able to experience. And, when at the end, a picture is flashed on screen, of the vibrant Rebecca, this amazing journey comes to full fruition. The statement at the beginning of the play, “we were so happy, the three of us…” resonates throughout and reminds us of the great writers Sylvia Plath and Anne Frank, whose lives, respectively, were slipped away, yet leaving a rich legacy by those who survived. Even though it seems like we are all traversing through mid-air; mid-life; mid-madness; we must fight like warriors to express our inner angst and soul. All of the elements that went into making this most professional production are dazzling, especially direction by Julie Akers, lighting by Katelan Braymer, and sound design by Phil Johnson. This show is definitely among best of the Fringe ‘18.

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A ‘Super’ Night was had By All @ The Concern Foundation Block Party 2018

25A935F4-30D8-4D4E-B2C5-5BF31FA5B5DDAfter receiving my own thyroid cancer diagnosis earlier this past December, I knew that this year’s Concern Foundation annual block party fundraiser for cancer research would be even more inspiring, personal, and meaningful on so many levels. The theme of super heroes was in and of itself unique and larger than life, honoring the foundation’s many angels and super heroes, researchers, donors, and volunteers who sustain and grow the organization to what it has become today. This year Dr Jay and Kris Calvert and family were the deserving honorees. Each privileged guest was given a bright colored silken cape upon entrance, setting a magical mystical mood and aura as we arrived. To start off the evening with a nourishing ‘taste’ of La Cienega’s Blvd’s famed restaurant row, I tried an assortment of Brasílian delicacies from Fogo de Chao, along with exquisite teriyaki beef skewers from Gyu Kaku, washed down with refreshing lime mojitos from El Floridita Cuban Supper Club. The customary lineup of people notes the perennial popularity of vendor ‘California Sushi Academy,’ serving up customized orders to happy guests. One personal favorite of mine is the Pasquini Espresso Co. cart, with a latte or cappuccino (hot or iced), perfectly blended. As guests meandered throughout the backlot of Paramount Studios, they were pampered and treated to spa services, including, glitter tattoos, hair re-do’s & manicures, courtesy of the Beauty Bus Foundation, an incredible organization, whose noble mission is to provide beauty and grooming treatments to the chronically/terminally ill and their caregivers. Amidst the ‘tons’ of delicious samplings, it was quite literally refreshing to sip and savor Tito’s Handmade Vodka & Reed’s Ginger Brew, along with learning more about the healthy, organic home delivery service of “Farm Fresh To You.” To round off the night with scrumptious dessert, some standouts were “The Gluten Free Goddess Bakery,” “DeLuscious Cookies and Milk,” “BuzzBars,” and “The Frygirl” mini donuts.
And of course, no fundraiser party extraordinaire is complete without the requisite casino, where guests had a chance to sit and relax at outdoor blackjack and craps tables, spending and winning, all in the name of cancer research.


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