The Philly Fringe Festival Starts This Weekend

— by Hannah Lee

Now 15 years old, Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe return with month-long performances in theater, comedy and improv, dance, and music at over 70 venues around Philadelphia. This year, our own Rabbi Rayzel Raphael performs in Kabbalah Salon, which is promised to include members of all faiths in interactive storytelling and singing.  

More after the jump.
The grande dame of arts festival takes place in Edinburgh in August and my family was again privileged to attend this city-wide celebration of the arts dating from 1950. The alternative Fringe Festival has now grown so big that they boasted 2,700 performances this year. The Book Festival spans over two weeks and the Royal Military Tattoo draws a packed audience of 8,800 for its nightly performances, ending with spectacular fireworks that rival those of the Capitol Fourth celebrations in Washington. The evening we were there, the BBC was present to film it for posterity. Our favorite performers were the Top Secret Drum Corps (how secret can they be?) from Basel, Switzerland for their drumstick juggling, drummers’ dueling, flag spinning, and neon-lit drums.

The Festival shows that we enjoyed in Edinburgh ranged from a humorous look at sustainable living by Chinese-American comedienne Kristina Wong, the Mongolian throat singing group Anda Union (who can sing two notes at the same time!), the tap dance and live rock/blues/soul/funk band Rhythmic Circus, and a children’s ensemble’s take on Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

The sole disappointment was when we tried to buy tickets for the Israeli Batsheva Dance Troupe (to counter the pro-Palestinian demonstrators) but we had the wrong date and we exchanged them for another modern dance performance that was long, incomprehensible, and too loud for comfort.  We later learned that the Batsheva performance was sabotaged four times by protesters.

Fringe festivals provide a smorgasbord of artists in often off-beat venues. Reasonably priced, it’s lively way to experience diverse talent, who may just be on his or her way to stardom on a bigger stage.  I’m glad we got to see Rhythmic Circus before the troupe lands on Off-Broadway this fall.

Kabbalah Salon runs September 7, 8, and 14 at 7:30 pm at Moving Arts Studio, 7425 Old York Road, Elkins Park.  Other shows can be listed at [email protected]  The Festival box office is located at 919 North 5th Street (at Poplar), 215.413.1318.  From Sept 7-22, the box office hours will be 11am-9pm.

Standing Ovation for World Premiere of Slaying The Dragon

The audience roared to its feet at the conclusion of the premiere of the new opera, Slaying the Dragon on Thursday night, with music by Michael Ching and an original libretto by Ellen Frankel. Perhaps you know the name, Ellen Frankel? Former long-time CEO of Jewish Publication Society and author of numerous books, a life-time goal, to create opera was satisfied in this powerful event at the Prince Music Theater in downtown Philadelphia. A renaissance woman among us and there’s another week of performances ahead!
Inspired by the true story about a Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan and a transformative series of experiences with a rabbinic couple that was chronicled in the book Not the Sword by Kathryn Watterson, Slaying the Dragon stimulated voluminous lobby discussion of the challenging events portrayed which challenge each of us to find our own courageous voice in a world increasingly rife with racism, hatred and intolerance.

How was it for Ellen? In her own words:

After working on the opera, “Slaying the Dragon” for two years, through nine revisions of the libretto, seven workshops, and hours of collaboration with a team of talented artists, it’s hard to believe that the opera has finally taken its bow on the stage before live audiences — and to enthusiastic applause.There’s no feeling like it in the world!

Slaying the Dragon continues at the Helen Corning Warden Theater June 14 & 16 at 8:00 pm and June 17 at 2 pm. It is appropriate for a wide age range and those from all backgrounds. As Ellen added: “I’ve been incredibly gratified by the audience’s positive reaction, especially from a group of African-American high school students, who told me how meaningful and real it was to them. ‘It was so real, so emotional,’ one said.”



Bruce Springsteen Exhibit at the National Constitution Center

David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, admires the 1975 simultaneous Springsteen covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK magazines, part of the new exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.”

— by Bonnie Squires

The National Constitution Center is the only venue to host the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s must-see exhibition, From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, outside of Cleveland, where the exhibit has been housed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.  The first major exhibition about the American songwriter will run at the Center from February 17 to September 3, 2012.

The opening reception attracted 1100 friends and supporters of the Center, including the Honorable Joan Specter, who serves as Director of Major Grants for the Center, and her husband, Senator Arlen Specter.  Mayor Bob Johnson, of Asbury Park, New Jersey, was also in attendance and greeted the guests from the bandstand.

The B Street Band entertained party-goers with rousing Springsteen renditions, and the food was typical boardwalk-seashore variety, including hot dogs, pop corn, cotton candy, and hamburgers.

More after the jump.

The Honorable Joan Specter, Director of Major Gifts at the Center, and her husband Senator Arlen Specter, admire some of the extraordinary photos of Springsteen included in the exhibit.

“It is fitting that the Center – the only museum dedicated to America’s constitutional freedoms – is the first and only venue in the nation to host this exhibition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “We are certain that our visitors, from the most devoted Springsteen fans to those experiencing his music for the first time, will be inspired by his commitment to illuminating the struggles and triumphs of `We the People.'”

“I worked very closely with Bruce and his organization to put this exhibit together,” said Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and chief curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “It’s a comprehensive look at Bruce’s entire career and contains numerous items that have never been seen by the public.  The exhibit was a huge hit when it was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I am very happy that even more people will be able to see it now that it’s at the National Constitution Center.”

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land takes a comprehensive look at Springsteen’s career and catalog, from such early bands as Child, the Castiles and Steel Mill through his work with the E Street Band and as a solo artist.  Throughout the 5,000-square-foot exhibition, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view more than 150 items, including:

Robin and David Alpher were among the 1100 people enjoying the opening beach party for the Springsteen exhibit, on loan from the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

  • Family photos of Springsteen’s childhood in Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings, photos and handbills from Springsteen’s early music endeavors
  • Handwritten lyrics from all phases of Springsteen’s career
  • Saxophone used by the late Clarence Clemons to play the solo in “Jungleland” from Born to Run
  • Springsteen’s 1960 Chevrolet Corvette
  • Springsteen’s Fender Esquire from the cover of Born to Run
  • The outfit Springsteen wore on the cover of Born in the U.S.A.
  • Springsteen’s 1993 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Streets of Philadelphia”

The exhibition also features several listening stations where visitors can hear never-before-released songs by the Castiles; Springsteen’s successful 1972 audition for Columbia Records; and interviews with Springsteen on topics such as his songwriting process, his first recording session, and some of his best known albums.  Video footage throughout the exhibition includes archival performances, an edited version of Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, and clips of Springsteen’s appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1992.

To complement the exhibition, the Center’s public programming staff is developing a variety of interactive programs and activities for students, teachers and families about the importance of free expression.  The Center also is planning a series of special events celebrating the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Celia Feinstein (third from the right), director of Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, brought her colleagues along who love Springsteen’s music.

Admission to From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen is $24.50 for adults, $23 for seniors and students and $12 for children ages 4-12.  Group rates also are available.  Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, including the award-winning theater production Freedom Rising, is included.  For ticket information, call 215.409.6700 or visit

CBS 3 and The CW Philly are the local media partners for the exhibition.  CBS 3 (KYW-TV) and The CW Philly 57 (WPSG-TV) are part of CBS Television Stations, a division of CBS Corporation.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires.

Bob and Sybie Brassler paid tribute to the rock and roll music icon.

Herschel and Betsy Richman enjoy the Asbury Park-like treats at the opening reception, while enjoying the sounds of Springsteen’s rock and roll hits.

New Arts and Culture Editor!

Lisa GrunbergerI am honored to join the Jewish Voice as the new Arts and Culture Editor.  I welcome you to send me any news you might have regarding the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Philadelphia.  If you have books to review, theatre productions, music, museum exhibits please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

I moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan four years ago to work at Temple University where I am an Assistant Professor in English. I teach creative writing in poetry and literature.   I grew up in Long Island and always dreamed of moving to New York City, but to quote short story writer, Anne Beattie, “I became disenchanted with New York when I realized that I felt as if I had accomplished something when I picked up the laundry, and got the Times and a quart of milk.”   In Philadelphia, it’s just easier to get things done — a walkable, beautiful city brimming with culture and art.  

From the Israeli film festival to the new Jewish Museum, from the World Cafe to the Kimmel Center, I feel fortunate to call Philadelphia my home.  

Lisa Grunberger is the author of an illustrated humor book, Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures of Love, Loss and the Lotus Position (Newmarket Press, 2009) which she has adapted into a musical (stay tuned!).  She teaches yoga and writing classes in Philadelphia.