Theater J is excited to announce its 2023/24 season, the first season planned by the theater’s new Artistic Director, Hayley Finn. Featuring world premiere productions, the debut of a solo play series, and an abundance of new works by emerging writers within the American theater landscape, this season builds on Theater J’s legacy as a home for exceptional new work within Washington, DC, and throughout the country. Finn’s season curation reflects the richness of Theater J’s mission, centering plays that celebrate, explore, and struggle with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. They illuminate and examine ethical questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our own, and the changing landscape of Jewish identities.
“I am thrilled to present a diversity of plays and modes of theatrical storytelling to Theater J this season through the work of brilliant playwrights, most of whom are new to our audiences,” says Theater J Artistic Director, Hayley Finn. “This season we are producing four world premieres and two regional premieres. Sharing new stories with our audience is vital to the theater––it sparks new ideas and allows us to have important conversations. This season asks questions about identity and assimilation, how to define and redefine love, and what we can and cannot know. Characters search for family members, romance, faith, self-actualization, and renewal. We start around a dinner table and travel in time and place from the late 19th century in New York City’s Lower East Side to Stalinist Russia, Jaffa, and Seoul on trains, planes, and through the pages of comic books. These plays celebrate the power of theater, which engages our imagination. I’m looking forward to the conversations that we can have around these inspiring new works.”
“Now in our fourth decade, the mission of Theater J is as vital as ever,” shares Theater J Managing Director David Lloyd Olson. “Last week, I spoke with a teenager visiting from Rhode Island who shared how twice in the past year she had been bullied and harassed for being Jewish. Theater J will continue to celebrate the Jewish experience and directly challenge the rise in hate speech by inviting cross-cultural conversation through the work on our stage and in the post-show conversations with our audience.”
Edlavitch DCJCC CEO Jen Zwilling adds, “Hayley Finn brings her daring vision and full career of developing new work to Theater J. I am thrilled to have her join us and I’m excited to share these stories with communities throughout Washington this coming year.”
The Theater J 2023-2024 season is as follows:
The Chameleon by Jenny Rachel Weiner (October 11 – November 6, 2023) Directed by Ellie Heyman
The 2023/24 season kicks off on October 11 with the world premiere of The Chameleon by Roundabout Theatre Company Associate Artist Jenny Rachel Weiner. Nothing says Jewish Christmas more than Chinese takeout. The food tastes even better this year for actor Riz Golden-Kruger and her family––Riz finally got her big break, the starring role in a new superhero franchise, The Chameleon. But when news leaks that could threaten to ruin Riz’s career, she must decide whether to hide or fight for what’s right. Ignited by the fast-paced frenzy of social media, the play rampages through questions of identity, representation, and the complications of assimilation. The Chameleon is an outrageous, laugh-out-loud intergenerational world premiere. The production will be the first at Theater J directed by Ellie Heyman who received critical praise for her direction of The Great Work Begins: Scenes from ‘Angels in America’ featuring Glenn Close, Laura Linney, Patti LuPone, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Jeremy O. Harris, which was streamed online in 2020 to benefit the Foundation for AIDS Research Fund to Fight Covid-19.
Here I Am – a triptych of tour-de-force performances (November 15, 2023 – January 14, 2024)
The season continues with a first for Theater J, a series of new distinct one-person plays. The three performances explore a Covid-era comic tragedy, a soul-searching quest, and a journey for a birth mother.
See You Tomorrow, written, directed, and performed by Iris Bahr (November 15 – November 22, 2023)
A mother-daughter relationship unfolds in award-winning comedian/actor Iris Bahr’s world premiere of her autobiographical work. During the height of COVID, a mother in Israel and daughter in Los Angeles connect via WhatsApp video daily. When the mother is confronted with an emergency, Iris must navigate the life-and-death situation through a screen. Days later, Iris finds herself relocating across the globe overnight to parent her parent. Straddling cultures, generations, and an ocean, See You Tomorrow is a surprising, funny, and poignant story about family, caregiving, guilt, and what happens when memory and one’s history dissolve in an instant.
Moses by Michele Lowe (December 1 – December 24, 2023) Directed by Johanna Gruenhut
How do you start over after everything you know has been erased? Michele Lowe‘s Moses follows one man’s epic journey as he searches for forgiveness, a long-lost dream, and himself. A Theater J Vradenburg New Jewish Play Prize finalist, Moses is a world premiere about faith, love, and going it alone. Moses will be directed by Theater J Associate Artistic Director, Johanna Gruenhut.
How to Be a Korean Woman, written and performed by Sun Mee Chomet (January 4 – January 14, 2024) direction and dramaturgy by Zaraawar Mistry
How to Be a Korean Woman is a hilarious, heartfelt, and personal telling of Korean-American adoptee Sun Mee Chomet’s search for her birth family in Seoul, South Korea. This poignant one-woman show told from the perspective of an adult Jewish adoptee uses text, music, and movement to explore themes of family, love, adulthood, and the universal longing to know one’s past. “As an actor, I often use my own history to strengthen or inform my characters,” says Chomet. “Now, I’m doing this daunting thing of giving my whole life over. It’s daunting but rewarding to be so bare.” Chomet’s award-winning play has been presented to sold-out audiences in the United States and Seoul, South Korea. Theater J’s production marks the regional premiere of the piece.
Each production in the Here I Am series will be staged in succession beginning in November, through December, and into the beginning of 2024. Presenting all three plays as a series, audiences will get to experience three unique perspectives on the Jewish experience and join conversations about identity and belonging.
This Much I Know by Jonathan Spector (January 31 – February 25, 2024) Directed by Hayley Finn
Following the Here I Am series comes Artistic Director Hayley Finn’s directorial debut on the Theater J stage with This Much I Know by Jonathan Spector, winner of the 2023 Theatre Bay Area Will Glickman Award for best new play premiere.
In the midst of a lecture, a psychology professor’s marriage fractures, sparking a theatrical study of three characters as they become entangled in a search for self-discovery. With inspiration from the research of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, the characters search for answers in the science of decision-making. They learn that, in Kahneman’s words, thinking can be “fast or slow,” emotional or deliberate, drive-like and intuitive, or calculated. Part mystery, part love story, part philosophical quest, This Much I Know spins our axis of belief and understanding.
“I fell in love with this play when we developed it at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and am thrilled to bring it to Theater J,” adds Finn. “Jonathan weaves together multiple narratives — each character is confronted by their assumed beliefs and must find their way towards their emotional center. The journey is deeply philosophical and yet, in the same breath, emotionally gut-wrenching. I’m honored to have the opportunity to direct Jonathan Spector’s brilliant work.”
Hester Street a play with music by Sharyn Rothstein with original music by Joel Waggoner based on the film by Joan Micklin Silver and the novella Yekl by Abraham Cahan, presented by special arrangement with Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman (March 27 – April 21, 2024).
The world premiere of Hester Street – the theatrical adaptation of the beloved 1975 film by Joan Micklin Silver – marks the largest production Theater J’s stage has seen in years. Hester Street depicts the uplifting journey of Gitl, a young Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, who arrives with her son to meet her husband Jake in the tumult of the late-19th century Lower East Side. Separated from his wife and the provincial limitations of his upbringing, Jake has fully embraced his new American life—one that has little in common with Gitl’s old-time ways. Faced with the disintegration of her marriage in a world she can barely comprehend, Gitl must find her voice, protect her son, and redefine her identity. A deeply moving new stage adaptation by Sharyn Rothstein (Arena Stage’s Right to Be Forgotten), featuring original music by Broadway’s Joel Waggoner, assembling a nationally-renowned team of artists and produced in association with New York-based producers Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman, Hester Street is an unforgettable show, awash in the humor, heartbreak, and hope essential to the Jewish immigrant experience.
The Hatmaker’s Wife by Lauren Yee (June 5 – June 30, 2024) Directed by Dan Rothenberg
The 2023/24 Theater J season wraps up with a production of Lauren Yee’s The Hatmaker’s Wife, directed by Dan Rothenberg, founding member and co-artistic director of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company. Magic and realism collide in this modern fable about learning to love. A young woman moves in with her boyfriend, and when she has trouble getting comfortable, her strange new home seems determined to help out, literally. The walls start to talk, words magically appear, and a golem with a taste for Cheetos gets into the action. A cross between a ghost story and a Yiddish fable, Lauren Yee’s moving and whimsical The Hatmaker’s Wife redefines home, family, and love.
Theater J’s commitment to new work extends past the mainstage this coming season, with planned readings of commissioned works by the seven racially and ethnically diverse Jewish writers of the Expanding the Canon Initiative, continued readings of new Yiddish plays and adaptations through the Yiddish Theater Lab, and more. Additional partnerships and programming throughout the season will be announced at a later date.
For more information about the season and to purchase subscriptions or tickets, please visit theaterj.org or call the ticket office at 202-777-3210. Single ticket prices for regular tickets start at $39. Discount tickets are available for groups, EDCJCC members, preview performances, students, educators, military personnel, and U.S. Veterans.
About Theater J
Theater J is a nationally-renowned, professional theater that celebrates, explores, and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. Our work illuminates and examines ethical questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our own, and the changing landscape of Jewish identities. As the nation’s largest and most prominent Jewish theater, we aim to preserve and expand a rich Jewish theatrical tradition and to create community and commonality through theater-going experiences.
About the Edlavitch DCJCC
Theater J is a proud program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC). Guided by Jewish values and heritage, the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center engages individuals and families through its cultural, recreational, educational, and social justice programs by welcoming people of all backgrounds to connect, learn, serve, and be entertained together in ways that reflect the unique role of the Center in the nation’s capital.
The Edlavitch DCJCC embraces inclusion in all its programs and activities. We welcome and encourage the participation of all people, regardless of their background, sexual orientation, abilities, or religion, including interfaith couples and families.
Theater J names Hayley Finn new artistic director (news story, January 24, 2023)