Friday, October 29, 2010

(NEWS) Jewish Life Goes ‘South’ In Cleveland One-Man Show

"In high school, someone asked Jon Adam Ross why he was wearing a cow around his neck.

'It was a Chai,' says the actor and playwright. But in his Memphis public high school, Hebrew letters and Jewish customs weren’t well known. 'I guess if you didn’t know Hebrew, it could look like a cow. (The guy) was just curious.'

Reflecting on stories from his childhood while he was studying at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ross realized growing up a minority is something all teens (and all adults) can relate to. He wove his experiences together into a one-man show, 'Walking in Memphis: The Life of a Southern Jew. He’ll perform it in Cleveland Mon., Nov. 1, at The Temple-Tifereth Israel at 6:30. Many religious school students will attend the performance in lieu of regular classes.

In his quirky and emotional memoir, Ross becomes several different characters: his family members, the family housekeeper, the Southern Baptist next-door neighbor, and several Ramah campers. The performance features no costumes, sets or props.

'It seems exotic, growing up Jewish in Memphis. Actually, it’s quite universal,' says Ross.

'People are surprised if they expect a play about Memphis, because it’s really a coming-of-age story. I think audience members of all ages will identify with the show.'

The play features the song 'Walking in Memphis,' written by Jewish native Clevelander Marc Cohn.

'He came to my hometown and wrote this song, and I’m using it to help me perform in his hometown,' observes Ross.

'Whenever we have a young, hip artist like Jon Adam Ross, who’s cool and creative and ‘into’ being Jewish, it’s interesting for teens,' says Judy Schiller, director of the Retreat Institute of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC). 'It’s a different model of being Jewish.'

The performance is sponsored by The Retreat Institute of the JECC and @Akiva, with additional funding from the Fund for the Jewish Future of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Ross made his acting debut at age 5 in a Chanukah play at his hometown JCC. He attended a Conservative synagogue in Memphis and spent summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.

Still, when he got to New York for college, 'It was culture shock, for sure, to have this Jewish community, where there are bagels and everyone speaking in Yiddish,' he says.

In addition to 'Walking in Memphis,' Ross is a founding member of two Jewish theater companies: Storahtelling, a fusion of storytelling and performance; and Northwoods Ramah Theater Company, a professional theater company of former Ramah campers and professional actors, began by the Foundation for Jewish Camping and director Steven Spielberg’s program to create theater in Jewish camps.

'I never set out to make Jewish theater,' says Ross. 'My goal was to make great theater.'


WHAT: 'Walking in Memphis: The Life of a Southern Jew'.

WHERE: The Temple-Tifereth Israel, Cleveland OH.

WHEN: Mon., Nov. 1, at 6:30. Talk-back follows the performance.

TICKETS & INFO: Free and open to the community. 216-593-6272." (source)

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