Getting My Jewish Culture On in 5779

If you’re like me, and one of your Jewish New Year resolutions is to try out some new experiences across the city, then this article is for you.

If not, there are a lot of other really interesting articles here. Or you could go watch the new season of Shameless, because Lip.

Back to the article. One way I can make good on my resolution is to check out a few of the local Jewish theater performances in DC. Fortunately, the District is about to be filled with compelling theatrical works featuring Jewish themes and characters, including The Diary of Anne FrankA Shayna Maidel, and The Last 5 Years.

I chatted with Paige Austin, the music director (as well as pianist and composer) behind The Last 5 Years to learn a little bit more about this performance, and explore the influx in Jewish performances this season.

last 5 years

Characters Jamie and Cathy from The Last 5 Years at The Montgomery Playhouse

Allie: What is The Last 5 Years About?

Paige: This is an autobiographical play about the life of Jason Robert Brown. He is Jewish and used to date an Irish-Catholic girl.

The show has only two actors who play Jamie and Cathy, a young interfaith couple. They each tell their story of their 5 year relationship, but Cathy tells it from back to front, and Jamie tells it from front to back. Eventually, they meet in the middle and the continue to go through their separate timelines.

Allie: What makes it worth seeing?

Paige: The characters have very relatable problems. Cathy is the one putting more effort into the relationship, while Jamie is splitting his energy between a lot of different things. Relationships are work, and it’s nice to see a story where this is the case. I’d rather see a story of a couple struggling any day. It also covers gender politics.

Oh, and it’s only 90 minutes with no intermission.

Allie: Is it true that this play is also a movie?

Paige: Yes! For those who are fans of Anna Kendrick, there is a movie version of The Last 5 Years starring Anna and Jeremy Jordan.

Allie: Where can GatherDC readers get tickets?

Paige: You can get tickets on the Montgomery Playhouse website. Tickets are $22.

Characters Jamie and Cathy from The Last 5 Years at The Montgomery Playhouse

Learn more about The Last Five Years and other upcoming plays:


The Pianist of Willesden Lane

September 12 – September 30

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Family Theater

Tickets here


The Last Five Years

September 14 – September 23

The Randolph Road Theater

Tickets here


A Shayna Maidel

October 11 – October 28

Peace Mountain Theater Company at Congregation Har Shalom

Tickets here



September 15 – September 23

The Gaithersburg Arts Barn

Tickets here


The Diary of Anne Frank

September 28 – October 7

Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville Civic Center Park

Tickets here



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

1:1 with Artist Jeremy Schonfeld

I recently had the opportunity to speak with creator of the new theatrical concert “Iron & Coal” – Jeremy Schonfeld, and Strathmore’s Vice President of Programming – Joi Brown. Jeremy, Joi, and I discussed the upcoming world premiere performance of “Iron & Coal” at the Strathmore performing arts center.

To provide some background, “Iron & Coal” is a remarkable, theatrical concert about a father-son relationship built in the shadow of the Holocaust. This show is inspired by the memoir of Schonfeld’s father, and will feature a rock band, full orchestra, and over 120 adult and youth voices, including some of our very own young Jewish professional community members!

Iron & Coal composer Jeremy Schonfeld

Stacy: How did you begin working on Iron & Coal?

Jeremy: The show was originally based on an album I created in Vienna in 2011. It’s a concept album based around a father and son, and their parallel emotional journeys. It’s a true to life story based on my own father and I. My father wrote his memoir, “Absence of Closure in 2009. I had initially wanted to musicalize his memoirs, but instead decided to focus on our psychological mindsets, rather than a linear retelling of his stories.

Stacy: Did your father ever hear the album?

Jeremy: I was able to play one of the songs for him from the album just before he passed away. The album came out around the same time that he passed away.

Stacy: Why do you think young adults will be interested in this show?

Jeremy: The show is a mix of harsh, angry, and beautiful with rock and orchestral music that is uplifting, but also has a rawness to it. The piece incorporates multimedia, with a vibe that is Pink Floyd meets the Who’s Tommy. I wanted to take a modern approach to what I do. My hope is that you won’t know exactly where things are going.

Also, I think it’s important that our generation – as children and grandchildren of survivors – is able to explore the emotional journey of the Holocaust.

Joi: This performance does not simply tell the Holocaust story, but rather looks at this topic in a new way. It acknowledges that the next generation has this story in their DNA, that there is a history there, but [the millennial generation] processes it in different ways.  It is a piece that captures people’s emotions, while looking at a collective history. The next generation is given the chance to reflect on this. Jeremy’s musical style is very accessible, and draws on artists and performances from Billy Joel to “Rent” to classical choral passages.

Stacy: Why did you decide to bring “Iron and Coal” to Strathmore?

Joi: Typically, we bring artists that have an established touring structure, but this was an opportunity to be direct partners with an artist on a collaborative, community project. Our staff has personally been able to be involved in more of a long term process from working with soloists and casting to creating storyboards.

Iron & Coal animation by Tom Seltzer


“Iron & Coal” tickets are now on sale – use code “GatherDC” for 20% off your ticket price. Performances are this Thursday, May 3rd and Friday, May 4th. Check out a sneak preview.


About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Top 3 Reasons To See “Light Years”

Folk-rock music in a new theatrical experience.

This isn’t like the musicals Bubbe used to take you to. Light Years combines the power of storytelling with all new music you would hear at an indie rock venue.

Signature Theatre is a black-box space which means that we rebuild the room to tell every story the best way possible. So, while Signature is best known for our world class musicals, the 275 seat room’s intimacy feels perfect for a folk-rock show.

Here’s a video of Robbie and the cast of the show singing the opening song of the show.

The theater is located in Shirlington, a two-block shopping neighborhood of Arlington with 16 different restaurants. Some of the options include Busboys and Poets, Cheesetique, and New District Brewing, a brand new brewery 2 blocks behind the theater. It’s easy to make a night-out of seeing a show here.

Robbie Schaefer, photo by Pippa Samaya

Robbie Schaefer is the definitive NJB (Nice Jewish Boy)

Aside from having a shayna punim (Yiddish for “beautiful face”), Robbie is kind, approachable, and the kind of person everyone wants to bring home to mom and dad.

He has charm and an earnest smile to please Mom and jokes for your dad. He founded an organization called OneVoice which works to unite children worldwide through music and creative expression. Most recently, he and his team went to a small island in Greece to bring art and music to the children in a Syrian refugee camp.

And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t melt over a man with a guitar?* 

I’m lookin’ at you guy-who-sang-Green-Day’s-”Time-of-Your-Life”-after-every-youth-group-convention.

It’s a Jewish story without being A JEWISH STORY

This is the first story that I’ve heard of a Holocaust survivor’s unique relationship with their family after the war. Like in Robbie’s story, my grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. His wife and son were lost to the Nazis, so he immigrated to the US, married an American woman and had a son, my father. In the short 18 years my dad had before his father passed, they shared a deep love for one another and a shared unspoken understanding that the past was not something to discuss. Like Robbie’s father, my grandfather kept his past a mystery to protect his son. And rather than dwelling on the holes between them, Robbie tells us about the deep love they shared and the life and the future he made. His father was his father, not his father, “the Holocaust survivor.”

Robbie tells my father’s story as he shares his own on stage. It’s a story that hasn’t been told, and Robbie tells it well.

My father and grandfather

Light Years is playing at Signature Theatre from February 6 – March 4, 2018.

*You can see this show with other 20s and 30s at a reduced ticket rate on February 20 with NOVA Tribe and Oy the World’s a Stage.



The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish, Under 40, and Love Theater? Join the Club.

In the movie “Mean Girls, new kid Cady Heron has to navigate the complex, fragmented society that is her high school cafeteria. Each table is filled with new faces, representative of different clubs and cliques. None of them invites her to sit. Rejected and lost, she eats lunch alone in a bathroom stall—which we can all agree is both disgusting and sad.

Spoiler alert: Cady soon finds her people, or rather, they find her. Which, happens to be exactly what GatherDC and its Open Doors Fellowship aims to do.

I was a member of the spring 2017 Open Doors Fellowship cohort, a group of self proclaimed “people persons” who love building connections and community, especially in a Jewish context. We spent months reaching out to newcomers and not-so-newcomers to DC, buying coffees, and schmoozing our way through GatherDC happy hours. [Editor’s note: applications are NOW open for the 2018 Open Doors Fellowship.]

At the end of the program, each fellow organized a capstone project. The goal was to create a space for Jewish community, though the events didn’t have to be explicitly Jewish or religiously oriented. For example, a previous Open Doors Fellow started the popular Jews on Bikes group. A member of my cohort hosted a “Vodka, Babka, and Board Games” Shabbat dinner.

As a theater lover, I often find myself interested in watching local productions, without any idea who to see them with. I’ve been to a few shows solo, but the experience isn’t quite the same as seeing it with friends. Surely, I thought, I can’t be alone here.

For my capstone project, I elected to create a club for Jewish young professionals to attend plays together. I called it Oy The World’s A Stage, and immediately began organizing our first outing. In July, nine of us saw Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass, a psychological drama set in Brooklyn during 1938. As horrors unfolded in Europe, a Jewish couple struggled with morality, health, and marital issues – as well as their own Jewish identity.

The event was a huge success, helped in part by funding from Moishe House Without Walls. Theater is an expensive hobby, which may be why the average audience has more white hairs in it than a home with a Persian cat. Thankfully, numerous DC-area theaters offer discounts for people under 35. Between this option and the beloved “Pay What You Can” nights, theater can be as affordable as your weekend brunch habit.

By creating a space for people to talk about current and upcoming productions, plan outings, and share information on ticket discount programs, I hope to build an accessible and welcoming community for local Jews in their 20’s and 30s to bond over a shared love of theater.

Members don’t need to be new to town—I’ve been in DC for nearly a decade. They also don’t have to be Jewish or under 40, though the club was created with that population in mind. For Hanukkah, female “Oy” members went to see “Pajama Game at Arena Stage alongside women over 50. It was our first intergenerational event, evidence that this club need not be an exclusionary venture.

Half a year after creating the “Oy” Facebook group, I found myself at Char Bar with a group of ten “Oy” members, ready and eager to finish dinner and head to The National Theatre for the world premiere of “Mean Girls: The Musical.

It was a sold out performance, and we laughed along with the packed audience as actors threw out classic lines like “She doesn’t even go here!” and cast members turned favorite scenes into songs. We watched as Cady navigated the cafeteria on her first day. From my seat, I imagined “Oy The World’s A Stage” as a table where local Jewish theater lovers can find their people.

We’re already busy planning our next outing, a joint event with Moishe House Bethesda. We’ll be seeing “Everything Is Illuminated at the Edlavtich DCJCC on Thursday, January 11. Oh, and you can totally sit with us! You just have to buy a ticket.


Editor’s Note: Roundup of upcoming chances to see live theater with new friends.


About the Author: Lauren Landau (@laurenmlandau) lives in Silver Spring, MD with her roommate and a more-or-less alive houseplant. She is a producer for NPR, where she works on fundraising projects. She was a regular contributor to DCist’s Arts & Entertainment Desk until the publication’s recent demise. When she isn’t thinking about raising money for public radio, she is planning her next weekend getaway or theater outing. Following her participation in Cohort 3 of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, Lauren founded Oy The World’s A Stage, a club for D.C. area Jewish theater lovers in their 20s and 30s.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.