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With greater representation, an on-stage ‘Transparent’ musical looks to transcend the Amazon show’s rocky ending



(JTA) — When the Amazon series “Transparent” premiered in 2014, America had never met a family like the Pfeffermans on TV. 

The hit dramedy, following a Jewish family of three adult siblings whose parent comes out as a transgender woman in her 60s, was the first scripted series to center on a transitioning character. The show won eight Emmys out of 28 nominations, along with awards from GLAAD and the NAACP. It has been credited with paving a path for more leading trans characters in shows such as FX’s “Pose,” CW’s “Supergirl” and HBO’s “Euphoria.” 

“Transparent” was also called by many “the most Jewish show on TV.” Its Jewish characters range from mostly secular Los Angelenos to a rabbi to Weimar-era German counterculture pioneers (seen in flashbacks). In the fourth season, the main characters visit Israel-Palestine, where they attempt to understand both their faith and the occupation. 

But the show was criticized for casting straight cisgender actor Jeffrey Tambor as the transitioning matriarch Maura Pfefferman. And in 2017, after “Transparent” had been renewed for a fifth season, Tambor was accused of sexual harassment by two former on-set colleagues. He was fired, his starring character killed off in the finale. (Tambor has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.)

That finale took the form of a 100-minute musical film, which ended the series with a divisive show tune called “Joyocaust,” urging Jews to transform their DNA-rooted suffering into joy: “Take the concentration out of the camps, concentrating on some song and dance.”  

Now the entire series is getting the musical treatment, arriving on a real stage in Los Angeles. “A Transparent Musical” — adapted by “Transparent” creator Joey Soloway with music and lyrics by Faith Soloway, who also wrote for the TV series — debuts on Tuesday and runs through June 25 at the Mark Taper Forum. One of the goals: to put the spotlight squarely on LGBTQ actors.

“It’s like 75% trans and nonbinary people on stage,” said Faith. 

The siblings were originally inspired by their own family: Their parent, formerly known as Harry Soloway, came out as a woman, calling herself “Carrie,” at 75 years old. After they started making the show, Joey and Faith Soloway gradually also came out as  trans. Joey changed their name from Jill. Both siblings use the pronouns “they/them.”

They saw the musical medium as a way to freshen up the TV show’s explorations of Jewish and queer history, and the ways in which they interact. Their production will include songs like “Jewish and Queer” — a jubilant “Jewish drinking song,” said Joey — along with defiant anthems like “Deviant,” which celebrates uniting against hatred.

Before they understood their interest in gender, the siblings always imagined making a musical together.

“At the ages of 5, 6, 7 years old, you can picture us sitting on the carpet in our living room in the early ‘70s, listening to the cast albums of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Hair’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ dreaming that one day this was where we were going,” said Joey. 

Joey said they did not realize that Tambor’s casting was “problematic” when the TV series debuted. They approached casting and hiring creatives for “A Transparent Musical” with a laser focus on representation, choosing trans actress Daya Curley for Maura’s role. They also centered the character of Davina — Maura’s trans friend, portrayed by Black actress and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” runner-up Peppermint — to intensify the musical’s focus on intersectionality.

Adina Verson, who identifies as nonbinary and featured in the show “Only Murders in the Building,” will play Ali Pfefferman, the family’s youngest sibling. 

“I’ve never seen a show with so many trans actors,” said Verson. “It’s an incredible room full of unique, incredible performers who honestly haven’t often been given the stage that they deserve.”

As someone who is married to a man and has a child, Verson said they “never felt queer enough”; meanwhile, growing up as a Reform Jew, they “never quite felt Jewish enough.” (In the series, Ali is played by non-Jewish actress Gaby Hoffmann.)

“It was so exciting to be able to bring that questioning to Ali’s journey, and through Ali, I feel like I’ve really found my footing,” they said.

At the same time as trans representation in popular culture has grown since Amazon premiered “Transparent,” trans identities have come under a coordinated political attack. This year alone, 20 states have passed 71 bills restricting healthcare, public accommodations and school activities for trans people, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker.

Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a slate of bills targeting drag shows, restricting the discussion of “preferred pronouns” in schools and enforcing the use of specific bathrooms at public facilities — from schools to prisons — based on “biological sex.” The laws also banned minors from accessing transgender medical treatments, such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy, and placed new restrictions on adults seeking treatment.

Joey Soloway said they were “in mourning” and “paralysis” over the legislation. They see “A Transparent Musical” as a form of protest, conveying “the relationship between how Jews are othered and trans people are othered” with a power that feels different on a theater stage.

“We’re amping up our ammunition beyond a one-on-one TV experience that you watch alone in your room, streaming on your iPad,” said Joey. “This is something you experience collectively, that lands in the body and allows you to go out into the world singing and dancing.”

The post With greater representation, an on-stage ‘Transparent’ musical looks to transcend the Amazon show’s rocky ending appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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