Looking back…and forward to 2014!


On the autograph line at Once – Broadway!


If 2012 was a year of heartbreak, then 2013 was a year of healing. Not always easy, but the learning curve certainly dragged me along.

Once – Broadway has been a blessing of extraordinary proportion. I go to work each day with the most incredible group of Artists – and then I actually come home each night to my amazing family.  It’s not that I don’t love touring, but sleeping in my own bed and waking up to real life has been a fascinating (and humbling) experience. Baby steps, for sure – often kicking and screaming – but my husband has limitless patience!  Even as we go into our 3rd year on the boards, Once is still fresh and heart-wrenching and every bit as gorgeous as it ever was.  Endless shout-outs to fellow cast, crew, producers, staff and especially the stage managers who continue to keep our Once family safe and inspired. I am so proud to walk into our little bar in Dublin eight shows a week…

KlezKanada 2013 was a terrific getaway with dear friends – and a creative and satisfying week of Yiddish music and dance. As vocal department coordinator, I worked closely with Artistic Director, Frank London on a super successful program that featured remarkable vocal artists from around the world.  Look for updates about KlezKanada 2014: Yiddish is UnDead! It’s going to be off the hook!!!

Actors’ Equity Association celebrated its 100th year representing professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.  I humbly stand on the shoulders of generations of Union activists who made it possible for theatre artists to be treated fairly in the workplace. I know that I’m but a small voice in the larger Labor Movement, but I am so proud to be making a difference in our profession and our industry.  Heaps of gratitude to the AEA Staff for letting us do the “Show” while they handle the “Business.”  Looking ahead, I hope to continue my service as I run for Principal Councilor in 2014.  I’ll keep you posted!

Proudly Progressive Holidays at the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring included a Community Seder that honored Beyle Schaechter Gottesman (z”l) and focused on the issues that face our nation’s newest immigrants.  The High Holidays included a fantastic kids program and featured the participation of the Midtown Shule’s leaders and families.  I am always so grateful for the opportunity to observe the holidays in the warm blanket of poetry and music and dedicated lovers of Yiddish. Huge thanks to Lorin Sklamberg for sharing his voice and talent and soul.

NYC Dance Alliance Foundation kicked off the fall with its annual fundraiser, Bright Lights, Shining Stars a benefit performance to provide college scholarships for talented young dancers.  What a privilege to be working again with former dance partner Joe Lanteri, Founder/Executive Director of this astonishing organization. And what a star-studded cast!  Felicia Finlay (Mamma Mia!) Charlotte D’amboise (Pippin) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) to name but a few… 5! 6! 7! 8!


with Theo, Bel and Fyvush at Symphony Space

Miracle of Miracles!    This gala performance at Symphony Space celebrated the activism and artistry of Theodore Bikel in honor of his 90th birthday.  I was fortunate enough to co-host this once-in-a-lifetime event, which included appearances by Emmy winner, Fyvush Finkel and best-selling author (and grand-daughter of Sholem Aleichem) Bel Kaufman.  Shmoozing backstage over deli sandwiches and Cel-Ray tonic with this remarkable group (whose combined ages total almost 300 years!) was definitely one of the highlights of 2013.  Thanks abound to Zalmen Mlotek, Bryna Wasserman and the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene for inviting me to be part of this glorious evening!

Of course, 2013 saw great loss as well – In particular, three magnificent women of the Yiddish world who mentored and inspired so many.  Chana Yachness (z”l), Chana Mlotek (z”l) and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman (z”l) will live on in our hearts as their poetry, music and memory will continue to be a blessing.  The year finished up with the annual Dreaming in Yiddish concert – in memory of sister Yiddish Diva, Adrienne Cooper, and honoring a star-spangled and sparkly Jenny Romaine.  Out of sadness can come great joy, and seeing my fellow Klezmorim in one modest room making giant-sized music is the perfect celebration of a true artist’s life.  Lekhayim!!

Many, many thanks to ALL OF YOU!!  Everyone who cut me slack when I couldn’t get out of my own way, gave me a break when I was being cranky or ridiculous and loved me unconditionally, even when I probably didn’t deserve it.  They say that making your Resolutions public will help you to keep them. So last, but not least…here goes:

Joanne’s 2013 Resolutions…

New Year’s Resolution #1:   Take time to smell the roses, enjoy the sights and truly listen to people – even the ones who disagree with me…

New Year’s Resolution #2:  Find the gratitude, even on the most challenging days – especially the days that make my head explode.

New Year’s Resolution #3:  Don’t take anyone or anything for granted…  I think that bears repeating, don’t you?  Don’t take anyone or anything for granted…

New Year’s Resolution #4:  Stop talking!  JUST DO IT!!  (I was going to dedicate this one, but the list got too long- you know who you are, so thanks for continuing to lean on me…)

New Year’s Resolution #5:   Neglect NOT thy BLOG!! And REALLY keep in touch with family, friends, colleagues and the planet…

New Year’s Resolutions #6 and beyond:  TBD…Stay tuned…

Wishing you all good friends, good times, good work, and good fortune for the new year.


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Happy Thanksgivukkah!!

Happy Thanksgivukkah!!

In the timeless words of Menachem Mike Fox:

Let us recall now, our heroes of old,
When darkness was all that our future foretold.
Did they lose their faith? Did their fire grow cold?
Chanukah’s message must always be told…

Lomir dermonen di heldishe teg
Ven undzer folk iz geshtanen baym breg
Tsi hitn dem flam? Tsi farlirn dem veg?
Lomir dermonen di Khanike teg…



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Hot Klezmer for a Cold Winter Night!

Heating up the east village with the Levitt Legacy Kleztet

…kickin’ out some crazy klezmer…

Joanne and the Levitt Legacy Kleztet

I am super excited to sing the repertoire of Harriet Kane and Marty Levitt with The Levitt Legacy Kleztet under the direction of their son, the amazing Dave Levitt. (That’s Dave, playing the trombone over my left shoulder!)

This music series, curated by Aaron Alexander and co-created with Rabbi Greg Wall has brought Klezmer back to the Lower East Side.  I’m thrilled to make my East Village Klezmer debut with this remarkable band that features the music of my super hero, that gorgeous and hilarious Yiddish redhead, Harriet Kane!  I can’t promise I’ll be dressed in my snow-bunny sweater & boots, but I do promise you’ll have a fantastic night!

WHEN:  Wednesday, February 8th at 8pm as part of the East Village Klezmer Series

WHERE:  325 East 6th Street, between 1st & 2nd Ave (at the Sixth Street Synagogue)

Follow the above link to get your tickets to this terrific evening.  See you there!


The East Village Klezmer Series is co-sponsored by Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring of NY, Living Traditions/Klez Kamp, and Center for Traditional Music and Dance.


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Remembering Adrienne, z”l…

Adrienne's Wedding Blessings

It is with a heavy heart and unbearable sorrow that the world now mourns the passing of our sister, Adrienne Cooper z”l.

She was my mentor, my surrogate mother, spiritual guide, partner in crime and a dear, dear friend.  Adrienne lives on through her music and her words, but our community will never be the same without her sweet smile, those sparkling eyes and her warm embrace.

As the Three Yiddish Divas, Adrienne, Tova and I traveled the world together – and each city was another adventure.  We made each other laugh, toasted our successes, shared our secrets and forged unique friendships.   As I share these pictures, the memories are a comfort in this time of incredible sadness.

Zol zi hobn a likhtikn gan-eydn.   
Kovod ir ondenk… may her memory be for a blessing.


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The end of a beautiful Summer…

What a terrific Summer, filled with music, Yiddishkayt and great friends…


with Frank London at KlezKanada (photo by Mookie Parago)

  • KlezKamp in Madison! — What a privilege to be part of this inaugural event!  Many thanks to Sherry Mayrent, Henry Sopoznik and the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Jewish Studies for making Yiddish music and culture a part of their ongoing curriculum.
  • Ot Azoy / Tumbala in London!! — This was my second appearance at the University of London/Jewish Music Institute’s festival of Jewish Language and Song.  Collaborating with Shura Lipovsky, Polina Shepherd, Helen Khayele Beer and Sonya Pincusowitz (among many others) was a huge highlight of this wonderful experience.  Also, I had the opportunity to see lots of great theatre, including London Road at the National Theatre and Anne Boleyn at Shakespeare’s Globe.
  • KlezKanada in the beautiful Laurentian Mountains!!!  Besides being able to share this exciting week with my husband, it was great to be surrounded by the music of Theodore Bikel, Tamara Brooks and their groundbreaking project, Serendipity 4.
  • Performing with Yiddish Hip-Hop star So-Called aka Josh Dolgin and the Klezmer Conservatory Band in Mexico City!!!!  The 90th Anniversary of the Ashkenazi community in Mexico City was a huge success.  So many languages in one room… Yiddish, Spanish, Hebrew, Ladino… listening to the audience as they sung along to all of our Yiddish favorites was remarkable…
  • And finally, singing at Yiddishfest 2011 at Tompkins Square Park, NYC  with Grammy winners Arturo O’Farrill and Frank London!!!!!  The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring continues its commitment to Yiddish culture in this final free concert of the 2011 Season.

Keep an eye out for upcoming Fall events, including Rosh Hashone and Yom Kippur Observances at the new Workmen’s Circle in New York, a Kosher Kabaret in Jericho, NY, and a return engagement at Valley Beth Sholom in Encino, California.

Hope to see you all soon!!

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Divas on the Danube…

Three Yiddish Divas Dazzle Vienna

The Whirlwind Tour!

Three Yiddish Divas in Vienna

We arrived on Thursday, rehearsed early Friday, then performed on Saturday night to a sold-out crowd at Vienna’s magnificent Konzerthaus, Berio-Saal.  It was all part of the Juddischer Kulturherbst 2010.

Lovingly subtitled: Humor – Weisheiten (Wisdom) – Musik. “Oj, s’is gut!” indeed, it was very, very good.   The festival presenters wined us and dined us… and the entire experience was sumptuous and grand!

600 Year old buildings and me...

If you’ve never been to Vienna, it is certainly one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.  Walking through the 1st district, every step is a complication of medieval architecture, Imperial opulence and contemporary 21st Century commercialism.  Mind boggling ~ thought-provoking ~ really expensive!  Whoa!  Vienna’s history is also a complex realm, especially in dealing with the causes and aftermath of the occupation.  As artists performing in a Yiddish festival, it was not lost on any of us that this is an ongoing dilemma.

Vienna's Konzerthaus

But Vienna’s revitalized Jewish community is alive, diverse and thriving.  We attended Shabbos services at the Stadtempel on Judenstrasse, the largest congregation in Vienna – a city known for it’s a capella choral mastery.  I didn’t know what to expect, but as we walked through the doors, the 19th Century hall echoed with the voices of an eight-man choir chanting the service with moving emotion.   My great grandparents were born into this Austrian musical tradition, and I can’t help but think my own family’s love of a capella Barbershop singing was inspired by this legacy.  It’s a thought, right?

Auf vider zehen, Wien… until we meet again!

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