Apr ’07 Spotlight

“Judy Gerowitz hereby divests herself of all names imposed upon her through male social dominance and freely chooses her own name JUDY CHICAGO,” proclaimed the woman born Judith Sylvia Cohen on July 20, 1939 at Michael Reese Hospital. As Gail Levin tells us in her new book Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist: “She chose the name Chicago [in 1970] because friends tended to identify her as ‘Judy from Chicago’.” (“I’m a nice Jewish girl from Chicago… I couldn’t avoid it. I had a very distinct Chicago accent.”)

Many of us can remember trekking down to the then raw South Loop when The Dinner Party was on display at the Franklin Building (from September 1981 through January 1982). According to Jean Hunt, one of the local coordinators, over seventy thousand people came to see it, making ours one of the most successful showings in the country. “We even made money,” says Hunt. “It was a real testament to the strength of Chicago’s woman’s movement.” The Dinner Party, now part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, made Judy Chicago a force to be reckoned with ever after.

Levin, a professor of Art History, American Studies, and Women Studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY, will read from her new book on Sunday April 15 at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Becoming Judy Chicago is Levin’s seventeenth book as principal author, editor, and/or contributor. Her articles have appeared in numerous professional journals (including the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies and the Woman’s Art Journal) as well as mainstream publications like The New York Times, London Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, and Smithsonian Magazine.

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Chicago’s Callisto Ensemble, founded in 2003, is making the work of Israeli composer Shulamit Ran a primary element of this year’s program schedule. According to founding member Stefan Hersh: “Shulamit’s music is ferociously intellectual in the best sense. It’s extremely well-conceived, well thought-out. Shulamit has developed her own language and her own tonality. It’s very earthy and sensual music, and demands technical capacity at the edge of what I know how to do.”

Since Ran teaches at the University of Chicago (where she is the William H. Colvin Professor in Music), she has been available as a resource during rehearsals. “For us, the experience of working with a living composer, and especially someone who’s as intelligent and articulate as Shulamit is, really informs what happens when we go back and work on old music,” says Hersh. “The experience of seeing how composers react when we play their music for them and when they have their suggestions and adaptations based on what we do, it really elasticizes our sensibilities about old music.”

In addition to Hersh, who plays the violin, the members of the Callisto Ensemble include violinist Robert Waters, violist Roger Chase, and cellist Julian Hersh.  Their first April concert is scheduled for Monday, April 23, at the Chicago Music Institute in Evanston.  The next night, Tuesday, April 24, they will repeat the program at the Merit School of Music in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

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To learn more about Shulamit Ran, visit:


Callisto will perform Shulamit Ran’s “Fantasy Variations for Solo Cello” on WFMT radio on the evening of April 9, and they are also planning a program of Jewish music to be performed at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe on Sunday May 6.

Chicago Palestine Film Festival

Gene Siskel Film Center is collaborating with organizers of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival to present a series of films from April 14 through April 26. I haven’t seen any of these films yet, but I will try to go to as many as possible and report back to you next month. For program information consult the GSFC website:



Anatevka bloomed anew last month in Munster, Indiana, during a delightful five-week run at the Theatre at the Center. Once back home in Chicago, I called director Bill Pullinsi to follow-up on some of the details. I told Bill that, as a Fiddler on the Roof aficionado, I was delighted to see that he’d kept Yente’s number “The Rumor” in Act Two even though many productions eliminate it (as did the film version). “’The Rumor’ is a cute number that lightens things up a little bit,” Pullinsi agreed. “I’ve done Fiddler six times and I’ve never done the show without ‘The Rumor.’ The audience always likes it.”

Asked what made this Fiddler different from all other Fiddlers for him, Pullinsi described the staging: “Munster’s stage is a hybrid, it’s not completely in the round and it’s not completely a proscenium, it’s a thrust stage with a raked incline. We had to find ways to make the space accommodate the show.” And so he did: with a relatively small cast working on a very small stage, Pullinsi’s Anatevka still felt three dimensional and densely-populated. Bravo!

To purchase tickets for future shows at the Theatre at the Center, visit:



Organizers of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema held a “mini-marathon” on March 11 at the Highland Park Theatre, to whet our appetites for the main event coming in late October. Of the four films they screened, I thought one was excellent (Dear Mr. Waldman), two were good (Kululush and Three Mothers), and one was really bad (King of Beggars).

Although there’s often a time lag, some of the best and/or most popular films from prior festivals eventually do make their way to my shelf. This month I recommend No Longer 17 which played here in November 2004. Technically this is a sequel, following characters created by Yitzhak Yeshurun in Noa at 17 (release in Israel in 1982), but I’ve screened both films and you don’t need to see the first to watch the second. All it takes is an appreciation of the role of kibbutzim in Israeli history and an interest in the fate of the pioneer generation in our new millennium.

For more about No Longer 17, visit:



Tziviah bat Yisroel v’Hudah (Jan Lisa Huttner) is the managing editor of Films for Two: The Online Guide for Busy Couples (www.films42.com). Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to Tzivi@msn.com.

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