Last week the Fabrangen Fiddlers opened the second Festival of Jewish Arts at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.
Fabrangen is a Yiddish word meaning "a coming together." In several senses the festival, which runs through Nov. 13, will be a month of young and old. Jew and non-Jew are joining in a series of events ranging across the arts, across cultures and across ages.
Saturday at 8 p.m. soprano Myra Tate, accompanied by her husband, composer and pianist Toby Yate, will present an evening of Yiddish songs. Taken from both traditional and theater sources, the songs, according to the Tates, reflect the passionate view of life characteristic of Jewish culture.
Some of the songs reach back to the early 19th century when the "new" idea of romantic love nudged against the Jewish tradition of arranged marriages. Other songs refer to later Jewish experiences, including the tragedies of the 1930s in Europe.
On Saturday, Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. a multi-generation cast will appear in the dance piece, "Ms. Galaxy Raps with God." The oldest performer is 84 and the youngest 11, said director and choreographer Liz Lerman.
Taking her inspiration from eastern, European culture where dance was a prt of everyday life, Lerman explores the question of faith in modern American society. The Ms. Galaxy of the work's title is a contest winner whose prize is the chance to spend a weekend rapping with God.
At 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 New Playwright's Theater of Washington will stage a reading at the Center of Mark Stein's play, "Joseph." Again, cultures mix as the play's Jewish parts are played by Gentiles and the Gentile parts by Jews. Director Ken Bloom deliberately reversed the roles, said playwright stein, with results that both surprised and pleased him. "It opened up the play," said Stein, "and kept us all very honest."
The play centers on Joseph on his 108th birthday. Surrounded by a nagging wife of 89 years and materialistic sons, Joseph takes his grandson on a walk through the past to find the source of his present discontent.
On Nov, 6 a week-long book fair will begin with Marvin Kalb and Ted Koppel, authors of the novel "In the National Interest," on hand to autograph their books and talk with visitors.
Through Oct. 30 litographs by Israeli artist Shalom of Safed will be on exhibit in the Center's Goldman Fine Arts Gallery. Art International Magazine has called Safed "naive but not primitive" and praised him for "lively rendering of Biblical scenes."
A series of films entitled "The Artist's Vision" will also run during the festival and a number of other activities are scheduled. Most of the events are either free or low in cost, and all are open to the public. For further information call the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, 8810100.
On view now at the Bethesda Art Gallery on Norfolk Avenue is a generous selection of Raphael Soyer's etchings and lithographs made in the 1940s and 50s. They are being shown through November in conjunction with the National Collection of Fine Art's display of Soyer watercolors and drawings. These works offer a dispassioned look at faces and genre scenes from the Depression era. Soyer, an urban realist, recorded the American scene as it was, leaving the techniques of exaggeration and artistic rearrangement of a subject by the wayside. He relays the picture, leaving the conclusions to us.
It is a very low key show. Many of the works are studies and some compositions are after paintings for which the artist is better known, although a few of the etchings, such as "Head of Young Model" and "Waiting" are quite eloquent.
It is interesting to see both the prints in the Bethesda exhibition and the drawings at the National Collection. Together they offer insights into Soyer's preference for American subject matter stemming from the traditions of American illustration rather from European trends.
Beyond the Soyer exhibit, there is more to see at the Bethesda Art Gallery. The shop carries exclusively prints made by American artists in the first half of our century. Within the specialization of printmaking, the range of styles of the numerous artists is fascinating.