Monday, April 7, 2008

The Black Jew Dialogues

Ron Jones, left, as "Mabel" and Larry Jay Tish as "Esther" in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Larry Jay Tish is probably one of the most genial fellows one would ever want to meet. He calls himself a "Bu-Jew," meaning he believes in both Buddhist and Jewish traditions. His diet is fairly strict, but he is being tested while in New Orleans. Somehow, it is hard to pass on a shrimp po-boy from Domilise's or to sample from some of the swank eateries found in the Crescent City. Larry is the co-writer and co-creator of "The Black-Jew Diaglogues," premiering tonight and playing again tomorrow night (Tuesday) at Le Chat Noir. Le Chat's comely proprietress, Barbara Motley, was contacted by Tish a few weeks back when he learned that he was going to be presenting his show at nearby LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. Trying to piggyback on the other date, he offered Motley an opportunity to showcase the original comedy starring fellow Bostonian Ron Jones and himself. The series of vignettes runs nearly an hour and a half and is being co-presented by Anthony Beane Acting School and Community Theatre. Proceeds for tonight's show will benefit Le Chat Noir, while tomorrow night's proceeds will benefit Anthony Beane. Due to the nature of the show, Motley says she was insistent that Beane be brought into the mix as a sign of working with the diverse New Orleans theatre community and the importance of the message of Tish's "The Black Jew Dialogues," which stresses similarities between the African-American and Jewish communities. Throughout the performance, Tish and Jones will play characters not unlike themselves and will explore many of the issues that have strengthened and divided the two diverse communities. They even get into drag for the appearance of "Esther" and "Mabel," two older "ladies" who meet in a park. "At first they don't like each other," Tish explains, "but then they end up singing about the joys of food -- Jewish and soul food!" The multi-media presentation has lots of funny video bits too. As an example, Tish conducts man on the street interviews about a range of issues that turn out to be quite hilarious. Both Jones and Tish will employ the use of puppets for another segment of the show. Tish says the show has been playing well on college campuses, since its inception a little over a year and a half ago. The biggest break came when "The Black Jew Dialogues" was chosen to appear for 27 straight nights at the Edinburgh, Scotland Performing Arts Festival, which Tish describes as the world's largest. Based on its initial success, the show has been booked into other European venues like Leeds, England and has criss-crossed the country for most of the last year. Both Tish and Jones have had experience in improv theatre: Tish, who originally hailed from Brooklyn, had lots of experience acquired in Boston as did Jones, who was a native of Washington, D.C. "I wanted to do more and wanted to bring people together, especially after 9/11," confides Tish. He and Jones brainstormed in a hotel room to get the creative process started and that's the basic genesis of the material in the show. "We wanted to show the absurdity and stupidity of racism and hatred, especially between our groups," Tish notes. He acknowledges that there was a growing rift between blacks and Jews and he found that incredulous given the history of Jews being at the forefront of the battle to achieve civil rights. Tish promises an evening of fun and laughter, but with an underlying message. For ticket information, contact Le Chat Noir at 504-581-5812 or drop by tonight or tomorrow night at 715 St. Charles Avenue.

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