Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Saturday, December 29, 2018
7:30 PM

Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
New York City

Help us celebrate the end of 2018 and dreams for 2019!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Jenny Romaine Designs "Soul Songs: Inspiring Women of Klezmer"


The Philadelphia Folklore Project presents Soul Songs: Inspiring Women Of Klezmer, a world premiere, one-night-only special event. Eleven extraordinary women breathe contemporary life into the centuries-old tradition of Eastern European Jewish folk music. Great Small Works’ Jenny Romainedesigns the stage spectacle to bring to life the musical vision of trumpeter Susan Watts.

October 28, 2018

Zellerbach Theatre | Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
3680 Walnut Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Tickets: $29-$49 
www.annenbergcenter.org or by calling 215.898.3900 

The brainchild of fourth generation klezmer musician and concert artistic director Susan Watts, SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER was created from the world-renowned trumpeter’s concern for the future of her art and appreciation of every individual involved. After all, Watts represents the youngest generation of an important klezmer dynasty reaching back to the Jewish Ukraine of the 19th century, and beginning with her great-grandfather, bandleader, composer, and cornet-player, Joseph Hoffman. The Hoffman family played for generations of Philadelphia-area Jewish weddings and parties, and their music became part of a distinctly Philadelphia klezmer repertoire. Watts is the sole living purveyor of the family’s traditional klezmer-style trumpet sounds, which have electrified Jewish American audiences in and around Philadelphia for decades.

“’Soul Songs’ is about the old and new intertwined,” says Watts, a 2015 Pew Fellow. “It is future provoking, intuitive, grass roots. ‘Soul Songs’ is about these women’s musical journeys, their artistry and their discernment to use the force of adversity to their gain. It is the klezmer of today and a prelude to future possibilities for the art and the communities it nurtures.”

SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER will feature new compositions, written and performed by three generations of women who bring contemporary meaning to this traditional Eastern European Jewish folk music form. Watts has assembled a stellar group of “Inspiring Women of Klezmer,” including violinists Alicia Svigals, Cookie Segelstein and Deborah Strauss, pianist Marilyn Lerner, clarinetists Zoe Christiansen and Ilene Stahl, trombonist Rachel Lemisch, accordionist Lauren Brody, flute player Adrianne Greenbaum and bassist Joanna Sternberg.

Working with Watts to fully realize her vision of “Soul Songs” as a true stage spectacle is Great Small Works founding member Jenny Romaine.

“Soul Songs is about this powerful orchestra, and I’m in awe of it,” says Romaine. “It’s a women composer’s orchestra, and that is interesting to me in that each woman is like a world and each is also a virtuosic player. Susan did these great interviews with all of the women: she asked them all the same questions. And each one’s answers were surprising. If you want to understand what’s happening in the music, the future and the past, you need to look at women. And very often, in many fields, they’re underrepresented, and that happens because we live in big structural systems of oppression all the time.”

 “The spectacle for me is like drugs for the eyes without the drugs,” says Romaine. “You’ve got to make the audience say ‘Wow.’ But it’s not spectacle for spectacle’s sake, because the music is so soulful. There’s such charm. The way I go about it is as an assortment of different elements that will then explode in this beauty. There needs to be transformation. We’ve kept the focus on the music, but we’ve used the interviews, thinking, too, about the title of a given musical piece, the mood, and the flow of the whole concert.”

“Philly is one of the great centers of Klezmer music in our hemisphere,” notes Romaine. “Many artists came here in the early 20th century. They belonged to musician families that played ritual music and carried a large repertoire of secular music, too. So Philly was a place where both secular and ritual Yiddish music could evolve. Some of the Soul Songs musicians, like Susan, and Rachel Lemisch, are descendants of these Klezmer dynasties. That’s one part of the spectacle—the Philly roots. So we’re trying to represent Philly soul and how you get there, through color, light, word, costume and sculpture.

“The audience will experience all those things happening at once, and really be able to listen to the music and feel all the facets within it. Because this is like a bunch of champagne bubbles in a giant champagne glass. Each one of these women is a divine musician, and she’s connected to something really, really, big, or a really, really, long whole legacy.

“I feel like these women are priests, without the rigmarole. They’re not telling you how to live. They’re just creating the lubricant. They’re creating the stuff that will enable the machine to keep running. That’s the soul. It’s that thing that makes a way when there’s no way, the water that gets through and wears a hole in the rocks. They’re leaders. Artists are leaders. Some people like to go to museums, some people go to a house of worship, some people go to a university, some of us go to a concert. And we’ll be thrilled and entertained, but I also think we’ll be taken to a really important level that we need right now.”

The performance is made possible with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Spaghetti Dinner at Puppet Fringe NYC

the Great Small Works Spaghetti Dinner
is proud to present 
a Late-Night Cabaret
at the first-ever International Puppet Fringe NYC Festival!

Friday, August 10, 2018
Spaghetti at 10:30PM in the outdoor Puppet Lounge
Cabaret at 11:00PM sharp


Lu Liu and Harrison Greene will perform music combining guitar and traditional Chinese pipa to string together two cultures and create original songs. 

Jenny Romaine excerpts from 
The Revival of the Uzda Grave Diggers: Part 2  

Between the bundist bootmakers of Minsk and the dashing sash weavers of Slutsk, there were the Gravediggers and Gardeners of UZDA.  Once a musar town in Yiddish Lite, now a sleepy shtetl in Belarus, UZDA is home to two adjacent cemeteries, one Jewish and one Muslim Tatar. This excerpt is phase 2 of project by theater director Jenny Romaine, singer/songwriter/accordionist/novelist Geoff Berner and translator Ben Kline, who followed their curiosity about the lost memories and folkways of the Gravediggers and Gardeners of UZDA and the central role of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Pagan funeral professionals, all living together in the primeval forest for hundred and hundreds of years.  

Paradox Teatro
Sofía Padilla and Davey T Steinman

In light of expanding border walls around the globe, Migraciones follows the voyage of refugees as they travel through sand, water and shadows, in search of a new home. Paradox Teatro is a collaboration between artists from México and the United States, communicating across cultures with puppetry, music, and poetry in English and Spanish.

Kathleen Kennedy Tobin
Turn Out Your Dead, New York Harbor, 1781
Sketch for Hulk and Fleet
Excerpt from work-in-progress puppet show about prison ships. 

Nick Knave
Outlaw puppeteer, storyteller, horror guru – direct from San Francisco.

Funding for Spaghetti Dinners made possible in part by the Puppet Slam Network; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; NY State Council on the Arts; Scherman Foundation; Doctorow Family Foundation; and Puffin Foundation.  Thank you!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Second Annual East Village Iftar and Spaghetti Garden Party

Friday, June 1, 2018
La Plaza Cultural Community Garden
9th Street and Avenue C, NYC

Dinner after sunset at 8:30
Admission: $15 sliding scale (no one turned away for lack of funds)
All ticket sales on site.
Info:  917-319-8104


Ramadan-inspired poets grove including poet SaaliSI and songs by Mariam Bazeed

Great Small Works’ historic “The True Story of Charas” cantastoria

"Pari Banu, Ravi Ahu," a remix of Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, performed by SaaliSI.


IFTAR is the meal that Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan to break the day’s fast. It is one of the ceremonial observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together.

Fasting starts at sunrise and ends at sunset. During this time Muslims abstain from food, water, and also wrongful acts like backbiting, fighting, and violence. The meal traditionally starts with water and a date when the adhaan (call to prayer) signifying the end of the fast begins. 

Woman shadow puppeteer Lotte Reiniger's 1926 oldest surviving animated feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed uses a silhouette animation technique Reiniger invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique is similar to Wayang shadow puppets, though hers were animated frame by frame, not manipulated in live action. Her work is important to the development of (western) shadow puppetry and film animation in general.  

The story is based on elements taken from One Thousand and One Nights, specifically "The Story of Prince Achmed and the Fairy Paribanou."

SaaliSi will play a live sound track to accompany an excerpt from Reiniger’s film.


Funding made possible in part by the Puppet Slam Network, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Doctorow Family Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the NY State Council on the Arts.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Signs of Spring Spaghetti Dinner

Great Small Works Spaghetti Dinner
Thursday, May 17, 2018, 7:30 PM
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South, NYC

Admission: $5-15 sliding scale (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Info: 917-319-8104
No reservations necessary.
Spaghetti Dinner, Judson Church December 2017
Aeilushi Mistry leads candle dance
Photo: Erik McGregor


Boxcutter Collective
"The Possession of Judy"
A new radical hand puppet show.
Creators/Performers: Sam Wilson, Jason Hicks, Tom Cunningham, Joe Therrien
Watch as Judy (a tough-as-nails New York City grandma) rejects the false binary of the left/right political rhetoric, and joins a coven of witches who are harnessing the power of the Divine Feminine in order to take down capitalism and its myriad symptoms plaguing society.

Kay Turner
"Spurning Fertility/Smashing Tchotchkes"
Performed as a lesson in feminist art history, Turner lectures as she shows the evolution of quaint, banal knick-knacks. The deeply, viciously secure understanding of women's fertility as vessel in need of seed is thoroughly dismantled. With a smash and a laugh!

Annie Wang
A dance solo excerpted from "Marigram," a longer work inspired by the mass protests of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and Tahrir Square in 2011, created in collaboration with Mohamed Yours Shika, Tuce Yasak, Yuan Liu, and Kay Hung.

Deer Leonardo
Marin Sander Holtzman and Lee Free's live devotional dance-music band, Deer Leonardo is both Southern Italian Deer magic and love letter to the collective rhythm of body and mind. The vibe is modern with lots of queer disco and fab funk influences to get you moving!
Joined by the dapper smooth T Thompson on bass and vocals, and the indomitable Chris Perraut on vocals and Moog.

Funding made possible in part by the Puppet Slam Network, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, NY State Council on the Arts, Scherman Foundation, and Doctorow Family Foundation.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Joel Kovel (1936-2018)

We are sad to hear of the passing of our friend, comrade, and loving collaborator Joel Kovel, whose life-long dedication to activism, political engagement, and the possibilities of political art-making has long been an inspiration to us. Despite his many happy obligations to family, writing, and politics, Joel took the time to be one of Great Small Works' board members, honoring us with his serious thinking and practical utopian dreams.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Hello Dear Friends,

It's that time of year again!
Time for the annual Purim celebration and Masquerade Ball

Brought to you by the Aftselakhes Spectacle Committee, in cahoots with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Great Small Works

Purim Unleashed! An Oracular Heist

Thursday, March 8:     7:30 doors 8pm preview show

Saturday, March 10:  8pm doors, 8:30 show + party

Sunday, March 11: 12-4pm kids carnival + parade

East Midwood Jewish Center
1625 Ocean Avenue
$12-20, no one turned away

See details here of the project and work process here: spectacle committee.org

Our shpil is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.