Sarasota Jewish Theater is revived as a professional operation

Carole Kleinberg, the former artistic director of the Banyan Theater Company, is spearheading a revival of the Sarasota Jewish Theater as a professional company that will operate in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

Despite the demise of a previous incarnation of the Sarasota Jewish Theater, director Carole Kleinberg is eager to prove that the community is ready for, and needs, a new, more professional version.

She admits the timing could be better – opening a theater in the middle of a pandemic adds to the challenge – but she is moving forward in leading a revival of SJT with a series of online performances that begin Jan. 31.

“There are 38,000 Jewish households in the Sarasota-Manatee area – that’s households, not individuals,” said Kleinberg, the former artistic director of the late Banyan Theater in Sarasota. “It seems to me in a community with 38,000 households and in a world where haters have been able to crawl out from under rocks and felt permission to spread their anti-Semitism and fear of others, that there should be a vehicle for spreading positive elements of Jewish history, culture, literature and humor.”

She said that Nate Jacobs proved something similar when he launched the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe more than 20 years ago.

The logo designed for the new Sarasota Jewish Theater.

“They’re doing the kind of thing I’m talking about by celebrating Black culture and literature without necessarily being only for a Black audience,” she said. “It seems to me we can do that in the Jewish community. We can bring all the creative and joyful and intelligent and deep aspects of Jewish culture to a broad audience. You don’t have to be Jewish to like Jewish theater.”

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