Seven Questions for: Schmekel

Schmekel is awesome. The “100% Transgender, 100% Jewish schtick-rock band” does songs about important things, silly things, and thingy things.

“Schmekel’s bespectacled transsexual singer-songwriters are guitarist Lucian Kahn and keyboardist Ricky Riot. Mohawked bassist Nogga Schwartz yells loudly, and genderqueer drummer Simcha Halpert-Hanson carries two big sticks.” (Read more about ’em here.)

And they were kind enough to hold forth on the vital topics in our Seven Questions:

1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

Lucian: Oscar Wilde has written a farcical, yet appreciative, song-cycle about the polymorphous perverse.  He’s a Jew from Bukovinia, and he’s got a Dynamophone.
Ricky: We are a band of openly Jewish inverts who play magical loud instruments. Three of us are short gentlemen who are rumoured to have even shorter organs. One of us is neither man nor woman. Our songs are gay and jolly yet not suitable for the faint of heart.

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

Lucian: A rock star!  Or possibly a Ninja Turtle.
Ricky: Some kind of performer.
Simcha: Well, it varied.  From ages 3-7 I wanted to be a painter; ages 8-12, I desperately wanted to be a famous actor, like Claire Danes.  And then from age 13 onward, I passionately devoted myself to the quest of *indie* (I abhored corporate rock) pacific-northwest stardom (I abhored the east coast). Thankfully, I no longer find the east coast an abhorrence.

3) Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

Lucian: I spend a lot of time singing about penises.  It’s hard to embarrass me.
Ricky: Lucian, I actually gave you a book about penises once. Did you read it? I hope you’re not embarrassed. Someone once lent me Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, insisting that it’ll change my life and help me understand her better. It was really dumb and I want those few hours of my life back.
Simcha: There are a lot of trashy teens-dying-of-cancer-while-falling-in-love books I am embarrassed to admit I’ve devoured.  Unless I am trying to prove my academic prowess or qualify my halachic knowledge base, I can’t think of any basic books I ought to have read by now and haven’t.

4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Lucian: Pro early Woody Allen.  He understands the importance of a good egg salad recipe.
Ricky: Also pro early Woody Allen. Biased opinion though because I have an uncle who looks exactly like him.
Simcha: A natural anti-depressant.

5) What’s your favorite non-English word?

Lucian: I identify strongly with the word feygele.
Simcha: I really love the Yiddish language.  I guess of all the words and names I’ve learned thus far, my favorite would be Faraynikte Shtaten [Ed.: United States] because it’s so long and intimidating to read in Yiddish.
Ricky: Shlemazal is a funny word and a funny concept. It’s a person with really bad luck. Also Abra Cadabra is in Aramaic. It means, “as it is said, it shall be created”. And how ‘bout some Hebrew slang: “Lefasbek” is to add someone on Facebook. And I’ll conjugate it for you. Hoo mefasbek, hee mefasbeket, anachnu mefasbekim…

6) What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

Lucian: I wish more people knew and cared about the problems facing queer homeless teenagers and trans people seeking medical care.
Simcha:  I agree with Lucian.  I also wish people had more sensitivity to gender-identity and the bathroom.  Stress is a powerfully debilitating force.
Ricky: I wish that more people including myself knew more about the process by which a capitalist economic system makes people poor.

7) Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with, and what kind of bagel?

Lucian: I would like to share an everything bagel with Paul Celan.
Simcha: I’d share a garlic bagel with Rebbe Schneerson and find out whether he is actually Mashiach. 😉
Ricky: Thelonious Monk, because that dude was nuts and probably really interesting, and might have taught me a few things about music. Onion bagel, toasted, with olive cream cheese and lox.


Catch Schmekel on May 20 at Chief Ike’s with GLOE, as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.

Read all of the Seven Questions interviews.

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Seven Questions for: Silvia Sparklestein

Silvia Sparklestein comes to You Had Me at Shalom: LGBT Jewish Speed Dating this Saturday* night with GLOE, as the fabulous drag yenta emcee of the event. Not only will she be helping to make romantic connections among the daters and schmoozers, she’ll also be performing a few numbers… and making sure everyone is eating enough.

Joining us from Queens, Silvia answered our seven most important questions in the world.

1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

I wear fabulous clothing. I sing and dance. And I sparkle. I’d be the perfect actor in any Shakespeare play (female roles, of course).

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

A Jewish mother. Definitely a Jewish mother. It’s every Jewish girl from Queens’ dream! Grow up. Have lots of Jewish babies. And guilt them into calling me everyday for the rest of their busy lives as doctors, lawyers and accountants.

3) Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

Two books. I would say the book I’m most embarrassed to have not read is Kosher by Design – Short on Time by Susie Fishbein. It’s supposed to be a fabulous Kosher cookbook with simple recipes. I love reading Kosher cookbooks to pass the time!

The other book I haven’t read is The Debutante Divorcee by Plum Sykes. After reading her book Bergdorf Blondes I truly felt like Plum connected with my inner soul the way no other writer has. (And with a first name like Plum! Oy Vey! Delicious!)

4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Woody and I go way back. Although he grew up in Brooklyn, our families always used to get together for the Pesach Seder at my parent’s house in Queens. I still wonder why he doesn’t use his real family name “Konigsberg.” Well, at least I kept my family name!

5) What’s your favorite non-English word?

“Kreplach” for a number of reasons. The most obvious is, who doesn’t like kreplach?! I eat kreplach everyday for breakfast. Definitely the breakfast of champions in my humble and modest opinion. Another reason I like the word kreplach is because of the yiddishe “chhhhhh” sound at the end! I love hearing goy-toys choke as they try to say it.

6) What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

That Barbra Streisand recorded a Christmas Album in 1967. Who knew a nice yiddishe meidella from Brooklyn knew anything about The Lord’s Prayer and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire?!

7) Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with, and what kind of bagel?

Definitely Wendy Williams! She and I have a lot in common, like, our shoes size! I’m a plain Jane so I would order a plain bagel (no seeds that can get stuck in your teeth) with low-fat cream cheese schmeared on one side and low-sodium lox spread on the other, extra cream cheese and extra lox spread. Wendy would order a cinnamon raisin bagel with butter… low-fat butter.

Read all of the Seven Question interviews.

 

Seven Questions For: David Bezmozgis

Bezmozgis (c) David Franco [Free World]David Bezmozgis comes to the Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival this Sunday along with Nadia Kalman (The Cosmopolitans) and Haley Tanner (Vaclav and Lena) for the panel discussion “Glasnost’s Children” which examines new fiction on the Russian-Jewish experience. Bezmozgis has been getting lots of acclaim ever since his debut collection of short stories, Natasha and in 2010 was named to the New Yorker’s list of “20 Under 40” highlighting the most promising fiction writers under the age of 40.  What about his new novel The Free World? Well, The New York Times said:

Might it be overstating the case to include this first-time novelist in the same sentence as such fine writers as Mr. Roth and Mr. Michaels? Well, Mr. Bezmozgis’s taut 2004 debut collection “Natasha and Other Stories” suggested that he might well be of those authors’ caliber; “The Free World” goes a long way toward confirming this status.

We asked him the Seven Questions over email and got the following. I’m willing to bet he’ll be more loquacious at the panel discussion.

1)    How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

The problem isn’t describing it to someone from the 19th century, the problem is describing it to someone in the 21st century.

2)    What did you want to be when you grew up?

Remarkably, this.

3)    Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

Many. But I’ll go with Proust.

4)    Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Pro, pre-1990s; con, post-1990s.

5)    What’s your favorite non-English word?

Basta

6)    What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

How about the definitions of fascism and socialism? Those words get thrown around a lot. Often interchangeably.

7)    Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with and what kind of bagel?

You mean we’d have to split one poppyseed Montreal bagel? Well, somebody ancient. Cleopatra. Or King David. Or Socrates.

Read all of the Seven Question interviews.

Seven Questions For: Mike Nussbaum

Mike  Nussbaum in Imagining MadoffMike Nussbaum is currently starring as Solomon Galkin in Theater J’s critically-acclaimed production of Imagining Madoff. He’ll also be speaking about his life and career working with David Mamet, Peter Brook, Roger Stephens and more on Monday night in the free program An Evening with Mike Nussbaum, Star of Stage and Screen. We sat down with him in his dressing room before a performance to ask him the seven questions.

1)    How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?
I’m sure they would be familiar with what I do. Stage actor today is the same as stage actor then. The technical aspect of what surrounds the actor has changed, but no performance.

2)    What did you want to be when you grew up?

An actor. I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a child at camp. I went to Camp Ojibwa in Wisconsin and my first role was as a clown who introduced the show to the parents and visitors who were in the audience. I did a big cartwheel onto the stage and froze. I slunk off the stage crying. And the fact that I still wanted to be an actor after that is insane.

3)    Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

I’ve never finished A Remembrance of Things Past.

4)    Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Pro! I love Woody Allen. His most recent film about Paris is wonderful. I auditioned for him once and I was told before I went in, “Don’t look at Woody!” He also has a giant mirror that runs the entire length of a wall behind him and you’re told, “Don’t look at the mirror.” It’s kind of limiting. I didn’t get the part.

5)    What’s your favorite non-English word?

I guess the one I’m using in the play, “menschleichkeit.” It’s become a favorite. It means compassion.

6)    What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

At the moment I’m thinking about the attitude towards unions has become so harsh and there is a failure to remember the enormous good that unions have created in this country. Standards of living. Work rules. They created the middle class for God’s sake.

7)    Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with and what kind of bagel?

Poppy seed! That’s my favorite. Right now I’d say Tony Judt, I’m reading his book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. He recently died; a brilliant writer, a polymath, linguist and his knowledge of the political world is so deep.

Read all of the Seven Question interviews.

Seven Questions For: Deb Margolin

Welcome to a new feature of The Blog at 16th & Q! Our team of writers, researchers, SEO aficionados, Google algorithm seers and Jewish social media machers were brought together at a secret underground bunker located in the sub-basement of the DCJCC to distill the seven most important questions ever. Over the next few months we will pose these questions to some of the fascinating and creative people who we bring to the J as part of our programming.

Our first subject is Deb Margolin, the playwright of Imagining Madoff, which has been enjoying sold-out previews at Theater J and has its press opening Tuesday night.

Deb Margolin1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

I’m a playwright, and a teacher. You guys had people like that!

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

Between the ages of 6 and 10, a physicist during the week and a ballerina on the weekends; between the ages of 11 and 13, a menstruating person; between the ages of 14 and 20, a blues musician; between the ages of 21 and 27, I wanted to be Henry Miller; thereafter, I wanted to be what I am now.

3) Is Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

MOBY DICK

4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

con/pro i.e: I have enjoyed his cinematography, I have enjoyed moments of his comedy, like when he gestured with a record cover and the LP flew out of the jacket and smashed against the wall; his sense of vaudeville, and his sense of topography and culture, as in Vickie Cristina Barcelona. I did not think it was in particularly good taste for him to marry his partner’s daughter, and I have not enjoyed his portrayal of women in many cases. I’m confused as to why no Jewish women EVER appear in his movies.

5)What’s your favorite non-English word?

oiskedrait: Yiddish for messed up, confused. Literally translated: turned-out

6)What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

Misogyny, and its pervasive corrosion of world ethics.

7) Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with and what kind of bagel?

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. And I’m gluten-intolerant, so I’d buy him an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese, and I’d eat the scallion cream cheese.

***

You can learn more about Deb Margolin on her website or watch video of her talking  about the genesis of Imagining Madoff at our first rehearsal along with explanations of the set and costume design on the Theater J Blog. Deb and director Alexandra Aron will be participating in a post-show conversation following the Sunday, September 4 evening performance.

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