Seattle Jewish Theater Company

The Last Seder
The last scene of The Last Seder.Founded by Art Feinglass, who is also the artistic director, in spring 2011, the mission of the Seattle Jewish Theater Company is to bring classic and contemporary Jewish theater to the Seattle area. The company began as a production by members of Temple Beth Am with the support of Rabbis Beth and Jonathan Singer. Feinglass directed Jennifer Maisel’s The Last Seder, which had won awards and critical kudos at performances in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.It proved to be an excellent choice. A warm, sensitive, and funny play about a Long Island Jewish family dealing with contemporary concerns of marriage, aging and the power of tradition to heal family relationships, the subject matter had a lot of appeal. An article about the play and the nascent theater group in The JT News helped to stimulate interest in the production. Originally scheduled for one performance in the 300-seat University Prep Theater next to the temple, tickets quickly sold out and a second performance was scheduled to accommodate the demand. The cast then brought the show to Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue where it was welcomed by Rabbi Jim Mirel and performed to great effect on the limited space of the bima. With three performances in two venues, the Seattle Jewish Theater Company was officially launched.

Several cast members from The Last Seder also appeared in the company’s second production, The World of Sholom Aleichem by Arnold Pearl, presented in the fall of 2011. The show also included The House That Was Too Small, a play adapted by artistic director Art Feinglass from a classic story of Chelm.

The cast was expanded to include a number of Jewish and non-Jewish actors from throughout the Seattle area. Seattle Magazine featured the SJTC in its November issue and quoted Feinglass noting that the company was like the old Levy’s Rye Bread ad: “You don’t have to be Jewish to love the Settle Jewish Theater Company or to be in the cast, the crew or the audience.”

With the goal of gaining visibility for the new company and establishing a presence on the Seattle scene, the SJTC performed at five venues throughout the Seattle area, including the Kline Galland Home in Seward Park, the annual fundraiser for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society at Herzl-Ner Tamid on Mercer Island, The Summit on First Hill, Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue and the Presbyterian faith-based senior residence Skyline at First Hill. With a total audience attendance of some 700 people for the fall shows, the SJTC was achieving its goal of visibility in the Seattle community.

In the spring of 2012 the SJTC presented the Tony award winning The Last Ballyhoo. Written by Alfred Uhry, author of Driving Miss Daisy, the play is a romantic comedy set in 1939 Atlanta as Gone with the Wind comes to town for its world premiere. Hitler has invaded Poland but the biggest concern of the Freitag family is who is going to Ballyhoo, the annual lavish Jewish socialite ball.

The play focuses on the challenges of assimilation, antisemitism and generational conflict. In that focus the play, and the SJTC production, carries on a century-long tradition of Jewish theater.

In the fall of 2011 the University of Washington School of Drama posted an audition notice for The Last Night of Ballyhoo. As a result, several very talented students auditioned for roles in the play and one will be playing a leading role.

SJTC also connected with the prestigious Seattle Jewish Film Festival, working with Pamela Lavitt, then for the American Jewish Committee now for the SJCC. The cast performed the opening scene of The Last Night of Ballyhoo just before the 8:30 film showing at the Uptown Theater on Queen Anne on Wednesday evening, March 21. A return engagement is scheduled for March 6, 2013 when SJTC will bring Crossing Delancey to this year’s film festival.

The full play was performed at the University Prep Theater adjacent to Temple Beth Am on Saturday night, March 24 and Sunday afternoon, March 25; for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society on Saturday night, March 31 and at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill on Saturday night, April 14 and Sunday afternoon, April 15.

Ed Asner and Art Feinglass
Ed Asner congratulates SJTC at 2012 AJT Conference

In January 2012, the Seattle Jewish Theater Company joined the Association of Jewish Theater (AJT) an international network committed to the enhancement of Jewish culture through theatre and to supporting, preserving and promoting the development of Jewish theater. In February Art Feinglass represented the SJTC at the AJT’s 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Playwrights, actors, producers and theater reps from throughout the US exchanged plans and ideas for presenting Jewish theater.

Shmoozing with Theo
Kibitzing about kibbutz life at the 2013 AJT conference with guest artist Theodore Bikel.


At the AJT 2013 conference, held in May in Minneapolis, guest artist Theodore Bikel joined the delegates.  After an evening’s performance and discussion about his award-winning  roles in the theater and on film Bikel and Art exchanged notes about the years they had each spent on kibbutzim in Israel.

Version 2
At Kulturfest in New York in June 2015 Art chatted with Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics for Fiddler on the Roof.