Jewish Book & Arts Festival Kicks Off With Comedy
Friday, September 28, 2018

From a peek into the inner workings of the TV industry, to a staged reading of a controversial Yiddish play, this year’s Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book & Arts Festival brings Houston book lovers a wide variety of literary greats and their inspiring and entertaining stories.

The 46th annual Festival kicks off Saturday, November 3 with writer, producer and director Nell Scovell, who takes the stage at 8 p.m. to talk about her recently published memoir, Just the Funny Parts … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club. Scovell is known for her work on The SimpsonsLate Night with David Letterman, NCIS, and The Muppets. She also created, and was executive producer on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The second woman ever to write for Letterman, Scovell stepped out from behind the scenes in 2009 to publicly call out the lack of gender diversity in late-night TV writers’ rooms after the Letterman sex scandal broke. Her juicy and laugh-out-loud book, which includes her experiences connected to the #MeToo movement, takes readers into The Simpsons writers’ room and onto the red carpet. Her memoir follows an earlier collaboration on the bestselling book Lean In with Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the foreword for the book.

The November 3-13, 2018 festival is jam-packed with talks and events for fans of top-notch literature, sports enthusiasts, theater-goers and history buffs alike. On Sunday, November 11 at 4 p.m., Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated Ben Reiter, who made a bold claim on the magazine’s June 2014 cover stating that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series will discuss his new book, Astroball. It tells the inside story of how a gang of outsiders found a new way to win—and not just in baseball.  Houston native Stephanie Wittels Wachs will talk about her new book, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, on Sunday, November 11 at 7 p.m. It’s a beautiful, yet funny memoir about addiction, grief and family. The author’s brother, Harris Wittels, a famous comedian who wrote for Parks and Recreation, died from a heroin overdose.

Rachel Kadish is this year’s featured author for the Festival’s Community Read Program. On Monday, November 5 at 8 p.m. she will discuss her book, The Weight of Ink, a story about an unwell historian who has a passion for Jewish history and an emigrant from Amsterdam in the 1660s who becomes a scribe for a blind rabbi. The following weekend, a staged reading of Issac Goldberg’s 1918 English translation of Sholem Asch’s controversial Yiddish play, God of Vengeance, will be performed, on Saturday, November 10 at 8 p.m. The play relates a family’s efforts to leave behind a shady past so their daughter can marry into a local Jewish family. The Grammy-winning composer of the Klezmatics, Lisa Gutkin, will perform her compositions and arrangements, along with local musicians, Donald Jacobs and Villie Schumann. New music will be premiered exclusively for the event.

New this year, Tablet Magazine will record its Unorthodox Podcast live from the Kaplan Theatre on Tuesday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m. The weekly podcast, hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz, offers a smart, fresh, and fun take on Jewish news and culture. Continuing with the theme of technology, on Monday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m., Catherine Price, author of How To Break Up with Your Phone, shares a feasible plan to break up—and then make up—with your phone, creating healthy habits on how we use technology. Local experts will join Price after her presentation for a panel on technology use as it relates to parenting.

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