Joanne Koch's many plays include Soul Sisters, a three-character multicultural musical written with Sarah Cohen, with original songs by Mark Elliott and other traditional African American and Jewish music. Soul Sisters premiered at the Theatre Group of the Berkshires, has toured to thirty-one theaters, universities and communities including Boston U., Syracuse, Marquette, Hamilton College, Clark University, Franklin & Marshall, SUNY Albany, Bradley University, Philadelphia Community College, National-Louis University in Evanston, Indiana University, University of Missouri, the Young Leaders United of Chicago sponsored by the Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League, at Joanne’s alma mater, Cornell University, and, most recently, the Clockwise Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois.

Joanne Koch is co-editor of the anthology
Shared Stages: Ten American Dramas of Blacks and Jews, which includes the plays Driving Miss Daisy, Fires in the Mirror, I’m Not Rappaport, Medal of Honor Rag, and her own multicultural musical Soul Sisters, published by State University of New York Press and also distributed at amazon.com.

American Klezmer, an original musical with collaborators Sarah Cohen, composer Ilya Levinson and lyricist Owen Kalt, was produced at the Egyptian Arena Theatre in Los Angeles to great acclaim, presented in 2013 in a special concert reading in Evanston, Illinois and scheduled for a workshop prior to a new production in 2014.

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Stardust, published by Dramatic Publishing (www.dramaticpublishing.com) and winner of the National Nantucket Short Play Competition, produced in NYC at the Times Square Theater and in Ft. Lauderdale at the Pine Crest Secondary School and is now being presented at schools and theaters nationwide.

Sophie, Totie & Belle, based on a fictional meeting of the late entertainers Sophie Tucker, Totie Fields and Belle Barth, co-authored with Sarah Blacher Cohen, with original music by Mark Elliott and songs associated with these entertainers, is a four-character musical that ran in New York City at the off-Broadway Theater Four on March 15, 2000 after sold-out runs in Queens, NY Theatre in the Park, Boca Raton, Florida, Miami, Philadelphia, New Hope, Albany, and the Forum Theater in New Jersey, the Drama Center in Deerfield Beach, the Wilton Theater in Ft. Lauderdale, Theatre Works in Sarasota.

Belle Barth: If I embarrass you, tell your friends, a two-character musical Koch developed with composer Ilya Levinson and lyricist Owen Kalt focuses on comedienne Belle Barth, dubbed the “female Lenny Bruce,” and makes chopped liver of the double standard and censorship of the fifties era. Belle premiered November 9, 2008 at Theo Ubique Theater at the No Exit Cabaret in Chicago, where it ran through December 21, 2008, recommended for a Jeff Award and on Chris Jones’ recommended list in the Chicago Tribune. Belle was featured in the August Stages ’08 Festival at Theatre Building Chicago. Lainie Kazan starred in a concert reading of the original musical in 2012 at the Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles and a workshop in 2013. Joanne is currently completing a screenplay, Belle, on the life of this remarkable comic.

Danny Kaye: Supreme Court Jester, a four-character musical about the man who starred as Walter Mitty and Hans Christian Anderson, co-authored with Sarah Cohen, has many original songs by Mark Elliott as well as others associated with Kaye. “Danny” premiered in Albany, toured the East Coast and the Midwest and was produced in Boca Raton, Florida at the Atlantis Playhouse.

Joanne Koch wrote
A Silver Dish, based on Saul Bellow’s short story and adapted with the Nobel Laureate’s permission, produced with Sarah Blacher Cohen’s adaptation of Bellow’s The Old System, as part of Saul Bellow’s Stories on Stage, using three women and five men, at the New York State Writers Institute in Albany and in San Diego at the Barbra Streisand Festival of New Plays starring Harold Gould. Presentations as a 2005 memorial to Bellow were done at the Egg Performing Center in Albany, New York, the Spertus Institute in Chicago and the Milwaukee Public Library. The Bellow adaptations were published in 2010 by Purdue University Press in a special edition of Studies in American Jewish Literature.

Courage like a wild horse, using four women and four men, was presented at the Victory Gardens Reader’s Theater, the American Indian Center and at the Chicago Writers’ Bloc New Play Festival. The play is an adaptation of the book, Where Courage is Like a Wild Horse by Sharon Skolnick and Manny Skolnick, the true story of Okee Chee, a Native American girl whose year in an orphanage brought her to the brink of suicide but ultimately led to a discovery of her identity and her talent as an artist.

Safe Harbor, calling for three women and seven men, is based on the true story of one family’s survival due to heroic Greek activities in World War II, featuring Greek and Ladino music selected by world-renowned tenor Alberto Mizrahi, had its premiere at the Organic Theater in Chicago, was produced in Los Angeles and in Chicago at the Chicago Historical Society in a special performance sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Diocese and the American Jewish Committee for Ohi Day--Greek Resistance Day--and at National Louis University in Evanston through a Cultural Fund Grant from the Evanston Arts Council. Safe Harbor has been translated into Greek and is currently being developed as an opera, with original music composed by Ilya Levinson, to be produced in Athens and Thessaloniki. The screenplay has been completed for a feature film to be shot in Greece.

Henrietta Szold: Woman of Valor is a play about “the most remarkable Jewish woman of the 20th century,” according to David Ben Gurion. In the 2-person drama, one mature woman plays Henrietta, and one younger character actor plays various men in her life, including eminent scholar Louis Ginsburg, supreme court justice Louis Brandeis, Ben Gurion and Henrietta’s assistant with Youth Aliyah, Hans Beht. Henrietta founded Hadassah, now numbering over 300,000 American members, and went to Palestine herself to established clinics and hospitals that continue to serve in Israel as the medical salvation of Israelis and Arabs. Before and during World War II, she saved thousands of children from the Holocaust through Youth Aliyah.

Henrietta Szold: Mother to a Multitude is a one-woman, one-hour adaptation that is currently touring the Midwest featuring the woman called “the Helen Hayes of Chicago, Roslyn Alexander.

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Nesting Dolls, based on the true story of a woman struggling to overcome childhood sexual abuse and emerging integrated and supportive, is performed by three women and three men. Nesting Dolls was broadcast on local PBS stations after winning the Southern Illinois University Best Play Award and produced to rave reviews in Michigan and toured to Northwestern University, with portions excerpted in the Southern Illinois University anthology The Good Parts. Teeth, an irreverent comedy about sex and power, was produced in Chicago at the Theatre Building and in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the API Theatre, and received an Illinois Arts Council grant and development support from the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc.

Other plays by Joanne Koch include the following:

A Leading Woman, four women, six men, set during the Actors’ Equity Strike of 1919, which received staged readings through grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc., as well as a production in Waukegan, Illinois.

Haymarket: footnote to a bombing, uses a story theater approach employing four women and six men to view the 1886 Haymarket riot from the point of view of the widows of those unjustly executed. Haymarket won the Chicago Cultural Center Patrons' Award and the Eighth International Playwrighting Contest sponsored by the Piscator Foundation and Southern Illinois University where it was produced and directed by Christian Moe.

The 6-person musical with composer James Lucas,
Hearts in the Wood, won an Illinois Arts Council Playwriting Fellowship and was presented in Chicago at the Stages Festival, at Northeastern Illinois University and at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan. Jim Post appeared in the original presentation of Hearts, playing the West Virginia folk singer and dulcimer maker brought back to life when he discovers his citified granddaughter.

Teeth, a feminist farce on the connection between sex and power, is set in the late seventies and employs three women and four men to send up notions of militant women, chauvinist men, venal shrinks, and sensitive couples genuinely trying to change. Produced in Chicago and Michigan after development at the Midwest Playwrights Conference, Dale Wasserman director, and readings at the Victory Gardens Theater funded by the Illinois Arts Council and the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc., this comedy allows us to laugh at some real challenges at the heart of the battle between the sexes.

Sandburg Among the Goats is a one-man show, with a guitar accompanist, that requires the famous poet to hit high points of career as journalist, Lincoln biographer and poet of the people, finally coming to grips with his personal demons. The show toured Illinois, including Harper College, the Galesburg Sandburg Festival, Chicago Writers’ Bloc Festival and the Society of Midland Authors Benefit.

“Flying Feathers” 

by Joanne Koch, Ilya Levinson & Jennifer Stafford
©2010 Joanne Koch, Ilya Levinson, Jennifer Stafford

a musical for the whole family adapted by award-winning writer Joanne Koch from her teleplay broadcast originally on CBS

Young Duvid wants to play in his family’s “klezmer” band—specializing in happy, celebratory music.  His older brother wants to win the hand of Rachel. So the brothers travel to the neighboring town of Chelm, famous for more than its share of foolish people.  Together their adventures with these big-hearted folks, teach Duvid to perform and help his brother win a lovely and clever bride. The delightful music is by noted composer Ilya Levinson. The story is suitable for children and the young at heart ages 5 to 105.  

Flying Feathers Cast Requirements: This family musical can be performed by middle school or high school students or adults with a minimum of 3 female singers, 3 male singers expandable to include a large chorus. Instruments can be played by the principal singers or by separate musicians: violin, trumpet (coronet or clarinet) and keyboard or piano.

Joanne Koch

Playwright

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© 2014 Joanne Koch. All rights reserved.