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Museum Musings

Introducing Martha

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Hello there friends,

I love to say the acronym NMAJH like it's a new fragrance by L'Oreal.  Namaajjhh.  With a little aspirated breath at the end.  Namaste.  Nor'easter.  Nom de plume.

Martha on the Corbu ChaiseI, Martha Graham-Cracker, couldn't be more thrilled to announce that I was invited to create a cabaret in conversation with the collection at the NMAJH (or National Museum of American Jewish History).  I will be premiering that cabaret, entitled IT'S HIGH TIME I SAID SOMETHING, the first weekend of December 2014 -- this is your first warning.  I am putting together this really BIG SHOE in BIG SHOES with Andrew Nelson (bassist extraordinaire) as musical director and Elizabeth Stevens as director.  There will be a set design!  There will be a bar!  There will be a roving spotlight!  There will be six musicians backing my humble voice in a sumptuous manner!  I can hardly believe it....

I guess I should back up and explain a few

Why Martha at the Jewish Museum?

When I was asked to work at the Museum, the powers-that-be of NMAJH called it an "intervention."  Of course you say "intervention" and I instantly think of those times when you had to sit Uncle Joe down with all the family present and tell him he needs professional help.  But no no!   Context clues! As part of their "Open for Interpretation" Series, the Museum is aiming, with this "intervention," to encourage a conversation between what is presented within the Museum walls and a living breathing artiste. 

My first reaction to the collection was that of being overwhelmed.  So much to absorb in the collection.  So much to talk about in relation to the Jewish story in America.  My own dear mother, Isadora Duncan Hines, is the product of Russian Jewish emigres*.  (*So I'm Jewish.)  And Emily August, my "handler" from the Museum staff and Director of Public Programs, really gave me free rein with regards to how the cabaret addressed all things Jewish and American.  But she did hand me a key that unlocked the themes of the cabaret for me.   

That key was a DVD called BROADWAY MUSICALS:  A JEWISH LEGACY.  And it really did blow my mind.  And bring back some foggy memories.  Without the Jews, where would Broadway be, I ask you?  Nowheresville.  The history of the musical in America is woven tightly to Jewish-American composers.  Many of whom I kissed; now's my chance to tell.

So I, Martha, like Scheherazade, will weave a tale in song, this cabaret narrating my own interventions in the history of 20th century musicals, the men who wrote them, and how I did my part to give them the best advice possible, in bed and out.  Whether it was telling Lenny (Leonard Bernstein) to name his protagonist in WEST SIDE STORY Maria and not Martha (as much as that flattered me) or giving Stephen Sondheim the rhyme "a matinee, a Pinter play" over Sunday breakfast, I will finally come clean about how important I have been, what an enormous impact I have made, in the forging of the American musical.  


For information on OPEN for Interpretation click here