(From left) Brie Eley, Joshua Silverstein and Kimberly Green rehearsing "True Colors" (Photo/Maureen Rubin)
(From left) Brie Eley, Joshua Silverstein and Kimberly Green rehearsing "True Colors" (Photo/Maureen Rubin)

Jews grappling with diverse identities show their ‘True Colors’

What makes a Jew in modern times? It might well be kimchi on the seder plate, according to “True Colors,” a new show that brings to life the stories of Jews of color.

A production of the Santa Monica-based Jewish Women’s Theatre, it is scheduled for two Bay Area performances: May 19 in San Francisco and May 20 in Palo Alto.

The play is a series of short segments based on true stories and experiences. It’s not fully staged, like a play, but rather told directly to the audience by the actors.

In one story, an American man who is Jewish and Chinese faces a tough call at work. In another, a girl of Korean Buddhist and Jewish heritage claims her Jewishness and becomes a rabbi. And in another, an African-American Jewish boy thinks of himself as unique — until he finds out he isn’t.

That particular story is based on the true-life experience of Joshua Silverstein. The Los Angeles-based comedian and beatboxer is one of the five performers in the show, and also one of its writers.

“‘True Colors’ is not a typical storytelling showcase,” he said. “You’re not narrating; you’re talking to the audience as if it’s your own story.”

Of course, in this case, the story is his own.

“I grew up in L.A. I didn’t have lots of self-esteem,” he said. “The story is about finding something exciting in my uniqueness.”

Silverstein said it’s important to make the stories of Jews of color visible to a larger audience because there’s still a misconception about what Jews look like. “When people still think ‘Jews,’ they think white people, white people.”

Eventually, he realized that what was special was not that he was a black Jew, but that he was himself, and it’s this journey he highlights in the show.

In “True Colors,” most of the stories, like Silverstein’s, are about identity, said director Susan Morgenstern. And she thinks they are universally appealing.

“Ultimately, we all want to find our place and where we belong,” she said.

“True Colors,” 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at Jewish Community High School, 1835 Ellis St., S.F. $25-$30; $10 students. jewishwomenstheatre.com. Also 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 20 at Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. $25-$30. paloaltojcc.org/events

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.