Theater Notebook: New Eco-Jewish Play Fest will create and present seven plays in just 24 hours

"Shushan on the Farm" at Coastal Roots Farm.
“Shushan on the Farm,” a Purim-themed play presented at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas in spring 2023.
(Courtesy of JFEST)

SD Jewish Arts Fest and Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas are collaborating on this first-time event


Despite losing its home of 29 years in 2022, the Lipinisky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival successfully returned for its 30th season last month with new producing partners, a new associate director, new programs and new performance venues around the county.

The festival will conclude July 16 with a first-time event that takes advantage of many of those new connections: the Eco-Jewish Play Fest, being presented at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas. In 24 hours, seven playwrights will create seven new plays and present them for an audience with the help of seven stage directors and 21 actors.

Playwright Karen Hartman.
(Karen Hartman)

The plays will range in length from seven to 10 minutes each and will be inspired by the eco-Jewish values of Coastal Roots Farm, which is on the Leichtag Foundation’s Leichtag Commons campus in Encinitas. Coastal Roots is a nonprofit Jewish community farm and education center that shares its organic harvest with the needy, offers farming education and serves as a Jewish community gathering space.

JFEST founding artistic director Todd Salovey said he believes this is the only ecologically-themed Jewish play festival in the country. The concept was dreamed up by Rebecca Fletcher, who is the director of Jewish Life at Coastal Roots Farm and worked as an actress and cabaret performer in Chicago before she recently moved to San Diego.

Playwright José Cruz González
Playwright José Cruz González is featured in San Diego JFEST’s Eco-Jewish New Play Fest on July 16, 2023.
(Courtesy of JFEST)

Salovey said he and the festival’s new associate producer Beccca Myers were introduced to Fletcher when JFEST and the Leichtag Hive presented a Purim-themed play, “Shushan on the Farm,” at Coastal Roots in the spring.

“JFEST loves to partner on projects that create new work which is unapologetically Jewish. That this project is also eco-friendly makes it even more exciting. This much creativity in 24 hours will be so exciting to make, share, and enjoy,” Salovey said, in a statement.

Myers said that the concept of growing farm crops is symbolic of the community-building Jews are focused on to build a better world.

“When we imagine and share new stories about the Earth, the climate crisis, and the future we hope for, we come much closer to creating that future. We build our world from the stories we tell, and far too many current stories are helpless, despairing or confusingly naive. Let’s tell more resilient, comforting, hilarious and inspiring eco-stories, towards a more loving, equitable and spiritually joyful world,” Myers said, in a statement.

The participating playwrights for the inaugural Eco-Jewish Play Fest are José Cruz González (“Under a Baseball Sky” and “American Mariachi”); Karen Hartman (“Roz & Ray”; “Gum”; “Going Gone”); Agyeiwaa Asante (“Thicker Than”; “Promithes, Promithes”); Deborah Stein (playwriting faculty member at UC San Diego); Yale Strom (“Chagall”; filmmaker of “Recordially Yours”); Haia B’chiri (Ph.D. writer and dramaturge at UC San Diego); and Carson Becker (artistic director of Chicago Dramatists).

The Eco-Jewish Play Fest will be performed at 6 p.m. July 16 at Coastal Roots Farm, Leichtag Commons, 441 Saxony Road in Encinitas. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and there will be an after-party at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $36. Purchase tickets at

Meanwhile, there are still two other theater-related events left in the JFEST season lineup later this week, but they’re both sold out: “Chagall” a musical retelling of Bella and Marc Chagall’s experience as refugees, written by Strom and Salovey; and The Whole Megillah New Jewish Play Festival production of “Hereville,” a musical for families. They’re being presented at New Village Arts theater in Carlsbad. For details, visit