Lightning in the Brain

Lightning in the Brain,
 (formerly titled Who Was I?) is a music-theatre piece inspired by our need to remember. In it, I try to shape my recent experiences as a newly old man of 71 into a narrative about forgetting and remembering, about young and old love, about losing and finding yourself on the streets of 1960s Paris, in Hollywood or in a rusting Chevy van looking for America. It all started with some songs I started writing in 2013, about a year after TJT closed. Naomi Newman suggested I make a piece of theatre around the songs.

So Naomi and I developed Lightning in the Brain over an eighteen month period. Naomi also directs. Most readers probably know that she and I have worked together for several decades and were co-founders of Traveling Jewish Theatre.


Lightning in the Brain will run at The Marsh,  one of my favorite venues in San Francisco for new theatre, for eight weeks – May 19 to July 9. The press opening is June 2. Closes July 9. I’ll perform on Thursdays at 8PM and Saturdays at 5PM. Visit The Marsh for tickets.  If you enter the code word lightning, you’ll get a $5 discount.


I’ll be having post-show conversations with some remarkable people addressing different themes from Lightning in the Brain.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, May 21 after 5pm Performance:
Susan Moon is a writer and lay Zen teacher living in Berkeley. Her books include the memoir, This is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity.

Thursday, May 26 after 8pm Performance:
Jonathan Omer-Man a is a writer, editor, translator, lecturer, and rabbi with an abiding interest in Jewish mysticism.

Thursday, June 2 after 8pm Performance (Opening Night)
Naomi Newman was a concert singer, television actor, improvisational theater director, and psychotherapist before co-founding Traveling Jewish Theatre, in 1978, with Corey Fischer.  She wrote, directed and performed dozens of original theatre pieces during TJT’s  34 year-long existence.

Saturday, June 4 after 5pm Performance:
Jonathan Greenberg is a teacher and scholar based at the Gould Center for Conflict Resolution at Stanford Law School. Jonathan is currently writing a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. (with Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s former lawyer and strategic advisor).

Thursday, June 9 after 8pm Performance:
Zoketsu Norman Fischer  (pictured, l.)   is a poet and Zen Buddhist priest. He served as co-abbot of San Francisco Zen Center from 1995-2000. He is presently a Senior Dharma Teacher there, as well as the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation.

Saturday, June 11 after 5pm Performance:
Susan Griffin is the author of 21 books including the ecological and feminist classic, Women and Nature and A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Saturday, June 18 after 5pm Performance:
Margaret R. Miles is Emerita Professor of Historical Theology, The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, of which she was from 1996 until her retirement in 2002. Her recent books include The World Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought (Blackwell 2005). The Long Goodbye: Dementia Diaries is forthcoming (2016).

Thursday, June 23 after 8pm Performance:
Michael Moran is co-founder and  co-artistic Director of  Ubuntu where he has directed and produced over fifteen plays.  Ubuntu is a site-specific theater theater company based in Oakland with a mission to inspire compassion across socio-economic and racial barriers.

Saturday, July 2 after 5pm Performance:
China Galland is an award-winning author of several non-fiction works including Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves (HarperOne).  Galland, who is married to Corey Fischer,  has lectured at Harvard University, Columbia and Cornell among others. She has led pilgrimages in Nepal, India, France and Spain.

Saturday, July 9 (last show):
Julie Hébert is a playwright, director, screenwriter, producer (American Crime on ABC), and Former Bay Area resident.


Below is a video clip from the most recent performance of Lightning in the Brain, February 3, 2016 at The Marsh.

You can read some “outtakes” from Lightning in the Brain by clicking here

Donate now!

 Photos from Lightning in the Brain by Ken Friedman

2 thoughts on “Lightning in the Brain

  1. Over several years I have gotten to know China, but not had the pleasure or privilege of getting to know you. At 68, I know what the loss of interlinked recollections that I used to enjoy and rely on means to me. Such sadness and rage at the coming darkness. And when I was much younger, (was I ever as young as I remember) I used to work for performing arts groups, not as a creator or actor, but either back stage or in the box office. All artisans can use the skills and experience of obsessive-compulsive bean counters and organizers. We serve you, so you can show others what genius creation looks like in real life performance time. So from all kinds of perspectives, I am so looking forward to your performance.

    As the O-C person I am, I am drawing to your & The Marsh’s attention that The Marsh’s linked site from your web site says in one place that Opening Night = June 7th and a second reference to June 2.

    Also, your website references China Galland as an after-show conversation, but didn’t see her name on The Marsh website.

    Please to forgive my pickiness, I just wish you all such a good run.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s