The Furnace

One Writer. One Story. Read to completion (with vigor).

Month: May, 2015

Lisa Nicholas-Ritscher and the Shtick Figures

by Anca Szilagyi

In anticipation of Lisa Nicholas-Ritscher’s performance of “Fake Books” on Thursday, I asked her about her relationship to klezmer and writing.

AS: How did you get into klezmer? Does it influence or complement your writing? How?

LNR: I first heard klezmer music in college, living next door to a kibbutz. The kibbutz had a giant RV with “Merry Mitzvah Tank” lettering on it and it would park on our block and I could hear the music, but didn’t know what it was. I had played the clarinet growing up and had been exposed to classical, oompah, and the peppier cousin to oompah, the corridos of Northern Mexico and Texas. I am actually new to playing klezmer music; I found Bernice Maslan through an acquaintance at work; she is a musician and activist and director of several klezmer groups, as well as other genres. She hosts a monthly klezmer jam session that, when out performing, goes by the name Klez Chaos. She also created, designed, and maintains a website on the local klezmer music scene: Our ensemble for this performance is called The Schtick Figures and we come from all different traditions: classical and Baroque mandolins, Ukrainian music, klezmer, Sousa, jazz, and Irish music.

Music influences my emotional landscape and in that sense, it informs my writing. Klezmer, in particular, with the eastern modes and the proximity to the human voice, is moving to me, as well as, as they say on Bandstand, having a good beat that you can dance to 🙂 I am also interested in persona, or “schtick” and klezmer seems to me to strip away that outer layer, and that is what I’m trying to do in a written piece as well.

A Story Turned Rock Opera: Excerpt from “Fake Books” by Lisa Nicholas-Ritscher

by Anca Szilagyi

Our next event, Lisa Nicholas-Ritscher’s story-turned-rock opera “Fake Books” is in just one week! Join us on May 14 at 7 pm, live at Hollow Earth Radio, 2018 E. Union Street, or online at Lisa’s bringing her klezmer troupe–get ready for tubas!

Here is a taste of what you’re in for:

Abstract: The anatomy of the Three Selves in the boom-and-bust town of Leavenworth, WA.


Background: “Everyone has three selves: the public self, the private self, and the secret self. “ —Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Results: The folk of the failing town pulled off an amazing feat of reinvention and risk; they restyled their entire, northwestern backwater town after a village in Bavaria. As the new facades, frontages, porticoes, and Mai pole were erected; a new public self was also constructed:  a persona, a version of the town meant for outsiders to view. It was a literal decision for two-facedness. Relative to the outside world, Leavenworth became a town that requires an audience.


Conclusion: In America’s Bavarian Village, one must don a costume, a dirndl or lederhosen, to work the tourist crowds. The secret life hides behind an extra layer of fake.