Peepilton the Musical comes in third in The Washington Post Peeps Contest

         Actress Sara Chase, presently appearing in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and her cousin documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner (The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs Goldberg, and Rosenwald) submission of  Peepilton the Musical came in third in The Washington Post annual peeps contest.

Their entry, named Peepilton the Musical, is based on the Broadway hit Hamilton, was judged a third place winner in the contest.  The announcement of the award appeared Sunday in TheWashington Post magazine.

It was Kempner’s thespian cousin who had the insights  how to construct a theatre based diorama because she stared on Broadway in First Date the Musical. Chase also saw Hamilton. Inspired by the musical she came up with the concept and executed it, and Kempner just delivered it.

Unlike her cousin, Kempner is  just hoping to see Hamilton. And who knows since First Lady Michelle Obama loved the show  so much and invited the cast to present at the White House, maybe she will invite them to present Peepilton the Musical to another group of  students.

Peepilton the Musical!

Created by Aviva Kempner, 69, Washington, and Sara Chase, 32 , New York


Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.52.27 AM
Photos by Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post.

A miniaturized version of Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre may be the closest either maker of this diorama gets to seeing “Hamilton.” The hit musical is effectively sold out for months to come, with prime seats going for more than $1,000 on secondary-sales sites.

Created by D.C. documentarian Aviva Kempner (“Rosenwald,” “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”) and her cousin, actress Sara Chase (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), “Peepilton the Musical!” captures a tableau of marshmallow bunnies in five of the show’s big roles: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and, along a catwalk in the back, sisters Peggy and Angelica Schuyler, as well as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, who was Hamilton’s wife. (Onstage, the singing trio, dressed in bustled gowns, has been likened to an early America version of Destiny’s Child.) Two lucky theatergoers, holding copies of Peepbill magazine, look on from the side.

Stage lights, above and below, set everything off to glorious dramatic effect, using key-ring mini flashlights whose lenses have been colored with Sharpie pens. The costumes were created with wide cloth ribbon — a secret Chase says she picked up over four years of submitting to Peeps contests with Kempner.

Chase, who worked on Broadway (“First Date the Musical”) before moving to television, brought her knowledge of stagecraft to the construction of the scene. But she says it’s something more ineffable than lights, sets and costumes that completes the transformation of humble confections into the cast of a hot Broadway musical.

In a word, she says, the secret to a good Peeps diorama is magic. “Isn’t that what theater is all about?”

See the other winners here!

Aviva Up the Coast

It’s been quite the month for Rosenwald, as screenings continue at film festivals and Community Centers along the coast! On March 13th, Aviva returned to the Maine Jewish Film Festvial, where she had shown The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, to a warm reception. Rachel Talbot Ross, president of NAACP of Portland served as MC for the screening, as well as an encore screening the following night. Rachel Talbot Ross also plans to run for Maine state office and is the daughter of Representative Gerald Talbot, a man who reorganized NAACP in Maine and became the first president of NAACP chapter in Portland.

The Maine Jewish Film Festival screenings were also accompanied by a panel of women film makers. Joining Aviva were two amazing Israeli film makers: Shirly Berkovitz (The Good Son, Dir.) and Hilla Medalia (Censored Voices, Prod.).

Left to right: Aviva Kempner, Shirly Berkovitz, Hilla Medalia

On March 19th, Aviva attended a screening at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Washington DC. At the screening were Doris A. Dearing Johnson, Vyllorya Andrette Evans, and Thelma D. Jones.
All three ladies have their own Rosenwald school connection- Doris attended Higison-Rosenwald in Aberdeen, Mississippi where her mother Ora Lee James Bailey was the principal and where Vyllorya’s mother also taught. Thelma attended the Greene County Training School-South Greene High School in Snow Hill, NC. Before the screening, the women talked about their experiences with the schools.

Left to right: Doris A. Dearing Johnson, Vyllorya Andrette Evans, Aviva Kempner, Thelma D. Jones

March 22nd was a big day- beginning with this screening at the US Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in Washington DC. She was joined at the screening by Charles Smith, Gladys Gary Vaughn, and David Leon King.

Left to right: Charles Smith, Aviva Kempner, Gladys Gary Vaughn, David Leon King

Aviva ended the day with a trip to north for the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival where the filmed screened for a packed house of over 500 people at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts.


High profile court cases have a way of capturing the collective attention of the public and dominating news cycles. Think Rodney King, OJ Simpson and Timothy McVeigh, to name a few vastly different circumstances and outcomes. However, despite their differences all these cases shaped — or in many cases brought to the forefront– a major national conversation that extended beyond the courthouse and throughout the nation. While the names listed above may be more familiar to us today, Leo Frank rang just as many bells in the mid 1910s. The quick story of Frank is that he was a young Jew from Brooklyn who relocated to Georgia and became the superintendent of a pencil factory where a young woman was murdered. Frank was quickly suspected, convicted on scant evidence, given a life sentence, then dragged from his cell by a mob and lynched from an oak tree in 1915. You can find a picture of his limp frame hanging from the branch while surrounded at knee level by stone faced white men defiantly staring into the camera, unmasked and indignant. The extrajudicial act was met with both fervent accolades and outrage. The Leo Frank trial and murder served as an indicator of the dripping antisemitism of the American South as well as economic insecurity throughout the region in the post Civil War era. Today, as groups such as the KKK and other fringe elements make more headlines than they have had in years it is highly important to remember past lessons.

The Rosenwald DVD will have an extra feature on Julius Rosenwald’s reaction to the Leo Frank trial and his support of the condemned. Rosenwald had every reason to be fearful of building the schools in the South after this case, but maybe because he was from the North he remained undeterred.

To read more about Leo Frank check out this article on The Tablet here.

Augusta Savage gets nod in NYT Style Magazine

In a brief column titled “The Writer’s Room”, Darryl Pinckney mentions Augusta Savage while reflecting on the room in which he wrote his recent novel. The room was part of what was once the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts, founded by Savage, and later became the Harlem Community Art Center. Augusta Savage was awarded money from the Rosenwald Fund.

Read the full article in the NYTimes, here.