International Fellow Mirta Kupferminc Tells Her Story

International LABA Fellow Mirta Kupferminc creates in a vast array of mediums to tell her story. She spoke to us from Argentina as she prepares for the debut of three of her works at LABAlive MOTHER: Martyr on April 24, 2014 at the Theater at The 14th Street Y.

At the Beginning

Q: In one word, describe your work?


Q: What is your primary medium?

A: I have no limitations. I’ve recently had a huge break-through in metal print-making. I would say that my work is very conceptual and I work in the specific medium I feel is necessary for each project.

Q: What influences you?

A: Referring to theme, my work’s core is memory, identity, and human rights. My life experiences deeply influence my work. It is all an expression of my own life and a kind of testimony of my world view.

Q: Describe your process for us.

A: Fortunately, I am full of ideas and I am very open to life. When something comes from an outside source that awakens my interests I wish to talk about that in my work. An image immediately comes to my mind. From there, I trust myself and accept the many other possibilities. In art, everything is endless. I begin trying to figure out how to reach my goal. If I see that I cannot do it by myself, I try to shape a team. Self confidence and a great collaborative group is very important in my creative process.

Q: How has being a LABA fellow informed you and your art?Nueva imagen

A: I AM MY WORK! I live what I am producing. I have spent my whole year working on this synnergy with my art. I usually immerse my soul in the work. It demands a lot of time because I always try to study what I am pursuing. My works for LABA opened many, many more ideas in my mind than other projects up to now. Being a LABA Fellow will forever remain with me. LABA’s ideals match perfectly with my inner searches in life: origin, identity, learning, group dynamics, exchanges of ideas, and producing art.

Q: How has “MOTHER” influenced you throughout this whole process?

A: My mother is a major figure in my work. She is an Auschwitz survivor and the feeling of responsibility for telling our story is the main intention in my creative process. Thinking about and understanding mothers both metaphorically and universally, not just in a personal way, made me experience so many different feelings, not only as a daughter or a mother, but also as a wife, sister, and as a friend to other women.

Q: How long does it take for you to conceptualize, create, and get to the final product?

A: LABA is the first time I think I’ve presented my work in a performance setting. Before this, I did some set design and I did an on-site installation in an art gallery of my work “The Skin of Memory.” LABA is a new way of conceptualizing my presentation and it was not easy for me. With guidance, support, and advice from the LABA team, the process was made easier.

Q: Final thoughts?

A: I am a hard worker that is always continuing to create. I work in so many different mediums: painting, printmaking, video, installation, book making, sculptural objects, and sometimes I am not worried about using labels for what I do. Although the materials differ, the search is always the same: identity, memory, knowledge, and testimony.

See Mirta’s work at LABAlive MOTHER: Martyr on April 24, 2014 at the Theater at The 14th Street Y.

Living in the State of Slim

“Camille? You know,  every woman needs an amazing pair of jeans.  Let me pull one for you.”

Over the December Holiday break I was in my home town shopping with a dear high school friend.  She took me to a clothing store where they ask you your name, what you’re looking for, quickly analyze your body type with a flutter of their eyes and immediately hunt down a few perfect outfits. (The store also gives your kids animal cookies and counts huge bathrooms as part of their real estate, and no this store does not exist in NYC).

They brought me a pair of jeggings.  I laughed at them.  More on that later.

6 months earlier than this,  I had been  puzzled by the fit of my clothes.  They felt weird.  Not tight, the way I normally experienced weight gain, but weird.  So I decided to pay a visit to the scale, which I had avoided for a complete year.

I found that in the time of my scale avoidance I had slowly put on 10 pounds.  And I wasn’t exactly at my ideal weight the last time I visited the scale, which is why I probably declined to visit it for a full year. My first step, after crying a little, was to recommit to healthy habits like working out at least 4 times a week, and track what I ate.  At first it worked.  In the first 6 weeks I lost about 5 pounds, which was great.

But then I hit a plateu.  A big one.  I didn’t lose any weight for 8 weeks, despite the exercising and the tracking.  It was getting exhausting too.  Not the exercising so much…I actually was enjoying that part.  But I was so tired of paying so much attention to what I ate.  I would much prefer to live my life rather than obsess about food, and it was starting to drive me crazy.

Can you relate?  If so, you might want to think about joining us at the Y on Monday nights, 6:30PM to learn about the State of Slim.  Because just as I was ready to throw in the towel and disappear into a box of cookies I learned about this new book and program, The State of Slim, or “The Colorado Diet”.  It whispered a phrase I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire lifetime to hear…”You can fix your inflexible metabolism”.   Before I learned exactly what I would need to do to fix the inflexible metabolism that I’d struggled with my entire life (first diet at the age of 8, anyone?) I read about the science behind the State of Slim, the inspirational way to build great habits, the connection between MY LIFE’S PURPOSE and my healthiest, happiest self.  That’s pretty heady stuff for a diet book.

Which is to say of course, that it’s truly not a diet. It is a plan for restructuring the way I approach and think about  my life.   I have lost a total of 15 pounds since that first weigh in, and have maintained that loss for 4 months, with very little struggle.  I have learned to eat, exercise and be active in ways  that I enjoy, that add to the quality of my life, that help me set a positive example for my children, and that help me fulfill my life’s purpose.

Again.  Pretty heady stuff for a diet book.

To learn more about the State of Slim, please visit their website at; Get the book, check out their facebook page, or come to our State of Slim group on Monday nights to hear what it’s all about.

I might wear the jeggings that I bought that day in December.  They really did know what they were talking about.



Camille Diamond is the Director of Community Engagement and Communications for the 14th Street  Y.

  Jeggings are leggings that are also jeans.



Creating a Work In Progress

BrookeBrooke Berman is a playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker who has had plays presented or produced by well-known organizations Steppenwolf, The Second Stage, Primary Stages, WET, The Play Company and Theater 7 Chicago and developed by The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Williamstown Theater Festival, The Jewish Plays Project, New Dramatists, The Playwrights Center, The Womens Project, The Royal Court Theatre, and the Royal National Theatre Studio. She’s written films for Natalie Portman, The Mark Gordon Company, Vox Films and Red Crown.  Her memoir “NO PLACE LIKE HOME” was published by Random House in 2010 and called “Highbrow” and “Brilliant” by New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix. She will be presenting a work in progress of a new work “HURRICANE” at LABAlive MOTHER: Martyr on April 24, 2014 at the Theater at The 14th Street Y. Brooke very honestly told us about her new work and her experiences with LABA.

Q: What is your primary medium?

A: I write plays and films. I just directed my first short film and I’ve written a memoir that was published in 2010.  I’m looking to do more prose writing, but I love the immediacy and sensuality of writing for performance.  I think the theater is my real home.

Q: Your writing is so full and complex, what influences you?

A: Overheard conversations, found imagery, deeply felt conversations, yearning…. the relationship between personal experience and political experience…  art exhibits, music, film, my child….  all of it!

Q: Describe your process.

A: Each play is different, but for the most part I write and write and write until I have something worth listening to. Then I bring actors in to read it to me and ask questions. Actors ask fantastic questions. Through hearing bits of text aloud and receiving it back, I am able to understand more accurately what is being said. I build from there, like a collage. With a film, I outline first. In many ways, plot is the least interesting part of storytelling to me. I’m much more interested in how a character feels and/or how they oscillate between states of being. Films are, by and large, about what happens. So I force myself to be very diligent about plot.  I think one of my teachers said there’s three parts plot to one part mood-ratio to hit.

Q: How has being a LABA fellow informed you and your writing?

Carol Rosegg
Carol Rosegg

A: I love the formal study sessions, and I love reading these ancient texts! This kind of process is best when it’s a slow-burn. Meaning we study now, and we digest. Later,  the work comes.

Q: What are LABA Sessions like?

A: I love meeting all of these fantastic and truly diverse artists!  I love the cross-talk, literally across the table, and I love hearing all the Hebrew spoken (and read), listening to texts read in the original language.

Q: How has “MOTHER” influenced you throughout this whole process?

A: It’s been interesting to me that the mothers we study take their own role as mother, whether or not they can actually bear children, as a fait accompli. They live in a world in which motherhood ensures a place in the community and for them, motherhood confirms social status. To give birth is to legitimize oneself.  In our world, this isn’t the case and i’m very very interested in that. Plus, in our world, motherhood is often a choice, but these canonical mothers needed to have children to ensure the fate of the Jewish people and their own fate!

Richard Termine for the New York Times
Richard Termine for the New York Times

Q: How long does it take for you to conceptualize, create, and get to the presentation stage of your work?

A: It’s different for every play. This one, the one I’m sharing on April 24th, is unfinished.  It’s been a very slow and uncomfortable birthing process, and I still don’t know when I’ll have time and space to focus on a complete first draft, but my last play, “Absolution” was fast. I wrote it in a month and did a reading of the first draft shortly thereafter. My play “1300 Lafayette East,” which I developed with David Winitsky and the Jewish Plays Project changed IMMENSELY through workshops and discussions with the director of the first production. Sometimes I just live with a play for a while until it’s ready to take shape.

Q: Tell us something about a recent project?

My short film “Uggs For Gaza,” based on a short story by Gordon Haber, recently premiered at the Aspen International Shorts Fest.

See Brooke’s new work in progress “HURRICANE” at LABAlive MOTHER: Martyr on April 24th at the Theater at The 14th Street Y. Click Here for Tickets and Information.

From Elvis to The East Village

At the 14th Street Y, we like to offer fitness experiences that are fun, energetic, and addictive.  

Because you don’t always have time to try all the classes that interest you, we offer additional fitness intensives every month to give you a chance to try something different.  In April (this Saturday, in fact!) we’re excited to offer NIA, a great combination of energy, dance, flexibility and strength training that also happens to be very, very fun.  Especially when it’s taught by Yvonne!



1.  How did you get into Nia?
I was waiting to take a Body Sculpt class at a Fitness Club and was amazed to see the members dancing like no-one was watching. Being a dancer, I knew that class was for me. And so…byebye Body Sculpt.


2.  What do you love about teaching Nia?

I love teaching the Joy of Movement. (Nia motto) and spreading the joy through dance arts, martial arts and healing arts.


3.  What do you find special about teaching at the 14th Street Y?

I find the members of the 14th Street Y a uniquely joyful bunch. I sense them anticipating the fun of the routine we’re going to share every Tuesday. I can see them thinking…’wonder what she’s going to teach us tonight?’


4.  Is there anything you would say to people who may be interested in trying NIA but haven’t yet?

I have much to say to people who may be interested in trying Nia but haven’t yet. First, many people say to me, they can’t dance and have two left feet. I say to them, come in and bring both your left feet! I tell them, Nia means, No Inhibitions Allowed and to leave their inhibitions at the door. There’s no right or wrong. I encourage them to move ‘their body’s way’ I am there for guidance. “Life’s a Dance You Learn As You go…sometimes you lead…sometimes you follow…That’s my slogan. 


5. I heard you had a hip surgery and that you were back to teach very quickly. Tell me more. I had a hip replacement in December. Osteoarthritis. Dance was not the issue. I was given the okay to teach 4 weeks later by my doctor. And so I did. I recovered quickly because I was in good physical condition from the get-go. Also have taken good care of my health throughout my life.


6. You had a brush with Elvis, yes? I danced in 2 films with Elvis. ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ and ‘Roustabout”. I did not date him. I dated his cousin. I became a professional dancer when I was 18. I lived in Hollywood, CA and was very lucky to work constantly during those years. I danced/acted in films, on television, in night clubs and musical theatre. I was fortunate to be cast with a group of entertainers by USO and traveled to Europe, and Southeast Asia, landing in Vietnam just after the bombing of Pleiku. I am also an award-winning playwright and have written a play about the journey to Vietnam. At 76, I will continue to ‘dance through life’.


Yvonne teaches NIA   every Tuesday night at 6:15pm at the 14th Street Y.

The Dancing Fellow

Yehuda Hyman is a LABA Fellow with the gift of movement presenting his new work at LABAlive “MOTHER: Martyr” On April 24th at 7:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. Click here for more information and tickets. Yehuda let us into the studio to talk about his process and background. Get to know him and his experiences with LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.

Photo Credit Paula Court

Q: In one word, describe your work?

A: reallyhardtodescribejustcomeseeit

Q: What is your primary medium or style of art?

A: Movement Theater

Q: Your creations are so full and complex, what influences you?

A: Literature, painting, music, people I meet. Strangers I see on the subway. The ocean at Fort Tilden, NY. The way New York City looks at sunset. Great artists like John Cassavetes, Pina Bausch, Johannes Brahms, Peter Brook, and my current obsession: the film director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) and always, always Mitzi Gaynor’s video on YouTube: Let Go. Everything is taken in, digested, absorbed.

Q: Describe your process for us.

A: Each piece I make is different, but I usually need a story to begin with. Then it’s a long process of getting inside the story, taking it apart, finding the movement score that describes the story in physical space, collaborating with performers, composers, and designers. Writing, tearing it apart, starting again and again. It’s usually a long and painful process mixed with moments of extreme joy and nausea. I worked on my play, THE MAD DANCERS (and the solo version, THE MAD 7) for almost twenty years. This new project has been gestating since 2002.  Now this doesn’t mean I’ve been working on this continually all this time but it has obsessed me. I have a box in my bedroom of scribblings, photos, and souvenirs about this piece that is finally getting out of that box and onto the stage. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to finally find the time, the venue, the community, the support (from LABA and Sarah Lawrence College) and the dancer/actress (Amanda Schussel) to make this piece come alive on the stage.

Q: What have you taken away from being a LABA Fellow?

A: First of all, being asked to be a part of LABA is a great honor and very encouraging to me. Especially as an artist who has worked with material of the Jewish ethos for a very long time. Secondly, we get together, eat, shmooze and study – sometimes we laugh a lot, sometimes we argue (always respectfully). Reading and studying together with my LABA group about the amazing Jewish matriarchs has definitely lifted my mother consciousness to a new level. It is always vibrant and exciting. Sometimes it’s mind blowing. We fly. What could be bad about that? I love LABA.  And look, I’ve given a platform in New York City to present this work. This is great… Great I tell you!

Q: How has “MOTHER” influenced you throughout this whole process?

A: This piece exists because of “MOTHER.”  “MOTHER” gave me permission to mythologize and conceptualize this particular story in a way that I had been unable to before.  I recognize facets of my mother in the heroines we have studied: Eve, Lilith, Rebecca, Hannah, and Tamar. Reading and learning together about these singularly great, and I do mean great women, helps me to see how my mother came from and continued the line of great, gutsy, sexy Jewish women.

Q: Final Thoughts… 

A: My father was a tailor from a village off the map.

Photo Credit Paula Court

My mother was a Gypsy Jew who liked to finger snap.

My grandpa was a badkhan, a kindly Klezmer Klown.

And I am just a dancing boy who’s here to write it down.

Click here for tickets and information about “MOTHER: Martyr” on April 24th at 7:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

Roxy’s Clean Slate (in 8)


This past weekend my worst fear was realized. Tim Haft, the 14th Street Y’s beloved Punk Rope instructor and fitness enthusiast emailed my weight and body fat percentage to a group of strangers. The fact that I gave him permission to do this beforehand did not make it any less torturous, as I have spent most of my life going to great lengths to hide and avoid these numbers. It took me several days to decide whether I would share these numbers here as well, but finally my feminist self convinced my vain and insecure self that women like me should not be shamed into hiding our weights and our bodies by a culture that places increased value on diminishing sizes. I have never been small, but I have been healthier than I am right now, and this blog is the beginning of my trip back to a healthier body, or as Tim would say, a body that works.


At the first session of our start of the Clean Slate in 8 group (one week ago), I weighed 171 lbs, with a body fat percentage of 30. Over the course of the last week I followed Tim’s advice and the suggestions of some of my fellow clean-eaters, making small but impactful changes to my diet.


  • I added fresh fruit and vegetables to every meal, and a lot of them.

  • I chose to “eat clean” (eating whole, unprocessed foods) 80% of the time,while allowing myself a little wiggle room the other 20% .

  • I ate slowly, without the distraction of a TV, computer or handheld device.

  • I observed how different type of foods affected my mood, energy level and digestive health.

  • I tried to limit less clean foods to reasonable portions.


  • I did not count calories.

  • I did not cut out favorite foods altogether.

  • I did not change my normal exercise routine.


One week later, at our second session, I am weighing in at 167 lbs, and my body fat percentage has gone down to a little less than 28%.


A few years ago I wrote this blog about my first stab at weight loss. At that point i was 28, and it came to me easily. Now at 30, I have less time to work out, due to the adorable new addition to my family, pictured above (yes, I am talking about a dog, not a child). For the remaining 7 weeks of the Clean Slate program, you can follow my progress here, as I try to get back to the weight, and more importantly, the healthy mindset I was at when I wrote that first blog. Wish me luck!

Roxanne Lane is the Communications Manager for the 14th Street Y.  Her dog’s name is Puppy.

Veterans. Community. Stories. Our Stories. Our History.

Kara Krauze is a writer, a mother, and  a member of our community.  Recently she brought an idea to us here at the Y that we thought was pretty great.  When we asked her to blog about it for us and tell the story, she very generously said yes.  Please read on to learn more about our Veterans Writing workshop led by Kara and housed at the 14th Street Y!

Last September, I started teaching Voices from War here at the 14th Street Y, a writing workshop for veterans, with fellow writer and veteran, Jake Siegel, from Ditmas Park. If you had asked me the previous winter, in my youngest son’s final year of preschool at the 14th Street Y, if I thought I would be teaching a class here a year later, I probably would have looked puzzled. And I would have said no.

But the fantastic, warm community that I’ve so cherished for my children has embraced and nurtured Voices from War. What began as a need I saw for expanded opportunities for veterans to shape and tell their stories, has become a reality with support from people like our own Kiki Schaffer, Camille Diamond, and Wendy Seligson.

I don’t come from a military family—I have to reach pretty far to find a relative who is a veteran—but I have felt the isolating nature of silence, and seen how it damaged my father. He was a professor, born between the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II, and he took his own life at age fifty-nine. After my father’s suicide, in 1994, writing helped me to understand and integrate my experiences surrounding his death, his history and silences. By forming narratives, I turned memories that were jagged and fragmentary into more cohesive experiences. At the same time, writing pushed me into talking, and both of these acts helped me to find a vocabulary to speak about suicide and its related complexities. We have been slow learning similar lessons from the wars of the 20th century, including Vietnam, the shadow of which shaped the childhoods of those of us growing up in the 1970s.

It has been so gratifying, now, to listen and to seek out others’ stories. It is too easy to think that because only .5% of the population served in Iraq and Afghanistan that the past ten years of war don’t affect so many of us. But the whole country went to war, whether or not each citizen agrees with the decision, and all of us are impacted by its effects and after-effects—by the experiences of veterans, fellow citizens of a nation, of a shared humanity. Stories emerging from war, veteran stories, are part of our communal history. Their stories are necessary stories for all of us.

~  ~  ~

This event was funded in part by Poets & Writers, Inc. with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

~ This class is supported and sponsored by the 14th Street Y. ~

Mom Inspires Stories for the Whole Family

cropped Stories About My Mom

Story teller Rachel Sherk spoke with us about what inspires her collaboration with LABA kids, “Stories About My Mom” taking place at the Theater at the 14th Street Y on April 6th at 2pm for the whole family.

Q: What makes your mom unique?

A: There are so many things that make my mom unique!  Here are just a few:  Her name is Pat Badt, which rhymes, and she is a painter.  She has the curliest hair in the whole wide world.  We used to make stuffed-animal dolls together when I was little—which was maybe my first go at puppet making!  We still love to play dress-up together. sherk mom photo1

Q: What is your favorite childhood memory?

A: I can’t tell you all of my favorite childhood memories right now because I talk about them in the show, but here is one of many that is not mentioned in Stories About My Mom:  When I turned five my mom, dad and I were living in Japan for the year.  I only had one friend, and so I invited this friend to my birthday party.  My friend just happened to be allergic to almost every ingredient that goes into birthday cake (eggs, wheat, and milk), so my mom made a three layered Jell-O cake for us to eat at my birthday party!  The candles bounced as she walked it out to the table, and they almost blew themselves out!  It turns out, Jell-O cakes are delicious.

Q: What defines family?

A: Love.  Being there for each other no matter what.  Being there to help one another.  Being able to be grumpy around these people, and for that to be ok.  Love, love, love.

Q: What kind of performance and creative art do you explore?

A: I play with stories and the way in which we tell them.  I work with collage across mediums—sometimes it is performance, sometimes it is visual, sometimes it is aural.

Q: What should we look forward to at “Stories About My Mom?”

A: A magical world of stories, songs and puppets!  There might be an avocado tree, there might be a cactus, but shhhh, it is a secret.  My mom will even be in the audience, but she is too shy to come on stage, so don’t even ask!

To share in this wonderful experience and make some memories with your own family, CLICK HERE for family tickets to “Stories About My Mom” on April 6th at 2pm.