What’s it like to BE IN THE SHOW? –HAIRSPRAY: Opening November 8th

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by Camille Diamond

You probably know by now that we have an incredibly thriving arts program at the 14th Street Y.  Our theater is home to an amazing dance series and specially curated theater series, showcasing some of the best talent in New York City. Our LABA/rts program is filled with accomplished artists in every field, contributing to the cultural landscape by creating original art based on jewish text discussions in our House of Study.

There’s one other aspect of the arts here at the Y that we’re very proud of, and that is our partnership with AfterWork Theater Project.  AfterWork was created with the exciting vision of giving people who love theater, and who love creating theater a chance to do just that. By partnering with AfterWork, we can give our members and staff a chance to experience live performance right here in our own neighborhood.

In New York City it’s not easy to find opportunities to perform when you’re a regular “nine-to-fiver”.  I should know.  I’m totally one of those.  And though I absolutely love where I work and what I do, I found myself missing my old life as a performer.  So, when I found out that AfterWork was presenting Hairspray, one of my very favorite musicals of all time, I decided to join in.

One of the best things about AfterWork is that if you want to be in the show, you just sign up and you ARE in the show.  You don’t have to audition.  I did go ahead and choose to audition (or be a part of ‘launch day’, as Producer Evan Greenberg, calls it).  We played theater games.  We sang, we danced, we connected and made friends.  It was the most supportive audition environment I’ve ever experienced.  In the end, I was cast as Velma…which is some serious evil fun.

Roxanne Lane prepares to sing at Launch Day!

But even more fun than being evil and singing really loud is getting to be in a show with people I love working with. My colleague and friend Roxanne Lane, as well as After school counselor and friend Maia Kallen are in the show with me.

Evan Greenberg  dances on launch day, while Camille and Maia watch!
Evan Greenberg dances on launch day, while Camille and Maia watch!

Additionally, I’m getting to meet so many new people, all levels of experience, all ages, but also all just so nice and supportive.  So many people were interested in doing Hairspray, that AfterWork decided to create two casts, each performing five shows.  You might think that working with someone doing your exact same role in a different cast, (especially someone as beautiful as Emily) might create some kind of weird competition.  But I’ve found that another person playing your same role in another cast just gives you another person to bounce ideas off of and double check choreography.  She’s become someone I text regularly about rehearsal, possible hairstyles and how to dance in a 60’s style tight skirt.

emily and kenyatta
That’s Emily on the right. She’s with Kenyatta who plays SEAWEED!

And guess what?  14th Street Y Members are especially encouraged to participate because what a great way to connect with your community!  Of the two blondes pictured below, one plays my daughter Amber and one plays Emily’s daughter Amber in the other cast.  Guess which is the Y member?

It's Tracy on the left!  Regina on the right plays my daughter.
It’s Tracy on the left! Regina on the right plays my daughter.

Luckily Regina plays my daughter because she’s actually my size, but I get lots of opportunities to rehearse with Tracy as well depending on rehearsal schedules.  That’s another thing about AfterWork.  Rehearsals are scheduled around you and your life as well as when normally works best for working people.  You don’t have to feel guilty about missing rehearsal if you have a conflict.

So how has it been so far?  Delightful.  Hilarious.  Heartwarming.  A reminder of why I loved theater to begin with; coming together with passionate people who share their talents, to create something amazing, together.  Creating and living in community is what I love best about working at the 14th Street Y.  I’m so honored to have another way to experience and express that.

See Roxy, me, Maia, Kenyatta, Emily, Regina, Evan, Tracy and so many more talented amazing people in HAIRSPRAY.  Some of these shows area already sold out, so get your tickets here!

Camille Diamond is the Director of Community Engagement and Communications at the 14th Street Y.  She first came to NYC to get the attention of casting directors using these photos.  

circa 1996
circa 1996

LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture proudly selected for SLINGSHOT 2014-2015

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The 14th Street Y is incredibly proud that LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture has been named as one of North America’s top 82 innovative Jewish organizations in the tenth annual Slingshot Guide.  The Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects that, through their innovative nature, will ensure the Jewish community remains relevant and thriving.

Here’s what Slingshot says about why LABA was chosen for this year’s guide.


A laboratory for Jewish culture where classic Jewish texts inspire the creation of new art.

Why It’s In Slingshot

The Jewish community has a rich cultural tradition full of art, literature, theater, and dance inspired by Jewish text and history. Recognizing that some Jews experience their Jewish identities through cultural platforms rather than religious expression, LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture creates opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with Jewish texts in creative, open-minded, and intellectually stimulating ways. LABA uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of new artistic work, combining tradition with experimentation in ways that bring new energy to the experience of Jewish life and culture. Each year, LABA chooses a theme that serves as an organizing principle for its programming. LABA: House of Study then serves as an incubator for
10 to 15 artists who study classic Jewish texts on this theme and interpret them via their various art forms. LABAlive, an ongoing series of original events and performances, serves as a showcase for LABA artists and engages diverse members
of the community in text study, conversation, and Jewish culture. LABA’s continued success and expansion illustrates how supporting Jewish culture makers can transform a community and deepen engagement with communal life.

To learn more about Slingshot, click here.

To learn more about LABA and this year’s theme, TIME, visit www.Labajournal.com.