Let us bring you some light

Suddenly we all are holding hands and swinging
Doubling our smiles and tripling love and blessing
Adding up to one so helping keeps us free
That is what we learn and teach the world to be

 
By Becky Skoff

These words are from Suddenly Perfectly, the first English translation of the Hebrew song Tov Lanu Pitom, by Rafi ben Moshe. The song appears in the musical version of the iconic Israeli book Simlat HaShabbat Shel Hannale (Hanna’s Sabbath Dress), by Itzhak Schweiger Dmi’el. We have translated it for an American audience for our original musical, Hanna’s Moonlit Dress, which we are presenting in just two weeks at the 14th Street Y.

These words are a little hard to absorb right now. As the voices of talented young actors fill the halls of our preschool, smiles on their faces and enthusiasm in their dance-steps, I find myself wondering: is this a message parents want to hear right now? Will they feel moved to get up and dance with their children? Are they ready to smile? Will they even come?

Our team at LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y has been working since fall 2011 to bring these words and their story onto the stage and into the hearts of the Jewish community. Now, two weeks before we open a 3 week run of our play, it is almost ironic that we are staging a show about idealism, unity, good deeds and self-sacrifice, for an audience largely heart-broken by recent events that have called these values into question.

I originally fell in love with this book because of its vision of optimism, hope, and promise. The story seems deceptively simple: a young girl – Hanna – lives alone with her mother. Her mother has stayed up late at night, laboring over the creation of a beautiful, white Sabbath dress for her daughter. Soon, Hanna finds herself in a predicament: a stranger, carrying a large sack of coal, is in need of her help. But if she helps him, her new, white dress may be ruined. Of course, Hanna makes the right choice, and magic ensues, leading us to this cheerful song, a talking moon, and a lesson in how easy it can be to bring warmth to others.

You may wonder what a coal man was doing in Israel. Itzhak Schweiger Dmi’el wrote Simlat HaShabnat Shel Hannale in 1930s British Mandate Palestine, and published the story in Davar, the influential workers’ newspaper. The coal man – along with the absence of Hanna’s father – is symbolic of the suffering, isolation, and incompleteness of the Jewish people at this moment in time. Pre-state Israel was a time of dreaming. Most people had very little and were struggling just to survive. Dmi’el wrote this story for a community of big dreamers – people who believed that with every seed planted, they were creating a better future for the Jewish people.  This was the idealistic, pioneering vision of Israel; a vision of pure hope and promise.

Fast forward to today. The idea of helping a stranger struggling with his workload becomes equally relevant.  How can we help the coal men in our society – both in America and in Israel? Where is the little girl in a white dress, willing to get dirty to do the right thing? When will the moon be ready to give us some magic to help ease the way?

I don’t have all the answers right now, but I do know this: I need a positive way to talk to my son about the power of doing good in the world. He needs to see examples of the joy of community, and of love for each other.  I need to sing, dance and smile with my child. I need a little joy in my life too, and a reminder of the power of idealism. We all do.

If you are ready to emerge from your cloud of disbelief and anxiety, open the curtain with us in the coming weeks. Come be transported to another world and time. The clouds may still be there when you leave the theater, but I promise: you’ll leave with a little more light in your heart.

Adding up to one so helping keeps us free
That is what we learn and teach the world to be

Hanna and the Moonlit Dress plays December 2-18 at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, at 344 East 14th Street.  For tickets, please visit 14StreetY.org/Hanna

Y Cabaret

 Producers, Jake McIntyre & Larry Daniels reimagine the traditional definition of  “Cabaret” to showcase emerging choreographers and dancers in their new show, Y Cabaret.

Jake sat down with us at the Theater at the 14th Street Y to talk about the concept behind this show:

Why did you decide to reimagine a Cabaret with dance?

This question actually plays off the name we chose for the show, why cabaret (Y Cabaret)? Cabaret has been a model of performance audiences love for enjoying theatrical songs and acts, but serious dance has traditionally been left out of this. We decided why not have a dance cabaret for modern artistically sound work, where audiences can enjoy drinks and have an MC to help guide them through the night? A lot of dance is fun, sexy, intimate, and/or dark, but you don’t always get to feel that in a traditional theater setting. For audiences who aren’t big dance goers either, the cabaret model is the perfect fun way to get a taste of what the NYC dance scene can offer.

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Choreographer, Ashley Menestrina

How is this different than people’s traditional expectation of a Cabaret?

The big difference is the artistic integrity of the work we are showing. The choreographers featured in this show each have their own specific artistic voice, and have been presented in major theaters and dance venues across the US. Our goal here isn’t just to entertain you as a traditional cabaret’s might be, but to also inspire and make you think. What’s not different, is there will be a killer MC to host the show, drinks and an amazing line up of performances.

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Choreographer, John Ole Olstad

 

What should the audience expect?

Everything and nothing. We want audiences who love dance, and those who have never really seen contemporary dance but are willing to give it a try. The choreographers featured are presenting a variety of different types of work, but all professional working choreographers with a strong and distinct artistic voice. You’ll be seeing some work that is just about cool or weird movement, others that are meant to be funny, and others which are theatrical or dark. We tried to make sure there was going to be something to tickle everyone’s fancy.

BUY TICKETS HERE

Preview the choreographers of Y Cabaret:

John Ole Olstad

Yin Yue

Adam Baruch

The Architecture of Proximity

Zullo/Raw Movement’s production The Architecture of Proximity is an immersive dance and performance experience exploring the relationship between the architecture of spaces and the physical, psychological and emotional effects of space on the body.

We asked Artistic Director of Zullo/Raw Movement, John Zullo a few questions about his new piece opening in the Theater at the 14th Street Y this Wednesday, October 28th.

Zullo Raw Movement

How would you describe this show to someone that has never experience immersive dance or theater? 

This performance is different from most other performances because there is no seating, therefore the audience is asked to stand during the duration of the performance with freedom to walk around the space. I liken the experience to being at a museum or gallery where you are moving through actively looking and engaging with the works. This allows for a more intimate experience of the work and to actually become part of the whole performance experience.

How did you first become involved with the Y?

I first heard about the Theater at the 14th Street Y when I was at the APAP conference last January.  I visited their booth, and  was able to talk to your staff to learn more about the space.  I like spaces that are unexpected.  My company has been performing mostly in the East Village, and I didn’t know that the Y had this venue.  I think this space allows for the piece to have a blank slate without the space defining the piece.  Instead, this piece is able to define the space.

What do you feel is an important theme of this piece?

In this case, it is playing with borders and boundaries that separate us and erasing them to find communality amongst individuals. It is creating an experience that forces people to deal with and negotiate the relationships that they have with each other and spaces.  Then, we are able to see how physical spaces can affect people physically, emotionally and psychologically.  In this piece, which I think more of as a movement based installation, is immersive through the convergence of movement, sound, architectural spaces, and light.  Through this, we are able to explore the possibility of it all working together– the movement is indicative of the spaces in our lives.

Is there anything else the audience should expect?

My goals for the audience are that they first, experience something that they have never experience before, and second, that they are transformed by the end of the installation.  I hope that the audience is able to find  a sense of openness, and are open to going on this journey with the performers.  The audience becomes part of the work as they are physically engaged in the piece.  Also, I encourage the audience to take photographs (no flash only) during the performance and tag @zullorawmovement on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

 

The Architecture of Proximity will be playing at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

October 28th-Nov. 1st

Buy Tickets Here

ORIENTED: Thoughts from Director, Jake Witzenfeld

“I’m figuring out where I stand on a lot of central identity issues:

what being Jewish means to me,

what Israel means to me… “

A few thoughts by the Director of the ORIENTED, Jake Witzenfeld:

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How did the making of the movie come about?

Jake : I came across a YouTube video by a group called Qambuta. It was a stylish protest piece by a group of visibly Palestinian 20-somethings pointing the finger at the heteronormative values of their community in Israel. I was so intrigued by that identity complex: too gay for the Arab sub-community in Israel, too Palestinian for the Jewish majority… a minority inside a minority. I was able to reach out to Khader, the ring leader, through my roommate at the time. We went for drinks, he told me that there was “a Palestinian Woodstock” cultural revival kicking off in Israel, he captivated me with charisma and a nonchalant yet fierce desire for change. I asked him if I could begin shooting him and his world and he agreed. Two years and a little change later, we had a film!

 

What is a surprising fact that you discovered during the making of Oriented?

Jake: When I started making the film, I felt that I was really capturing a peaking of social activism – like I was following Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. But as the boys did not deliver a revolution, I became frustrated and began questioning that feeling and my own disappointment that they weren’t “giving me” a radical crescendo of change. That’s when I discovered that social change isn’t made the way it is recorded in text books. While successful social action influences macro-narratives, it is made up of micro-actions, attitudes and decisions: where are you partying, who are you dating, what are you posting… that’s what informed the film’s primarily personal approach and storytelling decision.

 

What world did you discover in Tel Aviv that you didn’t know about?

Jake: The underground gay Palestinian scene. I was aware of it but after Khader welcomed me to begin shooting, I met everyone and saw every spot and really got a 360. We transitioned into friendship very seamlessly and the filmmaking become a very personal journey for all of us.

 

How has it changed you?

Jake: I believe that I achieved a reflexivity with my subject that required me to mute my own cultural baggage and pre-conceptions. And you don’t just switch that off after final cut and go back to your old ways. I’m figuring out where I stand on a lot of central identity issues: what being Jewish means to me, what Israel means to me… I’ve never felt more unsure on any of those things but, simultaneously, I feel that this new web of interactions and conversations that I’ve entangled myself in has an underlying optimism to it. So let’s see.

 

What questions will you have afterwards?

Come see ORIENTED November 7th at 8pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

Stay after the screening for wine & conversation with the filmmakers and protagonist, Khader Abu Seif

For tickets to ORIENTED click here

USE  CODE: LGBTQ for $9 Tickets

Find out more about other screenings at The Other Israel Film Festival here

 

 

Meet LABA Fellows: Maxx and Rebecca

maxxbecks_headshot-150x150LABA Fellows, Rebecca Margolick and Maxx Berkowitz are a Brooklyn-based integrative and experimental performance collaborative.

What drew you to apply to LABA?

As a musician and media design technologist and a dancer/choreographer, we had been examining how to develop our artistic and creative growth by working together. After learning of the 14th Street Y’s program LABA and its focus on cross-disciplinary art forms in a Jewish context, we felt that it would be the perfect forum to present our ideas and the new work we had been thinking about.

Why do you want to study beauty?

Beauty is an undeniable force in influencing how we act, respond and make decisions. We’re interested in studying how the online world has influenced our perceptions, changed our sense of attraction and glorified our base instincts of voyeurism and false affection. We want to encourage people to think about how we are affected as a race in this world of hyper-realism and unrealistic expectations of beauty and accomplishment.

 

Check out Maxx & Rebecca’s past work:  

Maxx’s band- Twin Waves

 

 

Rebecca’s project-  It fit when I was a kid

 

LABA PROJECT:

This live performance, which layers dance and interactive media, explores how the ever increasing time we spend consumed by technology and the online world can profoundly shape our self image, emotional stability, and relationships with others.

The work revolves around two characters and the ensuing degradation of their physical and emotional communication to each other and themselves. The ever increasing deluge of information and distraction of the virtual world, so ingrained in their everyday lives, ultimately distances them from reality. The dichotomy of these characters’ responses to the ever-increasing flow of stimuli and mass-produced image of beauty (whether for the better or to their own detriment) is the momentum behind this creative exploration.

Read more about Maxx and Rebecca and their LABA project HERE

Queen Duncan

imageWe sat down with Susan G. Bob, who will be playing Queen Duncan in Macbeth (of the Oppressed), which opens tonight at the Theater at the 14th Street Y to chat Shakespeare and identity.
What do you find most compelling about this production of Macbeth? 
It’s a gender bender production and it works. The male Macbeths played as male and the women taking on the Banquo and MacDuff roles is exciting and adds a rich texture and different dimension to the play.
What has the transition to working on Shakespeare from more contemporary work been like for you? 
For me, working on Shakespeare has been a huge challenge. My approach in working on contemporary work has been so different. I learn my lines in almost a monotone so that when I get with my fellow actors I can just play with them and the spontenaity gives the lines their own colors. Shakespeare is so musical and I find that my approach has had to be different.
The 14th Street Y has been home to a diversity of Jewish artists of all disciplines for many years. What is your relationship with your Jewish identity as an actor? 
I am Jewish and was brought up Jewish and no matter what role I take on in developing it stems from my background and takes off from there.
Anything else you want our readers to know? 
Working on this production has been a real learning experience and struggle for me. This cast, crew and director have been top notch.
Purchase tickets to Macbeth (of the Oppressed) HERE.
SUSAN G. BOB (Queen Duncan) won the 2011 Planet Connections Theater Festivity Award as Outstanding Actress in The Stranger to Kindness written by David Stallings. She also appeared as Sheepshead in David’s Dark Water. Susan originated the role of Dee in the Pulitzer Prize winning play No Place to be Somebody, presented at the Public Theater, Broadway, Off-Broadway and first national tour and was nominated for Best Performance in a leading role by the Los Angeles Drama critics. Her passion is working on new plays. Susan is a member of the New Jersey Repertory Company, performing in many main stage productions. She is a proud member of Manhattan Theater Works (MTWorks) and is excited and grateful for the opportunity to be working on Macbeth. Member of AEA, SAG/AFTRA.

Meet the 2015-2016 LABA Fellows

 Every year, a new crop of LABA Fellows gathers at the 14th Street Y over noshes and wine to discuss classic Jewish texts and create artwork inspired by our dialogue. After waiting all summer, we are very excited for next week’s launch of the 2015-2016 Fellowship! Our theme is BEAUTY.
Meet our fellows (drumroll, please…)

Gal Beckerman, an author and journalist, was the opinion editor at The Forward. He was also a longtime editor and staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and has written for the New York TimesBoston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He was a Fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin and the recipient of a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. His first book, When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2010. It was named was one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker and the Washington Post, and received both the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Gon Ben Ari is a critically acclaimed writer in Israel, known for two novels (Sequoia Children is being translated into English) and for his magazine writing at major Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot. He is currently located in Brooklyn, NY, where he writes fiction (Ben Ari was titled a MacDowell Fellow for 2014), film, and journalism (Forward, New York and Yedioth Ahronot, Israel).

Artist Lital Dotan dedicated most of the past decade to creating utopian environments for performance in the domestic sphere. Her Brooklyn-based Glasshouse ArtLifeLab, co-founded with Eyal Perry, is nourishing artists and audiences across generations and disciplines. She is the founder of Que sal mah, the newly launched concept boutique that merges performance, art and fashion. An immersive integration of installation, documentation and life, her performance narratives are designed to challenge structures and mechanisms across art and society, dissolving and re-imagining through harsh intimacy notions of space, audience, art, value and success.

Exploring the personal and the idiosyncratic aspects of music-making, Brooklyn composer Lainie Fefferman’s most recent commissions have been from ETHEL, Kathleen Supové, TILT Brass, James Moore, Eleonore Oppenheim, JACK Quartet, and Dither. Her recent evening length piece Here I Am for Newspeak and Va Vocals, the culmination of her residency at Roulette through the Jerome Foundation for the 2013-2014 season, was warmly received by a sold out audience. Starting in April 2015, she began her time at HERE Arts Center as a resident fellow, where she will create a multimedia opera based on ancient mathematical texts for sopranos Mellissa Hughes, Caroline Shaw, and Martha Cluver, with Mantra Percussion and lighting designer Eric Southern. Fefferman is the founder and co-director of Exapno, a New Music Community Center in Downtown Brooklyn, lead-organizes the New Music Bake Sale, and is co-founder of the New Music Gathering, a national new music event. She received her doctorate in composition from Princeton and continues to be a performing member of Princeton-based laptop ensemble Sideband.

Joshua Max Feldman is a writer of fiction and plays. His debut novel, The Book of Jonah, a modern retelling of the Biblical Book of Jonah set in contemporary New York City, was published in the U.S. in February, 2014, by Henry Holt. Amazon named The Book of Jonah the Debut Novel of the Month, and the New York Times praised it for “storytelling infused with energy” and declared it “worth applauding.” The Book of Jonah has been translated into nine languages, published in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Israel, and more. Joshua’s New York theater career began when his play HeartBreakWordMusic was produced at the Under St. Mark’s Theatre. Joshua’s theatrical works have also been featured as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and have been produced in New York at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, the HERE Arts Center, the Flea Theater, and more.

Jessica Gross writes fiction, essays, and criticism. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Longreads, New York Magazine’s Vulture, Kirkus Reviews, and more. In 2014, she did a test run of a writer’s residency on an Amtrak train from New York to Chicago and back. The response to her Paris Review Daily essay about the experience—which was covered by The New Yorker online, The New York Times, The Atlantic Wire, WNYC, and others—helped spur Amtrak to launch a formal program. Jessica has conducted interviews with novelists, actors, psychoanalysts, chefs, musicians, academics, film directors, cartoonists, a professional live storyteller, and a former spy. She teaches creative nonfiction at the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, and received her Master’s in cultural reporting and criticism from NYU and her Bachelor’s in anthropology from Princeton University.

Shanti Grumbine received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a visual artist who transforms appropriated print media through paper cutting, drawing, collage, printmaking, sculpture and performance. By removing, fracturing and recombining text and image from journalistic sources and advertising, she makes space for what has been censored as well as what has been lost in the translation of experience into words. Select exhibition venues include A.I.R. Gallery, Muroff Kotler Visual Art Gallery at SUNY Ulster, CCA Sante Fe, Mandeville Gallery at Union College, The Dorsky Museum, The Bronx Museum, Magnan-Metz Gallery, Planthouse Gallery and IPCNY. Residencies include Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, Ucross, Yaddo, Wave Hill Winter Workspace Residency, Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, A.I.R Gallery Fellowship, 2014 Ota Artist in Residence, Tokyo, Japan, Artist in the Marketplace (AIM), Women’s Studio Workshop and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. She lives and works in New Paltz, NY and New York City.

Rebecca Margolick and Maxx Berkowitz are a Brooklyn based integrative and experimental performance collaborative.

Rebecca Margolick was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. She graduated with an honors BFA in Dance from NYU – Tisch School of the Arts and received the J.S. Seidman Award for Excellence in Dance. Primarily based in NYC, Rebecca is a company member with Sidra Bell Dance New York. She currently works with Shay Kuebler Radical System Arts in Vancouver, Chuck Wilte’s UNA Projects in NYC and with Derrick Belcham and Emily Terndrup. She has received grants from the Canada Council and BC Arts Council to attend workshops around the world. Rebecca has taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Rutgers University, Simon Fraser University, Tanz Farm in Atlanta and will be co-directing a class at University of the Arts in Philadelphia this fall semester.

Maxx Berkowitz is an interactive art director / designer, as well as a guitarist in the band Twin Wave. He has a wide creative skill set including video, photography, animation and development. After graduating from Syracuse University with a dual major in Graphic Design and Information Management and Technology, Maxx worked as a designer at Showtime Premium Television Networks and the digital agency Bajibot. Since beginning freelancing in August 2013, Maxx has worked on projects from the award-winning 2013 interactive Macy’s holiday windows to websites for Mercedes, Time Inc. and Starbucks and for many top advertising agencies including Razorfish, JWT and Wunderman.

Kendell Pinkney is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-based theatre writer. A graduate of Oberlin College and New York University’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, his collaborative works and songs have been performed and/or developed at venues such as 54 Below, Two Rivers Theatre Company, Goodspeed Opera House, Musical Theatre Factory, The 52nd Street Project, and Joe’s Pub, to name a few. Additionally, he was commissioned by Pursuit Productions to pen a new play based on the Lilith myth, which will premiere in Chicago in late 2016/early 2017. More recently, his broader interests in identity, race, and Jewishness led him to team up with renowned spoken-word artist Vanessa Hidary (aka, the Hebrew Mamita) to produce Kaleidoscope, a multi-media project and monologue showcase highlighting Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. When not writing for the stage, Kendell is extensively involved in Jewish life and education in Brooklyn, and can often be found at a local cafe buried in the footnotes of a new book on Hebrew Bible or Second Temple Literature.

VISITING FELLOWS:

Hanan Elstein is an Israeli editor and translator, living in Brooklyn since 2013. Hanan studied philosophy, history, literature, cultural studies and law at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany. He has been working as an editor of Hebrew and translated world literature, both fiction and non-fiction, since 2001. He has edited renowned Israeli authors such as Assaf Gavron, Liat Kaplan and Yossi Suckari. He translated over 15 titles from German to Hebrew, including works by Walter Benjamin, Immanuel Kant, Jean Améry, Joachim Fest, Heinrich von Kleist, Irmgard Keun, Elfriede Jelinek, Werner Bräunig and Christian Kracht. In the past few years he has been collaborating on international theater projects, mostly co-productions of German and Israeli theaters. These productions are usually multilingual (Arabic, German and Hebrew) works evolving through an extensive process of intellectual research and creative endeavor between directors, actresses, play writers and translators. For these projects he has translated various texts of Heinrich Heine, Klaus Mann, Leni Riefenstahl and Gustaf Gründgens, as well as a variety of documentary materials. Hanan has written several essays for literary supplements in Israeli newspapers, as well as many theater reviews.

Lior Zalmanson is a writer, new media artist, curator and researcher, whose works mostly focus on the digital culture and the information society. His first play, Yingale, has won the Haifa Fringe festival in 2009 and received a local production in Belgrade by the former Serbian minister of culture, Bratislav Petković. His latest works were portrayed in the Israel Museum, Tzavta Theater, Hansen house and the Jerusalem Film Festival. In 2011, Lior founded Print Screen Festival, Israel’s digital arts festival, which connects thousands of artists, researchers and technologists and explores themes of digital culture in cinema and the audio-visual arts. Lior is a Fulbright visiting scholar to NYU, researching engagement and knowledge sharing dynamics in online and offline environments.

Stay tuned for more information on upcoming year of BEAUTY here on the LABA Journal, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Read more about LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture here.
Learn more about our previous fellows:
2014-2015
2013-2014
2012-2013
2011-2012