I have a lot of friends who have been LABA fellows over the years. I first began my conversation with the LABA team because of my other theater project that I’ve been doing all across the country. We were talking about the possibility of bringing that project to New York and housing it here at the 14th Street Y. That made it possible for me to get off the road for the first time in over three years. I’ve been out of New York 200 nights a year for the past three years making these plays. By being at the 14th Street Y and doing these plays in a festival here in the spring, I’m able to be in New York for a long period of time. This made it possible for me to apply to be a LABA fellow and my wife couldn’t be more grateful to the 14th Street Y–now I can do laundry.
When I was growing up I always knew I wanted to be an actor. But I thought I only had three options, I call them the 3 GS–Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, and Gene Kelley. I could be serious, I could be funny, or I could sing and dance. Then I got to school, I went to Tisch at NYU, and I was in Experimental Theatre Wing. Here I was exposed to clowning, miming, African dance, all different forms of storytelling and performance. I feel in love with the idea of devised theatre and theatre as an experimental platform for other people’s stories. Stories that can move and inspire. I started playing once I graduated in that world. I started writing my own plays with friends in communities around the country. One thing led to another and I started more seriously finding a process and methodology that allows me to try new things everywhere I go, but also gives me structure with what I attempt to do and the kind of projects I work on. And over the years I was able to collect a team of partners and collaborators so I wouldn’t be doing it alone, but doing it with people who pushed me, and trusted me, and whom I could trust. So that’s where I’m at. And now I’m here and the 14th Street Y.
I would say there are two huge gifts that the 14th Street Y has given me as an artist.
The first gift is other artists. Very often I’m on the road, and the work is lonely. I have my team, but I don’t get to interact with other people doing other cool things, whether they’re doing it with Jewish content, or Jewish text, or Jewish themes and ideas or not. I don’t have a lot of colleagues when I’m on the road. The 14th Street Y, with LABA, gives the fellows a cohort. It gives the fellows the gift of new friends who are making visual and performing art in cool, creative, and thoughtful ways that can inspire and goad and teach me as an artist. That is a huge gift that the 14th Street Y has given me.
The second gift is that the LABA program gives artists the opportunity to study texts. When we sit around the circle studying texts with LABA, we are treated as experts in the text. We are not treated as neophytes. We are not treated as artists who can’t understand or possibly comprehend the depth of our inherited scared tales. Instead, we are treated as interpreters and expressers of thoughts and ideas in ways that make us not only feel like we are standing on the shoulders of rabbis, but we are standing shoulder to shoulder with rabbis. It’s exciting, and inspiring, and dangerous–I think. Also, I just feel the 14th Street Y gives LABA fellows a playground to try new things and to push themselves and explore and experiment with each other, by themselves, and I’m really looking forward to doing that all year.
Portraits of the 14th Street Y is a photography project by Bridget Badore that tells the stories behind the many faces of the 14th Street Y community, including members, staff, teachers, trainers, artists, caregivers, families, and local business owners. Each year, the unique stories of more than 20,000 New Yorkers is woven into the fabric that makes the 14th Street Y a Downtown home for all.
We’re also honoring the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah, which in Judaism is simply an act of justice and righteousness–the act of giving back to our community and those in need because it is the right thing to do.
Your generous support helps us provide programs at reduced rates to those in need. No matter what holiday you celebrate, we hope you’ll join us in the spirit of giving this year to help us keep our doors open to everyone in our beloved Downtown community.