I first came to the 14th Street Y in 2011 to see a play in the Fringe Festival that a friend of mine was involved with. I walked through a basic community center—down a couple hallways, around a few corners, and into the most beautiful large black box theater the East Village had to offer. I got a show of mine in that theater within months. I am an activist playwright and actor, and I was so impressed that the 14Y was excited about discourse over social activism and how the arts could propel conversation. Four years later, they gave me a job, and they made it so I could work here, embracing me as a working artist.
My favorite memory at the 14th Street Y is actually when I got married here to my husband, on the set of a play I wrote. He and I had been artists in this building for years and we exchanged our vows on that set in front of our friends and community. We’ve become kind of a fixture here, and so embraced by the staff and members. From being invited to special Shabbat dinners to sharing discussions and laughs in the Great Plays class with some seriously savvy members, we have been welcomed and included.
Next year, my husband, Antonio Minino, is directing a play I wrote, The Baby Monitor, as part of the Theater Series at the 14th Street Y. This play was very personal and difficult for me to write. I am a gay man in an interracial marriage. I don’t always feel welcomed the way I am here at the 14Y. I decided to write about my greatest fear if my husband and I were to start a family. The play is an expression of my love for my husband and my internal fears of a world that still intimidates and frightens me. Sharing a piece of this vulnerability is pretty scary, but I know that having its World Premiere at the 14th Street Y will give me a sense of sanctuary and safety.
I am passionate about the mission that the 14th Street Y has: to bring diversity and social justice into this community—that’s what our theater’s mission is. It’s amazing that I’m here with like-minded people that are interested in creating a downtown Jewish community center that speaks to diverse audiences and cultures about the issues we have in our country and our world. That’s what the 14th Street Y is all about—continuing community, always with an edge. I take PRIDE this month not only in my marriage to my beautiful husband, but in what I do in this world. And the 14th Street Y has given me a home for that work.