Through COVID to a Festival, the Story of “It Gets Bitter”

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At the 14Y, part of our mission is to creatively support and reflect Jewish values. One way we explore that is through LABA: A Laboratory of Jewish Culture that provides creative space and support to artists exploring Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual traditions through the exploration of Jewish texts.

One LABA fellow, Yochai Greenfeld, joined the program in 2018 when he was a fresh Israeli transplant embarking on a journey towards a stage career in New York City. With the support of LABA, Yochai has nurtured his creative process and conceived a full production of “It Gets Bitter: A One Act Dramady for a Drag Queen and Pianist.”

We are thrilled that Yochai will be sharing what was nurtured through LABA at the Queer Jewish Arts Festival in Baltimore on June 16, 2022. Read on to learn more about Yochai’s creative journey in his own words.

Yochai’s Creative Journey

“LABA seemed like a great opportunity. It offered a cohort of talented artists to connect with, a generous stipend and a production budget that could be used to create an excerpt of a future play. My time as a fellow ended with a bang with the presentation of a 20-minute piece – a drag cabaret about an orthodox Jewish mom whose son comes out of the closet, and their mutual journey from rejection to reconnection.

When the world came to a stop in March 2020, I was performing in the Broadway tour of Fiddler on the Roof. At the least expected time, I was contacted by LABA and asked to expand my 20-minute creation into a full play as part of their “Second Stage” program for LABA alumni.

I was so dragged down by the initial shock of the pandemic that it was hard for me to believe I’d ever be in a theater again, but I was advised that the shutdown could be an opportunity to write, envision, and dream the things that we could bring back to the stage once life started getting back to normal. So, I picked up my pen (or rather opened my laptop) and started writing.

Moving Onward through COVID

Cut to May 2022 and I’m here at the 14Y following the first week of rehearsals for my now full- length play, “It Gets Bitter.” Director Eric Parness is working with me and my co-performer, Aaron Latta-Morissette on staging the piece, and it’s all coming together. The process so far has been unbelievable; expanding and rewriting my show, envisioning its costumes with wardrobe wizard Yamil DeJesus, and collaborating with video artist Neville Braithwaite.

But the cherry on top has been the support from LABA, the 14Y and the Educational Alliance, who have not only given me the best care an artist could ask for, but have also partnered with the Queer Jewish Arts Festival, where “It Gets Bitter” will be this year’s festival centerpiece. I am honored that my show will be their first in-person show since its founding.

It took a pandemic for me to go through this incredible jump from dream to creation, and I couldn’t be more grateful that this little excerpt from 2018 is now a full length drag play – one that will bring joy, laughter, tears and messages of acceptance, but most importantly – buckets of glitter to all who witness it.

If you are in Baltimore on June 16, come and see the show at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts. But don’t fret, you can view it online, too. However you choose to watch, I hope you’ll join me on June 16 at 7:30 PM.”

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