LABAlive Programs

LABA: A Global Laboratory for Jewish Culture Presents:

DEAD + ALIVE by Richard Saudek


Dead! Richard Saudek
Alive! Dana Dailey
The Film Director! Pher Gleason
The Musician! Estelle Bajou
The MC! Becca Kauffman
Stage Manager! Tom Phelin
Lighting Design! Kryssy Wright
A LABA 2nd Stage production

LABA NY Artist Richard Saudek is returning to the 14Y Theater with a full production of his LABA project DEAD + ALIVE. Saudek was a fellow in 2019, during our year of studying Life + Death. This is a whimsical clown show that explores, through cirqu-esque acts like juggling and live music, the true partnership and deep coexistence of two circus performers trying to make sense of an absurd world (aren’t we all?!) …even though one of them happens to be dead. The show must go on! With special guest, MC: Jennifer Vanilla.

1992: Richard is taught a classic one-ring sawdust American clown act while training as a 10 year old circus performer. It’s called Dead and Alive.

2019: we create a 2 clown show in which 1 clown dies at the outset- a 2 clown act with 1.5 clowns.

2020: a pandemic kills millions of people. We lose our friends. We go into isolation. There is no live performance.

2021: we use the empty theater to shoot a film of Dead + Alive.

2022: we premiere the film within a variety night of strange and chaotic circ-esque acts.

Dead! Richard Saudek:
Richard grew up making faces at himself in the mirror while he brushed his teeth and then trained as a clown with Rob Mermin, a mentee of Marcelle Marceau and Etienne Decroux…making Richard a dementee. Currently he’s a member of One Year Lease Theater Co, and teaches clown classes in Northern Greece each summer with OYL.

At the 14th Street Y he played the role of Lucky in WAITING FOR GODOT in Yiddish and ALSO presented his clown show, BEEP BOOP.

He’s performed at The New Victory, 59E59 Theaters, Barrow St Theatre, Ars Nova, the Bushwick Starr, HERE, LaMama, Teatro Circulo, The Player’s Theatre, The Pearl, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Regionally: Walton Arts Center, Stages Rep, Flint Rep, Shakespeare Theater Company, Williamstown Theater Festival, American Repertory Theater. Internationally: Teatro López de Ayala, Edinburgh Fringe, Shanghai Theatre Academy. He can be spotted on BONDiNG (Netflix), Bull (CBS) and Boardwalk Empire (HBO). Website: | IG: @richardsaudek

Alive! Dana Dailey: Dana is hibernating. They have grown to love circus that is heartfelt and absurd. She’s performed with many of the circus companies in this country but really likes Bindlestiffs, Circus Nonsense, Misfit Circus and…whatever this is.
FB: |

The Film Director! Pher Gleason: Pher directed the filmed version of Dead + Alive and as a juggler she has worked with Circus Smirkus Camp, Cirque Us, and Brooklyn’s The Muse, specializing in balancing her technical knowledge with experimental style and decisive panache. She is the only openly transgender, world-record-holding juggler.
FB: | IG: @pheronica_mars

The Musician! Estelle Bajou: Estelle is a French-American polymath raised in a furniture-factory town in the NC mountains. Praised as a “first-rate young actor” (NY Times), her acting credits include Broadway’s Once, HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” Charming the Hearts of Men (opposite Anna Friel), Spielberg’s The Post, and Chaplin of the Mountains (filmed in Iraq). Described as “elegantly constructed” (NY Times), Bajou’s composing has earned several awards, including a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Music in a Play alongside one of her heroes, Philip Glass. Her full-length play, Poetry, is a Finalist in the 2021 ScreenCraft Stage Play Competition. She co-wrote and starred in the feature, Person Woman Man Camera TV (forthcoming 2022). Her poetry received a 2021 Pushcart Prize nomination, and her debut poetry collection, I Never Learned to Pray (forthcoming 2022) was Longlisted for the C&R Press Poetry Award. She’s overjoyed to be involved in these Dead + Alive shenanigans.
Website: | IG: @estellebajou
Twitter: @estellebajou | FB:

The MC! Becca Kauffman: Becca is a New York-based performance artist with an interactive, genre-fluid approach to their multidisciplinary solo work. Their self-guided career through art, music, comedy, voice acting, and dance converges in the persona-driven art project, Jennifer Vanilla, a communication vessel through which they create original pop music, choreographed stage shows, music videos, and merchandise-as-conversation-pieces. Becca co-created many albums and toured internationally as a member of the experimental Brooklyn pop band Ava Luna for ten years. They are now an MFA candidate in Art and Social Practice at Portland State University, where they are currently researching larp and the art of hosting. Jennifer Vanilla’s forthcoming album Castle in the Sky comes out on Sinderlyn Records in Spring 2022.
Website: | IG: @jennifervanilla
Twitter: @jennifervanilla | FB:

December 3, 2020 | From Richard to his collaborators.

Hello partners,

WARNING: This is an extremely long-winded and loopy email comin’ at ya.
I’ve had a couple of gin and tonics…If you have a minute, or a few minutes, give it a read and let me know what you think.

Y’all have been on my mind lately. And the show has been on my mind throughout these long, many months…although time has been acting funny and it’s all been in a bit of statis.

Here’s one thing I know for certain: I want to do Dead + Alive. It has the potential to be a really great show. And I really, really yearn for that feeling that you sparked within me when we were together, creating something from nothing.
I’m going to now go on and on about why (and maybe, hopefully!) how we could continue on the path we started out on last year (JUST LAST YEAR!!??!). So…here goes.

I guess the purpose of this email is for me to try and untangle a messiness in my head and for you to bear witness to that…and I hope that you can respond and we can start up a convo from the debris and ashes of the emotional/physco crapload that 2020 has wrought.

Oy, so much preamble…sheesh.

Since this Spring, I’ve been resigned to the fact that I won’t really be able to perform or create art the way I have been and that it’s kind of okay…it is not that important…in the scheme of things. It’s not essential…it’s not saving any lives…and in the context of the pandemic, it’s been tough for me to think that if you’re not keeping people from getting sick with your work, you’re not doing anything that really matters. BUT–I’ve been living in that reality since March, and now, even though I’ve never ever wanted to be one of those people who says things like, “I can’t live without my art!” (yuck!), it turns out I really find it VERY difficult to live without making art. It has to do with collaborating with people who inspire me, with making something bigger than myself, and with sharing the human experience with other humans, in a room.  That makes me feel like life is being lived…that I’m part of life.

So…….I want to make this show. And to do that we’ll just have to make it without the reassurance that it’ll happen. But, that’s always kind of the case, right? The first step is setting aside rehearsal time and rules that everybody can commit to…but it’s always been like that, right? Everything has changed, but that leap of faith in the process has always been the case, right? The context is wildly new and challenging, but the method hasn’t changed. It’s always been challenging. So- I believe in this little piece of theater and I think it’s still important to make it.
The story of Dead + Alive is about human connection, friendship, and dependence on one another. Those themes are being highlighted and tested and strained right now. People are learning the real importance of this stuff, and they’re finding it difficult to articulate.

And, of course, there is Death happening, too. Everybody is experiencing some relationship with Death throughout the pandemic. There’s the actual hurt and tragedy of loss throughout your city, county, community, family, friends…but there’s the immediate, more tangible ever-looming mortality we’re collectively feeling in various degrees as the virus appeared and continues to permeate.
So–two big things…big parts of the same really big thing: Death. There’s the loss of lives of people we know and love. And there’s us…alive and living in a new context that is enshrouded with a very present, very visible/invisible killer. Those are two things I’m thinking about a lot right now.

Another thing–LIFE. I’ve been thinking about the very small, very silly, very boring, very sacred things that make me actually feel alive. All of the anxiety and existentialism that accompanies these times doesn’t feel like Life. It feels like thought…but not like Life. If we’re able to get back together, in a room, and start creating this show again, I’d for us to play within “Life”, to share playful, meaningless moments and experience and explore what it is to live together.

How? How can you imagine doing this? Perhaps we could speak all together via Zoom or something. (The thought of rehearsing on Zoom gives me the heeby-jeebies, but I like the thought of conversing with you all on video.) Perhaps from there we can spark ideas, go off on our own and reconnoiter…?

Those are my thoughts on the show right now. I’d like to hear your thoughts.


Arts + Culture + LABA + Theater Staff

Ronit Muszkatblit, Consulting Creative Director + LABA Global
Kryssy Wright, Director of Production
Laura Beatrix Newmark, Director of LABA NY

About the 14th Street Y

The 14th street Y is a vibrant community center grounded in the belief that contemporary Jewish sensibilities can be a source of inspiration, connection, and learning for the individuals and families we serve throughout downtown Manhattan. We focus on health and fitness, education and enrichment programs, and innovative arts and cultural programming.
We are committed to the development of the whole person and bettering people’s lives and strengthening individual and family connections by building an inclusive and sustainable community.

The 14th Street Y is part of Educational Alliance’s network of community centers in Lower Manhattan. We believe strong communities can transform lives. Our programs turn strangers into neighbors and provide New Yorkers access to quality education, health and wellness services, arts and culture, and civic engagement opportunities.

Season of CHOSEN

This year at LABA we are contemplating the various ways in which Jewish culture dealt with chosenness throughout its long history. We will study an array of Jewish texts, both ancient and contemporary, that ponder chosenness in myriad contexts from the tangible to the intangible. From marginalization to the inequality of destiny, superman myths to the daunting choices past, present, and future, we will delve into and explore ancient text and modern times.
We are exploring the power of choice from all angles. What does it feel like to choose? What does it feel like to be chosen? And how do we know whether it is our time to do one or the other?

About the 14Y Theater 

The Theater at the 14th Street Y’s mission focuses on social awareness and change through big picture narrative. Inspired by works that welcome artists of all backgrounds, we place artists as the heart of our community and seek to create an inclusive cultural experience for all.

About LABA: A Global Laboratory for Jewish Culture

LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture is a program of the 14th Street Y that uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study. Part of LABA is the House of Study, an artist fellowship program for which around 10 culture-makers, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others, are brought together to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded setting. The fellows use the study to inspire work which is featured on this website and in our series of LABAlive and LABA Fest events and performances. Every year LABA focuses its study around a theme. Previous themes include Paradise, Eros, Blueprint, Eat, Mother, Time, Beauty, Other, Humor and Chosen. The 2022 theme will be BROKEN.
Our goal at LABA is to present Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual tradition in a free and  creative setting, so that these stories and ideas spark new thought and art. The creative  output from our House of Study pushes the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what  Jewish texts can teach.

LABAlive, an evening of art, performance and teachings inspired by Jewish texts, makes  its exciting return to the Theater at the 14th Street Y.

To learn more about LABA, visit
LABA: Global Artists Delve into Jewish Texts

Previous LABAlive Programs:

LABAlive IV: Who’s Your Choice?

TEACHING by Ruby Namdar  
Annie Berman

The Faithful: The King, The Pope, The Princess 
A lollipop officially licensed by the Vatican sparks filmmaker Annie Berman’s 20-year exploration of fandom, memorabilia, memory, and legacy within the orbits of three of the biggest cultural icons of our time: Pope John Paul II, Elvis Presley, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

About Annie Berman 
Annie Berman is a NYC based media artist. Her work has shown internationally including MoMA, Spring/Break Art Show, and the Rome Independent Film Festival where she was awarded Best Experimental Film. She teaches documentary film writing at City College, holds an MFA from Hunter College, and is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.

LABAlive III: Destiny’s Choice

TEACHING by Ruby Namdar  
LANGUAGE IN A BREATH by Samantha Lish/Lish Lab  
Sam Sussman

The Brothers Sussman
From New York to Hebron, ‘The Brothers Sussman’ chronicles conflicting relationships to American and Jewish identity and the ineffable conflicts that endure within families.

About Sam Sussman 
Sam Sussman is a writer whose work has been recognized by BAFTA and Cannes. He has written for the Tel Aviv Review of Books, Haaretz, Dissent, and the Oxford Review of Books, and taught writing seminars in India, South America, and Europe. Sam is co-founder of Extend, an NGO that offers immersive learning in Israel–Palestine and has been featured at the UN. He holds degrees in philosophy, literature, and politics from Swarthmore and Oxford.

Collaborators and Cast 
Lili Rosen (Unorthodox) – Yosef Sussman
George Blumenthal (Wall Street) – Ben Sussman
Mark Katz (The JewNight Show) – Simon Sussman

Ben Kaplan

The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language 
An Opera in Two Acts  
Libretto by Ben Kaplan; Music by Alex Weiser
The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language is a new full-length opera based on the true story of Yiddish linguist Yudel Mark, who in 1950s post-war New York City sets out to write the world’s first fully comprehensive Yiddish dictionary – an effort of linguistic preservation, and a memorial to the dead. As Mark clashes with colleagues over the dictionary’s size and scope, he is haunted by the three Alefs—Komets, Pasekh, and Shtumer—three divine emanations of the Yiddish language who compel him to breathe new life into Yiddish. The opera invites audiences to consider the extent to which a language and a culture can be saved, the nature of grief, and the power of language itself to transform and shape us into who we are.

Historical Note
Yudel Mark and Max Weinreich were two major figures in the history of Yiddish linguistics and scholarship. The characters in this opera draw inspiration from their lives— their efforts to uplift the Yiddish language, and their hopes for Jewish culture. Much of the content in this opera is based on true events and conversations that have been adapted for the stage. The creators owe a particular debt to Leyzer Burko, whose scholarship on the history of Yiddish linguistics has shed light on this story. For those interested in learning more, the YIVO Encyclopedia also has articles on both Mark and Weinreich, along with a wealth of other information documenting this history.

About Ben Kaplan 
Born in Brooklyn, NY, librettist Ben Kaplan currently serves as Director of Education at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. His libretto for State of the Jews, an opera written with composer Alex Weiser, tells the story of Theodor Herzl and the toll his political activities took on his family life. His next libretto, for another opera collaboration with Weiser, is about the controversies surrounding a great Yiddish dictionary.

Collaborators and Cast
Shtumer Alef — Kristin Gornstein
Komets Alef — Krysty Swann
Pasekh Alef — Blythe Gaissert
Yudel Mark — Jason Weisinger
Max Weinreich — John Taylor Ward
Evening Directed by Ronit MuszkaTblit


We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the many individuals who aided in the creation of this work. Thank you to Ruby Namdar, Stefanie Halpern, Sam Sussman, Ronit MuszkaTblit, Laura Newmark, Kryssy Wright, Sandra Levykh, Elinor Milchan, Eudice Winer, Leyzer Burko, and Dovid Braun who provided invaluable input during the development process of this opera. We are also very grateful for support from the 14th Street Y’s LABA that helped make The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language possible.

Samantha Lish

Language in a Breath (Gallery)
The infinite spirit manifested by and embodied in the form of each Hebrew letter that was chosen by G-d at the beginning of time, continues to play a unique and dynamic role in forming the world we live in. This digital painting collage series was made from the superposition of many layers and brush strokes based on creational insights from Kabbalistic, Midrashic, and Talmudic sources.

About Samantha Lish
Samantha Lish is an emerging visual artist and NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar pursuing a DPhil in Theoretical Physics. Both her scientific research and artistic work focus on the transformation of an amalgam of abstract parts and geometries into meaningful information that contribute to the origin of life. Her mixed media conceptual artworks juggle this simultaneous macroscopic and microscopic view of the universe and endeavor to communicate universal laws and truths inherent to human creativity and natural wonder. Offering a refreshing degree of visual complexity, Samantha breaks down theological, scientific, and philosophical ideas by depicting their elemental components. She hopes to shed new light on the evolving Jewish narrative by make seemingly esoteric concepts from biblical literature more accessible. The penetrating quality of her work is recognizable for its abstracted form and choice of subject matter, which challenges the viewer to ask questions


TEACHING by Ruby Namdar on 10/14/2021 
TALKBACK by Doron Perk and Mindy Pfeffer on 10/15/2021 
Doron Perk

Grandfather Visit 

Grandfather Visit is a solo dance performance in memory of Prof. Kalman Perk. In July of 1944, in a crowded cattle wagon headed to the death camps, 14-year-old Kalman was chosen by his family to survive by escaping through the narrow window. As his grandchild, Doron chooses to keep his memory alive by using the moving body as a vessel for feelings and sensations inspired by the many visits to him in the last few years of his life.

About Doron Perk 
Doron Perk studied in the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Israel and received scholarships from The America – Israel Cultural foundation during the years 2003-2008. Doron danced in The Croatian National Theatre Ballet (HNK) in Split, The National Dance Company of Spain (CND) in Madrid, and The Batsheva Ensemble – The Young Company in Tel Aviv. Doron has been a Gaga Movement teacher since 2015 and a dancer in ZviDance since 2016.

Collaborators and Cast 
Choreography and performance: Doron Perk
Light design and stage production: Kryssy Wright
Stage Manager: Rachel April
Music: Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op 64 – Kyung Wha Chung with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal  | Bird sounds | 51 bpm Metronome | Tzadik Katamar and Hora Haktana – Effi Netzer band | Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Op.20 Neapolitan Dance – Mary and Momo Kodama | How A Spiral Works – ASUNA, Jan Jelinek

Kalman Perk’s testimony:

Special Thanks  
Nat Wilson
Lea Friedman
Alison Clancy
Dan Safer
Mindy Pfeffer


TEACHING by Ruby Namdar 
HOW TO LIVE by Mindy Pfeffer 
Mindy Pfeffer

How to Live examines xenophobia, repressed memories, and the struggle to heal, ultimately setting the power of healing in the arts and in our connection to each other. Maria Pfeffer became one of Poland’s leading family therapists in the late 20th century after a traumatic childhood experience during World War II.  Her father did not speak for a year, only reading Shakespeare, to heal the psychic wounds he received after a beating at the hands of Nazis.

About Mindy Pfeffer 
Mindy Pfeffer is an actor/playwright/solo performer/teaching artist/native New Yorker. She has appeared in over 60 plays in NYC and regionally. Her short and long plays have been produced in many small theaters. Mindy’s solo play about training for an Ironman triathlon was seen in several Fringe Festivals and off-off Broadway. She uses puppetry and theatre to teach about social justice and inclusion in NYC schools. Member AEA, Dramatists Guild.

Collaborators and Cast 
Adolf Pfeffer (Maria’s father) – James Hallett
1940s Maria Pfeffer Orwid – Jacqueline McCarthy
University Admissions Officer – Danielle Delgado
Therapist – Christine Bruno
1980s Maria Pfeffer Orwid – Danielle Delgado
Piotr (shopkeeper) – James Hallett
Klara Pfeffer Orwid (Maria’s mother) – Christine Bruno
Marc Szulc (Maria’s life partner) – James Hallet

Directed by Jean Randich

Dvir Cahana

Bachurs Can’t Be Choosers 
When you are Chosen, do you even have the choice to not heed the call? The question of every artist. Join Dvir “RiviR” Cahana with special guest artists, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana (poet), Amy Harlib (contortionist and performer) and Milo (6-year-old artist prodigy) on an exhilarating rap exploration as he unpacks this question.

About Dvir Cahana 
King David had his slingshot, Samson had his hair and Dvir Cahana has his lyrics. Whether it be through his Rap Battles of the Bible series, Moishe House Albums or his rock opera book report assignments, Dvir dances through life with a musical filter. As a hip-hop artist in his first year at the rabbinic school, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Dvir hopes to use his music as a means to allow people to access their spirituality.

Collaborators and Cast 
6-Year-Old Artist Prodigy – Milo
Rabbi/Poet – Ronnie Cahana
Contortionist/Performer – Amy Harlib