Tuesday, November 22, 2022
HomeTheatreAMERICAN THEATRE | Jewish Pleasure, Jewish Trauma: Why They Really feel Completely...

AMERICAN THEATRE | Jewish Pleasure, Jewish Trauma: Why They Really feel Completely different Onstage Now


Brandon Uranowitz and Caissie Levy in “Leopoldstadt” (photograph by Joan Marcus); Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt in “Parade” (photograph by Joan Marcus); Johnny Berchtold and Lily McInerny in “Camp Siegfried” (photograph by Emilio Madrid); forged members of “Fiddler on the Roof” (photograph by Matthew Murphy); Tovah Feldshuh and Lea Michele in “Humorous Woman” (photograph by Matthew Murphy)

A household saga spanning generations, an intimate two-hander set on Lengthy Island, a long-awaited revival of an under-sung traditional, and two reimaginations of traditional American musicals—stylistically and aesthetically, Leopoldstadt, Camp Siegfried, Parade, the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof, and Humorous Woman have little in frequent. Besides, after all, for all that they do. At a time of rising antisemitism and right-wing violence, every of those works examines the current second’s roots in a not-so-distant previous. Taken as a bunch, they communicate to one another. With full credit score to a creative-thinking press consultant at Boneau/Bryan-Brown, American Theatre convened this dialog, bringing collectively a bunch of theatrical luminaries to debate the shared language, fears, goals, themes, and imaginations of their performs: Veteran actor Joel Gray, who directed the Yiddish Fiddler; Tovah Feldshuh, who stars at Rosie Brice in Humorous Woman; Caissie Levy, who stars in Leopoldstadt; Michael Arden, who directed Parade at Metropolis Heart; and Bess Wohl, who wrote Camp Siegfried. The dialog has been edited for concision and readability, and in addition seems as an audio podcast right here.


GABRIELLE HOYT: Theatre is commonly criticized for its incapacity to reply with immediacy to the current second. That isn’t an issue on your reveals, which run the gamut from tales of Jewish success to narratives of American Nazis to every part in between. What I wish to do on this hour greater than the rest is discover what your work means at this time, in November 2022, and what it means to modern audiences, and what it means to every of you. So really, the place I wish to begin this dialog—and once more, see all of the magical and inventive ways in which all of you’re taking it—is by asking: What do every of the performs that you simply’re right here to speak about at this time imply to you, personally? And the way do their narratives intersect with your individual?

JOEL GREY: Having the Ukraine circumstance as a background to this play at this time—because it seems, we speak about Kyiv in Yiddish—and , it’s about that point when all of our kin had been dwelling there and operating away. And these individuals in Ukraine are nonetheless operating away. And the truth that it’s taking place in actual time actually sits on my head.

GABRIELLE: Thanks, Joel.

CAISSIE LEVY: After I first learn Leopoldstadt and auditioned for it, I used to be struck by the themes of the play being as related at this time, the conversations between the members of the family of, “Are Jews secure? The place are we secure? Does Israel matter? Do we want a homeland of our personal?” I’ve these debates with my husband day by day. And this was earlier than the headlines of the final month or so, which have simply been so terribly terrible and scary. So, , l’dor v’dor, era to era, I believe these are questions that Jews have been asking themselves for the reason that starting of time, and right here we’re once more, asking them.

JOEL: The identical questions. Proper.

TOVAH FELDSHUH: I can bounce in. I believe that the Jewish individuals have the good benefit of the concern of extinction. I believe it’s crucial to face up and inform the Jewish story. I additionally assume it’s very attention-grabbing that in Humorous Woman, I’m the primary actress of the Jewish faith to play Rosie Brice. Attention-grabbing. So these Jews, gifted Jews, wrote this Jewish story. And Rosie Brice—Rosia Borach—owned 4 saloons in Manhattan. They noticed the phrase “saloon” and guess who obtained these components? Irish Catholic actresses. For many years. So after this newest rendition with the great Beanie Feldstein and Jane Lynch, one of many producers who occurs to be of a Jewish background—really, two of them—thought, “Oh, why don’t we forged a Jew on this half, ?” In order that they did. And it labored. And my job is to make this Rosie Brice notably Jewish. Not notably American. That is without doubt one of the joys of doing Humorous Woman. Now, Harvey [Fierstein] has rewritten a few of the script, and it says, “Mazel Tov, Fanny” on Henry Avenue. And I requested to name Fannie “Fannele” they usually stated sure. I requested to place in “oy yoy yoy,” and we lastly obtained the “toi toi toi” proper. As a result of it’s in my heritage—definitely it’s in Joel’s and my heritage.

MICHAEL ARDEN: I can talk about Parade a bit of bit. You already know, it is a musical that I believe many individuals have recognized for some time, however not seen in a very long time. 

JOEL: I used to be there opening night time on the Lincoln Heart!

MICHAEL: Wow! Apparently sufficient, it didn’t get fairly the life it deserved initially. I believe it was enjoying within the Clinton years, after we thought that we kind of had every part behind us: that we had found out racism, that we had kind of determined that antisemitism was a factor that died, actually through the Chilly Warfare. And so, it felt like a bit extra of historic fiction. And, right here we had been rehearsing in Metropolis Heart—a 10-day rehearsal course of—and on day three, individuals had been doing Nazi salutes over the 405. And in order that was what it felt like daily. We started to grasp the work that we had been doing, the story that we had been telling, which is in the end about how individuals’s traumas, un-dealt with over time, change into hatred, reciprocal retribution, and change into—they attempt to inflict trauma upon others, as a result of they imagine that there’s not sufficient on this planet. They imagine that the success of another person, that another person is getting one thing, signifies that they’re shedding one thing. So this turned increasingly more prescient day by day.

So it was fascinating to get to work on this present proper now. And I believe we started to see whereas we had been engaged on it daily that what we had been doing was—is, really—actually, actually, actually vital. And to have the ability to take a look at one thing that actually occurred, this true story of Leo Frank and his lynching, after which take a look at it by means of the kind of publish—not publish, however for the reason that Black Lives Matter motion has begun—to take a look at how racism and antisemitism are the identical factor. It’s all about white supremacy and the way that has infiltrated the judicial system, our political system, our education, how we’re educated. And so coming into into it, we needed to inform a chunk of historic trauma, and it turned one thing rather more related. That was fascinating, upsetting, however thank God we had an opportunity to inform that story each night time final week.

BESS WOHL: It’s actually attention-grabbing listening to everybody speak as a result of it’s simply resonating a lot with every part that’s in my mind proper now—the fear of historical past repeating itself and and how are you going to be taught from what we’ve been by means of, and hopefully, dwell with extra consciousness and motion and all of the issues that we’re striving for. My play can also be historic, and it takes place in 1938 on Lengthy Island, and it kind of got here from—I wrote it in the summertime of 2020 through the reelection marketing campaign of Donald Trump, and the setting for the play is an actual summer time camp on Lengthy Island that was referred to as Camp Siegfried, that was run by the German American Bund within the late Thirties. And principally it was a method of indoctrinating youngsters into Nazi ideology. The pictures and the footage from the Lengthy Island Camp Siegfried appear to be it’s straight out of Nazi Germany. Swastikas all over the place. You’ll be able to’t imagine—I imply, once I first encountered this story, I couldn’t imagine that this had occurred in America. So I believed lots about how reluctant we’re to take a look at our personal darkness, the darker components of our historical past, and the way vital it’s to take a look at them and perceive them. I felt actually personally linked to it in a number of methods. The morning after the election of Donald Trump, our neighborhood playground the place my youngsters play was graffitied with swastikas. The morning after. And so I felt this sense that this was actually encroaching, and I needed to take a look at how these actions occur, particularly in America, and I needed to inform a chunk of historical past, but additionally do one thing extra by way of taking a look at what occurs within the human psyche that enables these items to develop, and what occurs in our communities that enables these items to develop. And actually attempt to perceive one thing about this sense of mass delusion that may come over individuals, and attempt to create one thing that may wake individuals up from that, or that may a minimum of allow us to give it some thought in a different way. In order that’s the place I’m proper now.

TOVAH: Perhaps it sits within the stomach of man. I used to be with His Eminence Cardinal O’Connor, and I stated, “You already know, I’m only a Jew, however do you actually imagine within the satan?” He stated, “Completely, Miss Feldshuh. He sits within the stomach of man.”

GABRIELLE: To me, the factor that binds all these performs collectively is their curiosity in an imagined historic previous. The whole lot from the fables of Sholem Aleichem to Tom Stoppard’s personal exploration of household historical past by means of Leopoldstadt, to Jason Robert Brown’s musicalization of the lynching of Leo Frank. So I’m actually eager about what the previous is saying to us within the current, and in addition what it’s asking of us to think about for the longer term. Joel, I’d love to start by asking that of you—particularly given Fiddler‘s lovely translation of an American musical into Yiddish—how that act of translation and that depiction of an imagined previous is chatting with who we at the moment are.

JOEL: I don’t communicate Yiddish. So once I took the job, I needed to say that, and we needed to rehearse it in English first, after which put within the Yiddish. And there have been a number of younger individuals within the play who aren’t Jewish, who by no means heard of it, didn’t know something about it, and have become completely fascinated and dedicated to studying this troublesome language. And getting onstage and seeing the impact of Yiddish on audiences, non-Jewish audiences, listening to this language that they thought possibly was darkish, destructive, “the enemy.” Antisemitism, I imply, it sits in our theatre, as a result of individuals don’t even know that they’re antisemitic, till they do. And this play brings that each one up. As with all of those—it is a nice concept so that you can put collectively these explicit performs to speak about.

GABRIELLE: Michael, I ponder if I might throw this to you additionally, due to the very completely different notion of Parade now versus when it got here out, and ask an identical query: What’s the retelling and retelling of this story doing for us now, in 2022, that maybe, it was telling all alongside however we’re listening to in a different way now? 

MICHAEL: Yeah, I believe retelling is the one method we keep in mind. It’s the one method we’re compelled to reexamine one thing from the completely different vantage factors of our personal age and expertise. For example, once I first learn or knew Parade as a school pupil, I went to Lincoln Heart and watched the seize, and, , it means a lot extra to me now. It really is a wholly completely different story to me now. I believed, “Oh, it is a love story about two individuals, , in opposition to all odds.” And positive, that’s a part of it,  however to me now, seeing it based mostly on expertise, each mine and my expertise of the world, that modifications. So if we solely inform a narrative as soon as, how can we be taught from it? How can we be taught the complete risk and functionality of the fabric? We’re not really seeing the complete story until we revisit and revisit. It’s why we revisit Shakespeare. It’s why we have a good time holidays. I’m not a Jewish individual, so I look and I see we have a good time freaking Easter yearly. What’s that about? Why do we have to try this? It’s really about tales. We have to revisit tales at completely different factors in our life in order that extra of the essence and reality and purpose for remembrance seems as we develop. In order that’s what it felt prefer to me: the thought of by no means forgetting. With the intention to always remember, it’s important to proceed to inform, be taught the story over and over.

Alex Joseph Grayson and the forged of “Parade” at Metropolis Heart. (Picture by Joan Marcus)

CAISSIE: I like, Michael, what you simply stated. I used to be eager about Passover, and that that is what we do on Passover—we sit round a desk with our individuals and a few invited company, whom we’re commanded to convey into our Seder desk, and we retell the story of our Exodus from Egypt and after we had been enslaved. And the explanation we inform it’s so that we don’t overlook. It’s the identical purpose we make theatre; it’s the identical purpose we revive reveals, and we look at them in a different way when they’re revived, to attempt to make them extra related to what we’re dwelling by means of now. So I believe it’s very tied collectively—these items are all very a lot…it’s not an accident that they’re all being carried out proper now. I believe individuals are craving examination of our world. I believe Jewish individuals are actually analyzing their relationship to their Judaism. Jewish People, proper now, what does that imply? It may imply 1,000,000 various things, and Lord is aware of it does. Particularly Jews, we like to disagree about our religion and our faith. I all the time describe Judaism as a Select Your Personal Journey e-book. As a result of everyone actually comes at it from a unique angle. However what binds us is: We’re Jews. And we’re wandering. And we now have been from the start of time.

Our tales matter, and I believe we’re claiming them in a method. I see Broadway, particularly Broadway and Off-Broadway, claiming these tales in a method that 5, 10 years in the past, we weren’t. The illustration onstage—the truth that extra Jews are enjoying Jews, as Tovah talked about, that’s not an accident. That’s one thing that individuals are asking themselves, Hmm, why hasn’t this been the case earlier than? Why is it vital for different minority teams and but not for Jews? So now we’re beginning to ask these powerful questions, have these powerful discussions with Jews and non-Jews alike, and taking a look at these inherited, inherent biases and emotions about our personal tradition and faith and religion and ethnicity. And that’s what theatre is for.

MICHAEL: It’s so humorous. In Parade, Jason [Robert Brown] stated, that is the primary time there have ever been Jewish individuals enjoying Leo and Lucille Frank in a significant manufacturing, which is loopy to me.

Steven Skybell, center, and the cast of "Fidler Afn Dakh," the U.S. premiere of "Fiddler on the Roof" in Yiddish, directed by Joel Grey and produced by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in 2018 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. (Photo by Victor Nechay/ProperPix)
Steven Skybell, middle, and the forged of Gray’s Yiddish “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Picture by Victor Nechay/ProperPix)

GABRIELLE: Joel, earlier than we lose you, I’d love to listen to—I’m positive all of us would—about revisiting Fiddler, now, this yr. What new issues has it stated to you? What has stunned you? What have you ever seen in it that you simply didn’t even a number of years in the past, once you staged it brilliantly for the primary time?

JOEL: I all the time considered it as extra Chekhovian than Broadway—that these individuals had been from a really particular shtetl, they usually speak to one another. And the model of musical, when Fiddler got here out, was very radical in a method. However very, very basic, and never particularly Jewish. I don’t assume they handled the background, besides that the depth of Jerry Robbins’ Yiddishkeit that he had within him, whether or not he preferred it or not, got here out. And he knew it. It was in his bones. And it’s in my bones. And I’m going to place it within the forged’s bones, as a result of we now have a number of non-Jews performing on this, they usually’re simply great of their willingness to affix me in being Jewish for a few hours, and being pleased with it and linked to it. So it’s actually attention-grabbing, as a result of there are lots of people who don’t communicate the language, who don’t take a look at the interpretation, they’re simply into the characters, they usually know what they’re saying. And that was my pleasure, to introduce them to being Jews.

At this level Joel Gray needed to go away the dialog, which continued with the remaining people.

GABRIELLE: Antisemitism is a societal downside, proper? It’s a symptom of decline and even collapse at occasions of instability. Whether or not it’s the American South in Parade or Vienna and Western Europe looking for a objective after World Warfare I, that’s when it comes up. And it’s a societal downside. It’s everybody’s downside. However so typically it will get framed as a Jewish downside, an issue for Jews, that solely Jews ought to actually care about. I believe one thing that every of your performs does so fantastically is it invitations a complete viewers, not simply Jewish members of an viewers, to think about how antisemitism is an issue for all of us. And I’d love to debate how you are feeling like every of your performs is doing so. Bess, I’d love to start out with you on this, due to the performs that we’re speaking about at this time, yours is the one which doesn’t depict Jewish characters. And people characters are very insulated and naïve in some methods, and really figuring out and culpable in different methods. I’m questioning how you’re inviting in an entire viewers—each member of an viewers who sees your play at Second Stage—to consider this downside as our downside, and an American downside, particularly.

BESS: Yeah, actually, it was very scary for me to start out to consider these characters. It’s a 16-year-old lady, it’s a 17-year-old boy, they’ve been despatched to be indoctrinated on this camp, a Nazi summer time camp, that appears idyllic on the floor and is extremely, devastatingly evil within the underbelly, and deeply antisemitic. And I spent a number of time pondering, What am I asking of an viewers, by way of introducing them to those characters? And the way do I need individuals to be pondering of them? And the way am I pondering of them? And what’s the purpose for introducing individuals to those explicit characters? All of that was deeply on my thoughts. Additionally, given their age, how can we consider the equation of accountability for each of those individuals and never shrink back from it, but additionally not put issues on them that they don’t know but? It’s a really thorny and complex area to navigate. I believe that’s a part of why I used to be eager about attempting to determine it out. Finally, for me, the query of how we get seduced as a neighborhood and as a society into, within the case of my play, fascistic, actually violent, horrible ideologies, is a part of what I’m attempting to trace with these characters. While you meet them, how are they seduced? How are we seduced by them? What are the moments after we overlook, they usually simply seem to be these very nice youngsters? And you then convey grim actuality again in. Calculating all of that on this package deal of a play, which is an instrument of seduction already, and is drawing you in and asking you to overlook issues and telling you a narrative. All of that was a part of why I used to be eager about attempting to unpack this and take a look at it. As a result of I believe these actions don’t begin with the place they finish. They begin with, “Doesn’t it really feel good to be a part of a neighborhood? Doesn’t it really feel good to face up on your nation? Don’t you wish to?” They usually kind of construct individuals up on this method. After which earlier than it, you’ve fallen into one thing actually horrible. So I believe that I used to be eager about that—in attempting to determine that journey out, as scary and upsetting and horrifying and harmful because it feels each night time.

Johnny Berchtold and Lily McInerny in “Camp Siegfried” at Second Stage. (Picture by Emilio Madrid)

GABRIELLE: Caissie, I’d love to speak to you about this query, particularly as a result of Leopoldstadt is, in some ways, such a European play. It’s set in Vienna; it initially premiered within the U.Okay. and received the Olivier. I’m particularly eager about your expertise as a performer, the way you’re reaching throughout these a number of cultural gaps, and in addition gaps in time so as to, once more, make this greater than one household’s story.

CAISSIE: Yeah, completely. Properly, as Bess stated, it’s so attention-grabbing that we don’t finish the place we begin: that the fright of antisemitism, and its rise, each time it swells in our communities, is right down to many, many elements that kind of creep slowly. And what I believe is absolutely attention-grabbing about how Tom has structured Leopoldstadt is that we meet this household, this prolonged household, when issues had been good—once they had been Jewish with out being “offensive,” once they had been within the community-ish, kind of assimilated. And we see as time goes on how they’re pushed additional and additional away from society and demonized and scapegoated and all of that. However I do know as a Jew rising up, I felt like I had a number of Holocaust training, however not a number of training about prior. That was actually attention-grabbing, engaged on this play, doing all of the analysis, doing all of the studying, simply getting in contact with these thriving communities that existed in Europe earlier than the Holocaust. I believe that’s what’s hitting individuals like a ton of bricks at our present, as a result of they’ve heard that there’s Holocaust parts of this play, however the play opens with a very vigorous, blissful Jewish household bantering and arguing and discussing with a Christmas tree onstage. In Vienna. Like, What is that this? Did we purchase the precise tickets?

GABRIELLE: Michael, I’m curious, as a result of from what I’ve learn—I sadly was not in a position to see the very quick Metropolis Heart manufacturing’s run—however you integrated in your course parts that weren’t within the time interval, am I proper? That had been calling out to completely different moments in time?

MICHAEL: I imply, I used a number of historic images. It was actually vital to me that, after we met a personality, we noticed a photograph of that actual individual, so we actually understood that this individual actually existed, that they walked the earth like we do. I actually needed to interact the viewers on a extra energetic stage, so seeing photographs of those individuals whereas taking a look at actors onstage—you’re seeing Lucille and Leo Frank’s footage, however then taking a look at Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt, and understanding they’re enjoying these individuals. So in a Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt-like method, we weren’t simply on an emotional trip, we had been, as an viewers, engaged as important thinkers on the similar time. That was one thing that was actually vital to me. And there have been some fashionable parts bookending it. That was vital to me. I flew down the week earlier than rehearsal to Marietta and drove out to the lynching website, and took projection images for the manufacturing and did video for it. It was vital to me to be reminded of what that place appears like now: It’s now a Waffle Home. There’s a Chick-fil-A there, it’s on the aspect of a freeway. And in the end he’s certainly forgotten in some ways. This story has been forgotten, as have the uncountable lynchings that occurred post-Civil Warfare to now. And in a method, lynchings are nonetheless occurring, they’re simply in several kinds; individuals occur to put on badges and shoot individuals within the again. This factor remains to be taking place. And it was vital for me to remind the viewers that yeah, if this tiny little landmark on the aspect of the freeway that nobody is aware of is there may be so simply forgotten so rapidly, it will possibly occur once more. It was vital to me to essentially make it about now, and present that this cycle is ever persevering with. I believe Aeschylus was attempting to level this out: When can we cease? When can we cease saying, “I’m hurting, due to this fact I want another person to harm greater than me so I really feel happier”? I believe that’s what this play is about. When individuals don’t have a method to deal or articulate their trauma like this, horrible issues can happen.

And should I say yet another factor? In Parade, everyone seems to be a sufferer. The Black characters are victims. Leo’s a sufferer. Lucille’s a sufferer, Mary Phagan is definitely a sufferer. We’re all coping with this, with the reverberation of this, and I believe if we start to grasp that what ties us collectively is, in a method, that we’re all coping with this, then the divides may appear much less extensive between sure teams.

Tovah Feldshuh and Jared Grimes in “Humorous Woman” on Broadway. (Picture by Matthew Murphy)

GABRIELLE: One thing that’s so hanging, simply listening to all of you speak, is that this sense of virtually an ethical crucial. It appears like every of you’ve skilled, engaged on these performs, moments of understanding that there was a way of moral or ethical objective driving you ahead. Tovah, I’d love to start with you. I’m so glad that Humorous Woman is part of this dialog, as a result of Humorous Woman is a lot about Jewish pleasure and Jewish success in America—such a phenomenal story to be telling onstage. I’d love to listen to from you about that query of whether or not you as an actor, as an individual or as a Jewish individual, really feel that you’ve some sort of ethical or moral crucial to be enjoying this half?

TOVAH: Properly, I used to be fortunate. I used to be born Terri Sue Feldshuh in an undisclosed decade, and I modified my title to Tovah—it’s really on this memoir that was printed by Hachette final yr referred to as Lillyville: Mom, Daughter, and Different Roles I’ve Performed. I fell in love with a boy at Wesleyan named Michael Fairchild, and he didn’t just like the title Terry Sue, he stated, “What sort of a reputation is Terry Sue for a woman such as you’re? You’re from the North. What else had been you referred to as?” And I stated, “I used to be referred to as Tovah in Sunday college.” I didn’t say Hebrew college, however it was Hebrew college—it was a part of the conservative motion, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4 to six and Sundays from 9 to 1, and I used to be the one bat mitzvah at Quaker Ridge College. However I had a father who was a G.I. and he was in intelligence, and Common Eisenhower selected Jewish boys who had been fluent in German, and he let these Jewish boys interrogate the SS and the Wehrmacht to determine who went to Nuremberg. My father obtained residence in ’46, I used to be not but born, however by the point I used to be a bit of lady, he all the time used to say, “Be pleased with being Jewish and have pleasure in it, as a result of you can be reminded anyway.” Anyway, by altering my title to Tovah Feldshuh my perceived worth modified, and the panorama of my total inventive life modified. I began to inherit roles of nice Jewish heroines, whether or not it’s light RBG, Ruth Westheimer, Golda Meir.

And Rosie Brice. It was a really large factor to ensure that my youngster was the seed, that I used to be the harbor, I used to be the stomach from which she got here. I used to be the primary individual of dream and imaginative and prescient that Fanny Brice would then fulfill, which is any immigrant dream. Additionally, we obtained fortunate as a result of it’s an American story, within the sense that Lea Michele has been enjoying Fanny Brice and marinating that half for 18 years, so she was able to rock and roll. She was the primary one that might take that mantle from Streisand, create her personal Fanny Brice together with her monumental expertise, and inform this Jewish story with delight. As a result of it lurks—Streisand is lurking within the background. I noticed her once I was 13 years previous. I really I wrote her, “Expensive Barbra, I’m lastly enjoying your mom, love, Tovah.” And she or he wrote me again!

And I’ll say it proper out to Kanye West, and this fabulous individual, Mr. Irving—I believe it’s crucial to talk out and to face up and to say, “Look who flanked Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Motion. Hold your eyes 20/20, please.” It’s fascinating to me. I’ve by no means skilled something like this in my life, and I’ve had seven a long time on this planet. I’ve by no means skilled antisemitism so overt and controversial as it’s now. And I don’t get it, as a result of if they arrive after us, who do you assume they’re going to go after subsequent? Come on.

The forged of “Leopoldstadt” on Broadway. (Picture by Joan Marcus)

GABRIELLE: Thanks. I wish to choose up on one thing you stated about Leopoldstadt and throw this to you, Caissie, which is that I believe like some of the lovely components of that play is how a lot time it spends, as you had been saying, within the household unit, in Jewish pleasure and relationships and ritual as effectively; we get that Seder midway by means of the play. I’d like to ask once more this query of morality and ethics and theatre, however particularly about you attending to painting not simply Jewish struggling but additionally Jewish pleasure, your ritual connection to household and the way that has been for you as a performer.

CAISSIE: It’s been actually, actually particular. I used to be the lady that within the early components of my profession might by no means get an audition for Fiddler; I’d by no means performed any Jewish roles till lately, actually until COVID hit, after which I used to be in Caroline, or Change, which was a really Jewish present. It was new territory for me. After which I went straight to The Bedwetter Off-Broadway, which was one other Jewish position, probably not to do with something spiritual, extra simply cultural. And now Leopoldstadt. It’s been actually wild, really, for me to analyze, what does that imply to me onstage—this large a part of who I’m and who I’ve all the time been now exhibiting up in my artwork in a method that it by no means had? I discover it I discover it actually shifting. You already know, on Broadway and Off-Broadway, we do reveals on all the key Jewish holidays, however after all not on Christmas or New Yr’s Eve, and I’ll endlessly be irritated by that. However particularly with Leopoldstadt. We had reveals on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and it felt very flawed. Greater than on Caroline, or Change, greater than on any present I’ve ever finished. I used to be actually grappling with it. We had simply began previews, and so I understood that the way in which the calendar fell, there was most likely no method round it. It was attention-grabbing, as a result of I believed, effectively, no Jews are going to return see this present on Yom Kippur. Then I obtained a bunch of texts from individuals who had been like, “Oh, I simply broke the quick and I’m right here on the present.” And I spotted that it was a method for sure Jews to specific their Judaism or to really feel linked to their Judaism. So I felt a specific amount of delight in engaged on that day. You already know, I’m not spiritual, however I simply felt like this present and the subject material possibly warranted a cancellation or reschedule on these holidays. However ultimately, it ended up being fairly significant to carry out this Jewish piece on crucial date on our calendar—to recollect these people who had been misplaced, and make investments all this time on this household and care about them and know them as individuals, after which we finish, , with the lack of the generations of this household.

I discover it actually shifting each night time, and I discover it actually difficult. Some nights I’m actually affected by the piece and being a Jew and being an actor on this piece. Different nights, I believe I sort of maintain it at arm’s size, simply kind of as a survival mechanism. Particularly, as Tovah was saying, with what’s occurring in our nation and in our world proper now, and this actually scary uptick in antisemitism, I really feel it’s extra vital than ever to be telling this story. And I really feel actually privileged that I get to be a part of it and honor the people who got here earlier than me. I believe it’s what a number of artwork, the aim of creating theater, is about. It’s about remembering the people who got here earlier than us and honoring their legacies. I really feel that I’m ready to do this on this piece. And that hopefully will ship individuals out of the theatre on the finish of the night time asking questions on their very own households, whether or not they’re Jews or in any other case. It’s about remembering the people who got here earlier than you, doing higher than the final era, having powerful conversations, standing up for what’s proper, being an energetic participant on this planet, and standing up for people who find themselves your individuals, and individuals who aren’t, and doing the precise factor in order that historical past doesn’t repeat itself. That’s my principal takeaway. You already know, it’s nice to do a very enjoyable Broadway musical, however it’s actually great to do a chunk that you simply assume is really touching individuals and sending them out into the world with an concept about how they wish to change their lives.

Gabrielle Hoyt is a dramaturg, author, and director. She is pursuing her MFA at Yale. @gabhoyt 

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