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A Laboratory For Jewish Culture At The 14th Street Y Announces 2018-2019 Fellows


LABA: Laboratory for Jewish Culture announces the 2018-2019 Fellows: a group of thirteen culture-makers, a mix of visual artists, writers, musicians, playwrights, dancers, composers, film-and theater-makers, and directors who are brought together to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded setting centered on a chosen theme; this year's theme is LIFE + DEATH.

The 2018-2019 Fellows are Dmitri Barcomi, Ari Brand, Maya Ciarrocchi, Jessica Tamar Deutch, Yochai Greenfeld, Jeanne Heifetz, Marques Hollie, Stav Palti-Negev, Richard Saudek, Mariano Wainsztein, Ilana Sichel, Yonatan Gutfeld and Alex Weiser.

Highlights for this season's LABAlive events include:

--Dmitri Bercomi's Necrophoresis, a cross-medium dance-theater piece exploring the death rituals of ants and the life of Anna Freud

--Avi Brand's full-length play, exploring the AIDS epidemic in NYC through discoveries made about the death of his father, Natan, a virtuosic concert pianist, lapsed Orthodox Jew and closeted gay man

--Maya Ciarnochhi's Yizkor, a performance-installation that reveals the lost and forgotten spaces left by the dead, specifically the destroyed architectural site of Ozarow, Poland, the shtetl where her family originated

--Jessica Tamar Deutsch's Illustrated Life and Death, a series of large ink drawings with text that studies the practices of birth doulas and chevra kadishas (groups that prepare the body for burial) to gain insights into these moments of Life + Death and the significance they carry in a Jewish (and human) context

--Yochai Greenfeld's Yiddish Drag Queen show, exploring the edgy medium of drag performance and its recent acceptance into the mainstream through the prism of ancient Aramaic and the cultural context of Yiddish

--Jeanne Heifetz's Pre-Occupied, a series of drawings that addresses mortality through the formal language of cemetery maps

--Marques Hollie's Go Down, Moshe, a retelling of Exodus using the musical tradition of negro spirituals, civil-rights era music and the written narratives of enslaved people

--Stav Palti-Negev's play adaptation of Hieronymous Bosch's painting, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," a triptych of three possible options of existence: Paradise, Hell and Something In-Between

--Richard Saudek's weird and wistful Clown Show, featuring two clowns (until one dies), with a Chagall-esque fiddler to accompany the hijinks

--Ilana Sichel's non-fiction project (part-memoir, part-essayistic grappling) about the death of her 34-year-old brother to cancer and end-of-life ethics

--Mariano Wainsztein's song cycle of Hebrew poems by the self-exiled poet Ha'Loazy, dealing with the death of "home" and the loss of identity while celebrating the minimalist economics of the Hebrew language

--Alex Weiser's opera, State of the Jews, which follows the last year in the life of Theodor Herzl, interweaving historical and personal narratives as his struggle to secure a Jewish homeland takes a toll on his family life

--Jewish Ghost Stories: Demons, Monsters and Madness in the Bible and Talmud, short, scary stories taken from Classical Jewish texts. The 1915 filmThe Golem will be screened, with live musical accompaniment by LABA Fellows

"Repent one day before your death," says Rabbi Eliezer in the Mishnah. Because we can't, of course, know which day is going to be our last. And so our lives should be a continual process of repentance. But just what does death mean? Is it an end or a beginning? Is it terrifying or cathartic? Should we dread it or make our peace with its imminence? To address these questions, this year's theme, LIFE + DEATH, will dive into everything from the Bible's most notable departures, to the Talmud's wisdom of letting go, to Kabbalah's ideas about the transmigration of souls. Reading these classical Jewish texts, we will wrestle with humanity's two central modes of existence: to be, and not to be.

This year marks the 11th Anniversary of the ground-breaking series by LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture, which pushes the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach.

Liel Leibovitz will be the lead LABA teacher this year. Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet magazine, and one of the hosts of Unorthodox, the magazine's popular podcast. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, A Broken Hallelujah: Rock n' Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen. Other LABA staff includes Ronit Muszkatblit, Artistic Director; Ruby Namdar, Resident Scholar; and Hanan Elstein, Editorial Director.

"Of all the questions that had troubled mankind through the ages, two stand alone: What is the meaning of life? And what happens when we die? We will, of course, offer no answers to these existential quandaries, but by reading the Book of Genesis closely, we will seek inspiration in the wisdom of our forefathers, preparing ourselves not only for our inevitable death but also for our equally inevitable life." - Liel Leibovitz

Each year, The Theater at the 14th Street Y presents the residency program of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture. The goal is to provide a big-picture narrative focused on social awareness and change that transcends cultures and borders. The Theater supports the creation of new art and culture by providing the space, time, and resources needed to create new work. Inspired by the 14 study sessions of the fellowship, the Fellows will share their new works with the public in the LABAlive Series at the 14th Street Y.

Experience excerpts of new works-in-progress presented by the 14th Street Y's LABA Fellows, devising new work around the theme of LIFE + DEATH. Each artist's unique contemplation presented on stage weaves into a multidisciplinary evening shared with the public. LABA encourages artists to test boundaries, take risks, and discover ways in which classical Jewish text can inspire new, deep and meaningful works, which are then coupled with a theatrical teaching of text to enhance and widen the context of each piece. At each LABAlive, Fellows intrigue and inspire, leaving audiences with a curiosity to see more. Many of the Fellows' works go on to second-stage productions, with many premiering at the 14th Street Y the following year.

Full Season Tickets and detailed information on shows available at

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