WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THIS HERITAGE World Premiere to be Presented by The Braid

What Do I Do with All This Heritage? runs May 15 – June 9.

By: Apr. 19, 2024
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THIS HERITAGE World Premiere to be Presented by The Braid
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On May 15, the first-ever theatre show to explore the lives of Asian American Jews will have its world premiere. Written and produced by Asian American Jews, What Do I Do with All This Heritage? offers more than a dozen true stories (and one rollicking song) brought to life by a cast of five professional actors in a theatrical experience at the intersection of storytelling and theatre.

Representing our multicultural future, these stories offer a witty, insightful, and sometimes heartbreaking exploration of what it’s like to balance two age-old traditions in your heart. This show takes audiences inside the world of Asian Jews while speaking to everyone who’s ever struggled to balance different sides of their identity. Tickets are available at the-braid.org/heritage

The show represents a partnership between The Braid, a story company that for sixteen years has given stage to true stories from every corner of the Jewish experience, and The LUNAR Collective, founded in 2020 to become the only national organization by and for Asian American Jews. LUNAR first drew attention with a two-season documentary web series exploring Asian Jewish life, and its co-founder and co-executive director, Jenni Rudolph, sees this show as an opportunity “to collectively create a growing canon of Asian Jewish art and storytelling.”

“People often think that mixing cultural heritages dilutes them,” remarks producer David Chiu, a full-time staff member of The Braid as well as a Los Angeles Community Leader for LUNAR, “but the opposite is true. As we read through stories that writers submitted for this show, we saw time and again next generations who had a deeper relationship to Judaism—and to their respective Asian cultures—than their parents.”

Stories were gathered from a year-long development process generously funded by the Jews of Color Initiative (which included writing workshops and interviews), as well as community-wide calls for submissions. Writers, who range from age 12 to those in their 70s, explore the fascinating and surprising experiences that occur at the crossroads of cultures.

One true story features a Vietnamese American teenager struggling to reconcile her Orthodox Jewish tradition with her secret love of dancing to K-Pop. The writer, Leila Chomski, shares, “Being a part of this show teaches me to celebrate myself, and allows me to triumph over the difficulties I faced in my life.”

Another writer, Marshall Bennett, followed his credo to “go where you’re afraid of, because that’s where great stories come from.” An adoptee from Korea raised by an American Jewish family in Kentucky, Bennett takes audiences on a revealing and poignant journey to discover the Korean birth-family he left behind, wrestling with differences in socioeconomic status and the meaning of family.

Danish-Polish-Chinese American Jew-by-Choice Chelsea Eng, a veteran Braid writer, lays bare her anguish that at this stage in her life she’ll never get to raise a Jewish child, but finds an uplifting surprise in a touching ending. She raves, “Each experience with The Braid has been an honor and a joy!” She hopes these stories show the world that “Asian Jews are not monolithic; I am excited to be one voice in a diverse set of voices sharing the light and shadows of our lives.”

What Do I Do with All This Heritage? includes stories of mixed-race and mixed-religion Jews (there’s a story about being both Muslim and Jewish), patrilineal Jews, and growing up in a Jewish community in India that’s existed for countless generations.

In addition to Chiu and Rudolph, the creative team includes co-producers Vanessa Bloom (also a Los Angeles Community Leader of LUNAR) and Maryam Chishti (LUNAR’s other co-executive director), producer Ronda Spinak (The Braid’s co-founder and artistic director), director Susan Morgenstern, and actors Kimberly Green, Kenzo Lee, Lillian McKenzie, Victoria Rani, and Kaitlyn Tanimoto. The cast is entirely Asian American, and Green and McKenzie are Jewish as well.

As writer Matheus Ting expresses, “This show has allowed me to celebrate my Judaism and share my Jewish joy with our community and beyond."

What Do I Do with All This Heritage? has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Jews of Color Initiative, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture as part of the LA County Performing Arts Recovery Grant, and the City of Santa Monica as part of the Community Access and Participation Grant Program.

What Do I Do with All This Heritage? runs May 15 – June 9 in person in Los Angeles, plus two live-on-Zoom performances worldwide, and May 18 – 19 in the Bay Area. Tickets are available at the-braid.org/heritage


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