Young Jews Discover Themselves In Creating Jewish Theatre

Stories of these uncoverings become a rich and captivating theatrical journey in Uncovered, this season's final Salon Theatre offering from The Braid.

By: Jun. 01, 2022
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Young Jews Discover Themselves In Creating Jewish Theatre

Who are you beneath the surface? All of us have a part of ourselves we cover up - a part of our bodies, our personalities, or our very identity. But then there are times when the hidden part of ourselves is suddenly and dramatically revealed, sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstances thrust upon us. These instances can lead to hilarity but also to hurt, and often to the uncovering of who we truly are inside.

Stories of these uncoverings become a rich and captivating theatrical journey in Uncovered, this season's final Salon Theatre offering from The Braid, the go-to Jewish story company. In this production, a group of actors turn ordinary people's true moments of revelation into a collective and ultimately uplifting emotional journey. Curated, adapted, and directed by The Braid's current NEXT Emerging Artist' Fellows, Uncovered offers a fresh perspective in Jewish culture. This group of 7 next generation artists has spent 9 months working together to develop and direct a show of 10 true stories brought vividly to life by professional actors. It will be performed both in person in Southern California and Live on Zoom from June 16 to 26. Get tickets at the-braid.org/uncovered.

For the young artists behind the show, the act of creating it has offered a powerful opportunity for self-discovery. One of the team who is sifting through, selecting, and adapting the stories is Makena Metz. The hardest part, Metz notes, has been holding the artistic integrity of a story while still editing it to fit with the timeframe of a show. But it's this act of lifting and fostering Jewish stories that has also become personally meaningful. As a recent cancer survivor, Metz finds herself drawing closer to her Jewish roots. "Judaism and working within Jewish communities has become a kind of comfort blanket," she reveals.

"Uncovered is an exploration of what is revealed, what we learn either by choice or by force-but either way, it's a surprise," says Vanessa Li Bloom. As an adoptee from China who was raised by a Jewish mom and a Christian father, she relates deeply to the notion of having a side of herself that people don't always see. "I often find myself caught between two worlds," Bloom shares, "the world that looks like me (Asian), and the world that behaves like me (Jewish)."

"I wasn't raised religious," remarks Zoe Mann, another member of the literary team, "but this past year I felt the need to feel more connected with my Jewish side." In addition to "learning Yiddish and eating latkes with my dad while he screams at the Yankee game," Mann dived headfirst into bringing these Jewish stories to life. From them, she has concluded: "Life has a funny way of forcing vulnerability. Sometimes it's better to give in rather than keep everything locked up."

For the show's directors, taking these stories from page to stage has helped them grow. Director Lee Conrads finds it "really interesting getting to see The Braid's unique model in action. I am someone who thinks about different ways of collaborating, and The Braid is unlike any other that I've experienced." Director Talya Camras notes that she has "already gained valuable skills from this process," including "how to use kindness and words of affirmation to shape actors positively."

To Andrew Fromer, coordinator of the NEXT program, this unique combination of professional growth and exploration of Jewish identity is exactly what he hopes the NEXT program will be. "It can be very easy for a young artist to be pulled away from their art. Same thing goes for practicing Judaism; it can be hard for an emerging Jewish artist to find the time to attend synagogue or plant roots in a Jewish community." By offering a paid fellowship, The Braid has enabled these emerging Jewish artists to "explore their cultural heritage" while creating a theatre experience that will inspire audiences. After all, as Fromer remarks, "a lot of people need inspiration in the world today." This show, and the young Jewish artists behind it, may be just the inspiration people are looking for.

Other NEXT Fellows this year are Ariella Blum-Lemberg and Leilah Franklin. Together they are mentored by Daphna Shull, Susan Morgenstern, and Ronda Spinak. The NEXT Emerging Artist Program is made possible by the generous support of the Erwin Rautenberg Foundation, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs, the Robert Sillins Family Foundation, and Gail Solo. The cast of Uncovered features Ronit Gilbert-Aranoff, Marshall Bennett, Avita Broukhim, and Heidi Mendez.

To learn more about The Braid's origins, mission, and community, visit the-braid.org/about/.



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