LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture
featuring playwright Elana Greenfield, director Michael Leibenluft, artist Keren Moscovitch, and essayist Judith Shulevitz
NEW YORK: LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture announces the 2016/2017 LABA Fellows, consisting of a group of twelve culture-makers—a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others, who are brought together to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded setting centered on a chosen theme. The 2016/2017 LABA Fellows are: performer and choreographer Hadar Ahuvia, artist and illustrator Michael Gac Levin, playwright Elana Greenfield, writer Gordon Haber, Director of New Play Development at the Atlantic Theater Company Abigail Katz, director Michael Leibenluft, multi-media artist Keren Moscovitch, Jewish Life & Culture fellow Laura Beatrix Newmark essayist Judith Shulevitz, theater artist Franny Silverman and multi-media artist Gil Sperling.
Through the LABA House of Study artist fellowship program, the LABA Fellows will explore a variety of classic Jewish texts from different traditions and historical eras that deal with our relationship with the other: be it another gender, nationality, religion or school of rabbinic thought. Each process will utilize the language of otherness to examine the complicated relationship between modern Jewish artists and their ancient cultural roots. The lush, fertile, free-flowing, romantic, super-serious and endlessly playful environment of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture, will provide these Fellows with the opportunity to study and create art together, which will be shared with the public in the LABAlive performance series at the 14th Street Y on February 9, March 16, and May 11, 2017 at 7:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, NYC. For tickets, visit www.14streety.org/tickets or call 646-395-4310. For details, visit www.labajournal.com.
Highlights for this season include
Israeli-American Performer Hadar Ahuvia reconfigures early Israeli folk dance and explores Zionism from the standpoint of its victims in her body of research entitled Joy Vey.
Journalist, editor, and culture critic Judith Schulevitz is working on the foundation for a book which will reclaim feminism’s great and too-often scorned utopian tradition.
Artist Michael Gac Levin makes a series of drawings based upon his memories of the Los Angeles Riots as a metaphor for the conflict between expression and control.
American playwright Elana Greenfield workshops a new piece entitled WRENCH about “a world that is becoming increasingly militarized due to ‘natural’ disaster and war.”
Writer and journalist Gordon Haber investigates “how identity is complicated by religion, race, and social rank” in his collection of stories “Uggs for Gaza,” set in Los Angeles, Warsaw, New York, London, and France.
Brooklyn-based Director and Obie Award winner Michael Leibenluft workshops a multicultural / multiracial imagining of Fiddler on the Roof.
Artist Keren Moscovitch expands her documentary film, One More Way to Sink Into My Heart into a full-scale theatrical production.
Theater-artist and educator Franny Silverman engages all members of the family in a “disruptive embrace” and retelling of the Passover Seder and biblical exodus entitled UnSeder | DisOrder.
Filmmaker and artist Gil Sperling creates a “Yiddish-Wagnerian hybrid” in the form of a musical theatre piece A Yiddishe Wagner which combines the oppositional elements of Wagner’s music and Yiddish text, perhaps concluding that the German’s compositions were not his own…
‘The concept of OTHER shapes our collective negotiation of social identification. Our various experiences and perspectives shape our personal views, our self image, our positive or negative sense of the OTHER and our willingness or refusal to incorporate the OTHER into our life. We challenge our fellows to relentlessly question — isn’t that what Jewish Culture is about? Through “A Yiddishe Wagner”, the Los Angeles Riots, “UGGS for GAZA,” and the writing of A Care Manifesto and more, this will be a year of introspection and discomfort as we delve into the unknowns of OTHER. May this be a year of deep learning and appreciation of the OTHER.’
– Ronit Muszkatblit, Artistic Director of LABA
ABOUT THE FELLOWS
Hadar Ahuvia is performer and “maker” who grew up in Israel and Florida, and has been presenting work in New York City since 2010. Ahuvia’s work is grounded in physical research and political consciousness. She has created and performed ‘new techniques’ to challenge the symmetry and aesthetic rigidity of of ballet, conceived performances of cleaning and physical labor to bring to light the isolation and exploitation of of domestic workers. Her work Cleaner was supported by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant. Ahuvia trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and earned a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. As a performer she has worked with Anna Sperber, Molly Poerstel, Jon Kinzel, Sara Rudner, Jill Sigman, Stuart Shugg, and Tatyana Tenenbaum. Ahuvia’s work has been presented at DTW/NYLA (2011-2012 Fresh Track Artist), EMPAC, CPR, Dixon Place, AUNTS, Catch, Glasshouse, and Brooklyn Studios for Dance. Ahuvia is also youth educator at Kolot Chayeinu, a progressive synagogue in Brooklyn. She is currently working with Kathy Westwater and on a performance contending with a Zionist legacy through the refiguring of Israeli folk songs and dances.
Description of LABA Project: Early Israeli folk dance choreographers made their work out of spiritual and ideological necessity to rethink the Jewish body and nation. In Joy Vey, I reconfigure their footsteps to reveal the conflicts and appropriations that underlie Israeli cultural formation. I’m Israeli-American, the granddaughter of Ashkenazi Jewish pioneers whose stories form the backbone of Israel’s national narrative. I’ve come to see Zionism from the standpoint of its victims. At the same time, I recall Zionism’s liberatory potential. I call the body of research Joy Vey as a reminder to engage both realities.
Michael Gac Levin’s work explores questions of representation, iconography, and the socializing role of art. He typically begin pieces by making meticulous drawings of popular imagery from American movies, games, and news-media. Then, using painting and collage, he builds out from them, ultimately situating them in autobiographical, cartoon-like compositions. Each of these pieces look to the way popular media shapes expectations about the self, the other, and the proper place of each. In his view, drawing frees us to try on such expectations in the spirit of play. But the activity can exert a powerful normalizing pressure as well, which can be felt whenever a viewer calls to account for one’s creations. This push-and-pull characterizes his approach to artmaking. In his work, themes of freedom and control are often too close to distinguish, a condition of my working method as much as the American iconography He draws from. To see more of his work, visit http://mikelev.com Description of LABA project: For LABA’s 2016-7 session, I will make a series of drawings exploring my memories of the Los Angeles Riots, both as a historical event and as a metaphor for my own conflicting desires for expression and control.
Elana Greenfield is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award in drama. Her critically acclaimed book, At the Damascus Gate: Short Hallucinations (Green Integer), was awarded The New American Fiction Competition. Among her works for the stage, most recently, Wrench (Part I), was presented at ArtsEmerson, Boston, produced by Sleeping Weazel, with prior works presented at such New York venues as La Mama E.T.C., The Vineyard Theatre, the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, and Bottom’s Dream (LA). Her play, Nine Come, is included in New Downtown Now: An Anthology of New Theater from Downtown New York (University of Minnesota Press). Greenfield’s articles and essays have appeared in Yale’s Theater magazine and the Brooklyn Rail; her plays excerpted in Bomb Magazine and her radio plays heard on WNYC, The Radio Stage and public radio stations across the country. She currently teaches in the Arts and Interarts programs at The New School University’s Eugene Lang College. She has also taught at, among others, Bennington College and Bar-Ilan’s Jerusalem Summer Writing Seminars. Born in New York City, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MFA from Brown University. Description of LABA project: WRENCH is about living in a world that is becoming increasingly militarized due to ‘natural’ disaster and war. The first section of the play begins after a flood ‘event’. The play is/will be written in six sections and function cumulatively. As the play progresses one could say the women have joined a militia and/or are in the military, probably ‘deployed’, and possibly have become cut off from their unit. However, the definition of what this means within the play-world should remain open. As the familiar world fades an ancient story/landscape begins to emerge. Holding on to one’s sense of ‘cause and effect’ in increasingly odd circumstances, is, among other elements, what drives the play thematically. For this piece the designs for many of the worn-props (life vests) and costumes can be found in the work of visual artist, Kate Hamilton. The piece will also contain several ‘dance numbers’ integral to it. For these I am interested in exploring, with the performers, the work of the Batsheva Dance Company, in particular the ‘Gaga’ method of movement invented by its artistic director, choreographer, Ohad Naharin. If there is an organizing principle to much of my work, I would say at, or near the core, is OTHER. I am interested in peripheral vision. Things we catch site of at the moment they transform from known to OTHER or vice versa, the moment when OTHER transmutes into something which might feel familiar, known, or maybe once known.
Gordon Haber writes fiction, criticism and journalism. He publishes other people’s e-books through Dutch Kills Press. He does not live in Brooklyn. To read some of his work visit: http://thenormalschool.com/PDFs/Haber_Uggs_for_Gaza.pdf or firstname.lastname@example.org. Description of LABA Project: “Uggs for Gaza,” a story collection with themes of displacement and otherness among diaspora Jews. With stories set in Los Angeles, Warsaw, New York, London and France, I’m investigating how identity is complicated by religion, race and social rank.
Abigail Katz serves as Director of New Play Development for Atlantic Theater Company where she has been on the artistic staff since 2009. In 2014 she expanded Atlantic’s play development program by creating the Amplified Reading Series and Launch Commission for early career writers. She was previously Literary Associate and Dramaturg for The Civilians, where she worked on productions Brooklyn at Eye Level, This Beautiful City (The Vineyard Theatre) and Paris Commune (The Public Theater). She was also Producer for Voice & Vision, a company devoted to developing women theater artists. She currently teaches at The New School (School of Drama) and Atlantic Theater Company’s Professional Conservatory program. In addition she has taught in the MFA programs at Columbia University School of the Arts and SUNY Stony Brook/Southampton, as well as workshops at The New School, PlayPenn, Southampton Writers Conference, the Commercial Theater Institute, the Playwrights Foundation, CityWrights/City Theatre and Samuel French. Additional affiliations include the Arts Committee for the Alumni Career Task Force for The Dalton School and the New York City team for the American Theatre Archive Project. A native New Yorker, Abigail received her MFA in dramaturgy from Columbia University School of the Arts.
Michael Leibenluft is a Brooklyn-based director originally from Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Michael’s directing credits include I’ll Never Love Again (a chamber piece) by Clare Barron at the Bushwick Starr (Obie Award for Direction, 2016; NYT and Time Out Critics’ Picks), How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel with Drum Tower West Theater in Beijing, Lost Tribe by Alex Borinsky as part of Target Margin’s Yiddish Theater Lab, The Subtle Body by Megan Campisi at 59E59 Theaters and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, and other projects with LMCC, The Civilians, EST, and NYU/Tisch. Michael has assistant directed at the Signature Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Atlantic Theatre, P73, and American Theater Company. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, as well as a former Fulbright Fellow, SDCF Kurt Weill Fellow, and Drama League Fall Directing Fellow. Michael graduated from Yale as a double major in Theater Studies and East Asian Studies and completed his Masters in Performance Studies at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. Michael is the founder of Gung Ho Projects, an educational and cultural exchange platform dedicated to increasing understanding between the U.S. and China. More info: GungHoProjects.com and Leibenluft.com
Keren Moscovitch is a multi-media artist and scholar based in New York City. Her work explores the poetics of intimacy, and the space where the spiritual and the sexual meet. She holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, where she currently teaches courses in art and philosophy, and a BA from Georgetown University. Continuing her exploration of the intersection of practice and theory, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Keren has exhibited and given lectures internationally, and is a contributing writer at ARTPULSE Magazine. To see more of her work, visit http://www.kerenmoscovitch.com/. Description of LABA Project: One More Way to Sink Into My Heart began as a documentary film traversing the intimate life of a retired couple living and working in a rural American suburb. The film explores my relationship to this couple and the subliminal spaces that encase our collaborative exchange. The work interrogates gender, traditional relationship structure, sexuality as performance and the ways that private somatic rituals facilitate the formation of pathways to the unconscious. During my time as a LABA fellow, I will expand the film to a full-scale theatrical production which will seek to make connections between ancient and contemporary narratives, and experiment with the hermeneutics of domestic speech.
Laura Beatrix Newmark is the Jewish Life & Culture Fellow at The 14th Street Y. She builds community amongst the young families of the 14th Street Y through interactive and creative programming. Her intersection with the arts spans multiple decades (starting with playing the cello from age six) and includes quoting a young stand-up named Jay Leno at her bat mitzvah, watching every episode of The Jon Stewart Show and then sneaking into a comedy club to tell him she was Jewish, then managing a roster of stand-ups and improv artists and leading up to her greatest creative role yet of being the mom to Elias Pablo and Milo Liev. Laura holds a BA in Urban Studies with a concentration in English from Barnard College.
Judith Schulevitz is an essayist and editor who has helped found or relaunch several magazines, including Lingua Franca, New York Magazine, and Slate. Currently a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, she has served as editor of Lingua Franca (a National Magazine Award winning magazine about academia and ideas); founding cultural editor and columnist at Slate; deputy editor and columnist for New York Magazine; columnist for the New York Times Book Review; and a senior writer and editor at the New Republic. Her essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and other publications, and she has taught at New York University and Barnard College. She is the author of the The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time (2011). For her LABA project, she will develop a book idea that will focus on women and their unpaid work. It is her thesis that the quest for gender equality is futile unless we address the devaluation – social and economic – of care. “I want to trace the history of care’s denigration, to explore and mine long-forgotten solutions to the problem, and propose new solutions, no matter how utopian. Indeed, I want to reclaim feminism’s great and too-often scorned utopian tradition. To this end, I am reading ancient and modern philosophy, works of feminism and socialism both classic and obscure, economics, and, of course, the great utopian novels, most of them from the 19th century. How does this relate to the other? Well, woman has long been the other, and certainly has that status in the classic Jewish texts. She is the other closest to home, her selfhood and her work both idealized and rendered invisible.”
Franny Silverman is a theatre-artist and educator who creates interactive theatre, ritual and educational experiences for humans of all ages. Franny is currently the Director of Learning and Action for Brooklyn’s independent, progressive synagogue, Kolot Chayeinu. This year she had the honor of being in the inaugural cohort of UJA’s Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership as well as training with and facilitating conversations on Israel as a Resetting the Table Facilitation Fellow. Drawing on her background in ritual and devised theater, Franny officiates tailor-made life-cycle ceremonies for families and couples. She has created and performed in numerous new Jewish theatre works for stage and ritual settings as an actor with Jewish Plays Project; a founding member, and former Associate Artistic Director of Storahtelling-Lab/Shul; and founding member of Wisconsin-based Northwoods Ramah Theater Company. Franny directed NY and touring productions of Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s mulit-media song-cycle Mayim Rabim/Great Waters (BRICLab, PS122, Wexner Center, Chicago Cultural Center). Her interactive Passover experience, UnSeder|DisOrder, was presented by Chashama’s “Process is Fundamental,” in 2010 and along with warner|shaw co-founder Annie Levy, she served as Indiana University’s Jewish Studies Program’s Paul Artist-in-Residence for the development of warner|shaw’s The Latvia Project in 2012. Franny has also had the pleasure of developing and performing new work with Little Lord, Woodshed Collective, Terranova Collective, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Worlds Theater Project, Multistages, The Shalimar, Estrogenius, Potluck Plays and Electric Pear, and others as well as revisiting classics with The Culture Project, Epic Theatre Ensemble and as a member of Brooklyn-based Brave New World Rep including As You Like It (Rosalind), The American Clock (Doris/Edie/Toni), and The Long Christmas Dinner (Lucia). http://www.frannysilverman.com/ Description of LABA project: Once a year, the Jewish people gather together to honor the commandment of retelling the biblical exodus from oppression to liberation, the ancient story of when the Hebrew people were oppressed as “strangers in a strange land” –the other. This retelling is explicitly designed to engage all people in the family, no matter at what level they are able or even interested to engage, no matter how inside or outside they may feel or be. Tradition holds that there be seats at the table for ALL who are hungry, that we open our homes and hearts, inviting in whoever might be “other” because we too were once (and maybe still are) the other. UnSeder | DisOrder is a disruptive embrace of the ritual of the Passover Seder. Where a traditional Seder is steeped in the order of its own name and the accompanying rules and regulations of Jewish law and communal and familial customs, the UnSeder is its chaotic doppelgänger. UnSeder | DisOrder is a Seder exploded, embodied, deconstructed, reconstructed, self-guided and intimately communal. Reimagining the 15 traditional steps of the seder as an interactive installation with encountered experiences dispersed throughout one venue, participants guide themselves and each other through the deconstructed and disordered actions, rituals, blessings and intentions, cobbling together a new map of engagement with the journey from oppression to liberation.
Gil Sperling studied at the school of visual theater in Jerusalem, where he received multidisciplinary artistic training with a focus on video and music theater direction. He has written and directed short films, created multimedia performances for the stage, designed video projections for opera and theater productions, created video installations, and worked as video editor and as assistant director in the theater and in the opera. Gil’s works have been presented in Germany, Israel and Japan. in 2009 he received a fellowship from the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne (KHM). In 2011, together with his team, he received the Operare 11 prize for new music theater productions. In 2012 Gil received the PCTF award for best use of projections for his work on Trafficked. A main point of artistic focus is the advancement of musical theater through dialog between contemporary musical composition and digital media. To see some of his work, visit: https://vimeo.com/user752474 or http://www.gilsperling.com/
Description of LABA Project: A Yiddishe Wagner is a music-theater project, a re-imagining of classical music history in which Wagnerian or Wagner-like works were written in Yiddish, not German. The origins for this idea came through my work on the operetta Shulamis by Abraham Goldfaden. In his writing, Goldfaden admitted “borrowing” from classical composers, including Wagner, in order to artistically elevate Yiddish music-theater. In my adaptation of the operetta, I incorporated recorded music from Wagner’s Siegfried. The idea of fusing Wagner and Yiddish together began to excite me – two cultural elements that seem to repell each other like equal magnetic poles; or perhaps like matter and anti-matter, the reaction between them could unleash a burst of pure energy. The outline of the project is the creation of a musical piece, sung in Yiddish, borrowing elements from Wagner’s music while “Yiddishizing” the text, within the context of an alternative music-historical narrative (along the lines of “Did Wagner steal his music from an obscure Jewish composer?”). Wagner strove to create a new German mythology, with Norse sagas and medieval Christian legend among his sources. In the process of creating my Yiddish-Wagnerian hybrid, I would like to examine Jewish texts, from the Bible to Hazal, as parallel mythological sources.
Ronit Muszkatblit, Artistic Director was born in Germany and raised in Israel. She is a theater director and the founding member of woken’glaicer theater company and Operatzia as well as a member of posttheater ny/berlin. Ronit curates and directs in various capacities with a focus ion opera, theater and multi disciplinary events. Her most recent directing credits include all the LABALive events and the operas “SPHINX” (Culturemart HERE) and “3WEEKS” (MAP grant, 14th st Y) both by Yoav Gal . Her most recent theater credits include: “Hanna and the Moonlit Dress” by Itzchak D’miel (14th St. Y), “Nature of Captivity” by Mathew Paul Olmos (Mabou Mines Suite @ PS 122), “Cantaloupe” by Gina Bonati (Boston ); “ON ART,” an adaptation of “Art” by Yasmina Reza (Rohkunst Bau, Berlin); “It is said the men are over in the steel tower” by Hideo Tsuchida,(TBG Theater, NYC); Struwwelmensch (Rohkunst Bau Festival, Berlin);) “Matchmaker Matchmaker” (Stadts Bank Berlin); “Quartet” by Heiner Müller (Westbeth Theater, NYC); “The Child Dreams” by Hanoch Levin (Staged Reading 59E59, NYC). Ronit received her MFA in directing from the Actors Studio Drama School and trained at La Mama Umbria (Italy) and with Siti Company.
Ruby Namdar, Resident Scholar was born and raised in Jerusalem. He completed his BA (Sociology, Philosophy and Iranian Studies) and his Master’s degree (Anthropology) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first book, Haviv, a collection of short stories, was published in 2000 and won The Ministry of Culture’s award for the best first publication of the year. The manuscript also won The Jerusalem Fiction award for 1998. His critically acclaimed new novel Habayit Asher Neherav was published in 2013 and won Israel’s biggest literary prize, the Sapir Prize. He is currently living in New York and teaches Jewish and Israeli literature.
Hanan Elstein, LABA Journal Editor is an Israeli editor and translator who has been living in Brooklyn since 2013. Hanan studied philosophy, history, literature, cultural studies and law at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany. He has been working as an editor of Hebrew and translated world literature, both fiction and non-fiction, since 2001. He has edited renowned Israeli authors such as Assaf Gavron, Liat Kaplan and Yossi Suckari. He translated over 15 titles from German to Hebrew, including works by Walter Benjamin, Immanuel Kant, Jean Améry, Joachim Fest, Heinrich von Kleist, Irmgard Keun, Elfriede Jelinek, Werner Bräunig and Christian Kracht. In the past few years he has been collaborating on international theater projects, mostly co-productions of German and Israeli theaters. These productions are usually multilingual (Arabic, German and Hebrew) works evolving through an extensive process of intellectual research and creative endeavor between directors, actresses, playwrights and translators. For these projects he has translated various texts of Heinrich Heine, Klaus Mann, Leni Riefenstahl and Gustaf Gründgens, as well as a variety of documentary materials. Hanan has written several essays for literary supplements in Israeli newspapers, as well as many theater reviews.
LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture is a program of the 14th Street Y, a thriving and dynamic community center located in the heart of the East Village. LABA uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study. Four times a year we showcase our fellows works-in-progress in our LABAlive series, which is open to the public. The LABA program is supported, in part, by public funds from the NYC Department Of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by patrons like you. Support LABA here: http://www.14streety.org/main/support-the-14th-street-y/.
About The 14th Street Y
The 14th Street Y is a thriving and dynamic community center located in the heart of the East Village. Our members have access to over 50 fitness classes per week, lap and family swim times, childcare, pick-up games in our basketball gymnasium and a fitness center filled with a full range of cardio and weight equipment. Membership at the Y also gives you access to arts and culture programming, https://14streety.secure.force.com/ticket as well as early registration and discounts on all Y classes and programs like camps, preschool, and Two by Two. www.14streety.org.
Full Season Tickets and detailed information on shows available at: www.14streety.org/tickets.