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Chalom: A Dream Opera

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Bronwen Mullin
July 25, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Composer and Librettist.

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born in the West Village at St. Vincent's Hospital (RIP), raised in West Philly before it was gentrified (RIP), attended Sarah Lawrence College for my undergraduate and am now in the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Cool, right? ;)

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one in FringeNYC that...?
will make you feel like a bad-ass for having gone to Hebrew School, or if you didn't go to Hebrew School, it'll almost make you wish you did.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
With CHALOM: A Dream Opera I wanted to create a Catch 22: on the one hand, every single word of the libretto comes from a text considered sacred in the Jewish canon, it’s tradition, it’s safe; on the other hand, the story and images that emerge from these texts are anything but traditional and anything but safe. In the famed Dream Chapter of the Babylonian Talmud, we learn: “One who wraps tefillin in a dream should expect Greatness.” “One who has sex with his sister in a dream should expect Wisdom.” And we also learn: “A dream not interpreted is like a letter not read.” So I took these two dreams and interpreted them, connecting them, word for word, with other striking texts from the Jewish canon, to weave a very twisted tale. For me, engaging with Jewish texts, much like engaging with art, should leave one a bit uncomfortable, shaken, disturbed, but always with the possibility of opening one’s eyes to something new, and maybe even a taste of something redemptive.

Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
Mickey Mouse for sure. Classic, iconic, but something dark behind the eyes...or ears...

Theatre is a necessary ingredient in democratic societies. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Theater is the ultimate expression of the subjective experience and yet it is also communal. Through the eyes of an individual story we are able to gain insight into the larger world. We learn empathy from theater, we discover our boundaries and also the points where we are open. In democratic societies where all these factors play out in our abilities to make decisions that are, at best, for the common good, we are constantly being tested to evaluate the individual and the communal. Theater (pun forthcoming) sets the stage for us to integrate, at a very base instinctual level, the humanity and practicality required to establish a truly democratic society.