Play as Religious Text. The historical landlessness of my community is something in which I find extraordinary hope and comfort; I greatly respect the electric, unifying energy a well crafted object can hold. I draw great inspiration from the objecthood of the Torah and the grounding, land-like purpose it serves for a community in diaspora. My plan is to create a handwritten, self illustrated collection of my plays: to bring them into the physical sphere unusually quickly, before large scale performance or publishing or anything else. I want my plays to be carried, kissed, to experience time. I am beginning to write out my first seven plays now and hope to do the same, as I go, with the next round.
Play as Resurrection. My diasporic identity development can be mapped through my plays. Much of my early work grapples both explicitly and implicitly with generational Holocaust trauma and other emotional inheritances I receive from my grandparents. My earliest plays grasp inward; they are attempts to figure out exactly what stuff I am made of and why. Recently, my Jewishness has brought me outward. More than anything, it now shapes my historical fascinations. I have spent the past six years immersed in Yiddish study and Yiddishist culture, largely to gain the vocabulary my stories thirst after. For the same reason, I wish to spend time studying both Judio-arabic and Ladino. As I rewrite my most recent play, set in the midst of the Kosher Beef Riots of 1902, I look toward August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. I feel myself drawn towards other largely unexplored diasporic Jewish histories: Sephardi Anti-Christian pirates, Morocco’s Mellahs, The Purple Gang in Detroit.
Play as Mystical Research. I recently made the decision to go on testosterone, not because of any discomfort in my gender, but because my body feels like it is literally a different body than it is. The existence of Transness should raise questions about the complexity of the soul, physics, the mystery of dreams, the way energy moves. It could mean huge scientific breakthroughs and shifts in how we approach life and death. I have become obsessed with the re-incarnation scientists at University of Virginia, with dark matter, the unknown, aliens. I am tired of the drab stories we choose to tell again and again about Trans people existing. There is so much visionary possibility–it is magical! It is fascinating!
Play as Generative Dissociation. There has always been an anarchistic undertone to my work, a leaning into anti-authoritarianism and non-linearity. There is no “should” in my creative anarchism; it is based on dialectic observation alone. My job as a writer is to imagine possible worlds to come, to break from reality just enough to create the bones of something new. For me, writing is a religious act, an act of grappling, of blind faith. I could not read until fourth grade and continue to be a slow reader and writer and a disastrous speller. This gives me the privileged ability to approach language as the tool that it is: a flawed and glorious medium, something outside myself, something to be molded, revered, despised. The written word is not truth and it should not be trusted, but it is what we have.
I am inspired by the playwright Young Jean Lee, who states, “When starting a play, I ask myself, ‘What's the last show in the world I would ever want to make?’ Then I force myself to make it.” In my own work, I look for what feels off-balance within myself, whatever is doing flips and turns, over and over.
Ikh vays is my favorite Yiddish phrase. When spoken in an even tone it means I know and contrastingly, when spoken with a shrugging inflection it means I don’t know. I strive to express this contrast to the best of my ability in my work.
Ursula Leguin’s translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching begins: "The way you can go / isn’t the real way. / The name you can say / isn’t the real name." I find this passage greatly moving. It captures something that I am always searching for through my work. What exists before the name? How is the physical world everything? What sits in the space between contradicting truths?
Sherry Kramer, in giving the closing remarks of my wedding (now annulled), recounted: “A Hasidic Rabbi, over a hundred years ago, was asked how to live in a world filled with pain and joy and so much uncertainty. He said, imagine you are standing on the highest mountain top, standing on the razor’s edge. Now dance.” I sometimes imagine I have tiny people living out their beautiful, chaotic lives inside my stomach, and when they begin to dance on the cliffs of my gut, that is when I am able to create.
I make to get close to what terrifies me. I find words petrifying, especially the written ones. I couldn’t read until fourth grade. My favorite word is kike because it calls to mind a little circle. Everything I’ve ever done has been proven wrong, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every time I think about gender I do a somersault. Every. Time. I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel, though I try and try and am actually currently trying right now. My head is spinning. I can watch. I can cloudwatch for hours and my favorite food is cookie dough. Don’t you dare convince me to put it in the oven. I’m being forceful because I know I’m gullible. I worship entropy with that thing, whatever it is, that’s always living and dying in my stomach. That thing’s the biggest part of me, I think. G-d lives in the space between contradicting truths. I promise I can prove it until I need to. I squished a boxelder accidentally a few years ago and more bugs since then. I think about that often.
Pictured are three wishes I dictated as a child. I think about them often too.