Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yiddish Book Center launches workshops on Jewish culture

Amherst, MA - What is Tent? Tent offers twentysomethings a chance to explore their area of interest through the lens of Jewish culture. Tent is an immersive, intense, series of week-long workshops for young Jewish adults focusing on comedy (Los Angeles in March), creative writing (Amherst, MA in June), and theater (New York City in August). Each of these subjects – comedy, creative writing, and theater – have rich Jewish histories and Tent’s goal is to provide an opportunity for participants to connect with those histories. The workshops are designed to help participants understand their place as Jews in a multicultural society, to answer their questions about who they are and where they come from, and to help them explore the vast, complex, and immediately relevant cultural side of their identity.

An appreciation of Jewish culture can be a portal into deeper and more informed Jewish self-awareness. Tent aims to offer young North American Jews a new way of seeing their Jewishness: as something deep, rich, alive, and inseparable from cultural forms to which they are already committed. As Josh Lambert, Tent's Program Director, explains "Modern culture can inspire us to think imaginatively about what Jewishness means. And vice versa. Many of the young Jews I know feel more connected to Jewish culture than to religion or politics. Tent will be about exploring how these cultural enthusiasms--for comedy, cooking, law, and so many other fields--can become a bigger part of the national discussion of what it means to be Jewish."

According to Lambert, "The paucity of substantive Jewish cultural education for twentysomethings is emphatically not the result of apathy. When it comes to cultural expression, Jews in their twenties are anything but apathetic. Go to a stand-up comedy show, an indie rock concert, or an Off-Off-Broadway performance and you'll find throngs of effusive young Jews. Glance through the stacks of applications to MFA programs and you'll discover hundreds of Jewish young people competing for the opportunity to discuss literature or art. Speak to law students about tort reform, or to young foodies about local produce: the passion is already there."

In 2013 Tent will launch with three programs, each of the workshops is offered free to accepted participants; the only cost is travel.  In the following years Tent will grow to include 30 programs by 2016. Tent’s three pilot programs are:

Tent: Comedy, a week-long seminar in the theory and practice of comedy through a Jewish lens, will take place in Los Angeles, CA, March 17-24, 2013. Participants will explore stand-up, improv, and sketch forms with comedians from the country's leading comedy troupes, and meet with performers and writers working in film and television, see Sarah Silverman’s show at Largo, talk shop with Jill Soloway, writer/producer of Weeds and Six Feet Under, and more.

Tent: Creative Writing, which is modeled on the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, will be geared toward aspiring and practicing writers and will take place at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, June 2-9, 2013. Have your fiction workshopped by your peers and critically acclaimed visiting writers, talk about why Jews are such a bookish people and why they’ve done so much writing, meet a New York-based literary agent and the NEA’s literature director Ira Silverberg, and more.

Tent: Theater is a week-long seminar about Jews and performance in New York City, August 4-11, 2013. Participants will meet actors, playwrights, and directors, will participate in a Q&A with playwright Tony Kushner, and will attend several current theatrical productions, Off-Broadway and elsewhere.

Applications and information are available at Applications for Tent: Comedy, the first program, are due January 7, 2013 and can be submitted online here. Tent, a program of the the Yiddish Book Center, is funded through the generous support of Judy and Michael Steinhardt.

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