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Birthright

nytheatre.com q&a preview by David Lawson
April 29, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Writer / Performer.

What is your show about?
A solo performance about the Birthright Israel program, and where propaganda and having a fun time intersect.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
In elementary school I thought I was a total fuck up. I acted up constantly, was real hyperactive, always disrupting class..."blurting out" they called it. I was in the principal's office every day. And despite the fact I wasn't a mean-spirited kid I was so out of line I got suspended a few times. Then came sixth grade. I had this teacher Mr. Brett Heflin. He made me a deal: If I would behave all day long then the next morning I would have 2-3 minutes to do a kind of solo show consisting of whatever I wanted in front of the class. It worked. Big time. And I figured out I wasn't a fuck up...I was a theatre kid. It was solo performance that chilled me the fuck out.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
Birthright Israel is such a new program, it's only been around for thirteen years. Yet already it's a cultural staple for young American Jews. I went on the program in May 2010 and after coming home realized I had many theatrical stories about the program...a program that I consider to be very theatrical in itself: a "heritage trip" or a "propaganda trip" or an "indoctrination trip." There was something very theatrical and dramatic to me about that. I mean shit...at one point during the trip I was on a boat with a bunch of sweaty American Jews dancing to Lady Gaga in the same place Jesus walked on water.

Which mythical character would like your show the best: Cyclops, Cupid, Paul Bunyan or the Easter Bunny?
The Easter Bunny would come to the Brooklyn Launchpad to see the show. And he would come up to me afterward...probably looking tired...and sad...and worn down. Then we'd go down the street to Franklin Park together and as we're knocking back some brews he would look me deep in the eye and he'll say with his blown out, raspy voice: "David, much like Birthright Israel...I too am a problematic, theatrical, quasi-ethnoreligious cultural institution."

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Yes. Good golly miss molly yes. I learned about eminent domain when I saw The Civilian's In the Footprint. I learned about collective bargaining rights for domestic workers when I saw Lisa Ramirez's Exit Cuckoo. I didn't understand the depth of "rape culture" until I performed in Mariah MacCarthy's Lysistrata Rape Play. I have learned so much about societal stories and themes from entering many dark rooms with performers on a stage. I have changed aspects of how I live my life because of moments I've had in those dark rooms. I have been moved to action...to raise my voice, to move my feet, to lend a helping hand...by those moments I've had in those dark rooms. Change is the reason I go into those dark rooms in the very first place.