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Jewish, Under 40, and Love Theater? Join the Club.

In the movie “Mean Girls, new kid Cady Heron has to navigate the complex, fragmented society that is her high school cafeteria. Each table is filled with new faces, representative of different clubs and cliques. None of them invites her to sit. Rejected and lost, she eats lunch alone in a bathroom stall—which we can all agree is both disgusting and sad.

Spoiler alert: Cady soon finds her people, or rather, they find her. Which, happens to be exactly what GatherDC and its Open Doors Fellowship aims to do.

I was a member of the spring 2017 Open Doors Fellowship cohort, a group of self proclaimed “people persons” who love building connections and community, especially in a Jewish context. We spent months reaching out to newcomers and not-so-newcomers to DC, buying coffees, and schmoozing our way through GatherDC happy hours. [Editor’s note: applications are NOW open for the 2018 Open Doors Fellowship.]

At the end of the program, each fellow organized a capstone project. The goal was to create a space for Jewish community, though the events didn’t have to be explicitly Jewish or religiously oriented. For example, a previous Open Doors Fellow started the popular Jews on Bikes group. A member of my cohort hosted a “Vodka, Babka, and Board Games” Shabbat dinner.

As a theater lover, I often find myself interested in watching local productions, without any idea who to see them with. I’ve been to a few shows solo, but the experience isn’t quite the same as seeing it with friends. Surely, I thought, I can’t be alone here.

For my capstone project, I elected to create a club for Jewish young professionals to attend plays together. I called it Oy The World’s A Stage, and immediately began organizing our first outing. In July, nine of us saw Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass, a psychological drama set in Brooklyn during 1938. As horrors unfolded in Europe, a Jewish couple struggled with morality, health, and marital issues – as well as their own Jewish identity.

The event was a huge success, helped in part by funding from Moishe House Without Walls. Theater is an expensive hobby, which may be why the average audience has more white hairs in it than a home with a Persian cat. Thankfully, numerous DC-area theaters offer discounts for people under 35. Between this option and the beloved “Pay What You Can” nights, theater can be as affordable as your weekend brunch habit.

By creating a space for people to talk about current and upcoming productions, plan outings, and share information on ticket discount programs, I hope to build an accessible and welcoming community for local Jews in their 20’s and 30s to bond over a shared love of theater.

Members don’t need to be new to town—I’ve been in DC for nearly a decade. They also don’t have to be Jewish or under 40, though the club was created with that population in mind. For Hanukkah, female “Oy” members went to see “Pajama Game at Arena Stage alongside women over 50. It was our first intergenerational event, evidence that this club need not be an exclusionary venture.

Half a year after creating the “Oy” Facebook group, I found myself at Char Bar with a group of ten “Oy” members, ready and eager to finish dinner and head to The National Theatre for the world premiere of “Mean Girls: The Musical.

It was a sold out performance, and we laughed along with the packed audience as actors threw out classic lines like “She doesn’t even go here!” and cast members turned favorite scenes into songs. We watched as Cady navigated the cafeteria on her first day. From my seat, I imagined “Oy The World’s A Stage” as a table where local Jewish theater lovers can find their people.

We’re already busy planning our next outing, a joint event with Moishe House Bethesda. We’ll be seeing “Everything Is Illuminated at the Edlavtich DCJCC on Thursday, January 11. Oh, and you can totally sit with us! You just have to buy a ticket.

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Editor’s Note: Roundup of upcoming chances to see live theater with new friends.

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About the Author: Lauren Landau (@laurenmlandau) lives in Silver Spring, MD with her roommate and a more-or-less alive houseplant. She is a producer for NPR, where she works on fundraising projects. She was a regular contributor to DCist’s Arts & Entertainment Desk until the publication’s recent demise. When she isn’t thinking about raising money for public radio, she is planning her next weekend getaway or theater outing. Following her participation in Cohort 3 of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, Lauren founded Oy The World’s A Stage, a club for D.C. area Jewish theater lovers in their 20s and 30s.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Gameshow Dynamos

My mom has a habit. She can’t stop making documentary films.

For most of my life, she’s relied on her day job as a family physician in Seattle to bankroll her endeavors shooting, editing and producing heartfelt films that she makes in the basement of my childhood home. Patricia (that’s her name) has squeezed in time in front of the camera in between seeing patients and, of course, raising me and my brother. Her latest film, which took around 15 years to complete, is super fun. And, it’s actually my favorite film that she’s done.

It’s called Gameshow Dynamos and is about a couple who gets their family out of poverty by being on TV gameshows. The couple is my grandparents.

My grandpa Bernard and grandma Claire won enough money on TV game shows to escape debt and follow their dreams. From Tic-Tac-Dough in 1956, to Jeopardy in 1967, to Trivial Pursuit in 1993, they competed on national television 28 times — probably the longest-running record of individual TV game show appearances by husband and wife in the world.

You’d like the film because:

1) How the heck does anyone win on game shows, anyways? Not to mention so many times, winning close to $100,000.

2) Bernard is a old-school New York Jew whose parents migrated from Poland and Austria to achieve the American dream (which Bernard does achieve… through game shows).

3) Not only are they smart, but Bernard and Claire are very funny (I mean, who walks around dressed like they’re on the Starship Enterprise when they’re at home?)

4) It will encourage you to live your dreams.

Now my mom is doing a Kickstarter-like campaign to screen the film across the country.

In D.C. 98 people have bought tickets, but we need 9 more people to buy tickets in the next two days or the screening won’t happen. The company she’s using to screen the films, Tugg, is like Kickstarter in that you have to sell every ticket before they’ll do a screening.

The screening is May 21 at the Landmark E Street Theater  at 7:30 p.m. and only costs $12.

Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings endorses the film this way:

“An endlessly charming look at one of the only purely American art forms–the humble game show–and a uniquely American family that spent the better part of forty years winning on them. Even if you’re not a game show junkie like I am, this documentary has lovely gifts for you.”

I’m very proud of my mom and can’t wait to see it succeed.

See you all at the screening!

Note from Gather: For all of our Jeopardy buffs out there you should check out previous Jewish Guy of the Week David who was a winner Thanksgiving 2014!