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