Still from Rachel's Out-of-this-World Bat Mitzvah, image courtesy of the artists

Columbia Students Present Immersive Bat Mitzvah

BY Robbie Armstrong, November 25, 2019

Still from Rachel's Out-of-this-World Bat Mitzvah, image courtesy of the artists

 

The Collaboration II class at Columbia inspires innovative, new theatre practices, and productions. Co-taught by Anne Bogart, John Dias, and David Henry Hwang, the class cultivates sustainable partnerships amongst students through the development of short bold pieces of theatre, in a festival style presentation. One of these collaborative partnerships boldy created an immersive Bat Mitzvah. Rachel's Out-of-this-World Bat Mitzvah was conceived, written, and directed by current Playwriting student A.A. Brenner, current Dramaturgy student Danielle Feder, and current Directing student Rebecca Miller Kratzer. The play held a one-night only immersive performance in The Lantern, a massive event space at the Lenfest Center for the Arts last week. 

 

In Rachel's Out-of-this-World Bat Mitzvah the audience was invited to celebrate with Rachel Leah, who is called to the Torah at a bat mitzvah on Friday, November 8, 2019. Hosted by Rachel’s parents, this Bat Mitzvah was one viewers will not forget.

 

The play was developed beginning with improvisational scenes. While the cast devised many of the scenes, traditional Bat Mitzvah elements such as the hora, candle lighting, picture slideshow, and corny DJ led games all made appearances. Feder explains that the play started rehearsing without a script and instead sharing stories with the cast and reminiscing on memories from childhood. 

 

Still from Rachel's Out-of-this-World Bat Mitzvah, image courtesy of the artists

 

Feder elaborates, “With this piece, we aimed to examine, dismantle, and ultimately exorcise the trope of the Jewish American Princess. The impetus for me was to lean into the tensions in how the Jewish American Princess is an aspirational idea because it is tied to wealth and status, and how that is distinctly American yet simultaneously reinforces harmful stereotypes about Jews and money.” Feder, Brenner, and Miller all collaborated to discuss further sociological problems such as heteronormativity, misogyny, and even intergenerational trauma. These Columbia students chose to tell a story at a Bat Mitzvah as it is a common place where childhood peer pressure and pressure from multiple generations of family converge. The team is working towards expanding the show into an hour long production.