A Coupla Jewish Writers Talk Theater, Drinking and Escaping the Midwest

Joshua Furst Throws Some Back With Brooke Berman


By Joshua Furst

Published March 09, 2014, issue of March 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Over the past 15 years or so, Brooke Berman has built a reputation as one of the funniest and most emotionally honest playwrights of her generation. Her often autobiographical work includes “Hunting and Gathering,” which received a celebrated production at Primary Stages in 2008, as well as “Smashing,” “Until We Find Each Other,” and “The Triple Happiness.” It examines the struggles and compromises of women grappling with uncertainty, instability and the weight of their expectations for themselves and their world.

Berman is the wife of my friend and Forward contributor Gordon Haber, and when I first met her, she struck me at the time as a successful version of the spiritually-minded, artistic type of person — airy and abstract and very into yoga — that I’d become familiar with in the New York theater scene over the years. Since then I’ve realized that she’s much tougher. Her faith is grounded in hard experience (chronicled in her memoir, “No Place Like Home”) and it’s allowed her to handle things that would crush a lesser person with compassion, wisdom and enduring hope. I asked her to join me for a drink to discuss “1300 Lafayette East,” the new play she opened in Detroit, among other topics.

Joshua Furst: What are you drinking?

Brooke Berman: I’m drinking a Nero D’Avola. I like a big red. And the place is called Caffé é Vino, so you have to order vino.

Brooke Berman
Brooke Berman

You just got back from Detroit.

I did. I opened a play in Detroit and it’s a crazy, crazy thing. It’s a collaboration between the local Jewish theater, JET, and the local African-American theater, Plowshares. And much to my dismay, they have two different audiences so the play is actually going to run for a month at the JCC in the suburbs where JET’s theater is and all the suburban Jews go — I don’t say that in a pejorative way, I’m from there so they’re actually my people — and then it’s going to run for a month downtown. What I said to the director is I wish I could sit and have the experiences of both of those audiences together experiencing the play. That’s what the play’s meant to be. It’s an amazing thing to me that a play about a black woman and a Jewish woman in Detroit in the 1960s is being done by a black company and a Jewish company in Detroit. And theatergoers are by and large as you know over the age of 50, so all the members of the audience remember the summer of 1967, which is when the play takes place.

During the riots?

That’s right. The play is set just before and after the riots. My mother and father lived in this apartment building downtown, 1300 Lafayette East, and the way my mother told the story, her neighbors were the Supremes and the Temptations. So there was a Motown presence in that building and one of the interesting things about Detroit was they had a viable black middle class for a really long time. It’s an amazing melting pot of a city —

Joshua Furst
Joshua Furst

Was… was an amazing melting pot.

Was. Maybe it will be again.

Once all the writers move there for the free housing.

Sure. If they really do that. Do you think they’re really going to do that?

I’ve heard there are only three houses.

Right. I’m cynical and I feel like there’s something a little disingenuous about when people like David Byrne tell the young generation to move to Detroit.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.