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!
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • 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.