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

(page 2 of 3)

It’s more than disingenuous. There’s something hypocritical and self-serving.

Thank you. You said it, I didn’t. It’s not like David Byrne is moving to Detroit. Actually, it’s not a very easy place to live.

This is what’s interesting to me: You grew up in the Midwest, and I grew up in the Midwest, and —

Where’d you grow up?

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. I actually grew up in a town called Rosendale. It’s like an hour and a half drive north of Milwaukee.

I lived in Detroit until I was 10, and then right when I turned 11, we moved to Libertyville, Ill. And then we moved into the North Shore suburbs where John Hughes is from. And then I moved to New York when I was 18.

I moved to New York when I was 16. But when I think of you and your sensibility, I think there’s something indelibly Midwestern about you and also something indelibly Jewish.

Can you talk more about that?

Your relationship to the idea of success is not really New Yorky. The New York sensibility to me is very tribal. Everybody has their own tribe and they know the social codes and the rules of that tribe and they’re always conscious of when they’re talking to their tribe and when they’re talking to another tribe.

Give me an example.

The hasidic Jews and West Indians in Crown Heights where I live.

I would argue that, for people like us, the notion of tribes has to do with artists. My life changed the summer I was 16. My mom sent me away to the Bennington College summer arts program. And it was the first time I was in the presence of people who were of my tribe. Sure, they were probably affluent, privileged, but they were asking questions and writing and painting and dancing and seeking the kinds of things I was seeking. Prior to that summer I felt like the crazy misfit trying to fit in.

That to me is a very Midwestern thing. New Yorkers I know who have become artists, they still see their tribe as being the neighborhood.

Sure. For white middle class people in New York, there’s an idea that you can be an artist and be successful. For Midwesterners, often, that idea is inaccessible.

It’s beyond inaccessible. It’s a mark of Cain.

I came from an artist family, sort of. My mom was a classical pianist who’d played with the symphony as a child and then she didn’t pursue it. I think she was really bitten in the ass by the feminine mystique. She felt she could either be a pianist or she could be Doris Day in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” And then she found herself as a divorcée in the ’70s having to support herself. And later, before she died, she spoke quite eloquently about the loss of her music, that music was the most important thing to her, and she’d lost that. The point I’m trying to make is that there was a precedent of sorts for me to become an artist. And coming to New York to me felt like coming home. I always felt like an outsider in the Midwest.


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!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "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?
  • 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.