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The Workshop Artist Salon: Probing Collective Memory and Hybridity

Join members of The Workshop for a salon presentation showcasing three, cutting-edge artistic works-in-program that probe the intersections of race, religion, identity and sacred text through music, storytelling and film.

The Workshop is North America’s first arts fellowship centering the work of JOCISM (Jews of Color, Jewish-Indigenous, Sephardi and MIzrachi) artists and culture-makers. A talkback with the artists and guided conversation with the audience led by Rabbi Kendell Pinkney, founding Artistic Director of The Workshop, will follow these one-time-only performances:

MOTHER/ROAD (concept album – music, with storytelling and projections)
by Avi Amon

What is the space between an experience and our memory of the same? How is it shaped by what we hold to be true, and what maps the borders when those beliefs diverge? MOTHER/ROAD is an in-process sonic exploration of memory, home, and the unique tension between the joy and loss of the immigrant experience. Using my Mother’s journey from Istanbul to the U.S. as the nexus between past and future generations, this piece seeks to dissect what things we carry with us; what fragments of identity we barely remember; and the weight of what is left behind. You’ll experience small experiments and vignettes from what will become a much larger multimedia installation and album.

YES, AND… (filmed performance)

by Nemuna Ceesay and Bill DeMeritt

Nemuna and Bill are two Black Jews that went to top tier acting programs (A.C.T. and Yale) and had a wonderful time — most of the time. Going to grad school for acting is filled with transcendence, beauty, and vulnerability, yes…AND (see what we did there?) it’s also completely insane and very absurd. This is a teaser pilot of the very human humans who populate our mockumentary style TV Series that brings normal people into the world of weirdos (who might just have the secret to saving humanity).

Signs & Wonders: A Melodeklamatsiye (multidisciplinary performance)

by Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell

Drawing on a 19th century performance genre combining oration and art music, in Signs & Wonders: A Melodeklamatsiye Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell presents disparate elements (Black religiosity, Chopin, queerness, exegesis, the ambiguities of diaspora) for investigation through the mediums of Jewishness and sound.

This event is co-sponsored by Shards of Light Foundation, Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, Shakespeare & Company, and The Workshop.

Artist Bios

Nemuna Cessay
(she / her)

Nemuna Ceesay (she/her/hers) is an actor originally from California and based in New York. She has an MFA in acting from American Conservatory Theater and has been seen onstage at CalShakes, Joe’s Pub, PlayMakers Rep, Woolly Mammoth, A.R.T., The Public, and spent 2 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Favorite TV credits include: Bull, Broad City, Instinct, Younger, FBI, Prodigal Son and Katy Keene. She has performed internationally at Theatre Calgary and the Moscow Art Theatre. Nemuna
has been teaching for many years and currently teaches acting at Hunter College, Circle in the Square Theatre School, and Long Island University. She has her own business coaching actors for MFA Auditions.

Avi Amon

Avi Amon is a Turkish-American composer, sound artist, and educator. He is the 2023 recipient of a major grant from the Reel Change Film Fund to score the upcoming feature doc, EVERYTHING YOU HAVE IS YOURS (dir. Tatyana Tenenbaum). He has also been awarded a Thom Thomas Award and Jonathan Larson Grant, and has received support from New Music USA (with choreographer Hadar Ahuvia), and the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust. He is a New Jewish Culture Fellow, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, a commissioned member of the NNPN Bridge Program, and an inaugural fellow with THE WORKSHOP. Past residencies include: Exploring the Metropolis at JCAL, Hi-ARTS, Johnny Mercer Writers’ Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, Judson Memorial Church, The Kennedy Center, Mana Contemporary, Mercury Store, New Dramatists, The New Harmony Project, The O’Neill, The Orchard Project, Princeton, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Target Margin, THEatre ACCELERATOR, Weston Playhouse, and Yale. Avi is the resident composer and Music Director at the 52nd Street Project, where he co-writes songs with young people and has the time of his life. He also teaches a variety of collaborative art-making courses at NYU (Tisch School of the Arts), where he received his MFA in Musical Theatre Writing.

Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell

Anthony Russell is a performer, composer and arranger specializing in music in the Yiddish language. His work in traditional Ashkenazi Jewish musical forms led to a musical exploration of his own ethnic roots through the research, arrangement and performance of African American folk music, resulting in the EP Convergence (2018), a collaboration with klezmer consort Veretski Pass exploring the sounds and themes of one hundred years of African American and Ashkenazi Jewish music. Inspired by an ethnographic trip to Belarus and Poland as a Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellow, Anthony formed a duo, Tsvey Brider (“Two Brothers”), with accordionist and pianist Dmitri Gaskin for the creation of new music set to modernist Yiddish poetry of the 20th century. Their new album, Kosmopolitn, is set for release this August on the Borscht Beat label. A Hadar Rising Song Fellow (2021-22), Anthony is also an essayist on music and culture in a number of publications including Jewish Currents and Moment Magazine.

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