27 April, 2024

Everything is "Practice"

 When we view everything as a practice, we're reminded that we can begin again at any time.

There is no "too late".
There is no "too out of practice to try."
There is no "I'm not the kind of person who does that."
There is no "I haven't figured it out yet."
There is no "I need to become a new person before I can do this."
There is no "I can't.' 

There is just a decision to practice again. And again. And again. 

A noticing of what happens when we don't, and a choice to begin once more.

A dedication to awareness, which leads us to the practices we're wanting and needing more of. 

And an allowing of all of it to ebb and flow and shift and change and morph and take new shape alongside us.


18 April, 2024

Turn Crumbs into a Feast

Hello darling one. Feeling creatively blue? 

Man, we can be such jerks to ourselves! Have you ever had that mean-voiced ticker-tape loop in your head chanting on repeat that you have "NEVER been in a relationship/made money/had success in your hashtag career?"

Instead of making insulting, jerk-like decisions about yourself and your life, stop using “never/always” statements and try asking yourself questions like these:

- Is this absolutely true?
- Have I NEVER booked a gig/ been in a relationship/ made money…?
- Am I truly always a trash fire of mistakes and loser-hood?

We’re so quick to decide that if we haven’t totally nailed it, standing-ovation-style, at a Sutton-Foster level of validation, that we suck.
Dig deep, look for where you have had successes, no matter how teeny-weeny, and build upon it! Tiny triumph by tiny triumph, micro bit by micro bit.
You decide what’s true for you, so if you aren’t staring at a reality that lights you up, change your perception, roll up your sleeves, and change your life—brick by brick.
Sometimes, we have to turn what we perceive of as “crumbs” into a feast. That's okay—it teaches us to be realistic, optimistic, and above all: innovative.

13 April, 2024

Broadway World: The Music Man Q & A

© Joe Mazza

Originally published at Broadway World on April 13, 2024

Alexandra, stepping into the role of Marian Paroo, a character known for her complexity and depth, what aspects of her personality do you find most compelling to explore?
Given your extensive background in theatre, including roles in Fiddler on the Roof and Master Class, in what ways does portraying Marian challenge you in new ways

Having spent many of my marriageable and child-bearing years as a Midwestern, bookish spinster myself, I feel adequately prepared to portray the role…

Okay okay. Jokes aside,

    Being an actor is as fascinating — just when you think you have landed upon the next realization, stage of growth, place of acceptance, or the next “AHA,” another one presents itself to you. What a gift. While Marian is in many ways “in my wheelhouse” (as a golden-age soprano, an American [I play a lot of not-Americans], a bookish, aging woman) she’s presented great surprises.

What I recall from the era of my solitary life before I met my husband, Alec (met him, at the age of 35—) was how very full-to-the-brim with love I was, with nowhere to offer it. I think many people relate to that state of being. I was certain my life story would not be a romantic one (which is absolutely fine, if that’s your choice— but if I could have been honest with myself at the time, it was not my choice). I possessed an equal amount of
    1. Reasonable standards/ principles about what I wanted love and partnership to be, and
    2. deeply unhelpful made-up stories I was telling myself that ultimately just perpetuated my solitude.

No, I was not merely “drawn to unavailable people,” because the most unavailable person in the equation was me. I was in my very own way, terrified of being known or seen or allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to receive love.

This is Marian’s plight.

More than her rigidity, her isolation, or her status as an outcast.
And perhaps this plight is why I have not personally played her until now. Perhaps I had to personally be on the other side of Marian’s second act— to appreciate the agony of her self-sabotage and recognize myself in it. To acknowledge how much time I wasted with my heart encased in iron locks. To fully appreciate how courageous a thing it is to allow yourself to be loved, and of course: love’s utterly transformative power on the other side of all that terror. 

© Joe Mazza
As audiences experience this production of The Music Man, what message or feeling do you hope they take away from seeing you as Marian Paroo?

All of the above, plus:

    - Women are people.
    - Read banned books.
    - Let yourself be loved.
    - We need both facts and poetry.
    - It’s never too late.

The Music Man is celebrated for its classic American storytelling and memorable score. How have you approached singing Meredith Willson's iconic music, and do you have a favorite number to perform?

    It is hard to believe that even though I have done a great deal of singing in concert or cabaret settings in the last 5 years, I haven’t been in a “proper” musical production since before the pandemic! So the first challenge is the discipline, technique and stamina to perform such a powerhouse soprano role 8 times a week with consistency and facility of expression.

    And honestly, it’s been pure joy to go to the “vocal gym” and celebrate what I do feel is my natural sound.

    I love the entire score, but I think my favorite song to sing is the “Lida Rose/ Dream of Now” number in the second act with our tremendous barbershop quartet.
Two reasons.
First, Marian’s verse is a soaring dreamscape of fantasy and yearning. It’s almost erotic in how fully alive her yearning is— and I don’t think I had ever previously acknowledged that about this character. (I mean: the clues were all there, she reads Balzac for goodness sake!)

    Second, theatre is a team sport. So while I appreciate a lovely solo as much as they next soprano (LOL), there is nothing like making music in a group— and this particular group is world class.

This production brings together an incredible cast and creative team. What has it been like worth with the incredible ensemble of artists?

A chef is only as good as their tools and ingredients.
A painter only as good as their materials.
A tennis player made better by the quality of their opponents.
By this logic, a theatre artist is only as good as their playmates (and it’s called a “play” for a reason.)

    Every member of our creative team and ensemble is world class-- I’m particularly awed by Raquel Adorno’s costume designs and honored beyond language to share a stage (and a dressing room!) with the Chicago theatre legend that is Janet Ulrich Brooks as Mrs. Paroo, and the rising star that is Kai Edgar Joseph as Winthrop.

These are only a few of the team players that awe me, daily.

    The majority of my work occurs with KJ Hippensteel’s Harold Hill. KJ’s Harold is one of the most fully-realized, heartfelt portrayals of the role I’ve seen— he has the stage charisma of a cult leader and the endlessly likable charm of Dick Van Dyke, and though I don’t know a great deal about the finer details of his personal life, one can tell he really loves his wife (it’s something you can see in his eyes, in his work.) I think one can always tell when an actor knows/has known true love— it’s incredibly special to act with.
    KJ is also so willing and available to exposing the vulnerabilities of Harold Hill (which always, on some level, requires exposure of the actor-self too— and that takes a tremendous courage).  To borrow a metaphor from above, it’s a gift to play “pro-tennis” with him. Long may KJ Hippensteel lead companies.

    But the deepest gift of this experience has been collaboratively re-creating a new vision of Marian Paroo with our director-choreographer Katie Spelman. Katie and I met and worked together 5 years ago, and formed an intense adult-friendship bond that was instantaneous (and mutually insistent upon being permanent.)
    One of the things that has been breathtaking is how our deep knowledge of one another has informed and shaped the mutual creation of this “new” Marian. This Marian is informed by both of us, who share much in common with Marian herself, and with one another as deeply feeling, intelligent women with much to give the world and sometimes getting in our own (different) ways.
    The moments of side-splitting laughter, of debate, of shared vision, of exponential, mushrooming creativity are endless between us.
    But it is the moments of what I can only describe as platonic intimacy that have defined our collaboration. One rehearsal memory is so private and tender it doesn’t belong anywhere but in my memory, but suffice it to say the exchange in rehearsal silently expressed Katie saying “let me give this to you” and my silent reply being “let me do this for you.” The end result is an act of service to Marian, to all woman, to art, and to one another. I don’t know that I’ve ever had an experience like it.

The Music Man has a timeless quality that resonates with audiences across generations. What do you believe is the key to its enduring appeal, and how does this production capture that essence

    In many ways The Music Man as written by Meredith Wilson in the 1950s is about “America” with a “capital A.” America in the early years of the 20th century, in many ways still young, self-absorbed and foolish, in many ways brave, visionary and pioneering. I think what Katie Spelman is attempting to lead us all to do is envision and embody an America that was and an America that could be, when the best of us comes together as a community.
    In our production the fictional River City has recently been through a terrible plague (not at all unlike our world in 2024), experienced individual and collective grief, and in many ways has spiritually “died.” Harold Hill brings River City back to life— even if it is by accident.

    What human being doesn’t empathize with the sensation of dreams and possibilities bringing our souls to life? That’s The Music Man’s enduring appeal.

    Aside from that? Come on: the score is a hit parade (as they kids say “no skips” on this album), the book is impeccable, the dance numbers are bangers, and there’s an unlikely love story. What’s not to like? 

Marian Paroo's transformation throughout The Music Man is pivotal to the story. How do you navigate her evolution from a skeptical librarian to someone who embraces change and love?

    Everything changes when Marian sees what Harold Hill’s poetic lie has done for her brother Winthrop. Her grief-stricken, shadow of a baby brother transforms into a joyous child. The power of Harold’s promise changes Winthrop’s life, and brings the town of River City back to life— and it is palpable, undeniable. She can’t deny that though he may be a literal charlatan, he is in touch with something powerful that exceeds her understanding. That crack— that one aperture in— lets the light in to her soul as well.

    Not every fact with a perfect citation contains the poetry that makes life fully expansive. Harold provides—almost accidentally—that poetry.

    And what I find most interesting?
Marian lives a truthful life, and Harold lives an untruthful life.
But neither of them live honest lives.
They are dishonest in their own ways— with the world and with themselves.
That is, until they are in the presence of the other— honest at last.

Why must audiences see this production of The Music Man?

- You will see a deeply explored version of this story in character and context.
- You will see bodies of color inside the story in an all-embracing way, allowing new people to tell this story.
- You will see 37 brilliant performers on stage in the round (the second largest cast in the Marriott’s history)  
- You will hear a gorgeous orchestra play this classic score
- You will laugh, you will cry, you will fall in love. You will want to go out and buy a trombone.

See you at the library.

17 February, 2024


In 2124 the world is an apocalyptic landscape after the cataclysmic events known as “The Windfall.”

Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens boast an intricate network of AI-controlled maintenance systems known as “GAIA,” a digitally-preserved testament to nature’s perfection. 

 Enter Inspector Lila Gardener, a homicide detective investigating the murder of Adelaide’s great botanist: Dr. Victor Hale. 

Who killed Hale? 


and why?  

What secrets lurk beneath the city’s sleek exterior? 

Lila is on the case, for beneath the vibrant foliage and synthetic streams, a mystery lays concealed…In this immersive, site-specific, new form of theater, you interact with your environment using our new AFOOT console. 

All you need is your smartphone, a pair of headphones, and yourself in this thrilling theatrical walking tour of Adelaide.



Detective Inspector Lila Gardener — Amy Maiden
GAIA —  Anna O'Byrne
Yashido Natsuko — Gen Parton Shin
Dr. Amanda Narayan — Anula Navlekar
Ilan Zorillo — Mark Dickinson

"The Keepers:"
Shel Silverstein — Tony Sheldon
Madame Ranyevsky — Beverley Klein
Nessa Diffenbaugh — Ange Lavoipierre
Frankly Burnett — Nick Simpson-Deeks
Kew — Rosanna Hyland

TEXT & STORY by: Alexandra Silber
DESIGN, sound, mapping + concept by: Asa Wember
PRODUCED by: Alley Scott + Alec Silver for Dutch Kills Theater
MUSIC by @wet__hands featuring Argh Reath

16 February, 2024

AFOOT -- Shadows of the Past

SHADOWS OF THE PAST is part of AFOOT: Adelaide— a lush, haunting, and romantic 19th century ghost story. 

The story centers around Amelia Edwards and William Gardener— who come together and fall in love across class divides in 1885. 

 Set in the founding years of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, this romance intertwines local Australian history and supernatural elements. 

Weaving together history, romance and a touch of the supernatural, SHADOWS OF THE PAST explores themes of love, loss, and the enduring connection between people and places across class, death and time. In this immersive, site-specific, new form of theater, you interact with your environment using our new AFOOT console. 

All you need is your smartphone, a pair of headphones, and yourself in this theatrical walking tour of Adelaide, South Australia. 



Amelia Edwards — Anna O'Byrne
William Gardener — Nick Simpson-Deeks 
Florrie — Alexandra Silber
Marianna the Medium — Ange Lavoipierre 
Jonathan Edwards — James Robertson Malt 
Policeman — Mark Dickinson


TEXT & STORY by: Alexandra Silber
DESIGN, sound, mapping + concept by: Asa Wember
PRODUCED by: Alley Scott + Alec Silver for Dutch Kills Theater

15 February, 2024

AFOOT -- Whisper Walk

 WHISPER WALK explores the power of uttered personal stories. 

Inspired in part by the "Phone of the Wind" (風の電話, kaze no denwa) of Otsuchi Japan, WHISPER WALK is a conceptual piece of moving, living, documentary-style testimonial art of life-like personal stories “whispered” into the ears of the audience at ordinary, everyday locations-- all told as they move through the guided walk. 

The private audience thus serves as a confidant and a kindly stranger on the road to whom the speaker can perhaps speak more candidly than to a regular character in their everyday lives… 

In this piece we explore the notion that memory is tied heavily to place, and that a singular place can contain a multitude of “stacked” memories and stories from the countless humans who cross the location from the hours to centuries.


Text by Alexandra Silber
Structure by Asa Wember
Produced by Alley Scott and Alec Silver for Dutch Kills Theater
Performance direction by Alexandra Silber 
Walking routes, Recording & Sound Design UI & Web Programming all by: Asa Wember

With performances by:
Michael Cormick
Mark Dickinson
Rosanna Hyland
Beverley Klein
Ange Lavoipierre
Amy Maiden
James Robertson Malt
Rishi Mutalik
Anula Navlekar
Gen Parton Shin 
Tony Sheldon
Nick Simpson Deeks 
Geena Quintos 

19 January, 2024

The Eleventh Classmate

Originally published by Broadway World on 19 Jan, 2024

Stephen Ochsner as Jacob Katz

Last spring, I came on board to participate in a casual reading of Our Class by Tadeuz Słobodzianek. Political polarization, disinformation, families and friendships in crisis over ideologies were front and center of all our minds that day:

How could ten ordinary classmates growing up through extraordinary times make such horrific choices, respond to traumatic events in such barbaric ways, inspired by so much fear and so little empathy?

The answers might be difficult to comprehend, but it is not hard to find contemporary evidence— it exists right before use every day. In the comments sections. In our direct messages. Across tense dinner tables. And screamed violently at parallel protests. It seems the global population have one thing in common for certain: we are all terrified.
And in our fear, we have all become more rigid, more intolerant;
    and far less capable of compassion, nuance and meaningful listening.
In that fear, is where our friendships, communities and wider societies begin to break down.

It feels virtually impossible to hold more than one truth these days, but it’s what I feel compelled to do. There’s the visceral: the outrage, the grief, the loss, the fear, the violence, the deaths, the horror. There’s the global proliferation of hatred from every angle. And there’s the relational: the how could yous and the how could you nots. Every day online and in the street I feel the pain going septic behind everyone’s rage.

In Our Class — ten Polish classmates — five Jewish, and five Catholic — grow up as friends and neighbors, then turn on one another with unutterable brutality; in traumatic, life and death consequences.  It is inspired by the real life events surrounding a 1941 pogrom in a small Polish village of Jedwabne.  

It is staggering.  Shocking. Stomach-churningly timely. We follow the lives of the classmates from the age of 5 through eight decades of the 20th century. It examines the nature of hate, and how we—as human creatures— have the potential for both brutality and love.

Yes, the play hits differently than it did last spring. Yes.


    From the very beginning our visionary (Ukrainian-born and Jewish) director Igor Golyak told us what his most important concept was: it had nothing to do with visual imagery, playing-style or group dynamics. It was the central idea that we must not approach this play as a story that happened “back THEN, far away from here to and by people that are nothing like me.” We had to do everything in our power to center our own personal morality and humanity into the exploration of this play to make sure it was not a PAST-TENSE play. It was a PRESENT-TENSE play.
    Our Class is not history, it is our present and our future.

    We had to be courageous enough to reckon with that within ourselves.
By making friends with confrontational thoughts.
Rather than asking ourselves
    “how could THEY?”
we were forcing ourselves into twisting our own psychology into an excruciating moral question mark:  
    “How might I? What would it take for me to behave in this way?”
By acknowledging that by the very nature of being human we have the capacity for great cruelty, we don’t distance ourselves from the perpetrators, we acknowledge that at any moment, we might very well become them, were the circumstances “just right” enough to push us over the edge of our own moral compass.
    It is—without exception— the most challenging, fully enacted moral exercise of my career.

Myself as Rachelka turned Marianna

This brings me to an interesting question on the lips of so many these days: how many more stories of oppressed peoples’ trauma (in this instance Jewish trauma) do we need to bear witness to? Haven’t we been through enough? How many times can we hear and see these stories played out and still not experience social change in a wider sense?

Fair questions. And I don’t have neat answers. What I can provide is an idea central to the import of Our Class: the featuring of the perpetrators.

Last week while speaking with a journalist, we discussed the rule in journalism that has become a kind of law— when an act of violence is carried out, do not feature the perpetrators, focus on the victims and their memory. Wise indeed in journalism— where we (at least we used to) get our neutral facts and information. No need to create cult heroes out of perpetrators of violence.

But art is a different matter. We look to artists to meet different needs within society— we “hold the mirror up to nature” and beckon audiences to examine themselves. More than just culture preservers, historians, or beauty-makers— artists have been crucial to social change, catharsis  and personal examination since the dawn of the art form in Ancient Greece. We need art in order to grow as a collective.

For the majority of the 20th century Holocaust art largely followed the focus on victims just as journalists did— it was almost a moral imperative as the last survivors were reaching the ends of their lives. Preserving the crucial stories of victims was the very definition of our collective sobriety toward hatred. It solidified a restored humanity in Europe and around the globe.

But by framing the Holocaust as a mystifying, totally incomprehensible evil to be exacted by “animals” we distance ourselves from the atrocities as impossible to see within ourselves. To view the events and the thinking that got us there, as— to quote Elie Wiesel—“the ultimate event, the ultimate mystery, never to be comprehended or transmitted,” we shield our consciousness from the absolute certainty of our own human capacity for evil.

Gus Birney as Dora

Our Class is no such piece of avoidance or moral circumvention.

Through Słobodzianek’s use of direct address, the audience is implicated— the characters speak not just to one another, but to the audience as the “11th classmate” asking over and over again the haunting question:

    “What could I do?”

Perhaps Słobodzianek is indeed asking us:
    What could we do?
    What are we doing?
    What will and might we do?
And perhaps most chilling of all:
    who are we to judge these characters if we never dare to fully observe ourselves?

That is what distinguishes this piece from others.


Every day I grapple with fear of forgetting. With the fact that I am two generations removed from the events of Our Class (and so many other stories I’ve had the privilege to tell on stage and page). I was not alive during the war — and these memories do not belong to me.

When people continually try to deny the reality of the Holocaust, being a dramatic story-teller complicates matters. These events truly did happen, and perhaps the fear is that if one makes it fiction, people will think it isn’t true.

But we have learned that the documents alone are not enough. A 2022 U.S. survey by the Anti-Defamation League found “widespread belief in anti-Jewish tropes, at rates unseen for decades.” In the first two months of 2023, attacks on U.S. synagogues increased 71 percent.

Second- and third- and soon-to-be-fourth generation storytellers from all genres — as well as those who are not direct descendants — attempt to combat this evaporation.

“Never forgetting” is a trope if it is not followed by meaningful action. And it seems that action is changing and shifting— as those charged with remembering inherit a different—but in many ways identical—world.

Despite challenging subject matter, Igor Golyak’s production features whimsy, music, laughter and even joy. It features 10 incredible performances by beautiful actors. It includes designers that are each the absolute top of their chosen art form— all coming together to tell this story with breathtaking beauty.

As my character Rachelka says:

“We all have our destiny. Our b’shet.”

Perhaps mine—at least in this era of my life— is a kind of theatrical never-forgetting.
We’ll see.

02 September, 2023

Ask Al: Not all opportunities are created equal...

 Hello Al, 

I am a mid-career American actor and would appreciate your professional advice!

As background: I am a professional actor in my mid-thirties, I've performed leading roles in regional American theater, have appeared on concert stages, albums, and have covered multiple roles on Broadway.

I've recently changed agents-- a move I'm largely excited about! However, the very first audition my new agents have sent my way is what I would consider to be a really "poor match" for me and I'm experiencing concern. 

  • Concern for how my new agents view me, 
  • and for a possibly warped view of how I see myself
  • concerned that my agent and I aren't on the same page 
  • and for tarnishing new relationships by turning down an opportunity (however inappropriate I think that opportunity might be)

Do I take advantage of the base "opportunity to audition" even though the role/job is not one I want?

The project itself is something I have a lot of history with, is in line with my skill set, my personal history/identity, is with a company I would love to work with someday (perhaps on something else), and is indicative of the theatrical work I want to be doing. But the role I have been submitted for is traditionally played by an actor 10-15 years my senior, and as a woman in my mid-thirties, the role seems to be at odds with how I see myself both as a person and in the casting brackets of the industry.  

While perhaps I am indeed perceived as older than I regard myself and need to have a reality check, I think the larger concern is that my new agents and I aren't quite aligned. 

  • Should I "suck it up" and take the audition? 
  • Do I pass on the opportunity and not mention to the agents how concerned this makes me? 
  • Or do I brooch a hard conversation with the new agents? 

I'm so conflicted. But equally, I'm surprised by how "emotionally activated" this situation has made me-- which usually indicates something deeper is at play—so I'm not responding with the clarity I'm accustomed to. I'd so appreciate your advice. 





Dear Concerned, 

First of all, congratulations on being a mid-career actor in her thirties who is represented, working at what sounds like an admirably high level of skill and professionalism, and still passionate and committed to her craft in the prime of life! That's a lot to be proud of, and I mention it specifically because I think we often forget to appreciate how much we've accomplished and how far we've come—especially when we might be stuck inside a thought loop. So brava: you made it this far in your manifested artistic life. 

Next, rather than focusing on what the "right" choice is (because there is no "right choice"), my first advice is to get real quiet with yourself and get to the root of these activated feelings before trying to land on a preferred solution. 

Might this be about... 

  • being perceived of as older than you are/feel/wish to be viewed and the judgements and emotions that brings up? 
  • feeling misunderstood or misrepresented? 
  • feeling anxious because you're a recovering people-pleaser, and saying "no—" especially in a new relationship—is extra challenging for you? 
  • potentially being perceived of as "difficult" and/or "picky" or "a diva" by this new agent and the casting director and THOSE labels activate you? 
  • a self-worth issue? ("who do I think I am to turn this down?") 
  •  ...or something entirely different?

No matter the reason(s), getting real with yourself about the underlying feelings creating anxiety in this scenario will help you navigate it with better clarity. And I'll add—not ONLY this scenario, but future scenarios that activate your anxiety as well! (And as a post script: your identity as a female on planet earth does not make the above perceptions easier. Women do indeed fight stereotypes about being difficult/a diva/high-maintenance, that in men would be applauded as "knowing their worth" or "having standards...")

Finally, after you've done that, I'd "change the lens" on this for yourself and regard it as an opportunity to have a deeper, more meaningful conversation with your new agent about the kind of work you want to do, the way you wish to be represented in the industry, and to engage in meaningful dialogue about that in a back-and-forth that can only provide data for you both going forward. Just like a misunderstanding in a friendship or romantic partnership, these moments can be ignored and cause fragility, OR they can be the catalyst for a deeper conversation that gives everyone a chance to gain more understanding. 

Your agents might respond with something simple:

  • "the casting director asked for you specifically and I felt obligated to send it your way!"
  • "I figured why not? An audition is an audition, right?"
  • Thank you for this feedback-- let's pass and then dig in to other opportunities! 

I'll lightly warn: there is the possibility that your agent will not respond positively, or with the open heart and mind of your design. They might get defensive, double-down, or use language that re-activates some of your fears (for example might say something like "you can't be so picky" or "a lot of my other clients your age are going in, why can't you just trust me?") That is a distinct possibility, and I offer that the quality of their response is equally good data for you going forward.

While opportunities are wonderful, not all opportunities are created equal

And while this audition opportunity is one worth considering, the opportunity for deeper discussion is one that should definitely not be passed up!


16 August, 2023

Elul: 29 Journaling Prompts for 29 Days

Elul— the final month of the Hebrew calendar is here, which means the High Holidays are near and so is renewal, atonement and fresh starts. 

As the final month of the year, the Hebrew month of Elul immediately precedes the "High Holy Days" of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the "Day of Atonement.")  Jewish tradition welcomes us to use this 29-day month to undertake a cheshbon nefesh, or “accounting of the soul.”

Did you know that the four letters of Elul (א ל ו ל) are said to be an acronym for אני לדודי ודודי לי, “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me,”expressing the closeness that we experience with G‑d, the Divine, the spiritual— during this time.  

Elul calls to us— to turn inward towards our soul, outward toward nature and our fellow man; to zoom both out and in in perspective. It beckons us to recall our most sacred and authentic selves, to return to ourselves and nourish it anew. It is a time for taking an account of our year, and envisioning our very best selves, going forward. 

It is at this time of year that Jews focus of teshuva. The Hebrew word “Teshuva” is often translated to mean “repentance.” But it is more etymologically accurate to translate the word teshuva as “return.” During Elul and the High Holy Days, we are given this gift of return—to ourselves, to our loved ones and to our spirituality. There is no more auspicious time in the Jewish calendar than now to reflect, introspect and prepare to repair the world.

With all of this in mind, it is a productive and beautiful custom to journal during the month of Elul— utilizing each of the 29 days to reflect upon new concepts that might aid in a meaningful atonement, and fresh start. When approached with intention, writing can be a profound practice. 

In the days of Elul that leading up to the High Holy Days, I wanted to offer you, dear readers, a few journal prompts to explore for each of the 29 days of this beautiful and sacred time. 

However "religious" or "spiritual" you may be, whatever your spiritual practice or exact beliefs, anyone can benefit from taking part regardless of where you approach the experience from.

Jewish and new to Elul? Dip a toe.

Out of practice? Give it a whirl. 

Very in touch with the Jewish calendar but in the mood for new prompts? Jump on in. 

Not even Jewish but interested in joining in? Welcome.

Enjoy. May it be a meaningful Elul for you, wherever the moon may shine her light upon you.


  1. What do you hope for in the New Year?
  2. What is forgiveness? How do you define forgiveness? What does it feel like? Sound like? Look like? How do we forgive?
  3. What makes a good apology? 
  4. What is your relationship with your body and health, and think about how you might realistically change or maintain that relationship in the coming year. What does your ideal relationship with health look like?

  5. The Hebrew word “Teshuva” is often translated to mean “repentance.”
  6. But it is more etymologically accurate to translate the word teshuva as “return.” What does teshuvah mean to you? How do the various translations resonate more or less? 

  7. What have you discovered this year about creating boundaries to insure your own self-care? It has been a struggle for many of us “to refill the well” when responsibilities have demanded perpetual giving, attention focused outward. How have you been able to nourish yourself? Recall, tell the stories of, times when you were able to prioritize yourself, triage demands, perhaps learned to say “no,” or “not now”? How can you grow as an advocate for your own health and wellbeing?
  8. What would it look like for humanity to do teshuvah for our abuse of the earth?
  9. Write an apology to yourself, and then respond to it. Do you forgive yourself for the lack of trust? For speaking badly about yourself? How can you do better next year?

  10. What miracles did you witness in the past year? You can list them or write about one—anything goes.

  11. What’s one good habit you aspire to embrace? When will you start?

  12. Find a calm place and listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear? What does it mean to listen to yourself? To "listen to the Shofar?
  13.  During the past year, have you acted to sustain others, whether materially or emotionally? Whose actions have sustained you? Have you been able to make the leap from kind thoughts to action? When you do act on behalf of someone else, do you stand in solidarity with them? What is one act of chesed that you have put off? When might you do it?

  14. Over the past year, have you done something in anger that you would not have otherwise? What would you have done differently if you had taken time before reacting?What about “righteous” anger? Have you experienced moments where anger motivated you towards positive action?

  15. When do you find it easiest to be patient? In what situations do you tend to become impatient? Are there any common triggers? Is there anyone you owe an apology as a result of your impatience?
  16. What does it mean to be good?

  17. What are some of your greatest insights/ pieces of wisdom that you now have that you didn’t have as strongly last year?

  18. Who inspires you and why? 
  19. How are you at balancing judgment and compassion when it comes to the actions of others? Do you tend toward one extreme or the other? What about when it comes to your own actions?

  20. If your soul could speak, what would she say?

  21. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof: How do I seek justice, and for whom? How do I participate in tikkun olam, aka: repairing the world?

  22. Who do you yearn to be?
  23. What do you need to release or embrace in order to shine more brightly?

  24. How effectively do you really listen to what others say to you, reflect on it, and act accordingly? What gets in the way of your being able to listen attentively to others? Do you find yourself planning the next thing you want to say? Distracted by electronics? Wrapped up in your own thoughts? Does this tend to happen more in one area of your life than in others?

  25. Where is the land of your soul? How can you "return?"

  26. When do you experience yourself as most full, joyous, awake? Describe what circumstances seem to make that spirit blossom; what circumstances sabotage them. Are there changes that suggest themselves to optimally enliven you?

  27. How are you being called to take responsibility?

  28. What are you turning away from and what are you turning toward?
  29. As you reflect on the past year, can you think of particular times in which you have you opened your heart and hand to others? Have you held back from extending help to those in need? Have you made a habit of generosity? If so, how? If not, what would that look like?


23 July, 2023

I WISH (on its 4 year anniversary...)

I Wish — 7 • 24 • 2023 ✨

Four years ago I never would have dreamed that a random tweet on a weeknight could become a long-running series at 54 Below — one that brings so much joy, catharsis, laughter, wholesome uplift and community to its performers and its audiences. 

This is the twelfth edition (!!), and this incarnation took me by surprise: I was moved by the mere existence of it. 

Do you ever feel wobbly about your place in the world? Wondering if what you do or offer matters? Me too. 

But whenever I feel wobbly about whether or not I contribute meaningfully to the world around me, it isn’t the great big accomplishments or adventures that move me. It’s the friendships, the quiet moments and creations like I Wish. 

I always return to this humble little offering and remember that not all contributions are giant blockbusters, money-making or award-winning endeavors. Some are simply small acts of kind, excellent, consistent offerings of pure uplift. Some are merely the gathering of wonderful people in celebration of an art form and a community we love. 

And sometimes, that’s enough. Perhaps it is more than enough. 

Thank you to the I WISH dream team of our musical director extraordinaire Drew Wutke and producing wunderkind Jen Sandler — without you there would be no wishes. I love us. 

Thank you to 54 Below.

Thank you to this and every cast of I WISH. 

Keep wishing. ✨

📸: @james.t.murray

21 July, 2023

Jewish Represetnation in the Theatre Panel at BroadwayCon 2023

A few photographs and thoughts from the absolutely soul-expansive, mind-blowing, joy-forward panel on Jewish Representation in the Theater at this year’s BroadwayCon.

To sit beside this group of brilliant minds, talents and Jewish people was such an unspeakable honor, and to really comb through the nuances of the contemporary conversation was as illuminating as it was affirming. 

This was just the beginning for this brilliant crew (and many others).

1. I am not exclusively an “only mothers can play mothers” reductionist when it comes to casting and artistic expression. Buuut 

2. When the story centers around a character’s ethnic and religious-identity, is crucial to the fabric of who they are, and includes self-effacing parody OF that identity—then the casting of said identity is not only critical but to ignore it is actually harmful. 


3. In these identity-forward times, the conversations around these issues are not always going to be directly parallel (ie a conversations comparing and contrasting the issues of various oppressed groups). It’s not the oppression Olympics. We must all breathe, LISTEN, check ourselves and remember that liberation is a GROUP PROJECT.

Thank you to Becca Suskauer and Ari Axelrod for organizing, and to Talia Suskauer, Brandon Uranowitz, Zachy Prince and Shoshana Bean for your heartfelt insights.

All photos © Rebecca J Michelson: also a genius Jewish person



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