Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From Austria to America

This blog post is an interview of Florian Huelbig given by Esther Moerdler, the Communications intern.

Every Austrian man, when he completes high school, must serve his nation either through military service or through volunteer work. Florian Huelbig, Flo, chose to spend his year volunteering abroad. He spent part of his time in the Vienna office of Austrian Service Abroad, an NGO that focuses on memorial and service opportunities abroad for these post-high school young men, 6 months in Barcelona and 6 months right here, at MJH.

Do they teach a lot about WWII and the Holocaust at your high school?
They taught a lot about the Second World War and about the humiliation of Jews and the concentration camps. They focused mostly on Jews, but we hardly learned about the genocide of the Roma. I really wanted to learn new things and be an advocate, and make the world better.

What made you choose coming here versus going to the army?
I wanted to do something sustainable after graduating high school. I was always interested in studying the Holocaust and Roma culture. So I went to Barcelona for the first half of the year, where I worked for a Roma organization and the second half is here, working with my second focus.

What have you gotten to do here so far?
My main duties are translating and summarizing audio testimonies for the Collections & Exhibitions department. I also do research and help with the database. I try to help where I can.

What is one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while being here at the museum?
Now I’ve been measuring artifacts. They’re so interesting and mostly in German, so I can read them easily. It’s interesting and sometimes it’s a little…I’ll hold a bullet and know that this bullet killed people. It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s interesting to see all the things that people have donated to the museum.

Did you come here with other people?
No. I came here with no one.

How has that been?
It’s been really exciting. I’ve enjoyed living alone for the first time and making new friends. It has been super awesome. I’m glad I came here alone. It’s just a proof that I can survive on my own.

How do you like NYC?
It’s great. I really like it so far. Sometimes it’s a little too big and stressed out. I’m more the type to chill a little bit, not the type to stress. It’s NYC; you can’t compare any other city to NYC.

What’s your favorite part of the city?
I think it’s the Meatpacking District because it’s so cool with its many restaurants. It’s not really hipster, it’s just modern and has a lot of young people there. I like the shopping there too. I like Williamsburg as well. It’s cool, you meet interesting people there.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in the city?
So I visited a friend in Brooklyn and after my visit I went to a barber nearby on Bedford Street. It was at like 9 o’clock PM. The barber turned to me after and said, “Don’t cross the street, if you do you’ll get robbed.” I was like, “what?!” and she said, “Trust me trust me, don’t cross the street.” It was crazy. Every city is at some point dangerous, but it was just unexpected. I went to the barber and after I couldn’t cross the street. That had never happened to me before.  

What do you have planned after this?
I’m going after this to South America trip for a few weeks after this. I’m going to Mexico, Lima, Costa Rica, Cuba, and after that Buenos Aires. I have a friend who is doing the same program but in Costa Rica doing service there. This is my first time in South America and first time in America as well. It’s been a whole new experience. Next year I will go to university in Vienna, well in a suburb of Vienna. I’m going to study audio and film. I want to make documentary films. I like the idea of learning from the movie you’re seeing. I’m open for anything though. I’m just excited for the experience.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is coming to New York from, let’s say Austria, what would it be?
If it was someone coming from Austria, which is a pretty small country, they wouldn’t necessarily know about big cities like New York. I think they have to take their time and not be stressed out by the City, just enjoy it.

Any final thoughts?
I’ve really enjoyed my time abroad, especially at the museum. Everyone has been so kind to me. If I had the opportunity to come here again, I’d definitely do it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Getting to know Rachel Zatcoff

Rachel Zatcoff and ensemble. Photo: Justin Scholar.
This blog post is an interview of Rachel Zatcoff (starring as Khanele in the summer production of The Golden Bride) and was given by Esther Moerdler, the Communications intern.

Rachel Zatcoff didn’t know Yiddish before joining the cast of The Golden Bride, but that doesn’t seem to stop her. Having started acting and singing as a child, and later studying voice and opera, Zatcoff’s bubbly energy radiates from the stage as she takes on the character of Khanele, the main character Goldele’s best friend and love interest’s sister,  in National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s production, which won two Drama Desk awards.

How did you get involved in Yiddish theater?
Well, for this particular project my agent submitted me for it. My first audition was here at the theater, I had a call back the week after and they ended up calling me. I had five days between my last day at Phantom [of the Opera] and starting here. So it was a very fast transition.

It must have been a stark contrast?
Yes it was, but a very interesting one for me.

How does it compare for you - coming from Phantom of the Opera and now performing in The Golden Bride?
Because the size of the shows are so different, this [Golden Bride] is such an intimate experience and I’ve really appreciated that coming off of Phantom, which is such a spectacle and such a big show. And I had no experience in Yiddish, zero. I had sung in other languages with my opera experience and training, but never Yiddish. I was excited to take on a new language but it was a huge challenge to do it in twelve days.

So you learned all of this in twelve days? How did you go about taking that on?
I had the script and score for three days before rehearsal, whereas typically in most situations I’ve been in I’ve had it for significantly more time than that. So I would come to the first rehearsal with it pretty much learned which was impossible for me to do. But they had a diction coach for us, which was really helpful. Her name is Edit [Kuper] and she really helped me a lot. The cast, all of the other principles had done the show last year, and they were so supportive and helpful in helping me learn everything, and just being there for me because it was stressful. The creative team too, Zalmen [Mlotek], Bryna [Wasserman] and Merete [Muenter], were just really helpful in pacing out the twelve days and making sure I could get it under my belt.

How do you approach playing a comedic role?
It was a challenge, but a fun one. Good comedy, I think, is all about good timing. That’s something hard to gauge, especially while in rehearsal. Without an audience it is tough. I had no idea when they would laugh, and what they would find funny. You can’t guess that, you can’t play to get laughs and be funny. It’s so different from playing the romantic ingénue, and it’s so much fun. Standing there singing a ballad, I’m so used to that, and this is such a refreshing change.

How does the show speak to you?
I love the coming to America story always. It’s so inspirational. Especially in our world today, which is such a mess. We are so lucky to live in America, as cheesy as that may sound. And I love the sense of family, community, unity, and romantic love. The show is funny; it is really so fun and so exciting to be a part of.

If you could sum up the show in one word, what would it be?
Oh, love. I really would. There is a lot of love in the show; family love, love of culture, romantic love, friendship love, all sorts of love. I guess that would be my word. It is so nice. Yesterday I put a post on social media because I felt so touched by the show. I’ve seen people [in the audience] crying laughing, there are so many emotions that have been so awesome.

How is your character like you or different from you?
Well, she is a lot like me because she’s kind of spunky and most people in my life think I’m quite funny. Well, I don’t think I’m all that funny, but people think I am, so it’s nice to finally get my feet wet with a comedic role. I hadn’t had the chance in my career yet to dive into these types of roles. She’s also passionate; I’d say that I’m passionate…and a little crazy.

Is there anything challenging for you about bringing the show to life?
Well, the language is certainly a challenge. It’s one of those shows where you really have to keep reviewing it. You’re speaking in a foreign language and you really have to know what you’re saying... and what everyone else is saying! And for me, I’m usually playing the ingénue role, the Goldele role, you know? So to be playing the comic relief scenes is really just a blast!
The Second act is physically, emotionally and vocally difficult.  I spend a large chunk of time on stage where it is scene, song, scene, song, and that makes it a huge challenge. But Glenn [Seven Allen] has been a total dream to work with. It has its general bone structure but it’s live theater and because it’s so comedic and so much about timing it shifts from show to show, which makes it a lot of fun.

Who in the show’s cast would you say is most like their character?
Ooh, I’m going to say Adam Shapiro as Kalmen. Just because he’s truly that hilarious in life and he would also totally wear a tutu. And that’s why I think he’s so amazing. He brings so much to himself to the role, and that’s why he has the whole house laughing from the start.

If you could play any other role in The Golden Bride, who would it be?
Ooh, anyone? I’d say…The mother, Regina’s [Gibson] role. It is so incredibly powerful, particularly because Regina is so amazing, but also because it’s one of those moments in a show when the whole audience gasps. That this little piece is written into this show that has such a huge impact. She (Regina) always brings herself into the role so deeply that it’s moving to the audience, and moving to me standing there on stage watching her.

What is the last thing you do before you step on stage?
I usually look up. I know this is strange to say but I usually just put my head up, look up, and remember where I am. Remember where I am as Rachel, in my life, and then just bring myself to the show and get excited to tell the story.