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An intimate history of the Jewish Borscht Belt told through the fraught romance between my grandmother and a mysterious showgirl.
An intimate history of the Jewish Borscht Belt told through the fraught romance between my grandmother and a mysterious showgirl.
150 backers pledged $17,044 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$17,044

150

NEW NEW GOAL!
(9/22/18)

I am totally floored, once again, by the generosity of everyone who contributed so far - we are very close to our initial stretch** goal of $15,000 with 103 backers! THANK YOU!!

For these final 5 days of the campaign, our last goal is having 25 more people donate! TRULY TRULY TRULY any donation is so meaningful - $5, $10, $25 - there is literally no amount too small because it's not only about the money - it's about the community around the work! 

All funds will go towards more fully realizing the artistic elements in the piece - more possibilities for what we can do with set, costumes, lighting, video and sound, along with paying my wonderful collaborators and myself.

NEW GOAL! 
(9/8/18)

Thanks to your incredible generosity, I met my initial goal of $10,000 in 24 hours! I am so moved and grateful! The original $10,000 gives me the minimum funds I need to mount this show. Which means. It’s happening!!! 

 I am now announcing a stretch** goal of $15,000 to more fully realize the piece! 

Your contributions in any amount are so meaningful!

 **What’s a stretch goal? It means that our project has been fully funded by kickstarter guidelines and we will get ALL the pledges we’ve already received PLUS any more pledges beyond our original goal! 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Hi everyone! Sacha here with my first ever kickstarter campaign!

Probably we know each other. But in case we don’t, I am a solo performer here in New York City. I make performances about princes and vampires and dads and now….my grandmother! I use personal and familial experience as a starting place to talk about broader social and political questions. 

What am I raising money for? 

I am raising money to premiere Cherie Dre, a new solo performance about a dramatic romance between my maternal grandmother, Shirley, and a mysterious showgirl named Cherie Dre, at the glamorous Concord Resort Hotel. The piece is an intimate history of the Jewish Borscht Belt, mental illness, class ascension, political repression, and gender trouble, from the Bronx to the Catskills. 

A study for Cherie Dre.  Photo by Leslie Hickey for Nina Johnson Photography
A study for Cherie Dre. Photo by Leslie Hickey for Nina Johnson Photography

Who is Cherie Dre?

Some would say that Cherie Dre is just the fantasy alter-ego of a person with mental illness. Those people would be right, my grandmother did have bipolar disorder before modern diagnosis or treatments. But that’s not the full story. I believe that Cherie opened up a space for desire, belonging and self love amidst this country’s ongoing histories of seductive assimilation and painful exclusion. 

I am embodying my imagining of Cherie (as Yiddish songstress/entertainer, bird, lesbian lover, and communist spy) to connect to this woman I never really knew and see what she teaches me/us about these ideas in a contemporary context.

What is the Borscht Belt?

The piece chronicles the relationship between Shirley and Cherie alongside the rise and fall of the “The Borscht Belt” - A term for the geographic area in the Catskill mountains where, during its heyday in the 1940s-60s, there were over 500 hotels and 50,000 bungalows...all Jewish! 

Signs for just a few of the hotels in the 1950s Borscht Belt Catskills
Signs for just a few of the hotels in the 1950s Borscht Belt Catskills

It was a phenomenon of Ashkenazi Jewish assimilation created by the simultaneous desire for, and exclusion from luxury American culture. At a time when “no hebrews allowed” was the practice most everywhere in the US outside of certain parts of NYC, these resorts were self-created oases of vacation-y abundance. 

Table 89 at the dining room at Kutschers Hotel
Table 89 at the dining room at Kutschers Hotel

My grandparents were the first generation of my family to be able to take a vacation, making the trek up to the Borscht Belt from the city during the summers in the 1950s to stay at the Concord Hotel. They loved visiting my great Uncle Phil and Aunt Alberta Kazansky who were labor union organizers fighting for hotel worker rights (eventually forming union Local 76). 

The Imperial Ballroom at the Concord Hotel
The Imperial Ballroom at the Concord Hotel

They also loved seeing hotel shows by the many Jewish entertainers who got their start playing the Borscht Belt circuit (think everyone from Buddy Hackett to Joan Rivers to Barbara Streisand.) And, that's where, if you ask me, Shirley “met” Cherie…

Cherie Dre in the ruins of The Concord Hotel. Photo by Jared Buckhiester.
Cherie Dre in the ruins of The Concord Hotel. Photo by Jared Buckhiester.

What has my research process been like?

I've been researching and developing this piece for two years, both in NYC as well as the current day Borscht Belt which is in ruins, economically and physically. I've trespassed on the old hotel sites, collected artifacts, talked with family members, former Concord waiters, the real life Penny of Dirty Dancing fame, and the Sullivan County Historian, among others. 

Images from Marisa Scheinfeld's Borscht Belt Series - see rewards, bottom image still available!
Images from Marisa Scheinfeld's Borscht Belt Series - see rewards, bottom image still available!

When and where is Cherie Dre premiering?

I am thrilled that Cherie Dre will premiere at Danspace Project, in the beautiful and historic St. Mark's Church on 2nd Avenue. 

I am collaborating with an amazing group of artists to bring the piece to life: 
Caitlin Sullivan is directing  
Faye Driscoll is choreographing    
Holland Andrews is making a hauntingly beautiful soundscape/score  
Sasha Wortzel is making gorgeous original videos    
And that’s not all.
We have set design by Cate McCrea, costumes by Tilly Grimes, lighting by Kathy Kaufmann, outside eyes by Morgan Bassichis and creative producing by Melissa Levin.    

I am grateful to be working with such brilliant artists!   

The piece has received development support from Denniston Hill, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Hurleyville Arts Centre, The Center for Performance Research, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.

Why do I need your help?

Even with the generous development support from these organizations, and Danspace Project, we need to raise $10,000 to pay my collaborators and technical team, along with the covering the costs of materials for the set, costumes, and video. In the past, I have worked within a venue’s budget or self-funded to make my shows. But this time, I have people I need to pay! A set that costs something! A run of a show! I need your help!!!    

Thank you for considering donating! Literally, there is no amount too small...  

And please come to the show October 25th-27th!    

And/or bring it to your city or town or country! :) 

And in the meantime, thanks to the Baryshnikov Arts Center, you can watch this behind the scenes video (below) and read this beautiful piece of writing by Ali Rosa-Salas - both commissioned as part of my Spring 2018 BAC Space Residency. 

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Cherie Dre rehearsal at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC. Photo by Maria Baranova
Cherie Dre rehearsal at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC. Photo by Maria Baranova

Want to know more about me?

I live and work in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up as a child actor (theater mostly) and figure skater in Western MA. I went to college at Sarah Lawrence where I learned to be gay and got an internship at The Kitchen in NYC my senior year. There, my ideas about performance exploded - I immersed myself in the world of the many incredible artists I met, and worked there for the next seven years. I also got some formal actor training at the William Esper Studio Actor Training Program.

As an artist living and working in New York City, I wear many hats:    

Hat #1 🎩: I make my own work which I create, write, and perform. My solo shows Dad Band (2016-2017), Silent Film (2015), and The Prince (2013), have been presented by venues nationally and internationally including Joe's Pub, the New Museum and Dixon Place in NYC; PICA’s TBA Festival/Cooley Gallery at Reed College in Portland, OR; The Lab in San Francisco; and Festival Theaterformen in Hanover, Germany.  

Hat #2 🧢: I collaborate with other artists and friends whose work I deeply admire – I’ve performed in theater, film and dance works by artists including Karen Finley, Susana Cook, Katy Pyle, Sarah Michelson, Julie Tolentino among others; I am a member of the Dyke Division of Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf, creators of Room for Cream, the live lesbian soap opera; and, as an outside eye and creative consultant, I have worked with Morgan Bassichis, Elisabeth Subrin, and Dynasty Handbag.  

Hat #3 👒: I work as an arts administrator, supporting the work of many of my peers, which I now do part-time so I can focus on hats 1 and 2. I am currently Advisor to Art Matters Foundation after being the Director there for 12 years. Before that, I worked at The Kitchen as Director of Operations.      

You want to know even more? Check out my website!

Sacha Yanow in Dad Band, 2015 at New Museum, NYC.
Sacha Yanow in Dad Band, 2015 at New Museum, NYC.

Risks and challenges

The main risk and challenge with Cherie Dre is mounting a fantastical Jewish romance in a church. A church?! What would my grandmother say?! But my friend, the great artist and writer Gregg Bordowitz told me, “Don’t worry, St. Mark’s Church is also very Jewish."

Then, there is the challenge of certain expectations of “accuracy” or “facts” in telling complex cultural histories. As Sullivan County Historian John Conway told me “Cherie Dre isn't about the Concord, but without it the story would be a much different one, so getting its history right is critical.”

And there's the challenge of handling sensitive family dramas with care. As my mother told me “I’m bracing myself to see my mother on stage...or whoever shows up..."

No pressure!

But in all sincerity, these risks and challenges make the work deeper and better.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Mensch! (Good folk)

    You are officially a mensch!

    + You'll receive a thank you for your support in our program!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Mishpocheh! (Family)

    As my mom always says, “What am I, chopped liver?” You are most certainly not...You are family!

    + You'll receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    39 backers
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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Strange Bird! (Cherie's feathers)

    Cherie is a Jewish Avian "Carol", simultaneously a showgirl, lesbian lover, communist spy and beautiful bird.

    + We will name a feather in Cherie Dre's costume after you!

    + You'll also receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Our Flock! (Collaborator Special)

    You get an intimate peek into the minds of the artist collaborators working on Cherie Dre!

    Our Collaborator Special includes:

    + A music playlist by voice and sound artist Holland Andrews/Like a Villain

    + Choreographer Faye Driscoll's Top 5 youtube dance videos

    + A custom Atlantic Ocean seashell design by filmmaker Sasha Wortzel (in the form of a digital photo)

    + You'll also receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Cherie Dre Keepsakes!

    Two Keepsakes featuring artist Jared Buckhiester's photos of Cherie Dre in the Borscht Belt ruins.

    + A limited edition viewer, conceived and created by my mom Elaine Yanow (!) in the style of vintage novelty viewers popular in the Borscht Belt era hotels.

    + A handmade postcard, including a personalized drawing from me and thank you note.

    +You'll also receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Bird's Eye View

    JUST ADDED! From our friends at l.a.Eyeworks!!

    + A complimentary l.a.Eyeworks frame of your choice plus a bonus incentive for new Rx or sun lenses! (Must be redeemed in Los Angeles stores only)

    + Plus you'll receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $450 or more About $450

    Blast from the past!

    + One limited edition 16 x 20 chromogenic print on Kodak paper from photographer Marisa Scheinfeld's Borscht Belt series - breathtaking images of the hotel ruins that document the fall of the grand Jewish vacationland.

    (see the campaign story for the two images you can chose from!)

    + Plus you'll receive the Cherie Dre Keepsakes, a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    A true mitzvah! (A good deed)

    Become an official Cherie Dre VIP!

    This includes:

    + A pair of tickets to opening night of Cherie Dre and invitation to the post-performance reception

    + Your name as a Cherie Dre VIP in the program and on the website.

    + Plus you'll receive the Collaborator Special, the Cherie Dre Keepsakes, a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Matchmaker, find me an art-date!

    + I'll be your date to a museum, gallery, or performance of your choice! (Tickets not included)

    + Plus you'll become a Cherie Dre VIP, and receive the Collaborator Special, the Cherie Dre Keepsakes, a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Meet you in the Catskills!

    + A private tour of the Borscht Belt Ruins with me and Sullivan County Historian John Conway! And I'll be in full costume!

    If you can't come in person, we can FaceTime!

    + Plus you'll become a Cherie Dre VIP, and receive the Collaborator Special, Cherie Dre Keepsakes, a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Nosh before you watch!

    + Dinner for two at Veselka (the famous Ukranian restaurant around the corner from Danspace Project on 2nd avenue), and a pair of tickets to Cherie Dre!

    + Plus you'll receive a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Dirty Dancing!

    + An 11x17 Dirty Dancing movie poster signed by the real life "Penny" Jackie Horner!

    Jackie was head dancer at Grossingers Hotel during its heyday - She was a story consultant on the film, and still teaches ballroom dance in Liberty, NY at 85 years old!

    + Plus you'll receive the Cherie Dre Keepsakes, a thank you in our program and a shout out on social media!

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Funding period

- (21 days)