NEW NEW GOAL!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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…
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.
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.
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!
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..."
But in all sincerity, these risks and challenges make the work deeper and better.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)