A kitchen table. A pot of coffee. A plate of bagels. Three women come together in an ordinary way to realize the extraordinary dream of creating a new theatre to give voice to Jewish women. Their dream expands into something even bigger and more impactful than anything they could have dreamt of.
The Braid starts out as Jewish Women’s Theatre in spring 2007 with a group of women who know what it means to be outsiders, to exist in the margins of culture, and to be stereotyped. Until then, no theater company in America had pledged to welcome and encourage contemporary stories by Jewish women and to adapt them theatrically, giving them life in front of a live audience.
We have no space. We have no money. But we have many talented women wanting to share their stories. And this gives us the courage to create a new way of thinking about theatre. “We are a people of the book,” we reason. “What if we focus on the word, the text, the story? What if we revive the age-old tradition of salons: women hosting culture of the day in their homes?”
Sparing the expense of a theater, sets, costumes and props means we could fully focus on presenting powerful stories in unexpected and convenient locations, reaching many more local neighborhoods across Los Angeles and beyond.
A NEW THEATRICAL ART FORM IS BORN
Out of necessity comes a new way to tell Jewish stories.
We pioneer a new art form and cultural experience that debutes in the backyard of a home in Pacific Palisades, California, fall 2008 and hasgrown exponentially since. We launch “Salon Theatre” our signature program creating original shows each with a theme presenting stories, poems, comedic monologues, songs performed by professional actors.
Our first season starts with 3 shows with 3 performances each, presented in private homes, reaching 482 patrons. Fourteen years later we have delighted more than 115,000 community members throughout Los Angeles, the South Bay, the San Francisco Bay Area, and beyond, including 32 states, 40 countries, and off-Broadway. We have partnered with over 200 organizations to bring our unique brand of entertainment into the community in synagogues, museums, art galleries, universities, Jewish Community Centers, senior-serving facilities, and even prisons.
Hundreds of stories by writers ages 13-98 are presented as well as over 70 original Salon shows, including seminal ones: Saffron & Rosewater—the Persian Jewish experience; Stories from The Fringe—the trailblazing stories of women rabbis; Chutzpah & Salsa—experiences of having a Latino heart and Jewish soul; True Colors—stories about identity from Jews of Color; Israeli Americans–the longing for the Holy land while becoming American, Sweet Tea & the Southern Jew–unique stories of Southern Jews, and Mapping of the Mind-– exploring mental health in a new light.
Early on we become a project of Community Partners, the gold standard of non-profit fiscal sponsorship and then some years later became our own independent 501(c)3 non-profit supported through ticket sales, a wide patron and donor base, and generous public and private funders.
A BELOVED HOME OF OUR OWN
The Braid: Weaving Performance and Art
While continuing our salon performances in myriad community settings, we open our own performance and arts space in November 2014 to present longer running shows, writer’s workshops, classes, community events and special Shabbat events that interweave performance. We also present art exhibits that tie-in thematically with performances at The Braid so patrons experience a theme visually and dramatically. This artful and innovative aspect of our work deepens engagement with a topic, setting it apart from other theatres and performance spaces. The Braid quickly becomes a beloved part of the community, repeatedly voted among best live theatres by The Argonaut and most loved business by the Santa Monica Daily Press.
THE BRAID TO OFF-BROADWAY
A rare and coveted path for LA Theater.
The Braid opens with an initial production of Not That Jewish, our commissioned one-woman show by Emmy Award-winning Monica Piper, an artist-in-residence. The show plays to sold-out audiences, 3-4 nights a week for sixteen months, earning a nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for the best solo performance in 2015. Due to its resounding success, Not That Jewish opens off-Broadway at New World Stages in October 2016 for 200 performances.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Living our values of equity, diversity and inclusion.
While Jewish Women’s Theatre began by focusing on women’s stories, we evolve to include the stories of all Jews of diverse backgrounds regardless of gender or sexual orientation. So, during our 13th season and Bat Mitzvah year, celebrating our coming of age as an organization and increased responsibility to Jewish values, we change our name to The Braid. This name better reflects the entirety of our programming, who we are and what we are becoming – the nation’s go-to Jewish story company, braiding together performance, programming, art and conversation grounded in Jewish culture.
The Braid remains true to its founding commitment of giving voice to Jewish stories that haven’t been heard, stories by all genders, Jews of color, or Jews from other diverse backgrounds. Even as we grow and continue to expand the scope and reach of our performances and programming, our goal continues to be to take previously unheard Jewish stories out of the margins and into the mainstream. We are thus expanding the notion of what it means to be Jewish and how being Jewish fits into the larger American cultural landscape.
THE PANDEMIC TAKES US GLOBAL
Our unique style of theatre provides comfort and entertainment in uncertain times
Two days before opening the second Salon of our season we find ourselves on lock down. Homebound and uncertain, The Braid quickly responds and launches , Inside Our Time –stories written by our community, performed and recorded at home by our actors, and released one a day for six weeks. Through the telling of our stories we make sense of the times and the community is grateful. Our actors also appreciate a reason to take a shower and share their craft! The Braid pivots and releases our season live on Zoom, innovating our art form. Everyone loves having a “front row” seat. e also release Stories from the Violins of Hope–integrating live on zoom performance with recorded music and telling the story of the famouscollection of string survivors. The United Nations Programme on the Holocaust shares it with it’s global community.. It is then translated into Spanish and Portuguese and broadcast to Mexico, Central and South America. On the success of this show, a theatrical play is being written and will debut in Sydney, Australia in 2023.
OUR FUTURE LEGACY
The show ends. The audience is in tears. Inevitably a patron asks, “How can I share this story with someone not here tonight?” And so we gofrom page to stage to the digital frontier!
We continue to work innovatively beyond the stage to give voice and celebrate untold Jewish stories, giving all access to these contemporary treasures via digital formats and platforms, licensing and tours. ,With newly created ventures such as StoryNosh, a digital storytelling competition filmed and released free to the public via YouTube, our partnership with the ChaiFlicks, the Jewish Netflix, d live streaming of performances, and our podcast AudioNosh, we are the Jewish Story Company creating a lasting legacy for future generations.