“TRYmester: Jewish Fertility Journeys Out Loud,” a theater performance using song, dance and monologue to raise awareness about the fertility challenges of people in the Jewish community, was performed at Jewish Community Centers in Oceanside, Long Island; Tarrytown, New York; and at the JCC in Manhattan on various dates last month.
“TRYmester,” developed by Uprooted, a nonprofit organization created to support Jewish women who are having trouble starting a family, in collaboration with The In(heir)itance Project, a theater company that draws inspiration from Jewish themes, shows the angst and other emotions that one experiences due to infertility. The play is performed in three acts, with an epilogue that shows that the cycle of treatments can often repeat itself, creating frustration and hopelessness for those involved.
In(heir)itance co-founder and script writer John Adam Ross spoke of the performance’s unique creation process. He described his theater company as “devised theater,” using a unique methodology of research, play and reflection that involves audiences as participants throughout the creative process.
In February, 2014, Naomi Less, vice president of Uprooted, wrote a passionate blog about her struggle to have a baby. The response generated by Less’ post and subsequent public talks eventually became a $150,000 project funded by UJA-Federation of New York to raise awareness about infertility. The program is noteworthy because of its distinctive creative component. Its primary goal is to raise awareness. Some of the UJA grant money goes to local Jewish community centers, which will host support groups. The rest of it will go to Uprooted. Less explained that her blog post and talks led to an outpouring of stories from women telling her that they had also gone through fertility treatments without support from their synagogues, community centers or foundations.
Shana Bloom, assistant director of UJA’s Caring Department, is overseeing the UJA grant. Bloom explained that UJA decided to fund the performance of TRYmester as a “pilot program” to determine how the organization would fund other organizations that focus on infertility. Bloom said, “There are people who we could reach through an artistic medium who we might not be able to reach through other mediums. This performance doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a springboard to support services for those struggling, to raise awareness and to reduce stigma.”
TRYmester has been designed to travel to other Jewish communities around the country, with dates to be announced.
By Yvette Finkelstein