That’s Not Fair! Virtually everyone has uttered that phrase once before, and likely many times – when someone cuts in line or says something intentionally hurtful; or when a hidden societal injustice gets exposed. Last night, that ubiquitous cry was further illuminated at The JCC in Manhattan during, That’s Not Fair: a performance by The Ma’yan Political Theatre Apprentices.
The cast of eight performers – junior high and high school girls ranging from age 12 to 17 – were in fine form, weaving together theatre, puppetry and music in an ensemble exploration of tough questions surrounding privilege, power and oppression. “Most of the content was taken from things we experience in our every day lives,” said performer, Esther Lenchner. From there, they collaboratively created images and scenes (along with their artistic director, political theatre veteran Jenny Romaine) that educated the audience without forcing them to a particular viewpoint. “We don’t have all the answers,” said Dylan Corn – so we wanted to let the audience draw their own conclusions.
That’s Not Fair, which will be performed four more times throughout New York City over the next few weeks, represented the culmination of Ma’yan’s first political theatre apprenticeship. Ma’yan, which means “spring” in Hebrew, is a non-profit Jewish think tank that explores the challenges facing Jewish teenage girls (academic, social and familial pressures, struggles with identity, body image, competition etc.). Like all of their work, the apprenticeship aimed to inspire its participants to “develop into compassionate, conscientious and powerful adults of vision and conviction.”
Judging from the performers’ post-show reflections (“Before the workshop I’d never thought about power and oppression that way before,” said Shoshi Shapiro. “Everyone should feel like they have power.”) the program’s pilot year was a wild success. But it’s not just the participants who were left feeling inspired. Their enthusiasm, wisdom, poise, and humor were infectious and left the entire room feeling a bit more hopeful about the world’s potential for “fairness.”