I recently took a risk. I talked about religion. In my show.
This all happened while performing at FringePVD, the Providence Fringe Festival, in July. I had never performed in Providence nor a fringe festival, but I heard that all sorts of acts and flavors appear at fringe events. So, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to jump out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Let’s back up and provide some context…
I’m Jewish. I was raised in a Jewish household, and it’s one of the strongest parts of my identity. I pray regularly, don’t mix milk and meat and wear a kippah in most of my day-to-day life. Every part of my life says that I’m openly and proudly Jewish… except for when I’m onstage.
I take off my kippah when performing and separate “Real” Danny from “Performer” Danny. I’m worried that audiences will judge me before the performance begins, when all I want is for them to be amazed, mystified and entertained while not worrying about that piece of cloth on my head.
And I struggle with this conflict all the time when performing. Do I show my audiences my true self or merely a part of it? But, after watching a few other entertainers (magicians and non-magicians) reveal themselves non-apologetically to their audiences, I decided it was my turn.
I committed myself to wear my kippah onstage in Providence. Not for the entire show, but for just one routine. One routine that would allow me to express this part of my identity that is so apparent in my normal life, but for some reason disappears onstage.
And boy was I nervous. Nervous as I showed my true skin onstage for the first time in a while. I took a huge risk, and I was worried that everyone would think I was strange. And it was strange. But you know what? It worked.
The show received excellent reviews, led to a private booking and repeat audience members at my following show. One man even approached me after the final performance and said, “yasher koach,” (a Hebrew term loosely translated to “nice job”)!
And that’s the purpose of live theater, right? Putting diverse ideas out there and testing audiences’ reactions. My risk may have flopped or succeeded, but I never would have known if I didn’t take that initial leap. And if you want to see what I’m talking about, be sure to catch “Real Magic” at the Chicago Fringe Festival August 31st, September 2nd or 9th, (nice plug, right?).