Out of Sight with performer Sara Felder
May 14, 2007

Many people can say that they are juggling things all at once, work, love, and politics. Sara Felder does just that and can make you laugh as well. Each toss and catch in her current performance, “Out of Sight,” represents her ideas, her heritage, her sex and more. Directed by David O’ Connor, this performance opened on May 10 th and runs until May 27 th at The Shubin Theatre ( 407 Bainbridge Street).

Felder came to Philadelphia because her partner is in graduate school here. Her previous plays include “Keeping up with the Joans” and “June Bridge.” Her performances often reflect the struggles and life of a Jewish Lesbian, intertwined themes of motherhood and world conflict. “I love performing ‘June Bride,’” Felder reports on her preferences for her plays, “I’ve been touring it for eleven years and it is so fun and comfortable and feels like an old pair of favorite jeans. ‘Out of Sight,’ is brand new and terrifying… I love that too!”

Felder is a renowned juggler. She has also taught at San Francisco State University. “When the professor at S.F.S.U., Larry Eilenberg, went on sabbatical, I got hired along with my friend and local clown/actor Joan Mankin to teach The Art of Comedy. Since then, I have been teaching it off and on. Here in Philadelphia I teach it once a term at Drexel University. It’s a wonderful class as it incorporates both academic and hands-on work.”

So which is the hardest hurdle to tackle as a performer? What do you address first? Lesbianism, feminism or Judaism, Felder says, “A lot of my solo plays deal with the balancing act of being Jewish, Lesbian and American. In touring all over the country and parts of Europe, I have found that it is the Jewish material that is more foreign to audiences than being gay.”

Walking into the theatre I had no idea what to expect. I had never seen a professional juggler, let alone a one woman play featuring one. How does one realize they are able to juggle or become interested in such an activity? “My favorite things to juggle are my family, my career and my politics,” Felder quips, “Otherwise, I like three ball juggling a lot; I also love “contact juggling” which is the manipulation of one ball around your body. The craziest thing I’ve juggled is a latke, a bowling ball and a machete, every Chanukah! It’s horrible. Those latkes are greasy!” The most number of items Felder has ever juggled is six.

Unlike some cushy desk job where you can live in your cube and blame others for your mistakes, if you drop something when you juggle, everyone is watching you, “My first thought (when an item is dropped) is usually about God and the universe and whether I’m doing enough to stop global warming. Then I generally wonder if I should get out of that parenting class taught by Alec Baldwin.”

Humor is something that is abundant in “Out of Sight.” She brings “the funny” to things that aren’t often laughed about, “The show is about an American Lesbian Jewish woman’s relationship to Israel and how that affects her relationship with her mother. Her mother is legally blind and so, blindness itself becomes a metaphor in the show.” The mother admits to her blindness seconds before the curtain opens at an opera. A place where Felder says in her show, that her mother loves to start important conversations only to be interrupted by the start of the opera. I was particularly touched at the end of the play where Sara turns to her mother and tells her she is beautiful while the opera starts.

Motherhood and lesbianism aren’t the only issues touched on, “I think every family has their special tensions and special joys. However, I think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has deeply affected relationships within the progressive American Jewish community.”
who was in attendance at the opening night performance.

Felder’s inspiration for the play was her mother’s admission to blindness and the quirky story that goes with it, that is describe thoroughly in the play. “When I was a little kid, my mother told me that she lost her eyesight by staring at a solar eclipse. I couldn’t believe it; it seemed like such a crazy story. My whole life I’ve been haunted by that story and knew that I wanted to put it on stage. As an adult, I also knew that I wanted to perform a show about trying to understand what was going on in Israel. ‘Out of Sight’ was my way of putting these two ideas together.”

This melting of thoughts is put together well. When Felder is finally able to go to Israel, her mother had often told her that she had to go, she is met with resistance from her mother, that it is too dangerous. Its hilarious ideas and real to life dichotomies like that that made this play enjoyable.

As a teacher and juggler, the switch to on stage seems like an obvious next step, “I had enough of a reputation as a solo artist to get my plays produced. It is really fun and satisfying to write plays for real actors and then watch from the back row, biting my fingernails.”

“Out of Sight” is unique, not many people can rattle off the name of jugglers much less say they’ve had the pleasure of seeing a play featuring one. “Cherry Jones is my latest hero,” Felder says, “And I’d love to do a show with Lily Tomlin. That would be totally fun. There’s a group of Chicano theater artists, called Culture Class, that always make me laugh and think. I really love comedy and I love people who know themselves and base their work on what they have to say.”

Thinking of juggling yourself? Felder has advice, “Juggling is a good hobby, especially for people who have an ‘addictive’ personality. My favorite jugglers were a group called AirJazz, who did the most beautiful and interesting things with juggling.”

Felder’s original play seems light, but it has deep rooted philosophies, served with flair and wit. It’s a clever offering from the performer and should be heavily attended.

NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of PhillyGayCalendar.com or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.