Communication and talent bridge the gap.
By Sheryl Kay
It's a cast that will make you look twice.
Everyone on stage in a Bridging the Gap production is either in their very early twenties, or a senior citizen, and the synergy is outstanding.
The brainchild of founder and professional stage director Sherry Teitelbaum, Bridging the Gap is an intergenerational, community-based project that uses theater as a catalyst to bridge the generation gap between older and younger LGBTQ people living in New York City.
Teitelbaum says traditionally there have been few opportunities to connect the young and the old, which has robbed the gay and trans communities of opportunities to weave a common history and share strategies that are needed to survive and thrive in a sometimes homophobic world.
Now entering its fourth year, the organization, which is funded by grants and donations, partners with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) to offer free workshops for people ages eighteen to twenty five, and sixty to eighty eight. The annual series of twelve workshops is held every year in the fall at the SAGE Center in Chelsea and in a public performance in an LGBTQ-affirmative environment, usually at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village.
"Bridging the Gap brings these LGBTQ generations into the same room and uses theater to spark a dialogue between them," says Teitelbaum. " We celebrate difference but we don't minimize or deny it."
Workshops give the members a chance to get to know each other better and gain new theater skills as they challenge their assumptions about age. Then they create an original 45-minute play which reflects the issues and questions that matter most to them.
And then it's show time.
This past year the troupe put on Food for Thought, a performance exploring the place where food, family (biological and chosen) and sexuality meet (now that sounds right up our ally!).
Teitelbaum, who came out before Stonewall, notes that the productions are especially magical because they appeal to such a wide audience. Old and young, gay and straight, all types find some familiar message.
"This work is relevant to the straight community too because it provides a model for people sharing their experiences, opening an honest dialogue about difference," she says. "In today’s American society, most of us can locate ourselves along some vector of difference, whether it’s age, race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, or ability."
If you're in the New York area and have interest in bridging the gap yourself, check out the group at bridgingthegapnyc.com
Recruitment for new ensemble members will start this summer and the new theater workshops will begin in mid-September.