Before I introduce this spoken word poet to Inner Vibrations readers, you MUST SEE her video clip on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam first, which I gladly posted below. Then you’ll understand why my eyes swelled up with tears from an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion that compelled me to feature Vanessa Hidary A.K.A. Hebrew Mamita in this magazine. Her work, beliefs and lifestyle reflect an enlightened woman who is determined to break cultural stereo types, to bring people from all walks of life together, and to reveal the true colors of human beings beyond their ethnic race by celebrating their character.
Yael Grinberg is a New York actress/playwright who creates her art from a spiritual center. Her newest piece, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD?, currently playing in New York, is a clever examination of human interaction and moral consequences. Readers who remember my LET US NERD article on Sarah Seeds will note how much I appreciate artists using their work to engage in global communication, and HOW TO SAVE A WORLD succeeds in that regard.
I first met Ms. Grinberg this past June, when she announced her plan to me of launching a show by the end of the year. I advised her to not fall into the trap many actors do when developing solo shows of simply telling their life story, which may be very interesting, but often comes off as self-indulgent. Fortunately, she already agreed with me and had a very different plan.
Five months later, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD? is playing to a sold-out crowd in a Manhattan theater. That is an accomplishment that I can honestly say I have never seen any actor successfully pull off! Nor is the play the vanity-project that I feared a potential solo show could be. Instead it’s an anthology piece, consisting of six interconnected vignettes, each dealing with themes of spiritual growth, communication, choices, and societal improvement. Ms. Grinberg conceived of the story (or stories) during her travels to Cuba earlier this year, and she is one of six actors in the play’s ensemble cast.
At only 45 minutes, I did feel that the play was not quite finished and is still in development, both in its writing and presentation. Some characters wander in and out without resolution, and some hefty topics that hold tremendous political baggage, such as the Israeli conflict and Che Guevara, are introduced and not fully explored (none of the actors actually pronounce Guevara’s name correctly). The play climaxes with a dance between Ms. Grinberg and James Venable that feels awkwardly blocked and stilted, considering we are told that both these characters are supposed to have studied dance for many years. I felt that, with the addition of some professional choreography, this could be a much stronger, heartfelt dance that would serve as a catharsis to all the conflict built over the play, and so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ms. Grinberg plans to add a stronger musical element to the piece. I would love to see the piece extended and transformed into a Broadway musical.
Israel is a very passionate subject for Ms. Grinberg, and a topic she strongly wishes to write about. But she realizes, as Tolstoy did before her, that war is not a state of politics but of the spirit, and this is where she finds her voice.
On the positive side, the production in its current state is very solid, benefits from its use of minimal set design, and has a good ensemble, with Meurice Singletary giving the strongest performance. At the center of it all though is Yael Grinberg herself, serving as the play’s backbone and catalyst for all the narratives. Her character in some ways serves as a spiritual healer. With some further development, blocking, and choreography, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD? could really grow into something big, a play for the spirit, and convey its message to a larger audience, and, hey, maybe even save a world.
How can an Atheist be considered a spiritually conscious person? Easy. When a man refuses to eat poison because he knows that he’s already filled with an organic knowledge of self that shouldn’t be tainted or manipulated with, is when you can say that a man is connected to his true center. “Question Everything,” insists the prolific Spoken Word Poet, Advocate of Wordz. “Even question authority.”
Bridging a world between the awakened and the unawakened, this artist skillfully enlightens his audience by dropping jewels guaranteed to stimulate minds. Not that he’s a Know-It-All, but his deep, driving desire to live with passion and purpose causes him to rebel against living comfortably within an imprisoned society. What this means is that he reads in between the lines of school text books, bibles and made man laws. Getting to the root of many causes, he challenges authority, unwilling to follow the flock simply because mainstream society has a popular way of doing things, be it as a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or a Democrat, Republican or U.S. Veteran, etc. The Poet is neither of these because he understands that he was born a free man, belonging to nothing and yet to everything.
From his very own mouth he says, “People are allowed to form their own opinions, but they’re not allowed to form their own facts.” With extensive knowledge in religious history, Latino and ethnic heritage, gender roles and sexism, and even American politics, Wordz may still be growing like the rest of us, but he’s become a master at delivering messages that have deep meaning and substance. “It’s important for people to know that I, myself, don’t idolize the messenger,” says Wordz. “I idolize the message. Human beings are so flawed, that I only hope to open them up so that they can communicate to each other more effectively through the content of my material that sparks curiosity.”
Nothing about his live performances are ever shallow. Sure, people like to laugh out loud, even fall off their seats from hysteria. And this lighthearted entertainer definitely knows how to excite his crowd! He’s an Actor at heart with a love for Theatre, but that doesn’t excuse him from playing any old character on stage. When this poet performs, he brings forth enlightenment, guaranteed to leave imprints on the soul. Which again, is exactly why he says, “Question everything.”
Adopting this philosophy of never being truly satisfied with the information he’s been given, leaves him questioning and questioning, and questioning every piece of truth until he unravels an even deeper truth which once discovered, cancels out the older truth. For this, he remains in a constant flow of evolving.
However, there is one heavy cross he bares that weighs him down from time to time, blurring his vision and blocking his momentum. And that is the pain of being separated from his only son.
Most people know Advocate of Wordz from featuring in major showcases such as the NuYoricans Poets Cafe, Capicu Open Mic and SLAM 101, but not many people know about his personal life. With respect to his privacy, Wordz is still kind enough to share just a few details of his situation due to the lack of resources not provided about parenting.
“First things first. Life isn’t fair,” says Wordz. “We live in a society that likes to rip masculinity away by insisting that real men are intimidating, they fist fight, they play rough sports, they don’t cry, and they’re dominating. It’s no wonder we have so many broken men out there.” With that, he goes on to explain why men before him have made his current situation more difficult because so many women are scorned from past disappointments. For example, when his ex-girlfriend gave Wordz the option of legally walking out of their son’s life in order to alleviate him of stress (which meant stripping Wordz away from ever having to pay child support nor having any visitational rights), Wordz began to wonder what type of men would have viewed that as a relief? Although their relationship didn’t work out, he wanted to remain in his son’s life for the long haul, and refused to accept abandonment as his only option.
“We give props to good fathers who step up to the plate because not enough fathers are like that. But I shouldn’t get extra props for doing what I gotta do. It should just be a natural thing for us to do,” says Wordz. “And the truth of the matter is, children need both of their parents around regardless of what’s going down. Not that I’m taking anything away from single mothers who raise their sons alone, but there are certain things that a mother knows about women that a man doesn’t, and there are certain things that a father knows about men that a woman doesn’t, and a child needs a healthy balance of both.”
Coming in May, the poet will have his first self-titled book for sale, Advocate of Wordz, an Anthology of sorts with a collection of short stories, poems, and even popular facebook status quotes. It will be his life told through his own words, like a collage of memories, thoughts and creative insights. To keep up to date with this Artist, visit http://advocateofwordz.com/