I remember seeing him in the basement of LaVal’s Subterranean Café back in 1989 when Dave and I were the only ones in the audience besides his director. That was his first show, Red Diaper Baby. From there, he went on to the Marsh in San Francisco to develop several more one-man shows, including Haiku Tunnel, which was made into a full-length feature film, a project that included his brother Jacob, who incidentally just won an Emmy.
Since then, I’ve seen every new show of Josh’s, whether it was at the Marsh in S.F., at the Ashby Stage as part of the Shotgun Players’ line-up, or at the Jewish Community Center. (I even saw him perform at a Berkeley High fundraiser when my daughter went to school there.)
Right now he’s developing a new show, and I was lucky enough to see him at Marsh’s Cabaret in downtown Berkeley. (It was so nice to be able to stay in my hometown and not battle the bridge to get to the Marsh in the city…) His process is to in front of an audience while he works on a new piece. So even though what I saw this past Thursday may be quite different from what he comes up with for his show, I got to see the seeds as they were sprouting. And Josh is so much fun to watch, whether he’s talking about his dad, past jobs, his (relatively recent!) bar mitzvah, or even taxes. I’m excited about this particular show because it draws on rich material—his experiences as a volunteer at Zen Hospice in San Francisco. If anyone can handle such sensitive material with grace and humor, it’s Josh.
Go see it now while it’s in development and then again next year when it hits the main stage. I’ll definitely see it again.
But wait, there’s more!
The night after I saw Josh, I returned to the Berkeley Marsh to see Jinho Ferreira (aka the Piper) perform a one-man show he wrote called Cops and Robbers. Oakland born-and-bred alternative hip-hop artist and member of Flipsyde, Ferreira decided to go the police academy and graduated four years ago. According to his website:
“The paradox of being a member of the Black community and a hip-hop artist, while simultaneously working in Law Enforcement, served as the inspiration to write Cops and Robbers.”
The show is particularly relevant after the recent cop shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. (He even made a reference to the case, which he must have added long after the show debuted.) He is a skilled performer, becoming 17 different characters and conveying each one’s point of view. Because the content is so serious, he did what he could to add a bit of levity via a female news reporter character; but that character didn’t work as well as his others. The show was not biased toward any one point of view—the circumstances were painted in all shades of gray. The piece doesn’t take any easy ways out and offers no solutions, but it raises important questions that unfortunately have to be asked.