The Braid actors share true stories, from kissing Meghan Markle to 9-11 heartache
By Bridgette M. Redman
From Meghan Markle’s first kiss to a mother’s fears that COVID-related hearing loss will mean she can no longer sing lullabies to her daughter, The Braid’s next salon tells the everyday stories of people living through historic times.
“The Rest Is History” will be performed on May 15, 16, 20 and 24. Curated, written and directed by members of The Braid’s Emerging Artists Program master class, it is billed as “powerful and thought-provoking stories about living through a historical time or a personal moment that changed someone’s life or changed the world.”
“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be moved to think about history in a new way and you’ll also remember your own personal moments,” said The Braid artistic director Ronda Spinak. “Where you were at 9-11, what it was like for you during the women’s movement — those stand-out moments in your life.”
The Braid has been presenting its salon series using live actors on Zoom, which is how this piece will be delivered.
A kiss revealed
“Are you the Joshua Silverstein?” was a question that first alerted the actor-comedian and beatbox artist that Meghan Markle had kissed and told.
In 2013, Markle was on Larry King and at the end of the interview was asked who her first kiss was. Her answer was Joshua Silverstein. This was long before Markle was engaged to Prince Harry and became a controversial member of the royal family.
“Meghan is the first woman of color to be a member of the royal family,” Silverstein said. “Any time a woman or a woman of color speaks up against something, they’re painted very negatively in the media.”
After she became engaged to Prince Harry, people were suddenly interested in the story of Markle’s first kiss and started to chase Silverstein down for details. His wife had to tell him who Prince Harry was as the British royals had never been on Silverstein’s radar.
“I never sought out interviews, never chased the buzz,” Silverstein said. “I thought every time it was dying out, that would be the end of it.”
He said he started to poke fun at himself in his stand-up show, that this was the only thing he’d be remembered for. Whenever Markle makes a splash in the news, the media is back beating on Silverstein’s door.
“I’m getting the sense that as long as she stays relevant, people will wonder about her past,” Silverstein said.
Their parents both went to the same spiritual center and Markle’s mother often kept Silverstein up-to-date on what she was doing until he stopped going there. He said he last saw Markle when they were in college.
The two of them started dating at a summer theater camp when they were 14 in the early ‘90s. They spent all day together learning about improv, theater, acting and storytelling.
Silverstein said that it was one of those very middle school-type moments where his friends told Markle that he had a crush on her and her friends told Silverstein that she had a crush on him.
While the camp wasn’t very large, they escaped to get some alone time and talk about what the relationship would look like.
“At that age, you skip the dating and go right to commitment, to boyfriend and girlfriend,” Silverstein said. “We knew very little about each other before we became a couple and then there were months of talking on the phone in our parents’ bedroom — talking until our parents would go to bed.”
He admitted that a lot of those times have escaped his memories and he’s had to sort out what actually happened.
“The more you talk about something, the more your brain creates memories or you remember things,” Silverstein said. “I wish I could tell you I’m 100% certain that we discussed it on the phone before it happened. It seems like that was what it was, but I’m not sure.”
What he does remember for sure? That is what he will share when he performs the monologue that The Braid commissioned him to write for “The Rest Is History.”
Tugging at the heartstrings
While several of 10 stories like Silverstein’s are amusing and will make the audience laugh, others are more serious or reflective.
“Interrupted” by Paul Itkin tells the story of an Army lieutenant during the Vietnam War whose job was to visit parents to tell them their sons had been killed.
“Who am I to interrupt this day, to change lives forever?” he asks at the start of the story.
Another piece, “Hawaiian Songbird” by Sharon Bonin Pratt, is about an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose school choir master asks him to sing a solo before 600 people, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The director sends him home to practice, which he does.
“But I practice, silently, lest my Jewish mother hear me singing about Jesus, and send me straight to hell with a few of her still punches and enough Yiddish curses to make the choir teacher blush deeper than a red hibiscus,” the boy says in the story.
In “Friend or Foe” by Jodi Marcus, a Jewish woman reflects on her elementary school relationship with a Palestinian boy, a relationship made rocky by the history taking place half a world away.
Putting the show together
Once the members of the emerging artists cohort selected the stories from the hundreds that were submitted, they edited and directed them. The Emerging Artists Fellows are David Chiu, Amanda Horowitz, Zak Lempert, Julie Lanctot, Isaac “Izzy” Salant, Vicki Schairer and Aysha Wax.
The cast includes Miata Edoga, Bonnie He, Lisa Kaminir, Silverstein and Cliff Weissman. Silverstein, who is part of the cast and will appear in three of the shows, describes the pieces as amazing and wonderfully written.
“There is a lot of heart, a lot of depth, a lot of humor and joy,” Silverstein said. “People need to come see this show. It is a very multi-ethnic cast and these are great stories that are from people who happen to be Jewish.”