Sam Ball and Corey Fischer collaborating with The Jewish Theatre San Francisco
Award: $40,000 Media Arts grant awarded in 2009
Premiered: October 2011
Filmmaker Sam Ball and The Jewish Theatre San Francisco’s co-founder Corey Fischer collaborated to create a new play with cinematic elements, In the Maze of Our Own Lives, based on the history of the Group Theater (1931-41). The country’s first modern ensemble theatre, the Group also was the first theater in the United States to present work in which large numbers of previously unrepresented Americans could recognize themselves in the characters portrayed. For the first time the language of immigrants, of taxi drivers and schoolteachers was heard on stage.
The collaborators worked closely through a series of improvisational workshops to develop the script and determine in what ways the cinematic elements would be incorporated. Writer Corey Fischer refined the script following each workshop and Sam Ball then created, designed, produced, acquired, and edited the video elements for the work, including original material and archival footage.
At the outset of this project, Sam Ball had recently collaborated with the Jewish Museum of New York on the multi-media exhibit, Marc Chagall and the Artists of Russian-Jewish Theater. His films include Pleasures of Urban Decay (on Ben Katchor), Joann Sfar Draws from Memory, and Balancing Act.
The play’s premiere opened The Jewish Theatre’s last season, and the company’s 34th year of creating, producing, and presenting original works of theater. Two of its original plays have been anthologized and the company won many awards, including the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays award and a lifetime achievement award from the Foundation for Jewish Culture. In 1994 the company shifted from being primarily a touring company to producing plays in its own theater in San Francisco.