Community Engagement

ManKind Project

ManKind Project

As a Diversity Trainer, I have helped dismantle patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia through the Mankind Project (MKP) since 2008. Using psychodramatic play and ritual, we facilitate powerful awakenings for men. Tens of thousands of men, including myself, have improved their emotional intelligence and forged bonds outside their communities through these transformative experiences. I transfer the awareness wrought from this work in service of modeling healthy masculinity in all facets of my life.

I have traveled internationally to deliver conference presentations about my work with MKP. In August 2012, I attended the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) in Canterbury to present “How to Act, Like a Real Man: Adapting Rasaboxes for Men’s Drama Therapy.” I demonstrated my adaptation of Richard Schechner‘s (2001) Rasaboxes actor training technique based on the work of Moore & Gillette (1990) within the Mythopoetic Men‘s Movement. My dramatic approach allows men to better understand, explore, and integrate idealized archetypes of sacred masculinity–alongside the shadow aspects–on all levels of experience: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Men learn to draw from their strengths and identify their unconscious behaviors and biases in order to bring those patterns into conscious awareness and control. Similar to Rasaboxes, participants are challenged to increase their capacity to modulate their expressions from neutral to full embodiment as they attempt to fluidly move from one archetype to another. My presentations have also provided additional examples of adapted Rasaboxes and Archetypal models, as well as future directions to address work with women and other populations.

Community Engagement Productions

Kindergarten Truck

Kindergarten Truck (2012-2015) was my immersive, site-specific, touring street theatre performance staged inside a box truck. Audiences were briefly transported back to the magical world of childhood guided by playful actors. The design adapted improvisational drama therapy to become a communal storytelling experience that engaged over 1,000 strangers across chronic divisions of race and class in under-resourced urban neighborhoods across the US. I received the 2017 NADTA Performance Award honoring the project’s positive social impact in catalyzing civic engagement as a means towards collective transformation. I guide students to conceive their own innovative formats to enable vitality, meaning-making, and healing for their communities.

Community Engagement Productions

Shluff No More: An Immersive Shpiel Experience

This site-specific immersive community-engaged performance explored The Book of Esther.

Each year from 2010-2015, I devised and directed a new community-engaged game/performance to critically explore the Jewish holiday of Purim identity through irreverent “shpiels.”

We co-created a unique collaborative performance to critically explore ethnicity, identity, and the sacred text.

The performances catalyze civic engagement and meaning-making.

As one example, for Shluff No More, I orchestrated a 60-member crew to guide 400 audience members around nine locations of a three-story synagogue in under 2 hours. Each scene playfully disarmed congregants as they encountered sacred text from The Book of Esther.

Participants reported how the event deepened their affiliation and transformed their relationship with the themes of ethnic strife.

Organizing the game logistics required tremendous planning. With the help of my dear friend Scott Osman, here is a glimpse at how I laid out the team coordination:


Each room featured participatory structures I designed to playfully disarm congregants and help them enjoy greater proximity. Three years later, many participants continue to report how the event deepened their feelings of affiliation and transformed their relationship with the themes of ethnic strife. The image below captured during the Costume Contest, conducted through Silent Disco headphones.

I had also had the opportunity to work with amazingly talented designers. For one example, Chantal Demorial and Gideon Solomon converted the basement into Vashi’s Den.

Community Engagement

Sacred Play: Enacting Forgiveness

Atonement on Yom Kippur can be deepened through imagination, community-building, and sacred play. Alongside Shoshana Jedwab (and once with her partner Jill Hammer), I have developed and facilitated several creative breakout sessions preceding the final prayer service, Neilah. Dramatic strategies have helped me create unique spaces for engaging, immersive prayer at Romemu. Informed by expressive arts therapy practices, we adapt and interweave text, liturgical imagery, and ritual group activities that diverge from–yet complement–the sanctuary process. Over the years, we have found best practices and concepts to safely structure embodied teshuva (meaning “return”) experiences that ignite participants’ whole self to connect with each other and Source.


Teshuva Labyrinth

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Andrew Gaines, Rabbi Jill Hammer, and Shoshana Jedwab

A labyrinth is an ancient technology for meditation and transformation through walking a sacred pattern or circuit. On Yom Kippur during biblical times, the high priest would also walk a labyrinthine journey through the Temple, to the Holy of Holies and the Divine Presence, and then slowly recede. We will offer texts, visualizations, and a labyrinth path to help you frame your experience and prepare for the coming year, but the Teshuva journey itself is co-created by you and your Source.

Between the Cherubs: Embodied Teshuva

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Andrew Gaines and Shoshana Jedwab

The High Priest was only permitted to enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. Inside lived the ark, adorned only by two cherubs facing each other, with an empty space between them. Inspired by liturgical text and imagery, and informed by creative arts therapy practices, we will collectively invoke a playful safe space to embody the practices of the High Priest. Together we will co-create a spiritual journey towards teshuvah, making conscious preparations for the concluding Neilah service, encountering the gateway to mystery.

Enacting Forgiveness

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Andrew Gaines and Shoshana Jedwab

Deepen your renewal through the support of your imagination, our community, and stories from our sacred texts. Shoshana and Andrew will safely guide us to dramatize the teshuva journey with techniques adapted from Bibliodrama and Drama Therapy. To create this magical experience, please arrive on time as latecomers cannot be admitted. No acting experience is necessary; participants must be at least 14 years old.

Community Engagement

Jewish Topography: Shmoozing in Action

Each year, NYC’s Jewish Community Center celebrates the holiday of Shavuot with an all-night learning event, Tikkun, meaning “heal.” Jews of all races, denominations, genders, ages, orientations, and levels of observance attended my session, inviting them to “delve, encounter, connect, and discover the breadth and depth of our communal and individual identities through a series of engaging and dynamic discussions.” Utilizing cultural mapping and sociometric games and exercises, I facilitated fascinating encounters and discussions about the visible and invisible lines that divide and connect us.

Jewish Topography was a play on Jewish Geography–a name given to the little social game some Jews play in search of a shared connection or network. For instance, when another Jew learns that I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona they might start asking if I know a local Rabbi or another Jew who lives there. Turns out, this game was played when I was dating my wife by her family and earned me a few more dates! In this workshop, rather than exploring who we know, we were traversing the diversity of who we are–the variety and contours that make up our cultural identities.

Community Engagement Productions

Shushan Night Live

I co-authored, directed, and performed in this community-engaged Theatre of Faith performance project on The Book of Esther at Romemu synagogue, framed shamelessly around the structures and sketches of Saturday Night Live.

Our “Cold Open” was Caveman Lawyer defending King Ahashverosh against Vashti over her refusal to dance, and from there we were off to the races with other classics: Opening Monologue, Celebrity Jeopardy, Church Chat, Weekend Update, Spoof Commercials, and classic ending moment–a live band playing the SNL Closing Theme (Waltz in A) as the cast and crew celebrated together on stage.

Below is our version of the Spartan Cheerleaders: Cheerleaders for Compassionate Aggression, which was our symbolic treatment of the war between the Jews and Persians in Chapter 10.

Community Engagement Productions

Shushan Style: A J-Pop Purim!?!

This was my 3rd Purim Shpiel at Romemu, a community-engaged Theatre of Faith performance project on The Book of Esther at Romemu synagogue.

This year’s concept was all based on popular media themes. One of my favorite moments was a slow motion battle fought with giant pencils to music from Les Misérables.

The title of the show was a spoof on Gangham Style, the Korean pop song/dance that had recently gone viral on YouTube. And of course, we performed our own version! Here is a clip of it to enjoy, followed by a little sketch based on The Apprentice featuring the Rabbi’s wife playing him to the sheer delight of our audience.

Community Engagement

Hurricane Sandy Puppet Project

In the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, children were among the most neglected bystanders. My collaborator David Schechter and I travelled to Far Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY to contribute a puppet performance to the Rockaway Kids Carnival.

We rented a van to bring fellow volunteers to the site and used the back as a makeshift performance space. 

David Schechter and I absolutely LOVED performing these puppet shows for the kids. In this moment below, we are singing with/to the Dinosaur Lady to persuade her to set free one of our captured puppet friends.

The interplay of all our imaginations was deep fun and clearly healing for everyone, including the onlooking adults! Through the distance of puppets, children and their families appeared to experience needed joy and hope, and the experience served as a powerful testimony for the healing power of applied theatre. Thank you to Mark Winkel for organizing, and Occupy Sandy Relief NYC for the photo above.

Community Engagement

FACES Teen Health Education Theatre: Maimonides Medical Center

In 2012, I was hired as the new Director of FACES, Maimonides Medical Center’s teen health educational company in Borough Park, Brooklyn. I left Interfaith Medical Center after nearly 8 years for the opportunity to more fully integrate my clinical skills with pedagogy, artistic expression, and civic activism. Together with a diverse cast of teenagers, two drama therapy interns, and a small staff, we devised original performances relevant to their lives and those of our audiences. 

Created by a social worker named Susan Montez over thirty years ago, FACES was turned over to me in need of modernization. Teens were performing scenes written in the 1980s, the presentation format was too passive for my taste, PR materials were outdated, and there was no website to speak of. Too few people knew that Zoe Saldana began her career as a FACES teenager.

If all this wasn’t enough, the community has been fracturing over the years; petty disagreements and miscommunications led to participants feeling ostracized and alienated from members who had since moved on.

Needless to say, I pounced on all of the above with fervor. I reconnected with FACES’ lapsed membership, facilitated teambuilding experiences, and created the program’s first website. My supervisor, Dr. Alan Hilfer, charged me with presenting a show to the Maimonides Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services summer camp program within my first month. I focused on finding ways to include the audience into our scenes, sometimes directly, and other times obliquely; I consistently asked the young performers, “How can we enrole the audience in this scene?” The technique not only garnered powerful responses and participation from the spectators, but it also aided the performers in finding organic ways to connect with the audience, aesthetically, vocally and visually. I also began mentoring the teens in rewriting old scenes and generating new plays to reflect their perspectives.

Meanwhile, during my first day on the job, the Grants Officer broke this news: FACES had lost its federal and state funding due to drastic Medicaid reforms. I was devastated. My staff, interns, and I soldiered on until the closure. My focus expanded to include devising ways to create a healthy, meaningful closure of the program. We invited members from the past 30 years to reunite, say goodbye to Susan, the space, and share memories. The finishing touch was creating a puzzle of the FACES logo. On our way out, we each took a piece to represent the dismantling, but also the missing pieces we each held always connecting us.

Despite the untimely demise of FACES, I am so grateful to have met and worked with the inspiring teens and decades of members. The experience also woke me up to the harsh realities of non-profit theatre organizations, especially within the medical arena, and our country’s growing trend towards undervaluing mental heath and community service.

Community Engagement

Interfaith Medical Center

From 2005-2012, I worked full-time at Interfaith Medical Center on 3 different units using Drama Therapy.

Inpatient Adult Acute Psychiatric Unit

I began as Psychiatric Rehabilitation Therapist working with patients suffering from a wide range of diagnoses. Most of our clients were in crisis and considered to be a danger to themselves or others. Charged with creating 15 unique groups per week, I drew from every source I knew and developed new ideas. Based on my training with Fred Landers, I used a digital storytelling process that transformed rehabilitation into a connective, playful experience. After creating over 300 unique videos, I now train other facilitators and graduate students to facilitate these empowering aesthetic experiences.

Inpatient Substance Abuse Unit

I received a promotion to become a Substance Abuse Counselor on the 28-Day Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit. I transferred my clinical knowledge into treating addiction and learned how to manage a case load and discharge planning. This assignment also began my role as a Clinical Supervisor training graduate interns from NYU. During this time, I was developing my skills in Rasaboxes and found innovative ways to integrate Richard Schechner’s techniques into my drama therapy practice.

Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment (IPRT) Outpatient Unit

My third promotion led me to another title change: Educational Therapist. At IPRT, I provided individual and group counseling for behavioral, social, emotional, and vocational skills for clients who were ready to re-enter the community. Additionally, I taught remedial English and Math classes. It was incredibly rewarding to see clients learn and grow after many years of derailed plans due to mental illness. Towards the end of my time at Interfaith, I enrolled in NYU’s PhD program in Educational Theatre and then immediately received an offer to become the new Director of FACES Teen Health Theatre at Maimonides Medical Center.