To kick off our Community Profile series, we caught up with Jeremy Goren, a longtime Gun who’s made a daring foray into theater direction. In his professional life, Jeremy was a market research specialist for a number of big-name Wall Street firms. But before we get into the interview, here’s the skinny on his directorial debut:
Drawing on material as diverse as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, medieval pageant plays, ’90s suburbia, My So-Called Life, and the performers’ own stories, You Will Make a Difference explores our current moment – career, love, babies and success. An ensemble leads its audience through various spaces on several floors of the beautiful West Park Presbyterian Church. Formed over an atypical, six-month process, this collaboratively devised performance invites the audience on a journey to discover where they really are. The communal ending of You Will Make a Difference includes a small, shared meal, along with music and a hoedown or some other happening, to create an experience unlike any other. Artist/chef Anne Apparu will also create full meals as part of extended performances on October 20th and November 11th. Tickets and further information are available here.
Who is Jeremy Goren? What is your background, both in your professional life and in creative life?
Starting big. Ok. This first is a question I try to relinquish in my life and work as a performer; in fact, it’s important to not even consider it. But, to put it plainly: I was born in Washington, D.C. I trained in Spanish Language and Literature, Latin American Studies and Journalism. In New York, I’ve worked in several trades. Most of my roles centered on writing, editing, and research, though for the past several years I’ve worked mostly as a substitute teacher and private tutor. I took up with theater in earnest when I moved here and soon found the master I have followed for the past eight years.
Well, now I have to ask: how did you get introduced to The Hired Guns?
I spent more than five years as an active Gun, conducting market research interviews for Wall Street firms. I liked the work — it felt like a spy mission almost every day. And it was the best way I’ve had to balance the need for income and the time for art. But circumstances change. What’s changed in the most positive way is that, despite having paused my work at that particular role more than three years ago, the friendships and sense of Gun-ship (can I say that?) have not diminished. My closest and oldest friends in NYC are my former coworkers from that post.
How did you get started in theater?
I think many of us have similar stories around this question, at least those of us who began performing at home as children, even those who started that way and never pursued acting as adults or outside of the home. For me it came from playing and reading. But it wasn’t about make-believe for me, and it isn’t now. Neither was it self-expression. It was and is about entering a stimulating environment or set of experiences and seeing what possibilities open up through those experiences.
So how do you balance your creative life with your professional one? What’s your key to being successful in two very different fields?
Success is a very tricky word. I don’t think about it too much. Success for me at this moment is opening doors and seeing what’s inside.
Was there ever a moment that made you think, “Maybe I should pack in the day job and go for my passion?”
In fact I did pack in the day job: two years ago I was working an interesting office job and one morning discovered, all of a sudden, that it was time to drop it. It had become clear to me it was time to stop messing around. Since then, I keep searching less to balance two parts of myself and more to continue to discover how the two are really the same. The bigger challenge has been figuring out how to continue from there.
When you tell your coworkers about your creative endeavors, how do they react?
I assume you mean my co-workers outside of the arts. They actually tend to react more excitedly than my co-workers in the arts. At least that’s what I hope for. I think, even in the “professional” realms I travel in for paying gigs, most of the people I contact are part of the creative class. So, even if they don’t understand my work exactly, they still get it. They often ask how I do it, but it’s not totally foreign to them. In general, however, only in New York do people speak so dismissively about theater artists. In other places (and some here), people recognize the dedication and bravery it takes to pursue a creative passion in full, especially one as stupid as theater. I think every human being is an artist, and so everyone understands the artistic impulse. That’s why art has such great potential for connecting human beings.
What would you say to those folks in the Guns’ audience who are struggling to lead both a professional life and a creative life? Any advice or words of caution or both?
Don’t let the man get you down.
You’ve been a great sport throughout all this, Jeremy. Now toot your own horn a bit. What, in your own words, is You Will Make a Difference?
You Will Make A Difference is a watch-and-play. That’s a technical term. The event originally carried the title The Gaggery and Gilt, which comes from Whitman’s introduction to Leaves of Grass (another largely misunderstood title). The full line is: “All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain. If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or woman it is enough. . . . the fact will prevail through the universe . . . but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will not prevail.” This is an approximation of what the project means; I say an approximation because also I don’t know what it means. That’s for the people who experience it to discover for themselves. I’m not being snide. I simply don’t have a message or a moral or a lesson to teach, or even a story to tell. I can only ask some questions and offer you to ask some questions with me. The questions in this case arose out of a solitary, overnight train ride between Albuquerque and Chicago on the night of a monumental birthday. But, they were personal then and not intended for performance.
When Occupy Wall Street began I discovered that, while personal, these were also questions a lot of us in this society were asking and I thought that maybe they could be worth asking as a group in some kind of small way that I could facilitate. Artistically, the piece arose from intuition, dreams, research, living flesh, sweat, tears, and the occasional bolt of lightning. I’m not good enough with numbers to even estimate how many hours this has consumed over the last six months of creation and production, following about six months of stewing. It’s been an almost total immersion. I have heard people use the metaphor of pregnancy to talk about creating a work of art; now I get it. It’s a continuous, unceasing, increasing process. And my due date is just weeks away.
You can catch You Will Make a Difference at the West Park Presbyterian Church, 165 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024. The show runs from October 19th through November 11th on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm. Find them on Facebook here.