This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.
Sometimes you need the perspective of an outsider. “Division Avenue,” a new play about tension between Hasidim and hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is written by Miki Bone, a Catholic playwright from Texas. The family drama, which manages some comedic moments while dealing with serious issues, is currently having a short debut run at New York’s Midtown International Theater Festival through August 3.
Fascinated by what she observed on a 2009 walking tour of Brooklyn, Bone couldn’t get the image of three Hasidic men crossing the street and averting their eyes from a young woman in modern dress as she passed them. Bone, a 52-year-old former high school drama teacher, captured the scene in a photograph and later turned the image into a painting for a class she was taking for her Masters degree at the University of Texas at Dallas. Eventually, the painting gave rise to a script.
“I took the men’s shielding their eyes as an act of respect, not rudeness,” Bone tells The Times of Israel in an interview from New York as she prepares for the play’s opening with director Dean Nolen. But further research led to a deeper and more complex understanding of the Hasidim’s behavior, perhaps in response to the gentrification and technological advances that have breached the figurative wall they’ve erected around their communities.
To dramatize this, Bone zoomed in on Williamsburg’s highly publicized ongoing bike lane wars, in which Hasidim are fighting their neighbors and the city over bike lanes that sometimes bring scantily clad (at least, by Hasidic standards) female cyclists riding through the area. Various characters in the play — Hasidic and hipster both—take sides (sometimes unexpected ones) in the battle, but the real fight is not really about two-wheeled vehicles.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.
Tags: bike lanes, Brooklyn, Division Avenue, drama, Footsteps, Hasidim, Hella Winston, hipsters, Midtown International Theater Festival, Miki Bone, New York, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Unchosen, Williamsburg