Juliana F. May
Family Happiness

May 3-13, 2023


Performances will take place in the Playhouse at Abrons Arts Center.

Co-Commissioned and Co-Presented with Abrons Arts Center.

Family Happiness is a new performance work about Jewish agression, unprocessed Jewish grief from the Holocaust, and current ramifications of those dynamics in Israel/Palestine. This piece continues May’s decade-long investigation into bodily control and the complicated system of victimhood and perpetration; prioritizing a space for culpability and catharsis.

“I have long contended with the ways in which intergenerational Jewish trauma has played out in my upbringing, primarily through the lens of my maternal grandparents whose family were in concentration camps and subsequently fled Austria and Germany as teenagers to come to New York City.”

“I worked on the beginning ideas of the piece during the pandemic in Tel Aviv where my partner has family. I am a choreographer, but there is a lot of text in my work. I wrote this project “treatment” on the tails of a dream I had about my father committing suicide and trump losing the election. It integrates set design ideas, characters, settings and introduces the symbol of the beach as the image of fake Jewish utopic redemption, which becomes prominent in song lyrics that will be sung throughout the show:”

“There’s a figure of a boy who looks like a scarecrow next to a pitch fork, a bird and a half moon. He passes by the dog beach, the separate beach, the smoking beach and eventually arrives at the sex beach.There are hundreds of naked people sitting on top of each other with legs intertwined in a series of eights. The dogs migrate over to the sex beach. Peripheral backward strokes follow a lunging and spreading and in an instant, the animals start to bite and peel skin away from bone, prying the upper extremities down towards the sand while the genitals remain connected like a roundabout on a playground. There is a rising smoke from the skinning like Christ being prepped with a soldering iron. The bodies smell like cocaine, synthetic cotton or some kind of polyblend as they thrash around in the sand trying to free themselves from each locked jaw. They get close to the water and almost break free but realize they don’t know how to surf.”

Family Happiness activates a disruptive and comedic space, exposing the titillation of trauma and its unbearable absurdity; illuminating cycles of oppression and patriarchal harm that many Jews have long thought themselves exempt from.

Choreography and Direction by Juliana May. Performed by Leslie Cuyjet, Tess Dworman, Lucy Kaminksky, Molly Poerstel and Kayvon Pourazar. Sound Design by Tatyana Tenenbaum. Lighting Design by Chloe Z. Brown. Set Design by Matt Shalzi. Costumes by Mariana Valencia.