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JHM’s ‘Help Us! Humor!’ to explore comedy, identity

Amelia Bande, Jeanne Vaccaro

In the past year, the Jewish History Museum has continued conversations started by its “Invisibility & Resistance: Violence Against LGBTQIA+ People” exhibit, which was on display in the Holocaust History Center’s Contemporary Human Rights space from September 2017 through May 2018. Along with continuing to highlight violence, JHM programs provided the local community with basic information and language about trans and gender non-conforming people and issues.

“Equally important is to support the creative practices of queer people,” says Ariel Goldberg, the museum’s curator of community engagement, who put together “Help Us! Humor!” for Saturday, May 18. 

“Help Us! Humor!” will combine performance and readings by New York-based writers Jeanne Vaccaro and Amelia Bande. “As a queer and trans identified worker at the museum I wanted to bring in the side of daily resistance, which is not always someone marching down the street with a sign,” says Goldberg. “Having fun is the only way to survive in hard times.”

Bande, a performer from Chile, works in performance, theater, and film. She is part of the Gel Film Series; co-founded Publishing Puppies press for visual work, poetry and fiction; and is co-editor of “Critical Correspondence,” the online journal of Movement Research. Vaccaro is a curator and teacher whose work explores the intersection of aesthetics and the history and theory of trans and queer life. She co-founded the New York City Trans Oral History Project, a community archive partnership with the New York Public Library.

“When I think of Jewish humor I think of someone who is challenging our idea of humor and our idea of Jewishness … I also think of self-deprecation. I think of brutal honesty. I also imagine the campiness of Yiddish theater in the Lower East Side in the first half of the 20th century,” says Goldberg.

“So what will happen when we bring ‘Jewish humor’ into a Jewish museum? You will walk into the museum on May 18 and see it is not transformed into a comedy club,” Goldberg says. “Jeanne and Amelia have been friends and shared community and watched each other’s work grow over many years … they are funny by not trying to be funny.”

The free performance, co-sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, begins at 7 p.m. at the JHM, 564 S. Stone Ave. For more information, visit www.jewishhistorymuseum.org or call 670-9073.

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