Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jamie Haft, February 13, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:04 - Introduction and background

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Partial Transcript: This is Jeff Keith and Rayna Gellert on February 13th, 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Jamie Haft explains her background and what her childhood was like. She explains where she came from and what was important to her as she was growing up. She also explains why her father moved from New York to Florida. She also explains that she developed a social justice consciousness because her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, however she says she wasn't quite sure how to articulate it as a high school student.

Keywords: Acting; Family; Holocaust; Social justice; Tampa (Fla.); Theater

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Disney World (Fla.); Florida.; New York.

00:05:56 - High school years

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Partial Transcript: We'll get to roadside in a minute but I'm curious to go back to your--your high school years.

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains that in high school she was not sure how to articulate the connection between theater and social justice/history.

Keywords: High school

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Social justice.; Theater.

00:08:40 - New York University

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Partial Transcript: Um-- you said you had some naive perceptions of New York.

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains going to this school was a dream come true. She said it was so expensive, but there was no stopping her. She explained that she wasn't moved by anything and she couldn't understand that. She was becoming stressed about the cost and she felt like she was wasting her time. She wanted to do something that would involve more justice work because she was seeing so much poverty in the urban areas and internationally. She explains that by her junior year she had dropped out of Studio and entered into an Applied Theater major.

Keywords: Applied Theater; Colleges; India; International; Jan Cohen Cruz; Poverty; Privilege; Service learning; Theater classes

Subjects: New York University.; New York.; Social justice.

00:17:26 - Applied theater studies

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Partial Transcript: Uh-- tell me a little bit--before you came to Whitesburg-- about the studies you were engaging in and what you were learning about applied theater ...

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains that she began collaborating with a professor in order to develop an Applied Theater major. She felt honored to be able to do this as a student. She explains that college for her was a big identity crisis. She talks about being split because she loved theater but she thought about moving out of it to do more for social justice like becoming a politician or lawyer.

Keywords: Collaborators; College majors; Crisis; Dudley Cocke; Identity; Jan Cohen Cruz; Ron Short; Tisch Scholars Program; Tisch School of the Arts

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; New York University.; Social justice.

00:24:43 - Trip to Whitesburg, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me--just a bit--how long was this initial trip to Whitesburg that you all took?

Segment Synopsis: Haft talks about what the trip was like, how it went, and what she did during the trip. She explains how it affected her and other students who attended the trip. She tells stories about the trip and she explains how the students reacted to the experience of the trip to Whitesburg. They also discuss an article she wrote after the experience. She discusses how she left the trip fired up about social justice.

Keywords: Appalachia; Dry counties; Dudley Cocke; Jan Cohen Cruz; Study abroad; Tisch School of the Arts; Whitesburg (Ky.)

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Kentucky; Social justice.

00:35:52 - Returning to New York University

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Partial Transcript: How did that--how did then that change your experience of New York and NYU?

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains how she approached her senior year after the Whitesburg experience. She explained that she finished college because she felt she owed it to her parents. She was upset about what theater was in our society but she finished school. She still felt disconnected from the idea of commercialized theater.

Keywords: Art; College seniors; College tuition; Dudley Cocke; Fundraising; Grassroots theater; Perspectives

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; New York University.; Social justice.

00:42:29 - After graduation

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Partial Transcript: So--let's--if you don't mind--talk about what you did upon graduation.

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains what she did after she graduated from college. She went on a spiritual detour. She went to Jerusalem and became an Orthodox Jew so she could learn about her traditional culture and past. She felt she didn't belong so she came home. Her grandfather passed away. She was offered a job that focused on grassroots theater with Imagining America. She never thought she would end up where she is today.

Keywords: Graduation; Grassroots; Identity; Orthodox; Project; Theater

Subjects: Imagining America (Organization); Judaism.; New York University.

00:53:44 - Imagining America and Roadside Theater

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Partial Transcript: Explain how your work at Imagining America is informed by Roadside Theater.

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains how working at Imagining America is related to her work with Roadside Theater. She is able to take generous vacation time, so she is able to do work at Roadside Theater during that time. She explains what kind of work she does at Roadside and Imagining America. She also explains that she is able to connect with Appalshop even though it isn't her culture. It is like she has adopted the respect for the culture she works with.

Keywords: Connections; Documentation; Leading; Performing Our Future (Theater production); Vacations; Work; Writing

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Imagining America (Organization); Roadside Theater (Organization : Whitesburg, Ky.); Social justice.

01:06:43 - Impact of Roadside Theater on Imagining America

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Partial Transcript: Could you provide some specific examples and--and--and--of how that--how you see that relationship in terms of--uh--one organization influencing the other?

Segment Synopsis: Haft explains and describes how the methodology of Roadside Theater is something she brought into story circles at Imagining Americas retreats. She explains how interconnected her jobs have become and how she brings aspects of both into each different job. She also describes projects that she is currently working on to incorporate both organizations.

Keywords: Benefits; Higher education; Influences; Retreats; Social change; Story circle

Subjects: Imagining America (Organization); Roadside Theater (Organization : Whitesburg, Ky.); Social justice.

01:13:09 - Spirituality and art

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Partial Transcript: Um--I want to thank you for your time.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks Haft to explain any threads he may be missing in this story. She explains that she can't really name it because it is sort of spiritual. She explains that she is able to make a difference and offers a story as to how she does. She gives an example of collaboration between Imagining America and Roadside Theater. She says this art is beautiful because anyone can do this.

Keywords: Accessibility; Art; Blending traditions; Concealed; Power; Revealed; Ron Short; Spirituality; Tradition; Workshop; “Betsy” (Theater production)

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Imagining America (Organization); Roadside Theater (Organization : Whitesburg, Ky.)