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Avigail Bryger: “Stop Waiting for Life to Happen”

Last but not least, family. Given or chosen, embrace those who love you and love them back. Let them into your life as much as you can. Living in NYC I was very lonely; my entire family and closest friends were back in Israel. When it got hard, I put on a brave face — I didn’t […]


Last but not least, family. Given or chosen, embrace those who love you and love them back. Let them into your life as much as you can. Living in NYC I was very lonely; my entire family and closest friends were back in Israel. When it got hard, I put on a brave face — I didn’t want to worry them; It made me miserable. It’s only when I learnt to let people in (thanks to my beautiful Artistic Director Maera Hagage, who became like a sister to me) is when I made progress, to be happier, more creative and thriving.


As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Avigail Bryger.

Avigail is an actress, a poet and the Associate Artistic Director of the Dirty Laundry Theatre company. Graduate of the Atlantic Acting School Conservatory (2018), Avigail is also a member of Floor Five Theatre Company and a proud founding member and the Associate Artistic Director of Dirty Laundry Theatre.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Avigail! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Hi, thanks for having me! Absolutely. I was born and raised in Israel; As a child, I spent my days at the Kibbutz (Yagur). Growing up in a Kibbutz has significantly influenced my life to this very day — I’m very connected to nature, I’m a very people-person and truly believe that life is best when shared.

Around first grade I moved to a small town, where I joined a youth movement, got to spend my days creating arts and engaged in education in a non-formal way, pursuing theater all throughout my adolescence.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ever since I can recall, I have always loved to perform. Every time we had guests over our house, the “Avigail Show” premiered. They all knew to gather in the living room to watch the performances that I crafted; whether it was a dance, musical or a play. If I had friends my age over they became the ensemble. This passion for performance continued with me throughout my childhood, and continuing into many acting classes in my early teens. It concluded with moving to NYC at the age of 21 to pursue my passion, and graduating from the Atlantic Acting School. I could never see myself do anything else. I found there’s a direct correlation between my mental health and my art — the more I practice my craft, the better I feel. Direct or indirect, keeping myself active in a creative process. One day, on a set of a new feature, I met the fabulous Maera Hagage. She told me about her new theatre Dirty Laundry, and her dream of what that theatre can and will be. I immediately got on board.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I don’t know if this is the most interesting, but definitely my favorite. When I first moved to the city before school, I asked my father to join me and help me settle in, and he, being the wonderful person that he is, said yes. We’ve found a nice little sublet on Lexington Ave (later we learnt that area is actually called Curry Hill) to spend our first 10 days. When we got to the place, after a very long 40 hours of being awake, we were greeted by a lady who was a friend of the owner. She was very fun and upbeat, asking what brings us to the city. 
“Well, I’m actually moving here for acting school,” I told her. 
“Oh, you’re an actress?” 
“Yes!” 
“Well great. What are you doing next Saturday?” 
“Nothing,” I smiled. 
“Well good. You’re hired.”

“What?!”

“Come to Joe’s Pub next Saturday at 9pm, I’ll email you the rest of the details.”
 And that’s how I got my first New York City acting gig.

All this happened while it wasn’t even an hour into settling in; That’s when I knew I’d made the right choice.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Oo! My theatre and I are working on a really cool thing for these crazy times (this time I’m behind the scenes). Last summer we premiered in the New York Theater SummerFest with a new play called BORDERS written by Nimrod Danishman. This is a beautiful play about two middle eastern men who meet on Grindr. One is Lebanese and the other’s Israeli — so they cannot meet. And yet — something draws them to one another. It’s an intimate, touching, wonderful little two-hander. In the summer of 2019, we were nominated as finalists for BEST PLAY, which was very thrilling; I was the assistant director to the brilliant Michael R. Piazza then. After that summer we brought our show back for a spring tour, starting with a collaboration with The Stonewall Inn. We had one great show just before the Covid-19 hit, and unfortunately, we had to halt all future shows. But in theater like in theater — the show must go on. For a couple of weeks, we’ve done extensive research and adapted our play onto the personal screen. It is very cool. We’ve successfully created a new version of a live theatre experience. The show is broadcasted live from 3 different locations — from both of the actors’ respective homes in Manhattan, and the Director’s and A. director’s (this time it wasn’t me, but my good friend and colleague Ron Orlovsky) laptop in Brooklyn; all streaming live into a limited-time live YouTube broadcast. As soon as the show is done — the content disappears- Just like real life theater, Ha. Our new version premiered on Saturday April 19th, and it was a great success with fantastic feedback. Due to all this, we’ve extended the show to a limited-time virtual “run” every weekend thru May 17th. I am very passionate about this project; BORDERS is such a fantastic play and our new adaptation is an unprecedented version of virtual theatre, in my opinion. And — did I mention? — it’s completely free!

Credit: Kyle Nunez

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share your reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Absolutely!

One of my favorite things about moving to New York City was the literally colorfulness of the city. I had met people in my school and neighborhood from all over the world. I got to read and hear new stories I have never heard of. It was exciting, sometimes heart-breaking, but mostly fascinating.

The first reason why diversity is important, in my opinion, is that there are so many stories out there that the mainstream media doesn’t pay attention to. Those stories need to be heard and told. I’m sure that if when I grew up and I saw strong female leads on TV or movies or a strong female playwright and or director, that could’ve probably affect the narrative on how I saw myself and my self-worth. I’ve mostly got to consume male lead- patriarchal movies or series who objectified females; and for the longest time that’s how I’ve perceived myself and self-worth. I can only imagine how people of color or LGBTQ felt with very little representation to none. I want to change that. I want to give kids the role modules they want to see- themselves.

The second reason is that, unfortunately, we’re living in a very segregated, racist and homophobic society. Of course, there had been some progress, but we still see hate crimes and discriminations based on your gender and race very often. Growing up in Israel, we weren’t any better (and still aren’t, sadly). There’s a lot of racism and homo/transphobia. As mentioned earlier I used to get involved with informal kids’ education (youth movement; an after-school program) and one of the top things I’ve observed and learned is that segregation breeds fear and fear breeds hate.

The more the kids I’ve worked with weren’t in any contact with Arabs and Palestinians — (and in some more religious areas — members of the LGBTQ community) — the more they were scared of them. They were fed only by the mainstream media’s narrative about how they’re all terrorists and our national enemy. The more they were scared of them — the more they hated them. Part of healing that hate was to tend to the fear — creating get-togethers and conversations between the communities. The more the two communities meet, the more conversations they had, and the more process of mutual understanding they could cultivate. It wasn’t easy.

So, bringing it back to your question, here’s my belief: The more representation for different communities there is in the media — actors, directors, writers (= stories) — the less fear is created. The less fear is created, the less hate is bred by the media. The less hate cultivates among our society. And in the meantime, empathy is growing, and compassion is spreading. 
And third — well — it’s just so much more fun! I mean, honestly, having people from different cultures just brings more to the table, and I always found that the creative process was way more exciting and enjoyable.

Diversity is actually one of our core values at Dirty Laundry Theatre! We actually commit to produce familiar and lesser-known plays and musicals of different cultures and make it important to keep our cast and crew as diverse as possible. 🙂

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Being a foreigner actor in the New York acting scene is limited. This is something that is very heart-breaking for me. When I first moved to the city, I dared to dream about Broadway and Hollywood. I still do! but on a very practical level, it’s almost impossible; I mean, the acting scene is hard as it already is, However, in order to actually land high-paying jobs in these worlds you must be an American citizen. It’s not enough to be an O1 holder (aka the “artist visa”, which after very hard work I am), you have to be an actual Green-card holder or American citizen. 
    Why?
    Well, for starters, to be on Broadway one must be a member of Actors’ Equity, which I can understand. However, to be a member of Actors’ Equity (on top of the general terms) is to be an American citizen or a Green Card holder. Why? Because, after conversations with an Equity representative, they claim they want to help American actors get jobs and defend their rights. I understand that; but by definition that means no foreign actors can build their way up to Broadway, no matter how good or hard-working they are. 
    And about Hollywood, Film, TV?- well, that is still a mystery to me. I’ve got to talk to multiple high-end casting directors about why Netflix or Amazon prime, for instance, do not cast O-1 visa holders. Literally, in the casting call, they write — NO O1 VISA. The casting directors were very familiar with that demand, didn’t know what to answer; some theorized about bureaucracy, but none of them could get me a clear answer. I know a guy who got to a very advanced audition for an HBO show. When they found out he’s on an O1 visa they kicked him off the audition process, even though they expressed great interest in him until that point. Why? It’s still an enigma to me.
    Don’t get me wrong. I’m still dreaming about Broadway and Film and I know I will get there. It’s just way more complex than I could ever imagine.
  2. How vulnerable this lifestyle is! Maybe some roles require less of an emotional depth than others, but for the most part, you practice to stay as emotionally available as you can for each part you do, for an honest and compelling performance. However, it’s very easy to let that vulnerability slip into daily life. I’m a very sensitive person as it is, so for me, a huge part of cultivating a healthy lifestyle as an actor is learning to set limits and know the difference between your job and your personal life. It might sound funny or obvious, but it’s honestly easier said than done. The amount of times I thought I should just be completely honest about my feelings and lashed out in a very inappropriate time… Oh lord. Haha. It’s important to remember your audience, on and off stage. 😉
  3. Don’t wear mascara to acting school! Seriously. Do I need to say more?

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Water. And then some more. Seriously, not just for your overall and mental health, it’s also fantastic for the skin! Ha-ha.
Also, Mindfulness is also a huge part; cultivating a habit of observing your own habits and revising them is scientifically proven to be beneficial for bettering your life; moreover, it’s a really cool learning experience for yourself as an actor (and character work, too!). 
Last but not least, family. Given or chosen, embrace those who love you and love them back. Let them into your life as much as you can. Living in NYC I was very lonely; my entire family and closest friends were back in Israel. When it got hard, I put on a brave face — I didn’t want to worry them; It made me miserable. It’s only when I learnt to let people in (thanks to my beautiful Artistic Director Maera Hagage, who became like a sister to me) is when I made progress, to be happier, more creative and thriving.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Hmm. I think I would love people to be grateful for what they have; even if they cannot see it immediately. These days I’ve reckoned a lot with how much there is to be grateful for; our health, our home, our families. We’ve become so indifferent to it — our jobs, our communities, local parks, libraries, favorite cafes. We are all part of something greater and there’s always something to be grateful for. I’ve started cultivating a habit of gratitude, and that alone keeps me somewhat sane during these hectic days.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

First of all, my parents, who trusted in me enough to let me fly to the other side of the world in pursuing my dream. My friend and colleague Maera Hagage, my former teacher now friend and colleague Mike Piazza, my dear dear friends from Israel and new New York friends, and all the people who helped me with my Visa; helping me stay in the country. I don’t have a very funny story to tell, but rather tell the story of what I learnt in this process. If you set your mind to your goal and you ask for help — and you stay specific about your request — you wouldn’t believe how much good there is to come. Dare to ask, dare to dream! Get ready to fail, get ready to be turned down. Always thank those who took the time to hear you out. Stay focused, courageous, and grateful — Great things are coming.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Hmm. It changes all the time — but here is one of my recent favourites;

“Life is a mirror, my friends. It’ll reflect back what you put into it. You get angry with the mirror; it has no other choice but to get angry back. Why? Because the outer world follows the inner world. Not the other way around.” — Peter Sage

From his Tedx talk, “Stop Waiting for Life to Happen”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Wow, there’re so many! I’m always nervous about this question because if I’m imagining the scene realistically, I’m afraid if I’ll meet that person, I’ll be too excited; it would be like teenage me meeting my all-time crush. I would probably act dumb and be completely speechless; only thinking about that image makes me cringe! Ha-ha .
However, if I have to answer, I would hope we could be friends first — due to some magical reason — and then casually talk over a bottle of wine. In that scenario, it’ll probably be Phoebe Waller Bridge or Jim Carry. Fascinated by both for their (very different!) acting choices, and love Phoebe Waller Bridge’s writing. (I mean Fleabag? wow)

How can our readers follow you online?

Well, you can follow me and my Theatre Company on all Social Media (except Tik Tok — I’m still figuring it out; Never felt so old in my life)! I would love to meet you there. For our show BORDERS, which again — is on a very limited run and I can’t recommend enough — please see our website link down below.

IG- @avigailbryger , @dirtylaundrytheatre
FB- /avigail.bryger , /dirtylaundrytheatre

Tw- @vigbry , @dirtylaundryt

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

It was a pleasure! Thanks for having me.


BORDERS by Nimrod Danishman

Directed by Michael R. Piazza

Starring Adrian Rifat & Eli M. Schoenfeld

A Dirty Laundry Theatre production

Streaming every weekend thru May 17th.

For more details and performance links:

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