On the Couch with Josh Reuben

Josh Reuben AAR On the CouchWho is Josh Reuben?
Hi, I’m Josh, 27 years old. I am an actor, singer, and Yiddish teacher. I’ve been involved in the very active Yiddish-speaking secular Jewish community in Melbourne since I was quite young, as a student at Sholem Aleichem College primary school. I fell in love with the language through the wealth of literature and song, that plumb the depths of human emotion, and yes, that Jewish charm and wit.

I did drama at Victorian Youth Theatre and through high school, and then started working within the community. I’m so grateful to have had opportunities to perform with Kadimah Yiddish Theatre and also with the Mir Kumen On Yiddish choir.

I have also worked as a translator, transcriber, and surtitle creator/operator on various projects. As a teacher, it is such a joy to share the rich Yiddish language with new generations, and be a part of the goldene keyt, the golden chain of culture.

I am currently in rehearsals for Torch Song, Harvey Feirstein’s iconic play, presented by Taylor Made Productions and Midsumma Festival at Chapel off Chapel, which marks my first production outside of the Yiddish world. It’s such a special play, that taps right to the heart of themes of love, identity and belonging, as a gay Jewish drag queen navigating a less than accepting world, that are as resonant now as they would have been for audiences in the 80s. The cast and creative team are a truly wonderful group of people – it’s been such a joy and honour to work with them in delving into this production.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I love what I do, so this is a difficult question to answer. I guess I would like to have done more physical activities growing up. I never learned how to ride a bike or swim when I was a kid… both of which I’m trying to rectify now! I love moving my body nowadays – through dancing and rock climbing, but I think I’d be a little bit steadier on my Bambi-like legs if I had done some more of it when I was young!

Who inspires you and why?
I am continuously inspired by the people in my community. The artists, educators, organisers, and, in Yiddish, kultur-tuers (literally, ‘culture doers’) that are the lifeblood of the secular Yiddish community in Melbourne, who are endlessly passionate and giving of their time and creativity. It is a true labour of love, and I feel so honoured to know and collaborate with so many of them.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I truly feel the two fields I work across: education and the arts, are what make the biggest difference in people’s lives. Everyone deserves access to quality education that can enrich and uplift, and the arts is the best platform to communicate individual and collective experiences and stories, which open audiences up to connecting with the humanity of strangers. These are powerful societal tools that are continuously undervalued and under-supported by governments, so I applaud everyone continuing to inspire in these ways.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Japan is my favourite foreign country to visit – I learned Japanese in high school, and its beauty and culture still call to me for a second trip!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I very much love Naarm/Melbourne, so flouncing around the city, soaking in the buzz and parade of people, and all the arts and green spaces is a highlight, for sure. I also try and convince people to come bouldering (rock climbing) with me, because it absolutely unlocked a deeper connectiveness to my own body and I’d love others to experience that (and not at all to show off!)

What are you currently reading?
I recently read Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino. It’s a whirlwind of a book that highlights a diverse range of locality-based foods in calling for a reclamation of biodiversity before it’s too late. Such fascinating stories – some of these foods are so intertwined with the local history, culture, and tradition, but have gotten monopolised out by the likes of the Cavendish banana… no offence, Cav!

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve been currently listening (and dancing) to a lot of Beyoncé. I watched her Renaissance film in December, and jeepers creepers! If I didn’t already love her artistry before… she is a phenomenon! Puts in the hard work and reaps the rewards: the voice, the production! Virgo’s Groove is my favourite song on the album – warms the cockles!

Happiness is?
Putting on a fun outfit and dancing uninhibited in the disco. A night with friends or family. Singing in Yiddish choir. Mutual acknowledgement with a stranger that something very strange is happening on public transport.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully more opportunities to live different lives on the stage. Continuing to develop as a person, as an actor, as an educator. Making new connections, having robust conversations. Reading more! Travelling – visiting Yiddish communities internationally to strengthen links here. More creating, writing, and playing!

Josh stars as Arnold in Taylor Made Productions’ presentation of Torch Song by Harvey Fierstein – which will be presented at Chapel Off Chapel, as part of the 2024 Midsumma Festival, from 31 January – 10 February. For more information, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.

Image: Josh Reuben (supplied)