This month, dramatic writing sophomore Jake Rosenberg premiered his new play, “Brothers” which tackles the issues of fraternity hazing and institutionalized expectations of masculinity. “Brothers” debuted on November 7th at New York’s Manhattan Repertory Theatre and simultaneously debuted at New Orleans’ Tulane University.
WSN: This isn’t the first time you have had a show in Times Square, correct?
Jake Rosenberg: It’s my second show and this time it is more professionally managed. Everyone is a student and it shows the payoff of learning. The show affects many people personally so I am very excited to see reactions.
WSN: Are you in a fraternity? What drew you to that particular subject?
JR: I am not. But many of my friends and family members have. My connection to it is this idea of masculinity. I’m a research junkie. I wanted to spend years investigating not what I already know but fascinating facts about how fraternities and hazing work. Fraternities are situated at cruxes of power, finance, and law. I was attracted to the idea of the whole world and the problem that it is. Deaths occur more frequently and there is a type of disconnect about how we talk about things like that, how we brush certain issues under the rug.
WSN: Do you think you will face any backlash especially with recent events such as what took place in the University of Indiana or recent deaths due to hazing?
JR: It hasn’t been coincidental. It is an ongoing problem, not out of the ordinary at all. It happens in ongoing cycles. Rolling Stone might write something about reform but it’s not soon enough. It becomes more urgent every day. If we look with more scrutiny, we are 70 years too late.
WSN: Do you mean for your play to be entertainment, for it to bring awareness to the issue at hand, or for it to be a moral lesson? Who is your target audience?
JR: Young college men are my target audience but the play is intended for everyone. I am not proposing reform but want to make people more aware. It is supposed to be shocking, disturbing, not because it is violent or because of the swearing but because it presents the truth—emotional truth. Why are people killing each other? It doesn’t tip-toe around the issue, I want to be upfront about it. It isn’t about calling people out, it’s no grand conspiracy—but there is too much evidence to ignore. Fraternities re connected to so many systems of power. Then there is the issue of masculine institutions—that idea is very harmful. I want people to think for themselves.
WSN: Is there anything in particular you think the audience should watch out for?
JR: I encourage them to sit near the front.
WSN: You have produced your own plays. Is “Brothers” self-produced? How do you balance that with your schoolwork?
JR: Balancing isn’t really an issue because my career is heavily involved in my schoolwork. Deadlines are aligned and students collaborate—Gallatin and CAS students are the actors.
WSN: In general, how do you pick what you write about? And how has your instruction at Tisch affected your style?
JR: My hobby is spending time on Wikipedia. I like to go through an entire one every day—I love getting lost in hyperlinks, going down a rabbit hole, and seeing how histories connect. At Tisch I have to write quickly. It is good for me because I learn to not spend so much time on research. There is more invention because deadlines are both motivational but also cause me to write whatever. Sometimes the quality is affected but it is good training.
WSN: You are also an actor and director. What do you enjoy doing most?
JR: I love the writing process but I also want to keep directing.
WSN: What’s next for you?
JR: I’ve been working on a four year project. It’s a Jewish fantasy epic—like a Jewish Lord of the Rings. Theologians like Tolkien and other great writers write based on Christian philosophies and traditions. I want to write fantasy based on a different heritage. I hope to be done with it soon.