LabWorks Artist Spotlight: Jess Kaufman

Learn more about the artist behind Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

Throughout the season, we’re highlighting the talented artists who make up New Victory LabWorks. To promote the creation of high-quality American performing arts for family audiences, LabWorks provides resources and mines opportunities for exchange among a diverse spectrum of New York City-based performing arts professionals. Next up is Jess Kaufman!

What project are you working on?

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon—a new play about joyful self-expression for both Deaf and hearing kids made by Deaf and hearing artists.

How did you first fall in love with theater?

At age 5 years old, I saw my childhood babysitter in a youth community theater production of The King and I, and was hooked. Almost immediately, I started spending every summer at a theater camp until I went to college to get a BFA in musical theater. I have always been deeply inspired by Fran and Gary Scarpa, the leaders of that camp—Center Stage. They’ve devoted their lives to running that program and have made theater a fixture in my hometown. They were the ones who instilled in me the value of teaching and sharing theater with young people from a very young age.

What do you most hope to gain from your New Victory LabWorks experience?

I’m so excited to be a part of a community of artists who are thinking about theater for young people and treating these audiences with the respect they deserve. The ability to contextualize my work in the world of other artists making adventurous, aesthetically rich theater for kids is totally invaluable, and I can’t wait to see the ways we push, stretch and challenge each other’s work.

What is your favorite part of the creative process and why?

I know it’s time to move forward with an idea when I know who I want to collaborate with; all of my projects involve collaboration with other artists and with communities that are often in other countries! I love the “aha!” moment when I know who I want to make something with and the look on their faces when I pitch the idea for the very first time.

What excites you about creating work for family audiences?

Young people are capable of wrestling with so much more than they’re often given credit for. I love making theater that lets kids engage with complex ideas, and invites their adults to join them in conversations that they didn’t know they could have as a family.

What three things would you bring with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Oh my gosh. A cooking pot, a guitar and a Kindle loaded with as many books as it could fit!

Tell us one fun fact about yourself!

My hobby is learning new languages. Right now, I can have a chat with someone in seven different languages!