We had the good fortune of connecting with Lea Kalisch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lea, what role has risk played in your life or career?
People who don’t take risks are boring. I always look for opportunities where I am forced to step out of my comfort zone, which is risky, but it’s thrilling and keeps things interesting for myself and others. If I want to become better at what I do, I have to take risks, I have to try new things, I have to fall on my face- there’s no way around it. The most powerful and memorable moments in life are moments when there’s a bit of danger and not-knowing involved. That’s why watching an actor forgetting a line is so compelling; that moment of trying to figure out what to do next, that’s an encounter with risk. That’s when I feel alive.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
“One day I’ll be an actress, and I’ll be rich and famous and I’ll buy you a house that looks like a castle!” That’s what I told my mom when I was a child, and twenty years later I haven’t bought her the house yet:) BUT instead I wrote a one-woman show called “In Love With a Dream!” which I’ve performed in NYC, Boston and Switzerland (where I spent the first 20 years of my life). In the show I examine the ‘dream’ as I sing, curse, dance and rap about the journey of my life in NYC. To be honest, I thought it would be easier. I thought I’d be one of those lucky actors, the ones you see in Hollywood movies. Does every artist think that? Maybe. When I moved from Zurich to NYC in 2014 to study musical theatre, I had no clue that two years later I would fall in love with Yiddish theatre, become an occasional rapper and later create a woman-show. This career is freaking hard but I learned that no matter how many rejections I face along the way, acting, singing, storytelling is what I have to do in my life–it’s a necessity. What sets me apart from others? Ever met a Swiss Jewish actress who can spin turns on ice, spit rhymes, shake her butt like Shakira, sing in Yiddish and dress up as a rabbi??? I have to create my own work, because I have things to express and say to the world in my OWN words. I am very proud of my debut music video “Eshet Chayil of Hip Hop”, a feminist Jewish rap video that redefines womanhood. Go watch it! Right now I am working on my album, my next music video and my first short film. And on staying sane while Covid is making me feel like a panther in a cage.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well… which city am I in? I usually live in NYC, right now I am in Minneapolis though. But let’s say my best friend came to NYC, when it’s not Covid. I take her to the Anyway Cafe in the East village, on a night when they play Gypsy Jazz. It’s the most casual, most authentic, “not trying to be hip” venue in NY. Special encounters happen there. I take her to dance salsa at the Pier as the sun sets. Obviously I go to a Zumba class at Alvin Ailey with my favorite teacher Jose Ozuna. We will sip the best chai latte in the whole city at Patisserie Margot, one of the last old school cafes on the Upper West Side that has a history, where the same people come every day, writers, opera singers, dancers, retired people, where interesting connections happen–the NY folk I love. I bring her to a Friday night Shabbat service at B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue and then make sure we go to some fun Jewish event or someone’s home for a huge dinner and nice singing. We go see a friend of mine in a show, as a “mitzvah”, which means, as a good deed, because some friend has a show every night of the week (and they’re not always great:). And of course I rush tickets for a Broadway show that is on the last day of its run. And if it’s the right time of year, we’ll go to the Jewish or Moroccan film festival, where they serve food, play music, and life is just a blast!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This shoutout goes to my parents who always support me no matter what. And to Alyshia Ochse for her inspiring podcast ‘That One Audition’. And to my actress friend Einat Propper who always critically analyzes my work with so much love and honesty.
David Zimand, Ronald L. Glassman, Tina Kupresak, Emily Hewitt