We had the good fortune of connecting with Ronda Spinak and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ronda, what inspires you?
I’m inspired by courage. People who take risks. Acts of selflessness and kindness. I’m inspired by natural beauty and man-made beauty. I’m inspired by people who commit to the common good. I’m inspired by vision, focus, hard work and collaboration.I’m also inspired by stories…authentic from-the-heart stories and the people who share them.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The art I make lives at the intersection of storytelling and theatre. The Braid, formerly known as Jewish Women’s Theatre, is a nonprofit company that hires professional actors to perform/share the authentic stories of writers, both on stage or virtually. As founder and artistic director, not only do I have the privilege of leading and growing this go-to Jewish story company, but I have had, and continue to have, the pleasure and privilege of exploring many themes of life as I curate the stories of others into a show that conveys universal truths in ways that are moving, funny, poignant and profound. Over the last 14 years, I’ve created over 65 of these theatrical pieces that have touched over 100,000 patrons worldwide. Was it easy? NO! But is it rewarding? Absolutely. The biggest challenge was starting with no money, no space, no patrons and building the business one person at a time. The lesson I learned early was to say, “Yes,” and then do it! Hemming and hawing doesn’t lead to anything. Set a vision, work ethically, and along the way be positive, channel gratitude, include and empower others to find and utilize their best selves and skills. I always say, an obstacle or challenge is just an opportunity to be creative. I’ve had lots of opportunities to be creative in business, and in our theatrical presentations. The Braid cultivates a culture of curiosity and learning. We are creative, collaborative and devoted to excellence. We are committed to the true and the real, and full of gratitude. We give voice to Jewish stories important to us all and we use the diversity and strength of the Jewish culture to do so. Our passion is to transform stories from page to stage, whether live or virtually. The Braid unifies peoples, building community is our uncompromising credo.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Outside!! The beach: walk along the path from the Marina up to the Pacific Palisades, stopping in Venice and Santa Monica–eating at Back on the Beach! Try hiking: Temescal Canyon, take the trails up to the waterfall and beyond for great vistas of the Santa Monica Bay. Will Rogers State Park is wonderful with trails up to the bridge or Lone Oak (but in the summer watch for rattle snakes!) There are three MUST-SEE gardens in LA–The incredible garden at The Getty Museum, The Huntington Garden and Descanso Gardens. There are many museums…pick any one, and enjoy–LACMA or The Broad, two of my favorites. Hang out at a Luxe Cafe for coffee and tasty pastries…a bit pricey, but worth it once! Love to lunch at Lunetta All Day–with great outdoor seating. Milo & Olive for pizza and a fun communal table for dinner. Tito’s Tacos, cheap and good. And of course, catch a show at The Braid–performances that are at the intersection of storytelling and theatre.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to say thank you to my teachers, friends, and family who believed in me long before I did. Thank you to my 7th grade creative writing teacher, Mrs. McFarland, who encouraged my voice, when I didn’t yet know I had one Thank you to Preston Wright, a classmate at Stanford, who I ran into in my 20s and who remembered a story I’d written in class years before. After that chance meeting, I quit my day job and pursued a more creative path. Thank you to my professors at USC who taught me how to structure a good play and screenplay, especially to Jerome Lawerence (“Inherit the Wind”) who has passed on, but at the time was my masters class teacher and who told me to read a play a week. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received. To Alan Ross who has given me countless notes on speeches, advice on edits, and comments on scripts, and who was one of the first to tell me “I could do it.”. And to my parents, both of whom are still alive, and whose continued pride in me opens my heart and helps me count my blessings. And lastly, starting and growing a nonprofit doesn’t happen without the support of many, many people and organizations–all the interns, staff and leadership–actors, writers and patrons–donors, funders, foundations and grant-makers–Oh my gosh, too many to name, but each one deserves credit and appreciation. Each has inspired me. Each one has fueled my passion for the work I do with The Braid. Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” This is also true for gratitude. I’m extremely grateful to everyone named and not named. We all share in whatever small success I’ve achieved.

Website: www.the-braid.org

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