When Guy Ben-Aharon disbanded Israeli Stage in June 2019, he knew that his next artistic endeavor would lean into the same tenets — facilitated conversation, fostering a close-knit community, and broadening the audience — that made that pioneering small theater company a mainstay of the Boston scene for nine seasons. “It was a home for dialogue,” he says. “People felt a part of something. They felt a part of a family.”
With his latest venture, The Jar, Ben-Aharon has launched a new kind of cultural experiment that aims to take that community-building, dialogue-driven mission to the next level. “The Jar was an evolution of that, but a more drastic step,” he says. “The Jar was born out of an idea of: How can we activate the audience and change the way we experience culture? We use the arts as a vehicle to get to know one another in a way that gets past the shallow, small-talk conversation and deepen down really quickly.”
This Thursday at 7 p.m., The Jar hosts an April Fools’ Day virtual event as part of its Community Talent Show program. The evening will feature illustrations from The New Yorker cartoonist and writer Jason Adam Katzenstein, author of “Everything Is an Emergency,” and stand-up comedy from rising stars Tehran, Kellye Jue, Dewayne Perkins, and Francesca Fiorentini. Afterward, participants will gather in breakout groups to discuss what they’ve seen and explore the role of foolishness and joy in their lives.
“We will ask everyone to reflect on how they’ve found a deeper connection with other people through foolishness, through laughter, through joy,” says Ireon “Ire” Roach, the Jar’s curator-in-residence and soon-to-be co-director.
The Jar’s Community Talent Shows run every six weeks and feature six to eight artists from different mediums, followed by a dialogue. Other Jar programming includes workshops focused on new works-in-progress that make community engagement vital to their development and salons that explore a piece of art, curated by community members. All programming has moved online during the pandemic, but Ben-Aharon and Roach hope to restart in-person events this summer.
As part of the community-building vision for the Jar, participants are given a pair of tickets, one for themselves and one for a friend, family member, or someone they’ve always wanted to get to know better. The goal is to create a diverse and inclusive space for people to connect, to share the company of others, and to practice what Roach calls “a radical vulnerability.”
“Oftentimes when you encounter The Jar, we are having weighty conversations that go really deep,” she says.
But with the April Fools’ Day event, they wanted to offer “laughter and light at a time when it’s hard to find that,” Roach says. “There can be an equal level of depth in laughter and in joy, and that’s just as meaningful and just as important to find.”
Christopher Wallenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.