THE SYNDICATE or In Attendance: Jonathan Bernstein

Foreword by Mary Cavett

Jonathan is one of the most heart-ful people I know. He’s generous, creative, incredibly supportive, brilliantly smart, humble (most of the time), understated, underdressed, genuinely curious, gentle, funny, and kind. He’s a lover of dogs, baseball, George Saunders, moroccan tile, Tiramisu, Suzy Misner, and the silly little quirks that make life so uniquely ordinary. He is genuinely interested in whoever he is talking to and he makes you feel important. He observes people with wonder and delight.

I met JB (as I’ll refer to him hereafter) in 2014 when I auditioned for a show that he co-created with his partner Suze called “The Shape She Makes.” I thought “That guy seems nice.” It was the best audition of my life. Not because of what I did, but how it was run. It felt more like a workshop or a collaboration, it was casual and comfortable and allowed me to truly explore and be myself. I thought to myself, “Every audition should be run like this. Who are these people?!”

As luck would have it, I booked the gig and got to work with JB and Suze for the next few months on what is, to this day, the most rewarding artistic experience of my career. The piece itself, the storytelling through language and movement, the unbelievable cast, the rehearsal process, the collaboration, the entire ecosystem of that project was as close to perfection as it gets. And that came from JB and Suze.

He’s the only person I know who actually supports and encourages the possibility of failure. He seems to truly believe in the the notion of “Fail Forward” which serves as a motto of sorts for his summer arts program for young people, The Performing Arts Project (TPAP). JB provided me with some of my first teaching opportunities at TPAP. The fact that I wasn’t a seasoned teacher he saw as a benefit. He loves discovery. He loves the gifts that come from being somewhat lost or floundering. One of the world’s greatest improvisers, he never seems concerned with not having a plan (except I sometimes think that he secretly has everything perfectly planned out and just puts up a front of spontaneity…no one is that good!)

The start he gave me at TPAP has evolved into my full time side hustle as a movement teacher for actors, at NYU nonetheless. He is a great collector of extraordinary people, be it the faculty of his program, his co-conspirators, his students, his friends – everyone I know who knows him is pretty much awesome. He and I will have long conversations about nothing important. We once spent at least 15 minutes on the phone actively trying to remember the name of a fast food restaurant in North Carolina. It seemed necessary at the time. And fun. It’s Cookout by the way. He’s been known to leave me voicemails just singing the theme songs to old television shows. I love this man.

He is so uniquely himself. He’s always a bit disheveled and will wear a hat until it falls apart (and then still wear it). He’s not a great lover of vegetables but he’s working on that. We once created what I think may be one of the worlds best juggling duos. He has the uncanny ability to make you believe in yourself. He’s a damn fine human and I am grateful for him.

The Clown Report

Inside the mind of Jonathan Ezra Bernstein

I can’t shake the feeling that silverware is unable to breathe underwater, so I’m unable to soak any knife, fork or spoon. Rice milk. My golden retriever’s neck.

Duolingo. Basil. Susan Misner. Glass doorknobs, preferably purple. 

The Bengsons. Childrens laughter. Tying my sneaker laces very tightly. Phoebe Waller-Bridge. A Thousand Clowns. Feels Like Home by Randy Newman. 

40; A surprise party thrown for me in the backyard patio of my favorite Italian restaurant with 25 friends/family. Viruses learn & morph, so: so must we. Ruben Östlund. Fleabag. Bananas Foster French Toast. 

The beauty of uncertainty: mustering the nerve to tackle the blank page, either with a crayon or a pencil. Torrid. A Libra. My desk, at home, in Jersey City. Anything that allows me to keep working with people who scare me juuust the right amount. 

I’ve been really interested in what else I can add to the following breakfast ingredients: brown rice, caramelized onions, veggie sausage, over-easy eggs, soy sauce, nori komi furikake rice seasoning. A navy blue beanie from the Hangar B Eatery in Massachusetts that they don’t sell. The Graduate. Roman Holiday. The Royal Tenenbaums. 20th Century Women. A Ghost Story. A Hero.

I was just asked to curate a movie series in the back room of my local pub. 

Joy as a daily practice. Paddington 2.