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Published in Huffington Post

Theatre:  When Change is Good

Theatre changes lives.  It changes the way we think.  We go to the theatre to be changed in some way. And as artists, we create theatre to change others…and also to change ourselves in some way. Theatre helps us define fluid concepts for ourselves.

Theatre changed my “ICU patient” role back to a“creator” role, not only of an autobiographical musical comedy, but back to a “creator” of my own life.  It helped me transform and share my new “role” with the world, empowering others to change the way they view their own roles in life.  That’s why I’m creating a new solo performance project based on a truly fluid, fickle and fluctuating concept that constantly changes, disappears and reemerges in our lives: trust.

Trust: When Change is Bad

“Trust,” as a noun, is “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”
For example, “relations have to be built on trust”
Trust is having a confident expectation that circumstances will turn out – or stay – like we plan them to.
I believe we come into this world as trusting, open vessels, happy and confident that life won’t change.  And then, life happens and we realize that people, as well as circumstances around us can change unexpectedly.  We lose trust in what we expected from others, from life, or from ourselves.14203327_10154569434294658_5611311574537098219_n

When Trust Shatters

Once our trust is violated, or shattered, it’s very hard to regain.  In fact, we might work our whole life to rediscover something solid to put our trust in.
Or worse, we may spend the rest of our lives trying to avoid putting trust in anything at all.  We may live life on the go, never pausing for a second to engage in life, for fear that investing too much in life, in ourselves, or in others will just fail us – or change – once again.
I did that for a very long time.
Synonyms: “to rely on, depend on count on, be sure of”…Is trust even possible?

Why do we trust?

As I’ve gained, lost, regained and re-lost trust in many things in my life, I’ve become fascinated with the idea of trust – a resource that seems to never dry up.  Somehow, when our trust shatters, we eventually learn to trust something else.  
Why do we continue to trust things when they continue to to disappoint us?  And where do we discover the resilience to try again?

When Trust Shatters

I used theatre to help me map out some “change points” in my life where I’ve lost trust:

  • I put trust in my voice teacher. I lost trust when he turned into my molester.
  • I put trust in healing emotionally. I lost trust when I woke up in an ICU months later.
  • I put trust in my physical recovery. I lost trust with every medical setback.
When I didn’t know what else to trust, I put trust in my roots – the solid, family foundation that I had growing up.  I felt the support of my family around me.  I thought of my grandparents, and their overflowing love, generosity, and indomitable spirits.

Sometimes, the best way to find the inner strength to trust, is to channel the strength of those that came before you. 

So, that’s where I took my theatrical investigation: back to my roots.

Finding Trust in Your Roots

As the granddaughter of holocaust survivors, I looked to their strength and spirit for my own survival in the ICU. Now, I looked to them again to redefine “trust.”  I compiled a collection of oral history interviews with my grandmother’s surviving relatives from Belgium to Brooklyn, from Israel to California, about their own experience of the war, and my relatives near and far from ages 19 to 89 about their memories of my grandparents’ outlook on life

What was most fascinating to me was that every member of the family claimed they didn’t “remember” anything, yet they all seemed to carry piece of the family narrative, and in stringing them together, I was able to link the missing pieces and construct an extraordinary journey of my family’s survival, and what true “trust” really meant, in their journey through persecution, betrayal, and rebuilding their lives in America.


This brought me back to my own journey of survival at 18, the same age of my Grandmother in Auschwitz.


I was in the Columbia Presbyterian ICU at 18 – the same age that my Grandmother was in Auschwitz.  In the ICU, I had looked to her spirit for inner strength, waiting for the day I could see her again.  Thinking of her gave me the courage to trust the world again and look forward to my physical and spiritual recovery.

But my grandparents passed away before I had regained my own health, and I never saw them again.  After their deaths, I  lost trust in everything again  – even in feeling my emotions. It was safer to be numb.

Losing Trust in Emotions: The Scariest Thing to Lose

After my grandparents died, life felt like a void with no feelings and no trust in anything.  Years later, when I finally allowed myself to grieve my grandparents’ deaths, and feel – however painful it was – I found trust in the world again, because in those tears, I found my self.  I realized true trust comes from inside.

And in trusting mySelf, I rediscovered my connection to the world, and to others around me.  I realized along with the many things you can’t trust in life, there are many things, and people, you can trust…

…like my mother, who slept by my side in the ICU, went through this entire journey with me.

My Mother and Trust

I started conducting interviews my mother on what it was like for her growing up with Holocaust survivor parents. These interviews eventually evolved into a dialogue about women-hood, families, legacy, and our own relationship thus far.


Soon, I had almost two hundred pages of interviews with just my mother alone. I was prompted to reflect on our  relationship over the years – always close, then enmeshed to various degrees:

Just like I had gone from teen to medical patient to survivor to various other roles within ten years, my mother had worn many hats as well:


Redefining Trust

I combined these mother-daughter interviews with my own journaled narratives of betrayal when I was sexually abused by my voice teacher.  Then, I interwove my own beautiful family memories, with what it was like waking up from a coma and losing trust in everything.

And how, just by journeying together, my mother and I regained trust…in every-thing – including ourselves.


In weaving all of these discoveries together, not only am I creating theatre, I’m creating a new definition of trust for myself.

And that is how I found my answer to: Why do we keep trusting? And why should we keep trusting?

Here’s Why We (should) Trust

Because trust isn’t something you ever lose.  But without it in our lives, we’re lost.

When our trust in the world shatters, it shatters and spreads like a holy spark of light.

Trust shatters, but it doesn’t die. It isn’t lost.  You have to travel into the darkness to reclaim each shattered shard, one by one.

Then, you reassemble those shattered pieces into a new, beautifully solid form: Trust, reimagined.


How to Re-Create Trust

Theatre has certainly reimagined my own concept of trust.  In fusing these oral history interviews with original music, my mixed media artwork, old journals, family memories, and my own personal narrative, I’m creating a new play which will fuse documentary theatre, solo performance, and multimedia storytelling.

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That’s how you reimagine trust: You become an artist, and make a mosaic out of the shattered pieces of broken trust.


If we want to rediscover trust, we ALL have to become artists and put those shattered pieces back together in a different way. Anyone can be an artist, and everyone deserves to have trust.

 Trust will never stay the same, but it’s always around

My mother and I were discharged from the hospital together in 2006 with no road map. By finally allowing my grandmother’s spirit to guide us, we could move forward and learn to trust again.

When you don’t know where to find trust on the road ahead, sometimes it helps to look behind you. Thanks Grandma.

And inside you.


Thanks, Theatre.

Amy is currently seeking collaborators on her new solo performance project, which you can learn more about at  Catch her touring her award-winning one-woman musical,Gutless & Grateful, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide, and in NYC this year.  You can also watch her TEDx Talk, take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her mixed media art, speaking, and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at

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