It’s not very festive to admit this, but we’re in a season when “change” seems to be brandishing its implied threats more heavily than its promises of progress. What if things are worse—much worse—on the other side? What if there is less stability and less peace, fewer opportunities and fewer reasons for hope?
I’ve been carrying around this anxiety for months, and so I couldn’t help but bring it to our photo shoot with Natasha Lyonne—an actress I’ve long admired for the combination of intellectual sharpness, magnetic vulnerability, and unpredictable bitchiness that I’ve flattered myself into believing is the mark of all former yeshiva girls. In fact, a smart analyst might even say it was this anxiety that inspired me to approach her for the cover in the first place. (OK, fine. A smart analyst did say that.)
Natasha, as it turned out, knew exactly what to do with nervous energy: She used it as fuel. And not as fuel for just anything—she used it to power a series of pictures precisely about transformation. In her hands, Barbra Streisand’s classic movie Yentl—a modern Ur-text about the porousness of not only gender roles but all identity formations—becomes a hopeful allegory for our own time. It’s an homage to the way human beings, and maybe women and Jews most specifically, have addressed the inevitability of change: by encouraging our past to inform our hoped-for future, and by then riding the wave—if not to our exact destination, then at least in its general direction.
In addition to her knockout role as Nicky Nichols in Jenji Kohan’s comic prison drama Orange Is the New Black, Lyonne starred in this summer’s The Intervention and produced and starred in the film Antibirth, opposite Chloe Sevigny, being released this month. And she is in the process of co-producing a comedy series with Amy Poehler for BBC America based on the hit Israeli film Zero Motivation. The 2014 black comedy about female army recruits at a remote base in southern Israel premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival—where it received two awards, and then won six Ophirs, Israel’s version of the Oscars.
By plumbing history and tradition to make a point about the future, Natasha manages to make me feel both grounded and ready to move on. So, welcome, 5777. May we all find the strength and clarity to make you bring us peace, and joy, and progress.