The “Goy of the Month” series will feature awesome NON-Jews of the Twin Cities. They might not be members of the Tribe, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
This month, I present Peter Guertin, musical director of the historic Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater in Minneapolis. Guertin has been the BNW’s Maestro for over 20 years, composing and performing the music for the theater’s celebrated sketch-comedy revues. Guertin also underscores the cast’s nightly improv shows– a unique, impressive, and often under-appreciated skill that few others can match. I first met Pete when I served as the Technical Director of the theater, my first job out of college. Recently, we met for brunch at the Egg and I Diner on Lyndale Avenue.
Max Leibowitz: So Pete, how does it feel to be the inaugural “Goy of the Month?”
Peter Guertin: (laughs) You can’t help but be honored. And bewildered. Oy veh.
ML: So, throughout this series, I’ll be interviewing Goys-
PG: You mean Goyim?
ML: Yes, goyim. That is the plural. That’s very good!
PG: I know my way around.
ML: I’ll be interviewing goyim about their experiences with the Jewish community in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Didn’t you once tell me that you dated a Jewish girl?
PG: I’m going to get in trouble for this.
ML: No you’re not!
PG: The answer is “yes.” Well, kind of. If you could call it dating. We had a relationship.
ML: Anything special about that relationship?
PG: So, here’s the deal. I didn’t know she was Jewish, because…it never occurred to me. So we had lunch one day –brown bag lunch– and she pulled out a deli sandwich. And I said, “What the hell is that?”
ML: You had never been exposed to deli?
PG: I said, “I’ve never had this before. I’ve never even heard of this. Pastrami? Why are you eating this?” She said, “Well, this is what Jews eat.” Suddenly, I had the realization: “I didn’t know you were Jewish!” And that was my first experience with the Jewish community.
ML: Have you encountered Jews in the musical scene?
PG: Well, I was briefly the music director for Temple Israel.
ML: Really? I didn’t know that!
PG: It was for one show, about ten years ago. I got the gig through an alum of the Brave New Workshop. I asked him, “What show do you want to do?” And he said, “South Pacific. It’s a great show.”
ML: Classic. So Temple Israel.
PG: What initially struck me was that the kids were almost always 15-2o minutes late. So, I remember calling my old girlfriend-
ML: The Pastrami Girlfriend?
PG: I called up the Pastrami Girlfriend and asked her why everyone was always late. She said, “Well, that’s Jewish [Standard] Time.” Now, help me out here, Max. Is that true?
ML: It sounds like an unfortunate mix-up of already untrue stereotypes.
PG: That’s what I thought. I also remember one student in particular who didn’t want to do the show. He hated it and didn’t want to be in it. He wanted to do Grease or something.
PG: So he just sabotaged the show. I’d teach him the songs, and he would sing them really badly. I asked him, “Why don’t you quit?” He said, “My parents won’t let me quit, so this is my way of getting out of it.”
ML: Now that is a Jewish thing.
PG: How do you mean?
ML: If your parents want you to do musical theater, you’re doing musical theater. Period.
PG: Sure seemed like it.
ML: Anything else you’d like to add as the “Goy of the Month?”
PG: Next year in Jerusalem!
You can catch Peter with the Brave New Workshop’s latest revue, “50 Shades of Gravy”, which runs through May 2nd.
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