DAVID TABATSKY was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, a hardscrabble town in the heart of America’s forlorn industrial sector. He began running and speaking in Warren, Ohio, and spent most of his formative years in New England. As a child, David developed a passion for impersonating Zorro and Superman. In spite of these manly aspirations, he played the role of Hansel in a first grade production of Hansel and Gretel, thus whetting his appetite for the theatre. In the summer of 1964, he portrayed Jonathan Banks in a full-scale production of Mary Poppins, and the following year he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Both productions were performed entirely in Hebrew under the direction of some of Israel’s best theatre artists.
At the age of 13, David voluntarily celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, a rite of passage in the Jewish tradition and his introduction to the wild and wonderful world of the buffet lunch. His own father, a Cantor and spiritual leader of the community, taught him as only a father can. It was, perhaps, the peak of David’s religious upbringing. Growing up in the 60's against a backdrop of war (Vietnam and Israel, to name just two), assassinations and a shifting moral climate challenged the foundation of most teenagers’ cultural connections and David was no exception. However, seizing the opportunity to leave home on weekends and summers, David remained active in Jewish youth groups (USY, LTF, Camp Ramah) on local, regional and national levels. He organized conventions, demonstrations and theatre productions. Somehow, David graduated from Manchester Connecticut) High School in 1972, firmly ensconced in the middle of his class.
David attended Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, completing his Bachelor’s Degree, cum laude, with major studies in film, television and radio—as well as theatre and dance—with intensive training in class- ical, modern and radical techniques. During this time he complimented his studies with work in a number of local professional theatres on Long Island. He performed in a wide variety of plays for adults and children, exhibiting a flair for eccentric character roles and high-
energy fantasy figures. He played roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet, the Tutor in Medea, the Hobo in Winterset, Walter Mitty in Thurber Carnival, Brer Rabbit in The Tales of Brer Rabbit, Owl in Winnie the Pooh and Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer.
At the relatively late age of 21, David learned to juggle three balls and began to study mime. This opened up many new doors for him into the world of circus arts (as well as women’s hearts), and he pursued both paths with a passion. Pantomime and clowning became a more flexible means of expression, and through ensemble work, street performing and original solo performances, David found more and more avenues for work in New England and New York. After graduating college, David moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and worked throughout the northeast, acting, performing solo, directing and teaching. He received a number of local, state and national grants to perform and teach acting, mime, clowning and general circus arts at institutions such as the University of Connecticut, the Hartford Conservatory, the City of Hartford Public Schools, Wesleyan University and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. While working under a federal C.E.T.A. grant for performing arts, David was invited to create and perform the title role in Till Eulenspiegel, the tone poem by Richard Strauss, on a custom-built stage with the Manchester Symphony Orchestra. David performed and produced a series of shows at The Hartford Stage Company and The Protean Theatre, including Catch the Comic Dancing, A Throbbing Heart & Other Love Muscles, Is the World All F!?!ed Up?, Sex, Clowns & Politics, and Why is the Sky Blue & Other Major Mysteries.
In 1981, David ran a strangely successful campaign for Mayor of Hartford. Although he technically lost the election, his political efforts—and satirical entertainment along the campaign trail—helped produce Hartford’s largest voter turnout in history. Despite losing the election by dubious means, David departed Hartford with no discernible wounds or hard feelings and headed for the concrete pastures of New York City.
David attended the Actor’s Institute on Fifth Avenue at 19th Street to work with the renowned Dan Fauci and studied movement with the legendary Bill Irwin. Just two months after arriving in town he performed solo at The Newfoundland Theatre. David subsequently became very busy in the New Vaudeville scene and participated in the first New York Clown Theatre Festival, hosting an evening of shorts. He performed with ensembles such as The Bond Street Theatre Coalition and The No Elephant Circus and toured extensively with a partner, Bette LaRusso, as Vaudeville Heaven. David also appeared solo at the Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall and Lincoln Center. He teamed with Will Shaw to become a familiar sight for New Yorkers and tourists alike, street performing in Central Park, Demo Square in the West Village and The South Street Seaport, as well as on cruise ships in Panama and in the Caribbean. Eventually, David returned to acting and played the horse thief, Osip, in an Off-Broadway production of Chekhov’s Platonov.
By 1986—after chasing a chicken (literally) in a Burger King commercial (to pay the rent) and enduring a few too many Bar Mitzvah gigs—it was time for a change. David traveled to Tokyo and, out of the blue, established a career there as a variety artist, performing on the streets, in theatres, hotels, department stores, festivals and amusement parks––as a soloist, with his partner, Zip, and as part of the traveling Noge Festival. He feels lucky to have experienced much of Japan, performing throughout the country and establishing lasting friendships.
The following year, David also lived in Paris, working with the famed Fratellini Circus; and in southern Holland and Amsterdam, performing in cabaret theatres. He also returned to New York to perform his solo show at NADA.
David returned to America and Adelphi University, graduating in 1989 with a Masters Degree in Educational Theatre, 4.0 G.P.A. (not to brag, but this is a self- promoting website). He directed an all-female cast in a production of Waiting for Godot and debuted his autobiographical solo play, Running in Place. During this period, David taught Circus Arts at Bloomfield College in New Jersey and was the juggling and clowning Instructor for the New York School for Circus Arts of the Big Apple Circus at P.S. 109 in East Harlem. The following year, David taught Theatre and Circus Arts and directed two productions for The Governors Magnet School in Norfolk, Virginia, the first performing arts magnet school in the United States.
In 1991, David went back to Germany, where he had previously performed in theatre festivals, variete houses and on German television—with astonishing results. The Berliner Morgenpost called David “a skilled juggler and an effervescent comedian," adding, "Tabatsky doesn’t joke. He tells stories, like the ‘wild and crazy guy’ Steve Martin, with a deeper
meaning, like George Carlin and, a dry Jewish humor like Woody Allen.” In a glowing front-page review, The Berliner Zeitung described his program as “an Oedipus drama Woody Allen himself could not have directed any better.”
David made his home in Berlin, and began teaching variety artists at die Etage, a professional training school. He co-wrote, choreographed and directed a family circus theatre piece, Taborka, which is still running at the iconic Tempodrom. He also began a run of solo shows at the Scheinbar, a landmark of Berlin’s fringe theatre scene; the Bar Jeder Vernunft and at the Chamaleon, the first commercial variety house in the former East Berlin. He appeared there in a duet with the celebrated clown, Hacki Ginda, and in the long-running production, TheHotel Show. David hosted numerous Mitternachtshows at the Schmidt Theater in Hamburg, located on the famed Reeperbahn, and worked there with two ensembles. After his show at the Cologne Comedy Festival, the Cologne Stadtanzeiger called David "an extremely sharp satirist, a clown satirizing an entertainer who would like to be an acrobat who is really a reborn dadaist.”
Bible and how it intersects with modern television. He was fortunate to perform these shows in the historic theatres of the UFA Fabrik in Berlin. He also wrote two editions of What’s Cool Berlin, a comic travel guide and renegade dissertation on life in Germany’s capital beyond The Wall. Both books sold out.
Somehow, in the middle of 1994—to the surprise of many, including himself—David got married. He and singer Ute Lemper had a son named Max, and moved to Paris where their daughter, Stella, was born in 1996. In between changing diapers and driving Max around in circles until he fell asleep, David performed in Paris at the legendary Follies Pigalle, as well as the Theatre du Lucernaire, Theatre de la Potiniere and Les Bleu Monteaux. (It is important to note that David performed in all of these venues without the benefit of speaking anything one could safely call French. Yet, still, he succeeded, which only goes to prove that the French know much more English than they let on; or they are way more polite than their reputation suggests; or they were merely drunk and nodding off and David didn't notice that they were using a laugh track.)
After crossing the English Channel in 1997, David thoroughly enjoyed frolicking through London with two very young children and was fortunate to perform there in theatres such as The New End, The Gatehouse, Southwark Playhouse, and the Canal Café Theatre. He performed his original solo show, True Stories & Other Bullsh!t, to critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Stage described David as “a supremely skillful performer and a fine actor...he reaches levels which no other comics have matched at this Fringe.” Ironically, immediately after reading that review, David moved back to New York with his family. After performing at The Producers Club, David decided to take a break from performing and devote himself primarily to parenting.
For the next five years, David stayed home to raise his kids while continuing to write and teach. He taught theatre and circus arts at the United Nations International School, Bard College, The Gene Frankel Theatre, and for various public and private schools in the metropolitan area through arts organizations such as The Henry Street Settlement, Oasis Children’s Services and Hospital Audiences, among others. He became a guest faculty member in the Performing Arts Department of Adelphi University, where he still teaches clowning and circus arts and occasionally directs black box productions.
David has wrote and directed a one-woman show, A Whole Lotte Lenya, starring opera singer and orchestral soloist Linn Maxwell as the legendary Austrian icon, which debuted in 2004 at The Gene Frankel Theatre in New York, and has since been performed at Cornell University, Georgetown University and Yale University, to name a few. In 2007, David wrote Standing in the Fuhrer’s Slippers, which will debut in 2010.
He was honored to be the Consulting Editor for Marlo Thomas' bestselling book, The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn! (Atria Books, 2006). He is also completing a memoir on Japan, writing a children's theatre textbook, and creating a new performance piece on parenthood, based in part upon his research with The Fatherhood Project.
David is a member of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO), Actors Equity Association and The Screen Actors Guild. He was listed in the 2005 edition of Who’s Who in America. That, and a bottle of codeine, will get him to the corner of his street, where he can currently be seen hailing a taxi to destinations unknown. David lives in Manhattan with his children, Max and Stella.
For more information, please take a moment to visit David's website. Wait a minute. This is his website. For more information,please take a moment to actually navigate your way through it. And, congratulations on making it to the end of David's biography. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. And, then he lost his watch. To be continued.