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Rising Stars: Meet Tobin Mitnick

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tobin Mitnick.

Hi Tobin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I’ve always had a penchant for getting obsessed with various stuff in nature–my childhood was basically trees, sharks, mineralogy, weather. Some of this springs from growing up in the woods of Pennsylvania. But some of it is influenced by the heavy bent that Judaism has towards nature symbology. Like a lot of people, I found a lot of my formal religious education tedious, but the parts about the connection between Judaism and the natural world always entranced me–especially the connection between trees and knowledge and age and time suffused into stories about the mythical King David and incorporated into holidays such as Tu B’shevat. I always wanted to be an actor, so I went to school in New York, did the bartender thing, then moved out to LA in 2015 after booking some good work and thinking that things were taking off. But it turns out it’s pretty tough to transfer cities in this business. I fell into some dark places as things began to bottom out for me here, and it culminated in getting an OCD diagnosis in early 2019. But this helped me to understand that I needed to be constantly indulging positive obsessions–running, nature, history–in order to keep any bad ones from clawing their way in. So I began to rediscover the trees that fascinated me as a child in Pennsylvania–redwoods, sequoias–in the place where they actually live.

And I began to practice bonsai as well, which is a remarkable world in and of itself but allows us a happy medium between the prohibitive hugeness of trees and the desire to understand them in an artistic context. When the pandemic hit, my wife and I got pregnant. Suddenly there were all these questions that needed answering for my child: will she have a world to explore as I do? How can I be an example to her even as an actor who barely works? What values do I want to transmit to her, even as the world outside falls to pieces? So I decided to go back to my roots, so to speak, and simply make really specific content on social media. I started with the idea of sharing who I was and what I loved–being a Jew who loved trees–and it led me to making a ton of content wherein I could draw on most of my skills as an actor, my inclinations as a naturalist, and my identity as an American Jew in 2021. So that’s where I am now–making humorous, grounded, fact-based content about a marvelous world that I choose not to give up on. And I’m finding that a lot of people feel the same way. It’s exciting to see that so many adults–people who are dealing with all types of immeasurable pain right now–are, deep down, a bunch of kids who still have a desire to know why a tree is special and why we so often see ourselves and our stories in them. And maybe when they can leave their apartments and their houses again, they can go seek out the truth for themselves.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No. When you equate work as an actor with self-worth–which is a nearly impossible notion to dispel–and you don’t get any, it obviously wreaks havoc on you. As does the challenge of having a mental health condition which can cause you to self-sabotage and make life difficult for those who love you. As does the inability to share the joy of your pregnancy and your newborn in person with her grandparents, cousins, and friends. As does the everyday anxiety of wanting to help the world while feeling as though its problems are too great for you to make a difference.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a professional actor, I’m most proud of a film I worked on with some wonderful people that came out a few years back called “Hollidaysburg”. But personally, I’m most proud of a one-man show that I did in the HollywoodFringe 2019, which explored the relationship between the psychological predators on the internet who tend to couch their maliciousness in seriousness and the effect that this can have on your mental health. I have a TikTok account @jewslovetrees, wherein I look at trees through a comedic lens and hopefully find that their majesty, their humor, their history, and their metaphorical effects on us are all more intense than we might imagine.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Trees are remarkable. If you want to make a difference in a burning world, start with one tree. Take it in as you would a person. Give it your attention and your concentration. Examine how it works. Look and feel each individual part wrought by millions of years of evolution. I challenge you to come away without a personal connection to it and a renewed sense of hope and peace that you can take with you into the fray.

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Tobin Mitnick

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