A Review, A Feature, A Breakthrough and a Decision (to be made)

Shall I tell you how crazy wonderful things are here at Theater J? Tuesday was enough under control, amidst all the activity, with matters all very well organized by our extraordinary staff, that I made my way to New York to see a quick try-out workshop of Amy Ziff’s ACCIDENT at Ars Nova. ACCIDENT, of course, comes to Theater J in September and because there’s a brand new director working with Amy on it, I needed to catch up with it before we all disperse for August. So up I went. I’m thrilled I did. We’ll talk more about the antics in ACCIDENT in blogs to come. The bottom line is I went up, I laughed, got choked up, was utterly relieved to see the sold out crowd embrace the play, and then stayed to share thoughts and shmooze up new director Rebecca Asher and in the process decided to skip the 10:05 pm train home and instead came back on a 3 AM train and pulled into DC at 7 AM. In time for a 9 AM appoinrtment, a 10 AM meeting with Council Co-Chairs and an 11 AM working session with Aaron Davidman whose brand new performance piece, CHASING JUSTICE/SEEKING TRUTH bowed in this evening at 9 pm with its first ever public performance. 40-some people were there. The piece received a standing ovation.

It’s a breakthrough in so many ways, consolidating into a tight 80 minutes so many personal struggles articulated by Aaron about the challenge of supporting and criticizing Israel, wresting with contemporary controversies like the Rachel Corrie conflict and its troubled reception and the rightward drift within the Jewish community. keep reading
The play’s belly is a travelogue to Israel where Aaron deftly captures a cohort of voices representing a diverse but always thoughtful and provocative range of experiences within Israel and the Territories.

The drama of our collaboration centered on the inclusion of material about Daniel Pearl. Was there a place for the story of Daniel’s life, death and legacy? Was there a point to be made about the twin deaths of Ame? Check out Aaron’s negotiation of this associative elegy — his interview in particular with the slain journalist’s father, Judea Pearl, and then see why the play turned out to be as fulfilling, and moving, as it did.

There are two article on page 5 of the Post Style section this morning. One’s a feature about Dr. Akbar Ahmed and Thursday’s reading of NOOR. And the other’s a very nice review (who knew there were critics in the house?) of ARIEL SHARON HOVERS BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH AND DREAMS OF THEODOR HERZL. Very pleased for David, and very happy about the long article about Akbar and what his play is doing in our festival.

Finally, we’re approaching D-Day – Decision Day about whether we’re able to extend PANGS OF THE MESSIAH, bringing it back into performances for 3 weeks beginning August 28. I don’t quite have every last piece in place, but we’re close.

The question: Will people come back? Are there enough inquiring souls who’ll find their way to us, having been unable to attend thus far? I’m nervous about the expensive decision to bring the play baclk. But I also feel in my bones that it’s an important work; a signature calling-card production for our theater. But we could lose thousands of dollars and squander our gains from the summer.

And I’ve been wrong before. And right. Perhaps there isn’t a big enough audience demand to see the show? Anyone out there have any advice? We’d love to hear a mandate that will make our decision that much easier. But right now, we all remain torn between optimism and anxious realism. Which kind of describes my last ten seasons at Theater J. Which have turned out pretty nicely. So. We’ll see…