Rolling Out the Write Ups – Great Opening, Panel, Reading, and Review

If you don’t keep up with events, they’ll pass you right by in whir. It’s been a whir. Much to report on and we’re soon to post Shirley’s write-up of our first Roundtable discussion, the pre-opening Sunday talk-back on “Women and Children in the Wars of Man” moderated by HONEY BROWN EYES director Jessica Lefkow. But Sunday was also about opening with gusto, with a warm pre-show reception for our Producing Angels, our playwright and director, and then a great post-opening party with lots of rejoicing. My favorite comment came from a mutual friend of both the director and my wife (who’s been away far too long overseas for work), a produced screenwriter living in Bethesda who took in her first Theater J opening night party and said, “this place has an amazing spirit! It’s totally different from anyplace else I’ve been in DC.” We kinda feel the same way. It’s a good home always and a great home frequently when the work is rich and the worries lift and the art is deeply appreciated by an audience hanging on every word, responding in the most satisfying of ways, as our opening night audience did, with laughter, sighs of dread and fear, hushed silence, and collective release by evening’s end. The stars aligned on Sunday night and the play played just as we wanted it to.

Our first Ethics and War reading took place 24 hours later. It was equally shocking, graphic in its stylized performance of a simulated interrogation process leading, eventually, to an onstage waterboarding re-enactment playing in counterpoint to testimony of Stephen Bradbury from the Office of Legal Council of the Executive Branch, explaining and not explaining the administration’s use of alternative interrogation techniques. Hats off to Jeffrey Sichel, Marietta Hedges, and the team of grad students from Catholic University (Jason Burke, Brian MacDonald, and Eli Sibley) who helped create the totally persuasive re-enactment, complete with orange jumpsuit, black hood, waterboard, and ever watchful TV monitor (with tapes that might soon be destroyed, just as the actual CIA tapes of the waterboarding interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda, and Abd al Rahim Nashiri were destroyed before they could be handed over to the House oversight committee).

And zigging backward to Sunday morning, lest that too pass by in a whir, I drove out to Reston, Virginia to give a keynote for ORT’s Annual Woman of Valor Award luncheon honoring recipient Michaele Battles. ORT is the Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training, the largest network of vocational training in the world, founded in Czarist Russia 120 years ago. I was asked to give a talk on Representations of Israel on the American Stage and came up with something about our theater’s evolving relationship with Israel, as we fashion visions of its past, its future, and negotiate an understanding of the present. Showed clips from our experiences producing Motti Lerner’s PANGS OF THE MESSIAH, a watershed production from 2007 which gets picked up on in Peter Marks’ review of HONEY BROWN EYES.

The ORT talk allowed me to speak of ten years worth of producing visions of Israel (its past, present and future) on our stage and made me appreciate the accumulating body of work we’re assembling with our productions of work like EXILE IN JERUSALEM (produced in 1998), VIA DOLOROSA (which launched our first Voices from a Changing Israel festival in 2000) with workshops of Amos Oz’s IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL, THE MURDER OF ISAAC, and MIKLAT (which would become a hit comedy for us in 2002), as we then moved on in 2003 to FROM TEL AVIV TO RAMALLAH: A BEATBOX JOURNEY.

Our more recent “Voices From a Changing Middle East” Festival is copiously documented on this blog in entries spanning the summer of 2007. And we looked to the coming festival this winter to unveil even more compelling looks at the present in THE ACCIDENT, DAI, and PLONTER…

So the head was in Israel in the morning, in the Balkans in the afternoon and evening, and the next night, we were in America, in Guantanamo, bringing it all back home.

Speaking of… It’s all about the review, isn’t it? In this case, not really. Yes, the review’s good — it’s very good, our first one and it’s a strong endorsement from Mr. Marks in the Post. But it’s not the reason we’re doing all this work. The work is what it’s “all about.” The consideration of that work and the issues it connects us to. This morning after the whir of opening, talking, reading, eating and drinking our way through a theatrical glut, it’s all about “doing theater that matters” as the end in itself. And we’re happy to be given that opportunity.

The review’s here. We’ll post it again, in its own entry, soon enough.