Dialogues Abound!

From Stephen Stern:

It’s been an eventful month and more in the life of Theater J, in this town and nationally and internationally, and in the life of my family. I’ve been caught up in working with Shirley and Ari in putting together the post-show discussions on the “Voices from a Changing Middle East” shows – and on my own March 23 theatrical contribution, working with Akbar Ahmed and our creative team to get Waziristan to Washington: A Muslim at the Crossroads ready for performance.

Tonight, The Accident opens. Here’s another rave! Run and go see it! You will be blown away by another Israeli-American collaboration –one that searingly combines the delicious, insidious sensibility on couples and family relationships of the Patrick Marber/Mike Nichols film Closer with a multi-layered look inside a dynamic part of Israeli society (a la Pangs of the Messiah). In this instance, its the world of Tel Aviv professionals facing their own moral compromises.

The last posts from Ari and Shirley open up the vast territory of the intense, engaged post-show discussions of this and the previous show, Iris Bahr’s Dai. (a portrait of varied lives surging through a Tel Aviv café in a time of terror). Let me just say for now that our discussions are sizzlin’ and there’s one on the pressures on documentary film-making this afternoon. Ari, in his blog post, wrestles with the Washington POST’s blurb simplifying (dumbing down?) the achievement of The Accident to an “indictment of modern Israeli culture”. The theater’s press release sees it as “a reflection of the way we live now” — that is — an introspection of moral dilemmas embodied in vivid characters and all that they face – or indeed, run away from. Shirley – in hearing the brilliant, funny, disturbing responses of Thursday’s panel of social activists to the “moral dyslexia” of these characters and our own moral questioning- “wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry or scream.”

Our festival opened in the final week of this round of response to the threat to Israel’s south, the raging devastation of a military operation in Gaza. As a new American President, facing devastating challenges and offering determination and hope, was inaugurated in front of 2 million of our closest friends on the Mall. An incredible kick-start to theatrical life onstage that speaks to the gut – and the public introspections of characters, of ideologies, of our own moral dilemmas that Theater J offers. As we continue to plan and book discussions (check out the website), we’ll write again on moral dilemmas and the life choices of our characters onstage, and the discussions by our passionate panelists.

I can’t be at Accident opening tonight (break a leg, Sinai and all) as my daughter Sarah graduates from high school today, but I’ll be back many times, I will have a few things to say – and hope I am able to enable a lot of you to say even more. We’ll all be morally torn by what we see onstage and in the world, what we discuss. I am not an optimist, but I am filled with hope.

A last indulgence (for now.) Sarah (the Award-winner in her graduating class for both art AND writing – don’t tell her I told you) came to me a month ago very upset by callous responses among the classmates at her jewish day school to the suffering in Gaza. Could I bring someone to the school’s “Diversity Dialogues Club” to speak of the stories, of the needs of both peoples? So Lara Friedman, the estimable policy director of Americans for Peace Now, trekked with me to the wilds of Rockville, to encounter the quandaries of 15 students and three teachers – told her truth and heard theirs. A dream of frank discussion fulfilled there and on the stage at Theater J. I know that Sarah goes off for her three months in Israel equipped (well, can we be sure that are children, that ourselves, are fully equipped) to face the choices she must face, to hear all the stories that are there to be heard, to create her own. Travel safely Sinai, travel safely Sarah.


3 thoughts on “Dialogues Abound!

  1. Thanks for the comment esthermiriam. I am glad you responded to the show and the discussion. I quickly scanned the back and forth in response to the blogging couple (actually the husband who blogged) contemplating aliyah, scared by “moral extremism” that they felt in today’s Israel, divided within about their strong feelings. My personal sympathies are with those who responded, saying Israel needs you, I feel your pain about making aliyah — but deeply resonate with your connection. But many of the bravos for their criticism overlooked the connection and were ugly and snide on Israel and dismissive of the whole Zionist project. End of March, I’ll be visiting Israel for the first time since 2006. For critics and lovers alike, I say go — you’ll find like-minded people who’ll deepen you throughts, but also people who don’t think like you at all who might even broaden them.

    So short of visiting Israel (or as a prelude) I suggest people get off the internet (hey you too Stephen, I’ll see y’all later) and check out live discussions at Theater J in which the deepest of criticisms can speak to the deepest of connections — or at least really try to listen. (That’s us at our best. Join us).

  2. Stephen– it is great to know you are one of the world’s peacemakers and an evocate of dialogue even with those we may not agree with.


    Darryl Brooks – Seattle, WA
    The Athenian School ’81

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