The World Turns

Nothing but news these days (outside the rehearsal room, that is). Obama’s speech in Cairo; an enthusiastic initial reception, and then, lo and behold, the vexed, perplexed, and ultimately outraged response from (part of) the Jewish community – that the President slighted Israel – that he showed the sole of his shoe to the camera while speaking with PM Netanyahu – that he neglected to mention the Jews in exile from Arab lands – that prohibiting the “natural growth” of Settlements was akin to Pharoh issuing the decree to kill the first born in all Egyptian Jewish households – as (a part of) the Jewish community rallies behind Charles Krauthammer’s blistering critique of an Obama who refuses to dictate US will to any of our enemies; only to Israel will he unequivocally lay down the law (“no settlements”). The President travels to Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel and delivers a pitch perfect commemoration–and Elie Wiesel is even more moving speaking of his father, the last time he saw him, which was well before the last time he heard him, calling for him, but young Elie was too scared to turn to him; Obama’s wisdom in giving Wiesel the last word. A President who understands the power of memory, who respects the Jewish response to a history of anti-Semitism, who is then criticized for suggesting that Zionism rises from the ravages of anti-Semitic Europe, as opposed to being rooted in a biblical connection to the land for 5,000 years. The criticism coming from our community (again, parts of it) is now withering, upsetting, and morally wrong. But I don’t say that. I can’t say that. So I won’t. Thus the silence. A theater for our (divided) community takes the high-ground (ostensibly) and so censors the impulse to comment — until it leaks out — like now — accidentally, unintentionally. Ours is not to comment on the news. Except that art holds up a mirror to our behavior, no? So have we abrogated a responsibility in not speaking out sooner? In not reflecting the cacophony more closely? I’ve read oodles of excellent entries on blogs — our friend Arthur Hessel has one here, while Jeffrey Goldberg is lapping the field with extraordinary daily blogs bringing issues to the fore from all over–most compelling have been his postings on the shooting at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. And most fascinating for us, in the midst of the terrible tragedy befalling the security guard, Officer Johns, who saved lives by risking and giving his own, is the spotlight that’s been accorded the play ANNE AND EMMETT, by Janet Langhart Cohen, that we’ve helped to develop over the past 6 months (note our weeklong workshop and public reading on February 18, 2009), with the resulting publicity for the play extending all the way to Australia.

Meanwhile we listen to right wing radio on the way to BWI and hear of our socialist president’s “soft tyranny” and we wonder about the connection between all this vitriol being spewed (both from the pro-life right and the spoiled american jewish teenagers touring Yerushalim blabbering racist remarks and violent threats–see the widely circulating youtube video) and the resulting lone-wolf murders of the past two weeks (many more articles like this a coming). Goldberg’s blog is right to remind us of the tenacity and perniciousness of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel feelings that drive racists to murderous actions and that give ballast to Jewish and Zionist protectionist impulses. No wonder we’re so divided. No wonder we feel and we seethe and we agitate but we keep our activist’s mouth shut. Besides, we’re in rehearsal. And it’s quiet on our wires these days–no one responding to quaint examples of mini-rewrites. And so we reflect upon what’s going on around us as we hone our art. Which will bring us to a much more relevant posting momentarily, from our dear artist in residence this season, actor Alexander Strain. A much more artful kind of soul-searching. And we’ll return to this adapter’s search some other day.