We’ve been multi-tasking, celebrating, bidding adieu, and shopping like crazy for props and furniture for a new production in the making. Please read this beautiful entry from Steve on his and Jim’s final weekend here in DC with ZERO HOUR, the show that closed this weekend hitting all its marks; making budget, sowing seeds of success for a national hit soon to culminate in Manhattan, a kind of crowning achievement for Jim who’s been making audiences happy for many decades now but somehow, he believes–both he and Steve believe–that ZERO is something special; some kind of pinnacle; and I buy that. We can’t think of a better way to have opened the busy season than with ZERO HOUR.
I even got to perform a little bit of it myself during the Yom Kippur study session at Washington Hebrew Congregation. We were discussing the Drama of Remembrance, Repentance, Reconciliation & Revenge on The American Jewish Stage and I wound up reading from ZERO HOUR’S recapitulation of Zero determining whether he, as a Blacklisted artist, could work ever work with scoundrel-genius, Jerome Robbins, the great choreographer-director who named names and lived to regret a great deal of what he’d done.
“A morbid silence fell over the dressing room. I said, “Do I have to shake his hand?” Hal said “No.” I said, “Do I have to eat with him?” George said, “No.” Hal said, “Will you work with him?” I said, “Of course I’ll work with him. We of the left do not blacklist.”
The extended sequence, with it’s “where there’s smoke, there’s salmon” throw-aways interspersed, got good laughs and the 100 minute talk was well received. So much so I had to do it right again with 15 minutes of break in between. Quite a way to spend a fast day. If I’m able, I’ll take my 20 pages of notes–not withstanding the many pages of quoted sequences from Arthur Miller’s AFTER THE FALL and THE PRICE, and see if a full-blown essay develops. It was better that these notes serve more as talking points with occasional speechifying for what turned out to be a soulful search for a new Jewish Cultural Conscience. In the absence of Miller’s moral voice, whither the Cultural Conscience now? Tony Kushner, it was suggested–and rightly so–occupies a central space in the public square. But he’s been tarred and feathered repeatedly by rightist–and increasingly mainstream–Jewish groups who choose to shove him over to the anti-Israel left, and Tony’s too busy to fight back now. His investment has never been centrally with the Jewish community. He’s had other movements that have needed him more. Same with Miller, of course. So a sustained discourse on our own health–our behavior as a community–hasn’t been that forthcoming. So what yesterday’s double talk (though not at all intended as “double-talk”) was about was trying to cull from Theater J’s 12 year body of recent work, a sustained inquiry into our past, pealing back (as Miller so often did) layer upon layer of sentiment and myth to reveal something closer to painful truth and to allow that process to be cathartic and ultimately binding. Or as I noted,
“to look at the past is a political act. That is, if one confronts the past critically, asking questions of it – its veracity, what we know about it, and to seek to reveal a multi-stranded bedrock of truth – is to reckon with our own moral centers and lay a path toward redemption.”
A fuller version of the talk is to come, I promise. Especially all the fun stuff that pertained to the opening thesis about the rash of Tough Jew Movies–and plays–that have appeared over the past year and a half, from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS – Quentin Tarantino’s counter-factual fantasy (or, as cast member and film maker Eli Roth called it “Kosher Porn” – enacting the ultimate revenge fantasy), to YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN with Adam Sandler, to THE HEBREW HAMMER – starring Adam Goldberg in the Comedy Central TV flick, to DEFIANCE, Ed Zwick’s surprisingly fine film based on Nechama Tec’s book about Tuvia and Zus Bielski (“we must not become like them / But at least we can kill like them.… Our revenge is to live. We may be hunted like animals, but we will not become animals.”) to the plays THE RETRIBUTIONISTS – Daniel Goldfarb, on Abba Kovner and the Avengers and THE ACCOMPLICES – Bernard Weinraub, on Hillel Kook — all these works represent a trend toward Tough Jews Fighting Back. We talked about that problematic premise, inspiring and disheartening all at once, and that’s what led us back to this Quest for Conscience. More to come…
And finally, props! For it’s never a dull moment on email around here. Come see. Our latest purchase. You know how long it took us to find this period authentic pull out sofa bed. FOUR ever!
And the search goes on for more.
Happy October Coming.