from Daniel Ingram
It is impossible to begin responding to the production of Via Dolorosa without first commenting on the words of Sir David Hare and the performance of David Bryan Jackson.
Jackson’s performance left me very impressed. As the lights finally went dark and the music began to play I felt very similar to the closing moments of Let me Down Easy. Both David Bryan Jackson and Anna Deavere Smith have a way of becoming the individuals they are portraying. As an audience member I am no longer viewing them as the actor, but rather the former governor of Texas or a British writer diving headfirst into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Lesser performers who could not so readily thrust themselves fully into the roles could have wasted the profound words of the productions.
Hare’s words take viewers on a personal journey throughout Israel. His descriptions transport you from a dark theater to a different country. I believe that is why this story remains so relevant over 10 years later. Many key characters have changed, and the conflict has evolved (albeit much less than many people would have hoped), but Hare’s narration keeps the story relevant and thought provoking. His most powerful words are about the overall nature of the conflict, not about who exactly said or did what. Phrases like, “I realize, Jews don’t belong here”, “what in the world would you die for now?”
and “there is no peace process” invoke emotional responses.
Therefore, it’s perfect to have a peace café in order to discuss these visceral reactions. In a forum that excludes finger pointing and yelling, complex topics can be discussed. It’s events like this that I always turn to when people questions the overarching values of art. This 90 minute production not only exposes audiences to a seemingly timeless story, but allows for a fruitful discussion of a heatedly debate topic.
Last night it was mentioned that this is one way individuals actually benefit from the conflict. My first reaction to such a statement was to recoil and think, “yes, but it would be so much better if the conflict never existed”. This utopian proposition still seems rather appealing to me, but after much thought, I believe I better understand the claim that was made. If this conflict never existed, the differences and issues may never be discussed. Therefore, it seems a conflict was inevitable due to this underlying tension and differences.
Hare’s play implores, “What’s the way forward? Is there hope”. Peaceful discussions where the issues are addressed rather than ignored or merely fought over seem to be the only way forward. I’m not naïve enough to say everyone just needs to sit down in a room and have a simple chat; but it doesn’t sound like a bad place to begin.
My one and only critique of my night out at Theater J was the length of the performance. I believe an hour-long play would have had just as much power and would have kept the audience more actively engaged.
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Here’s a new comment from Matt Woelfel
There is no other way to start a blog post about this performance than to congratulate David Bryan Jackson for an incredible performance! To memorize that many lines, each for different characters with different tones and intricacies, and then to do it with such conviction left me blown away. It caught me a bit off guard at first (when I had the opportunity to see it first in Ari Roth’s theater class) but once I trained my ear to follow the different characters, it was impressive. At times I even found myself closing my eyes (intentionally) to try and envision what each character might look like to accompany each interpretative voice.
Unlike Emily, I am much more of a stranger to this conflict, but I too focused on the line, “The Jews do not belong here.” I’m not the type of person that caves to others viewpoints just because mine is unpopular or rubs people the wrong way, but it seems that pretty much everyone around Israel, is not too happy about its existence as a country. Obviously there are religious beliefs involved which validate the opinions of both sides, but at the end of the day I might find myself asking is it prudent to be there? Furthermore, I find it a bit hypocritical for Israelis to hold hostage the people of Gaza, when they are so familiar with persecution themselves. They know how destructive and painful it is…but that is a bit too political for this particular Theater J blog entry.
Overall, it was an outstanding performance, and I am grateful for the continuing new experiences I have as a result of this class.