Affirming Theater J
The past several months have witnessed a spirited but at times disturbing debate about Theater J and its programming. Some commentators and letters in the press have questioned whether programs that illuminate the diverse and often perplexing issues that confront Jewish life and Israeli politics are an appropriate function for a theater like ours. We continue to believe that open dialogue and an honest exploration of issues of truth, faith and justice have always been a part of Jewish tradition and we remain committed to pursuing such in a fair and artistically professional way.
The purpose of this letter is to provide a clear statement of Theater J’s values, its impact and the vital role it has come to play on the local, national and international stage. Our mission is to provide thought provoking, publicly engaged, personal, and passionate plays that celebrate the distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy. We have mounted world premiers by creative luminaries such as Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Keneally, Robert Brustein and Wendy Wasserstein. During the past several seasons we have produced to critical acclaim the hit Israeli plays “Mikveh” and “Pangs of the Messiah;” cutting edge contemporary work like “In Darfur” and “Honey Brown Eyes;” and American classics like “The Price” and “Lost in Yonkers;” plays that address issues of moral relevance in a world that has grown more complex and fractured.
We have created a community of outstanding artists both national and international who attest that Theater J offers a unique opportunity to expand intercultural and artistic horizons. An important part of this endeavor has been our regular post-performance panel discussions focused on bridge building dialogue among people of different backgrounds and views but committed to shaping a more tolerant and peaceful world. In presenting plays that wrestle with the most compelling issues of our time, Theater J plans to continue these discussions that bring balanced, timely and informed perspectives to our offerings.
Our programming will continue to reflect and respect the deep connection we feel to the people and the State of Israel. We are privileged to be part of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, which showcases multiple artistic disciplines that directly and indirectly elevate our stage and the audiences that come to see our plays.
Theater J has been hailed by the New York Times as “The Premier Theater for Premiers” and has been nominated for over forty Helen Hayes awards. In 2008, the Theater received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Artistic Discipline and has received support from the Theater Communications Group, the Shubert Foundation, and the National Endowment of the Arts. This season we have received critical acclaim for producing “Something You Did”, “Return to Haifa”, “Photograph 51”, and the ‘The Chosen”, the latter performed at the splendidly renovated Arena Stage as that company’s first “Local Guest Company in Residence” production. In his stellar review of “Return to Haifa”, the Washington Post critic, Peter Marks, commented that Theater J had propelled itself “to a new level of engagement with its audience and, perhaps, to the forefront of theaters exposing Americans to drama that stirs the conscience as it illuminates aspects of Jewish culture. “
Looking ahead, Theater J is witnessing a record growth in subscribers for our forthcoming season which will include such exciting and thought-provoking plays as “Imagining Madoff”, “ After the Fall”, “The Whipping Man,” and a special encore run of “New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza”, nominated for three Helen Hayes awards including that of Outstanding Resident Production.
In affirming our Theater we would also like to thank our many subscribers and friends who have given us so much support and encouragement in these past challenging weeks. That our Theater experienced unprecedented success and acclaim during this very same time speaks to the power of art to transform and enrich rather than divide and decry.
– Marion Ein Lewin and Paul Mason, Co-Chairs,
Theater J Council