Thinking About Community in Homages to “Our Town” and “All My Sons” – Student First Impressions to “The Admission”

Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at a concept and a dynamic that’s with us all the time but one that we rarely investigate; that of Community. We’re born into a community; we matriculate into others; we choose the communities we wish to identify with and leave the ones we outgrow. For these next few months, we’re looking at the role of theater in building community, celebrating and chronicling community, and in challenging the community to grow, to see itself, to respond. At Theater J, we make theater within the framework of a Jewish Community Center and we yet identify with equal measure to a theater community of both local, national and international dimension. This overlap of one community nestled within another infuses dynamism as well as creative tension which is the coin of the realm when  forging dramas that seek to enlighten and tell us something about who we are as individuals and as a group. The community/crowd-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia, has an entry on “Community” that provides a helpful survey of the range of community conceptions…Unknown-1

Types of community:

Geographic communities: range from the local neighbourhood, suburb, village, town or city, region, nation or even the planet as a whole. These refer to communities of location.

Communities of culture: range from the local clique, sub-culture, ethnic group, religious, multicultural or pluralistic civilisation, or the global community cultures of today. They may be included as communities of need or identity, such as disabled persons, or frail aged people.

Community organizations: range from informal family or kinship networks, to more formal incorporated associations, political decision making structures, economic enterprises, or professional associations at a small, national or international scale.

It also outlines a process by which a deep, or true sense of community evolves:

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Community building and organizing:

In “The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace,” Scott Peck argues that the almost accidental sense of community that exists at times of crisis can be consciously built. Peck believes that conscious community building is a process of deliberate design based on the knowledge and application of certain rules. He states that this process goes through four stages:

Pseudocommunity: The beginning stage when people first come together. This is the stage where people try to be nice, and present what they feel are their most personable and friendly characteristics.

Chaos: When people move beyond the inauthenticity of pseudo-community and feel safe enough to present their “shadow” selves. This stage places great demands upon the facilitator for greater leadership and organization, but Peck believes that “organizations are not communities”, and this pressure should be resisted.

Emptiness: This stage moves beyond the attempts to fix, heal and convert of the chaos stage, when all people become capable of acknowledging their own woundedness and brokenness, common to us all as human beings. Out of this emptiness comes

True community: the process of deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people in this community. This stage Peck believes can only be described as “glory” and reflects a deep yearning in every human soul for compassionate understanding from one’s fellows.

We’re told that building a sense of community may be easy and increasingly temporary (think “flash mobs”), but maintaining this sense of community is much more difficult in our modern isolating world. For all our virtual communities online (all those “liked” facebook pages where we find kindred spirits), we’re “bowling alone” more than ever (to cite Robert Putman) with attendance at club meetings falling 58 percent, family dinners down 33 percent, and having friends visit falling 45 percent over the past 25 years. For all the proliferation of groups, we’re more alone than ever.

Theater brings people together in a manner unique from other art forms. This season, we’re looking at work that holds up a mirror to community dynamics and we, of course, have become the subject of a larger community drama about the role of an artist-driven initiative nestled within a community center. In the comments below, we’re going to hear from new students residing in Washington for the next few months as part of four university-sponsored semesters in Washington. In class, each of these students has described the community he or show was born into and the communities with which each chooses to identify now. We’ve all read Thornton Wilder’s study of community at the turn of the last century in Our Town, and we’ve responded to a contemporary spin on the familial and communal dynamics of a suburban community when their security is threatened in Darrah Cloud’s world premiere play, Our Suburb.

Now we begin to think about community and responsibility; social and individual responsibility and the battling allegiances that may unfold. We’re looking at Arthur Miller’s breakthrough play of 1947, All My Sons. UnknownLike Motti Lerner’s The Admission, it’s the story of two families; it’s the story of a father and son and that war-ravaged son’s older brother, killed in war. There is a plea and a call for consciousness at the end of All My Sons that continues to resonate through the generations. All My Sons remains required reading in Israeli classrooms and frequently on the national standardized Bagrut test. Motti Lerner’s moving, searing new play, some 7 years in the making and refinement, aspires to a similar call for consciousness — though that call has been contested by some who have yet to read the play. Our students have — just this week, in fact — the January 2014 draft of The Admission has arrived and is being prepared as rehearsals for the workshop presentation get ready to commence in the coming month.

What do 16 young people, from a wide range of geographic and religious backgrounds make of Motti Lerner’s play and its relationship to Miller’s classic? What might the intended hope for this play be as it’s offered to multiple communities both here in Washington and in Israel? Why does the playwright choose to fictionalize a drama based on historically contested events? Is the play, as its fiercest critics contend, anti-Israel? Does it have any pro-Israel message that people are missing?

These are just some of the prompts I’ve shared with the students. They’ll respond in the Comments below. Others from the community are welcome to as well, though there will be ample, ample time to host many conversations, both in person (16 discussions are scheduled during the run of The Admission, one for each workshop performance), and on line.

32 thoughts on “Thinking About Community in Homages to “Our Town” and “All My Sons” – Student First Impressions to “The Admission”

  1. Family conflict, fathers’ past actions disappointing sons, self-eroding guilt and wars claiming the lives of men, young and old. All My Sons and The Admission share these themes and both leave the audience in a state of sorrowful contemplation. The plays shed light on the fact that war and death can have a long lasting impact on individual, nuclear families and cultures as a whole. Though the story is fictional, the conflict in The Admission refers to happened in 1948, and it is still highly debated and divisive 66 years later.
    I noticed that in both plays, it is the mother figure that tries to keep the family, especially her sons, intact and together, at times purposefully overlooking any misdoing that their husbands may have committed. In The Admission, Yona lied to both to Ibrahim and Giora in an attempt to get the men to make peace with each other. She uses deceit to try to channel the conflicts into resolution, but does she end up any achieving peace in her family? Also, in All My Sons, Kate tells herself and others that Larry is not dead, in an effort to absolve her husband from any guilt surrounding the defected airplane parts. In the end, all her work to cover up the glaring truth unravels, her family falls apart and her husband commits suicide. I think these two women are hopelessly fighting for something that is not possible for their families to achieve: picking up the pieces after a war-ridden, death-laced, and deceitful past and moving on to a harmonious future.
    To be honest, having little experience with the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, I had not heard of the 1948 conflict on which Motti Lerner bases her play. However, I understand that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the production of The Admission. I think to not have community discussion about this would be a mistake. Theater J provides a perfect setting to discuss the conflict and its implications. In a respectful, conversation-based forum, I think it will be important to be upfront and honest and address why this play has caused so much uproar. Perhaps then we can get from a place of uneasiness and distrust to a place of truth and reconciliation, looking at the past and then moving forward. That is something I think both Yona and Kate strive for as Kate’s last words to Chris are: “Don’t dear. Don’t take it out on yourself. Forget now. Live.” Unfortunately, though, in the end, their dream of reconciliation and moving on in life is not achieved.

  2. The Admission exposes the complexities of a culture’s past. No history is simple and straightforward; rather every story has multiple sides and perspectives. The 1948 Israeli attack on Arabs is complicated, as the morality is not strictly right or wrong. When Giora tells Avigdor that he wants to hear “That you’re sorry. That you regret it. That the killing was unnecessary,” Avigdor can’t bring himself to say that because he sees the killing as justified and says that “It was a battle. It was not a massacre” (p. 59). However, an Arab, like Ibrahim, sees the battle as a massacre. These two different perspectives of the same event show that history can seem very different to different people, even when facts are sometimes agreed upon. Therefore, the hope for this play is to expose this uncertainty and show that history is up for debate. In this sense, it is not anti-anything, because its purpose is simply to expose a universal and make the audience think. The famous quote “history is written by the victors” is embodied and questioned by this play. However, regardless of whether one side is the winner or loser, an event such as war becomes part of a culture’s history and every new member of that culture’s community shares in that history. In my past peace studies courses, we have studied the phenomenon of “collective memory,” which takes memory out of the private sphere and into the community. As we can see through the younger generation of the play – Giora, Neta, Azmi, and Samya – events of the past still affect their lives even though they were not directly involved. Giora wants to expose his father’s past for his own peace of mind, because Giora feels connected to his history since he is a part of his father’s family, his father’s country, his father’s community.

    • I agree completely with your conclusion that the play “is not anti-anything” – it points out that the way an event is remembered may not be how it happened, and it definitely emphasizes the faulty nature of historical memory and the complicated ways that traumatic events are treated by both victims and victors, but I don’t think it ever comes right out and blames or condemns. That is not the place of literature. The best pieces will allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

      Giora’s quest for the truth, then, interests me, because he seems to me to be the character that is most in line with what we’re feeling in the moment. Because frankly, when I’m actually watching a story unfold, I don’t much care about the fascinating implications in regard to historical memory – I want to know what happened and who did it. And that is the function that Giora serves in the play. I appreciated that wholeheartedly.

    • I do agree with you on how historical events like war are transmitted through one’s cultural history. The concept of collective memory really resonated as I was reading your post. Different generations may have different renditions of a particular event that happened in the past, but the important aspect is how history is shared in a collective. Most importantly, your comment about the younger generation speaks to how holding on to history can help guide people towards the future, in a positive way.

  3. I was actually very surprised that Motti Lerner had decided to fictionalize this drama despite the fact that it was based on historical events. I am going to be honest: at first I thought it was a little bit of a cop-out. I thought it was cheating to use the word Tantur to hide behind, instead of actually referring to the Arab village of Tantura. Moreover, I was surprised by how little the author chose to change the name of the village in question; I thought he would have chosen to do more than simply remove an a. As I read the play, however, I began to understand why this was done. Beyond any political reasons for the change, after I read the play, and thought about its implications, it made sense to me that Lerner would choose to use Tantur instead of Tantura. I’m not sure if this is going to come out the way I want it to, but I think that when Lerner chooses to use Tantur he is making a statement. I think he wants the fact that something did happen at Tantura in 1948, nobody really knows what it was. Just like how there are many similar stories about Tantura, each with its own slight variation; Tantur is a slight variation of Tantura. It is a subtle difference, but transforms the play from a documentary to a work of fiction. I think this all works to do exactly what Motti Lerner wants The Admission to do: make you think about and question the past. Reading this play makes me want to have a discussion about the past, and makes me think about questioning the accuracy of history. After having read and had some short discussions about The Admission, I definitely appreciated Lerner’s decision to change the name of the village in question to Tantur.

    • I agree, Joe. At first, I was confused with Lerner’s decision to change Tantura’s name to Tantur (especially since Lerner explicitly acknowledges the relationship). However, like you said, I do not think Lerner’s intention was to provide an account of historical fact. Instead, he just wants to begin discussion on one possibility of what happened. I think another reason for changing the name was to add to the almost unreal feel of the play. Lerner himself acknowledges that he wants a “breaking of realism;” the play’s events take place entirely in Giora’s mind. Therefore, it makes sense that the fantastical events would take place in a land that does not exist in reality.

  4. In class, we were asked to think about two communities: one that we had been born into, and one that we had found or chosen for ourselves. As I thought about that transition between given community and chosen community, I realized that this transition has been the source of much introspection in my own life, and that it is also at the heart of the struggles of several characters in the play.

    We see several characters in this play trying to reconcile the beliefs of their families – the communities they were born into – with the personal world views that they have grown into (with the help, presumably, of the communities they have chosen for themselves). Ibrahim, Azmi, and Samya all face conflict when their prejudices against Avigdor do not match what they know of him as a person and a friend. Avigdor faces a similar dilemma; the community that he was in at the time of the massacre and the community he finds himself in now tell him two different things about the justifiability of his actions. Giora is at war between the wishes of his family and the community they wish to build for him, and the community he hopes to find for himself with Samya.

    A week and a half ago in class, we talked about what makes a play good. Is it only good if you can relate to a character? On one level, I cannot relate to a single character in this play – they are all so different from me, and in vastly different circumstances. I’ve never struggled with anything even remotely close to the things that the characters in The Admission struggle with. But on another level, their experiences are my experiences. We are all struggling to reconcile what we were born into and who we have become. And that universality made for good, readable drama.

    For that reason, I believe that The Admission is a play that deserves to be shown in its entirety. It depicts a painful subject, but it does so with complexity and without judgment, and in doing so holds a mirror up to our own souls. In what ways do we let where we come from influence where we’re going? Is that desirable, or is it unwise? Drawing conclusions to these questions is beyond me, but perhaps merely thinking about them is enough.

    • I really like and agree with what you’ve said here. I too do not think that I can relate to any one character in this play, but the general struggle to find an identity within a community is one that I think we can all relate too. I can’t remember who it was, but in class last week only one person mentioned what their identity within each community was. While this wasn’t necessarily what we were tasked with doing, I thought that it was interesting that only one person even brought it up. I think that a lot of us probably don’t know what our roles within our communities are, and I think that we see this struggle in The Admission. While some characters like Azmi and Neta appear to have decided what role they will play in the community, Giora and Samya are still trying to figure that out.

  5. “All My Sons,” takes place in August of 1946 in the Midwestern United States, two years before Avigdor fights in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and forty-two before “The Admission” takes place in Haifa, Israel. The two plays share remarkable similarities in regards to the nuclear family of the protagonists. Giora, 35, and Chris Keller, 32, both lost brothers in war, have respectable fathers, and overbearing, protective mothers; they remain oblivious of the truth and staunchly loyal to their fathers until realization later leaves them cold. Avigdor and Joe Keller both hide secrets from their respective sons, but feel little to no remorse for their actions. Yona and Kate Kellar are aware of the past, but are more concerned with keeping the family together. The love interests of each story, Samya and Ann Deever, have some kind of connection to the secret that her lover’s father carries, but remain less concerned with making it known to the public.
    As it takes place forty years later, “The Admission” has a more modern touch than “All My Sons,” in several manners. In regards to the female characters, Samya, as a lecturer at the University of Haifa, plays the role of Giora’s colleague and therefore his equal. Ann, on the other hand, is portrayed more as Chris’s kid brother’s childhood sweetheart. The conflict in “All My Sons,” is localized to a single neighborhood while that of “The Admission” has implications to a much more complex issue, one that is ongoing. The starkest contrast, however, lies in the resolution of each play. Both “The Admission” and “All My Sons” are tragic. In “All My Sons,” Joe Keller commits suicide, as his family is on the verge of falling apart and he cannot face disapproval from his wife Kate or his son Chris. Yet “The Admission,” though it involves no suicide or murder at the end, is perhaps more tragic because nothing changes. Joe realizes the weight of his past actions and can no longer face reality. Avigdor admits nothing, regrets nothing, but simply covers up any last hope of exposing the historical truth.

  6. In class, I struggled when asked to think of the community in which I feel the most at home. In my life, communities are changing frequently. I am a very analytical person, so I am constantly questioning why I attach myself to certain groups and whether their values align with mine. Does my unversity value its students as much as I’d hope? Does my sorority actively care for all of its members? These are just some examples of questions I routinely ask myself. Maybe I am unduly skeptical, but I like to know that I am not a blind follower.

    I think questions about group values are what caused the main sources of conflict for Giora in The Admission, as well as for Chris in All My Sons. Both characters assumed they were happy in a community. Giora was happy with his family and as an Israeli citizen. Chris was happy in his family. In both cases, however, evidence appears against their community which causes them to question their role in these groups.

    The controvery surrounding The Admission really strikes me. I personally do not find the play offensive, or anti-Israel. I think, at most, the play creates the opportunity for meaningful discussion about Isreal’s role in recent conflicts. Surely, being open to schoarly criticism is not synonymous to being slanderous.

    Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, once asked, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” Plays like The Admission need to exist. Even if they are sure to anger some, they create a necessary dialogue that will deter the blind following of ideals. It is always worthwhile to question why you belong to certain communities, even if in the end, you decide that nothing is wrong with the community at all.

    • I think that, in college especially, we want to know that we aren’t blind followers. We are all trying to find ourselves; we seem to be overly seeking what sets us apart or makes us special in the world. That is why I think events like this play are so crucial. A lot of the people that will be viewing and/or debating this play are no longer in school. They don’t find themselves in a sea of people trying to find themselves, but rather in a group of individuals that are fairly well settled into jobs and families. These attachments, however, are not just cause to stop being “unduly skeptical” and can’t be the reason why we let ourselves take the easy way out and follow the crowd. You say it best when you write that “being open to scholarly criticism is not synonymous” with accepting slander. This play exercises its freedom to offend in an effort to start a conversation amongst a silent population, and I’m excited to see how this plays out.

    • Megan, I’m glad you shared the introspective thoughts you had when asked about community because I had a similar experience when asked this question. Almost as a knee jerk reaction, I responded that my family was my most important community (as well as my first) but I feel like my answer didn’t do it justice. Your difficulties in understanding the notion of community sheds light on the problem of defining community. Your comments–as well as the characters Giora and Chris–seem to exemplify a cognitive version of community. You talk about whether you’d feel differently about your sorority if they cared more or less about all of their members. You will always be a member of your sorority community in a physical sense while you remain a member, but this factor may alter how you personally feel connected to it. Giori experienced a similar event: his sense of community with his family and father was transformed when he discovered daunting information about his father’s military record. This points out how belonging to a group (like a family or sorority) doesn’t imply a strong personal connection to that community.

      Also a side note: I really liked that you brought up Salman Rushdie. I think his story of being rejected by a large community reveals an alternative to conventional understandings of this notion.

  7. I grew up in a small town filled with families that have lived and will continue to live there for generations. Some found sanctuary in the uniformity of the town; I found that oftentimes this led to instances of purposeful exclusion and ignorance. Many locals and visitors to the area declare it “close-knit,” but I think one fallout from this designation is often overlooked. Sometimes a community can be so consumed in their preserving itself just the way it is that any diverse opinion, person, or idea is viewed as an attack rather than a chance for growth.
    I think that oftentimes we can construct communities so tightly that we ignore the faults that are inherent to human interaction. A community can become destructive when it rebels against suggestions and introspection. Whether or not The Admission is pro-Israel or anti-Israel, it brings up a question of whether the ends always justify the means that should be wrestled with and debated, not shut down and silenced.
    By attempting to silence this story through hate and backlash, the opposition stabs Theater J just as Ibrahim stabbed Avigdor in the show. As an outsider, I see this community shutting down, imploding, and bickering like Avigdor and Giora rather than agreeing that there is controversy surrounding the event the play focuses on and creating a forum to discuss whether not this play depicts the event in the correct way or not.
    Community can help raise children to have common values. It can organize members to rally around great causes. It can connect like minded people and provide friendship and comfort. But it can also isolate those with non-normative opinions very quickly, and it can stifle growth and progress. I see The Admission as an opportunity for the Jewish Community to negotiate their feelings surrounding a tough and controversial subject. Theater J isn’t attempting to spread propaganda through art. They’re trying to have an open and honest conversation that, if it occurs, will bring progress and growth to the community rather than division and destruction.

    • Katie, you definitely made some great points in the post. I haven’t really thought about how communities can be too tight. I guess when it comes to idealism, there can be problems, but I’ve never thought of tight-knit as a drawback. When I think about it now, perspective comes from experience. A lot of what makes up experience is the ability to listen. The worst thing that someone can do is to not listen, and I think this is the parallel that you are getting at when it comes to the dichotomy of Theater J and the DC Jewish community. They won’t listen because they aren’t open to the new perspectives, and this is a drawback to experience and understanding. They are giving up nothing by observing the play, but stand to gain a lot by listening and dialoguing about the contents of the ending versus the means used to obtain the ending.

  8. I think the play has brought out such angry feelings in the DC Jewish community because of the background of the play. It’s a pretty straightforward answer, but the causation is pretty clear. While the story is fictional, it draws from very real elements of recent Israeli history. Specifically, it is based on the claims that Israeli soldiers carried out a massacre of Arab civilians in the village of Tantura during the 1948 War of Independence. The Jewish community, in my opinion as a Catholic, is extremely protective of its identity, and of Israel. Anything that sounds like a questioning of Israeli validity and legitimacy will most likely be condemned. Especially when the perception is that it came from within its own community.
    I would liken this play to a play about CIA blacksites, in terms of comparing it to contemporary and wide-reaching American politics. The American military would not look favorably on a group of veterans putting on a play that insinuated torture. A stage version of the first half of the film Zero Dark Thirty would probably be met with the same amount of scrutiny that The Admission has been met with by the Jewish community. It is very difficult to acknowledge past history, even if it is in fictional form, and probably even harder for the Jewish community because they are half a world away from the people that they are trying to protect.
    A lot of the time, something small can completely take over a discussion. For example, take Zero Dark Thirty again. When the film came out, it was critically acclaimed. But then, the press began to hone in on the film’s representation of torture, and the focus shifted away from the merit of the film to a small subset. In the same vein, the Jewish community took hold of what was perceived to be anti-Israeli sentiment, and focus on that instead of what the play was trying to say.

    • Garrett, you make several interesting points within your blog post that I would like to touch upon. First, what struck me at first was how briefly mentioned that the Jewish community “is extremely protective of its identity and of Israel.” As a Jew myself, I never really made the connection of being “protective” over my culture, beliefs, and religion– until now. I’ve always considered both my family and myself to be proud Jews. But now, it makes sense as to why Jews might be so protective over their identity and of the community to which so many people have continuously risked their lives for again and again- to simply exist. As evidenced, by “The Admission,” Jews and Israelis do not take Israel for granted. It is a miracle that it even exists today. Secondly, I really enjoyed your comparison to “Zero Dark Theory.” I think it provides a rich example of an American controversy as “The Admission” was to the DC Jewish Community.

    • I largely agree with Garrett’s comparison of CIA black sites and Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians as a problematic portion of each country’s history. I would limit the comparison, however, because the Israeli expulsion of Palestinians occurred in an operational war environment and were often done based on the determination of leadership that the tactic fulfilled an existential need.
      I partially agree that Jewish people in general are “extremely protective of its identity, and of Israel. Anything that sounds like a questioning of Israeli validity and legitimacy will most likely be condemned.” However, this play does not try to question Israel’s right to exist. This is where the controversy is rooted. Some supporters of Israel misunderstand condemnation or discussion of a particular Israeli act as a statement that it has no right to exist. While the two arguments are related, they are not inseparable and one can argue against an Israeli action without arguing it does not have a right to exist. I would argue that not all of the Jewish community blindly supports Israel or an innocent Israeli identity. The Jewish community is a term representing a wide array of individuals and groups from those who are passionate about Israel to a large number of Americans who feel little to no connection to Israel (based on a recent Pew study).

  9. In class we were offered two prompts that I feel are connected to one another: what is the message of The Admission and is the play anti-Israel? My experience is that any dialogue, policy, or personal experience concerning this volatile region must begin with a simple statement: it’s complicated. None of the issues that face the Middle East, or more specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are straightforward and The Admission offers an excellent example of these complexities.
    Above all, I feel that The Admission’s message forces an individual to recognize that he or she must look beyond his or her personal narrative to see the complexity of the issues. There is no one narrative that can describe the Palestinian or Israeli experience. Ibrahim notes that while some Palestinians “ran from Haifa. From Akko. From Yaffa. Like mice from a drowning boat. [those in Tantur] fought for six months.” No one can try to claim one narrative is more significant than the other on the personal level. Azmi soon offers an unconstructive opinion that is almost an antithesis to the plays message by exclaiming, “I know everything. They killed. Not just there. Everywhere. And those they didn’t kill, they expelled. From every city. From every village. We won’t forgive it the rest of our lives. But I’m also not going to talk about it.” In this scene Azmi fails to step outside of his personal narrative to analyze the situation dispassionately and rejects discussing the issue, which seems to be Giora and the play’s goal.
    This brings me to the second question that was offered in our class, is the play anti-Israel? While the play clearly shows a complicated moment in Israeli history, I feel the play is more about the message and dialogue it intends to create than the actual events it portrays. No play could completely show the brutality of every personal experience in war. Instead, this play offers one such horrible experience and proposes a dialogue among its viewers to discuss the various personal experiences of the war. Therefore, the play is not so much anti-Israeli as it is a piece of the narrative history of a conflict that includes positive and negative experiences of Palestinians and Israelis. More, I feel that since both sides have these horrible experiences, as is bound to happen in war, they must move first try to understand the opposing narrative, but then move beyond those personal narrative to solve their issues, since these dialing narratives generally negate one another out and are thus irreconcilable.

    • I really appreciate your response; too often on pieces that deal with a partisan issue, we tend to dismiss them as blindly supporting one view over the other. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much more complex than the idea that one party is right and the other is wrong. The message of “The Admission,” goes beyond the one issue addressed in the play and recognizes, as you mentioned, that one must see beyond his or her personal story. It illustrates the importance of seeing the other side of the tale—or even the many sides of a multifaceted issue, as there are usually more than two parts. I therefore agree with your second statement, that the focus of the play is the message and the dialogue, not so much the historical events that it portrays.

    • Ari, in your post you raise some excellent points about “The Admission” essentially being a microcosm of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. To that end, you are correct in asserting that the fact that Azmi is unable to seperate his justifiable anger at the Tantura Massacre and Avigdor’s attempts to justify his actions as an act of war shows the difficulty in solving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict because of the intense passions on both sides of the conflict. As a result, it is incredibly difficult to come to a solution to the conflict – as it is seen in such personal contexts by those leading negotiations on both sides. Regarding whether biases were present within the play, it shows an unfortunate event whose interpretation is determined in large part on the reader’s background and previous perspective on the conflict.

    • I enjoyed your insight about The Admission, you gave me an alternative way of viewing the issues within this play. I agree that anytime you discuss issues within the Middle East region; it is always viewed as complex and complicated. There are many perspectives historically regarding the Israeli-Palenstine conflict, which explains the constant criticism Theatre J has received regarding this play. I second your argument of the audience having to take themselves out of their personal lives and into the narratives created by the characters to grasp a substantial understanding of the issues. After reading this play, it is unfair to classify this play as being anti-Israel simply because it captures a component within Israeli history. This play displays the effects of war on the characters involved; many Americans are not used to such hostile situations and sometimes don’t know how to react. Your interpretation of The Admission as a “personal narrative” that captures the positive and negative experiences of a conflict/war is a fair one.

  10. Throughout my life, I have been a member of several different communities including my sometimes-crazy-mishugenah Jewish family, schools, sports teams, student clubs, my sorority… the list could go on and on. However, being a part of a community and belonging to a community are two different things in my mind.

    Being a part of a community may be great at the time but it is fleeting. However, just because it is short-lived, does not mean that it isn’t important or meaningful. For example, shared experiences such as a Theater J Performance bring people together, in a community style, even if it is for 2 hours. Crowds engage with the play- together. They laugh, they cry, they feel the enthusiasm from the actors/director/ playwright- together. That is the importance of Theater J performing “The Admission,” because it allows for people to be apart of community and to confront an issue- together.

    Yet, being a part of a community does not mean that the community is truly, deeply, a part of you. It takes more than sitting through a theater performance to feel as though you belong to a community. Feeling so attached to a place, group or organization that you are not the same without it, means belonging to a community.

    For me, that community is my camp, Echo Lake, which over the past 12 years has become a second-home for me. During the summer, I let go of all the stress that college creates and can finally take a deep breath. For seven weeks of the year, my inner child comes alive again and I can dance, act silly, run around with no judgments or questions asked. Camp is my happy place. I belong to it, and it belongs to me.

    In “The Admission,” Ibrahim feels the same attachment for the Village of Tantur that I do for camp. Throughout the play, I found that Ibrahim acted as the protector of Tantur’s past, present, and ultimately, future. He associates many memories some traumatic and others happy (like sitting underneath the Fig tree) with Tantur. To which, these associations have become his very essence for living. When the village of Tantur becomes threatened by Avgidor, Ibrahim becomes lost and consumed by the past. This emptiness pushes him to stab Avgidor, so that he can protect the community to which he formally belonged.

    I am excited to see “The Admission” come to life later this semester. In addition, I cannot wait to continue to be a part of the Theater J community as we gather to watch this performance and discuss the controversies over the issues that “The Admission” presents.

    • Julie I appreciated your distinction between being a part of a community and truly belonging in one. I interpreted that distinction as we feel that we belong in the communities that we actively pursue and contribute to, but we are sometimes involuntarily a part of a community that perhaps we did not chose. Whether it be residential dorms or your ethnicity, despite potentially having negative feelings toward the organization, you bear a certain responsibility to that community regardless. This responsibility can also be true of geographic communities, places or cities in which there is much shared space and experiences. In DC alone, we have a responsibility to each other to keep the Metro safe and keep the city clean. I believe the same goes for issues of conflict (which are prevalent in this town), in that we have a responsibility to handle disagreements and disputes in a democratic, professional and civil way.

  11. When I think about the first community I was accepted into; I think of Tracey Towers, the apartment building I lived the first half of my life in. These tenement buildings consisted of thousands of families; one tower had forty floors and the other had forty-one floors. Most of my earliest childhood memories occurred within this community. I learned how to ride a bike there, I began playing basketball there, and my earliest friends also lived in Tracey Towers. This community was somewhat isolated; it had its own playground area, laundry room, cleaners, community room, after school program, and a day camp in the summer. Although this was a relatively safe area in my opinion, my parents did their best to shelter me from negative influences (peers). Typically people that grow up in Tracey Towers spend their entire lives there, but my parents were committed to showing me the world that existed beyond these two buildings. When my family and I moved, it was the first time I felt out of place and unhappy about this feeling. However, because of this change I learned how to adapt and make myself comfortable in new surroundings.

    Individuals have their own sense of community, whether it is given/inherited or chosen. This past week the class was tasked with reading the plays “The Admission” and “All of Our Sons”. Both of these plays are centered on separate communities and focus on how the main characters were shaped by their communities. The Admission seems to have a much more serious undertone than All of Our Sons. After reading The Admission I understand that the 1948 Israeli attack on Arabs is a complex issue that can be misunderstood. Within this play, family conflict emerges throughout, which makes this piece of art easily relatable. In addition, I thought it was clever that even though there were a lot historical pieces to this play it was made into a fictional genre. Over the past week I was able to read a lot of criticism regarding The Admission, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Theatre J is a theatre that prides itself on its historical content, development of community, as well as cutting edge topics and acting. I feel that many people are unaware of the Israeli-Arab conflict that occurred in 1948, this play could be an informal way of introduction this event and politics of the Middle East. The production of The Admission will benefit from the conversational forum that is suppose to take place after the play; it will give the audience a great chance to digest the material.

    The audience may not be able to easily relate to The Admission, but I don’t think that it warrants negative criticism. After reading the play I don’t view it as anti-Israel nor is it strictly about the 1948 conflict. This play heavily discusses the role of community, but in a much different setting than viewers are used too. Characters within this drama tend to struggle with the person they have become and the communities that they were born into. I don’t see anything wrong with The Admission being shown in its entirety; it is a well organized, and creative drama that I encourage people to view when it opens at Theatre J.

  12. As we discussed the communities we were born into as well as the communities we’ve grown to love in class last week, a common theme I observed among the class, either for one category or both, was the inclusion of family. I believe families fit under the category of communities of organizations in addition to communities of culture, as the two are often interwoven. In describing the one in which I was born into, I referred to my “big, Irish Catholic family” and they way that my extended family members, and their faith, ideology and ancestry impacted my upbringing. Not only are they a community of organization in that we are a “kinship network,” but from them I also inherited cultural and religious similarities that bind us together.

    In reading The Admission, I noted that Avigdor and Ibrahim’s families began to take on the shape of both communities of culture and communities of organizations as well. Their alliances were not only familial, but also cultural; however in defending their culture, they sometimes threatened the sanctity of their community. As Giora fiercely investigated his father’s violent past, in return, Avigdor’s defense of himself aggravated their relationship. Parents or elders in communities of both culture and organizations often believe that they have a loyalty to “do what is best” for the remainder of the population. Avigdor believed his omission of information was best for his family, though it ultimately angered his son and wedged their familial community apart. I felt as though The Admission spoke to the necessity of truth, recollection, accuracy and cooperation. It was my interpretation that Giora eventually comes to understand his father’s militant actions and cultural responsibility, but asks for a gesture of remembrance for those who were slain.

    In Act Two, Giora begs, “If the truth becomes known it might create a chance for reconciliation.” I believe The Admission ultimately advocates that through open communication and pure discussion, there is a change of collaboration, reconciliation, and the cultivation of true community. Geographic communities were discussed above—inevitable communities that do not have the same emotional or historical backgrounds as others. Yet they are communities nonetheless and deserving of adequate attention and effort by all of those who comprise them.

    • I agree with your assessment of including families into both communities of organizations and of culture. However one defines a family, they are our first experiences of organization and culture. We learn a great deal from our families, and are molded greatly by them. The families in “The Admission” are no exception to families in reality. The families of Avigdor and Ibrahim are organizations and cultures unique to themselves with a disputed overlapping. I believe that you are correct in your statement that “The Admission” advocates cooperation and truth. While the piece discusses a controversial subject, the intention of the playwright is not to rehash an already contested matter, but to teach and bring to light the importance of cooperation, forgiveness, and remembrance.

    • I also noted that the relationships in the play were not only familial, but cultural too. Inevitably, in being born into a family, a small community, one is brought into a larger community with a histoy of religion, relationships, heritage. Disrupting any aspect of either community can have effects on the other related communities, as seen through Giora’s investigation into his father’s past. However, disruption is often necessary in order to discover truth, as also seen in the play through the investigation into the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the truth that is discovered about the conflict. In the end, this can lead to “the cultivation of true community,” as Lauren said.

  13. When asked about what communities we belonged to, both initially and chosen, I had to take a moment to step back and think about my answer. Answering required me to look back on my life and evaluate where I felt most comfortable and accepted. That is essentially what a community is: a place where you feel accepted and comfortable.
    For me, I concluded that I was born into the Polish community. Growing up I was surrounded by my great-grandparents with their firsthand stories of immigrating to the United States. During holidays, there were foods that I looked forward to and others I stayed far away from. I learned quickly in elementary school that some of the words I was being taught were far from normal for everyone else. I gained a sense of pride from this community; a pride that I still hold close to me today.
    Regarding a community that I love and chose as my favorite, I could not help but give in to the Pittsburgh community. Pittsburghers are so unique in almost every aspect. We have our own dialect. We care so much about the city and all it has to offer. Leaving Pittsburgh is a difficult decision for any “yinzer” that if we do happen to get out, we come crawling right back. Generations of my family are from Pittsburgh, and we are not going anywhere.
    Reflecting and acknowledging how my communities molded me and allowed me to relate to the communities and characters of “The Admission” and “All My Sons.” While both plays are drastically different, fundamentally they discuss how communities shape people. “The Admission” is a “hot topic” in a sense that it strikes a chord from the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. However, I feel that the play does not attack any side of the story. Rather, I believe that playwright Motti Lerner is recognizing and highlighting the ability to forgive, but not forget. The play emphasizes understanding to prevent ignorance and irrationality. I think there are many important lessons that can be taken away from this piece.

  14. There are many different definitions of community on both a personal and broader interpersonal (communal) level. Individuals are both born into communities and choose to affiliate with communities later in life. This has been true in my life- when I was born I was a member of the Jewish community, although it took until later in life, as a young adult dealing with anti-Semitism to understand what having that identity meant and learning to not only accept but embrace it.
    Similar to the inter-communal struggle of “The Admission”, I too struggle to fully understand why individuals choose to take overly decisive actions during war. Avigdor clearly expressed remorse for the actions which he took during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. As is often said, hindsight is 20/20 and he may not have taken the same actions if he knew the ramifications of his actions on the Arabic community. The struggle between Avigdor and his son, Giora exemplifies the constant struggle within the Jewish community today of how to best understand actions of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). One can condemn the IDF for killing civilians and not look at the broader history of the conflict and understand that Israel, a tiny newly established nation with limited military means and facing simultaneous attack by other nations, was simply attacking those who threatened its survival. Many would argue that this action-killing civilians who sympathized with a nation’s enemy is justifiable and an action that every other nation under imminent threat would choose to take.
    One could alternatively take the view that killing of civilians is unjustifiable because they were not party to the conflict. “The Admission” not only shows the struggle within the Jewish community to balance the need for maintaining the survival of their nation in its beginnings but also shows the constant struggle for two diverse peoples, the Israelis and Palestinians to live together in the ethnically mixed city of Haifa. Faced with a complicated history and often tensions from years of constant fighting, the Palestinian and Israeli communities have had times in which they have been able to work together and other times in which their relationship has been marred in conflict. This relationship is accurately portrayed in the scene near the opening of” The Admission” where Avigdor is stabbed because of an over bubbling of tensions between the two families because of past actions during the 1948 War, which were discovered by reading a thesis at the library. Although these two families had cooperated with the Avigdor loaning money for the restaurant, the tension from the war was uncovered and would remain throughout the play.
    This may be the true message of “The Admission” that a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot come into existence until both sides recognize that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have committed wrongs. Thus both have a right to finalized status as a nation so that the ultimate goal of a two-state peaceful solution can be realized because without a bilateral commitment for peace, the fighting and mistrust will continue and the two parties will be no closer to their goals. Thus, “The Admission” is not necessarily Anti-Israel as it presents a viewpoint and a story that is too complex to be distilled into such simplistic terms.

  15. In class, Professor Ari Roth posed a question about “The Admission” by Motti Lerner which I find to be important: Is this play worth dividing the Jewish community? This play is naturally controversial, as it involves a conflict between Israeli and Palestinian families. While you might expect this plotline to cause more tension between Jewish and Muslim groups, the play has in fact created a divide in the Jewish American population. There are those within this community who find the message of the play to be “anti-Israel” and thus offensive to their culture.

    So is the production of the play worth the subsequent fallout in such a large community? It could be said that this damages the strength of the society as a whole. I think an analogous situation would be the current relationship between the Republican Party and its Tea Party branch. The Tea Party, while not the majority of the party, still wields significant influence in the GOP and continues to cause problems for party leadership seeking a more moderate agenda. It can be reasonably posed that this rift in ideals has hurt the Republican community, particularly for those in decision-making positions.

    Yet I believe that this isn’t the case with the Jewish community in regards to this play. The themes and aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict that this production highlights are controversial, but very much worth discussing. On any given issue that matters, you will often find that a part of a community will disagree with the status quo, but this does not mean the community disintegrates. Rather, this is an opportunity to learn from another side and to strengthen the identity of the group as a whole. If the group who is protesting decided not to take action, then they would remain in a community whose ideals they do not completely agree with. This distorts their true identity, thus impairing the strength of the community. In this way I believe that the divide that this play has produced is not only worth it, but it also adds opportunity for the Jewish community to further understand itself.

  16. Community is such an essential element to human culture and the stories of the human race. We are brought into this world understanding that different symbols in our lives are imbued with meaning. I was born into the Latino/Hispanic community because both of my parents have roots in Latin America. I consider language, cuisine and geography essential to the Latino community that I am a part of. I could easily decide not to engage in the Latino community and be part of other communities. Ultimately, we choose to resist or accept communities that we come across.
    Both plays have a very interesting way to unfold the conflicts/tensions that we are asked to analyze. One possible theme to consider is the role the institution of war effects the institutions of community and family. However, I will not delve into this topic for the purposes of the blog. But, obviously both plays touch upon the tragedies that occur both in the U.S. context and the Haifa context. In “The Admission” we are left to grapple with the ongoing tragedy and tension of history and the present. Both Joe and Avigdor struggle with the ultimate forces of their past – not being able to fully comprehend their histories. In “All my Sons”, we are presented with a family that is falling apart and a father/husband who sacrifices it all in midst of several social forces operating in the family’s lives.
    Lastly, I have very limited prior knowledge about the issues that this topic presents. Like many of my classmates have noted, I did not get the sense that the plays were anti-anything. I am still very interested in learning more with my colleagues in class. From what I have gathered from all of the readings, the plays try to encourage healthy dialogue. There is no perfect version of history or ultimate way of narrating truth. Ultimately, both dialogue and representation of multiple perspectives is essential to having a more democratic world.

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