“The Admission” Diaries – We Start Tonight

from Ari
8 am

March 20 has arrived. First day of spring. First day of performances for our workshop. First audiences coming to first preview. Students seeing work move from talked-about possibility to actuality. The first video introducing our cast to the community goes on line as they reflect on the play; what it’s about; what it means to them; recorded in the lobby of Studio Theatre where we rehearsed for three blessedly quiet weeks, digging into the play.

How furious will it be tonight? As the 6:00 hour rolls around and people line up for the remaining Pay What You Can tickets?

I will try to document events now on a daily basis, now that we have gotten to this moment.  And perhaps I’ll go a little bit backwards too.

This morning, my charge is to remember this point:  That each post-show discussion wants to have us look at a particular question — not just the title of that panel discussion — but a focal point for discussing this brand new play in and of itself,  keeping our focus on the play; advancing its development as a work of art.

At tonight’s first preview, the talk-back question I’ll ask is one we ask all the time with new work:

“How are we doing as story-tellers?”
Are we engaged? How does the play sustain suspense?
Does the play maintain its hold on you?
Are we clear in defining the characters
Are we complex enough to respect the collision of narratives?

The play as craft — the play as art — the play as family drama and romantic triangle. Let’s begin with that tonight, shall we?

A post-show report to follow….

* * *

These facebook postings might say it all:

Amazing outpouring of support from longtime peace activists and committed Middle East Peace organizers – gathering before the first public performance of THE ADMISSION. The number of COPMA protesters last night? Zero. Inside the theater? Powerful unstoppable show!
Photos from last night’s show of support and solidarity with Theater J’s presentation of THE ADMISSION. 17 supporters strong! 
Artists and Advocates For The Admission's photo.
Artists and Advocates For The Admission's photo.
Artists and Advocates For The Admission's photo.
Artists and Advocates For The Admission's photo.
Artists and Advocates For The Admission's photo.
More street theater pix! Community Action at work!
Ari Roth's photo.
Ari Roth's photo.
Ari Roth's photo.
Note:
Read students first reactions to The Admission after reading the script here.

34 thoughts on ““The Admission” Diaries – We Start Tonight

  1. After already reading the play “The Admission,” I entered the theater eager to see how this story about family backgrounds, community, history, and story-telling would be portrayed live on stage. Unfortunately, I found that the tension and arguments that were so riveting on paper were not as exciting on stage. I agreed with Lauren’s comment in the post-show discussion that after a while, these heightened, emotional arguments became somewhat trite. Constantly keeping the play at a high level of tension resulted in there being no uniqueness to moments that should have been more prominent and noticeable. Keeping up with the constant state of anger, frustration, tension, was difficult.

    Therefore, the play, with its consistent hum of tension, did not create suspense for me nor maintain its hold on me. Perhaps this is because I am used to the traditional rising action, climax, falling action, of many plots. In “The Admission,” there are so many high points of action – Yona desperately trying to keep peace between Avigdor and Giora multiple times, Neta and Giora, and Yona and Giora, arguing emotionally about the importance of Avigdor’s actions in the War of Independence, Azmi objecting to his family having any relationship with Avigdor’s family, and more – that the importance is difficult to find.

    However, I do believe that the play shows the critical message that we must understand one another’s history and accept that people come from different places. In this way, no one history provides the ultimate truth. The play showed this by illustrating the difficulties that both an Israeli and a Palestinian family have to face when dealing with their past. In doing so, we see that the morality, the history, the experience, is not black and white, but gray, so having an ultimate truth about who is right and who is wrong is impossible. Therefore, we must assess conflicts through a lens of understanding, and this is what could allow groups such as the Israelis and Palestinians to come together on a respectful, human level.

    In this sense, the play was successful, because it showed that the strict lines between cultures can be blurred. Giora and Samya’s love may endure despite their vastly different and fighting cultures. This is a point of hope in the play, and I would have appreciated more of these hopeful moments throughout, instead of the constant tension. I think it would have been more in line with the message of understanding others’ stories and acknowledging the ambiguity of history. Additionally, I really did not like how the female characters were portrayed, so I agreed with many of the post-show comments that discussed how the female roles revolved around the men in the play, mainly Giora. This made me dislike the character portrayal from the beginning. Regardless, the message still comes across successfully, though it could have been done in a more exciting way.

    • Bridget, I think you make an interesting point here. I think the operative phrase in your initial complaint is “after a while”. Now that I think back on the play I have to agree that after a while the heightened emotional arguments become somewhat trite. The play jumps into an argument almost immediately, after just a short conversation. From then on the whole play is one big argument, and all of it is very tense. Eventually the intensity argument loses its effectiveness. I do not know if I would change it, however. I think, as you put it, the “constant state of anger, frustration, tension” is necessary for Motti Lerner to really paint the picture of this conflict. It’s interesting because I think this is a particularly difficult subject to adapt into a play, and, while I think Motti Lerner did a great job, this is just another example of how hard it must have been to write this play.

    • Thus far, I have read The Admission script and I appreciated your account of the show and post-show discussions. While reading this play I felt that there were several plots and it was difficult to track the relationship between characters. I was wondering how these situations were going to end up during the play. I found it interesting that you did not witness any level of suspense even though there is so much conflict within the play. Do you think there was less of a sense of suspense because you read the play prior to seeing it performed on stage? Bridget, I enjoyed your statement, “…that we must understand one another’s history and accept that people come from different places.” This is great insight because of the complexity of this conflict and even though history is important it isn’t always the best lens to analyze a situation. Why did you not like the female characters? Were they submissive to the men counterparts? If so, how much of it do you think was done intentionally to mimic the circumstances of women in the Middle East? You offered many unique perspectives about the play that was helpful for me to understand what took place during the show, great job.

    • After reading The Admission, I was excited to see how the actors put the play on and how a “workshop form play” differed from the standard performance of plays that I have been seeing throughout the semester. One of the aspects of the Workshop-style play that was the most enlightening as an audience member was the fact that the cast stayed on stage and in view of the audience throughout the play. This provided audience members added insight into the play, and the thoughts and beliefs of the play’s cast- even those who were not formally part of the scene. This was interesting to see because often when watching plays, audience members are left to conjecture what other characters would think of the parts of the play that they were not a part of- in the workshop, the reaction of scenes on all of the cast members is in full view- this was a welcome addition.

      As far as the content of the play, it seemed to have a logical flow throughout and presented an overview of the conflict that was based in rationality and dialogue. It was interesting how, after watching the play, the relationship which occurred between Giora and Samya was in fact a microcosm of the belief system that “The Admission” was attempting to advance. Their relationship helped to show that no matter the difference in family background that identity was not a barrier to a relationship and the Israelis and Palestinians should be able to look past their differences and find the commonalities in order to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict. Further, the ending of the relationship between Giora and Neta was also indicative of part of the conflict, as Giora was unable to reconcile his desire to know what occurred at Tantur with his desire to please his family and ultimately, his desire for truth proved to be more important and caused him to choose Samya over Neta. This shift exemplifies how the play excpresses the conflict’s ability to bitterly divide families and thus how important a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict is.

      Further, it was impressive that the Artistic Director and Playwright were so open to accepting constructive criticism of the play, even though it had been in development for ten years. This also acts as a microcosm of The Admission’s viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict- that there is a need for constant give and take and no one side (or person) has all of the answers.

  2. At the heart of The Admission, there is a story about two families: Giora’s family, which is Israeli, and Samya’s family, which is Palestinian. The Admission is a slow, painful opening of an old wound between them, a wound that stretches beyond just those two families and into the whole people groups: the question of the war of 1948, the Israeli occupation, and the flight of the Palestinians.

    The Admission, despite its controversy, is very delicate in how it deals with these issues because it deals with the issues through individuals, not through politics. Like Return to Haifa, it delves into the psyches of the individuals embroiled in the conflicts and seeks to tell their stories, making them neither fully sympathetic nor fully unsympathetic.
    
Unfortunately, because The Admission is not going to be fully staged at Theater J (or anywhere else immediately following), we don’t get to see these stories fully come to life. The performance was heartfelt and it was clear that the actors poured themselves into the story, communicating some very painful things to their audience. However, as an audience member, it is difficult to watch an unfinished project and know that it may never be finished.

    Even though much of the post-show discussion focused on the script, the script isn’t what I’m talking about when I say the product was unfinished. I don’t mean the sets or the costumes or the props, either. To me, it seemed as though the characters hadn’t had time to settle into their relationships with one another, and it is in those relationships that the story really lies.

    The question arose at the end as to whether there was any cause for optimism at the end of the play, and to me, the reparation in the relationship between Giora and Samya, to me, symbolizes the possibility for reconciliation. However, I don’t think we got to see that fully fleshed out. While the relationship between Samya and Giora felt fairly well-realized, it was other key relationships that were harder to follow. Giora and Azmi, for example, seem to have a long history together, but that’s hard to feel throughout the production, and it’s hard to see the effect that history has on the current conflict between them—we don’t get a sense of any pain from Azmi in his bitterness toward, not just an Israeli, but his friend. The same is true in many of the other relationships on stage, as though the actors haven’t quite had enough time in their characters for the characters to relate to each other.

    The staging, also, hasn’t quite settled. Particularly, the scene in which Ibrahim stabs Avigdor didn’t quite come across on stage, and because that’s the inciting incident for everything else that happens, I would’ve liked that scene to be stronger in its staging and its relationships.

    The Admission is an affecting play, but it breaks my heart that it won’t come to its full potential as a production, at least not here and now. I’m glad to have seen it, and I could see the energy and love and pain that the actors poured into it—several of them looked on the brink of tears or collapse during the curtain call. So congratulations to the cast for working through such a difficult production, and I can only hope that The Admission ges to find a home for a full production soon.

    • Chloe, I agree with you when you say that the play could be much more if realized in a full production. With more time, I believe certain kinks can be worked out, such as the scene where Ibrahim stabs Avigdor. I know we discussed how the staging in the scene did not come across. I agree with you when you state how it is such a defining moment that the scene needs to come across in a certain way. I also agree that the characters are lacking some sort of depth. The relationship between Azmi and Giora was also lost on me. I think “The Admission” starts a powerful dialogue that needs to be fleshed out, and in a full production that will be much easier to accomplish.

    • Chloe – I wonder what elements in the play you would’ve liked to have seen to help the stories come “fully to life.” I was looking over the script for “The Admission” and I thought it was interesting that there is actually a note in the beginning that calls for a minimalist set, to allow for easy scene changes and to create the feeling that all of the events are occurring in Giora’s mind. When I first saw Theater J’s set, I thought it looked very much like the set of a workshop. The walls and floors were bare, with squares taped out, presumably to help the actors with blocking. However, after looking over the script, I wonder if this could’ve actually been a stylistic choice to create the feeling of surreality.

      I do agree that there are still kinks to be worked out of this production – for example, I too thought the stabbing scene was a little bit awkward, making it much less powerful than when I read it. Additionally, I thought Giora’s use of crutches needed improvement. However, as a whole, I felt like the show was thorough in its ability to get its message across and move the audience emotionally. Like you, I would very much enjoy the opportunity to see how a finished production would be different from what we saw last Thursday.

  3. I had been looking forward to seeing “The Admission” since we read it in January. I had struggled to read through the play, not quite understanding the intricate dialogue. It was so interesting and “riveting” to see “The Admission” come to life on the stages of the JCC. I am also glad that we read this piece a few months ago because it allowed the production to still be somewhat fresh in my mind. And because we read this earlier in the semester, I feel that I had already gotten to know the characters and to connect with them. I really appreciated and enjoyed the transition that the characters had from being stagnant on the pages of the script to becoming vibrant and “alive” in the performance of the play.

    In my initial blog post on “The Admission,” I discussed how Ibrahim acted as the protector of Tantur’s past, present and ultimately, future. As Avgidor threatens the very existence of the village, Ibrahim becomes lost and consumed by his past. Ibrahim becomes obsessed with saving Tantur, as he could not the first time in 1948. Yet, after stabbing Avgidor, he no longer wants to create any conflict and he begins to go back on his story. To me, this is where it gets a little confusing. Why is it that after living with this secret for 10 years, he is willing to redact his story? Is it because Ibrahim just wants to fit in with the larger community, like his daughter, Samya? I’m just not sure. And I’m not really convinced of his motives for doing this either.

    My one wish, like many of the other audience members, was that there was some form of resolution within the story. By both the end of reading the play and watching it, it did not feel complete or over. “The Admission” was intense to sit through. My eyes were glued to the stage and my ears were wide open. Yet I could not help but want more from it. But, by now, I should be used to this feeling. We have sat through many plays that have had neither a happy ending nor a conclusive one. It is up to our imagination to add to the ending and decide what happens to the characters.

    • I agree with your sentiment about the lack of resolution. Perhaps it is a bit cliche to assume that all of the stories will be wrapped up neatly. That is, after all, basic structuring. That’s what audiences like to see. Oppositely, I think this was the intention of The Admission, for better or worse. You weren’t supposed to feel resolved at the end — there were too many issues to be resolved — ones that probably will never be settled. Personally, I am on the fence about whether or not it was a strength or weakness. Resolution allows the audience to connect with the characters. Even in our own personal lives, most of our arcs have some kind of a beginning and an end. So it theoretically makes sense that plays include this too.

      I’ve been thinking about how I would feel if Giora had married Samya and moved to England. I think I would have criticized it for taking an easy way out. As deep as the issues in the play went, and as hard as Giora pushed everyone around him, I believe that he hit a point of no return — there was no possible way for him to resolve everything. I think it serves as a general metaphor for the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m probably looking way too far into this, but to sum it up I felt like the non-resolution was extremely deliberate.

      • Garrett, I too found the lack opf resolution in the play to be somewhat indicative of The Admission as a social commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Often, the media and popular culture portrays the conflict as one sided and the play does a good job at diffusing that myth.

        That being said, the fact that Giora was not able to follow his desire at the end of the play to go to England and begin his life with Samya may also serve as a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the case because although Samya and Giora wanted to be together, there were underlying tensions between them that precluded Giora from moving to Britain. Likewise in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, although both sides desire a peaceful resolution to the conflict, there are underlying historical and political tensions which make the mutual goal of peace unfortunately elusive.

    • The Admission has been in the headlines for a while. I am excited that this play has made it to production and I am anxious to see what people thought about this play. I agree with you that reading the play first is a great transition to watching the performance live. From reading your response it seems that the Admission has left the audience with questions. It seems as if you were expecting a dramatic and more complete ending that this show did not offer. This reminds me of a conversation the class had during our mid-semester presentations. Some plays plan to give you a complete ending while others tend to leave you wanting more. Every individual has different preferences on how they think play’s should end but I don’t think the play as a whole should be judged on this minor measure. Leaving the audience with questions could be done intentional, it is a matter of preference if you like that approach or not. While reading your comment I could not help but wonder, how effective was the post-discussion show. Usually this part of the show is helpful at deciphering major themes and giving the audience a connection to the characters. What was the audiences interpretation of the play? Were their interpretations constant with yours and did this play meet your expectations?

  4. My first impression of “The Admission” on Thursday night was that it seemed like it was very complete. I’m not sure what I was expecting from a workshop, but when Ari explained that the Stage Manager would be on the side with lines available for those who needed them, I was expecting some struggles. The play, however, seemed very polished. I was deeply engaged in the show and no actors struggled with their lines. I could see some spots throughout the play that probably could’ve used more development (for example, I didn’t think that Giora’s use of the crutches was very realistic), but as a whole, the play seemed more like a finished product than a workshop to my somewhat untrained eye.

    I appreciated getting the chance to hear the audience’s opinions on the storytelling of “The Admission.” One comment that I noticed people say a few times that I did not agree with was the comment that Giora’s intentions seemed unclear. Some people also noted that his actions seemed too extreme, or that he was unsympathetic to his family. However, I actually sympathized with Giora quite a bit. His world was turned upside down throughout the events in the play. I’ve had experience learning that someone I trusted was responsible for crimes I would’ve never imagined possible, so I feel like I understand on some level what Giora was going through. He felt like he didn’t know what to believe any more, inspiring his brutal and heartbreaking quest for truth. It was a quest that really left no survivors, including his relationship with his family.

    I think the most moving scene of the play for me was when Samya explained how she overlooked the wrongs that the Israelis committed against the Palestinians because she wanted to be a part of their group. She wanted to be normal. She didn’t want to disturb the balance. It caused me to wonder whether this was common. Do people overlook others’ wrongdoings frequently, just to maintain the peace?

    Overall, a very good presentation that raised many important questions.

    • Megan, I think it’s interesting that the play seemed like a finished product to you, as I had a pretty different interaction with it. I agreed with you that the actors were definitely very professional and clearly had a very good hold on the script, but my personal takeaway (as I mentioned in my post) was that I wanted more depth in the actual interactions between the characters, which I do think was more of a function of how little time they had to explore them rather than lack of effort from the actors. I agree with you, though, as to how interesting Samya’s comment about overlooking the wrongs was. I also think it is worth discussing about whose wrongs she’s talking about. Avigdor’s wrongs as an individual, or the Jews’ wrongs? Can you attribute “wrongs” to an entire people group, including many individuals who didn’t take part in them and, furthermore, don’t condone them? Very interesting questions.

      • Chloe, I agree completely with your response to Megan about the play being not a totally finished. I definitely wanted more depth in the interactions between characters. One of my main critiques was the slow pick-ups that occurred during arguments, where I felt like having a faster, more realistic exchange would have been very impactful. Megan, I do like your insight into the motivations of Giora, and your comment on how his world was turned upside down because parts of his life that he held as truths were there no longer. I am still thinking about his motivations, so I appreciate your perspective.

    • Megan, for me, I thought that the lines between a “workshop” and “full production were a bit blurred. I know that Professor constantly mentioned that this isn’t a finished production, given the “workshop” nature of it. I don’t think any play is a “full production”. This may seem obvious, but a work can always be molded and created in a way that captures different elements. To me, this was a completely community-oriented, even international, piece of art. This element is important because it highlights a different kind of politics at work. It was incredible to have the writer of the play present and so many members of the community invested. I thought it was incredibly powerful when I saw people outside of the theater showing their support for The Admission, in case anyone showed up to protest.

  5. The first thing I want to touch on for this post are the picketers outside of Theater J. After seeing The Admission, I cannot understand why there was any disagreement with the play being produced and shown. History is never clean. Looking at America’s own history, we are guilty of a lot of awful actions – namely, the ones that come to mind are the events with Native Americans; the Trail of Tears and the Smallpox blankets are always going to be stains on American expansion. In order for a country to achieve stable legitimacy, it is my feeling that it must understand all that it is. Getting back to the play, well, it was a character case study with historical allusions. In my personal opinion, the play still had a mild pro-Israel slant. While talking about military endeavors is a courageous decision, a lot of the subtleties of the conflict seemed forgotten. The disparity of living conditions between the Palestinians and the Israelis was never mentioned. Neither was the seizure of East Jerusalem. While this was not a defining aspect of the play, I was still felt the pro-Israel sentiment.

    I agreed with the audience comment questioning the roles of women by the end of the play. I want to further expand on that, and say that I really was left wondering about most of the characters, and their relationships. The world is never black and white – shades of gray are prevalent in every person. This has never been more apparent to me at the conclusion. What was the status of the relationship of Giora and Samya? They talked about leaving it all behind, and moving to London. Nothing was ever resolved. Beyond this, it seemed that everyone’s fate in the play was tied to Giora. And, in step with his relationship with Simya, none of his personal connections ever seemed to have any kind of resolution. I had no strong feelings about any of the characters – there were no clear protagonists or antagonists, which is a structure different than I’m used to. It seemed a bit convoluted, and at the same time, I’m guessing that was the intent. Just like history, war is never clean – especially in regards to the aftermath. The further Giora went down the path of trying to obtain his acceptance of the truth, the more everyone around him crumbled. I’m still on the fence to whether this was the proper close, or it stalled the momentum from the beginning. But it did leave me with a lot to chew on, and I’m sure that this was exactly the intent.

    • I like what you had to say about the protests and how history is never “clean”, as you put it. I had similar thoughts about how America’s past is riddled with human atrocities; the first examples that popped into my mind were the Japanese internment camps and the McCarthy era. You mentioned that you felt the play had a “pro-Israel sentiment”, and I agree to an extent. I believe that the message is pro-Israel AND pro-Palestine, and I think that is exemplified with Giora’s actions. Giora does everything he can to sweep all of the horrific past under the rug in an attempt to create peace for both sides.

      I thought your comments were insightful when you said “Nothing was ever resolved” and “there were no clear protagonists or antagonists”, because that’s exactly how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to go. There’s obviously been no ending to the conflict as of yet, and the direction and extent of progress in the area is a bit ambiguous. And as far as the ambiguity over protagonists, that’s exactly the feel of the Intifadas. There are vague actors (see Marwan Barghouti) but this movement was an uprising of citizens and refugees in response to Israeli action. It can’t really be determined who is who in the conflict. Your post made me think deeper about how the aspects of the play reflect aspects of the conflict itself.

  6. Our last two blog posts discuss “Return to Haifa” and “The Admission,” controversial plays that revolve around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although each character has an interesting story to share that gives perspective to the greater issue at hand, neither play shares these important narratives in what I believe to be a creative or compelling manner. For example, in “The Admission,” there are no flashbacks, no remarkable moments of self-discovery. Rather, the majority of the play consists of dialogue, characters arguing amongst each other about what is just and what is not. In other words, in moments where I believe the play can illustrate the story, it explicitly tells it instead, through the mouths of the characters. Don’t get me wrong, the play had my attention from start to finish and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. It’s just that when considering the many elements that go into a play (set, music, acting, staging, etc.), theater has so much more potential than simply two people reading aloud their personal experiences.

    During the post-show discussion of “The Admission,” Andra raised a question that had been lingering on my mind while I sat in Theater J: What about the women in the play? Samya, Yona, and Neta have the potential to be strong, fascinating characters, but the only things that we learn about each woman revolve around Giora. What is so great about Giora that each woman dotes on him so much?

    I love the premise of “The Admission,” and I believe that Thursday’s performance was a great start to further polishing the play. However, I would really like to experience what the characters go through rather than have it explicitly told to me. Moreover, like Andra, I would like to hear more about the women in the story, as each experiences her own internal conflict, not just Giora.

  7. The Admission aims to open up a dialogue about historical events (and succeeds in this venture), but I walked away with an inner dialogue surrounding one of the play’s themes instead: the concept of the truth. During the play there was such an emphasis on characters interacting with “truth” in different ways. Some characters actively sought the truth, others attempted to conceal it, and other characters stomach the truth internally but don’t let it affect their daily lives.

    When the characters do face the truth (Giora learns about what happened at Tantura, Avigdor acknowledges his actions there were cruel, and Samya comes to terms with where her money for school comes from) they are arguably no better off than when they hid from the truth. Giora is isolated from his family and fiancée, climbing a hill and looking for bones he will never be able to find. Avigdor’s acceptance of the fact that his vigor for the Israeli army led to Udi’s death and Giora’s injury in no way changes his sons’ fates. Samya must decide whether to keep accepting the scholarships or to follow in her brother’s footsteps and continue to ignore the fact that their money comes from a man who killed their family members.

    This begs the question: are the characters better off keeping their family/community together or should they acknowledge the truth even if it is divisive? What is the better outcome in this situation? How much is it alright to push down the truth in order to preserve unity? I applied these thoughts to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; if it was possible to ignore historical transgressions in order to unite these people and create a solution to the current situation, would that be better than the current division?

    • Katie, you bring up several interesting questions, particularly your first question: “are the characters better off keeping their family/community together or should they acknowledge the truth even if it is divisive?” However, I feel that these two parts to your question are not mutually exclusive.

      To me, it felt that, although the characters were naive to the “truth”, their communities were already pretty divided. For example, Ibrahim and Udi have been serving and waiting on Avigdor and Giora for over 10 years. Ibrahim had been supporting their business and also Samya’s education. While the characters never really acknowledged this division, it seemed to already exist before the truth in motives was revealed. Avigdor created a binary years before.

      • Katie, I walked away from the performance with a similar notion. I wrote down in my notes “various versions of truth.” I perceived that the characters have endured so much in their pasts, that perhaps their version of the truth is now skewed. They remember what they wish to remember and forget what they do not. Both fathers felt as though his actions were justified, as did Giora and Azmi. They inherited their understanding of “truth” from their fathers, and their father’s fathers. Though Giora questioned the version he was presented, he was never able to achieve a solidified answer—is there even anything left to be found? I grappled with the same questions as you, what can come from a search for the truth?

    • Katie, I think you raised an excellent point about what the best outcome of the situation is. I think that Azmi is the most interesting character in the play. He knows the narratives from both sides, but realizes that blindly citing either one of them will solve nothing. Instead, he recognizes the tragedy that occurred at Tantur and chooses to move forward from it. At the same time, I agree with Julie’s point that the characters are naïve to the truth. For me, the most beneficial situation lies in between Azmi’s repression of the truth in order to move forward and the other characters blind devotion to narrative.

  8. From Day 1 of this class, we followed the happenings, excitement and commotion surrounding the production of “The Admission” at Theater J. Thus, when March 20th rolled around, I felt the climax of our semester was finally here. After reading the play itself, I definitely got a sense for the controversy that has enveloped the play. I thought it was right for Theater J to go on with the production. Perhaps there had been too much buildup in my mind, so that when the play finally began, I was fairly disappointed with the lack of shock value. I did not feel the super intense emotion I had been expecting to experience. I was anticipating a ton of raw tension and darkness. Though I realize it was in workshop form, and with that comes a different type of layout including a simple set and costumes, I felt there needed to be more dramatic effects, more complexity, and more layers. I think the production team at Theater J did the best with what they were allowed to do; however, I definitely think the format of “The Admission” detracted from the intensity of the story being told.
    The status quo became these exhausting and tiring arguments between different characters, but mainly involving Giora. In a way, I felt it almost became too simplistic and too light, though I do not think that was the intent. The part of the play I will remember most is at the very end. It’s the culmination of Giora’s “pursuit of justice”. He says, “I will dig with my hands and fingernails until they [the bones] are found.” He starts clawing at the ground, falls on the chairs, the sound of the bulldozer starts, and everyone comes out and stares ahead into the audience. The play ends. This was the boldness, drama, and forcefulness I had been waiting for.
    I do not in any way mean to discount the wonderful work of the actors, but I think the conversation created by “The Admission” is more memorable and significant than the workshop production itself. Though I am clearly not a theater expert, I think if it had been a full production, with more overall development and access to more effects, I might have felt much differently.

  9. I was pleasantly surprised by The Admission’s opening performance. Ari’s opening speech and my completely ignorant assumptions about what a “workshop” entails made me think that we would be seeing more of a rehearsal than the fine performance that we saw. While the talk-back did point out some of the play’s issues, it is well on its way to becoming an exceptional play and those involved in it deserve the opportunity to fully develop and perform it. Even though the play clearly does not show Israel’s finest historical moment, it is not “anti-Israel” to critique one of its many historical events. I will say that I do not have much knowledge about the Tantura incident or the research and Israeli trial, but the play and its stance on those events has made me want to learn more about them so that I can make my own judgments.

    Like many members of the audience, I found the first half of the play to be much more engaging and enjoyable to watch. This was the result of a balance between the family and love interests with Giora’s quest to find the “truth.” The second half of the play did not have this balance and was essentially completely composed of climactic action that instead of making the most important parts of the play accentuated made the characters unbelievable.

    Most evident in the second half of the play, Giora’s rejection of his father’s narrative in favor of a tunnel vision acceptation desire to prove Ibrahim’s narrative seems unbelievable. At work in this play are two competing narratives. Why does Giora suddenly reject his father’s narrative and the court’s assessment of the research and Tantur? As a result, Giora is not an admirable character in terms of his truth seeking. It seems that he cannot dissociate his truth seeking from the narratives. At first, he completely accepts his father’s narrative. Then when presented with the other narrative and new evidence, he accepts that narrative and seeks out facts to validate it. At no point does Giora try to reconcile the narratives to find out if truth lies in between them or set aside the narratives as a basis for fact-finding.

  10. Viewing “The Admission” was much different than reading the piece, which is not exactly surprising. However, I feel that if there was a full production, the effect of the play would be much greater, along with the dialogue. The discussion after the workshop was enlightening and made me think of the performance in different ways. You could tell the piece left a lot of people thinking because the post-show discussion was so heavily attended.

    One viewer remarked on how she wanted to know more about the female characters in the piece and their motives did not really come across during the performance and through the story. Originally, I had not thought of this. However, after, I started thinking and also felt like the piece was missing the motives of the women. It seemed like the women were always trying to fix the situations between the men. It almost seemed like they were there only to salvage the relationships between everyone.

    I think this piece opens an important discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With more edits and rehearsals, the piece can definitely realize its full potential. The story focuses on truth, and that is a heavy topic. I feel that this piece is meant to spark discussion on the truth in scope of the conflict, but also outside of it, and that is an important charge.

  11. I want to start this off by saying I really enjoyed Motti Lerner’s The Admission. I found it thought provoking, and well crafted. The ten years Lerner used to shape this play is clearly evident in the play’s structure. He has formed a play that both tells the story of two families and one clash, and opens us to the entire Israel-Palestine situation at the same time. Lerner So I applaud the playwright on a very good play.

    What I actually want to write about though, is the claim that the play is two-sided. Protestors of The Admission claim that it only shows one side, the Palestinian side, of the Israel-Palestine conflict. They further claim that the play actively diminishes the validity of the Israeli perspective on the conflict. I would agree with both these criticisms. Sure, both sides get to tell their story. Through Avigdor, the Israelis give their side of the story, and the Palestinians are able to give their rendition of what happened at Tantur through Ibrahim. This does not, however, make the play two sided. We follow Giora throughout the play as he goes from whole-heartedly believing the Israeli perspective, to not knowing what to believe, to finally believing the Palestinian side. Even if you don’t come out the play with the same perspective as Giora, it’s hard to deny that the Palestinian story is shown in a more favorable light.

    While I certainly agree with these protestors’ criticisms, I don’t agree that this means the play should not be performed. The play’s intent should not be to provide a two-sided story. Instead it should be to expose us to a side of the story that historically has gotten a lot less airtime. This is exactly what The Admission does, and in doing so starts a very important conversation. It is possible in this conflict one side is right and one side is wrong. This doesn’t mean that both sides should have an equal opportunity to give their side. That is what I got out of The Admission; it was the opportunity for one side to tell a story that until recently has not been told.

  12. Generally speaking, I enjoyed “The Admission” by Motti Lerner. I had already read the script, so I knew what I was getting in to. The fact that this was more of a glorified rehearsal rather than a “real” show was pretty impressive. We were told before it began that this was a workshop and that actors may ask for lines and such, so it was surprising to see such a fluid and professional performance.

    This was pleasantly surprising, but what was more surprising was the substantial amount of criticism from the audience during the post-show discussion. Sure, not everyone is going to love every part of the play, and that’s fine. But some of the comments I thought were a tad unwarranted. Particularly, I disagreed with one individual who disliked Giora’s character, stating he was “erratic” and that that somehow diminished his persona. For the same reasons that he/she found this character unappealing, I found him the most interesting and perceptive of the group. During the first part of the play, Giora seems overprotective and somewhat biased, but he explains his actions perfectly in the second half. In his monologue to Azmi about how he realized the atrocities that occurred on his father’s homeland, it becomes clear to the audience that Giora is more sensible than he lead on to be. He had essentially known the truth that Azmi had been search for all along, but chose to keep quiet for the sake of his family and peace. For me, this made him the character with the most depth.

    It may be that, because I had already experienced this story before, that I had an advantage in appreciating the production. While I felt that there was some validity to certain criticisms, I felt that this one in particular was somewhat obtuse.

    • Alex, I agree with you in that I was surprised by some of the comments that were critical of Giora or of Azmi. I really appreciated the complexity of each character, and the internal struggles that he experiences throughout the course of the play. I also disagreed with the dissatisfaction in regards to the ending of the play. The whole premise of the play revolves around the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the ambiguity of the ending reflects the ambiguity of the situation today. I really liked the ending.

      That being said, I still remain unhappy about the portrayal of women in the play. While the men were focused on discovering their own truths and their own pasts, the women were all focused on reducing conflict and pleasing Giora. I found that really frustrating seeing that Samya, a smart, educated, University professor, had potential to be a very strong character.

    • Alex, I also have spent a lot of time thinking about Giora’s character. I understood a couple of the audience members’ points that Giora’s “pursuit of justice” turned him into an obsessive fanatic. I see where they are coming from as his desperation is definitely very obvious throughout the play. However, I see him as a truth seeker, and in a situation in which almost every character is dishonest, it is going to take a lot of digging (figuratively and literally) to find the truth. So, while I did see him as obsessive and over the top, I think he needed to be. When something is so blurred and controversial as this, it is going to take someone who is very committed, who is willing to jump through hoops and will stop at nothing in search of what really happened.

    • Alex, I agree with you; Giora was the character who showed the most depth in this play. This isn’t to take away from the other characters, who were complex and intriguing… but Giora had to fill this position because he was the one just beginning to explore this history from an adult perspective. The other characters (Avigdor, Azmi) had already come to terms with the history and were able to live with past actions. Giora has not yet had the opportunity to process his father’s transgressions. He has not had the chance to mourn the dead or harden his heart against the opposition in light of this new revelation. The audience should have seen how Giora’s position is so much different from the other characters in that his wounds are fresh. This makes him a much more believable character; he is no more erratic than an individual who finds out some horrible truth, such as that he has cancer or some other tragedy. We must allow Giora the time to process this information without expecting him to fall back into line more rapidly than reality permits.

  13. Having read the script about a month ago now, I knew the direction The Admission was heading in and I knew that no resolution would be found. Perhaps that what is didn’t sit quite right with me when I finally saw The Admission performed—I because the entire time I knew the same ending that had disappointed me a month ago was coming all along.

    I do actually feel as though I was too quick to criticize on opening night, and that the suggested moment to soak it all in was much needed. Given a couple days to process the performance, I want to commend both Motti Lerner for a well-written, thoughtful and provoking piece of work, as well as the talented actors who did their best to captivate the audience with limited external resources.

    To answer some of the questions Ari proposed:

    How are we doing as story-tellers?
    Very well, reflecting on my initial reading of the script I appreciate just how well-written it is. I almost appreciate it more as something to read than something to view. I did feel as though there was a lot of dialogue and banter in the performance, so much so that it was overwhelming at times—it felt as though the action (the stabbing) happens right at the beginning of the play and the conflict just continuously becomes heavier and more intense for the remainder of the performance. This may be something that having a set could alleviate. A slamming door may create a settling silence. An actress storming off stag may make us long for her reappearance. A question that was raised in the post-show discussion was: where is this tenderness? Which I feel is very valid. The anger and hurt felt very real and resonated with me, but even the slightest moments of tenderness and love seemed feigned.

    Are we clear in defining the characters?
    Yes—this was a non-issue for me. All of the characters were well established and clearly defined.

    Are we complex enough to respect the collision of narratives?
    Is anyone? I don’t know. I do not have the same emotional or historical ties to the events portrayed in The Admission as many others who viewed it on opening night. Every character is seemingly convicted by his or her version of the truth and their own understanding of the events, reluctant to truly be persuaded otherwise. I appreciate The Admission as a lens for those unfamiliar with the conflict to have an intimate look and windows into that collision of narratives.

  14. I knew of the controversy surrounding The Admission thanks to a behind-the-scenes look into its production, but when I read it I personally didn’t see much controversial. All it did was assume blame and fault on both sides of a conflict – isn’t that the truth in any situation? When I saw it performed I came away with the same conclusion. Nobody was in the right there, and nobody was in the wrong. However, I also came away with a deeper understanding of the pain that both sides felt, a pain that shone through in performance far more than in the text itself.

    I found the portrayal of Giora particularly captivating, as that character really embodied the struggle for truth. As I mentioned in my midterm presentation, I think most plays can be seen as the struggle between two opposing forces – in The Admission, those forces are truth and deceit. And as I also mentioned, I think a lot of the uncomfortable parts of plays – but also a lot of the meaning – can be found in the gray areas between those two extremes. Giora consistently strove towards one end of the spectrum, but I found it very interesting how the other characters never stood in either approval or defiance of his mission. All of them – young and old, Jew and Arab – at times encouraged and discouraged, clarified and obfuscated the all-important search for What Really Happened. And in the end, I think, we conclude that the event itself did not matter as much as people’s reactions to it. It was in that that we could truly measure characters’ morals. I really did appreciate Motti Lerner’s decision to not have a ‘bad guy’ character in the play, as it made the gray area more important and emphasized the theme that no one side had a claim to moral superiority. Instead, both sides lay claim to a painful history and a long reconciliation process, and in recognizing that, I think, we find the first seeds to healing.

  15. First of all, I want to apologize for posting late. I had a bit of an emergency to deal with this past weekend… Prior to arriving at Theater J, I didn’t know what to expect of the performance. I had a lot of thoughts about whether people would actually be outside of the theater protesting. What I did find was an incredible amount of support and appreciation for the actors that were taking part of The Admission.

    I knew that this was a long awaited piece. I wasn’t too sure how different a workshop would be from a final production. To be completely honest, I think the workshop aspect of the play didn’t really influence any negative feeling thoughts about the piece.

    I appreciate the fact that we had the opportunity to have a full on dialogue about the text of the paly. Ari was great in facilitating a conversation that could have gone in a completely different direction. I constantly kept thinking to myself how the actors felt throughout the process of preparing for The Admission. It was hard to understand that perspective because we know very little about what is actually going on in the mind of an actor off the stage. I had asked Andra whether she knew how the actors were feeling. I would have really liked to engage in a talk-back with some of the actors.

    The community’s overall involvement at Theater J was incredible. I believe the fact that The Admission was advertised as a Workshop sparked a lot of conversation among the community members. It might have sparked a lot of conversation regardless of how it was advertised, but I do believe this helped facilitate the conversation.

  16. The Admission has received constant publicity and media attention, both positive and negative, since the idea of this play was proposed. After reading the script of the play, I had many questions regarding the controversy of the play. I was not very familiar with the conflict and history of the Arab –Israeli interaction. I was not able to watch the play at the same time as the rest of the class, and the workshop of this play has fixed some of the issues that were presented in some of my classmate’s blogs from last week. The acting in this play was impressive; the characters were compelling and each added a different perspective on the conflict between both groups. The Admission is clearly a box office success, I’m glad that I was able to watch this performance, even though it was a workshop versus a full performance. I am an observant individual; I caught myself watching the play as well as the audience to see their reactions. There was constant laughter throughout the play and you could also tell when the audience disagreed with comments or felt uncomfortable.
    The Admission was a well thought out play that had a clear focus. From my vantage point, I felt that the significance of this play was to learn how to approach and talk about sensitive issues like this one. At the beginning of the play, there was very minimal knowledge by Giora, the main character, about his father’s role in a battle that took place. As Giora began to research and question his parents about their involvement he began to learn more about what took place. Giora felt responsible to learn what had happened and he wanted to do some justice to the Arab people who his father had assisted in displacing and killing. Giora’s mother stated that he should not judge his father’s actions out of context. I didn’t think that Giora was judging his father out of context because he also understood what it takes to participate in war and he felt guilty for his own actions when he went to war in Lebanon.
    I also wanted to comment on the crutches that Giora had to use. I was thrown off with his movement on stage. At times he used the crutches well and moved effortless and other times he seemed to struggle and drag his legs. I think that there should have been more time dedicated in rehearsal to getting that aspect correct. The times that Giora fell down seemed staged and unrealistic. There should have been a more consistent pace to his walking so it could have been more believable throughout the play. In addition I did not know how effective writing a book to tell the “other side of the story” would have been in this context. There was obviously some skepticism regarding the thesis that was at his universities library, and I agree with the father, that publishing a book on this topic will only bring more interest and attention to the issue. It was interesting to see how the father showed little to no regret for his actions. He was stubborn, however he did know that he made mistakes in the past. However, he felt that he paid his dues by helping Samya with school payments, Azmi with his restaurant reservations, etc.
    This play taught me several things, including background on the Arab-Israeli conflict. I learned that there are more than two sides to one story. There seemed to be a large grey area between what was reported and what actually happened. During the post-show I appreciated the well-rounded and experienced panel that went on stage. They discussed current Arab-Israeli relationships; I had no idea that these types of romantic relationships were condemned within those societies. The Admission challenged many social norms in the Middle East and it is clear that a majority of the criticism stems from Theatre J being a community Jewish center and putting these events in a play. The critics of his play, should know that theatre is art; Theatre J does not endorse all the messages in this play as true, although they handle the production of it. The Admission was the best workshop play I have seen. I would be interested to see what this play would look like if it was performed to its full potential, I would also like to congratulate Ari and other members of the Theatre J for allowing the show to go on despite the criticism, job well done!

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