Programming Updates for THE HAMPTON YEARS

We’re well into programming for THE HAMPTON YEARS and I’m pleased to share some thoughts and updates.

Last night we had a late-in-the-game programming addition:

 The Art and Artists of Pre-War Vienna

  • Ori Z Soltes teaches theology and art history at Georgetown University. He is the former Director and Curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum.
Theater J Council Member Elaine Reuben speaks with Ori Soltes.

Theater J Council Member Elaine Reuben speaks with Ori Soltes.

Ori was fantastic, providing context for the art scene that Viktor Lowenfeld was leaving behind in Austria. He described the Lowenfeld’s as “refugees from an extreme example of people drawing a particular kind of boundary around a particular kind of people”; reflecting on the play itself as it speaks to the human tendency to want to do just that–put metaphorical, and sometimes even literal, boxes around people.

Ori spoke of “degenerate art”, the English translation of the German Entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe art that was banned because it was “un-German”. Or as Ori put it, because it was “too Jewish”. Thus by the 1930s, the only acceptable art in Germany (and Austria) was likely to be of “classical inspiration…heroic figures…smiling faces”.

In 1937, Nazi officials purged German museums of works the Party considered to be degenerate. Of the thousands of works removed, 650 were chosen for a special exhibit that opened in Munich and traveled to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria. In each installation, the works were poorly hung and surrounded by graffiti mocking the artists and their creations. Over three million visitors attended the exhibition.

Hitler visits the Degenerate Art Exhibition.

Hitler visits the Degenerate Art Exhibition.

Soltes also pointed out the irony that “not a single member of the Nazi Party leadership actually looked (like the people they wanted portrayed in these paintings) — the Aryan ideal.”

On Sunday, June 9 we hosted:

A Conversation with Julian Bond: Civil Right Activist and former NAACP chairman, with Tanya Bowers, Director for Diversity, Office of the President, National Trust for Historic Preservation

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The Social Protest Movement in Israel

Shirley here.

As much of the city was gathering chilled beverages and saucing up their Buffalo wings, we gathered in the Gonda theater following the 3pm showing of BOGED for a final Voices from a Changing Middle East panel discussion.

The talk, titled: The Social Protest Movement in Israel and the Regional Earthquake, brought together

  • Moderator Stephen Stern, Theater J Council
  • Anton Goodman, Jewish Agency Israel Engager Shaliach to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
  • Allison T. Hoffman, Senior Writer, Tablet Magazine
  • Yoram Peri, Abraham S. and Jack Kay Chair in Israel Studies Director of The Joseph B. and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies University of Maryland, College Park


The conversation vacillated between reflections on the play itself; talk of Boaz Gaon’s prominent role in the J14 Social Protest movements that happened in Israel during the summer of 2011; and the results and ramifications of the recent elections in Israel.

The social protest movement was an “uncorking of…frustration and anger…and also art in a certain way” Allison Hoffman observed. Because so much of the protest focused on domestic issues within Israel, this left American Jews wondering “is this our fight?”

Yoram Peri told us about a letter her wrote to Boaz (his former student) in March 2011. He expressed an appreciation for what Gaon’s generation was doing “Don’t wait for people of my generation” he translated from the original Hebrew in his letter, “change in Israel won’t come from my generation…revolutions are led by the young!” He lamented the need of his generation to “be cautious, take very small steps”.

And so—a record number forty-eight new members were elected to the Knesset, many of them coming out of the social protest movement. And yet—Peri expressed his frustration with this younger generation’s complete avoidance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue which—in his view—will bubble underneath everything else until it is solved.

Anton reflected that the energy of the play mirrored the energy of the protests for him–that of “An Israeli society wanting to be better and wanting to do the right thing”

The question in both the play, and in real life is–what happens when there are many different views on what actually is “the right thing”? What if one person’s hero is another’s enemy of the state? Indeed, what then?

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Israeli Elections…

And may have been, if not afraid, then hesitant to ask. Because, I gotta say (this is Shirley) as an American overly-used to our for-all-intents-and-purposes two-party structure, the workings of the Israeli electoral system can seem pretty complex.

That’s why we were so glad to get a great group of smart and articulate people together to talk about it. Check out excerpts from the conversation on Vimeo, which featured:

Bonus round: pick out Shirley and Ari’s laughs on tape.

And p.s. While Yair Lapid isn’t quite a dead ringer for George Clooney, I can totally see the comparison.

The Sounds of Sephardic Identity

Shirley here.

Last Sunday we hosted the fabulous musician and musicologist Ramón Tasat for a Post Show Panel Discussion titled: Sephardic Identity–An Encounter through Music. Stephen Stern, Theater J Council Member, led the conversation. We’ve posted some highlights (including several incredible musical excerpts) on Vimeo.

Sephardic Identity – An Encounter Through Music from Theater J on Vimeo.

And speaking of Vimeo, I’ll take this opportunity to point folks towards some of the discussions we recorded and posted earlier this season, during the run of OUR CLASS. The first was a pre-show talk that Jan Gross gave (author of the book Neighbors–which inspired the play); the second is a panel co-sponsored by the Polish embassy with esteemed guests:
• Tadeusz Słobodzianek, playwright of OUR CLASS
• Mr. Krzysztof Persak, Ph.D, Director of the Institute of National Remembrance President’s Office
• Derek Goldman, Director of OUR CLASS
• Allen Kuharski, Chair of the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College and an authority on Polish theater and drama

We love continuing the conversation beyond the stage, and this play gave us much to discuss. Follow us here on the blog and on Vimeo to keep up with the latest discussions!

Our Class Pre Show Discussion with Jan Gross at Theater J from Theater J on Vimeo.

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