“The purpose of theatre is to wound our memory so we can remember,”
writes Paula Vogel in the Playbill for Indecent. Currently running on Broadway in the
Cort Theatre, Indecent, written by Vogel and directed by Rebecca Taichman, was
nominated for several Tony Awards this year, including Best Play.
Indecent is a play about another play, God of Vengeance, and how it was
received when it was performed during the 1920s. God of Vengeance told the story
of a Jewish man who ran a brothel, and whose daughter fell in love with one of his
prostitutes. This play was the first on an American stage to present a kiss between
two women. It had a beautiful, pure love scene, often compared to Romeo and Juliet’s
balcony scene, depicting these two women enjoying the rain. A main character in
Indecent, Sholem Asch (writer of God of Vengeance) experiences dismay when his
play is not well received by his community of Jewish writers in Warsaw, for in a time
of strong anti-Semitism, any depiction of Jews as less than upstanding members of
their community was a strike against them. Asch responds by taking the play
touring throughout Europe (where it was better received), and eventually to New
York. Then, in 1923, shortly after God of Vengeance’s Broadway opening, the
producer and all of the cast were arrested and convicted of obscenity.
Indecent is a play that tugs on your heartstrings; it is truly a play that
“wounds” its audience in the hope that they can learn something from the past. It is
particularly moving because it shows that the actors were very devoted to God of
Vengeance and faced many challenges in performing the show: besides the obscenity
trial, the romantic rain scene is cut during one production, dramatically shifting the
tone of the play from love to manipulation. The cast returned to Europe during the
1930s and continued to perform, despite the increasing danger of Hitler’s Final
Solution, and even performed while in hiding, hoping to inspire their desperate
audiences. Finally, the cast was discovered and all perished in concentration camps.
The overall tone of Indecent is not entirely depressing—moments of comedy
and music lighten the mood—but the flawless direction makes the ordeals borne by
the characters resound deeply. One memorable scene depicts a Jewish writer
pleading outside the gates of the United Nations. This man, at first, is begging to
speak to the English ambassador, but is not received. He then begins switching
languages, from English to French to Russian and finally to Chinese, and grows more
and more desperate as in each language he is denied admittance. Asch stands next
to him, reading a letter that he received from this man, pleading with Asch to use his
influence to stress to the U.S. government the dire situation of the Jews in Nazioccupied
Europe. This scene was evocative of the hardships of Jews during this time,
because their pleas were unheard, just like members in the audience couldn’t
understand all the switching languages.
It’s hard not to relate Indecent’s themes of fear, xenophobia, homophobia,
and anti-Semitism to our current politics. Vogel states that “theatre is a living
memory,” and Indecent certainly leaves you questioning what you would devote
your life to, and in light of the fate of the cast of God of Vengeance, what you would
give your life for.
Context: This is a monologue based on the play Indecent, written by Paula Vogel. The person speaking is Sholem Asch, the writer of God of Vengeance, the play on which Indecent is based. This takes place just after Asch did a reading of his play, and the play was rejected.
I can’t believe them! They hated my play! Those men wouldn’t know a great play if it was staring them in the face!
They cannot stand the thought that maybe we are not all perfect citizens. “We have to stand up for our own.” Easy to say when all you do is sit there and tear down the dreams of writers like me, just to make sure your vision of Jews remains inoffensive to gentiles.
I saw something more real within us Jews, that must be shared with the world. That’s why I wrote my God of Vengeance. We must accept that some of us do grievous wrongs. So, what if people hate us?! They are going to hate us whether we give them a reason or not! All I tried to do in God of Vengeance was show the purest love imaginable between two people, and obstacles in their way. Just because their circumstances aren’t normal, you hated them! You think that just because these characters aren’t real that they don’t have real problems? These characters are more real than any of the men in this room, they’re more passionate and more loving.
Gentiles think we think that we’re better than them. If only they could see this play, see the love between these two women, how they are together in the face of terrible adversity. Then maybe they could understand that we don’t try to portray ourselves as ideal, but as real people.
Change is coming. There is nothing you can do to stop it! These old men are stuck in a time when we were laughed at when we walked down the street, when gentiles would point and say “Look! That’s a Jew!” We were not thought of as equals to the gentiles, but as curiosities. We were made to change ourselves so we looked like the gentiles. In that time, we did all we could to show ourselves as good people. Every time a Jew wrote about Jews he would make
them virtuous and perfect. It didn’t work. Gentiles still see us as different, as beings not worthy
of their attention or respect.
My play is a masterpiece of love. It will be spoken of and performed for generations!
People will come from miles around to hear of the passion between Manke and Rifkele. Just
because you can’t see the beauty and purity in their love doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just
because I don’t show our people the way everyone else does doesn’t mean I am against our
kind. I am proud to call myself a Jew, and my play does not diminish this fact. My God of
Vengeance is a true work of art, one that must be performed!
We can’t keep hiding behind images of our people other Jewish writers create. That’s
why I wrote God of Vengeance! You wouldn’t understand it, because you are all too happy to
stay here and hope that one day you will be accepted by gentiles as their equals, even though
they hate you more every day. I cannot stand by and let that happen! I will take my play to
Berlin. Maybe there God of Vengeance will get the appreciation it deserves.
Have you ever had a free summer night and no idea how to spend it? Think no further. The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents Macbeth by William Shakespeare, directed by Carl Cofield. Be prepared to be spellbound by the magic of the Weird Sisters, whose magic comes alive through the use of effective projection (Katherine Freer) and lighting (Alan C. Edwards). Located in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater; the CTH along with the City Parks Summer Stage program creates an exhilarating rendition of the classic work.
Ty Jones plays the titular character Macbeth, whose descent to madness is matched with the darkening sky witnessed easily in the outdoor theater. Taking you back to the time of this “Scottish tragedy”, you’ll discover with little research that this version of the play resembles Haile Selassie’s reign in Ethiopia. The CTH’s history of inclusion of Black artists in their theatrical works is refreshingly progressive as you take note of the exclusion of people of color in theatre. Rachel Dozier-Ezell creates this resemblance to African culture in her choice of costume. The play, however, never deviates from text. You witness the tragic hero struggle against his guilt. A memorable moment occurs at the feast as Banquo’s ghost is represented by a clothed figure steadily advancing as well as an eerie projection of Banquo that is magnified onto the stage.
Speaking of memorable moments, the choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher is matched with the rhythmic beat of instruments leaving you enraptured in a hazy state of reality. Dances from the staff to possessive spirits compel the audience to applaud. The fights scenes (Emmanuel Brown) paired with the machetes’ glinting in the light as well as the increasing drum beat are stimulating and blood pumping. As entrancing as these scenes were, Roslyn Ruff’s scenes as Lady Macbeth can’t be stopped from being branded into your memory. Entering the narrative with powerful character, unafraid to tell her husband to “stick his courage to the sticky place”, it is obvious who pulls the strings. Watching her unravel as her ambition leads to unspeakable actions is as fascinating as seeing Macbeth lose his composure and compassion.
Ruff wasn’t the only actor to bring it to the table. The eerie trio of the Weird sisters played by Andrea Patterson, Afia Abusham, and Clymene Baugher enter with in swirls of mist and time stopping magic. They plague Macbeth in their warped voices as they tell him prophecies in sync. They appear hauntingly behind screens at their mention and demons trail at their wake. Their appearance tells you that stuff is about to go down. Don’t worry though, the entire play isn’t a haunting nightmare. The character of the porter played wonderfully by Anthony Vaughn Merchant brings humor to this otherwise dark play. Macduff and Malcolm played by Jason Delane and Brandon Carter respectively, bring new emotions to the play as they deal with the death their loved ones and newfound responsibilities. The cast as a whole did a tremendous performance and I hope to see this company’s work again
Tuesdays to Sundays at 8pm and Fridays at 8:30 pm until the end of July, you can watch this amazing and free performance. The Shakespearean dialect was not difficult to make out and the outdoor theater allowed sound to travel. People of all ages are allowed to attend. Early arrival grants you the chance to listen to a variety of bands and groups, whose listings can be found on the CTH website at www.cthnyc.org .
Maria Hassabi: Plastic
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 street, New York
Through Sunday, March 20, 2016
Click HERE for specific show times.
Yes, this is a last minute update—apologies—but you have to see it before it ends. This is a live installation, entitled PLASTIC, commissioned by Artist and Choreographer Maria Hassabi. In this installation dancers perform throughout MoMA, on its floors and staircases.
Initially, I thought; umm woahh what’s going on here! However, at that time I was already captivated by the subtlety of their movement, and the immense physical control being executed. As said on MoMA’s website, “… their positions recall images of bodies in repose, collapse, or transition…PLASTIC addresses the interface between artistic object and human subject.”
I enjoyed this piece and think that you will as well.
Amateur Night at the Apollo
The Apollo Theatre
253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
March 30, 2016 @ 7:30 pm
Amateur night at the Apollo is a very fun and interactive live performance event. Probably one of the only events that permits booing haha! Aspiring artists (musicians, poets, dancers, comedians, singers, rappers) take the stage, and try their utmost best to woo the audience. The audience has the power to tell the audience to “be good or be gone.”
In addition, Amateur night always begins with a pre-party where everyone is invited to get up and dance. It is a space booming with Black culture and amazing energy.
Go have fun!
The Met Breuer
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Opens on March 18
Click HERE for more info!
Sooo, The esteemed Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a branch dedicated to “Modern and Contemporary art through the lens of History.” This is located in the landmark building designed by Marcel Breuer, which was the former home of the Whitney Museum—a recycling of art spaces, green and creative J. I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS and, I’m sure that Met will not disappoint.
See you there!