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October 10, 2013

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Karl Miller

I couldn't believe it either. I did a workshop reading of that play at Theatre J a few years ago. If some of the history of 1948 is in contention, well, that's what the plot of the play was about, too. Contention. Kinda essential for drama.

The play is written by an Israeli Jew and it airs a Palestinian grievance in order to debate it. But by their own admission, the group that's protesting the production hasn't even read the whole play they're boycotting. They don't seem to think American Jews can handle the burden of suspending disbelief or the contention that animates any drama. Which is the real slander?

Ian Thal

I'm not familiar with this particular play, but based on my familiarity with one of Motti Lerner's other plays, http://artsfuse.org/51366/fuse-theater-commentary-a-complex-view-of-life-death-and-combat-in-israel-at-nights-end/>At Night's End. I find it hard to believe that his nuanced way of viewing the moral complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict, that any of his works could be boiled down to being "anti-Israel."

Ari Roth

Hey Isaac,
I really appreciate your parsing the issue and seeing the fissures that are natural and real that exist between a theater company and the umbrella organizations under which it produces. There's support and there's tension and that's all part of the dynamic. The one thing to amend to your favorable assessment ("Looking at Theater J, I no longer see a theater that lacks the courage of its convictions. I see instead a theater attempting again and again to push its community on a core and controversial knot of issues (Isreal, Palestine and Zionism) and finding itself threatened for it every time. I actually have come to kind of admire Theater J's stubbornness in trying to find ways to push their community, even as it keeps blowing up in their faces") is that despite the media brouhaha on each one of the productions or presentations, the shows go on, they kick ass, and they make money. "Imagining Madoff" was, of course, delayed, revised, not sued, and eventually premiered here in DC a year later and did well. "Return to Haifa" [http://washingtondcjcc.org/center-for-arts/theater-j/theater-j-on-video/Voices-on-video.html] aroused plenty of protest, complaints, etc, but it didn't "blow up in our face" -- it played to 98% capacity and was a huge audience and critical hit. So a few right-wing Jews didn't like it? Seven Jewish Children created a firestorm. No, we didn't make money -- we didn't CHARGE money -- but we got an end of the year citation for it from the Washington Post and, even though I was picketed outside by COPMA, Peter Marks' closing line of his write-up of the evening said the presentation "wasn't grounds for a firing but for a raise." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/16/AR2009031603255.html) PS - I got the raise - not the next day, and not at the end of the season, but eventually. I've gotten a couple. So we're not a hapless bunch of agitators that keep pushing the envelope only to have it "explode in our faces." We know what we're doing when we agitate and provoke debate, and we're still here (for now) making money and putting butts in the seats.
Again, I write not to argue with you but to piggy-back with great appreciation for your sense of what's been going down here in DuPont Circle. There's some seriously nasty forces at work trying to get us defunded and get me fired. And change may be a coming. But not yet. "The Admission" will be launched with a three week workshop, reviewed by the press, eligible for Helen Hayes Awards consideration, and then could theoretically transfer if an outside producer wanted to pick it up and run with what should probably/hopefully be a very hot ticket. Hope you'll come down sometime between March 20-April 6 and see it!

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