Friday Mack Attack, 3/06/09
This week I'm macking on: The output of feature articles on new play producing organizations in Philadelphia. A couple of weeks back, I wrote this piece on PlayPenn for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, the Philadelphia Weekly's J. Cooper Robb is covering 1812 Productions' embrace of new work by local playwrights, and the Philadelphia City Paper's Mark Kofta is covering the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop's PlayShop Festival, also a showcase for Philly dramatists. And that's not even the whole picture. I've said before, this is a pretty exciting time to be working in and around Philadelphia theaters; it's even more exciting that now a whole lot of other folks are saying it too.
This week I'm hating on: All the the calls for a boycott of the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company's performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which opened March 4 (review here). The protest is called "Dancing on the Graves of Gaza," with a tagline that reads,
"1,300 dead, 5,000 wounded, and 50,000 left homeless, this is no time for dancing."
Of course, if you've arrived here through ArtsJournal's portal, you're probably already convinced that there's probably no better time for dancing in Israel and the Palestinian territories than now. You have to be either a complete fundamentalist or a complete fool not to recognize the importance of the arts during a time of national strife--whether they are used for healing, protesting, exploring, or simply uplifting the spirits of the dispirited. Even more frustrating than the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel's (PACBI) enthusiasm for this wrongheaded action is news that Batsheva Artistic Director Ohad Naharin has said publicly that he "opposes the violence in Israel." In recent performances, along with examining Middle East politics through movement, the company used music by Israeli Arab composer Habib Allah Jamil. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, Michelle J. Kinnucan, in a widely circulated article on the topic, calls Batsheva "an Israeli apartheid dance troupe," condemns Naharin for having served in the Israeli army (military service is compulsory for all citizens in Israel), and proceeds to make the inflammatory assertion that punishment for resisting service is far more lenient in Israel than, "in Germany in the 1930s, say." Yeah, I guess it would be.
Reaction to Batsheva's performance isn't an exact parallel to reaction over Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children, since that play takes an obvious anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stance. But they do have this much in common: both suffer from attacks by the ignorant and implacable, and foes on both sides would do well to ruminate over Naharin's idealistic, yet inspiring statement:
"We do what we do out of love, out of passion, because we are crazy, not because we have a role or because we are supposed to lead anyone, but through dance and art, we can show people that new solutions and new ideas can be better than old ideas and old solutions."