Results tagged “guardian” from Drama Queen

fractal21.gifThis week I'm macking on: those times when the universe's chaos organizes itself into a clear pattern. Every now and then it seems like the ether is sending a message: a particular phrase occurs in a string of productions; you think about someone you haven't seen in 30 years and there they are. Lately, for me, the message quite literally seems to be coming from the heavens. 

A decidedly angry Jewish theme has emerged that began when I discovered Heeb's fake Holocaust memoir contest. It continued in Chicago, where I watched a festival of this year's Oscar-nominated short films and one of the group--probably the one that will take the prize, Germany's Spielzeugland (Toyland)--really irritated the hell out of me, with its irresponsible Holocaust kitsch. (Just because a movie can jerk a tear doesn't mean it's worthwhile. I could beat you over the head and make you cry too, but should I get an award for it?) For the record, my vote goes to the Swiss entry Auf der Strecke (On the Line), which makes a similar point about collective guilt and secrecy, but using a completely different metaphor.

Anyway, next, Menachem Wecker interviewed me about Jews and theater and I got a little riled up, tonight I'm headed to Aaron Posner's adaptation of Chaim Potok's novel My Name Is Asher Lev, and tomorrow, it's Michael Frayn's Copenhagen. I thought the pattern might end in some anti-assimilation epiphany, but no, it appears that what this has all been leading up to is what I'm hating on.

So this week I'm hating on: Caryl Churchill's eight-minute play Seven Jewish Children, but not for the reason you might expect. I'm hating on the specter of censorship surrounding any hint of an imminent U.S. production (click link above for NY Times article about the play and its potential production at the Public Theater). Of course, the work is polarizing, it's meant to be. And of course it's not even-handed, Churchill's using it as a fundraiser for Medical Aid for Palestinians, though as the Times Online's Christopher Hart notes, 

"donating to Medical Aid for Palestinians seems a good idea. I just hope the supplies get through. Two weeks ago, the UN suspended all food aid to Gaza after 10 lorryloads of supplies, 3,500 blankets and 400 food boxes were stolen at gunpoint. By Hamas."

Maybe it's anti-Semitic, and it's definitely inflammatory. But is it, as the Spectator's Melanie Phillips suggests, an invocation of blood libel? That's just too facile a charge. To be perfectly honest, I've heard similar lines of dialogue delivered around my holiday dinner table by the most conservative members of my family. It's possible to be both Zionist and rational, but it's possible to be Zionist and irrational as well. And though I know I'm opening a firestorm by saying this, there's something in Churchill's dialogue that rings true. When she writes, as an Israeli mother talking about her young daughter,

"Tell her we're the iron fist now, tell her it's the fog of war, tell her we won't stop killing them till we're safe, tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policeman, tell her I wouldn't care if we wiped them out, the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don't care if the world hates us, tell her we're better haters, tell her we're chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? Tell her all I feel is happy it's not her."

she's channeling the frustrations of both Jews and Palestinians who have lived their entire lives under siege. They may not be universal sentiments, but they're ones that can no doubt be found on either side of the Gaza checkpoints, and, I'm guessing, wherever there are Arabs and Jews in large enough concentrations to feel an organized antipathy toward one another. The show could just as easily have been called Seven Palestinian Children, and showed Palestinian mothers expressing the same sentiments to their daughters. But it's not, and though it's unfortunate--no, scratch that, it's downright dangerous--that Churchill chose to pick a side, she gains credibility when pro-Israel activists (p.s., I consider myself a pro-Israel activist) try to intimidate the Public Theater into silence, rather than calling for constructive actions such as balanced post-show discussions or twinning Churchill's piece with a play that has an opposing perspective. 

Of course, there's the chance Churchill might veto a balanced slate. But that's where our free press and dauntless arts journalists can fill the void by informing the public whether the playwright is any more willing to compromise than her tyrannical characters. I, for one, would sure like to know.

Thanks to the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins for rounding up UK commentary on the issue.

February 20, 2009 8:18 AM | | Comments (1)

I'm still in Colorado, a pretty exciting place to be right now. With all the fuss surrounding the Democratic National Convention, the city of Denver has done an admirable job of highlighting its arts scene. There was a New York Times piece about the city's public sculptures, PHAMALy, a handicapped theater company , performed for free for conventioneers and the public, and last night, Red Rocks Amphitheatre hosted an adult contemporary enviro-love note to Obama featuring Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews.

But on Wednesday, the Denver Coliseum will host a related, and--at least to my tastes--far more exciting event: the Tent State Music Festival to End the War. Joining the festivities are, among others, Denver's Flobots and Wayne Kramer, but headlining are '90s revolution-rockers Rage Against the Machine, and that's where things get interesting.  

Apparently, Rage has a real gripe with the current administration. Yesterday's Denver Post published an editorial by the band's members, which was distributed through Amnesty International. It seems the U.S. government has been using the band's music as part of its sleep deprivation and sensory overload torture campaign. The band says:

As artists and as human beings, it sickens us to know that the U.S. government has been using our music to torment detainees. We are especially appalled by the discovery that there is very little that we, as artists, can do to stop the military and the CIA from turning our music into a weapon. Our songs -- which include human rights themes such as freedom, our beautiful world, and the voice of the voiceless -- are meant to be cries against injustice, not accomplices to dehumanizing and extrajudicial acts.

Hopefully, the secret prisoners in question don't understand English all that well, because if they did, songs like "Bulls on Parade" and "Killing in the Name of" would probably serve more as inspiration for an overthrow of the U.S. government than deterrent. The clear irony here is that a band whose music is so blatantly anti-authoritarian is being used in the most authoritarian circumstance imaginable. And, as singer Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, et al, point out, they've made music to inspire people, not oppress them.

Even more frustrating, the musicians themselves have no recourse in this case. Though Jackson Browne, Abba, John Mellancamp, and even Frankie Valli were able to stop John McCain from using their music during his campaign, Rage is limited to, well, raging against the machine. Though last month Guardian blogger Sean Michaels suggested the military ought to pay royalty fees to the artists on its playlist, I imagine such an arrangement would be throughly repellent to the boys in the band.

I can't embed their Michael Moore-directed video for "Sleep Now in the Fire," but you can still click and enjoy it.  

August 25, 2008 9:42 AM | | Comments (5)
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