Transfixed, Transformed

In the play—that scene—

falling rain, a soft drumming on the stage,

two women in white nightgowns, dance and kiss

glorious, not indecent—

 

later, in the Lodz ghetto,

they perform again–

the drumming of jackboots looms–

 

the play’s not indecent, their reality is.

 

 

Paula Vogel’s play, Indecent, is a play about a play Sholem Asch’s 1903 drama God of Vengeance, which was performed in Yiddish in Europe, then in Yiddish theaters in the U.S. When it was translated into English and performed on Broadway it triggered an obscenity trial in 1923. The play was performed in the Lodz ghetto with a diminishing cast and audience. This sounds very depressing, but I love this play, and there is humor and joy in it, too. And that rain dance scene. (If you’re a PBS member and have Passport you may be able to see the play on Great Performances online.)

This is a quadrille for Mish’s dVerse prompt using the word, “drum,” and it also addresses Anmol’s Pride Month prompt  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

“The purpose of theatre is to bring into public that which is kept offstage. . .”

Paula Vogel, The New Yorker, May 12, 2017.

“We have a story we want to tell you . . .About a play. A play that changed my life. Every night we tell this story—but somehow I can never remember the end. … No matter. I can remember how it begins. It all starts with this moment—”

From Paula Vogel, Indecent

 

About that breeze

carrying the scent of flowers

in the rain—

now rust-tinged with blood–

does it haunt you?

Listen–

the sound of ghosts walking

through ashes, whispering, whispering

the sound of pain

the sound of love and desire

carried through time

***

 

We walk

(through, around, over

ghosts)

steps echoing

a city filled

with art and history

there a bridge

named for a poet

(who lived in Camden)

who celebrated history

and nature

IMG_2969

human bodies and love

(he spoke of that

which was not spoken)

indecent, some said

unnamed the fear

of love

is love is love is love is love

F2EF3C6A-76F9-49CE-8007-BDA65F8081DE

Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th with homemade pizza and Auburn Road’s Eidolon wine

 

We walk after

seeing my mother

her body dimmed,

no longer so electric

but still pulsing light

 

generates the warmth

the air, the sky

on a beautiful spring

we eat outside

where souls once gathered

celebrating god and man

and new beginnings

(blinks of time)

 

the ghosts gather

telling the story

over and over

knowing how it begins,

never knowing how it ends

 

the play begins with ashes

that later return

but remember the rain scene

(that rain scene!)

that glorious love

passionate and innocent

that shocked—

indecent they said,

that play, and this play

about it–

this love song to Yiddish theater,

to theater,

to the light within us

to memory

to time

 

so relevant the themes again

immigrants demonized,

and we more polarized

and there is fear

all around

(like ghosts)

 

twelve more dead,

we shake our heads,

go on with life

(with thoughts and prayers)

but the dead stay dead

and the ghosts whisper,

remember. . .

 

Yet, we create

and generate

(our bodies electric)

music,

art, and poetry

channeling muses

and spirits

remembering

(the rain scene)

the scent of rain

the light through the trees

Sylvia Schreiber, Giverny Sketches

and love–

there is love

all around

 

and friendships

that stay true

through births and deaths

generating

regenerating

remembering

this moment

to the next

IMG_2997

always how it begins,

but never how it ends–

the lights go down,

the lights come again,

the ashes fall,

the ghosts whisper,

remember this moment,

remember this

 

It was a busy weekend: another mass shooting, a celebration, visiting my mom, seeing Indecent at the Arden (I love this play), walks, a bridal shower. We also saw Book of Mormon, the Broadway touring company, but I couldn’t fit that in. We’ve seen it before, and it enjoyed seeing it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Art and Dancing in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

“Great art evokes a response. . .emotion.”

Bruce Graham, The Craftsman

“We have a story we want to tell you about a play — a play that changed my life. Every night, we tell this story. But somehow I can never remember the end.”

–Lemml, at the beginning of Indecent by Paula Vogel

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. . .dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

The day began with a stunning sunrise

a prize or disguise

for what would come later?

IMG_7912

Pitman golf coures, Pitman, NJ

We walk through city streets

listen to the beats

the syncopation of traffic and conversations

the announcements from underground stations,

look at the buildings and public art

take heart that the rain has not yet started.

I notice a clock, a reminder to go inside,

IMG_7431 2

the theater,

another world unfurls.

 

At the back of stage

projections of artwork by Vermeer

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Girl_Reading_a_Letter_by_an_Open_Window_-_Google_Art_Project

Johannes Vermeer, “Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

over them we suddenly hear

guns or bombs and the paintings disappear

overlaid with black

then from the back

a man appears to give a speech

he is the head of the provisional government,

the Nazis are gone

the dawn of a new time

but justice must be done.

 

The play is about a forger, a con man

IMG_7454

who longs to be an artist, and when he can—

he also gets revenge upon the man, the critic

the con man’s a cynic

his wife, perhaps anti-Semitic

later she says she should have spoken out

without a doubt

a line that is relevant today

as is much of the play

which explores art, creativity, ability

and should an “expert’s” opinion hold dominion

over art

What is it worth, what is fake and what is real?

what will you pay to seal a deal?

I’m reminded of a man, an emperor with no clothes,

(as everyone knows)

who insists that his paintings (and news) are real

because he could never admit that he was taken

for a fool

(He is mistaken.)

The play is partly a courtroom drama

set in a particular time and place

the space converted

with a clever set and lighting

inviting us to see the different scenes—

office, jail cell, and courtroom.

there are flashbacks to the past,

and an excellent cast.

The setting is important–

the Netherlands had been occupied

those in the Resistance tried to defy

with some success, but also retaliation

leading to the Hunger Winter

and more lives splintered.

What should happen to those collaborate?

The play explores how we express hate

“revenge has become a spectator sport,”

do we resort then to the level of the oppressors?

We walk and talk

See a house with sunflowers

IMG_7432

Walking now a bit in showers

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

then out into the night

see rain reflecting off city lights

prance and dance

tap a beat onto the street.

IMG_7440

Over homemade pizza and wine again

FullSizeRender 254

Cozy inside from wind and rain

we watch a play on TV,

we see

another story based on events that were real,

and we feel,

we definitely feel—

this play within a play

to Klezmer music, the actors dance

and ashes fall from their coats and pants

they dance to the end of love

and perhaps they dance then back again,

there is a scene in the original play,

written in 1907, God of Vengeance

by Sholem Asch

the scene, referred to as “the rain dance”

involves two women, lovers—

the play is about the history of that play

performed successfully in Yiddish in Europe,

then the cast was arrested on obscenity charges

when it was translated into English and performed in the U.S.

(not a success),

the play is performed in the Lodz ghetto, in an attic room,

though all there know, they are probably doomed.

The play is about a culture lost

to time, to the Holocaust,

but it is about past and present

and how art matters

even when people are battered, shattered

their life in tatters,

and though some only value art for its monetary worth

the true value is in what it brings forth

in emotion and feeling

art sends those who value it reeling–

makes us think and want to dance in the rain

again and again

makes us laugh, or cry

makes us sigh and want to defy

Does it change our lives?

Yes, this I know,

art does, and helps us grow.

 

We saw the Lantern Theater Company.’s  production of The Craftsman.

We saw Indecent on PBS’ Great Performances. You may still be able to see in online.