Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Life, Text, Art

Went to my first artsy thing last night, on a cold rainy evening that reminds me of our wintry prayers for life-giving moisture. Scenes of Judean stone soaking it up out in the hills somewhere so we'll get to enjoy the waterfalls in Ein Gedi a bit later on. Tucked in at the beginning of D. Bet Lehem and stretching to D. Hevron, the yard could be a venue for the Sopranos. Dark and desolate, old buildings now occupied by edgy clubs with names like Negro, and The Lab. Not for old married fogeys I think. A colleague's wife wrote a play based on a medieval Jewish story about a complicated relationship that begins between strangers, involving courtship, commitment, abandonment, loneliness, death, reconnection and procreation, all with God present somewhere in the saga. The players, all or mostly all I think religious, sat with some of us afterwards to discuss the play. A great Jewish dialectic ensued: the tensions between artistic truth and religious truth; textual truth and existential truth, God and man, man and woman, the works. What does it mean to be religious here? When a woman covers her hair she signs something, but what? Depends on how precisely she covers: all of her hair/head, only some, hair cascading to her shoulders in plain sight or not, endless variations all suggesting some sort of allegiance to some affect, some community, some tradition, some fad. So many "little things" signing bigger things. Hard to discuss things with Jews: like an adult ed class run amok some audience folks won't let others talk, not even the cast. One guy accused the players of liberal religion: God should serve us rather than the other way around, and that secular/hilonim have no sense of service. It's never boring here.

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