Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Several responses to Seven Jewish Children

The debate about Seven Jewish Children rages on...I am not going to dwell on it too much longer. I keep getting sucked into debate about, partly because I feel like I am the only one providing an even somewhat contrarian view, on the blogosphere.

I was tempted to enter the sub-genre of those who parody the play with their own versions - Seven British Children came to mind, which would trace the British relationship with Jews to modern day. Or Seven Jewish Children I know, which would contrast the reactions among Jews I have met with the assumed reactions expressed by the play.

The play is easy to parody, because of its form. But in the end I chose not to, because - well, I have enough projects to do. And the play is rapidly losing interest for me.

But the one thing that gets me upset is the bullying that goes on against those who express doubts about the piece. And I must again talk about how that bullying is particularly ominous in England, where a word said against the work or even in perceived defense of Israel can be met with a torrent of anger, and where being Jewish has never been a simple thing, in the way, I would argue, it can be in New York.

I bring this up because I was once again contacted by someone who works at a University in England (someone we would term a professor, they would term a lecturer), who has written a response of her own. She has asked me to publish it for her, because she is afraid of the backlash if she should publish it on her own.

I just feel like I should do my best to allow her not to be "censored" (if Rachel Corrie can be called censorship, I can be a little slippery about the term here). Or maybe I mean bullied. This is not someone I've met or know personally. Just someone who noticed my comments on a few blogs. She calls it The More Things Change. It goes a little through the history of theater and how it has interacted with Jews.


After Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza

No Jews appear in the play. The speakers are actors, and if you like, writers, directors, literary managers and focus groups. The lines can be shared out any way you like, once the directors, literary managers, and focus groups come into existence. The characters are different in each small scene as the time, thespians, and audiences are different. They may be played by any number of actors.


Tell them it's a game
Tell them it's serious
But don't frighten them
Don't tell them we'll kill the Persians.
Tell them the gods will.
Tell them it's important to be quiet.
Tell them they'll have dance, if they're good.
Tell them to sit quietly as if they're in the temple on the Akropolis
But not to sing.
Tell them not to stand up.
Tell them not to interrupt, even if they hear shouting
From the place behind the back wall
Don't frighten them.
Tell them not to interrupt even if they know a secret that Oedipus needs to know.
Tell them the gods will be watching.
Tell them something about the Persians.
Tell them they're bad
In the eyes of the gods.
Tell them it's history.
Tell them the Persians will be our slaves.
Don’t tell them that.
Tell them the Persians will make us their slaves
Unless we enslave them first.
Tell them it's magic.
Tell them not to sing.


Tell them this Scaena will show The Massacre of the Innocents
Tell them they died
Tell them they were killed
Like this, exactly
But without the gold paint nor the Cartwrights’ Guild’s wagon.
Tell them Kyng Herod was a Jewe
Like the ones in Lincoln who killed little Saint Hugh.
Frighten them.
Tell them we acted as Christians.
Don't tell them what we did.
Tell them we were brave.
Tell them that Jewes teach their children to make cakes
Of the blood of English children
But don't tell them English:
This Play’s about the Holy Land, not here.
Tell them how many children Kyng Herod slewe.
Tell them the Jewes are danger.
Tell them there's no danger
If they accept Christ as their Saviour
And good King Edward
And this our Playe.


Tell them it's about Venice.
Tell them it's a Comedy.
Tell them Mirror up to Nature: Jewes covet blood.
Tell them: "The Quality of Mercy is not Strained...”
Don't tell them Religion.
Don’t tell them that Jessica's great great lots of greats grandfather lived in Europe too, in Spain.
Don't tell them he was driven out.
Don’t frighten them:
Tell them there are no Jewes in England.
Don’t tell them Old King Edward drove them out.
Tell them the Spaniards would drive us into the sea
if they could.
Don’t tell them that.
Tell them it's a Comedy.
Tell them to laugh.

Tell them something.
Tell them he's an anomaly. The rest of us are decent men.
Tell them a Jewess hid him in her house
In the days before his trial
From the anger of the mob
Which explains a lot, really.
Tell them we never liked him anyway.
Tell them he criticized the Liberal Unionists
And they didn’t even get it!
Don’t tell them we got it.
Tell them he was foreign, like Ibsen
And Madame Sarah, his Princess of Judea.
Don’t tell them that.
Tell them we'd never have guessed:
He sounded English. He’s a father of two.
Tell them it’s an illness, so we advocate mercy
And hospitalisation.
Don’t tell them that!
Tell them we’ve closed both his comedies.
Tell them we’re rehearsing a new one
About the Suffragette Hysteria.
And the Censor found it decent
And the Queen is amused.


Tell them to use allegory and metaphor and fantasy
So the Censor won’t get it.
Tell them to use slogans
And keep it simple
So The People will get it.
Don’t tell them that!
Tell them that art is the lie that reveals the truth
And theatre must fling together different perspectives
And cause people to be uncertain
And turn themselves inside out by their eyeballs.
Tell them the writers do this to themselves
If they’re brave.
Don’t tell them that.
Tell them the brave writers are steadfast in belief:
Men for All Seasons
And, once or twice a season,
A woman
If she’s good.
Tell them that the theatre must tell the news
Because The People don’t read.
Don’t tell them that the people who don’t read
Don’t go to the theatre either.
Tell them we know how The People think.
Tell them we concede we’re not The People:
We’re not that stupid.


Tell them not to use allegory nor metaphor nor fantasy
Because the people won’t get it
And Censorship is ancient history.
Tell them there can be no art after the Holocaust.
Don’t tell them that!
Tell them the theatre must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.
Tell them about the Holocaust.
Tell them: Jews covet blood because they have been bled.
Don’t tell them that.
Tell them the Jews think the Arabs are Nazis
Because Nazis are all Jews can think about.
Tell them this Jewish hysterical fixation with Nazis is not a crime, nor a sin, but an unfortunate and probably incurable illness, so we advocate pity and prescribe a grain of salt.


Tell them the Jew deals in slogans
And simplified history
And talks in tongues
And thinks she is Special
As did the Nazis.
Don’t tell them Nazis.
Tell them the Jew tells lies
That do not reveal the truth
To her own children
To herself
And the world.
Tell it in ten minutes.
Tell it For Gaza, but show just The Jews.
Keep it minimal, using no names
Because The Jews are really all the same.
Not people, but A Noble Ancient People,
Just like The Palestinians.
Don’t tell them that!
Tell them the new Censor is The Jew
And the theatre exists To Articulate Moral Outrage.
Tell them it’s magic.
Tell them not to laugh.

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