Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seven Other Children

Carol Churchill's antisemitc little skit continues to make the rounds. I've already commented that a play is better than an op-ed or blogpost for disseminating ideas, right or wrong, because it's shelf-life can be longer, especially if it's got a constituency. Which is why it's neat that there are now two plays out there. Churchill's antisemitic one, and a counter-one by Richard Stirling, called "Seven Other Children". Stirling, like Churchill, is not Jewish.

Since there are two plays, and they're both short, one can now demand that both be played together. After all, Churchill's piece purports to want to "encourage discussion", and what better a way to do so than by having two 11-minutes pieces which deal with similar materials from differing perspectives?

This story indicates how the discussion might play out. One side won't allow stirlings' play to be shown because it's new:
In explaining the rejection of Stirling's play, the festival's development
coordinator Madeline Heneghan said: "The program is planned months in
advance." The request was "unrealistic at this point", she added.
Churchill's play about events in Gaza four months ago, you understand, managed to get onto the program. The other side, however, now has a tool, and in this case the careful politicians are cutting funding for the event because only one side of the "discussion" is being granted a platform. An interesting dynamic, based upon the fact that although antisemitism is widespread, at least in the West it's also something one ought to be a bit embarrassed by.

I haven't read Stirling's piece yet.


JC said...

What do you find antisemitic in Churchill's play?

JC|WorriedLebanese said...

I'm sorry, I do not mean to bug you, but I am really interested to know what it is that you find antisemitic in Carol Churchill's play.
I'm asking you this question because I'm involved in a project that aims to use this play as a pedagogical tool for peace education in Lebanon. I read some criticism of the play on the net, but I haven't found them quite convincing. It is true that the author is unabashedly pro-Palestinian, and that the play is critical about two Israeli actions (that are not named, but are easily recognisable: the 1948 ethnic reversal and the ongoing military operations in Gaza). But I still don't see what is antisemitic about this short play.
Here's my thoughts on the question: I personally found Caryl Churchill's play amazing because the dramatic events are only hinted at. What we are shown is the way individuals, who are Jewish, are trying to grasp them (in meaning and emotions).
The audience isn't envolved in any name calling or sordid description of the events (those that are usually used to trigger emotions in a public). The events are only alluded to in order to illustrate how they have scarred the anonymous jewish protagonists (& their identity). It's all about emotions: hurt, fear, anger, pride, humiliation. The real drama is about these emotions. I personally believe that this play can surve as an excellent tool to discuss questions of identity, suffering, memory and transmission. This tool could serve two things:
- encourage people to look at their identity and their suffering in a more critical way.
- introduce them to Israel, through the emotions felt by a large number of people who identify as Jewish during a tumultuous century.

JC said...

oops, i meant to sat Caryl.