The readings of SEVEN JEWISH CHILDREN by Caryl Churchill moves to Forum tonight. The reading will be followed by selected responses and an OpenForum discussion. Read the Washington Post‘s article on Wednesday’s discussion, at Theater J, here.
Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon have written a response to the play. We may read excerpts from this over the weekend.
From their response:
“…a number of prominent British Jews denounced it as anti-Semitic. Some even accused Churchill of blood libel, of perpetrating in Seven Jewish Children the centuries-old lie, used to incite homicidal anti-Jewish violence, that Jews ritually murder non-Jewish children. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews told the Jerusalem Post that the ‘horrifically anti-Israel’ text went ‘beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse.’
We emphatically disagree. We think Churchill’s play should be seen and discussed as widely as possible.
Though you’d never guess from the descriptions offered by its detractors, the play is dense, beautiful, elusive and intentionally indeterminate. This is not to say that the play isn’t also direct and incendiary. It is. It’s disturbing, it’s provocative, but appropriately so, given the magnitude of the calamity it enfolds in its pages. Any play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn’t arouse anger and distress has missed the point.
There’s a vast difference between making your audience uncomfortable and being anti-Semitic. To see anti-Semitism here is to construe erroneously the words spoken by the worst of Churchill’s characters as a statement from the playwright about all Jews as preternaturally filled with a viciousness unique among humankind. But to do this is, again, to distort what Churchill wrote.
A playwright’s presumptuous job is to imagine others, and the others Churchill has imagined in this play are Jews. If there’s anger in the writing, there’s also empathy, tenderness and intimacy. Nothing is more intimate than discussions between parents about what to tell their children; no act of speech is more carefully weighed or more fiercely protected. This is a family play, told from within the family. It concludes with love, and it concludes with fear.
Read the entire article here.