This process is based upon the idea that collaborators will bring a wealth of worthwhile questions to the piece, and thus make it stronger. When we gather around a table, for three to twelve months, the value and meaning of the in-process script, and any supporting research, including liturgical commentary, documentary footage and excerpts from scholarly works, is debated.
Much like our Talmud, this requires that a wide variety of voices come together to question the work's content and to explore the ways in which a myriad number of vocabularies can contribute to it. We treat everything as valuable but nothing as precious, turning every aspect inside out until we reach the center of the center.
Maybe such relentless investigation, filled with conflict and debate, is what makes theater dybbuk Jewish.
Our piece, “Cave...A Dance for Lilith” investigated the evolution of world conflict by looking at Lilith folklore and Goddess mythology. This co-production, with L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, attracted many people who are connected to Jewish history and culture. It, however, also brought in those, Jewish and not, who just wanted to see some radical performance, as well as those with a deep interest in Goddess worship and pre-monotheistic belief systems. The audience members were as diverse a group as I'd ever seen, from many different religious and cultural backgrounds. This presentation, therefore, enabled a conversation to occur that was particularly Jewish, but non-exclusive and open to all. The show fulfilled, in whatever small and incomplete way, on the Jewish ideal of Tikkun Olam by bringing together disparate pieces into one temporarily unified whole.
Maybe believing in the possibility of perfection, while knowing we will never fully achieve it, is what makes theater dybbuk Jewish.
In 2013, Valley Beth Shalom and Rabbi Ed Feinstein asked that we develop and present a full-length work that would serve as the entire Selichot service.
The rehearsal and creation period proved challenging in that we had to keep asking these questions:
- How will the congregation know its role and is it important that they do so?
- What state do we wish to leave the congregation in?
- Is there a call to action, an expectation that the congregation will behave in some specific way when they leave the shul, in response to our performance?
I came to realize that, with any production, or educational program that we offer, we are “performing,” quite literally, a function, which is nothing less than to be a vessel for realization and transformation of some sort. The ways in which this occurs may differ depending on the situation, but the need to look outward at the congregation, the audience, is ever present.
Maybe turning our gaze so that it takes in the world, asking how we might be of service to it, is what makes theater dybbuk Jewish.