B ooks can hide for long periods of time decades on a library shelf, embracing their incendiary potential until the right readers arrive. For God of Vengeance, an overlooked classic of Yiddish theater, one of those readers was the American playwright Paula Vogel . "A professor looked at me the first week at Cornell University - I dressed a certain way, I think - and said, I think there is a room with your name on it. above. I ran to the library and it blew me away.
Much of the shock of recognition. God of Vengeance (Got Fun Nekome) caused a stir when it premiered in Berlin in 1907, sweeping across Europe and across the Atlantic. Its daring young author, Sholem Asch, put his tragedy in an edgeel, where the owner's daughter begins a homosexual relationship with a prostitute - their love scene in the rain has been compared to Romeo and Juliet's balcony. "I spoke out loud on the library shelves," Vogel recalls. " 'A young married man wrote that?! ' A young married man had shown me the beauty of my love for other women.
A few years later, the Piece ambushed another brilliant student, this time at Yale. "I was looking for a piece to make ", explains Rebecca Taichman . "Alisa Solomon 's Book Re-Dressing the Canon mentioned the God of Vengeance and it blew me away. And then became completely obsessed with the play and the story of what happened to it.
This rocky journey ultimately inspired Indecent, Vogel 's piece about the game, which opened on Broadway in 2017 and now reaches London. Asch 's scenes of strange desire and blasphemy sparked a 1923 New York obscenity trial, pushed by a rabbi who felt it discredited Jewish culture. Asch himself, concerned about the European anti-Semitism, distances itself from its tragedy.
Taichman marvels "that this young man has written an extraordinary love scene between two women and a compassionate portrait of a house of prostitution. "She describes Asch 's main concern as" the embers of love trying to survive in a very dangerous world. It is about the danger of godliness and the loss of value around it. true love.ie in the Yale archives of the controversial New York premiere (which featured Broadway's first lesbian kiss). "It was like a memory that I had to do my best to keep and share," she recalls, "and that I wasn 't able to do on my own. It was like finding another Trekkie when I realized Paula was as obsessed with the room as I was.
Vogel, although aware of Taichman 's project, did not expect an invitation to collaborate. "While I was on the phone, a series of images opened," she said, almost in wonder. "I saw actors in dusty, tattered clothes, with suitcases in an attic. I thought: this is [the ghetto of] Lodz. I told Rebecca, I don't think this is the obscenity trial, are you okay with that? And she immediately said yes. It was as if the troops had reached out during that phone call. When you see images like that, you think, I can never get that out of my mind. This striking image, of actors emerging from the dust, now opens their room.
David Mazower , historian of Yiddish theater and great-grandson of Asch, describes the work of God of Vengeance history as "admired, translated, parodied, swept away, forbidden, pursued, withdrawn, forgotten, revived, celebrated". Vogel 's play is part of the celebration, tracing Asch ' s text through an eventful half century. Leaping forward in what she calls "flashes in time", actors of different circumstances find themselves in God of Vengeance, from richly innovative beginnings to New York hubbub and a muffled act of recuperation in the Polish ghetto.
Vogel, soon to be turning 70, is best known for its data How I Learned to Drive (1997) - a new production will be released on Broadway next year. With a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, she doubted her right to tell this story. "I kept asking Rebecca if I'm Jewish enough? But Rebecca and her family invited me to their home - their books were my reading list. She hopes she has absorbed the material so well that "we can all feel like native speakers of Yiddish by the end of the piece.
Indecent also winks With an eye to the creative ferment of Yiddish Theater, which embraces the classics, it operates with popular appeal and avant-garde ambition. "The foundation of Indecent is the love of the theater," insists Vogel. The two women unreservedly praise their actors, an admiration made more piquante by their own first attempts. "I was a terrible actor, " Taichman trembles. Vogel accepted that this was not her way after appearing in The Killing of Sister George. She learned to smoke cigars, "but no one believed I was a lesbian.
What is a special gift for an actor? Taichman, longtime director of playwright Sarah Ruhl, appreciates how they deal with the "emotional demands" of dramatic roles ("the chemicals in your body don't know what you're playing"), while Vogel admires "the astonishing visibility that big actors get. You feel like you can see inside them, know what they are thinking.
Plays inhabit a moment in time - as the moment changes, so does the play. "When we first started, " says Vogel, "we were responding to the right drift in America and becoming incredibly alarmed by the risee anti-Muslim hate speech, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, a kind of nationalist fervor "- a feverish atmosphere reflecting that of Asch.
" It 's haunting, the context in which we started dreaming about how to tell this story, "confirms Taichman. " I am ashamed to say that I would not have believed what was happening. was passing around the corner in the country, although it was obviously ready to explode. It was something to rehearse the play in context and then come together after the election  in New York. It was like a different world. Vogel nevertheless argues that the central love scenes have political force. “Right now, politically, pisions are encouraged between us,” she said. “Let's put barriers. but great love suppresses pisions. see ourselves and our loves in each other. there was an inclusion in how asch wrote these women. "