Sunday, March 29, 2009

Isaac Butler on Counterprogramming

After reading a review of a Washington D,C. production of the new Caryl Churchill play, Isaac Butler muses:

I also find it interesting that Seven Jewish Children is apparently so (insert word here... powerful/hateful/dangerous/provocative/stupid/anti-semitic/reductive/brilliant/searing/terrible/controversial/whatever you want will do but whatever it it is so that) that it has to be surrounded by:

(A) A speech twice its length from the artistic director about his conflicts in putting on the piece
(B) THREE separate response plays written in a parody of its style expressing contrary viewpoints
(C) A professor who was saved from the Holocaust by fleeing to Palestine to rail against it

Does that seem a little extreme to anyone else? I don't think having other plays expressing another viewpoint is bad. I didn't even find the Corrie counter-programming bad on principal if it was handled well, as it seems to have been in this case. But when roughly one sixth of the performance is the title show and then five sixths of it are things arguing against it...that just seems a bit extreme to me.


Thomas Garvey said...

This response is simply a ratification of the play's power.

Ian Thal said...

...or concern regarding its potential power. After all, Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was a pretty thin pamphlet.

Thomas, you certainly convinced me that the play is somewhat more sympathetic to the Israelis than I gave credit on the first reading, but I'm not convinced of its greatness. It still seems to be historically uninformed (reflecting British prejudices), and it tends to reduce Israel's security concerns to some post-traumatic psychopathology, essentially infantalizing the Israelis and their supporters amongst most Diaspora Jews, a favorite rhetorical trope of left-wing "anti-Zionists."

Still, I'm inclined to agree with Butler that the sheer number of response pieces in the surrounding presentation is a bit over board.