Friday, April 04, 2014

Revival

I love it when things converge in unexpected and unplanned ways. It's especially delicious when past projects find new partners in the present. The "Religion and Theater" course I co-taught with my colleague C in 2007 and 2010 is experiencing just such renewed attention as we speak.

One such way is pretty obvious: when I encourage people to think about how one might "stage" the Book of Job, I am building on experiences in that class. I'd been interested in theater before, but it was only in the context of a course co-taught with a director that I really saw the parallels with textual interpretation, as well as the illuminating differences. So the course was on my mind last night in Princeton when I was extolling the ways in which my approach to Job has been affected by the interdisciplinary environment of The New School.

"Religion and Theater" has come back in another way, too. You'll recall the performances of the Book of Job for communities dealing with trauma which I've been telling people about on every available occasion (last night, too). Well, the director has recently been to Japan to help a local company do similar work for those affected by the earthquake/tsunami/radiation in Tohoku. I know a few people in Japanese theater, and am delighted to report that one of them has helped them find actors for their project. The story they wound up choosing, the Noh drama "Sumidagawa," is familiar to me, too. We taught it in "Religion and Theater"! It's a perfect story for the project, too. (And there's more: the Japanese opera director who made the connection turns out to have directed "Curlew River," Benjamin Britten's adaptation of "Sumidagawa" and my pash when we did Noh in 2010!)

And here's another thing. I raved to the "Religion and Theater" students that the community performance of the passion story on Palm Sunday was a striking point of intersection of religion and theater - in fact, they had to witness it for themselves (along with Purim). Well, guess who's in the Palm Sunday reading at my church next Sunday? And guess what part he's been given? Clue: he's been asking himself for the first time: WWJD?

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