Relationships are the most compelling element in storytelling for me as an artist. How people interact, address needs, discover allies and adversaries, explore and express these relationships draw me into stories. When you add other themes that are personal to me like fitting in, career choices, intensity of love, sexual identification, and religion, the layering can be rich or repelling.
The Pulitzer Prize winning Indecent on Broadway by Paula Vogel, directed by Rebecca Taichman boasts two Toni Awards which breathed life back into the run - extended to August 6, 2017. The play’s poster depicts people laughing and dancing, which is misleading. This story based on true events chronicles the 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance. As an actress of Jewish heritage, this story resonated with me in many ways. Censorship and what story is deemed appropriate for the masses is a continual struggle for artists. The systematic deconstruction and annihilation of two women falling in love shattered me. When the story is altered to vilify actions because society condemns those actions (homosexual love), the story becomes a morality tale rather than the intended love story as written.
This play reminded me that simple elements like sand dropping out of costumes with dust hanging in the air can help create visceral and impacting images. This elemental punch is why theater can be so transcendent. With a double gut punch, this play also illustrates how we as social beings can so easily turn on each other within cultural groups.
I attended this performance with two actresses, one is friends with the cast member, Katrina Lenk. Afterwards, when Lenk was discussing the process of creating this juggernaut of storytelling, she pointed to Taichman’s enthusiasm to listen to everyone’s ideas to effusively collaborate as the key to what made this production stellar. This play is a comprehensive environmental, elemental, and stirring event that still has me searching for the words to convey my experience.
For the first time in years, I witnessed a production that evokes “the sound of nature” I ache to behold in live theatre. With musical instruments, singing, repetition, continual forwarding of action, Eugene O’Neill, water effects, lighting magic, and more, these actors all gave of their souls to transport me. I was weeping at the end not simply for the witnessing, but for the artistry that converged behind the scenes and simultaneously in bright reality in front of me. If you can, run to Broadway to see this show. Attending shows like this leaves me with the knowing that as artists, we can create magic in people’s hearts to dare to live boldly because others have (when faced with tragedy) and do (this tale is timeless).