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You don’t feel you’re preaching to the choir?
No, I don’t. We’re now doing “Vagina Monologues” in tiny towns in Alabama, villages in India, and performing it for kids from schools throughout the boroughs who normally don’t go to the theater at all. We don’t need to change everybody. All you need is 10% of the population to have a revolution. [More important] it’s activating those who already believe. Look, did I think 10 years ago that representative Lisa Brown and Senator Rebekah Warren would invite me to perform “Vagina Monologues” on the steps of the Michigan capital in Lansing? No. But we worked, and worked and worked. The world has changed, and we’ve been crucial to that change.
I gather you are half-Jewish?
This half-Jewish thing is so crazy. Would Hitler have said, “You’re half Jewish, get off the train?” No. He would have said, “We’re taking you with us.” It’s a strange thing: The only people who don’t think I’m Jewish are Jews.
How do you define being Jewish, and how does it inform your artistry?
For me it’s a cultural thing. I had a Jewish father, a Jewish family, and I had chicken liver with my aunt every Saturday. I grew up in a tradition where having ideas and contributing to the community and creating art that had an impact on the world mattered. That’s part of the Jewish tradition. The comedy that’s in me is very much part of Jewish theater history. When I look at my own heart as a social activist, there’s the spirit of Emma Goldman and Hannah Arendt and so many others.
Do you foresee a time when you’ll write a play that has a Jewish or Israeli protagonist?
It’s not on my agenda right now. Actually, I wrote a piece, “Here,” an allegory about Israel and Palestine that was done on British TV. It’s about a couple living in their house when another couple, who almost looks identical to them, arrives, convinced they’ve come home and it’s their house. It’s all about who owns what land and who got there first and who got the deed. I never say which couple is Israeli or Palestinian. The first time I was in Israel, I wondered how you could tell the Arabs from the Jews. The same was true when I was in Serbia and Croatia. The people who are closest, it seems to me, are killing each other the most.