Bartlett Sher Weighs in on Clifford Odets

Director Weighs in on Playwright's Background and His Own

Waiting For Righty: Actors spar in Clifford Odets’s ‘Golden Boy.’
Paul Kolnic
Waiting For Righty: Actors spar in Clifford Odets’s ‘Golden Boy.’

By Simi Horwitz

Published January 10, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Your paternal grandparents went along with this deception?

My grandfather died when I was very young, and my grandmother — a fascinating Polish-born woman who could speak five languages but read or write none — lived in Southern California, and we lived in Northern California. She was a practicing Jew and a supporter of Israel, but we knew nothing about it. My father insisted we not know, and she did anything he told her. My cousins, children of my grandparents’ two daughters, were also not raised as Jews. My aunts did not want their children to know they were Jewish, either.

How do you define yourself today?

I tell people I’m Jewish but brought up as a Catholic. I went to Holy Cross, a Jesuit college in Worcester, Mass., and taught in a Jesuit high school. I don’t practice anything. My wife is not Jewish, and our kids go to the Unitarian Church. We want them to be exposed to all faiths, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable raising them in a Jewish household. I don’t have that subconscious connection to the religion, though I do have that connection with the culture, and my artistic skill comes from being Jewish. But it also comes from being Catholic.

My greatest artistic influence is the great Polish avant-garde theater artist Tadeusz Kantor. He was half Jewish and half Catholic, and I am most connected to that aesthetic tension. I don’t think you have this Catholic side or Jewish side if you’re an artist, but I suppose my Catholic background has made me aware of certain references in the language, while a Jewish tradition helps me feel copacetic with Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose politics are within their aesthetics. In some ways, we operate subversively within the culture. My Jewish background has also helped me with Odets — his emotions, spirit, intelligence, humor and the rhythms of his language.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.