'Seven Jewish Children' — Provocative Playlet or Agitprop?
Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza” is inciting more controversy stateside since it jumped the pond.
Last week, Washington’s Theater J, staged two free readings of the 10-minute playlet that the The Washington Post called “a beautifully crafted cheap shot” and “an effort to compress to black-and-white a question of conscience of infinite complexity.”
Churchill’s work has spurred a couple of critical copycats. Robbie Gringras’s “One Israeli Child” and Deb Margolin’s “The Eighth Jewish Child” mimic Churchill’s format, yet represent opposing political views. Theater J’s director Ari Roth, added the readings of these scripts in addition to “Seven Jewish Children,” and engaged actors and audience members alike in post-show debates.
Before the scripts were read at Theater J, The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg (a Forward alum) argued with Ari Roth about “his decision to provide Churchill’s play with Jewish oxygen” while Theater J posits its mission is to “celebrate the social vision that [is] part of the Jewish cultural legacy.” Roth stands behind his decision. From their conversation on Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog:
JG: [Churchill] says that we’re “better haters.” AR: Jeffrey, Jeffrey – JG: That’s Shylock, right? AR: I want your very, very smart blog readers to understand that the way to discuss this play is not to lift lines from the last page and a half of it. That is not how to fully experience and understand the meaning of any drama. I can’t cede this to journalists who don’t love theater enough to understand what’s going on here. That is not a sophisticated way to regard art, by picking out a sentence here and then going apes—t over it! JG: It’s not just a sentence. AR: She could have said worse. JG: Oh, that’s a great standard to have. She could have said worse. AR: This is why you don’t work in the American theater. JG: This isn’t even the line that insinuates the blood libel.
The Forward had hoped to post a YouTube video of a staging of “Seven Jewish Children,” presented by Rooms Productions in Chicago, but the clip was removed Friday morning. Instead of charging admission, the Chicago production facilitated donations to the British charity, Medical Aid for Palestinians, at Churchill’s request.