Is American Theater Becoming Genteel-y Antisemitic?

Is American theater becoming more like British theater — that is, genteel-y antisemitic?

Playwright Jeremy Kareken posted this announcement on a Yahoo! Group for playwrights two weeks ago:

A number of people immediately protested, with links. Several of us forwarded it to friends in news media. Melissa Hillman, artistic director of Berkeley’s Impact Theatre, criticized Hare on Facebook. Then Kareken replied “April Fool’s.”

That the spoof was so plausible seemed to be a result of growing anti-Semitism in British theater. After all, it was the Royal Court that produced Caryl Churchill’s controversial ten-minute play “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza.”

In this piece, Keith Kahn-Harris, a Brit discusses some of the ways anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings have been conflated, looking at the reaction to British Jewish critics of Israel in a volume “A Time to Speak Out” (Verso, 2008) and a project called Independent Jewish Voices. He writes:

Churchill’s play had readings at the New York Theatre Workshop and Theater J in Washington. last month. To put this in context for American theatre-workers and their growing sense of genteel anti-Semitism, consider that the New York Theatre Workshop faced charges of bowing to “Jewish pressure” when they declined to produce “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” in 2006. And at New York’s Public Theater, last year’s “Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East” by Naomi Wallace featured “cruel Israelis and saintly Palestinians,” according to Sam Thielman of Variety.

Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, who moderated the New York Theatre Workshop readings of “Seven Jewish Children,” defend Churchill’s play eloquently in this article in The Nation:

On the other hand, Kushner and Solomon share Churchill’s views about Gaza, and make their bias clear in this paragraph:

Jeffrey Goldberg’s debate with Theater J’s Ari Roth on his Atlantic blog also points to British anti-Semitism:

Goldberg argues that the play isn’t really about Gaza, but about the Jews:

At the New York Theatre Workshop reading post-show discussion, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal reportedly challenged Tony Kushner:

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