A Whole New Megillah Does Broward
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2015
Project Parlor, 8:30 PM
742 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
G Train to Myrtle-Willoughby
Utilizing the melodramatic and larger-than-life style of Yiddish Theater and the Purim Spiel, and with my paintings function- ing as the masks, settings, and props, I will inscribe my fathers tragedy into the long-held tradition of the spiel. My personal narrative will become a whole new megillah in an interactive performance with photo and video documentation.
Spiels are traditionally satiric, topical, profane, humorous and make heavy use of masks. Singing and dancing involve the entire congregation and audience, not just a specified set of characters. The period in between songs is filled with improvised spoken material with a general goal to amuse, as well as educate, the audience.
The story of Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire, where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story goes like this: The King wanted his wife Vashti to dance for his friends but she refused which meant time for a new wife. Mordecai, a Jew, convinces his beautiful niece Esther to seduce the King into marriage but to keep her Jewish identity hidden. Meanwhile, Haman, a top advisor to the King, was infuriated by the Jew Mordecai's refusal to bow down to him. Haman was so upset he told King he’d like to kill all the Jews and take their land and the King drunkenly acquiesced. But just days before the decree, Esther risked her life to reveal her identity as a Jew to the King. She saved her people, and had Haman and his ten sons hung. The King sent a new decree that the Jews can now fight back if anyone attempted to plunder them. It has since become annual tradition to get drunk beyond recognition and retell the story of Purim in a play, or, spiel.
My dad will be the protagonist and his story will be translated into biblical proportion and given a significance that will empower him and our family. I am creating a new narrative with old themes referencing both the text of my father’s lawsuit and of the Megillah- the fifth book of the Tanach (aka Old Testament). Repetition is essential in ritual. Religion and invented traditions both require a continuance of narrative with a constant and complex interaction between past and present. This link is how we can identify with stories and peoples that are physically and metaphorically so far away from us. Stories repeated enough are bound to become the only truth, and thus identities are built on conflicting narratives.
I'm fascinated with the traditions and rituals that form our identities from one generation to the next and how we strategically reinforce this continuity within community. In a direct dialogue with the Purim tradition, my spiel will be re-enacted annually. Viewers will be given handmade noisemakers and encouraged to boo and yell out over the villain whenever his name is mentioned or he attempts to speak. The setting, props, and script will be a synthesis of signifiers from both my father's story- which relates to a larger political issue in organized government- and the story of Purim- which relates to faith, greed, identity, revenge, and collective punishment.
The corruption in the Broward County courthouse reflects a pattern of abuse of discretion throughout the country. I am re-contextualizing a personal and political drama to give it the weight, monument, and absurdity that it holds in my own life, and that I feel it deserves. I want to see my father's enemy booed- his name drowned out by a shared disgust. I want to expose him as corrupt and equate him to evil.