tsvishn tsvey dibukim, oder in der krizis iz arayn a dibek

i don’t often use this space to just write my way into things, but it feels like the right thing tonight.

to be clear from the top: this is a deep appreciation of the kultur-kongres’ centennial production. they did an amazing job under less than perfect circumstances and i enjoyed the hell out of it. and because it was a good, solid, well-thought-out production, af mame-loshn, it reminded me what i actually want from yiddish theater, and from yiddish productions of our classics.

i want a queerer dibek.
i want a trans-er dibek.
which is how ansky wrote it.

i want productions where the queer performers aren’t playing straight.
i want productions where there aren’t straight performers.
i want productions where there aren’t straight characters.
which is how ansky wrote it.

i want productions where there aren’t cis performers.
i want productions where there aren’t cis characters.
which is how ansky wrote it.

i want productions where the performers aren’t all white.
i want productions where the characters aren’t all white.
which is not how ansky wrote it.

all of this has been done.
i was part of doing it in an english-language production of tsvishn tsvey veltn twenty-one years ago.
i was part of doing it in an original show very loosely rooted in ansky’s play eleven years ago.

that’s plenty long enough for the institutions to catch up. or to just start offering their resources (yes, i know they’re limited – i’ve seen the 990s) to more people to do more things.

there are plenty of us out here.
we do a lot.
but y’know what’s discouraging? when there’s visibly no pathway from self-produced to well-supported, for folks who’ve been at it five years, twenty years, forty years.

i want productions that aren’t naturalistic.
i want productions that aren’t psychological.
i want productions that aren’t narrated.
i want productions that aren’t set in the past.
i want productions that know what the stakes today are.
i want productions that are about class.
like, actually. about. class.

which is how ansky wrote it.
and how vakhtangkov staged it.
and how modicut rewrote & staged it. and how great small works restaged that.

the yidish svive has the skills, the tools, the technology for all of this. we’ve had a hit production that somehow managed to make that goyish piece of trash fiddler into a perceptibly jewish show, for fuck’s sake! so why are we still being forced to suffer through men-in-dresses gags in manger’s megile [5773]? orientalism on the level of disney’s aladdin in di kishef-makherin [5779]? and language instruction at YIVO (and not just at YIVO) that thinks “teacheress” and “doctoress” are fine, but not trans students wanting their pronouns respected [nekhtn biz morgn]? can we get to the late 20th century already?

it’s a low bar, but until we can get over it, we can’t get to a good yiddish production of der goylem set in 5779 pittsburgh. a good yiddish production of got fun nekome with an all sex worker cast. a good yiddish production of misisipi, period. let alone a queerer, trans-er dibek.

i want sender and nisn to have their romance.
i want ezrialke and mikhal to have their romance.
i want khonen and henekh to have their romance.

i want to know whether leye wants to fuck khonen or to be him.
i want to know whether khonen wants to fuck leye or to be her.

i want to know what gitl & basye really think of leye, of khonen, of each other.
i want to know who the love of frade’s life is.
i want to know who the meshulakh is meeting behind the mikve and what they’re doing with each other.
i want more steam than waszyński’s film.

i want khonen and leye to go off together in one body and have endless fights about what gender to be.

i want leye and khonen to go off in one body and have a terrible breakup two years later.

i want khonen and leye to go off in one body and live happily ever after with henekh.

i want leye and khonen to go off in one body and live happily ever after with gitl and basye.

is this really so much to ask?

(i don’t think so.
i think it’s the bare minimum.)

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