Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ONE GIANT LEAP at Congregation Beth El in New Jersey Sunday, September 16, 2007

By Jake Goodman

Storah On The Road
By Lauviticus

This last Sunday Chana Rothman and I traveled to Congregation Beth El in South Orange, New Jersey to perform our musical, puppet-filled production of ONE GIANT LEAP. The play begins the moment after all the Israelites have crossed the Sea of Reeds and explores the tension between faith and doubt. Chana brilliantly played the faithful, guitar-playing Miriam while I puppeteered the frightened, neurotic and very hungry Nachson. According to Midrash, when Moses raised his staff to part the Sea of Reeds, nothing happened. All the Isrealites just stood there, waiting for a miracle. An Israelite named Nachshon, however, jumped straight into the water and it was actually his faith that caused the sea to part. In ONE GIANT LEAP, this Midrash on its
head: Nachshon is now the doubter, the one who does not think that the Israelites will be provided for in the desert, and who wants to go back to being a slave in Egypt where at least he knew he would
(usually) be fed.

One funny story: ONE GIANT LEAP is a play that encourages audience participation and, gratefully, the kids at Beth El eagerly obliged.
At one point, when Nachshon was complaining about his terrible thirst, one of the older kids shouted out, "Why don't you go back to Egypt and drink from the Nile?" Without missing a beat, this blue puppet retorted, "We can't! The Nile has recently gone through a...transformation. Let's just say: it's not kosher anymore!" This was a great moment because many of the adults and older kids who understood the joke burst out laughing. The younger kids, who did not understand the reference to the Nile turning to blood during the first plague, quickly turned to their neighbors and demanded to know what was so funny. And then a second, louder wave of laughter began! It was hilarious, and a clear demonstration of how engaging this type of ritual theater can be.

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