Friday, December 21, 2007

"Face Off", Parashat Vayigash in Ohav Shalom in Albany

By Deanna Neil and Elana Architzel

Storah On The Road
Elana and I write this together traveling down a dark road from Albany. It is frigid. We are both wearing matching black and white jackets with Eskimo hoods. (Elana says: "We're like a cookie. So good you can taste it.") Somehow we have avoided the snowstorms and somehow Conservative Judaism devoured our black and white cookie. They loved us. They loved our Maven show "Face Off", a translation of Parashat Vayigash. And they loved the entire concept of Storahtelling and how it brought them to a visceral place after years of Jewish headiness.

On the way up, Elana was consumed with worry of how this show would pan out.

She is from the nearby town of Troy, New York, so she was familiar with the synagogue we were visiting in Albany. She even removed her lip ring and covered her tattoo. But by our intro on Friday night she could see they were game.

This was a different type of show than usual. First of all, we did the whole kriyah - that is a the full reading of the parsha. The congregation requested that we only translate one aliyah verse per verse. This was unusual for us, but it proved just enough of a taste to get them excited about what Torah could be. (Although it proved to Elana and I that verse per verse really is the way to go in terms of both dramatic appeal and engagement with the translation.)

My moment of nervousness was when we were rehearsing. One of the Rabbis insisted that we say "congregation" or "kahal" instead of audience. But after discussion and acceptance of the show, all apprehension was put at ease. People commented that as an "audience" they actually had a role, which made them feel endowed and involved. Further more, during our "stretch"-when we stepped out of the story in order to address the congregation with a difficult question or scenario-everyone jumped in eagerly. They had been worried too. They thought it would be a performance, but were happy to instead to have an interactive program in the familiar context of their service.

By the end of our workshop today, the Rabbi gave her own dramatic translations of the Shma with full kavana. Even more radical, the other Rabbi asked why we didn't explore God as a character. They pushed us on the topic. When we said, "playing God is often controversial," these Conservative Jews threw us a curve ball and said "Great! That's just what you want!" And with that-we knew it was a successful weekend.

We try to tell people what Storahtelling does or what it means, but we got to see this congregation experience it. Going to Reform shuls who've already been exposed to this stuff is one thing. But this was so exciting to both of us because we were able to fulfill our goal as Mavens by collaboratively integrating into a more traditional environment, while still conveying meaningful and radical ideas.

And now I'm going to turn the car light off so we don't hit any deer.

No comments:

Post a Comment