Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sodomy & YOU
By Jake Goodman

On April 21st, Amichai and I were invited to Union Theological Seminary to present a workshop performance of “Sodomy & You: The Annals of Genesis,” which is part of a larger sodomy project that we hope to fully develop within the next year: a large StorahStage production that will deal with the implications of the development of the word “sodomy,” from obscure/biblical to explicit/legal. Along with soon-to-be Rabbi Michelle Dardashti, we did verse-by-verse Maven translation of Leviticus 19, verses 1-11: the story of 2 strangers/angels, Lot, and the Sodomite townspeople who do not take well to guests.

In short, 2 angels come to Sodom on a mission from the Master Boss. Upon entering the city gates of the town of Sodom, they are immediately greeted by Lot, Abraham’s nephew, the man they were coming to see. Lot begs them to be guests in his house, even though they will have to sneak out in the morning because none of the townspeople can know they are there, because there is a strict no-hospitality policy. The angels eventually agree, and are fed a decent dinner at Lot’s home.

The people of Sodom somehow catch wind that Lot has guests in his home and a mob of men surround the house and demand that the strangers come outside so that they can all “know” them. Lot begs no, feels a need to protect his guests, and instead offers his virgin daughters to the crowd. Lovely. The crowd says NO WAY, not good enough, we’ll take your guests and you, Lot. And then the angels destroy all the Sodomites with a flash of light. Again, lovely.

We are particularly interested in how the crime of Sodom – xenophobia and a refusal to be hospitable – has translated into the crime of anal sex in our days. How did this perversion happen? When did it happen? These are the questions we explored with the class at UTS, and which we will certainly delve deeper in the coming year.

Performing this was fun, and not only because it’s fun to talk about anal sex in a seminary. (It is.) In the middle of the presentation, we stopped the story at the point immediately after Lot offers up his own daughters to the mob in lieu of the 2 strangers and asked the people in the audience (a very intelligent class of grad students studying gender in the bible) to imagine that they were Lot’s daughters, and they had heard their father offer them up. What would they have to say?

At first, there was silence. None of the audience members said anything. They avoided eye contact with me, embarrassed that nobody was speaking and not wanting to be rude (because I was clearly standing up in front of them, a stranger myself, in a videotaped performance, waiting for an answer), but also apparently dreading the idea of being the first to speak. Using a technique I learned from the inimitable Peter Pitzele, I broke the silence by saying, “Yes. Your silence rings loudly. I have nothing to say. I’m shocked. My father just offered me up, to a crowd of men, my own father. It’s unthinkable. I’m feeling so many things—anger, fear, shock, disgust, abandonment—I went numb. No words can speak my thoughts. But…then a few seconds pass, and words do come. You do have something to say. What is it?” And then, slowly, people started speaking: “I want to kill my dad.” “I’m terrified.” “I want to escape. Just run away.” This was just the beginning of the conversation the ensued, but a reminder to me that people just need a safe space created for them to speak. And with sodomy, there certainly is a lot to say!

More soon!

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