October 2 – October 25, 2015 (preview: October 1)
A fierce, biting comedy about contemporary Jewish identity in America. In one corner is Daphna Feygenbaum, a self-designated “Real Jew” who is volatile and unbending; in the other is her secular and entitled cousin Liam. The night after their grandfather’s funeral, the cousins engage in an explosive verbal (and sometimes physical) battle over faith and family legacy.
Run time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Anna Kasabyan (Daphna), Ian Bond (Liam), Ben Phillips (Jonah), Molli Corcoran (Melody)
Design & Production:
Shana Bestock (Director), Shane Goldbaum-Unger (Stage Manager), Richard Schaefer (Scenic & Lightning Designer), Jay Weinland (Sound Designer), Karla Davenport (Props Designer), Sonya Hachez (Costume Designer)
Anna Kasabyan and Ian Bond in Seattle Public Theater’s production of BAD JEWS by Joshua Harmon. Photo: Steven Sterne.
Am I a good Jew? A bad Jew? Well, I’m a Bestock Jew. I’m the sort of Jew whose Bat Mitzvah experience was playing Anne Frank with remarkable theater professionals; who wrote a Haggadah at age 17 as my own personal liberation from the bondage of boring seders, a Haggadah that reads like an earnest mash-up of philosophy credo, script, and theater mission statement; who regales her Xmas Pageant casts with stories of her Jewish grandmother; who throws Chanukah and Rosh Hashanah parties and will move rehearsals around to accommodate Passover, but doesn’t cancel rehearsal on Yom Kippur and hasn’t set foot in a synagogue since her brother’s Bar Mitzvah.
My grandparents’ names are etched on an armrest here in the theater. Perhaps under your arm as you read this. They were educators, business people, activists, community builders. They were kind and crazy, loving and courageous, and I did not have that much time with them. They carried stories and pains, losses and joys which I see in my parents and carry in my own body. I like to think they would have argued with my choices, rejoiced in my successes, and laughed at this play.
I was brought up a secular Jew in Seattle surrounded mostly by secular Christians. My mother fought to connect us to history and to make sure assimilation didn’t subsume us; my father worked diligently to make standing out and standing up part of our DNA. Though I don’t command the net worth of the characters in this play, I am nonetheless incredibly privileged, and carry heavily the guilt and responsibility that has come with my freedom and wealth of support, opportunity and strong values.
Is Judaism in danger of being diluted by Jews like me? What do we lose in general when a specific ritual is lost? Are we watering down our cultural heritage or reimagining it?
For me, being Jewish is an expression of what is truly at stake when we ask the big questions, an expression of family and history and future. Bad Jews is a very specific story—biting and vibrant and painful and funny —about very universal needs. Bad Jews celebrates family, and all the ways family is terrible, wonderful, and necessary. Working on Bad Jews has been such a privilege, full of breathtaking moments of beauty, wisdom, and kinship with my own family as well as my theater family.
My brother might bring home someone to our Passover table one year. She might be a shiksa, she might be a Jew. I only hope for his happiness. We are both invested in passing on the vibrant, complex legacy of being Jewish, being Bestock. I am so grateful to share this legacy with a gracious, compassionate, non-combative brother, and carry the stories forward together, with joy. David – this one’s for you.