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Controversy Surrounds ‘Seven Jewish Children’

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

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The New York Theatre Workshop will stage three readings of the British playwright Caryl Churchill’s 10-minute play, “Seven Jewish Children” — a quickly written response to the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza.

When the play debuted in February at London’s famous Royal Court Theatre, it had some critics swooning; it has others up in arms. John Nathan of London’s Jewish Chronicle, for one, wrote: “[F]or the first time in my career as a critic, I am moved to say about a work at a major production house that this is an anti-Semitic play.”

In seven abrupt scenes, Jewish elders construct disparate versions of past events including the Holocaust, the founding of the state of Israel, the first Palestinian uprising and recent event in Gaza. Most lines of the play begin with “Tell her” or “Do not tell her” — a device that, while perhaps effective, may also grate at the ear in mere minutes.

“Seven Jewish Children” isn’t the only recent British production to cause a stir over its portrayal of Jewish characters. A recent revival of “Oliver!” — based on the Charles Dickens’s novel “Oliver Twist” — had some critics arguing that the street thief character, Fagin, is an anti-Semitic caricature, much like Shakespeare’s Shylock.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Oliver!, New York Theatre Workshop, Caryl Churchill, Allison Gaudet Yarrow, Seven Jewish Children

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Comments
tia Tue. Apr 7, 2009

Interesting derivative work at http://www.bluetruth.net/2009/04/seven-muslim-children.html Seven Muslim children

Tell him to launch the rockets Tell him to use the school yard Don’t tell him to use the school yard Tell him they’re afraid to fire back because the world will hate them Don’t tell him they might fire back anyway Tell him they must all die Don’t tell him they might attack Tell him we’re living in the Warsaw Ghetto Tell him what the Warsaw Ghetto was Don’t tell him what really happened in the Warsaw Ghetto Don’t tell him about Auschwitz and Treblinka Tell him they’re afraid of us and won’t attack us Tell him we can shoot off rockets forever. Tell him if he’s lucky the rocket will hit a kindergarten Tell him “itbach-al-Yahud” Tell him “Filastin hi arduna, Wa al-Yahud kilabuna” Tell him we will go back to al-Andalus In the Name of the Prophet




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