Author's Note: I present this "pre-review" as a teaser of sorts to what I expect will be an amazing evening of live theater on November 10, Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. when Silk Road Rising, a Chicago-based theater group presents the world premiere of Paulus, a play by celebrated Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, in Pierce Hall at the iconic Chicago Temple Building, one of the gems of historical Chicago architecture at 77 W. Washington, Lower Level in Chicago. The show will run from November 7-December 15, 2013.
"Good things come in small packages." So we've been taught. An old saying of proverbial wisdom, as true today as it was yesterday, perhaps even more so. We attribute more wonderment to the "small" because therein we discover "beginning" and, as we should know, within every "beginning" resides a spark of the holy.
Writing is perhaps the most solitary of creative activities. So special that "Our Sages of Blessed Memory" forbade its practice and that of other creative activities on the Sabbath because ביום השביעי שבת וינפש (on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed). Jews of faith keep the mitzvot of the Torah because G-d commanded them. To refrain from these creative activities on the Sabbath is, if you like, a way to imitate the ways of G-d (imitatio Dei).
Writers spend a great deal of time within the ether of their own solitude, often taking their meals by themselves and resolving clarity conundrums while asleep at the keyboard. Many idle away an inordinate amount of time awaiting e-mail notification from editors that their work has been rejected. While I can not deny the fact that I am one of these "many", I'm here now to tell you a different kind of tale.
Fortuitous. That's how I'd characterize this. Simply fortuitous.
I received an e-mail from an unfamiliar name I would have deleted ordinarily.
'Gillani, Malik?' I muttered. 'Gillani, Gillani. A Jew?'
You know that little voice?
Despite having no certain answers to my own questions, I clicked. I read. It got better with every word as though we had been chatting over a coffee at Starbucks.
"I have enjoyed reading your on-line articles about Chicago Judaism at http://www.examiner.com," Mr. Gillani, executive director of Silk Road Rising, wrote, uncannily aware of my weak spot. "Would you consider writing a feature story about Motti Lerner's Paulus for your column?"
We met next day and spoke for several minutes in Pierce Hall, presently under construction for the opening on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
Author and playwright Lerner is not interested in "relaying facts but in revealing truths", doubting both "the historical and biblical narratives". What interests him is not, I believe, so much the teachings which constitute popular beliefs, but that which underlies them. In that sense, Lerner's psychological exploration is primarily "archaeological" in nature.
There is a principle of historical understanding at work here. In our every attempt to understand history, our "vision" can not reach beyond our own horizons. We can extend our sight but only by using different tools than those to which we have become accustomed.
It is only then that, in the words of the playwright, we'll be able "to trust the story, engage the story, argue with it, not reject it as somehow 'false.'"
I'll be attending the 4:00 p.m. performance on Sunday, November 10th. Hope to see you there.