Posted by blk1 on 5th January 2008
Classical Stage Company(CSC) is a theater that I’ve been connected to for many years as a teacher of English and theater. I have taken full advantage of what they offer for students in their intimate space(a dream for a director) their Wednesday matinees for kids($5), their invitations for students to meet with actors for a q and a at the end of most performances and lots of wonderful, FREE theater events. So this year I became a member of CSC and paid for two subscriptions with pleasure!
Our first play for the season was a version of Shakespeare’s Richard III . I love the play, I began with this play as a kid teething on Shakespeare, but this production didn’t touch Tuvia and even though the acting was of high quality I don’t think I found something new here. I loved Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard a few years ago and Ian Mckellen’s Nazi version more recently.
Today we were back on East 13th St. for New Jerusalem written by David Ives. From the start, we were engaged. The actors brought us in as silent characters, the congregation of Amsterdam synagogue in 1656 to witness the debate determining the fate of the future philosopher Baruch de Spinoza then in his early 20′s.
After hours watching movies on large screens showcased with state-of-the art sound systems there was something lovely and refreshing about a live. performance with a handful of actors in the theater with capacity for 150 people on a square stage floor in the round. No one died, no special effects, no soundtrack. Just great writing, powerful conversation and dramatic issues.
Could Spinoza think outside the box and still remain a member of this Jewish community? No way! 1652 found Jews in Europe running from their homes in Spain and Portugal in search of refuge after the Spanish Inquisition. The city ofAmsterdam opened their doors to the Jews, but not without strings attached. Judaism only behind closed doors, without public displays-no funeral processions, or weddings, or conversations with Christians about religion and all Jews had to accept orthodoxy. Tolerant? Not really but what were the options?
Baruch Spinoza, a brilliant student studying initially with the congregation’s head rabbi, had to halt his rabbinical studies to support the family after the death of his father and continued to think and question everything as he was once encouraged to do in his youth. Sadly, the strings begin to twist on Spinoza when he’s public in his move beyond the the his the confines of this community and the Christian leaders who are ready to burn down the synagogue and tar and feather Spinoza. So much for tolerance.
As we filed out of theater propelled with CSC creative power we were able to leave the theater, cross the street and fill our parking meter with enough quarters for another hour to allow for walking in NYC in the heart of NYU energy. I remember when there wasn’t much around, even on St. Marks Place. Now, the cafes are overwhelming in their attraction and we had one to find and that gave us clear focus. From E13th to 8th (St. Marks) and down from 3rd to Ave. A,we found the east side version of our beloved Hummus Place on the west side. This version was even more comfortable in its environment but the food remained the same as we grabbed our warm pillowed pitas and dipped deeply into our plate of humus/tahina and enjoyed our dessert for the day.
What a spectacular day in NYC!
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