by Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon, Senior Programmer “Where is Rebecca? Why isn’t she on the stage if the play is all about her?”
This question was one of several raised by insightful Machon and Nivonim campers after they watched a live performance of The Rebecca Play, created by longtime Ramah staffer Jon Adam Ross. Ross, an actor and Jewish educator known to campers by his initials, JAR, explained during the talkback that though there was no actress portraying the matriarch, Rebecca was present in every scene. To reveal here exactly how would give away the fun of watching the play and appreciating how it weaves together the Biblical narrative of Rebecca and her sons with some of the most charged political and personal issues in American life today.
The play features two actors, Ross and Darian Dauchan, who switch back and forth not only between the roles of Jacob and Esau, but also between Biblical times and modern Charleston, South Carolina. This modern theatrical midrash brings to the surface issues of race and relatedness, good and bad, and above all, what it is that we inherit from both the people and the places who have created us.
Campers who watched the play had the opportunity to see the Biblical text interpreted through the unique, community-based process that Ross and his team, including director Chantal Pavageaux, originated as part of the InHEIRitance Project.
The inHEIRitance Project is five plays made with five communities over three years. Each play is inspired by the narrative of a matriarch or patriarch from the book of Genesis and devised from interactions with communities, opening up the creative process so the audience can participate and ultimately have a deeper connection to the performance and the biblical narratives that inspire the project.
Giving campers access to this kind of cutting-edge Torah interpretation was an incredible and unusual gift. Campers were provoked into considering the connections between Judaism, Jewish text, and unresolved, difficult modern issues. They were able idea that these stories continue to pack emotional punch, helping us to better understand our own life and times.