Friday, September 17, 2010



Gmar Hatima Tova. 

To mark the occasion of the Jewish high holidays -- Rosh Hashanna (the new year) and Yom Kippur (the "Day of Atonement") -- I spoke with Amichai Lau-Lavie, the executive director of Storahtelling. In the video above, Amichai talks about how his organization uses theater, music, storytelling and even multimedia to revitalize the Torah and other Hebrew scripture for modern audiences. 

There's a lot in the Torah "that I have the privilege and responsibility to re-interpret," says Amichai. "The danger of not constantly interpreting Torah is living in a museum." And spending a few hours overnight in a museum might seem pretty fun based on "A Night at the Museum" or "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" -- somehow I doubt it'd be too great to actually live in a crusty old museum.

Storahtelling's approach may be "irreverent," says Amichai, but it's rooted in tradition. The organization has resurrected the long-abandoned role of the "Maven" -- a kind of translator for the Torah Service -- to help present-day Jews connect more deeply with age-old stories. The result is an unusual theatrical approach to liturgy that invites audiences to participate in the telling and interpretation of stories from Hebrew scripture and tradition, whether it's the story of Noah or the Exodus or Moses dying or Joseph sold into slavery. For each story, Storahtelling will ask themselves who in the story has no voice -- women, slaves, children, even animals -- and draw out those and others to speak their point of view. Then audiences -- more like participants -- speak theirs.

Alas, I didn't get a chance to attend (much less videotape) Storahtelling's Rosh Hashanna services, so instead I'm including a video of theirs below, in the middle of which is a snippet of their performance work. Enjoy. 

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