Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 25, 2000Volume 28, Number 22

Lael Logan and Alicia Roper act a scene from "The People vs. The God of Vengeance," a play-in-progress by School of Drama student Rebecca Taichman. Taichman will direct a reading of her play on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Slifka Center.

Staged reading weaves a story about a vilified play

Rebecca Taichman, a final-year student at the School of Drama, will direct a reading of her play-in-progress, titled "The People vs. The God of Vengeance" on Sunday, Feb. 27.

The reading will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall St. It will be followed by a discussion with Taichman. The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

When Sholem Asch, a noted Yiddish novelist and dramatist, opened his play "God of Vengeance" on Broadway in 1923, it caused a stir because of its focus on such issues as lesbian love, prostitution, ethnic Eastern European Jewish life, hypocritical piety and the wrathful nature of God. Although the play had premiered 17 years earlier on the Yiddish stages of Europe and the United States, "God of Vengeance" was vilified as obscene. The play was shut down by the police for violating New York State obscenity laws. The producer and cast were charged, taken to court and found guilty.

In "The People vs. The God of Vengeance," Taischman interweaves transcripts from the trial with scenes from Asch's original play.

"The story of this obscenity trial brings together a rich confluence of themes that are not only intellectually and culturally provocative, but also terrifically theatrical," says Taichman. "The viewpoints and emotions that propelled the action against the play remain critical to this day. The incident is pivotal to our understanding the history of lesbian and gay theater, American Jewish history and the history of civil rights."

Asch spent his last years in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv. In accordance with his request, his house in Bat Yam was converted into the Sholem Asch Museum. The bulk of his library, containing rare Yiddish books and manuscripts, including manuscripts to some of his own works, are at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Papers from the obscenity trial are on display at the Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St.

For information, call (203) 432-1134.


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