In partnership with their production of Indecent by Paula Vogel, the BLUEBARN Theater presented a staged reading of Sholem Ashe’s 1906 play God of Vengeance, from which the story of Indecent is based. I read as Rifkele, the daughter of a brothel manager. The play was a subject of controversy when it premiered on Broadway in 1923, where the entire cast, producers, and theater owner were arrested for indecency, citing the romantic relationship between Rifkele and Manke—a woman of the brothel. It also was criticized by its depiction of Jewish culture in a time where anti-semitism was on the rise, through written by a Yiddish playwright for a Yiddish audience. The play’s genesis by Sholem Ashe, tour of Europe (to critical acclaim), arrival in New York City with an English translation and re-working, and the arrests and resulting trial are all depicted in Vogel’s Indecent. The BLUEBARN’s production is directed by Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer, and the reading of God of Vengeance was directed by Roxanne Wach.
It was a privilege to get to work with some incredible Omaha talent, and to study the history and political context of the play before seeing Indecent. It certainly brings a whole new level of understanding and appreciation of the play!
God of Vengeance performed at the BLUEBARN Theater on March 25th, and at the Jewish Community Center on April 1st, 2019.