Theater J's English-Language World Premiere of The Admission Sparks Controversy and Protests; Dramatists Guild Responds

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12 Feb 2014

Objections to a production of The Admission, a play by Motti Lerner that was scheduled to be presented by Washington, D.C.'s Theater J, have resulted in the play's English-language world-premiere production being reduced to a workshop and the length of the production cut in half.

Presented as part of the Voices From A Changing Middle East Festival, part of the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center's Embracing Democracy series, the production of The Admission sparked a response from the ad-hoc group Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, which raised objections to the play, criticizing its portrayal of Israeli's behavior during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Staging a pressure campaign to cancel the production, COPMA has called the assertions in the play a "blood libel" and has asked that donors to the Jewish Federation withhold contributions as long as the drama is being presented by the DCJCC, of which Theater J as a program.

Here's how The Admission is described by Theater J: "An Israeli homage to 'All My Sons' set in Haifa during the first Intifada. Giora is a young professor engaged to Neta but in love with Samia, the Palestinian daughter of a family friend who becomes troubled when Giora's father's company begins building on the site of a battle that took place 40 years ago. Giora struggles to find the truth about his father's war-time secrets, confronting the causes of his brother's death and how Giora came to incur his own war-time injuries in Lebanon. As Giora's family presses him to look forward, not back, the play asks how we can move forward toward peace while still wrestling with the ghosts of war."

COPMA has documented its objections on its website, writing, "Theater J at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center (DCJCC) has for years, under the directorship of an individual named Ari Roth, been staging plays and holding workshops that denigrate Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has been providing funding to Theater J, and despite COPMA's efforts, continues to knowingly funnel dollars to support Theater J. This violates the Federation's fiduciary obligation to donors to monitor the destination of its donor contributions. We would not support Jewish Federation funds going to support the Palestinian Authority, and we should not support Jewish Federation funds going to attack Israel in its struggle for peace and security."

COPMA did not respond to requests from for an interview.

Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J, spoke with about The Admission and COPMA's objections, saying he believes the play invites reflection on cultural history.

"I think, like any great play, [The Admission] makes an attempt to excavate foundations that upon which a faulty pretense is founded," Roth said. "We need to go back and look at a murky and contested past in order to better understand how we become who we are, and how we can move forward — and by this, when I say we, I'm talking about Israelis living alongside Palestinian neighbors."

The campaign to cancel The Admission is not the first campaign COPMA has waged in objection to Theater J. Roth cited incidents in 2009, 2010 and 2011 when the organization had protested Theater J's presentations of theatre and cultural events, calling for Roth's firing. Roth said the boycotts have not had a large financial impact on the Federation, and he cited statements printed by the Washington Jewish Week in support of the work of the JCC, including Theater J.


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