I went to college with this incredible director Dude, David Chapman. A few years after college, we realized we had a mutual friend: MY GRANDMOTHER. David met her at a Seder some years before. My grandma, Roberta, used to come over ever Christmas with dreidels and gold chocolate coins and attempt to explain to me that there was something in me that was Jewish, that was from Russia, that should light candles, that should know where I’m from, spiritually and culturally (which, I’ve learned, are two entirely separate things, only sometimes intertwined.) After she passed away, David and I worked on a play together in her memory, Roberta Laughs. Flash forward some years, David was asked to commission short plays about the Jewish experience, inspired by this study. And now, here I am, most honored to write one of these plays with these other playwrights who are Actual Jews. It was nice to take a moment, remember Roberta, think deeply about what her presence in my life meant. A lot of my first plays were contemporary adaptations of Bible stories, so I returned to that with what can only be described as Samson and Delilah with iPhones in a crappy apartment somewhere underneath the BQE:
Are you a real Jew or like just a Jew? I mean like. Are you spiritually Jewish. Do you practice. Do you pray. Who is your God. What is Hannakuh. How do you spell Hannakuh. Do you eat canned fish. All of the questions. Who do you talk to when you’re scared? Did you go to Hebrew school? Do you fast? What is your moral code?
I like that about you. That you’re a Jew. That was the one of the first things I liked about you. Because I wasn’t raised with anything. Like that. And sometimes I’m jealous. Of. You ever felt an earthquake? They come in the morning when you’re asleep. When you’re a baby again. Everything’s all like. Primal. Your smell. Your sounds. Your instincts? Something’s holding you there and it’s not your mattress. And then it shakes. And it shakes and it shakes and you hear cars and animals rattling. Gates and books and trash. Did you ever – did they ever nail the shelves into the wall? What is glass? You reach for – Anything? But nothing’s there? And you figure out what’s happening, an earthquake is happening, and you have. There is no control. And you think, there is a reason for this, this will end, but you have no one to grab or trust. That’s when you really wish you believed in God. Somebody to hold onto when everything shakes.