The Hebrew Lesson

by esther ouray

MN

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 Working with director and dramaturge Zaraawar Mistry, Esther crafted a piece of theater that combines personal narrative, folklore and contemporary politics. Rooted in Jewish cultural music and imagery, The Hebrew Lesson asks its audience members to reflect upon their relationship to the charged politics of Israel and Palestine, and their individual connection to their ancestral homelands, wherever they may be. The play is at once a personal story of a woman’s journey to her ancestral home, as well as a political call towards accepting one’s responsibility and embracing the truth regarding the perpetuation of injustice. The story is structured around an interactive, light hearted Hebrew lesson of six Hebrew words. The lesson is interrupted as each word triggers a story, past experience, or reflection which overtakes the Hebrew school teacher. The substance of earth is a consistent image in each of these interruptions. As the story progresses in a non linear manner, the stage becomes more and more covered with earth. The teacher emotionally unravels as she uses the earth to illustrate the ‘facts on the ground” in the Palestinian Territories. The piece ends with a ritual inspired by Jewish liturgy.

The Hebrew Lesson is a one-woman play, written and performed by Esther Ouray, with live music by composers and musicians Tim O’Keefe, Maryam Yusefzadeh and Greg Herriges. Esther Ouray, a Minneapolis-based theater artist, traveled to Israel and Palestine in 2007 as part of a delegation investigating nnonviolent movements in the region. Esther’s father had passed away a year earlier, and she decided to bring his ashes with her. Her desire was to spread her father’s ashes from the top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, as a tribute to him. But as Esther traveled within Israel and the Palestinian Territories, she became witness to the complex historical, political and social injustices of life there. When she finally ascended to the top of the Mount of Olives, while wrestling with what she knew to be true, the seed for The Hebrew Lesson was planted

The Hebrew Lesson was originally presented as a part of a commission awarded to Esther Ouray by the Jerome Foundation’s 2010 Naked Stages program.  Despite  brief public exposure, the play generated a strong response amongst its audiences and was the subject of discussion in articles in both the Star Tribune and American Jewish World newspapers. Last March it played to sold out houses at Dreamland Arts in St Paul. It has also been presented at the Jewish Community Center of Minneapolis. Each performance is followed by a  moderated talk-back session, inspiring heartfelt and important dialogue amongst our audience.

We are requesting your support for a modest 9 show tour of The Hebrew Lesson. Since the last production of the piece, word of mouth has brought requests for further performances and dialogue.We have received requests from three communities in southern Minnesota. We have also received requests from Jewish communities in both Minnesota and New York.We have been asked to perform as a benefit for a community based organization that brings together a diverse group of people. we would also like to bring The Hebrew Lesson to  two college campuses within Minnesota. If we overfund the project, we are then able to offer more performances and perform for more disadvantaged presenters and audiences.

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