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Guthrie Theater: Stage Craft with Paula Vogel

This play began when the first
director called me and said, Paula will you write a play about the
obscenity trial of God of Vengeance? And as she was talking to me on
the phone it happened, I saw an attic. I saw these dusty characters moving
props around on an empty space. And when that happens,
I can’t let go until I complete the play. The truth of the matter is,
art is dangerous. Art is dangerous because
it makes us feel. Individual plays can unite us
as a community and an audience. We come in as very separate people,
but we go out into the lobby as a community. We belong to each other
at the end of the play. The first year in grad school one of
my professors looked at me and said, there’s a play I want you to read,
The God of Vengeance. He didn’t tell me why,
so I ran to the library that night and I found a copy of this translation, 1912,
and I read it in the stacks of the library standing up,
being very careful as I turned the pages so that the whole thing
wouldn’t crumble into dust. And as I read the second act,
and a love scene between two young women, I literally felt that I was
no longer breathing. I kept that with me the rest of my life.
In 1923, when it was pulled off the stage and everyone went
to jail for performing in it, Klu Klux Klan was thriving,
Henry Ford was actually selling newspapers that talked about an
international conspiracy of the Jews and the Congress shut down
our national borders. And there we are on the path
to genocide and World War II. Artist in the 1920’s could see it coming. Sholem Asch saw it coming because he
went abroad and saw what was happening, and he came back home
and he talked about what the future held
if we did not pay attention. I want to see love stories
of the entire spectrum. If we approach each other’s love
with that respect and that embrace that Sholem Asch gave me,
it’s an extraordinary gift.

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