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Intersectionality of Jewish and queer identity take centerstage at Bunbury Theatre this month

Sage Martin and Julia Atkin rehearse Bunbury Theatre's production of "Indecent."
Morgan Schussler-Williams
Sage Martin and Julia Atkin rehearse Bunbury Theatre's production of "Indecent."

Bunbury Theatre has a play up this month about the intersectionality of Jewish and queer identity. 

The play is called “Indecent,” by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel. It runs through Aug. 14 at the Henry Clay Theatre in downtown Louisville. 

It’s based on a real-life Yiddish theater company in the early 1900s performing the play “God of Vengeance (Got fun nekome),” by Sholem Asch. It was a success in Europe and the U.S., leading to an English run on Broadway, whichNew York City officials shut down for being “immoral” or indecent. Some speculate that was because the work showed two women kissing and falling in love onstage. 

“Yiddish theater, klezmer music, the queerness within it and the Jewishness within it have often been not only intersecting, but integral to those art forms. And I think that’s what ‘Indecent’ tells us,” said David Chack, who directs the Louisville premiere and is the artistic director of the Bunbury-ShPIeL Identity Theatre Project. 

He sees the deeply meta work as “intersectional in a very Talmudic way.”

“It’s about questioning upon questioning upon questioning,” he said, referencing the Talmud, an important Judaic text. “It's about time periods. It's about overlapping stories. It's about stories that don't get completed, but then they get picked up again.”

The Talmud, which is intended to be studied and examined versus simply reading cover to cover, is packed with Jewish law, stories and wisdom. But it’s also much more than that. 

The site My Jewish Learning describes it as, “a manual for repairing, modifying, upgrading and improving the Jewish tradition when components of it are no longer serving us well.”

Chack also pointed to how the Talmud contains a more complex understanding of gender than the binary of male and female.

“I hope that the biggest thing [audiences] take away is the diversity of Jewish and queer culture, and the intersectionality of that, and that this is a positive thing for the world,” he said.

Each Bunbury performance is followed by a discussion with artists and faith leaders.

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