New York theater, like Hollywood and the mainstream pop culture, is primarily based on the lives of white people. It’s just the way it is. They may be white and Jewish, but at the end of the day, they’re still white. There of course are groups that are focused on specific ethnicities; black theater seems removed from Asian theater, which seems removed from white theater. There are the occasional theaters, like the Flea, which oftentimes mix races (which is really refreshing), but for the most part, they’re generally focused to one race, and the one race is usually white. So it’s amazing to see theater that is focused on an ethnic group that is certainly getting a lot of attention in the mainstream media today: Middle Eastern cultures, like those from Palestine or Iran. We were at Playwright Horizons tonight and watched The Profane, which is a play about two Middle Eastern families and their clashes in religious and cultural beliefs. One family is supposedly modern and Westernized; the second family is traditional to the point of displaying a Koran in their living room and regularly using a prayer rug.
The most appalling part of the play was when the “modern” family visiting the traditional family started making a ruckus in the living room, and the father actually took the traditional family’s Koran off their shelf and ripped pages out of it. I gasped, along with a huge chunk of the audience, when this happened. It doesn’t matter whether you are Muslim or Christian or Jewish or anything else; an act like this is shocking. And as one of the actors said during the talk-back after the show, this shock and disgust is not actually about religion or culture or any set of beliefs or morals; it’s really about respect or disrespect. When you are in someone’s home, you should be respectful to that family for inviting you in. To do something so egregious as to rip their sacred text’s pages out is to show intense disrespect for their humanity. You ignore the fact that they are human beings with feelings, and that all human beings deserve respect.