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My Week with the “F Word”

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It began while I was exercising and I heard the news on NPR: The F-bomb was added to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. My first thought was that my eldest, who is preparing to be collegiate, doesn’t need to look up that expression in a dictionary.

Next, when I was driving my son to school, we heard Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man” on the radio.  Did you know that there is radio version, in which dead air replaces the F-bomb? How did I miss that when I was downloading the song from iTunes?!

Then, I saw Company J’s final performance of Spring Awakening, a contemporary musical adaptation of a 19th century German play.  Because my daughter was in the cast, I saw the show three times within one week, and watched her bound across the stage during what is arguably the only upbeat number in the show, “Totally F**ked.” It was fabulous—a real crowd-pleaser—and although many other songs are more beautiful and haunting, this one has been my earworm all week.

Spring Awakening may seem like an unusual choice for a Teen Summer Stock Production at a Jewish Community Center.  I definitely encountered people who questioned the wisdom of the Producing Artistic Director, Brian Kimmel, and other MJCCA Arts & Culture Staff.  And I patiently listened to the unsolicited opinions of parents who asked me to explain this perceived transgression:

“I don’t think this show is appropriate for anyone under 18. Do you know what’s in the Second Act?!”

Yes, I know. Teen suicide, young men exploring their emerging sexuality, teen pregnancy that ends in a botched abortion and the young woman’s death.  It’s quite upsetting to watch.  But at least there is the comic relief of the “F Song,” as it is affectionately known in my house.

“Why are they doing that show? I mean, it’s the Jewish Community Center.”

Because Jewish teens confront these issues.  In every society—from 19th century Germany to 21st century suburban Atlanta—teens suffer as they become adults who are different from the people their parents imagined and expected they would be.  And teens don’t always have adults with whom they can discuss their pain.  Theater is one vehicle for teens to express their irrepressible emotions.

I am grateful to the open-minded staff of Company J, and I applaud their brave choice.  Through careful staging and the sensitive handling of difficult material, they challenged a group of teenagers to portray uncomfortable situations that adults would often prefer to ignore.  In a discussion with the audience after the final performance, these actors spoke eloquently about how much they wanted to raise awareness in the community and help those who may feel isolated and alone.

Leaving the theater, I was filled with hope that a peaceful “Purple Summer” can follow the turbulent awakenings of spring.

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Comments (2)

A brave choice. And a wonderful one. What a great experience for these young artists to explore some of life’s hardest themes in such a safe environment. Yasher koach!!!

Rebecca, I got so caught up in the show that I forgot to take my picture next to your Bat Mitzvah picture! Argh! I programmed my bossy phone to remind me, but then OF COURSE I turned off the phone before the performance began. Anyway, I did see your photo and you look the same, I swear. Except that you are even more fashionable and cooler now that you are a rabbi/mom/writer/hallah baker!

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