In an electrifying conclusion to the December 18th production of Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism, with a Key to the Scriptures, members of the cast read a letter from Kushner praising former Theater J Artistic Director Ari Roth and denouncing the theater’s decision to fire him.
“We wouldn’t be standing here tonight without the hard work and fierce dedication of our friend and colleague, the Artistic Director of Theater J, Ari Roth,” Kushner said in a passage read by cast member Tom Wiggin.
In a move first revealed by the Washington Post’s Peter Marks, Theater J dismissed Roth after eighteen years as Theater J Artistic Director for what Roth described as “insubordination” for violating the “communications protocol” of the DC Jewish Community Center, Theater J’s parent organization. Roth and DCJCC CEO Carole J. Zawatsky had been on bad terms since Zawatsky’s 2011 appointment, with much of the conflict between them focused on Roth’s “Voices of a Changing Middle East” program. Zawatsky discontinued Roth’s program, which occasionally introduced a Palestinian perspective to the Middle East conflict, after an organization calling itself Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art asked people to stop donating to DCJCC in protest.
“Ari wasn’t fired, as the Executive Committee has claimed, because of insubordination,” Kushner said, in a passage read by cast member Lou Liberatore to the loud applause of the Theater J audience. “That’s a preposterous and cowardly whitewashing of the truth. Ari was fired because he believes that a theater company with a mission to explore Jewish themes and issues cannot acquiesce to a demand for uncritical acceptance of the positions of the Israeli government regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or to insistence on silence. Ari was fired because he refused to surrender to censorship. He was fired because he believes that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are both American values and Jewish values.”
“We can’t continue without expressing our shock and dismay at this violation of principles we cherish,” Kushner noted in a passage read by cast member Susan Rome. “Theater artists and administrators across the country are already speaking out in protest. We join them and we hope that you join us. We call on the full board of the DCJCC to renounce the action that the Executive Committee has taken, and by renouncing it demonstrate its support for theater which engages the contemporary reality in all its complexity free of the fear of censors.”
Roth revealed to Marks that he had been in negotiation to leave Theater J for some time, and that he intended to open a new theater, called Mosaic Theater Company at the Atlas Performing Arts Center this fall.
A statement from playwright Tony Kushner on behalf of
the author, director, cast and crew of The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide
following the Dec 18th performance at Theater J this week