Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Other

I mentioned earlier that, during Lent, 
I had the opportunity to do some acting; 
some improv to be precise.

The recent unrest in our community, 
the evidence staring us in the face that we are a divided city,
 caused some of us to wonder how we would ever bridge the divide. 

That question prompted a member of a local University Repertory company 
to believe we had to first be open
and ask ourselves 
who is 'our' other?

 She asked volunteers from two faith communities, 
an Episcopal and a moderate Jewish congregation, 
to meet and discuss several aspects of that very question. 

We met separately with our own group for 4 weeks 
and then came together for one session 
in which we acted out 
several scenarios that challenged us - 
with surprising results.
All of us, 
from both congregations, 
saw ourselves as liberal and accepting. 

We have 'mixed' families, 
some along racial lines, 
others embracing various religious backgrounds. 
We all believed ourselves to be 'above prejudice'.

As the weeks unfolded however 
and we were presented with various scenarios, 
we surprised ourselves 
during improv 
with what came out of our mouths.

Maybe, unlike the parents in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,
we wouldn't balk if a child brought home a partner of another race;
but what if they brought home 
a Southern Christian literal fundamentalist?
A devote Muslim?
A science rejecting creationist?
A Jew - 
and your daughter was converting 
and wouldn't ever share Christmas or Easter holidays with you again?

The exciting part for us all was that in the final session 
we got to be 'the other' in the improv.

I discovered my inner Jewish grandmother,
lamenting that my only grandson was marrying a 'diluted Jew'
and they were being married by a yoga instructor, not a rabbi.

I was also the mother crying 
at never being able to use the Christmas ornaments 
my daughter and I had collected over the years 
because she would no longer be an observant Christian.

The depth of our reactions during the scenes suggested 
we held our own constructs and beliefs 
far more strongly that we consciously acknowledged.

It was also a visceral shock to recognize that, 
given the right, or wrong, circumstances,
we ARE someone else's 'other'.

Powerful things to think about as we headed into Holy Week.
It was a fabulous experience.

Not to mention 
the Artistic Director of the Rep told me I shouldn't stop acting; 
I was a natural! 

Maybe a whole new direction to pursue...
there's room on the shelves for a few of these!

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