In the Theater Artist’s Beit Midrash: Kol Echad, we are creating monologue scenes based in Bibliodrama and centered on an environmental theme. So far we have had three great sessions, including an acting workshop with BIMA faculty member Lynda Bachman on finding the impulse for action outside oneself.
We have been studying the story of the 12 spies sent by Israel from the wilderness into the land, from sefer Bamidbar (Parshat Shelach). The Bibliodrama we have created around this text has allowed us to try out speaking in the voice of a character from the text, bringing the feelings and relationships in the story to life.
One advantage of the Bibliodrama as a role play is that it allows multiple people to voice the same character and thus help us find some nuance. One such character in this story is Caleb, the voice of dissent:
From Parshat Shelach; Numbers 13:26-33 So they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.They told him, and said: ‘We came into the land where you sent us, and it really does flow with milk and honey; and this is it’s fruit. However, the people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified, and very great; …
But Caleb hushed the people [and approached] toward Moses, and said: ‘Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.’ But the men that went up with him said: ‘We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.’ So they spread an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great size.
And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and looked to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we [must have] seemed to them.’
In our Bibliodrama, we interviewed Caleb about how he feels regarding the negative report of the other spies. Artists voiced Caleb with a sense of disappointment, but also expressed a sense of relief– in this moment, all the cards are on the table, and Caleb may feel he knows where he stands now in relationship to the others.
The Bibliodrama also helps us find characters who are not discussed in the text itself. One artist brought the voice of Moses’ wife Tzipporah into our study. Tzipporah expressed a deeply rooted fear for the man she loved and voiced the hurt that she feels on his behalf.
Dissent is a theme that we are picking up from this study– we see it in our modern political climate, in our local communities, and in the text. Dissent is itself becoming a character in our narrative. The nature of dissent can bring energy and change– or in the case of the parsha, it can condemn a generation. It is my hope that by giving each artist a singular voice, a monologue, we can transform the way we see and engage in discourse, and understand more deeply the challenges posed by incorporating various voices into a community.
-Jordan, BIMA Community Educator
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