[Feb 14] Barbara Benary: Wayang Esther (Video Screening)

Traditional Javanese wayang kulit shadow puppets and gamelan music are used to reenact the Biblical story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim. Benary’s script was inspired by a reading of the Megillah (scroll of Esther) during the 1990’s Bosnian war, and explores the questions: how we in modern times can or should react to genocide and mindless violence? Who is an innocent, and must children suffer for the deeds of their fathers? And must we carry old wars forever in our hearts?

WAYANG ESTHER: A Javanese Purimspiel

Barbara Benary / Barbara Pollitt

Thu, Feb 14, 7pm
Admission: FREE

Location:
Harvestworks – www.harvestworks.org
596 Broadway, #602 | New York, NY 10012 | Phone: 212-431-1130
Subway: F/M/D/B Broadway/Lafayette, R Prince, 6 Bleeker

WAYANG ESTHER is a video documentation of Barbara Benary and Barbara Pollitt’s 2001 operetta at HERE Arts Center. Traditional Javanese wayang kulit shadow puppets and gamelan music are used to reenact the Biblical story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim (this year Feb. 23-24). The story is set during the Persian empire, where a numerous Jewish population was threated with genocide at the hands of an evil Prime Minister Haman, and rescued by Queen Esther and Mordecai. Benary’s script was inspired by a reading of the Megillah (scroll of Esther) during the 1990’s Bosnian war, and explores the questions: how we in modern times can or should react to genocide and mindless violence? Who is an innocent, and must children suffer for the deeds of their fathers? And must we carry old wars forever in our hearts?

Barbara Benary is a composer and ethnomusicologist, and co-founder and artistic director of Gamelan Son of Lion, a new music ensemble active in downtown New York since the 1970s. The ensemble is dedicated to creating and performing new music in many styles using the instruments of the Indonesian gamelan percussion ensemble. She has been involved since college years with combining gamelan with her own compositions and influences from a variety of other world musics. She also writes chamber music for more conventional instrumentation as well as music for theatre and dance. Her scores are distributed by Frog Peak Music / American Gamelan Institute; her gamelan recordings are available from Innova and Gamelan Son of Lion, and her chamber music from New World Records.

The two Barbaras have been long time collaborators over the years on a number of music and wayang projects. “Esther” is their second major collaboration, the first being “Karna: Shadow Puppet Opera (1994, LaMama).

Barbara Pollitt has an extensive career in New York theatre as a puppeteer, mask maker, performer and director. She has performed with Julie Taymour, and with Mabou Mines, including Lee Breuer’s “Epidog”, for which she won an Obie award.
She directed and designed the highly acclaimed Haydn opera “Philemon and Baucis” for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at the Kaufman Theater in New York. She also designed puppets for Theaterworks’ “Lion King of Mali” which toured nationally. Ms Pollitt’s mask and puppet work was seen on Broadway in George C. Wolfe’s “Tempest” (American Theater Wing nominations for mask design) and for Mr. Wolfe’s “Jelly’s Last Jam.” Her design work has been exhibited at Lincoln Center and at other venues in New York.

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