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October 23, 1991 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-23

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The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, October 23, 1991

Page 5


voice for Jewish women

Judith Plaskow calls for redefinition of Judaism

That's University alumnus Richard Fracker on the far left, performing what might look like calisthenics but
what is actually the choreography of Ann Carlson, who, along with visual artist Jerome Sirlin, poet Allen
Ginsberg and composer Philip Glass, collaborated to create the modern opera Hydrogen Jukebox.
Wolverime owls crack
of doom inhe Jukebox

by Alissa Citron
Judith Plaskow has a distinctive
and powerful voice, which resonated
through Hillel's auditorium* earlier
this month. "The story of the Je-
wish people has been told by a male
perspective," she said. Plaskow is
calling for enormous change in con-
temporary Judaism, in an attempt to
uncover and release the silenced voi-
ces of Jewish women. As she pro-
'In a tradition that has
a blessing for eating
your first watermelon
of the season... it is
incredible that there
is no blessing for the
birth of a baby, no
blessing for weaning,
the onset of
menstruation or
-Judith Plaskow
claimed in her lecture, "What the
Jews received at Sinai was only half
the story."
When asked in a recent interview
why she wants to work within Ju-
daism, and not simply abandon it as
irredeemably patriarchal, Plaskow
said, "I feel most at home, I find the
strongest sense of community, with
Jewish women struggling with the
Jewish tradition. That's where the
biggest pieces of my identity come
In her new book, Standing at
Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Per-
spective, Plaskow challenges the
essential framework of Judaism, as
it marginalizes and subordinates
women. She discusses a transforma-
tion of the religion, one in which
women would participate in de-
fining what Judaism is and what it
would become. Plaskow asks in her

book, "How, then, might the central
Jewish categories... change as
women appropriate them through
the lens of our experience?"
Plaskow rejects other Jewish
feminists' attempts to gain equal ac-
cess to an existing male system.
"For me, then," she writes, "fe-
minism is not about attaining equal
rights for women in religious or
social structures that remain un-
changed, but about the transforma-
tion of religion and society." Equal
access, she said, confronts women
with extreme contradictions. In her
lecture, Plaskow used the example
of a woman who is permitted to
lead a traditional service and in-
vokes the people to pray to "the
God and God of our fathers." This
woman is faced with the exclusion
of women from the tradition.
Plaskow contended that a three-
stage transformation is occurring
which will create a Judaism that in-
cludes the history, concerns, senti-
ments and realities of women. One
stage involves careful criticism of
the tradition. This forces the Jewish
woman to confront her prohibition
from religious leadership roles, her
linguistic exclusion and her legal
disabilities within Jewish law. She
added that women must realize that
these are not sociological accidents,
"but rather they emerge from a
male-centered understanding of rea-
lity that permeates Judaism from
top to bottom."
In the second stage, women must
discover and recreate a history
which involves their own back-
ground. And finally, in the third and
most important stage, women must
create a Judaism reflective of their
own experiences and spirituality in
the present.
What does Plaskow hope to see
arising from these new changes in
Judaism? In her lecture, she talked
about reconceptualizing God with
female sensitivities and images in
mind, "to create a God present in
community rather than above it."
She used this idea as a starting point,

for removing all hierarchies from
the religion. Furthermore, she said
that there is a need for a creation of
rituals for women's experiences,
and that this is starting to be
"In a tradition that has a bles-
sing for eating your first water-
melon of the season, seeing a rain-
bow, seeing a friend you haven't seen
for a long time, it is incredible that
there is no blessing for the birth of a
baby, no blessing for weaning, the
onset of menstruation or meno-
pause," she said. "All those turning
points in a woman's life need to be
ritualized. For example, the birth of
a baby girl, for which there was
nothing, but which is now very
widely celebrated."
~- -- -

by Greg Baise

D id you think that if Allen Ginsberg and Philip
Glass invested their amazing energies into an opera, it
would be a conventional one? Of course you didn't.
And unconventional, demanding operas created by such
heavyweights call for the best performers, able to rise
up to the challenge of staging a multimedia production
like hydrogen Jukebox. It shouldn't be that surprising
that there's a Wolverine who can accept that challenge.
Michigan alumnus and tenor Richard Fracker per-
forms as the businessman, one of the six characters or,
perhaps more accurately, characterizations, in Hydro-
gen Jukebox. Fracker isn't the most conventional Wol-
verine, either - he has four degrees from the Uni-
versity, the most recent being a master's in music,
which he completed in 1984. Since then, he has gone on
to become a professional opera singer and performer,
and an acclaimed one at that. Besides his involvement
with the hydrogen Jukebox tour, Fracker has a series of
roles this season with the Metropolitan Opera.
Before coming to the University, Fracker wasn't the
musician's musician that he is today. While he was in
a school working toward a bachelor's degree in political
science, he participated actively with the University
Glee Club, with Willis Patterson. "He was instru-
mental in encouraging me to take some lessons," Fra-
cker said in a phone interview. After some voice les-
sons, Fracker accepted a full scholarship to the Uni-
versity's Music School.
Fracker spoke from "enemy territory," smack dab
in the middle of the Buckeye - Columbus, Ohio -
where the hydrogen Jukebox company performed last
weekend. The piece premiered at contemporary music
festivals in Philadelphia and Charleston in May of
1990, but it continued to be a work in progress even af-
ter these performances. Fracker, who has participated
with the company since the beginning of production,

explained, "The piece that you get now has evolved
quite a bit from where we started." Some songs have
been added, others deleted; the visuals of Jerome Sirlin
and the stagings of Ann Carlson have been developed
and perfected.
Hydrogen Jukebox is a collaborative production be-
tween high-profile contemporary music composer
Glass and high-profile Beat poet and countercultural
figurehead Ginsberg. Twenty-one of Ginsberg's poems
serve as the libretto for the opera. They range from the
personal "To Aunt Rose" to poems of political out-
rage to the frenzied Beat experiences of "Howl," Gins-
berg's landmark poem and the poem from which the
opera gets its title. The poems date from the '50s to the
'90s, and they include recent works such as the addi-
tional verses of "CIA Dope Calypso," which names
the names of corruption - people like Bush and No-
riega and other shiners with whom we grew up.
This is easily the most physically demanding show
of Fracker's career thus far. He explains that the mix-
ture of performing the difficult music of Glass and ex-
ecuting the stagings and choreographies of Carlson is
quite challenging. "Nowadays, it's important that you
not only sing well, but you must also act well on
stage," he commented, showing how much contempo-
rary musical theater has changed. "Twenty or thirty
years ago there was a very heavy emphasis on the scene.
When an opera singer went out there, the key thing was'
that they sing extremely well. But times have changed
a little bit, and people are less accepting of just having
somebody kind of stand out on the stage and sing. They
want to see you become part of the drama. They expect
much more, probably because of television, video tapes
and the pop influence. People are very visually ori-
Fracker explained the loose, non-narrative structure
of the Jukebox: "The design of the piece is really kind
See BOX, Page 8

In a loud voice full of con-
viction, Judith Plaskow refused to
set boundaries on the place to which
these changes would lead. She did
say, "Today women are taking the
power to define our own experience,
and refuse to settle for Jewish theo-
logy and practice which does not
include this experience."

Innovative artistry on parade
at the Performance Network
by Vicki Briganti ings and printed excerpts of Satori Circus' performance, like

Fenda Fenda Fenda
A strange blend of Victor Borge
and the Velvet Underground, with
a little Elvis and Bob Dylan thrown
in for good measure, Jonathan
Richman will take the stage at the
Ark by shower (as opposed to
storm) tonight, gyrating and
cooing his way through classics
like "Pablo Picasso" and
"Everyday Clothes." The audience,
hoping to hear some of Richman's
new tunes, as well as the old
stand-bys from his Modern Lovers
days, promises to go soft and
start to flirt when the Man, with a
Fender Stratacaster strapped
over his jeans and sweater, steps
onto stage. He's playing two
shows, alone, at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30
p.m. Tickets are $11.50 in advance,
$13 at the door, available at
Ticketmaster and Schoolkids.

Song, dance, video, slides, poetry
and music prevailed at . the
Performance Network's preview
performance of a new series which
offers an outlet for unique artistic
expression. The premiere show, New
Forms 1: The Opening Number,
which ran on September 27 and 28,
exemplified the types of innovative
artistry that can be expected on
Wednesday nights, once a month, at
the Network. Program manager
Johanna Broughton describes the se-
ries as an opportunity "to give de-
veloping artists a space to play in
Ann Arbor, to get people's re-
sponses, to bounce their material off
the audience and (to) try works
out." The individual talents fea-
tured at the New Forms variety
show included Arwulf Arwulf,
Satori Circus (Russ Taylor), Frank
Pahl and Natalie Sternberg.
Arwulf previewed his work-in-
progress, Das Sonnenlcht Spricht;
The Sunlight Speaks. His creation
focused on the imagination of musi-
cian Anton Von Webern by project-
ing onto three screens images, paint-

Webern's favorite poetry. Arwulf
not only used nature scenes as visual
stimulation, but further challenged
the senses by incorporating We-
bern's music and interpretive dance
into the slide presentation. "This is
a series I'm dedicating the rest of
my life to," says Arwulf. "I hope
to cover five centuries of artists'
work, which is rather ambitious, but
I think I can do it." The full version -
of The Sunlight Speaks will pre-I
miere at the Network in the spring.

Arwulf's, encompassed many art
forms, including song, dance and
puppetry. During his opening num-
ber, "Emblem," Taylor, with a pink
tutu around his waist, a crown on
his head and a wand in his hand, pa-
raded around the stage and random-
ly tossed glitter into the audience.
Because of the bizarre nature of
See FORMS, Page 8





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