All artists are familiar with the compromise between bearing all during their creative process and protecting those they love who may incidentally be affected by this process. It’s one thing to tell an honest story or paint a revealing picture, but what about those who are hurt by that honesty?
This artistic question is probed at length in the play My Name is Asher Lev , put on by Cherry Creek Theatre and the Mizel Arts and Culture Center as part of the 2018 JAAMM Festival, an annual celebration of Jewish tradition through arts and culture. The play follows Asher Lev through a slipstream narrative that starts during his adult life and flashes back to his childhood.
Asher is a Hasidic Jew in New York City who lives with his traditional parents and yearns to be a painter when he grows up. However, he is constantly shot down by his family, especially his father, who feels that painting is a waste of time, especially when there is so much important work to be done in the global Jewish community following the horrors of WWII. The plot centers around Asher deciding between following his dream and painting or honoring his family’s wishes.
The costumes and set are equally simple, allowing for easy quick changes behind the scenes and a lack of major set change. This works very well with the simplicity and message of the story. The characters don’t wear traditional Hasidic garb, with the exception of one scene where the Rabbi is wearing a traditional hat, but we are asked to imagine that the men all wear the classic curls. Wether this is a choice to respect the sacred nature of this style of dress, or a way to represent that the characters shouldn’t be viewed as other, is unclear, but it works well given the minimalist nature of the show.
This show will be appealing to anyone interested in the artistic process and the struggles traditionally religious folks face when they take interest in more secular pursuits. The show runs through November 11 at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, and tickets are available here.