Thursday, March 01, 2007

Some Questions

This past fall, I wrote a story for a weekly about the fact that there are four off-Broadway shows with "Jew" in their title. (Others have done a similar story since, but, I believe mine was the first... I'm just saying...) The story was inspired by my mother--she is always asking me to take her to things with "Jew" in their title. Sadly, while I am a very good daughter, I rarely get the energy up to go to such things. I only saw one--25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, which is closing March 18. It got much better reviews than, let's say, Jewtopia and yet it is closing well short of Jewtopia's run. Why?

Well, first of all, I must give credit to Jewtopia's marketing campaign. It was great marketing and well-targeted. The people behind it spent some cash to get the word out. So that show had those things working in its favor. Unfortunately 25 Questions, which ended up with an okay run, also had some things working against it.

The show transferred to its current home, St. Luke's, from a run at Ars Nova. (I will avoid talking about how ridiculous I thought it was to put a Jewish show at St. Luke's because I doubt that detracted more than a few ticket buyers.) As industry observers know, it's always hard to generate a lot of excitement when a show moves from one off-Broadway house to another. Many times, everyone who would cover the show already has, so you don't usually get tons of free publicity. And producers tend to spend a lot of their money on the first run, hoping buzz will build from there, a move that leaves them without major cash to advertise their new run.

Something many people may not realize is that 25 Questions had another thing working against it--the fact that it is co-written by and stars an out lesbian. It would have never occurred to me that this fact had anything to do with anything, but it sort of does. I pitched a story about 25 Questions to a conservative Jewish paper once and I got a response back saying they would "not feel comfortable writing about it." At first I was puzzled by this response, but then I realized what the issue was and I went from puzzled to pissed. Am I saying that this one publication is the reason this show isn't running as long as Jewtopia? Certainly not. But this type of attitude worked against this show. A few months ago I asked someone I knew that loved the show how many people she recommended it to; she responded that she had told some of her friends to go, but couldn't send her family because of the lesbian mentions. Sad, right? I find it so.

Speaking of Jewish questions, I will end this post with a personal glimpse into my past that just popped into my mind. I got kicked out of Hebrew school, but, before I did, I had to do this assignment that was like "Write god a two-page letter questioning how s/he allowed the Holocaust to happen." I wrote "Why did the Holocaust happen?" for two whole pages. My teacher was not amused.

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