Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Gefilte Fish Play

If you haven't heard the term "gefilte fish play" or "gefilte fish book" yet, don't worry - there's a good reason for it. It's because I made it up. But mark my words, it'll catch on.....

You may not have heard the phrase, but you know the type. I call them "gefiltes" because not only are the boys' names always Fishele and Klonimos and the girls always called Freidele or Chaya Sarah Bracha, but the mother is always in the kitchen making gefilte fish - never meatloaf or pasta.

The books aren't so bad. That is, if you can get past the fact that they are seldom well written.

The plays really irk me. I think they are more than harmless. I think they are harmful.
I bring it up at this juncture because this is the time of year that many Bais Yaakovs have their annual show which usually features a play. (For a related rant that would be funny if it weren't so sad, see IcebergCarwash's blog post here with a photo here.) In the old days these plays always had the "token" handicapped child and familes with exclusively female children, but they have evolved. They were initially designed, one would assume, to protect our children from the harmful effects of secular plays, which are fraught with bad middos and negative messages. Unfortunately, in the process of getting away from plays with (ostensibly) GENTILE protagonists behaving badly, we now have a whole slew of plays with JEWISH subjects exhibiting horrible middos (which sometimes turn around at the end of the play through the most overt hand of Hashem).

I myself acted in a Sisterhood Play many years ago that centered around a women's Tomchei Shabbos Fundraising Tea, which featured a fashion show. There were two tables on stage - the "young women's table" and the "old women's table" and the inanities and insults uttered by these women throughout the play - all in the name of comedy of course! - were shameful. I hated that play. I hated the way frum women were portrayed - insulting each other's clothes, families, etc.

I am told that several years ago, a Bais Yaakov nearby put on a tragedy. The nature of this tragedy? Just weeks before Pesach, the protagonist's cleaning woman QUIT! Can you imagine the horror?? The whole play was drawing parallels between this woman's situation and shibud Mitzrayim..... need I say more?

I had the joy of attending a gefilte fish play recently that featured the inspiring message of a girl who so badly wanted to get into the right seminary (so that her life wouldn't be forever ruined), that she stole another girl's test and switched the names on top (good middos so far, wouldn't you say?). This forced the girl whose test was stolen to become an accountant (can you just imagine??!?!). But it all works out in the end because Hashem gets involved about 20+ years later and the accountant's daughter (who is dangerously close to going off the derech) accidentally hits the wrongdoer with her car and causes her great bodily harm (not death of course... she has to do teshuva and recognize the hand of Hashem before the curtain closes).

Is it me? Would any one else rather see simple old fashioned plays with harmless plot lines, than be forced to witness examples of our brethren behaving so badly? Pass the chrain. I may need some help swallowing this down.

11 comments:

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yekkishe bekishe said...

This sounds like a smelly kettle of fish!!

FBB said...

Excellent points. But what is the solution? Putting on secular plays will never happen, because everything needs "a message" (or as my girls like to call it an "Oh Hashem" scene). Drama doesn't work without something going wrong. Recent plays here included Shmiras shabbos challenges for immigrants, and the consequences (religiously) on the kidnapping of temani babies in Israel.

Thanks for the linkage!

WAdsworth3 said...

Well, one benefit of the tzniyus rules is that at least only half of the parents/siblings/etc are subject to these plays. Men, at least, are exempt.

itchemeyer said...

Very nice blog. I love what you've done with the place! :)

Frayda said...

On the flip side, my sister's BY play was about a girl who did not want to go to seminary in Israel. All her friends were so worried about her. They talked to their teacher who told them not to worry. The girl said she made the decision by weighing the pros and cons and decided that Israel was not for her. Her parents backed her up on her decision. So even though it was not the popular or accepted path, she did what was best for her and did not go with the flow.
Not too gefilte fishy!

Yehudah said...

Very sad.

a proud Chicago Mom said...

Well I am proud to share with you that my daughter's High School in Chicago last night presented a most incredible version of "Newsies"!!! It was one of the most entertaining, professional school productions I have seen in a long time! Everyone left the theater with smiles on their faces and feelings of pride. This was certainly no "gefilte fish play"!!

FBB said...

My daughters have been trying for a few years to write Newsies as a Jewish play. They came up with a great song for King of New York.

BLD said...

BLD played the Butcher Laizer Wolff in Fiddler on the Roof in camp. Received rave reviews.

Dolly Lamma said...

Just one more symptom of the insidious, invidious, inexorable slide to the right. G-d forbid we should just have a good time. Can't we simply smash a cloth-wrapped glass zecher lachurban before the curtain goes up?