Students can say, “Sholem-aleichem,” this week to a historical story full of scandal and song from the Department of Theatre.
“Indecent,” a 2015 play by Paula Vogel, will premiere Thursday in the Drake Performance and Event Center. The play is directed by Beth Kattelman, an associate professor and curator of theater.
“Indecent” dramatizes the true story of Sholem Asch’s early 20th century Yiddish play, “The God of Vengeance,” which featured the first lesbian kiss on a Broadway stage, Eva Scherrer, a first-year in history and political science who plays The Ingenue in the show, said. “The God of Vengeance” incited controversy and led to the arrest of the entire cast for obscenity in 1923.
“I think ‘Indecent’ kind of both critiques the kind of hate that we see in our present culture but also encourages us in general to be more loving and accepting to others,” Scherrer said.
Scherrer said the play is one continuous act with no intermission and a roughly 90-minute run time.
Kattleman said the play is complex and challenging because the seven performers play 40 characters. In addition to a live band on stage, the show features singing, dancing and different languages ranging from Yiddish to Polish dialects.
Scherrer said she plays eight characters in the play. The play has subtitles projected on the stage to indicate character and language changes, making it easier for the audience to follow the story.
Sherrer said the play’s themes are timely, despite its setting from the early 1900s to ’50s. The play deals with issues such as homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism that Sherrer said are still prevalent today.
“We see anti-Semitism now, we see homophobia, we see xenophobia, and all of these — all of these concepts are definitely explored in ‘Indecent,’” Scherrer said. “And so I think, ultimately, the play encourages us all to have more compassion for our fellow human beings despite race, despite religion, despite sexual orientation.”
She said she wants people to recognize where society went wrong in the past in order to take different actions now.
Mychajlo Johnson, a second-year in design and arts management, plays a Polish tailor named Lemml. Johnson said this production has focused on staying true to the historical aspects with the help of a dramaturg — a theatrical literary adviser — to learn context, languages and dialects for consistency.
“It’s dynamic, it’s eye opening and it feels like a warm hug,” Johnson said. “It’s funny and sad and beautiful and just magnificent.”
“Indecent” opens Thursday and runs until March 5 in the Thurber Theatre at the Drake Performance and Event Center. Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster, over the phone at 614-292-2295 or in person at the Drake.