Some artists love to court controversy. Pamela Poletti, an actor and director with a long and varied resume, usually isn't that kind of artist. "I'm really not," she insists, unable to reconcile who she's always been with the dawning possibility that she became an accidental propagandist when she elected to direct Caryl Churchill's 10-minute epic Seven Jewish Children. The show, subtitled "A Play for Gaza," has been praised as a lucid poetic response to the Gaza War and condemned as anti-Semitic blood libel.
Poletti likes words. She's drawn to the works of Shaw and Shakespeare. Her 2006 production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot was a hit at the Ostrander awards. "Maybe I'm naive," she says in response to all the criticism leveled against Seven Jewish Children. "When I read this play, it never occurred to me that it could be so controversial. It only asks one question."
Churchill's abstract meditation on how actual and emotional history is cobbled together from many competing stories and agendas depicts a handful of adults asking, "What will we tell the children?" while alluding to a series of historical, sometimes violent, events beginning with the Holocaust, moving through the creation of Israel, and climaxing with Israel's three-week bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip, which began three years ago in December 2008.
It wasn't politics that attracted Poletti to the work. She says she responded emotionally as a single mother trying to communicate with her young daughter while going through a fractious divorce.
"Seven Jewish Children," featuring Kimberly Baker, Amy George, Martha Graber, Kim Justis, Bob Klyce, and Andy Saunders, will be performed in Rhodes' McCoy Theatre studio at 7:30 on Thursday, December 1st. Admission is free. The play will be followed by a panel discussion.