TERRE HAUTE —
At a table inside a Denny’s in Terre Haute on a July night in 2012, a trio of theatrical writers conjured a bold idea.
They considered creating a musical based on the story of Abraham, a religious figure to whom three faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — trace their ancestries.
One of the writers, Andrew Park — an Indiana State University grad working in Chicago — had written and staged a play, “Abraham’s Calling,” using a similar theme a decade earlier. It presented Abraham as a symbol of hope for reconciliation and dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Leaders from each faith participated in a conversation with audience members after each Chicago show.
“It sounded fascinating to me,” said Arthur Feinsod, another of the writers and a theater professor at ISU.
They assembled writers from each religious background — Feinsod, who is Jewish; Park and composer Scott Lamps, who are Christians; and Rohina Malik, a Muslim playwright whose one-woman show, “Unveiled,” packed ISU’s New Theater last year.
Together, they’ve crafted a new musical, “Abraham’s Family,” which will be produced for the 2014 Crossroads Repertory Theatre season in Terre Haute. A grant through Arts Illiana will enable the ensemble to perform the production at two churches, a temple and a mosque next summer, too. “Abraham’s Family” then makes its world premiere next autumn in Chicago.
The script, still evolving, features two acts. The first centers on the story of Abraham and the son, who Abraham was prepared to sacrifice, as God commanded, before an angel intervened. The second act focuses on a modern-day family, with a Christian mother and two sons — one a convert to Judaism, another a convert to Islam. The sons and their mother venture into topics of entrenched disagreements.
“We wanted to raise some of the controversial issues,” Feinsod said, “especially in the contemporary setting.”
Lighter moments emerge, too. The sons also split their baseball loyalties, with one backing the Chicago White Sox and the other the crosstown Cubs. “It’s a low-stakes conflict that eases some of the tension,” Feinsod said of the sports rivalry. After a “read-through, sing-through” presentation of “Abraham’s Family” by the Crossroads Repertory Theatre at ISU last summer, where audience members filled out evaluation forms, the playwrights considered adding the skeptical voice of an atheist to the family, which could turn out to be a source of humor, Feinsod said.
That voice also presents a bonding point. “That’s where the three religions come together, in answering that atheism,” Feinsod said.
Post-performance feedback has influenced the project. Malik was in the audience in 2003 at Chicago to see Park’s initial “Abraham’s Calling.”
“She remembers, as do I, the hopeful tone of the talkback she participated in,” Park explained. “Theater brought folks from all three faiths together to have conversation about what’s happening between our three faiths. We have to do something. We have to learn how to respect and love each other. A show and a conversation — it’s a promising model, and Abraham is the perfect symbol for peace, acceptance and love.”
The evaluation form distributed during the read-through at ISU asked audience members to rate everything from the production’s originality to its plot, characters, dialogue, music and theme. It asked if and why any elements were offensive. The reviewers held nothing back. “It was a remarkable response,” Feinsod said. “It gave us lots of information, and it was all over the map — some that was extremely positive, some that was extremely negative, and some in between.”
The 62-year-old Feinsod grew up in Roslyn, N.Y., a village on Long Island’s north shore. The community was 90 percent Jewish, he said, “so I grew up thinking the majority of the world was Jewish.” As he went on to a preparatory high school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Feinsod realized that wasn’t the case. He drew inspiration from his Jewish grandfather, who had to sneak into college to get an education. With degrees from Harvard, Cal-Berkeley and New York University, Feinsod holds an affinity for education, the arts and people “who feel like outsiders.”
Respect drives the “Abraham’s Family” project, too.
“I think our goal is to achieve a level of respect among religions, rather than tolerance,” Feinsod said. “‘Tolerance’ can be a very negative word. Tolerance kind of means, I’ll stay on my side of the road, and you stay on yours, and we won’t beat each other up.”
The contributors see the musical illuminating similarities.
“My hope is that the play will help people realize that we are more similar than we are different,” said Malik, whose hometown is Chicago.
Lamps, the 33-year-old composer from Wisconsin, said, “In a time when our religious differences are trumpeted far and wide, we often believe that there is a vast divide between Christians and Muslims, Christians and Jews, or Muslims and Jews. We would like ‘Abraham’s Family’ to remind the audience that what we share far outweighs our differences. We are all branches of the same tree and should not forget our roots.”
When dealing with religious subjects, even the concept of shared interests can be divisive.
“The theme [of the musical] — which is, interestingly, more controversial than we thought it would be — is that there are many ways to God,” Feinsod said. The writers understand “there are people in all three faiths who won’t” agree, Feinsod added.
Real as the differences are, the common threads — often overwhelmed — provide a great opportunity, Park pointed out.
“I believe that Abraham is a potential symbol of reconciliation between Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Park said. “What if we spent more time remembering what we have in common, instead of fighting about our differences?”
The project yielded the Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission for Feinsod, who’s served as artistic director of Crossroads Repertory Theatre since arriving in Terre Haute in 2001. Another Arts Illiana grant allows the CRT to present “Abraham’s Family” at a handful of local houses of worship.
“I hope people will come to this with an open mind,” Feinsod said, “and I think [the writers] need to keep an open mind, too, as we create these characters, to see the blindspots. That’s the message — how important it is to keep an open mind and an open heart.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
‘Abraham’s Family’: New musical illuminates common ground, value of respect the three Abrahamic faiths can share
TERRE HAUTE —
At a table inside a Denny’s in Terre Haute on a July night in 2012, a trio of theatrical writers conjured a bold idea.
Ohio Boulevard home built to promote 1948 movie
It isn’t often that you get to meet a movie star right here in Terre Haute, but on July 20 you’ll have the chance to do just that — almost.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: A recipe for oyster lovers
I have been looking through some old recipe books. I was looking at Gene’s mom’s cookbook. It is a Clark County Extension book. It’s fun seeing some of the women who we knew when I was really young.
GRAPE SENSE: Exploring everything a new wine region has to offer
SIENA, ITALY — From the lush green countryside of Oregon’s Willamette Valley to the majesty and golden valleys of Tuscany, a common refrain connects wine lovers. There’s nothing better than good food and good wine.
‘Slick’ production: Documentary to show a lesser-seen side of Bobby Leonard, just days before his Hall of Fame induction
In a new documentary, Indiana basketball legend Bobby Leonard serves as the leading man. His hometown of Terre Haute provides much of the supporting cast.
Rock ’n’ Camp: New camp teaches details of forming, running garage band
A handful of friends. Second-hand guitars and amps. A drum kit. A garage. Big dreams.
Those are all the ingredients needed to create a rock band, right?
Helping Hands: Fill your free time this summer by becoming a volunteer
Summer is upon Terre Haute and with the warm weather and open swimming pools comes an exuberant amount of free time for busy children. Outside sports are one way to fill the time and energy, but what else can families do together to benefit their youth and communities? Volunteer.
Rings of Fire: Amateur astronomer, photographer’s hobby has led him across the world in pursuit of total eclipses of the sun
Some people might think amateur astronomers are the kind of people who enjoy star gazing from the safe confines of their homes or perhaps an observatory, but for Clinton-area resident Spencer Young, being an astronomer is a far cry from safe and easy armchair activity.
Clowning around: Performers have been delivering smiles to faces across Wabash Valley for nearly a quarter of a century
“If by chance some day you’re not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I’ve said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled.” — Red Skelton
Timeless Talent: Self-taught artist still creating smiles as 99th birthday approaches
The colorful scenery of Indiana countrysides illuminates every page of John Christopher’s album. It contains dozens of photographs of his paintings and drawings. They’re Christopher’s visions of covered bridges, bird dogs, barns, ducks, deer and creeks — images from his boyhood, etched in his memory.
VIDEO: If These Cars Could Talk: Readers take nostalgic look back at their ‘first loves’
Brilliant sunshine beams down on Danny Weir and his “first love” in that photograph from the summer of ’63.
He’s 18, looking country cool in rolled up sleeves, jeans, loafers and a straw hat with the southern Indiana countryside stretched out in the background. Weir’s companion in the picture gleams, sublime.
Readers reminisce about first cars: ‘I still miss that tank’
Dozens of readers responded to the Tribune-Star’s callout for “Remember Your First Car” stories.
From the Ground Up: Idea takes root as Cayuga family grows a vineyard and winery
Russell McLain poured a sample of sweet red wine, called Splish Splash, into a glass atop a counter inside a cozy tasting room with trophy animals and a widescreen TV perched on its walls.
Rockville native remembers ride through Pacers’ last championship season
The star player greeted the rookie with a bold promise.
It revealed the caliber of the team that surrounded Bill “Fig” Newton, a 22-year-old center, fresh out of Louisiana State University. He found himself in training camp with a virtual all-star squad.
St. Ben’s plans Community Festival July 11, 12
St. Benedict Church is planning its 17th annual Community Festival for July 11 and 12 at Ninth and Ohio streets. Activities are scheduled from 5 p.m. to midnight both evenings.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Microbeads found in personal care products damaging to waters
For the past six years Julie Manson has been working to get plastics and chemicals out of her home. She also tries to cook as many from-scratch meals as possible with local food from the Terre Haute Farmers Market and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) she participates in. During a visit to the Farmers Market last year, her daughter, Madeleine, told her mother she wanted to be like the vendors she saw there and sell something. Julie then went to work trying to find a niche for the two of them to enjoy together.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: Take your pick: Apple, blueberry, cherry for this cake
We have this every once in a while in church. You can have this for brunch or as a desert. Everyone sure enjoys this cherry cake.
A family musical and true war hero at Crossroads Rep
Crossroads Repertory Theatre at Indiana State University continues its summer season the next two weekends with shows written by people connected to the Department of Theater. “The Untold Story of Little John,” opening Friday, June 27, was written by Rachelle Martin Wilburn with music by Travis Dillon. Both are Indiana State alumni and former students of Arthur Feinsod. Feinsod is a professor in the ISU theater department, artistic director of Crossroads Repertory Theatre and is also the playwright of “Coming to See Aunt Sophie,” the season’s third offering, opening July 2.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: Bake, kabob chicken nuggets for a healthy change
I think we all love chicken nuggets. But to fry them is messy and isn’t real good for you.
I like this recipe because you can bake them or make kabobs. Add your veggies. They can be fried if you want.
GRAPE SENSE: The color of summer shines in Provence Rosé
If you could be a super hero, mythical character or fictional leader, who would you choose?
Superman? A Mutant Ninja Turtle? Or maybe Jean ValJean?
I’d be the Pied Piper of Provence, France, and lead you to dry, French Rosé wine.
CHRIS DAVIES: Change your routine to keep exercise fresh
What is the best form of exercise known to man? It is the exercise you will do briskly and consistently over your lifetime to produce health benefits.
Of late the trend has been to package old exercises and brand them for financial gain. No real new exercises or science has come forward, just more creative marketing.
Celebrate love with ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’
Crossroads Repertory Theatre at Indiana State University kicks off its summer season with the musical comedy revue, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” Performances are this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with additional performances July 17, 25 and 26. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. except for the Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.
National music acts scheduled for Brazil’s Alabama Street Festival
The 2014 Alabama Street Festival in Brazil will return June 28 with some hot acts for its 12th annual event.
Gaslight Art Colony to present Larkfield Glass exhibit
Gaslight Art Colony will present the artwork of Larkfield Glass at an artist’s reception from 6 to 9 p.m. CDT. The exhibit will run through July 12 at the gallery, 516 Archer Ave., Marshall, Ill.
Your Green Valley: Farm to School Network and ‘scratch kitchens’
The Downtown Terre Haute Farmers Market has been open for business for the past couple weeks. As the fresh produce continues to roll in, an important question should be considered: Can we grow more local food to better feed the children in the Vigo County School Corp. while supporting local growers?
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: Quick, sweet treat for summer days or nights
This is a good diabetic recipe or for anyone. When Gene is working in the garden sometimes his blood sugar gets too low and he has to get something to eat real fast.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Are ‘flushable’ wipes really that flushable?
For more than 34 years, Brad Fix has been in charge of the Indiana Wastewater Treatment Plant and collection system in Shelbyville. He says the business has changed drastically in the last 10 years due to the growing number of “flushable” wipes and other personal hygiene products available on the market.
Aussie bluesman to bring deep repertoire to Verve
Aussie bluesman Owen Campbell is making his U.S. debut with “The Pilgrim” and will be hitting the Verve in Terre Haute on Wednesday, June 18.
Projects ‘Going Green’ at Art Totality event
Art Totality will host its summer kickoff event, “Going Green with Artwork,” from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 21 at the Indiana State University Recycle Center.
View Community School of the Arts’ steel sculpture exhibition through June 19
Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts presents an art exhibition in Turman Art Gallery through June 19.
The exhibition features the work of CSA’s Metal Sculpture for Adults class participants Pam Anshutz, April Badger, John Edwards, Bruce Fiscus, Jo Anne Fiscus, John MacDonald, Shelley MacDonald, Edie Richards and Mike Swagerle.
Tried ‘n’ True: A recipe for when the kids get home from school
I used this recipe when the kids got home from school. They were always hungry.
When I was little we lived next door to a lady we called Grandma Byrd. She was so sweet. Sometimes we would stop at her house when we got off the bus and then walk home. I guess everyone has eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- More Features Headlines
- Ohio Boulevard home built to promote 1948 movie