Under the skin we are one…

Recently we went to a production of a musical I had wanted to see for a number of years. In many ways I’m glad we saw it where we did–it made it much more real.

The show was Cabaret–and the place we saw it was a Jewish community center…which has armed police at the entrance every show because a few years ago, someone decided he was going to try to kill Jews. He ended up killing and wounding several people–only one of whom was Jewish.

So to see a show which takes place in 1931 Germany under those circumstances made it a powerful evening.

But it was powerful in other ways as well. There is a scene where Herr Ludwig–right after we have discovered he is a Nazi–becomes angry when he discovers that Herr Schultz is Jewish. He is adamant that Schultz is not a German.

And Herr Schultz’s innocent naiveté…that nothing will happen because he knows these Germans–because he is one…is so saddening because we know that his German birth and ancestry will end up  meaning nothing.

As I watched the show, I was reminded that we seem to find so many ways to divide ourselves from each other–and yet, under the skin we are one. We all bleed the same color blood. We all want better lives for our children and grandchildren. We all have hopes and fears. We all understand that there is something more powerful than we can understand that has created (and continues to create) this world we live in–regardless of how we identify it.

And yet… There are so many names we call each other. Names that dehumanize and demonize each other. Names that make it possible for us to decide that it’s okay to discriminate against a specific group of people because they are somehow less than our own group.

And I’m tired. I know there are problems that need to be fixed. I know there are policies that need to be developed and changed.

But I’m tired.

I’m especially tired of hearing those words…those dehumanizing, demonizing, separating names…come out of the mouths of those who say they are followers of Jesus. Jesus, who crossed all kinds of barriers…who saw all people as valued brothers and sisters.

All major religions have as a priority some statement that calls us to treat each other as we ourselves want to be treated…an acknowledgment that under the skin we are one. What will it take for us to start living that way?

Isn’t live theatre grand?

Last night we went to see The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee. It’s a neat show–as good theatre should, it made us laugh but also had poignant moments as the spelling bee continued and the pressure built on the kids…and the songs allowed us to see some of the “back stories” of the characters.

The written characters could so easily have become stereotypes–the over-achiever, the nerd, the boy with ADHD, the neglected child…but they didn’t. Some of them were more fun to watch than others, but each of them became real people.

The show is also written to allow for additional “contestants” to be pulled from the audience to help fill out the roster of spellers for the first act–and that’s where one of the funniest–and unscripted–scenes occurred! As the act / spelling bee went on, each of the audience contestants ended up being disqualified for incorrectly spelling their words–and they weren’t exactly easy words! However…as the rounds continued and the last audience contestant remained, she was given a word that I’ve never heard of (and I consider myself a pretty good speller), a word that apparently only has one written occurrence. She thought for a moment and then slowly spelled out the letters. As each letter was spoken, the looks on the faces of the actors playing the vice-principal (who announced the words) and the woman in charge of the bee were priceless! When she finished spelling the word, the two of them looked at each other, then the vice-principal gulped and said, “That’s correct!” She took her place back on the bleachers–only to be called back up for another word–this time about a six-syllable medical term of some type. She got the first two letters out–“l-i-…” and the vice-principal rang the bell, indicating that she had missspelled the word and was eliminated. (Apparently it should have started “l-y-…”. And then they moved on to the final song of the first act.

 I don’t have any idea how many other times (if any) someone from the audience will force the cast to improvise a bit because of correctly spelling a word that’s supposed to disqualify them, but it was great watching it happen for the first time last night!

Live theatre…couple that with audience participation and you never know for sure what’s going to happen!