The Gate after Corona
Nobody really knows what the world will look and feel like after the Coronacrisis, but I have a feeling my new show will be received more fully.
What do I mean by “fully”?
Presenting the show to mainly progressive-leaning audiences has been, in a sense, too "easy". Because they have already made their minds up about the characters. Yiftach, the guy who believes in keeping the gate open (his name in Hebrew is literally “he will open”) is always received more easily than the guy who believes in keeping the gate shut.
It’s a natural consequence of culture and language: The opposite of open is closed, and the moment these adjectives are parleyed into personality traits, open is always going to be better than closed.
The character in the show who wants the gate to be closed, the security-conscious guy, Yochanan, is always less liked. That isn’t a problem in and of itself, but I still need him to be heard. If the audience doesn’t find itself agreeing with both sides of the conflict, it makes for boring theater.
So I started by making Yiftach, the open guy, more and more annoying. He has this high-pitched voice and a somewhat aristocratic manner anyway – I accentuated them. I made his tone as condescending as possible. It wasn’t enough. I needed to make the closed guy more likeable and reasonable.
I’ve now given him a few more explanations of his perspective from the outset, so his security stance is baked in before people start assuming he’s a racist. His large belly now comes with a more jolly outlook. He smiles more. And I changed his name.
A friend had recently pointed out that Yochanan sounded too similar to Yiftach – it was confusing. I’d originally given him that name as a Talmudic reference that fell away in the early drafts – so Yochanan is now Udi. Why Udi? Because it has a rounder, more friendly feel. Yup. It’s that scientific.
But now, with Corona and all, I think when I eventually go back to performing, the show will be heard differently.
First, I think we are now beginning to reach a more instinctive appreciation of the difference between physical separation and emotional separation. As we avoid physical proximity with elderly loved ones, we do not avoid emotional connection. Putting a physical barrier in the way of our coming together does not necessarily imply emotional rejection.
Second, we have no choice but to begin to value timely, discriminate, barriers. Tragically, opening or closing borders is now not only about immigration policy, but also about national and global health.
The Gate doesn’t address Corona, and the gate in the story is not about quarantine. But the words “open” and “closed” may well gain different associations, reverberating in additional directions.
In some hearts, in some connotations, perhaps the opposite of “open” might also be “safe”?