When Barbara sent me her short play, Sacred Space, I had to read it twice because the first time my eyes were too blurry to make out every word. There is power in tradition. There is power in grief. There is power in words. Barbara’s piece tackles something a lot of us wrestle with when tragedy strikes outside our own circles, yet leaves us with grief just the same – and she does it with grace. This is a beautiful play, inspired by an ugly event, and I encourage you share in its strength.
Barbara on Sacred Space:
When my father died last May, I was introduced to the world of Jewish rituals for the dead. First, as the soul can’t be alone until burial, someone called a “Shomere” sat with my dad 24/7, reciting psalms. Second, an ancient cleansing ritual, known as “Tahara” was performed. In this sacred prayerful ceremony, his body was washed and dressed in simple white garments, emphasizing the spiritual and sublime over the physical and material.
The morning of my dad’s funeral, I braced for full-on dread. Instead I was comforted by the care he received. At the cemetery, I made eye contact with the Shomere. With her long skirt and cloth bag of prayer books, she looked like she’d just stepped out of Fiddler on the Roof. She nodded but didn’t speak. So much dignity there. I haven’t been able to get her image out of my head.
After Orlando, there was another image I couldn’t get out of my head, something I’d seen on the news — a text thread between a victim and his mother, Eddie and Mina Justice. “In the club,” he wrote. “They’re shooting.” “I’m gonna die.” Her belated response came too late. As a mother myself, the pain of that missed connection was unbearable. I wanted Mina Justice to know the peace I knew, and Eddie Justice to have the dignity in death that my dad had. Of course neither of these things could ever be.
From there I conceived SACRED SPACE, a surreal piece in which the verbatim text conversation between Eddie and Mina Justice intrudes on the peace and quiet of the Tahara. Ultimately I hope the play addresses the escalating horrors of gun violence and the need to honor the sanctity of all lives.
More about Barbara:
Full lengths have been produced at Northern Light, Overtime, Trustus, Trinity Rep, the New York International Fringe Festival, the off-Broadway Summer Play Festival, and more. Her plays have been developed in NYC at Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, ARACAworks, Stella Adler, and Rattlestick, and regionally at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Geva, Victory Gardens, Elephant Theatre, among others. She won the 2016 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Julie Harris Award, the Capital Stage Playwrights Revolution, Six Women Playwrights Festival, and was a runner up in contests that include the Sundance Playwriting Lab, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Heideman Award and Princess Grace Fellowship. Her play STILL LIFE was named to the Kilroy List and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. Published by Smith & Kraus, Applause, and Indie Theatre Now. barbarablumenthalehrlich.com