7/28/2019         CHILDREN OF EDEN                     Aurora Theatre

         
THE BOOK OF LESSER RACES

 

ONE

 

  1. In the beginning, Early Man created the Book of Genesis.

  2. And, for centuries, Genesis informed Early Man of his creation, of his lineage, of his Lord and Creator.

  3. But then, Educated Man arose, and discovered the factual flaws in Early Man’s story, replacing it with Cosmology, and Geology, and Biology, and all the disciplines of the Heavens and the Earth, of the study of the imposingly vast as well as the discovery of the impossibly miniscule.

  4. And then, Educated Man begot Logical Man, who discovered the inconsistencies in Early Man’s story, the utter fallacies of thought that gave birth to a Feudal Lord and God who could commit a diluvian act of Genocide and call it “just,” the genetic fallacies of science that can imagine a world-wide diverse population from a Gene Pool of two (ONE if you consider Eve’s own genesis), of a cosmic engineer who would consider it easier to quell the predatory instincts of all creatures who crawl upon the land and fly through the air rather than just allow them to breathe water.

  5. And, Lo!  It came to pass that in the Twentieth Century, (most of) Educated and Logical Man rested, relegating Genesis to folklore and bedtime story and musical theatre.

TWO

 

  1. And it came to pass that in 1985, composer Stephen Schwartz, turned to Genesis, creating a song cycle centered on Adam and Eve and Noah, which, after years of performance and rewriting and shaping as if it were clay, begat the musical Children of Eden.

  2. Children of Eden was not an initial success, and through many generations of revisions, soon became a coveted recording and an oft-produced regional, church, and school production.

  3. Children of Eden, alone among Schwartz’s oeuvre, contained (at least to my ears and mind) not a single memorable melody or recognizable song.  No “Magic to Do;” no “Defying Gravity;” not even a “Day by Day” or “All for the Best.”  Indeed, my reaction at the start of every song was a sense of dread at the endurance that must surely follow;  and yet, scholars of note have praised the musicianship of its composition, and, indeed, I confess my less-than-avid response may be more to my own plebian musical tastes than to any fault in the songs themselves.

  4. Children of Eden retains all the factors that make Genesis particularly abhorrent to Educated Human and Logical Human – a Father-creator who is, at root, narcissistic, demanding, and cruel, reserving harshest punishment for those who disobey rather than for those who commit evil.

  5. This is a trait carried forth unto the next generation, giving us an Adam equally narcissistic, demanding, and cruel, whose suppression of Cain’s natural curiosity (and wanderlust) results in Abel’s death and Cain’s banishment.

  6. Thus it was that Schwartz’s librettist, John Caird, conceived of a race of “others” not born of Adam, who are a threat to Adam and his family, and from whom Cain and Seth eventually choose wives, allowing the original Genesis’ omission of the source of those wives logistically moot.

  7. Thus it was that Caird blithely eliminated the genetically illogical origin of man, and blithely begat a narrative justification for the existence of “lesser races.”

 

THREE

 

  1. And so it is that generations pass within the span of one intermission, and Noah comes forth to carry out Father’s commandment to build an Ark, thence surviving a deluge designed solely to eliminate the lesser “Race of Cain.”

  2. For Father’s lesson is indeed one of purity, of eliminating those lesser races that have contaminated his work, that race itself is a moral construct and can be judged accordingly.

  3. And Noah was to include his sons and his sons’ wives in his Ark, allowing his family, of the best of racial heritage, to beget all future mankind.

  4. But Noah’s youngest son, Japeth, had no wife and rejected all such wives presented by Noah, preferring the company of the maid Yonah, meaning “Dove” in a dialect of ancient man, a maid of upstanding virtue and gentle character, but born of the “Race of Cain,” and thus doomed for damnation under the righteous Father’s deluge.

  5. But Japeth, being of strong will and deep abiding love for Yonah, found a secret hiding hole on the Ark, and thus saved Yonah from certain doom.

  6. But, lo, it came to pass that Father’s rain lasted beyond its predicted span, and all on the Ark sought a scapegoat, the actual goats in the hold enjoying Father’s blessing and protection.

  7. And thus it came to pass that Yonah was discovered.

  8. And Noah’s two eldest sons, who are here portrayed by actors of Caucasoid heritage, strove to slay Yonah of the Race of Cain, here portrayed by an actress of color, as is Japeth himself.

  9. And lo, we are presented with a scene that is not merely evocative or suggestive of a Jim Crow lynch mob, but a physical recreation of one.

  10. And thus it was that this chronicler became wroth and dismissive of the entire endeavor, patiently biding his time until the story ran its course to disappear into the nothingness of a dark theatre.

 

FOUR

 

  1. And so it came to pass that Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre chose to produce Children of Eden as its initial offering of the new season.

  2. For Children of Eden, contains many shining moments of grace: encouragement of creation, love of knowledge (hence the insidiousness of Father’s stricture against it), and acknowledgment that part of “growing” is “letting go,” a lesson even learned here by the despicable Father, though, considering the human cost of the flood, a lesson learned far too late, in this chronicler’s opinion.

  3. That the producers seem to have remained blind to the possibility of racial inferences being made by certain audiences is more indicative of a natural human capacity for certain “blind spots” rather than an ethical or artistic failing, and this writer remains loyal to them, and devoted to their endeavors in our community.

  4. On a theatrical level, Children of Eden delivers everything we’ve come to expect from an Aurora production, including the most brilliantly realized and technically extraordinary flood you’re likely to see on an indoor stage, without being soaked in the process.

  5. And it is agreed upon by all that Justin Anderson is an extraordinary talent, artistically incapable of directing an uninteresting show, even when that “interest” is rooting out negative connotations that may have (but should not have) been overlooked.

  6. And it is agreed upon by all that this cast is equally extraordinary, particularly Brad Raymond’s imposing and velvet-voiced Father, Haden Rider’s Adam and Noah, Briana Young’s Yonah, and Naima Carter Russell’s Eve. 

  7. And it is agreed upon by all that the design team, Shannon Roberts on sets, Maria Cristina Fusté on lights, Daniel Terry on sound, Alan Yeong on costumes, and especially Milton Cordero on projections, are equally extraordinary.

  8. And it is agreed upon by all that Ann-Carol Pence provides extraordinary Music Direction, while she and her orchestra provide note-perfect accompaniment, making this (to me) forgettable score as palatable as it could possibly be, to my philistine ears.

  9. And, I alone in the wilderness (perhaps), consider the book (and most of the lyrics) an unfortunate exercise in justifying hate and discord, making the final rainbow-esque image a lie and an offense, and all the excellence of the production contributing to the “enabling” of the justifiers of hate and discord.

 

FIVE

 

  1. And so it befell that I left Children of Eden in righteously high dudgeon, wallowing in the sin of anger, vowing to properly chastise the creators of the script, while paying due respect and honor to the creators of the production.

  2. And, I must acknowledge the reality of our current racially charged ethos, particularly in the wake of certain “Go Back Where You Came From” tweets for perhaps over-sensitizing my awareness and perception of racially suspect blind spots in others, if not myself.

  3. And so it is that I close out my screed with a recognition that I seemed to be the only audience member thus afflicted, that everyone else rose spontaneously to their feet with adoration and acclaim.

  4. And, I also must acknowledge that my own innate biases contributed greatly to my disapproval, but that the insidious nature of unconscious bias is its inability to be self-acknowledged, that perhaps a Genesis-skeptic such as myself is required to point out the unworthy-of-worship nature of this particular “Father” of creation.

  5. Wherefore, I say unto us all, let us NOT offer our thoughts and prayers, but strive to empathize with all who differ in any way, in thought, in action, in appearance;  let us especially empathize with those who react to a production in a manner far removed from what is expected or hoped.

  6. And let us banish forever the concept of a “Lesser Race,” lest it come to pass that our judgment makes our own “Race” the least of them all.


     --  Brad Rudy   (BKRudy@aol.com   @bk_rudy   #ATChildrenOfEden)

 

 

Postscript:  I withheld publication of this until Aurora had a chance to respond to my objections.  I had a productive and enthusiastic meeting with director Justin Anderson, who eloquently made his case for the show, highlighting the arc of “Father” and the growth he experiences, the regret he feels.  We also talked about the family motifs, the urge by parents to control, by children to break free.  And we agreed to disagree on a “racist undercurrent” to script. Mr. Anderson highlighted the skill and effectiveness of his cast irrespective of their ethnic background, an assessment to which I can whole-heartedly agree.

 

But I can’t help but observe how Father himself, makes a “moral” definition of race, here defined as descended from either Cain or Seth, so (technically) ethnically blind.  And he does so using the language and arguments of the white supremacy movement, which has to be acknowledged.  Yes, the casting of this show mitigates much of this, but it doesn’t eliminate it.  And I can’t help but wonder if the “lynch mob” scene would have been staged, well, less “lynch-mobby” if this racist connotation had been seen and acknowledged.

 

For Stephen Schwartz’s own account of this show, I strongly recommend the following (and thanks to Mr. Anderson for sharing it with me):

 

https://www.stephenschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Children-of-Eden.pdf

 

 

For one final snarky bible-skeptic observation, may I add that I find it amusingly ironic that the “Ark Encounter” theme park in Kentucky had to temporarily close due to flood and rain damage?

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