When the newly formed ACCB team met to plan DJJ's first annual Purim Extravaganza in January, ideas were flying around the room. We were envisioning a deconstructed multi-roomed instillation, an epic journey through the megillah and through the injustices that plague our generation. In short, we were thinking BIG.
When we moved from the ideas to the action, we realized we were going to have to scale back and focus - that acts of creation require patience and persistence, boundaries and sacrifice, as much as they require imagination and visionary thinking. As we mulled over the themes of Esther’s story, we were struck by how easy it would be to make Haman the focus of our shpiel, and to depict our modern day leaders as the infamous evil, plotting villain. But we all started to agree that this would be too simple, that to tell a story of triumph that depicts injustice as the evil inclination of a solitary individual would be to miss the whole point of the story - the systemic critique embedded in Megillat Esther, hidden behind the hoops and hollers of a crowd trying to blot out Haman’s name, became the impetus for Pure Shushan - a uniquely Michigan Purim story.
The artist-makers took the lead on imagining a babylonian paradise, complete with giant sparkly flowers, a lighted tent, and a forest of balloon palm trees. The ACCB team decided that we should have the play action feel like it was part of a giant purim banquet - and we wanted to accommodate a range of food needs, so the potluck idea was born. Lastly, as the script came to life, we decided that if we made Haman a corporation and Achashverosh a destructive but not altogether evil leader, we’d be able to make our point about systemic change and the need to fight for justice, both in the streets and in the halls of government.
The evening was a huge success, with over 90 attendees, legendary water rights activist Monica Lewis Patrick playing Mordechai, and water themed performances from the activist choir Flo-town Review and Detroit hip-hop artist D.S. Sense. The venue, the Jam Handy, was lavishly decorated and DJ Abba and Joey Two Lanes got us out of our chairs and onto the dancefloor. It was truly an epic evening, where we saw ancient stories brought to life to illustrate thoroughly modern questions about how change happens and what role we can play as individuals, as citizens, as Jews.
As the inaugural event of the Arts Culture and Community Building Team, we felt that Pure Shushan was a huge success.
If you missed the shpiel, you can watch THE WHOLE MEGILLAH here - thanks to the videography of Ben Friedman.
And for a short version about the evening, click HERE.
A special thanks to Phreddy Wischusen for writing and directing the spiel, to Hannah Lewis and Shoshana Krohner for designing the space, Susannah Goodman for organizing the potluck, to Staci Hirsch, Mel Rivkin, Carly Sugar, and Rachel Lerman for playing crucial roles in the spiel, and to Hannah Miller and Sam Levinson for helping with set up the day of.
Thanks to Darius Sivan and Mikell Hyman for being core members of the Purim planning team.
Interested in joining ACCB to help create future programs like this? Contact [email protected]