Jericho is a poignant and human portrayal of the aftermath of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, 9/11.
Beth has lost her husband in the World Trade Center and Josh has lost his sense of security. Using humor to bring a human touch to the topic, Jack Canfora parallels characters Beth and Josh and studies the aftermath when extraordinary events occur in ordinary lives. The play is not only about these two characters, but also about what happened to America and how America has been unquestionably affected.
We asked 3 national and local leaders to present their thoughts on the play and discuss the questions:
How has America changed since September 11th?
Jack Canfora is a playwright, actor, and teacher. His plays, including Jericho, Place Setting, and Poetic License, have been produced around the country.
One of irony’s great virtues, of course, is that it keeps things at arm’s length. But it’s tough to build anything from a distance. And, after making an ironic view of the world my default setting for so long, I found it hard to filter my experiences through any other lens. I still do.
Nothing points out the limited tensile strength of irony as a worldview better than a capital “T” Tragedy. In the time immediately following 9/11, some pundits predicted the Death of Irony. That struck me, even in that febrile autumn of 2001, in which we hoarded duct tape and cable news rumors with equal eagerness, as silly. Irony’s way more resilient than that, and few people I knew seriously thought it was ever in grave danger.
But the problem – a problem 9/11 made piercingly clear – is that not everything should be viewed through that prism. And when true bloody, violent heartbreak slashes through a community, what’s needed is an affirmation of community itself, a sense of belonging to something larger than you or even your politics or tastes; what’s required is the consolation that comes from recognizing yourself and your peers as a link in a long chain of cultural continuity too substantial to be sawed off by a few calculated acts of cruelty. In such moments, ironic detachment and glibness have no warrant. Indeed, the facile put down and the world-weary shrug undermine the whole notion of community.
So maybe it’s my maturity’s sluggish metabolism, or coming of age in the Age of Reagan, or the fallout of 9/11 (I suspect an amalgam of all three), but a few years ago, I became increasingly aware of, for lack of less pompous sounding term, a fairly severe sense of spiritual dislocation. Perhaps this was true just for me, but I suspected not. And the more I cast about, the more I saw a lot of what was happening around me as varied responses to that sense of dislocation. The need for belief and community – a belief in something, a community wherever you could reasonably find it—started to assert itself. And, if the newfound beliefs and communities necessitated a hardening of positions and a drawing of lines with stark and strident colors, then so be it. In fact, in some ways, all the better.
Jericho has characters that have been affected by 9/11. It has characters touched by the strictures and solaces of fundamental religion and the conflict in the Middle East, but I would submit the play is not about those events and topics per se. I, at my most delusional, do not for an instant think I could offer anything prescriptive on those issues. I chose to write about them, or more accurately (if perhaps more preciously) they presented themselves to me in my writing because they offered the straightest path to the question that impelled me to write the play. How do people who’ve spent their lives suspicious of sincerity and comity, in fact living much of their lives in an environment toxic to them, find those things?
Judge Charles Williams was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles as a Circuit Judge for the Twelfth Judicial Court in November of 1997. He has been awarded the Community Service Award from the Manatee Bar Association, the Manatee County NAACP-Public Service Award, and the 15th Annual Edgar H. Price, Jr. Humanitarian Award.
The trauma of 9/11 is so etched in to our DNA now that we have changed fundamentally as a nation and a people. Terror came home to us in a way that was different than other incidents of mass violence, Oklahoma City for example. The difference is we were attacked as a nation from the outside. These acts awakened us from our slumber and our feeling of security and distance from world events. It unified us in a way that can only be recalled by those who were around when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The feeling of terror and confusion, soon gave way to anger and resolve. As a nation we became caught up in a unifying fever that exposed both the good and the bad in this country. The good being the sense of unity and cooperation of all Americans. It is doubtful that this country was as ever united as we were the days and weeks after 9/11 since World War II. The feeling of American spirit and the can do attitude that has been a hallmark of this country was never better displayed than in those days after this terrible event. There was of course some ugliness. The fervent fever of some Americans to denounce all Muslims and the isolated incidents of physical violence against them was not typical of what defines this quilt of America. The acceptance of all faiths, colors and religions under one flag is what makes this country so unique and a beacon of freedom and hope. The erosion of certain Constitutional rights as a result of the events of September 11th caused some concern for legal scholars. The loss of some liberty and freedoms is a balance the country has always had to make to secure the safety of its people. The question is, was it all necessary? These and other issues are at the forefront of the discussion when we consider how the post-traumatic stress of 9-11 may have shaped who we are today as a country.
Paul White, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice. He sees children as well as adults. Also, he has taught at Webster University in their Masters Degree program for Counseling.
And The Walls Come Tumbling Down
This play explores the depth of human experience from the varied perspectives of psychology, history, culture, social influences, religious belief or the lack of it, prejudice and fear, and the persistent impact of loss and death. We were all touched by the senseless deaths of those trapped in the World Trade Center. In our disbelief that such a tragedy could ever occur, we hold on to memories as if they are still alive to avoid the pain and suffering. To contend with the guilt of survival, we look for ways to serve society in the hopes that our contributions prove we are worth.
Jericho begins in the office of a Psychotherapist. The main character has lost her husband in the World Trade Center disaster. There is no time table for the working through of grief. Self-blame and guilt can complicate the healing process. The two argued before parting that fateful day and so she struggles with survivor’s guilt. Her relentless insistence on holding onto to her loss is perhaps the self-punishment of this unresolved dynamic. Her attempts at reclaiming her life come in the tentative initiative dating a new person. Lives intertwined by this mammoth tragedy links her to the boyfriend’s family who have also been touched by this event. Once again survivor’s guilt raises its ugly head to disrupt these relationships as well. The Thanksgiving Holiday is that time for families to join together to achieve closeness and connectedness. Despite valiant efforts and cultural sanctions, families can deteriorate into the social norms and dysfunctional pattern that characterize a family’s structure. The eventual authenticity brings out the true nature of the hidden dimension and all the walls come crumbling down.
There is a Jewish cultural norm that reflects most other groups as well that draws its membership into a clan that protects its own and fears the influence of others. Prejudice breeds exclusiveness and rejection of outsiders. There are conversations in this play that are only supposed to take place in the privacy and coveted self-pronouncements of a Jewish interchange. “Stick with your own kind” mentality prevails in many cultural or racial groups, yet as we become a cultural melting pot, these distinctions become less important. The brother who goes to Israel discovers he can bridge these artificial distances and serve as the connection to Beth’s heritage. The greeting and the parting represents completeness and harmony. The walls come down and we feel a little less alone.
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Jericho is sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee
“We are proud to be a Co-Producer of Jericho by Jack Canfora. The play deals with the process of grief, forgiveness and healing. Its themes of community and transcendence speak to the needs of our country specifically, of all people in general, in a post September 11th society.”