New Kushner work

New Kushner
Jay Thompson

Fans of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright
Tony Kushner will have a chance to preview his new play, "Homebody/Kabul,"
at Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Park Slope on May 12. The event
has been planned to honor the 10th anniversary of Kolot Chayeinu’s
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann.

The reading is a benefit for Kolot Chayeinu, "Voices of
Our Lives," which is making the transition to its first
year as a synagogue with a full-time rabbi, and continuing its
tradition of free admission to High Holy Day services. Funds
raised will also sustain the synagogue’s Hebrew school.

Kushner, whose work includes "Angels in America," which
won two Tony awards, two Drama Desk awards and the New York Critic’s
Circle Award; "Hydriotaphia;" and "A Bright Room
Called Day," will introduce the play; and actress Linda
Emond will read Act I.

Emond made her debut at Manhattan Theater Club in Leslie Ayvazian’s
"Nine Armenians." Since then, she has appeared in the
Broadway revival of "1776" and Peter Hedges’ "Baby
Anger" at Playwrights Horizons. She has also appeared in
television shows such as "The Sopranos," "Wonderland"
and "Law and Order" and the new film, "Almost

Kushner first became acquainted with Lippmann when he saw her
speak about the Mid-East crisis on New York 1 last October. Kushner
was impressed with Lippmann, and wrote to ask if there was anything
that he could do to help Lippmann and her congregation in their

In December, Kushner and Lippmann met at a Jews for Racial and
Economic Justice 10th anniversary benefit. After a series of
e-mails Kushner agreed to participate in this event at the Park
Slope synagogue.

"Rabbi Lippman and Kolot Chayeinu have set an example for
creativity and political commitment among New York synagogues,"
said Kushner in a statement. His best known work, "Angels
in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," reveals
him as a playwright whose major concerns are moral responsibility
and social justice during repressive times.

"Having long admired Rabbi Lippmann’s work, I am happy to
be able to be part of this celebration of her ordination,"
he said.

"Homebody/Kabul" is a play about Afghanistan, its history,
its long, tortured relationship with the West, and its current
political and humanitarian crisis. The first act features an
unusual British woman who has discovered an out-of-date guidebook
to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

"Afghanistan intrigued me because of the formidable challenges
it posed, because of America’s complicity in the catastrophe
in that country and our inescapable involvement in its future,"
stated Kushner.

But as a gay, Jewish-American writer, Kushner has a highly personal
take on Afghanistan and the religious persecution and gender
discrimination there.

For Lippmann, who has been active in social justice issues from
hunger relief to police brutality, the play’s theme is particularly

"I have watched with horror and helplessness as people,
particularly women, in Afghanistan starve and suffer appalling
oppression at the hands of zealots. It has been hard to know
what to think or how to take action, as humans or Jews,"
she told GO Brooklyn. "I look forward to learning from Kushner’s
brilliant words."

"We are particularly honored to be joined by Tony Kushner,"
said Lippmann, "whose voice has been singularly powerful
in articulating the concerns of Jews [Kushner received a medal
for Lifetime Achievement from the National Foundation for Jewish
Culture], gay men, and politically conscious individuals of many
orientations and spiritual beliefs."

"Homebody/Kabul" reading at Kolot Chayeinu will
be held at 8 pm on May 12. A dessert reception will follow. Tickets
are $36. Kolot Chayeinu shares space with The Church of Gethsemane/Justice
Works Community at 1012 Eighth Ave. at 10th Street. For reservations,
call (718) 390-7493.

– Paulanne Simmons