A Light Bulb Crashed to the Floor

December 13, 2009

An uncanny thing happened in the middle of Arkadi Zaides’ work in progress. Being a quartet for two Jewish men and two Arab men, it was very intense—the most intense, hard-to-watch thing I’ve seen here at International Exposure at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv.

One duet sequence had two men almost locked together in a kind of battle that was occasionally affectionate—but they kept their hands two inches from actually touching each other, so you felt a hard-earned restraint, but the intent to fight was there. In another section a guy was squatting with his head to the floor, like in Muslim prayers and he was full of rage at himself, at the floor, at whatever, and trying to contain his rage all in the small space between himself and the floor. Then another guy, maybe the oldest of the four, put his hand on the nape of that guys’ neck and comforted him, but instead of soothing talk, he was chuckling to himself.

Gradually, the chuckler, after he calmed the first guy down, looked at his hands and tried to keep laughing but then started thrusting his hands away from himself like he wanted to get rid of them. Suddenly, maybe before these particular scenes, a light bulb from the ceiling fell and shattered on the floor. The four men looked at, and one smiled like, “Of course, something violent had to happen.” We in the audience took a few seconds to realize that this was not planned. Some staff people had to clean and mop the floor for about 15 minutes to make sure it was safe before continuing.

The piece is called Quiet and it was just a work in progress. It was in no way fully crafted or edited. I heard that it took eight months of long hours every day to get it to this point. The work and courage these four men have put into this is amazing and makes me think, Wouldn’t it be great if this could happen on a larger scale, and really bring people who are culturally and politically set against each other to some kind of understanding?