People of the Book

The Week: Seatbelts & Bumpy Nights

The mirror crack'd: Dance, art, and theater ripped from the anxieties and tensions of an unruly world at large

WHAT A WEEK IT’S BEEN, RIGHT? Phone calls and whistleblowers and suppressions and impeachment hearings. A teen-aged climate activist who speaks sharply at the United Nations and prompts both cheers and jeers from the political-media talking heads. A fair amount of fiddling, if we can make a historical comparison, as Rome burns. The Ukrainian Affair looks dark and complex, which by coincidence is what Bobby Bermea has to say about Theatre Vertigo’s season-opening show, the world premiere of Dominic Finocchiaro’s play complex – small “c”, infinite anxieties. Bermea, in his pre-opening interview with Finocchiaro, calls Vertigo “the David Lynch of Portland theater,” and if it feels like we’re living in a David Lynch world, well, that’s life in the 21st century fast lane.

complex, hanging out in the no murder zone. Theatre Vertigo photo

ALSO OPENING THIS WEEKEND, at Portland Playhouse, is Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, a play about “the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors” who do their battle on the soccer pitch, and if that doesn’t remind you just a bit of the young climate activist Greta Thunberg playing on a much bigger field, well, I ask you. Meanwhile, Portland Center Stage is moving into preview performances at The Armory of what looks to be a hard-boiled, stripped-down, lean and mean Macbeth, with all of its raw palace intrigue, which gets me thinking also about Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II and “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” and … well, things do circle around, don’t they?

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Yads, Torahs, history’s pointing hand

Three shows at the Oregon Jewish Museum spotlight creation, destruction, and reclamation through scrolls, Torah pointers, and the World War II home front

It’s a little stick, a stylus, a pointer. Usually long and thin, often elegant and decorative, it’s enlivened by a tiny hand at the end with a slim index finger pointing forward, leading the way. Called a yad, the Hebrew word for hand, it’s used as a place-keeper and guide while reading the Torah, the foundational stories of the Jewish faith.

A small but striking exhibition of these instruments of practicality and beauty, Pointing the Way: The Art of the Torah Pointer, is being featured through February 28 at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, along with the photo exhibit Surviving Remnants, images of Torah scrolls rescued from the Crimean city of Simferopol after the city’s Nazi occupation, but tattered beyond repair. Together these two small exhibits tell a story of creation, destruction, and reclamation, which in a way summarizes what history and culture are all about.

A relatively simple yad, pointing the way.

A relatively simple yad, pointing the way.

The yads are objects of ritual meant to protect the parchment Torah scrolls, which can be fragile, from the oils and other impurities of human touch. Their origin is obscure. Daniel Belasco, consulting curator for Pointing the Way, cites a bronze object created in the 1100s in northeastern Afghanistan as a possible starting point, or perhaps an ornate silver pointer from Ferrara, Italy, from about 1488. Examples become more numerous after about 1600.

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