This past spring, Jon Adam Ross and his team spent two weeks in the Twin Cities collecting stories. They gathered them in one-on-one interviews, writing and dance workshops, and storytelling events. The stories laid the groundwork for the first of five plays in five cities featuring characters from Genesis, collectively known as the In[HEIR]itance Project. The launch of the project is taking place now in the Twin Cities with the production of The Abraham Play. The one-man performance imagines a modern version of the biblical patriarch, Abraham, and explores what it means to inherit something. The play is a moving and multi-layered story of discovery. “Abe” sets out to find a deed, but ends up on a scavenger hunt that his father set up for him before passing away. The script and the set work together to create a sense of past and present colliding.
The stage is set to look like an office that you might see at the beginning of an episode of “Hoarders,” except that several chairs hang from the ceiling, intensifying the disorder. A phone buried somewhere in the mess begins to ring. No one answers. A couple of moments pass and then we hear Abe shouting. He enters in a three piece tailored suit, talking into his Bluetooth. In a series of phone calls which cause him no shortage of stress, we learn that his father has just died and he’s come to find the deed to his father’s property. This is no easy task. The office is full of files, and Abe needs to find the deed before a meeting that is set to take place that afternoon. It’s not surprising when he pulls out a flask. His life appears to be comprised of answering to a series of financial demands from his ex-mistress and his wife, who are both concerned with their sons’ educations. Instead of finding the deed, Abe finds an old newspaper clipping about his father:
“Local businessman Terry Shemson is a quirky collector, not of fine wines or fancy cars, but of annals of people and time, like a walking communal diary.”
The files strewn throughout the office are the stories that Jon and his team collected from local men and women when they visited the Twin Cities last spring. These stories offer some of the most moving moments in the play. The first story is from a woman who tells of her parents being reunited after the Holocaust. Another story is from a woman whose grandfather was a bodyguard to the Czar. After deserting, her grandfather married and used his wife’s last name to cover his tracks.
The emotional climax of the play comes when Abe’s mother calls, looking for her husband (Abe’s father) and the file with her story.
The play is full of symbolic references to the biblical story of Abraham and contains plenty of food for thought about what we inherit from our forebearers. I highly recommend it for both personal reflection and as a starting point for group discussions.
The Abraham Play runs at Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis and Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul, December 10th – 20th. Tickets benefit community organizations. For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://inheiritance.org/
Rebecca Kanner is the award-winning author of Esther and Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife, both published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. To learn more about her, go to www.rebeccakanner.com.