Several local residents sent emails and made phone calls to the Theater Department throughout the day last Wednesday with concerned messages about the wording of the promotion for the upcoming comedy “Bad Jews.”
Theater Manager Michael Sande gave the information for the play to Public Relations Manager Doreen Clay from a flyer that she had to reformat to fit the configuration of the the marquee.
Clay created four slides and she used the visual part of the poster, which were partial faces of the four characters in the show, Sande said. However, the final slide presented the words Pierce College and ‘Bad Jews’ that caused controversy in the community.
“So, in looking at that, when people were driving by, they didn’t happen to catch the three photos before, but even if they did, they’d probably be thinking, ‘What is that?’,” Sande said. “It wasn’t presented in a way that made it sound like a play, much less a comedic play.”
The Theater Department issued a statement on Thursday, March 9, addressing the community about the play and the situation.
Mayer Greene a resident of the community heard of the issue through an acquaintance. Greene said he was initially confused because it was a quick glance, and he did not understand why the words ‘Bad Jews’ were displayed.
“The government can never stop free speech, but the look was not nice and I didn’t like it,” Greene said.
However, Greene went home and did his research on Pierce and what was being advertised.
“I immediately looked it up,” Greene said. “Pierce College did not mean any ill intentions. They simply didn’t realize the message of the the advertisement.”
He added that he was impressed by the civility and quick action that the school took to handle the situation.
Hillel 818 is an organization that aids and supports the Jewish community on college campuses.
David Katz, executive director of Hillel 818 for CSUN, Pierce and Valley College, was first notified by a student of his about the marquee.
According to Katz, a photo was shared with him, and soon after, he reached out to the Theater Department to provide insight about how the promotion could be taken out of context.
“There was nothing but good intentions,” Katz said. “It could be a potential issue and easily be averted.”
Sande said that there was an agreement to temporarily take down the promotion from the marquee until that revision can be made. He was reassured that the removal was temporary until further notice.
Katz said that members of the Theater Department reached out to him to share ideas to create a new ad for the marquee.
After a few days, the new ad for the play was put back on the marquee with changes that were agreed upon with the director and playwright. The new ad included the names of the playwright and director, as well as the words “Hit Comedy.
According to Katz, he is excited to see the play and is encouraging his students as well as members of Hillel 818 to go see the play.
The play focuses on three young jewish cousins who are coming together after just after the funeral of their grandfather to discuss who should inherit the family heirloom from the grandfather who was a Holocaust survivor according Sande.
“That can all sound very serious but the play is 90 minutes long without intermission and it is known for being one of the funniest comedies that has been produced worldwide in the last two years,” Sande said.
‘Bad Jews’ premiered off Broadway two years ago and was a huge hit obtaining great reviews by the New York Times said Sande. In the spring the show was produced in Los Angeles at the Geffen Playhouse but was sold out.
“When we announced we were doing this play we immediately started getting attention from these people who heard of the play but were unable to get tickets to see the production at the Geffen Playhouse,” Sande said. “So, they of course bought tickets right away.”
As part of their theme for the 2016-2017 semester the Theater Department decided to produce plays that celebrated diversity by depicting the struggles and of communities such as ‘Fences’ in December 2016.
“It is part of our job to entertain, but to enlighten our audience, to enrich them and to be provocative,” Sande said. “Theater is an art form that is live and is an exchange of ideas, and that is what we as our department, our small theatre department, in the great scale of things, are thriving to do.”