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The Ceremony is based on two events, both of which took place in the small Polish town of Jedwabne, sixty years apart in time. The first event, the rediscovery of which several years ago shocked Poland and much of world opinion, was a massacre perpetrated in 1941 by the town’s Polish inhabitants on their Jewish neighbors. The second, which took place in the summer of 2001, was a commemorative ceremony conducted under the auspices of the Polish government and intended to honor the dead and offer apologies for the Polish role in the crime. For me the play emerged from the commemorative ceremonies that I attended, and which seemed to me in themselves to have some of the force and impact of ritual drama. Indeed, it struck me that such ceremonies of collective commemoration are our contemporary versions of communal ritual and that they bring up questions harkening back to ancient Greek drama: how to heal the polis in the wake of fratricidal conflict; how to deal with memories of ancestors who were wronged; how to attribute guilt and reckon with responsibility for the perpetration of atrocity. The Ceremony is therefore conceived as a drama of collective passions as much as of individual psychology—a kind of spoken oratorio for many voices, employing music, documentary voice-overs, and filmed images as part of the expressive palette. Although The Ceremony is grounded in a particular history, it is also intended as a broader meditation on the causes of communal violence and  The Ceremony (Excerpts from a Play) eva hoffman  I=: 8:G:BDCN the possibilities of a reparative understanding in its aftermath. Finally, I hope that the play will itself act as a kind of ceremony, an enactment of communal conflict, mourning, and atonement and ultimately of a difficult , chastening exorcism. The play opens on a darkened stage. We hear muffled country sounds— crickets, rustling leaves, the barking of a dog—and a low clangor of metal being struck. As the sound grows louder, the light comes up on three men gathered around a basic smithy. The roughest of them is dressed in working overalls and is beating metal into a horseshoe. The two others, more genteel looking and dressed in ordinary clothes, are standing around, smoking cigarettes. It is dusk, and the light gets dimmer as the scene progresses. MAN No. 1 (dragging on his cigarette): What’re they coming for, anyway? What do they want? MAN No. 2: To spit in our faces, that’s what. BLACKSMITH (darkly): If they think we can’t spit back . . . MAN No. 1: Well, at least they won’t be coming back here, worse luck . . . (He crosses himself furtively). Silence. The men drag on their cigarettes. MAN No. 2: They say Leibe is still alive. BLACKSMITH: Who says? MAN No. 2: Somebody came from Warsaw the other day . . . some snoop. Journalist , they said. BLACKSMITH: There’s going to be more of them tomorrow. Snooping around. Gawking. Just don’t let them try to come to my house . . . =D;;B6C  MAN No. 1 (inhaling on his cigarette deeply, as if to add some importance to himself): Dignitaries . . . from all over the world. Coming to our Jedwabne. BLACKSMITH (darkly): Just let them try . . . MAN No. 1 (suddenly): Buenos Aires, that’s what it’s called. BLACKSMITH: What’re you talking about? MAN No. 1: That’s the place where Leibe lives. That’s what they said. MAN No. 2 (reflectively): How did he get away, anyway? BLACKSMITH: He ran into the woods . . . You know, while we were busy. MAN No. 1: Then Frania took him in . . . that saint. MAN No. 2: I thought I heard the moans . . . BLACKSMITH (banging on the metal): What are you talking about? What moans? MAN No. 2 (with some anxiety in his voice): From the barn . . . You know, where it was. At night. MAN No. 1: It’s the wind, man, that’s what you hear. MAN No. 2: Old Mandelbaum, I hear him . . . MAN No. 1 (reminiscently): Old Mandelbaum . . . Not a bad sort, he was. Never came after my dad for his debts . . . BLACKSMITH (harshly, as he bangs the horseshoe): He came to have horseshoes made all the time . . . That’s one that won’t be coming back for sure. MAN No. 2: They’ll gawk, like we’re in a zoo . . .  I=: 8:G:BDCN MAN No. 1: Remember, how they moaned in that synagogue . . . Like they were possessed. It got worse...


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