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Modern Prophet: An Interview with Tony Kushner

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What does it mean to be a "prophetic voice"?

In the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC there is a remarkable statue named "The Prophet." It is shaped of metal openwork, so that one can see into and through every facet of the figure.

From one angle, it is clear that the Prophet is intently listening to a Voice dancing on the edge of awareness.

From another angle, it is equally clear that the Prophet is speaking. Giving voice to the Voice that has been dancing its way into truth.

When many of us think of "prophecy," we think of passages in a book called the Bible.

But originally, these voices now recorded in writing spoke aloud, shrieking or chanting, whispering or wailing.

And despite the efforts of all establishments to say those voices have been stilled, prophetic truth keeps spilling over the edges of the boxes we have fastened tight.

We at The Shalom Center have year after year celebrated the Prophetic Voices that speak sometimes through print upon a page, sometimes through bodies under arrest; this year, through what we call "the arts." Theater. Film. Dance. Song. Public murals. Drumming.

We honor Tony Kushner, who in the play Angels in America reawakened us to the sacred in pariahs we had scorned, to the transgressive whose sharp edges we had blunted; who in the film Munich forced us to face the question of whether a State can in fact be Jewish in its values beyond its proclamations. And who like many of the Prophets long ago and in our own day, has been slandered and threatened.

We honor Ilana Trachtman for her work to shape the documentary film Praying With Lior, about a young boy with Down Syndrome who has drunk the milk of Paradise and shared it with his community as he became bar mitzvah -- a film that opened doors to "disability" in Jewish and other religious congregations

And we took delight in having Ilana interview Tony. She began by asking him: "What is a prophetic voice?"

He, laughing: When I told my life-partner that I was being honored for being a "prophetic voice" in the world, my partner cocked an eyebrow: "Pathetic voice? What kind of honor is that?"

So the interview begins. It winds its profound, funny, provocative, and never pathetic way into where you can find it now -- on videotape.

There and in many American alleyways are still alive the flinty and the flowing that bring prophetic Vision to the Arts.

Find them, risk your self by diving into them. All you can lose is your comfort; you have many worlds to win.

See the video here

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