Last week, I saw The Twenty-Seventh Man, a play by Nathan Englander. I wanted to briefly mention it here because the ideas are big and they are relevant to those of us trying to create something with words.
The gist of the play here, (a true story) : In 1952 Stalin imprisoned and executed 26 Yiddish writers, an incident also known as the Night Of the Murdered Poets. Englander invents a 27th prisoner, a young, unpublished writer mistakenly taken into custody.
The play is about many things but, at the heart of it, it’s about extinguishing the soul of a group of people, which, Englander suggests (and I would agree), is its stories.
I think, most of the time, we see this as a part of a time gone by or a foreign country tucked safely in the folds of newspapers. But it happens here, too, through censorship, banned books, white-washed covers.
This play reminded me that it’s important to tell any story and, if we can, to speak for groups of people who have been silenced. Story is powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. People will go to great lengths to capture and contain the spin of words, then eliminate them all together.