The Ascent of  ‘Indecent’

By Steven Libowitz   |   May 28, 2024
Indecent will be at UCSB’s Performing Arts Theater from May 24-June 1 (photo by Jeff Liang)

Indecent is a 2015 play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, inspired by the controversial events surrounding the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch. God of Vengeance was briefly produced on Broadway in 1923 before the producer and cast were arrested and convicted of obscenity due to the play’s depiction of lesbian love. Vengeance was seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel. 

Vogel’s Indecent charts the history of the incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. Along the way, Indecent asks crucial questions about Jewish life from 1910 to 1950. 

UCSB’s Department of Theater’s season-closing production, directed by Sara Rademacher, aims to present the story – about characters facing realities akin to those in our own contemporary society – as a timeless work; particularly its themes admonishing censorship, illustrating the impact of banning literature, and upholding the humanity of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Rademacher, who called Indecent, “Vogel’s love letter to the power of theater” said in a press release that in sharing the cultural experiences of a group of Jewish individuals, audiences are able to find their own unique truths embedded within each song, scene, movement, and moment. The 2015 production’s music called for accordion, baritone ukulele, wood block, clarinet, bass clarinet, tin whistle, violin, mandolin, hi-hat and vocals. Musical director for UCSB’s run from May 24-June 1 in its Performing Arts Theater is Nicole McKenzie. The audience will hear what instruments she drummed up.


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