‘Letters from the Affair’ and anti-semitism


Jackson VolenecReporter

The Afro-Semitic Experience presented “Letters from the Affair,” a play that tells the tale of a Jewish man and how he lost his friendship with a fellow artist and friend because of anti-Semitism on Wednesday Nov. 13 in Engleman Hall.

“It’s a telling of an old Jewish tale, and it is all done through this play. Professor Chevan is trying to bring Jewish music back into the mainstream with this play,” said sound engineer Chris Varanko, a senior.

The play told the story of the young Jewish artist is rejected by his friends, other artists and society at large simply because of his race and religious background. The story had been told out by a small musical ensemble, a narrator and two actors who were playing the antagonist and protagonist.

This play was originally conceived, composed and directed by David Chevan, an assistant professor of music at Southern who had gotten the idea based off of a collection of letters from two artists named Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, which tell the story of an AntiSemitist rejecting someone who was once his friend after discovering his ethnicity.

“Living with these letters and this story for a long time, I tried to match it on a number of perspectives, one of which was his beginning as an assimilated Jew, but, because of his history, his Jewish identity comes out in his music,” said Chevan.

He is a professor who teaches different music courses at Southern including Jewish music, is also the co-founder of the Afro-Semitic Experience, a group that focuses on fine musicianship, songwriting, singing and unifying their community. Their music has been previously performed at several events like churches and festivals.

The play contained several different songs which were derived from the main character’s written letters. The letters had then been taken and adapted into this play to help raise awareness about anti-Semitism and how it has clearly affected the lives of several Jewish people in human history, even in areas such as art.

This play is integrated in Social Justice Month, which takes place every November, in which multiple events in different areas are held in order to celebrate the diversity of different ethnic backgrounds and the wide variety of students who attend Southern.

The story the play showcases is a one of discrimination and unfair prejudice, something that the Jewish race has a long history of enduring in all aspects of society, even a field that supposedly contains open minded people, such as art. This act is a method of showing how that antiSemitism has affected art and culture.

“When you see whatever art that produce, you just saw their contribution to that particular problem,” said Alvin Benjamin Carter Jr., the narrator of the play, “but when you see an artist’s work that speaks to an issue that is going on in the world, that actually is their way of making an impact on the world.”

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