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BAD TIMING

Here is Tony Kushner, on the subject of difficult Jewish men in general, and Peter Zeisler in particular, on the occasion of Zeisler’s retirement from the Theater Communications Group:

“A Difficult Jewish Man is a man who will drive you nuts because the universe of his logic is complete and inescapable; who will make you hysterical, because hysteria is the water in which Difficult Jewish Men swim – the search for the truth, they know, requires ecstatics, requires aerobics, a vigorous exercising of the lungs, requires dialectics, which is why, as they make you hysterical, Difficult Jewish Men will often shout loudly, ‘Calm down!’… A Difficult Jewish Man is not necessarily Jewish, or even necessarily a man; but a Difficult Jewish Man must be politically progressive, for a Difficult Jewish Man regardless of gender or ethnic identity must be a mensch, and conservatives aren’t mensches because they lie, and lying isn’t menschlakh. Peter is a Difficult Jewish Man. Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol aren’t.

“You’ve brought your unapologetic pluralist federalist vision to the American theater, and in the process, you’ve ennobled it; insisting that the work theaters offer should be tough and tasty and hard to swallow and nourishing. It’s a bad time to be losing your advocacy, your declamatory, insistent, tireless, brave voice.”

I wish I could print all of the extraordinary tribute Kushner paid during a celebratory gathering June 12 at the Beaumont. More important, however, is the terrible truth of those final words, as Congress daily edges closer to wiping out the arts and humanities endowments. It is indeed a bad time to lose so passionate an advocate as Peter Zeisler has been.

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