An actor explores how to announce a plague, or its purge
By Zvi Sahar
And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house. Leviticus 14:35
Our most secure and safe place is our home. Between its four walls all the dangers are left outside. But what happens when the walls themselves become dangerous?
This short video deals with Leviticus 14:33-53 which identifies “something that looks like a defiling mold” (according to the Today’s New International translation), or “a plague in the house” (King James V version). NE-GA, the Hebrew word used in the bible, comes from the verb nun-gimel-aleph, meaning touch. It means that something bad “touched” the house. Something very bad.
Though the text does give us a full manual for what one should do when he sees thenega, it doesn’t describe the emotional reaction. How one does come to the priest and tell him that a plague appears on the walls? Is he terrified? Unsure? Confused? Ashamed? Embarrassed? How does he pronounce this word, “plague”? What is his subtext? It is for us to interpret this utterance.
In a playroom on the fourth floor of the Y, LABA fellows did some theater exercises practicing the dramatic tool of subtext. We staged the moment when the residents stand outside the house waiting for the priest to come out and give his assessment, hoping to hear the words, “the house is clean.” What do these moments of waiting look like? How does the priest deliver the good news? Dramatic interpretations varied from a severe and respectful message to a technician-like priest on the last hour on his shift, dying to get home.
In this video, I went back in search of the subtext of the first spoken words of that drama. The moment when the homeowner realizes that indeed what he sees in his house is “something that looks like a defiling mold.” A plague. A Ne-Ga.