October 23, 2014
Foreskin, The Play: Circumcision As Art For A Turkish PlaywrightA Turkish immigrant playwright in Germany explores the meaning and theater of a religious rite that divides modern society.
by Igal Avidan
BERLIN - A quiet New Year's Eve in the maternity ward of a Berlin hospital. The doctor, a woman of Turkish descent, pours sparkling wine for herself and a blonde nurse. But the quiet ends when a fit, young, undershirt-clad macho man arrives pushing his pregnant wife Ela in a wheelchair. His name is Abraham B. Schneider. Pronounced in German, B. Schneider comes out as Beschneider, meaning "circumcisor."
His brother-in-law, an elegantly dressed real estate mogul named Mohammed Habibi Nassir, enters with them. Before the baby boy is even born, both men are vigorously insisting that he must be circumcised, after being pressured to do so by Ela's domineering Turkish mother Elif. When the only German family member, Christian Eichelmann [another pun, Eichel meaning "glans"] arrives, the other men try to bribe him into a pro-circumcision stance. Eichel, though, feels he has to defend "Europe's last firewall" and "the oppression of the German majority."
Is this comedy playing at a Berlin theater payback for the national debate that took place two years ago about forbidding circumcision? At the time, a German court ruled that when carried out for purely religious reasons, circumcision was an act of bodily harm. After further discussions and deliberations [and direct pressure from Israel's President Shimon Peres], the country's national parliament passed by a wide margin a regulation stating that parents had the right to have their sons circumcised shortly after birth, but only if certain standards are observed and if a religious circumcisor can carry out the procedure.
Lead dramatist Tunçay Kulaoglu claims the idea for the play, which is called Vorhaut ("Foreskin"), actually predated all that. It was the product, he says, of a barroom powwow among the actors, who, when the topic popped up "out of the blue," started swapping their own circumcision stories. "We were curious since this was hardly a daily subject of conversation. So we asked each other, 'Hey, how was it with you?'" Bremen-based director Miraz Bezar recalls.
... Did he want to be circumcised? "I was eight years old at the time," he says. "Working on the play, we had heated discussions about when a boy is fully able to decide that for himself."...
Those personal experiences inspired certain aspects of the play. ...
Other elements of the work, however, were drawn from the 2012 national debate on circumcision, which occurred after the actors came up with the original idea, ...