Purim may conjure up visions of kiddie games, sugar-addled toddlers and homemade noisemakers, but it lends itself just as well to adult forms of celebration. The Talmud instructs us to drink and make our hearts merry with wine on Purim until we cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordechai."
For American Jews who were raised on G-rated carnivals held in synagogues and schools, the idea that Purim could look more like a Jewish variation on Mardi Gras can come as a minor revelation. Just think: Dance parties instead of spin art; the pop of a wine cork instead of the slosh of a doomed goldfish in a Zip-Locked baggie; and costumes that might even make Vashti blush.
After all, the Shushan story is one of our spicier narratives. Underneath the sanitized children's version, there is a rich tale of palace intrigue, sexual power struggles, violence and desire. The king demands that Vashti parade in front of his wine-soaked friends, wearing nothing but her crown. After Vashti's rebellion and violent demise, Esther, a lovely virgin, is taken to the palace, rubbed with oil and beautified for display, so that she may be chosen as queen instead of just palace concubine. Haman plots, Mordechai maneuvers and, ultimately, the Jews of Shushan escape death. Who needs goldfish?
For the over-21 set, there are now more adult opportunities to celebrate Purim than there used to be. While family-oriented events still dominate, there has been a conscious effort in recent years to organize Purim celebrations that will appeal to Jews who are young, single and unaffiliated.
A Green Martini Purim
ATID's first ever Purim Bash is a case in point.
"We want to attract people who otherwise would never come to shul on Purim," said recording artist and Friday Night Live music director Craig Taubman. Through his independent label, Craig 'n Co., Taubman is co-producing the Purim party at Bergamot Station. Taubman will be there in tandem with Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe kicking-off the first party sponsored by ATID (Hebrew for "future"), a new group under Sinai's auspices that has been set up to fund programming for young Jewish professionals. Inspired by their success with Friday Night Live, Taubman and Wolpe, believe the Jewish establishment must think creatively in order to spark any interest among disaffected, unaffiliated Jewish singles.
"We're looking to attract people who don't even usually consider attending anything remotely Jewish," Taubman said.
A DJ, guitar player and percussionist billed collectively as Tribe 1, will provide live music. Wolpe will conduct a decidedly nontraditional Megillah reading jazzed up by the Purim Posse, a troupe of professional actors who, Taubman said, will dramatize a rather "spicy" version of the holiday tale. Strolling musicians and jugglers will entertain partygoers while interactive performers will mingle with the crowd. Of course, it wouldn't be a Purim celebration without costumes. Grand prize in the ATID costume contest will be two tickets to New York City on American Airlines, with other prizes for runners-up.
In an irreverent press release that promises to "put the 'fun' back into fundamentalism," a group of New York- and San Francisco-based actors, musicians and educators will bring "Estherminator," their edgy version of a Purimspiel, to Los Angeles' Echo Club on March 16.
Billed as a "psycho-pious Purim rock opera," Estherminator is an hour-plus piece of Megillah-inspired performance art put together by Amy Tobin of The Hub in San Francisco, and the New York-based Storahtelling Project, a nonprofit group founded by artistic director Amichai Lau-Lavie. Lau-Lavie, like his organization, has an interesting pedigree. His work as scholar-in-residence at New York City's Congregation B'nai Jeshurun transformed the staid, Saturday morning Torah services into pieces of dynamic performance art that taught -- as well as inspired.
Original music is woven into show, and the evening promises to provide a modern take on the timeless themes of power, vengeance, sex and politics. While "Estherminator" is the centerpiece of the evening, it's still a party. Drinking and dancing will get equal billing, with a live DJ and a cash bar both before and after the performance.
"We're hoping to attract a funky and cutting-edge crowd from the more radical, underground Jewish arts scene," saidStorahtelling marketing director,Stephanie Pacheco.
Brazilian Night Singles Party
What better way to honor Los Angeles' dizzying polyglot culture than to gather together in West Hollywood to celebrate an ancient Persian story with booze, kosher food, music, Brazilian dancers and a Vegas-style casino?
At Brazilian Night, the fourth annual Purim party hosted by the Iranian American Jewish Federation's (IAJF) Youth Division, you don't have to be Iranian to come and celebrate, or to meet that special someone. All Jewish singles between the ages of 21 and 38 are welcome to dance to music spun by DJ Shaad, dine on glatt kosher hors d'oeuvres, gamble at the casino tables with $1,000 faux dollars in chips that will be handed out at the door, win prizes and shimmy to the tropical beat of live Brazilian dancers.
IAJF planners say they expect a strong turnout of singles, as they have in years past. Youth Division Chair Elliot Benjamin said this will be the fourth year they've held the Purim party, and it's always a hit.
Now in its third year, Purim Extravaganza 3 at the Century Club is a veritable tradition in Los Angeles. This year, the festivities are sponsored by the Happy Minyan, Olam and the Chai Center.The party is geared toward "Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, non-affiliates and any Jew that moves," host Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz says in his press release.
With Megillah readings beginningat 7 p.m. and continuing every hour from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., the evening will also include entertainment by Yehuda Glantz, Peter Himmelman, Gregg Fisher, The Happy Minyan Band and comedians seen on Leno and Letterman.
For more information, check our Arts and Calendar sections.
ATID's Purim Bash at Bergamot: Monday, March 17, 8 p.m., Bergamot Station Art Center, Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. $25 cover includes all food, drinks and entertainment. Costumes encouraged. Reservations are required. Call (310) 481-3244; or visit www.fridaynightlive.net.
Estherminator: Sunday, March 16. Doors open at 8 p.m. $8 (with costume); $10 without. Club Echo, 1822 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For information, call (323) 761-8350.
Brazilian Night Singles Party: Saturday, March 15, at the Iranian American Jewish Center, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., Los Angeles. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is a donation to IAJF; $40 (in advance) $50 (at the door). Ladies entering before 9:30 p.m. are charged 2 for 1 (either in advance or door ticket sales). For tickets or more information, call (323) 656-3150.
Purim Extravaganza 3 at The Century Club, 10131 Constellation Ave. Century City. $15. Costumes optional. For more information, call (310) 285-7777 or (310) 391-7995.