LOS ANGELES (JTA) — In the Purim shpiel that plays in your head every Adar 14, who are the players?
With important world and national players trodding daily upon the global news stage, the choices for our Purim dramatis personae seem more difficult than ever.
Purim, celebrated this year on March 10, presents us with a dilemma: Who will play our king, our villain, our hero? Cast Bush as the king? Forty-one or 43? Rahm Emanuel seems a natural for the hero. But what about Leonard Cohen?
Who to choose? And how?
The Purim shpiel — a humorous story or parody that plays on the elements of the holiday, substitutes personalities and events from the news for the usual characters and locations found in the Megillah: King Achashverosh, Vashti, Haman, Esther and Mordechai, Shushan and Persia.
For example, after scanning today’s news, a Purim shpiel could begin like this:
“It happened in the days of King Ahasmadoff — that Bernie, who reigned over 127 investors from New York to Los Angeles, needed a new lawyer …”
The shpiel, the word is Yiddish meaning play or skit, is thought to have originated in 14th century Europe as a parody of the Megillah Esther, Bible stories and other holy texts. Purim plays to this day are performed in temple social halls, theaters, living rooms and coffeehouses.
You can even perform one at home or at the office — that is if you have the key, the gizmo: the mostly closely held of the new hand-helds.
One idea about the shpiel is that through the cracked safety lens of humor, we are given a view of justice; what we think should happen to the various civic and showbiz performers we see constantly in our magazines and on our wallscreens, monitors and cell phones.
“Ahasmadoff was royally incensed. He had called upon his most glamorous investor, and she not only turned him down, but demanded a total cash-out.”
The shpiel in order to achieve its proper comic strength must have a villain — someone to boo and shake your grogger at. Without him you have nothing; no decree, no tension, no jeopardy.
“So the king hired a calculating, coldhearted aide, a regular Wall Street Haman, to beat around the provinces for some fresh capital. The call went out for virgin investors.”
Who from the news should play the Haman part?
To create a Purim parody, the shpieler — that is, you — must find your own personal Haman. To cast him, you must mentally audition a number of dark contemporary personages to see who can play the wicked, wicked man.
In an up-to-date parody, a character like Haman will be played by a contemporary character who the Jewish public feels exhibits a similar type of Agagitic antipathy towards b’nei Yisrael — for example, Mel Gibson or Ann Coulter.
Having trouble imagining Mel in a three-cornered hat (and lost your DVD of “The Patriot”?). Or wondering if Ann, like in the Megillah, will be miserable enough leading a horse through Shushan?
There never seems to be lack for foreign anti-Semites, and somehow the dastardly distant seem a bit safer target at whom to sling words. “Hamandinijad,” time for your close-up.
Who will play the hero and heroine, Mordechai and Esther?
In a year of tumult like this it can be as tough as trying to decide between prune or mohn.
Folks, your troubles are over. Kol B’seder! To ease the strain it must place on you each year, the shpiel-consuming public, to come up with a suitably with-it cast of Purim parody characters, save time and perfect the art of casting the perfect Purim shpiel, visit https://jta.org/img/ishpiel.pdf for a free handy Purim iShpiel™.
Whether you print it out or simply cut it out of your local paper, just follow the easy instructions. Soon you will be sliding your iShpiel™ over the faces of your favorite newspaper and online headshots, superimposing the device over their photos, discovering new Purim parody faces in a firmament of pixilated stars.
Razor thin and never requiring batteries, it runs on star power. The iShpiel™ in a jiff will have you shpieling like a pro and casting your own parodies. Never again will you be hung up on making the right choice. Oh today will merry merry be!
Thinking of casting against type with Marilyn Manson as Mordechai, but not sure if he has the proper chops for the role? Slide the iShpiel™ over his mug and see how it plays. How about Jerry Springer in the Mordi role? He’s not bowing down to anyone, but he does duck an occasional flying chair.
Not sure if Amy Winehouse would be better as Vashti or Esther. Do a screen test for both. You don’t even need to call her agent. Think Rachael Maddow has the right fire to confront the king and save the day? Give her a turn as well.
By using the iShpiel™, the run of your Purim play is guaranteed. A six-pointed star awaits you on the Purim Shpiel walk of fame. A Golden Scepter is coming your way! Seats for your shpiel will be so scarce that people will need to cast pur, lots, for tickets.
(Edmon J. Rodman is a Los Angeles writer and designer, and the dedicated inventor of the Purim iShpiel™.)