HAYWARD, Calif. — As the world navigates its way out of the pandemic, artists are grappling with the complexities of our post-pandemic reality through their work. “Seder Apokalypsis,” a new immersive performance experience directed by Eric Kupers, a professor at Cal State East Bay, confronts this new reality head-on.
Kupers believes that returning to pre-pandemic life is neither possible nor desirable, given the toxic elements in our culture that we now have an opportunity to undo. In “Seder Apokalypsis,” he turns to an ancient Jewish ritual, the seder, to serve as a guide through these times of crisis and upheaval.
Like a traditional seder, “Seder Apokalypsis” is divided into 15 sections, each of which is interpreted by the performers in a unique way. The cast, comprising performers of different ages, backgrounds and abilities, uses traditional and original music, personal stories, and various styles of dance and movement to explore the ways in which different communities have experienced oppression and struggled for freedom.
“I invited people to bring in stories from their families and their cultures, the way they like to move, the music they like,” Kupers said. “And I brought in a lot of my own and a lot of things we’ve been creating together over the past number of years. It was important to me that we not make this just a Jewish ritual. Cal State East Bay is hugely diverse and I really wanted to honor that and celebrate it.”
The Passover seder, with its emphasis on the Jewish peoples’ escape from slavery in Egypt, provides a powerful metaphor for this exploration. By examining these different struggles for liberation, “Seder Apokalypsis” encourages viewers to see the connections between seemingly disparate groups and the potential for collective liberation through community and solidarity.
At its heart, the performance is a celebration of community. The audience is invited to join in throughout the experience, blurring the line between performer and viewer and creating a sense of collective experience.
The larger 40-year project “Wandering in the Wilderness,” of which “Seder Apokalypsis” is a part, explores life after the COVID-19 pandemic through an examination of the Torah story of the Jewish people wandering through the desert for 40 years. Kupers saw the pandemic as an invitation to “wander in between for a while” in the same way, unlearning harmful behaviors and taking the time to create a new civilization that works better for everyone.
You have three chances to experience “Seder Apokalypsis” at Cal State East Bay’s University Theatre this weekend. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. To buy tickets and learn more, visit the event website.