A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian walked into a bar.
That's the start of many jokes. Perhaps, one will end with "after a nice evening, they all leave with a deeper appreciation for each other's religions."
That's the intended result when Jews, Muslims and Christians walk into the John Burroughs School theater next month for "The Cave," a multimedia performance featuring Alarm Will Sound, a 20-member music ensemble.
"The Cave" features recorded interviews set to live music as chapters from Torah and the Quran simultaneously tell the stories of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael. In the early 1990s, Palestinians, Israelis and Americans were invited to speak from their Muslim, Jewish and secular perspectives about the importance of these foundational ancestors and about The Cave in Hebron. It's a place held sacred by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial site of Abraham and Sarah. This work makes clear the common heritage of these religions.
More than 20 years ago, Mont Levy, Cave Project chairman, was inspired by seeing a museum installation of "The Cave" in New York.
"The lucky part of it was that I got there right at the beginning of this and was absolutely mesmerized the next two hours. Not only by the wonderful music and stunning images, but the story being told, the lessons I was learning about the common roots of the Abrahamic faith," said Levy, the American Jewish Committee senior leader who was part of a delegation that had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The first act of "The Cave" is a narrative of Israeli Jews and the Torah, he said. The second act includes interviews with Palestinian Muslims and "their take on the exact same story I had heard all my life. It was a real awakening. I had never focused on it from the various perspectives," Levy said.
The third act includes interviews with contemporary Americans. "It's an incredible opportunity for us to learn together in an interfaith coming together, a very nonthreatening approach to history but a stark reality of these common roots, he said.
"The Cave" includes video by Beryl Korot and music by Steve Reich. The presentation Levy originally saw had recorded music, while the one in St. Louis will include live performances at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 12.
Arts & Faith St. Louis is producing "The Cave" and has organized programs around it, including panel discussions at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Eden Theological Seminary, 475 E. Lockwood Ave. in Webster Groves; 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at The Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd. in St. Louis; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 5, at The Islamic Foundation, 517 Weidman Road in Ballwin; and 7 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at the St. Louis County Library Main Branch, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd. in Frontenac. Catholic groups involved in the planning include the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Fontbonne University.
Barbara Murray of Arts & Faith St. Louis said the production is timely. It "reminds people we're all connected," she said. "It's a performance but it's also to engage the broader St. Louis community in conversation about 'we're all one,' a harmonious St. Louis."
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>> 'The Cave'
Event: A multimedia presentation with video by Beryl Korot and music by Steve Reich performed by Alarm Will Sound and four vocalists
When: Saturday, March 11,at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m.
Where: John Burroughs School, 755 S. Price Road in Ladue
Tickets: Tickets are $30 orchestra/$25 balcony/$10 student and available through MetroTix at (314) 534-1111 or online at MetroTix.com. For information, visit www.thecaveproject.org.
Arts & Faith St. Louis was formed following the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to continue to bring together the faith and arts communities to inspire discussion among diverse audiences through shared experiences. The annual interfaith concert at The Sheldon commemorating 9/11 is a signature effort of Arts & Faith, and plans for the September event are underway.