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The Bible and the 21st Century Gal

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The bible. Not easy to relate to these days. I mean, what does the 21st century woman have in common with the women who appear in the bible? Eve, Esther, Delilah - what do they know about the pressures of trying to juggle running your own business with having a life outside of work? Did they stress about never having enough hours in the day to get everything done?

If the story of Adam and Eve was written today, the apple Eve would be worried about would be her Apple iPhone and the total lack of signal it had in the Garden of Eden. No, I don't have much in common with women who appear in stories from the bible - or do I?

You have to wonder how much of our lives are shaped by the experiences that others have had in the past - and how relevant those experiences are to our identities today. Over the last few years I've produced and commissioned a number of artistic projects for the new JCC for London. Each time I worked on one I was surprised and delighted to find characters, especially women, in the bible who are messy, imperfect and, of course, sometimes even emotional - just like me.

So, for a while now I've wanted to delve a little deeper into some of their lives and motivations.
The fact that the Jewish holiday of Purim falls on International Women's Day this year provided the perfect opportunity for me to do so through creating a new event for the JCC, called Subtext.

The Purim story is filled with strong women. What I wondered is whether their stories, their heroism, their "issues" were relevant and interesting to women today?

I approached some other well-known female writers, who also all just happened to be Jewish. These women crossed generations and backgrounds and included Irma Kurtz, Cosmopolitan's agony aunt, Rachel Rose Reid, UK Young Storyteller of the year, award-winning writer Tania Hershman and TV producer Eleanor Greene. Would they also discover the world of the Purim story, indeed of the bible, to be as deeply flawed as the world we live in today? Would they find that these women spoke to them as friends?

And so these writers began to write their 21st century Purim stories. Their new tales were ones of heartbreak and lost lovers; of relationships with parents, with mothers, with husbands, uncles and, of course, with mothers- in-law. And there were tales of true love. The writers unearthed women who were real and vulnerable and strong, smart and funny.

Their stories don't all have happy endings, of course, - but perhaps that's the point. However they end perhaps there is something reassuring in knowing that women have always faced the same issues - and have always had the strength to cry, to laugh and to get through the challenges that life throws at them - supported by each other.

We all have stories that we don't yet know how to tell, what we've discovered is going into the narratives of the past can help us to do so. Perhaps we need the support of those women, our new friends, from the bible to remind us to be ourselves - 21st century girls that both they and we are proud of.

These new Purim stories will be told at the JCC event Subtext: Black Market Tale Traders on 8 March, 2012 in London. Set in Cargo, a theatrical underground bar, in the City of London, the audience will enter a world of characters and music, where they will be given a fistful of currency to barter for tales, unearthing the narrative gems from amongst the stalls and cast of this black market pop-up world. Tickets are available at www.jcclondon.org.uk

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Subtext Magazine ยป The Guardian for International Women's Day