The first time Christopher Campbell converted to Judaism, he changed his name to Yisrael and got circumcised. He became a Reform Jew.
The second time he converted to Judaism, he became a Conservative Jew. He got circumcised again.
The next and final time he converted to Judaism, he became an Orthodox Jew. And yes, he got circumcised again.
At that point, says Yisrael, “Circumcision is not a religious covenant. It’s a fetish.”
And that is the story at the heart of “Circumcise Me,” a new autobiographical off-Broadway show about the question of who defines identity: you, your community or a tradition existing since the first circumcision of record, that of Avraham Avinu, the Patriarch Abraham, the father of all converts.
“Circumcize Me” debuts Sunday, November 1st at Manhattan’s Bleecker Street Theatre at 45 Bleecker Street through January 3rd. The show is an outgrowth of Yisrael’s stand-up comedy performance and DVD of the same name. In his days as Christopher, he trained as an actor at Circle in the Square. His new show is both a return to the stage and an integration of his ever-evolving identity.
As the show’s site explains, Yisrael, the artist formerly known as Christopher, is just your average Irish, Italian, Catholic kid from Philly, comic actor, sober alcoholic, recovering drug addict, husband, father, Reform, Conservative, unorthodox Orthodox Jew. He stars in the one-man show, “Circumcise Me,” which he wrote. The show is a spiritual journey stretching across “four decades, two continents, and three circumcisions. It’s that rare collision of comedy and theater that will have women howling with laughter, men squirming in their seats, and everyone standing up to cheer. Poignant, provocative, and powerfully witty, ‘Circumcise Me’ is the true – and truly unforgettable – story of a man who was born to be funny. The Jewish part came later.”
Read more about Yisrael and other one-person shows in today’s issue of Backstage.