Theatre As Religion

By Ira Seidenstein

February 8, 2024

The Marx Brothers – the 4 who appeared in their films Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo. Their 5th Brother Gummo stopped performing in Vaudeville and the youngest Zeppo stepped in.

Theatre As Religion – essay #31 of 46 – in the book Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare. The book was written in 1996. The manuscript and floppy disk were believed to be lost, but, were found in 2020. The book was intentionally generally not updated. It was edited mainly for grammar and spelling. I invited 4 friends to each write an essay. Those are the final essays, #43-46.

Today is Thursday, February 8, 2024. I am writing at home in Brisbane, Queensland – Australia.

The text of Theatre As Religion is photographed from the e-book on Kindle. My books are self-published and available as print-on-demand via independent booksellers, or major online booksellers, or via Kindle.

The essay is an idea. It is not meant to be ‘the final word’. The themes are hugely complex. As a complete idea the essay is a single metaphor i.e. theatre as religion.

The infamous troublesome, meddlesome, difficult word appears as a 3-letter apparition: ‘god’.

Really though in my Culture ‘god’ is basically a “four-letter word”.

In English children are taught not to use “four-letter words” i.e. some of the most enticing swear words such as ‘crap’. I am sure even those persons not fluent in English will know a few more juicy “four-letter words”. But, in Hebrew the main word for ‘god’ is actually a four-letter word: y-h-v-h; as transliterated into English. It is also considered theologically speaking to be a ‘name’. Particularly referred to as ‘The Name’. The transliteration of ‘The Name’ is H’Shem. ‘H’ means the, and, ‘shem’ means name. The 4 letters within The Name can be and are rearranged to mean: was, is, will be. The word as a word implies ‘all and everything’. Interestingly in the Jewish Culture or philosophy or ‘religion’ there is no god. It is such an awesome concept that it can hardly even be encapsulated in word or any thing. In Hebrew the word for ‘word’ and the word for ‘thing’ are the same basic core of three letters d-b-r (dalet – beth – resh) i.e. debor/devar. Hebrew vowels are dots or lines placed above, below, or within letters. In debor/devar the letter ‘b’ with a dot becomes ‘v’ if without the dot. However, almost always there is a philosophical relation to words with related letters.

But for sure Judaism has the idea that god can not be a ‘thing’ in any way except possibly everything as in every possible thing yet more. So it is a concept. God is a Concept. Like Love is a concept. It exists for sure. In so many ways including in its own opposite.

Nonetheless in English one uses the word ‘He’ at times when referring to y-h-v-h. Although ‘It’ would be just as descriptive. Or in the modern context why not use ‘whatever’. Or, as one person I know who absolutely hate, hate, hates religion but reluctantly will refer to the god-thing as “The Spaghetti Monster in the Sky”.

The ‘He’ by the way definitely in my Culture i.e. Judaism+ also has an all important ‘She’ as a cohabiter with the ‘He’. The ‘She’ is often referred to as the ‘Shechinah’. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman who writes numerous essays online explains it this way: “Shechinah שכינה (also spelled Shekhinah) is derived from the word shochen שכן, “to dwell within.” The Shechinah is G‑d as G‑d is dwelling within. Sometimes we translate Shechinah as “The Divine Presence.”.

Freeman’s explanation is based on the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria who is often referred to with his honorary title “The Ari” (‘the lion’). Hebrew like French and other languages is gender based in that many words are grammatically considered as ‘feminine’ or as ‘masculine’. Shechinah is considered as feminine and the feminine qualities of god. The four letters of “H’shem” y-h-v-h are: masculine-feminine-masculine-feminine.

Picture shows Mrs. Samuel Marx, mother of the famous Marx Brothers, famed comedians, when she was 17-years-old. Undated photo circa 1880s.

In case you haven’t caught on, let me be even more blunt – nothing in Jewishness is simple, nothing. That is part of its joy. A single word can be explored as a whole philosophy within itself. In our system, even a single letter has layers of meaning.

I think the process of writing is to provide stimulation to the reader. Even provocations. In other words you the reader are the creator. It is your experience. Over to you.

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You are welcome to write to me directly at My main activity is research and development towards a 3rd book. I’m taking my time. The other activity is the long-distance part-time I.S.A.A.C. Creative Mentorship – information for that and my Blog are available via

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Ira Seidenstein