Buber trumps Bieber

Need proof? It seems all the magazines with philosopher Martin Buber on the cover have sold out at this Eye Lounge retail respite on Roosevelt Row

Forget Bieber. It’s all about Buber. Or so one might suppose after talking with comedic monologist Josh Kornbluth.

Austrian philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) shares a great distinction with nine fellow Jews. His face was the subject of a collection of silkscreen prints by Andy Warhol (1928-1987). The works fueled all sorts of controversy when first exhibited in 1980.

Kornbluth is in town to perform one of many pieces he’s written and taken to the stage. It’s titled “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” and it’s being presented by Actors Theatre March 4-20 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. 

I had the pleasure of talking with Kornbluth by phone recently. Our conversation glided between topics like art, education and democracy. As a one-time doctoral student in the philosophy of religion, I was tickled to find another soul better versed in Buber than in Bieber.

Kornbluth strikes me as a master of miscellany. If two ideas can be connected even remotely, he’ll do it — but not in a late night doom and gloom pundit sort of a way.

Hence Kornbluth’s resonance with Buber, a man for whom connections and relatedness were paramount. There’s more than a little irony here. One is known as the philosopher of dialogue, another as a performer of monologues.

I’m eager to learn more about Kornbluth’s experiences with the ten Jews chosen by Warhol as he took on his first bit of portraiture. Part of Kornbluth’s encounter with Warhol involves changing perceptions of his own Jewishness — but it’s also a great deal more.

I’ll share some of Kornbluth’s insights, and reflections on Arizona, in a future post — but hope you’ll see the show in the meantime. Not Jewish? Not a Warhol fan? Not a problem.

I get the feeling this show is outrageously fun and thought-provoking whatever your own sense of identity when you walk through those theater doors. But don’t be surprised if you leave with a different sense of self altogether.

— Lynn

Note: Let’s hope someone who sees the work commissions Kornbluth to write a piece about the people and politics of Arizona. Curious contenders can learn more about Kornbluth’s work at www.joshkornbluth.com. Click here to read a review from The New York Times.

Coming up: A labor of love, Musings of a monologist

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