“the innocent, longing for sin, and the sinful, dreaming of purity”
Harry Weinberger, the producer of the English-language Broadway run of God of Vengeance, published a pamphlet in 1923 after the 6 March arrest of the cast on charges of indecency. The pamphlet, titled “The God of Vengeance. Is the Play Immoral? Is it a Great Drama?” contains numerous testimonials from contemporaries, including Russian director/actor Konstantin Stanislavskii and American playwright Eugene O’Neill, who wrote “Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot.” The pamphlet also contains a lengthy statement from Asch defending the play’s against the charge of being “against the Jews.” In that statement, which is reproduced in full at the link below, Asch eloquently addresses his intentions in the central love story between two women of very different backgrounds:
“In this particular scene, I also wanted to bring out the innocent, longing for sin, and the sinful, dreaming of purity. Manka, overweighed with
sin, loves the clean soul of Rifkele, and Rifkele, the innocent young girl, longs to stay near the door of such a woman as Manka, and listen within.”
Asch was accused of sensationalism, among other things, but his evocation of the two women is sensitive and nuanced. Rifkele and Manke were the two first lesbian characters on the American stage.