The Shadow Around Us: A Creative Performance Piece on Hunger

Author’s Note: Each line of this piece is intended to be read by a different voice. This piece can be performed by as many as twenty people and as few as five. It is intended to be staged in the manner of guerilla/environmental theatre (ala Richard Schechner, Bertolt Brecht and Jerzy Grotowski), and as a result should be imagined with performers surrounding and integrated into the performance space. There is conscious ambiguity in some “characters” and conscious specificity with others – there is no set determination as to who delivers what line.

I’m hungry

I’m hungry

Sir, would you mind sparing anything to eat?

I really wish I knew that I was going to find food

There is nothing more that I want than a juicy piece of steak.

My kids need to eat

Mommy, are we having dinner?

Pills or Food, I can’t afford both… Pills or Food?

This is a story

Should I get a bag of rice?

That is all too familiar.

I hate it when people look at me that way.

And most of us don’t even know about it.

Mommy, are we having dinner?

Right here in America

I’m hungry

I’m hungry

I’m hungry.

I’m starving.

(Lo aten alecheim ra’av)

I will not give unto them a famine.

Ezekiel 36


But a Famine?

Isn’t that a bit extreme?

People who are hungry

Those who have nothing to eat

Some who don’t know if they will eat

Kids like me

Parents like us

You tell me if that is too extreme

They’re everywhere

They are the people around us.

On the train,

In the store

Sitting at the next table in the cafeteria

The strangers who ask for help

How can I provide for my children?

How could God not provide for me?

People who are hungry does not mean a famine

But, I am here, hungry

Me too,

Me too,

And me

And me

And me

Look at how many…

Do you even know?

I‘m here… wondering… how much I should eat for lunch?

Should I buy milk or eggs?

I wish my pantry was full

Mom…we need to go to the supermarket we ran out of ice cream




Mom…is today our day to go to the supermarket?

Welcome to America

Give me your tired, your poor and your hungry

What I will do with them, that is the another question.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door

Yet there is so much darkness…

(beat) Can you spare a dime?

Can you spare a sandwich?

Can you help me?

Can you not look at me that way?

How would you feel?

If all you heard was…

I’m hungry…inside of a house full of children

I’m hungry…inside of a shelter

I’m hungry…inside of a school

I’m hungry…inside of your head

Chatichat lechem k’itanah, yecholah l’hiot chaim b’ishvil ani’yim, Mi shehmoneah zot may’hem shofech da’mim.

“A small bit of bread may be life to the poor; one who deprives them of it sheds blood.”

-Ben Sira


$100 dollars for medicare

$78 doctor visit

Eye medication

Heart medication

Pain medication

Who knew it would be so expensive to get old?

(Phone rings)


I know, I know.

It is bad enough that my wife had to die, now this.

Take with food

What if there is none.

Make sure you eat properly my doctor says

But of course I have to pay him to tell met that.

I need my meds to live

But I also need my food to survive

Listen to me, I sound like a drug addict.

No one understands.

Look Grandma, if you don’t have the money to pay, get out of line.

No one seems to comprehend.

Make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet.

The bottles seem relentless

Take me with milk

Make sure you have food in your system

Or you will be sick

Or you will be sick

When did I lose my dignity?

Was it when I retired?

Or I stopped making money?

Or rely on Social Security?

All my life I have tried to help others help themselves.

Perhaps I am too stubborn to ask

Perhaps just no one cares about me.

I’m hungry – this medicine is making me sick

I feel faint – food without my meds.

I love to gamble, but this seems ridiculous.

Rolling the dice for food and meds.

I doubt I will hit the jack pot.

Choose food

Choose Meds

…is this what it means to choose life?

And who will know if I need help?

Grandma, how are you today?

Fine bubbele, I am just fine. I just feel a little faint, that is all.

Well, I hope that you feel better. Maybe you should lie down?

Psalm 82 – Defend the poor and the orphan; do justice to the afflicted and needy.

It does not say “have pity on them” but “to do justice”…

(Split Screen – two people facing each other))

Mom, what time is dinner?

Mom, are we eating tonight?

Oh, not for another hour – but I am so hungry!

Darn, I knew I should have saved some of my lunch.

I need a snack.

If only I had gone over to Mikey’s house, they always offer me snacks.

What do we have in the pantry?

What do we have in the pantry?



Why do we have an entire pantry full of nothing to eat?

It seems kind of a shame that we have all this space and nothing to fill it.

Who can eat tuna fish, and peanut butter, chic peas and mushroom soup?

I can’t open anything or make anything. We are saving this…

Where are the snacks! Mom knows that I love to snack!

This is when I wish I was at a friend’s house – I would get to have a cookie.

Oh man, why does my sister always get to the good cookies first? I hate these.

I have to settle for looking at the food I can’t eat - That can of soup is for emergencies.

I guess I will have to eat it. (beat) It will do – until dinner at least.

I guess I will manage with nothing – I really hope we have something to eat.

Eww, I hate fish. Mom, you know I hate fish. I want pizza, why can’t we have pizza?

A bowl of rice with soy sauce – (beat) I pretend it tastes like something else.

Do I really have to do the dishes?

And make believe that I am at a glorious banquet.

I don’t really want to eat this. Broccoli is even worse.

With food beyond the eye can see.

That’s it, I’m done – can I have my ice cream now?

Fruits and vegetables, fish and leeks, a veritable array raining from the sky.

Oooh, chocolate cake! – oh, what, not before I finish my vegetables?!

But that is all a dream.

What are you trying to do kill me with this food? I hate this stuff.

Thanks Mom, at least we are eating something.

(HaLachama Anya, di achalu avahatana b’ar’a d’mitzrayim…)

This is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate…

Let all who are hungry come and eat

No one has yet to invite me in to their home…

What happened to the kindness of Abraham.

V’ehk’cha-ah fhet lechem v’sah’ah-doo l’vchem…

A morsel of bread becomes a succulent feast…

L’mishe mat’eem Lechem….ten lo lechem.

To one for whom bread is suitable…give bread

To one who needs dough…give dough

L’mishe T’zarich Batzeck…ten batzeck.

L’mishe Ha’yav she’ah’simo lo ochel b’peh…simo lo!

To one for whom it is fitting to put food in their mouth…put it in!

Keshe’ atah noten ochel l’adam ra’ev, ten lo et tov b’yoter.

“When you give food to a hungry person, give your best and sweetest…”

Here I will rain down bread from the sky

Henei mamter lachem lechem min ha’shamayim.

When you harvest from your land, you should not harvest your field to its very border, neither should you gather your gleanings after your harvest. And you should not strip your vineyard bare, neither should you gather the fallen grapes…you should leave them for the poor and the stranger: Ani Adonai Elohechem – I am Adonai your God.

There shall be no needy among you – since the Eternal your God will bless you in the land…

What about me…I am one of the hungry ones

And me, I don’t look it, but I too am hungry.

Tradition tells me to help – but how I am not so sure

I don’t farm – so how do I leave my gleanings?

Eim Ayn Kemach, ayn Torah

When there is no bread, there is no Torah.

Our country is alive

While others live near death.

Food is our life

The pursuit of my next meal is all that I consume.

Don’t look at me like that.

I used to walk right past people like me.

That’s justice for you.

I’m sorry – I can’t pay.

How dare they buy a steak with food stamps – those are my tax dollars.

I need help

I need help

I need a sandwich.

I would love a cracker

Can you help me

Can you help me…

A person should see to it that the body is kept healthy and strong, in order that they may be upright to know God.

It is impossible to understand wisdom when one is hungry and ailing.

I am too faint to get up.

But I have to save my sandwich for dinner.

I gave to Mazon

I saw my friend at the soup kitchen

I bagged groceries at the Food bank.

I handed out leftovers.

We looked through the dumpster.

I saw the expression of gratitude when I helped.

I asked for help…

Abraham promised a morsel and provided a feast

Such is the way of the righteous, they promise a little but perform a lot says the Talmud

Such is the way of the righteous, because even the littlest act can seem like a lot says us.

Someone smiled at me.

I got some food.

Thank you.

My stomach is growling less.

Welcome to America

The land of the




Less fortunate…

Welcome to America

The land of




(Eim ayn ani li melie…)

If I am not for myself…

I want to help

I want to make a difference

I’m hungry

Don’t worry – I am here to help.

I wish I didn’t feel this way

Come on it, let me make you some soup.

I am sorry I don’t have any change – here is a few dollars

(Ooc’shehani l’atxmi, Mi ani?)

If I am only for myself, what am I?

We would like to thank you for you generous contribution.

You are helping to safe the world.

Many thanks to people to like you…

Thank you

Thank you

(Im lo achshav – a’ matei?)

If not now when?

I’m hungry

I am here to help

I’m hungry

I want to invite my friend from school over for dinner…

Let’s make sure we have chocolate cake…

Thank you


…but I am still hungry

and I am hungry

…we are here…

(ALL say) Hineni…

(one person) I am right here…

© Rabbi Glenn Ettman – All Rights Reserved 2005