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hell prepared

a ritual exorcism inspired by kabbalistic principles, performed within a dominant cultural context

theatre dybbuk's hell prepared: a ritual exorcism inspired by kabbalistic principles, performed within a dominant cultural context


Enter the gates of the Venician Ghetto of the 17th century and go on a journey of dominance, separation, and survival that spirals down through the pits of Gehenna. hell prepared: a ritual exorcism inspired by kabbalistic principles, performed within a dominant cultural context takes place in multiple locations on the campus of the Philosophical Research Society, allowing you to be immersed in the secluded world of the Ghetto and dissolve into places beyond the corporeal.

Featuring a landscape of choreographed movement, poetic text, shadow puppetry, and choral scoring, hell prepared follows a spiritual leader as he endeavors to exorcise the dominant culture and its influence on his world. In the process, he is driven down through the pits of hell where he sees visions of a challenging past and an uncertain future.

The project is inspired by "Tofteh Arukh," a dramatic poem written in the 17th century from within the Jewish ghettos of Italy by rabbi, poet, and mystic Moses ben Mordecai Zacuto. 

The performance incorporates choreography by Kai Hazelwood, shadow work and production design by Leslie K. Gray, and a live vocal score composed by Fahad Siadat in collaboration with Michael Jay Skloff. The production is written and directed by theatre dybbuk's artistic director, Aaron Henne, and was developed with the ensemble. The play features a cast of three performing alongside a vocal sextet.

photos by Taso Papadakis


Written and Directed by Aaron Henne

Developed with Martín Carrillo, Leslie K. Gray, Kai Hazelwood, Erith Jaffe-Berg, Julie A. Lockhart, Flori Schutzer, Fahad Siadat, Michael Jay Skloff, Dylan Southard, Diana Tanaka, and Jonathan C.K. Williams

Inspired by an English translation of Moses Zacuto's "Tofteh Arukh" by Michela Andreatta, PhD

Conceived in collaboration with Erith Jaffe-Berg, PhD


Moshe – Jonathan C.K. Williams

Sarah – Julie A. Lockhart

Dybbuk – Diana Tanaka


Members of the Confraternity / Vocal Ensemble:

Monika Beal, David Conley, Molly Pease, Rebecca Rasmussen, David Saldaña, Fahad Siadat


Stage Manager: Danny Crisp
Choreographer / Movement Director: Kai Hazelwood
Composer / Music Director: Fahad Siadat

Music Consultant: Michael Jay Skloff

Lighting Designer: Brandon Baruch
Sound Designer: Martín Carrillo
Production Designer: Leslie K. Gray

Costume Designer: Kathryn Poppen

Technical Director: Bobby Gutierrez

Dramaturg: Dylan Southard

Assistant Director: Gabrielle Bonder

Assistant Stage Manager: Adrienne Johnson-Lister

Sound Mixer: Christopher Bosco


hell prepared
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In 17th century Italy, rabbi, poet, and Kabbalist Moses ben Mordecai Zacuto wrote "Tofteh Arukh," a dramatic poem exploring a journey into hell from a Jewish perspective.

Born in Amsterdam, Zacuto traveled to Poland then ventured to Padua, Venice, and Mantua. Zacuto likely began "Tofteh Arukh" – which translates to "l'inferno allestito" in Italian and "hell prepared" in English – while in Venice, and completed it in Mantua.

From 1516 until the Napoleonic conquest in 1797, Jews in Venice were compelled by the government of the Venetian Republic to live in the Venice Ghetto – the first ghetto in Europe. During the day, Jews - such as Zacuto – were allowed to leave the Ghetto to work and interact throughout the city. At night, however, the gates were locked and guarded by watchmen.

In spite of being geographically separated from the greater - predominantly Christian – population of Venice, Italian culture did have an influence on Zacuto's writing. "Tofteh Arukh" was almost certainly inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy – Zacuto reflects Dante's subject matter of the afflictions of the soul in hell while also incorporating ideas from Jewish mysticism. Zacuto imagined hell as an abyss at the center of the earth, subdivided into seven sections; Dante's Inferno includes nine.


“Good artistic work should upend our expectations, leave us thrilled or provoked or upset. That’s the way we forward our society.” — Aaron Henne


Learn more about theatre dybbuk and the history and process of making hell prepared in this Jewish Journal article!


Leora Blum spoke with Aaron Henne and Erith Jaffe-Berg about hell prepared and the process of adapting "Tofteh Arukh."

Read the full conversation on Jewish Currents!

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We collaborated with our long-time photographer, Taso Papadakis, on a short film that explored the themes present in the hell prepared theatre production. You can watch the film below – please note that the film deals with adult themes.


hell prepared: a ritual exorcism inspired by kabbalistic principles, performed within a dominant cultural context premiered on July 26, 2019 at The Philosophical Research Society, where it ran in a limited engagement for two sold-out weekends.


Two lecture and discussion events were held at The Philosophical Research Society on the hell prepared set that covered themes and writings associated with the project.

On Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Erith Jaffe-Berg – hell prepared's collaborating scholar – presented "Jewish Theater Makers of Renaissance Italy: Spiritual Inquiry on and off the Stage." Erith is a professor of theatre in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production at University of California, Riverside whose expertise is in commedia dell'arte.

On Tuesday, July 30, 2019, PRS President Greg Salyer presented 

"Passages: Texts, Contexts, and the Ways to Wisdom – Dante's Inferno." This lecture and discussion was also part of the PASSAGES Tuesday night summer series at PRS.

theatre dybbuk is generously supported by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

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