JRT Public Service:
based on a recollection by Henry S. Newmann
produced and directed by Guila Clara Kessous
adapted by vanda Gyuris
assistant directed by betty rosen
A tribute to Holocaust victims
Celebrating the World Day of prayer 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010, 8:00 P.M.
Sanders Theatre at Harvard University
45, Quincy Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Tickets: $12; students: $8
Ticket Reservations: 617-496-2222
Please send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
This first-ever performance is being produced as a tribute to Holocaust victims and to mark the World Day of Prayer 2010, celebrating unity in diversity and working for a world of peace and justice. The production will feature survivors, performers, musicians and dancers featuring music composer Edwin Geist performed by The Irving Fine Society Singers & Ensemble.
“Budzyn” awakens our consciences to the question of theatrical representation dealing with religious identity. The story takes place at the Nazi controlled Budzyn labor camp in Poland, where the commander was well known for subjecting the prisoners to particularly cruel tortures and told as seen through the eyes of one of its survivors, Henry S. Newman,
The commander, knowing that the young Mr. Newman had studied dramatic arts in order to become a director, asks him to organize a small performance with the prisoners in order to entertain him. The catch, however, was that if the Commander didn't laugh, he would humilate Henry in front of the other prisoners before cutting his throat and assuring that he die in slow agony.
Visionary director Guila Clara Kessous uses all forms of art to transmit the testimony of this survivor while overcoming the simple reference to the Shoah by attacking the crucial question of theatrical representation.
The voices begin on April 19, 1943. It is Passover in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazis occupy a young family. Only Henry and Benjamin remain together; the rest are lost, forced to exist only in memory. The two young brothers are taken to the Labor Camp Budzyn near Krasnik in Poland run by a cruel and vulgar Kommandant Feix. We find out that Henry has studied to become a stage director at the university and is soon asked by Feix to direct a play for his own enjoyment. The catch: Feix presents Henry with an ultimatum; either create a play that humors him and live, or fail to capture the commander’s attention and perish. Henry struggles with limited resources and time to cultivate a play from scratch. The night before the play is supposed to premier for the camp twelve prisoners are hung and it is up to Henry to save those still alive. Can he succeed? Will he live on, or will he fall victim to the war’s atrocities and become a memory?
NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR:
What intrigues me in this testimony is the fantastic use of theater as a communication tool. This commander, who has full power over his prisoners, who has the right to keep them alive or dead and who takes full advantage of his position savagely to satisfy his drive for violence by playing all sorts of sadistic games, is somehow aware of his own inhumanity. He lacks opportunities to laugh as well as the power of distraction because he is “bored”. I am fascinated by the idea that this commander, who spends his time imagining new refinements in the way he is going to condemn to death his next victim, could feel bored. In one way, through his request to Henry, he is trying to regain access to what he has lost and what he knows the prisoners keep: a piece of humanity. The ability to laugh, to forget the exterminator and exterminated, is only accessible through the experience of staging. Once again, it is thanks to the dramatic arts that Henry is able to survive, as he writes, “To hear people laugh in this unholy place was the greatest gratification anyone could ask for.”
If there is one thing I have restrained myself from doing since I began working with the theme of the Shoah, it is to speak for the survivors. My work is to engage with the survivor’s testimony and attempt to use theater to reconcile historical truth with artistic impression. My work is first of all a work of transmission and not of appropriation or even of creation. Creativity is only good if it adds to the veracity of the testimony. After the work that I have done with Elie Wiesel and the numerous discussions I was able to have with the concentration camps’ survivors, I sensed an emotional paradox. It is a kind of lassitude mixed with a profound desire to go forward in fixing the Shoah’s place in societal and historical consciousness once and for all. Rosian Zerner, a Shoah survivor and former vice president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, confided to me that "We no longer want to lock ourselves up in a past history. We want to live, contribute to the society, enjoy the company of our children and our grandchildren, telling them what happened, commemorating the Shoah but not wallowing in the pain of memory. Our experience has to reach beyond the Jewish community in order to enable us to touch as many people as possible." I wished to open this theatrical event on this theme in order to reach a wider audience and escape the idea of an episode of a Jewish story lived by Jews and performed for a Jewish public. By performing this play during the World Day of Prayer, my goal is to reach beyond the idea of community to present the idea of universality. The prayer that will end this performance isn’t addressed to a divine power but to ourselves, as responsible humans with a duty to be responsible towards one another….
- Guila Clara Kessous, PhD
Producer & Director
Download press packet at www.budzyntheplay.com under the Press Section
posted by: jrtelegraph