“Nathan” in the Kulturbund first production, Nathan the Wise. 1933  (photo credit: Abraham Pisarek).

Collaborating with producing partner James Egan and multimedia playwright and projection designer Jared Mezzocchi, our plans for the multimedia play Playing for Life: Art Under Tyranny, will weave together rare video, still images, music, and live performance, linking a unique story of the past (the Kulturbund from Nazi Germany) to the present (current-day artists from different countries).

We want the audience to imagine and empathize with our subjects.  What it is like for an artist who chooses to stay in their oppressed homeland or escape to freedom?   Playing for Life: Art Under Tyranny will rely on several resources: scholarly research and the expertise of an international team of academic advisors; first-hand accounts of Kulturbund members and international current-day artists; presentations of today’s artists work; and archival material from the Kulturbund’s past.

Playing for Life: Art Under Tyranny will come alive as a multimedia stage production.  Based on our artists’ interviews, through the magic of theatrical art, the production will transcend time and space, bringing together on stage the characters of Kulturbund artists Ernst, Hannah, Henry and contemporary artists Monirah, and Kim (shown below).  They will explore questions about the Kulturbund and common issues today’s artists face today.  Was the Kulturbund a refuge or trap for the Jewish artistic community?  Would more artists have escaped the Holocaust if it were not for the false sense of security created by the Jewish Kulturbund?

“Ernst” is based on actor Ernst Lenart.  Member of the Kulturbund between 1933 and 1936.

“Hannah” is based on Hannah Kroner, the choreographer and dancer. Member of the Kulturbund  between 1937 and 1939.

“Henry” is based on the violinist Henry Meyer. Member of the Kulturbund between 1939 and 1941.

“Monirah” is based on Hazaran playwright and actor Monirah Hashemi from Afghanistan who lives in exile in Sweden.

“Kim” is based on North Korean dancer and choreographer Kim Young-soon who lives in exile in South Korea.

What is a stunning realization is that one third of all Kulturbund participants were sent to the camps and died. The life and death questions they faced then are as relevant to artists living under tyrannical regimes today as they were in Germany under Hitler in the ‘30s.  What about today’s artists living under oppression?  Do they stay or do they leave?  What do they risk by remaining in or fleeing from their homeland.  These questions are among those we explored in our devised theatre workshop in 2013 that we intergrate in Playing for Life’s imaginative and powerful story.

Exploring the connection between the Kulturbund and contemporary artists’ issues of living under oppression and responding through art, we collaborated with DC playwright Gwydion Suilebhan and cellist Devree Lewis who participated in our project’s theatre workshop in  June 2013.

More About the Project
The Jüdische Kulturbund Story
Exploring Issues of Oppression
Education Program
Dramatic Feature Film
Public Program Events

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