Greetings from Vienna!
So much to tell and no time to tell it. I am back in Vienna where I’ve been twice before, on playwriting business, first in 1990 to hang out with Peter Sichrovsky as I prepared for the mainstage production of my adaptation of his book, BORN GUILTY at Arena Stage. I slept on Peter’s couch for about a week at his huge apartment on Singerstrasse and got to know the city with him as my guide. Eleven years later, in 2001, I was back to figure out why Peter Sichrovsky had done the unthinkable and gone over to the dark side, joining Joerg Haider’s far-right wing Freedom Party as the only Jew in Haider’s inner-circle. On that trip, I didn’t stay with Peter Sichrovsky; no, I was afraid he might sue me for writing the very play I was there to research. But I did meet with him, twice. The first time, with my guide to all matters Austrian, the inimitable Warren Rosensweig, artistic director of a fledgling theatrical start-up at the time, the Jewish Theatre of Austria. Or as the character of Warren would go onto recount in the play, PETER AND THE WOLF (AND ME), about the founding of The Jewish Theater of Austria. WARREN: Talk about an oxymoron! Everyone’s got a mission: Ours was to re-plant something extracted.
ADAPTER: And Jews were extracted.
WARREN: And the spirit they had inside them. This is a land devoid of spirit; devoid of soul; where the soul used to pulsate! Suffice to say: There is no Klezmir in Vienna.”
ADAPTER: (Making note) That’s good.
Yes, it is very good, because six years later, Warren is now hosting the same Association for Jewish Theatre conference that Theater J hosted back in 2003 when Warren made such a splash at the Austrian Embassy presenting a solo performance piece about the creation of his company and all the intense resistance he’s had to put up with. Warren hosting this conference is a major leap forward for his company both within Austrian culture, where his troupe has too often been an isolated island, and on the international scene. It’s very moving to be here with Warren, and for him.
And to think of how many other great people are here, including Theodore Bikel and Tamara Brooks, his companion and pianist extraordinaire. Theo launches the conference and its accompanying TIKKUN OLAM conference on Monday with a rousing concert – I arrive at the tail end after a delayed flight over from London. On Tuesday—yesterday—Theo delivers the keynote address on the meanings of Jewish Theater and our charge as artists and Jewish theater makers. It’s inspiring that Theo has come home to Vienna, his birthplace, where he learned of High Culture, and of anti-Semitism too. Oh, the stories he can tell. And oh the stories I could tell too, about all the terrific people who are here – and how important it is that I’m here with them – and to think, I’d actually contemplated not coming to this conference because it was all just a little too much; too much traveling; too much time away from the theater and from the children. But so much of what’s made me a producer—and a playwright too—is here at this conference. So I must be here.
Today, Austrian actors will present a few scenes from PETER AND THE WOLF (AND ME) and I’ll be interviewed about the play. Theo and I will talk about SHYLOCK and my meeting with Arnold Wesker of last week, and our upcoming concert reading at Theater J from May 13-15. And later tonight, Motti Lerner comes and we’ll talk about his wonderful new rewrite of PANGS OF THE MESSIAH which I just finished reading yesterday morning (which is why I couldn’t write about Cambridge for you yesterday!).
So there’s a ton to tell and no time to tell it. But I’ve given you a tiny bit. I promise there’ll be more, as well as more reflections from the morning meeting in Cambridge. But for now, a few more pictures will tell the story.
It’ll be a stimulating day in Vienna, that’s for sure.