IsraDrama Write-Ups, Part 3: Spotlight on Savyon Liebrecht

Thursday, 29/11/07, 10:00-13:00, Beit Lessin Theatre

Savyon Liebrecht is an author, playwright and screenwriter. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors who came to Israel when she was very young. Her short stories, published in four volumes, are impressions of the inner journey experienced by people who are second generation to the Holocaust and first generation, coming-into-being Israelis. At the center of her writing are women endeavoring to decipher the influence of fateful historical events on their lives and the family in which they grew up. “For me the Holocaust is situated on the threshold of associations that are most accessible to me. And beyond the biographical issue, beyond my family’s history, it interests me on a philosophical level because those events presented the ultimate experience a person can undergo in terms of testing the limits of morality and human endurance”. Her plays are new, dramatic versions of her stories.

The presentation will include video excerpts from the following plays:

Sonja Mushkat
I’m Talking To You In Chinese
Apples From the Desert
The Banality of Love
The Women Freud Knew

1. Sonja Mushkat
Two wealthy Jewish sisters and the son of one of them hide in the cellar of their estate in Debrecen, Hungary, during World War Two.
A Christian village girl is sent by a Christian friend of the family to stay with them in the cellar to see to their needs. Fear, hunger, cold and hardship expose the rich, privileged and pampered Jews to unfamiliar situations. Lies that have been repressed for decades are now exposed in the extreme conditions of living in the cellar, and new truths are discovered and have to be addressed. In the midst of all this, a secret associated with the family’s history regarding the connection between the Christian girl and the wealthy Jews, is gradually revealed.

The play describes the disposition of people who abruptly move from a situation of control and comfort to one of privation and dependency, and poses a question regarding the ethical boundaries created by the new existential situation.

The Characters
Lidia, 58, a wealthy Jewish woman, Albert’s mother
Paula, 47, Lidia’s sister
Albert 30, Lidia’s son
Sonia 17, a Christian village girl

2. I’m Talking To You In Chinese (Best Play Award, 2004)
A 39-year-old daughter of Holocaust survivors goes to her parents’ old apartment after a twenty-year absence. Engulfed by childhood memories, scenes with her parents and her aunt, who was in love with her brother-in-law, come to life. Observing them from a distance and becoming aware of their tragic life, she comes to terms with them and her memories of the past. In the background are Israeli reality in the 1960s and the tension between the different ethnic groups.

The Characters
Mirele, 15-18
Martha, 44, Mirele’s mother
Avraham, 44, Mirele’s father
Carola, 41, Martha’s sister
Miri, 38
Shimon, 36, a real-estate agent

3. Apples From the Desert (Best Play Award, 2006)
A romantic comedy about Sephardi-Jewish parents from Jerusalem whose only daughter runs away from home to live on a kibbutz.

With a comic, generous and hope-filled spirit, the playwright sketches the life of young Israelis under the shadow of terrifying social rifts – the ethnic rift between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews and the religious rift between religious and secular Jews – and enables the audience to discover the possibilities embodied in a future that transcends these rifts.

The Characters
Victoria, 50
Reuven, 62, Victoria’s husband
Sarah, 42, Victoria’s sister
Rivka, 18, Victoria and Reuven’s daughter
Dooby, 25, Rivka’s boyfriend

4. The Banality of Love
The complex relationship between Hanna Arendt and Martin Heidegger, from their first encounter as student and teacher in 1924 to their meeting after the war in 1950. Their story raises ethical questions about how politics and philosophy relate to real life. In the background is the one-sided love affair between German Jews and German culture as an echo of the one-sided love affair between Arendt and Heidegger.

The Characters
Young Hanna Arendt, 18-43
Martin Heidegger, 35-60
Old Hanna Arendt, 69
Michael Ben-Shaked, 35, an Israeli doctor
Rafael Mendelson, 20-29 (Michael Ben-Shaked’s father, performed by the same actor)

5. The Women Freud Knew
Freud’s relationships with the three women in his life: his wife Martha, his sister-in-law Mina (with whom he had an affair in real life), and his daughter Anna.

The Characters
Sigmund Freud, ages 30-80
Martha Freud, 80, his wife
Young Martha, 23-37
Mina Bernays, 76, Martha’s sister
Young Mina, 17-33
Anna Freud, 45, Sigmund and Martha’s daughter
Paula Fichtel, 37, the family’s maid
Judy Shein, 18, a fictional character
Aharon, 18, a fictional character
A waiter and a dancing man
Two Gestapo men
A driver

Savyon Liebrecht is an author and playwright. She was born in 1948 in Munich to Holocaust survivors who left Germany for Israel when she was a child. She studied literature and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. Her stories depict Israeli reality: the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, between religious and secular Jews, and the effect of the Holocaust on the children and grandchildren of survivors.

Apples From The Desert (1986, stories)
Horses On The Highway (1988, stories)
You Are Speaking To Me In Chinese (1992, stories)
A Love Story Needs An Ending (1995, stories)
A Man And A Woman And A Man (1998, a novel)
Women Out Of A Catalogue (2000, three novellas)
A Good Place For The Night (2002, stories)
My Father’s Women (2005, a novel)

Israeli Television has produced three films based on her scripts:
Dead Line (co-authored with Aliza Olmert, 1989)
Spears And Orchids (1991)
A Touch Of Magic (1992)

Sonja Mushkat, Habima National Theatre, 1998. Performed in Zurich, Bonn and China.
You Are Speaking To Me In Chinese, Beit Lessin Theatre, Best Play Award for 2004. Also produced in Bern, Switzerland, and Kiel, Germany.
Apples From The Desert, Beit Lessin Theatre, Best Play Award for 2004.
The Banality Of Love, based on the relationship between Hanna Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Produced by the Bonn Theater in October 2007, and scheduled for performances at the Beit Lessin Theatre in September 2008.
The Women Freud Knew, based on the biography of Sigmund Freud. Scheduled for performances at the Gesher Theatre in the spring of 2008.