Monday, April 1, 2013

Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum

As well as adjusting to my new day-job, I have also been busy working with one of Boston's newest fringe-theatre companies: The Hub Theatre Company of Boston. The company's inaugural production is Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum. I have been serving as dramaturg and puppetry coach on this production. It's been a joy working at different stages and aspects of the production.

The production is directed by John Geoffrion, who along with Lauren Elias, co-founded Hub Theatre Company of Boston just a few months ago.

The play is a fantasy in which the Chancellor of an early 21st century Germany invites six-million Jews to come reside in Germany-- the play is all about how ordinary people, both Germans and Jews, respond to that invitation (written late night during tech rehearsals.)

As I say in my dramaturgical notes:

A key theme of Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum is the role that ordinary people have in determining the future, whether they choose to love, hate, forgive, or take vengeance.

Almost contemporary to the play's composition (the introduction is dated to 1997) was the 1996 publication of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's controversial book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

Previous studies of the Holocaust had largely concentrated on the scale, organization, engineering, and its top decision-makers. Goldhagen, instead, asked what had motivated so many ordinary Germans to participate in the “Final Solution” to “The Jewish Question.”

Goldhagen's thesis was that the ordinary Germans of the Nazi era were willing participants in the Holocaust because they were already prone to seeing Jews as something they needed to be rid of. The National Socialist German Workers' Party simply offered the the most decisive solution.

In Lebensraum, Chancellor Stroiber boldly invites six-million Jews to live in Germany (incidentally, Germany's Jewish population was never more that 525,000-- most of the six-million killed in the Holocaust had been citizens of other countries.) It is up to individual Germans and Jews to decide whether Stroiber is acting to undo or complete the work of an earlier Chancellor; whether they will cooperate, or resist; and whether they will do so on principle or opportunistically.

In Horovitz' play, neither the German nor Jewish characters passively allow their fate to be determined for them-- and in the years since the play was written, both Jews and Germans have made a somewhat different set of choices.

Lebensraum runs to April 14th at the First Church of Boston at 66 Marlborough Street in Boston. All tickets are pay-what-you-can.

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