The testimonies of the children of Nazi’s, recorded by Jewish children of Holocaust survivors, were what initially inspired celebrated Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s East of Berlin. These juxtapositions, between the painful relationships between the children and their parents and their victim’s, painfully express a complex and compelling story between these children and the survivors they may meet along the way.
From October 3-12, St. Catharines theatre company Essential Collective Theatre will be tackling this award winning (2009 Governor’s General Award & the 2010 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award) and timeless three-person production at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.
The plot follows Rudi (performed by Francois Macdonald), who, as a teenager, finds out that his father was part of the Holocaust, and flees to Germany. While he’s there, he ultimately falls in love with Sarah (Rachel VanDuzer), the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and has to confront and come to terms with his frightening past. Jordan Shore rounds out the cast as Hermann.
“The subject matter looks directly at the psychology beyond the Holocaust. It confronts the conversation about what happened and how the younger generation are trying to understand what happened,” explained East of Berlin Director, Jocelyn Adema.
“What happened at Auschwitz is so much a part of the character Rudi, and throughout the play, the audience watches him grapple with his emotions.”
The play is shown through Rudi’s confessions and storytelling. He invites the audience into the play and to listen to his story. Drawing on themes of redemption, guilt and love, the audience is given privy to a place and time unfamiliar to them, to watch the story unfold, culminating in a scene where the audience is left to decide whether or not Rudi, in the end, acted out of love or not.
“It’s really heavy subject matter. The cast has been great and it’s been really interesting. It’s a really beautiful opportunity to be able to delve deep into this play and really get to the heart of the show,” said Adema.
With 2019 marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, East of Berlin presents a poignant look at the atrocities of war and the emotional nature of the history, suggesting “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”.
“While this play is set in the 1970s, this play really could be a play about our grandchildren if we’re not careful,” said Adema. “So, I think that this play is a testament to the atrocities of war and how that affects future generations if we’re not careful and we don’t act with compassion and we don’t act with love and generosity. This play really displays an opportunity to learn from our past and not repeat it.”
East of Berlin runs from October 3-12 at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Visit firstontariopac.ca for more information.