THE WORKSHOP THEATER TO PRESENT
“THROUGH THE DARKNESS”
BY ALAN BREINDEL
Composite characters offer powerful testimonials of survival in the Holocaust.
March 9 to April 1, 2017
Thurs at 7:00 pm, Fri and Sat at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street, 4 fl. East
Presented by The Workshop Theater (Thomas Coté, Artistic Director; Dana Leslie Goldstein, Managing Director)
$25 general admission, $18 students and seniors, $15 student groups.
Box office www.workshoptheater.org or 866.811.4111 (Ovation Tickets).
Group sales: [email protected], 212-695-4173 (Kevin Stanfa at The Workshop Theater).
Running time: 90 minutes. Critics are invited on or after March 9.
NEW YORK — “Through the Darkness” by Alan C. Breindel recounts the unimaginable journeys and true stories of four courageous men and women who left everything behind, including their loved ones, so that they might stay one step ahead of the Holocaust. They are composite characters that playwright Breindel built from interviews with Holocaust survivors. Three of the four characters managed to avoid the horrors of the concentration camps and remain free, even if freedom was no more than the right to die on their own terms. The Workshop Theater, where the play has been developed, will present its world premiere March 9 to April 1, directed by Leslie Kincaid Burby.
The characters include a German Jew who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s, was drafted and became a POW during the Battle of the Bulge; a Polish woman who could pass as Christian and spent the war on the run; a woman sent from the Lodz Ghetto to Auschwitz and a daring son of a Polish peddler who fled to Russia and survived by working for the Soviets in Siberia and later, by joining the Polish Army. For most of them, chaos was inescapable, freedom was motion, and the only safe place was anyplace other than where they were. Each of the characters repeatedly comes face to face with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to daily survival, showing us that when life is vastly different, life is still livable.
We meet these four characters as people in late middle age, living comfortably in America in the mid 1980’s. When performed, the piece will have the veracity of real-life stories, staged on a simple set with a frank, plainspoken mood as the four composite characters respond simply to questions from a writer/narrator they interact with.
Playwright Breindel writes, “I began writing Through the Darkness in 2012, although the seed was planted in 1987 when my family moved to our first home. My neighbor would occasionally share bits and pieces of how he managed to remain alive and “on the run” during WWII in Europe, all the while avoiding the horrors of the concentration camps. It was during one of these conversations that I committed myself to writing a play about Jack’s story and those with similar stories to tell. I was already beginning to sense that the memory of the Holocaust was fading, and that lesser known narratives were needed to insure its lasting memory. Over the ensuing years, I interviewed women and men with similar stories of survival which I managed to weave into four distinct characters. Following years of writing, rewriting, staged readings, and the advice, support and encouragement of family, friends and theater professionals, I settled on the four characters that make up ‘Through the Darkness’ in its current form.”
The individual narratives, while being occasionally composites of people Breindel interviewed, are largely rendered without dramatic license. They are real people’s stories and are eyewitness-sharp. What the interviewees had not personally witnessed themselves, they learned from a trusted personal source, like a brother or a close friend. That veracity is transferred into the play. The intimacy and simplicity of the acting and the truthfulness of the stories will make this production feel like the first hand experience of sitting with the survivors and hearing their accounts.
The production team feels that America’s memory of the Holocaust and its causes is slipping away. (Only one of the four people that Breindel interviewed is still surviving.) Therefore, the story of the Holocaust must be told and re-told now, especially to young people. This type of theater can do that very effectively, and in a way that is different and possibly more affecting even than documentary film. So The Workshop Theater, beside marketing to standard New York audiences, will endeavor to attract some high school groups, even though the play is not specifically designed for younger audiences. The production’s staff feels it is foolish to underestimate young people’s understanding of theater and it is more persuasive, they hold, to challenge young audiences than to “talk down” to them. For group sales, contact Kevin Stanfa at The Workshop Theater, [email protected], 212-695-4173.
Director Leslie Burby feels the play will feel like a first-hand experience that, because of the intimacy of theater, will be more moving than even a documentary film. She explains, “I feel it is important for these stories to be told, so we can never forget. This is even more important now than before, because we are getting close to forgetting.” She adds, “These survivors–very resourceful people–came up with crazy ways (and luck) to get through. The play is a dark journey to go on with these folks, but very inspiring. It’s also an opportunity to grieve for the people who didn’t make it and the children who were never born.” Thomas Cote, Artistic Director of The Workshop Theater, adds that the play’s lessons are also universal, since it is basically a story of people surviving a genocidal conflict. So it is easily comparable, thematically, to any number of modern wars.
Approximately 15 months ago, playwright Alan C. Breindel was invited to join The Workshop Theater, to read excerpts of the play on Monday evenings to members of the company and hear other writers do the same. With the feedback he received, he continued to polish the play. In September of 2016, the piece was selected to be a part of The Workshop Theater’s 2016/2017 production season.
This is Mr. Breindel’s first play. He was born in 1954 and has continuously resided in the New York Metropolitan area. His parents were both born in the United States and were intensely proud of their Jewish faith. He attended a Jewish Day School though fifth grade, became a Bar-Mitzvah at age 13, and and was raised in a Jewish home. He is a graduate of Queens College and Brooklyn Law School (although he is not a practicing attorney); his professional career is in real estate finance and investment banking. He is married with two children. He is active in Temple B’Nai Jeshurun of Short Hills, New Jersey, a Reform congregation, where he teaches a class in the study of Mussar which focuses on Jewish ethics, spiritual growth and mindfulness.
The actors are Jed Dickson, Robert Meksin, Tracy Newirth, Emily Zacharias and Alex Dmitriev. Set design is by Craig Napoliello. Costume design is by Kimberley Windbiel. Lighting design is by Diana Duecker. Sound design is by David M. Lawson. Production Stage Manager is Lisa Stafford.
Director Leslie Kincaid Burby staged The Workshop Theater’s “The Navigator” by Eddie Antar in 2012. The latter production received two Drama Desk nominations and eight NYIT Award nominations, was a NY Times Critics’ pick and earned Burby the NYIT Outstanding Director Award. Her other productions at The Workshop Theater include “A la Carte: a Feast of New Plays,” “Full Frontal” by Eddie Antar and “The Chekhov Dreams” by John McKinney. Most recently, she directed “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo & Juliet” for Delphi Theatre, NYC. Last summer, she won an overall excellence award from NYC Fringe Festival for her direction of “Zamboni,” which was then extended at the SoHo Playhouse.