WITNESS: A new virtual documentary theater piece
Presented by Arlekin Players’ (Zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab
Conceived and directed by Igor Golyak
Written by Nana Grinstein with Blair Cadden & Igor Golyak
Scenography & Costume Design by Anna Fedorova
Virtual Design by Daniel Cormino
Sound Design by Viktor Semenov
Produced by Sara Stackhouse
Dramaturgy by Blair Cadden
Featuring the Arlekin Acting Company
Review by Kitty Drexel
“It doesn’t feel virtual; it feels real.”
– Talkback moderator Inessa Rifkin, a founder of the Russian Jewish Community Foundation and a founder of the Russian School of Mathematics, after the December 13 performance of Witness.
ONLINE/Zoom — It’s almost Yule! Here’s a Christmas story: In May 1939, the MS St. Louis carried 937 passengers from Nazi-occupied Germany to Havana, Cuba. The Cuban government refused the ship. Its passengers remained onboard; the ship didn’t dock. Cuba had cancelled the immigration papers of the onboard immigrants without notifying them.
The United States refused the ship too. The US had space to put the passengers but our politicians let money and immigration law stop them from welcoming the passengers. We made a 1976 secular movie about it called “Voyage of the Damned” with Faye Dunaway. How American of us.
The Jewish passengers were finally allowed some succor when the ship returned to Europe that June. 254 of the passengers died in the Holocaust: 84 in Belgium; 84 in Holland, and 86 in France. There was no room at the inn or the stable with Mary and Joseph.
Witness by Arlenkin Players is about the fluffy talent show that the passengers held to boost morale. Local New Englanders who are also immigrants play passengers on the boat. It’s about the stark tragedy that our country, a nation that says it welcomes immigrants at its front door on the East Coast, decided that Jewish immigrants fleeing for their very lives should go elsewhere. Popup text boxes invite us to learn about who the passengers were and if they survived the ship. It’s about the multigenerational fight against anti-Semitism in the US. The Arlekin Acting Company portrays Jewish characters from across the decades. Continue reading